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You Herbivore or Carnivore?
A Critical Analysis on Issues of Vegetarianism
Breaking Out Among the Buddhists for Centuries
Ariya M., Hye D., Colin R
|Publisher and Distributor:
First Edition (in English)
September 26, 1991
Subject Matters of Discussion:
A monk might say: . . . This is Dhamma, this is Vinaya, this is the Master's teaching. Now, monks, the words of that monk are neither to be welcomed nor scorned, but without welcoming, without scorning, the words and syllables thereof are to be closely scrutinized, laid beside Sutta and compared with Vinaya. If when thus laid beside Sutta and compared with Vinaya, they lie not along with Sutta and agree not with Vinaya, to this conclusion must ye come: Surely this is not the word of that Exalted One, Arahant, the Fully Enlightened One, and it was wrongly taken by that monk. So reject it, monks.
Monks, those monks who point out what is not Dhamma as Dhamma, what is Dhamma as not Dhamma, what is not the Discipline as the Discipline, what is the Discipline as not the Discipline, -- such conduct of theirs is to the loss of many folk, to the misery of many folk, to the loss, the injury, the misery of devas and mankind. Moreover, such beget great demerit and cause the disappearance of this true Dhamma.
So long as the monks will appoint no new rules and will not abolish the existing ones; but will proceed in accordance with the rules of training as laid down, so long growth may be expected for the monks, not decline.
-- quoted from Anguttara Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka
Namo Tassa Bhagavato Arahato
To let the Buddhists adhere to misleading view and misconception only because of reluctance or unwillingness to offend them is not the attitude of a real Dhammaduta (Missionary).
Dhamma should be expounded, not only be intended to console or to win a person's heart, but above all it should be meant to proclaim the Truth as it actually is.
Since many centuries ago, Vegetarianism has become a topic of debate in various walks of life, especially within the circle of religious life. There is no denying the fact that Vegetarianism is one of the aspects which aggravate the difference between Theravada and Mahayana --sects in Buddhism. Both sects stick to their respective view and interpretation.
This writing was carried on for analyzing and studying straight-forwardly some issues of Vegetarianism, and also proving to what extent the view and the interpretation of Theravada and Mahayana are in line with the pure teaching of the Lord Buddha.
After observing the background, basis, function, objective, practice, effectiveness, and validity of Vegetarianism discussed in this writing, the Buddhists should be able to find a method of settlement which is wise and based on the Dhamma for the issues of Vegetarianism. At least, it is expected that this writing will broaden their horizon of knowledge --so that narrow-minded and unilateral view will not arise.
If you belong to Herbivore group, who eat vegetables and other agricultural produces, you may accompany Prince Charles and Princes Diana or both to dine together in the palace or to eat in the restaurant on the side of the road... 1 That is the quotation of one of a series of promotions and campaigns expressed by a member of the Vegetarian Society in England within the effort to introduce their way of living to the community, namely abstaining from eating any food made of animal meat --in the sense to limit themselves to eating plants, vegetables, fruits and other agricultural produces. It was said that this natural way of living can make a person healthier and stronger. Those who are very fanatical in Vegetarianism spread out an issue that animal-meat eating causes negative psychological effects. Scream of suffering and gripping fright of the animal being killed contain certain vibrations which are able to enter the meat. Such a meat causes nervousness, stress and worry to the eating persons.
Promotion, propaganda, and some predictions assuming that the Vegetarianism movement almost reaches the success, seemed to scare and to annoy some of the people belonging to Carnivore (meat eater), especially the producers of the food made of meat. They did not hesitate to spend millions of pound-sterling to campaign against the way of the vegetarian group belonging to Herbivore. Those belonging to Carnivore also incessantly defend their way of living. By exposing various results of research and study, they stated that the advanced and developing countries with clever and intelligent people were established by the high consumption of animal protein, whereas the people of under developed countries are the negative effect of unbalanced use of vegetable protein. Various ways, including to ridicule, were used by them to oppose the Vegetarians. This way is not used for the first time, but it has been applied for a very long time. On the arrival and presence of Mahatma Gandhi in England in 1988, The New Encyclopedia Britannica writes: "As he struggled painfully to adapt himself to Western food..., he felt awkward. His Vegetarianism became a continual source of embarrassment to him; his friends warned him that it would wreck his studies as well as his health." Some scientists put forward that based on the form and composition of their teeth, and their digestive system, all the persons were actually destined to be Herbivore as well as Carnivore.2 Persisting in avoiding any food made of meat means to conflict with the natural law.
The arena of promotion and propaganda resulted in much restlessness to many persons who are short of knowledge in the matter, especially in the details of the two ways of living. They are very confused in choosing the way of living which is most appropriate and suitable to them. What about the Buddhists? What is the appropriate answer to the title of this writing: "Are You Herbivore or Carnivore?" The following subject matters of discussion may be sufficiently useful in assisting in finding the right answer, in line with the Dhamma, to the above question.
1 KOMPAS newspaper, Sunday, September 15, 1985.
2 The more typical term is Omnivore' eating everything.
Background of Vegetarianism, and View as well as Attitude of the Buddha
The English term 'Vegetarianism' just appeared and was known in about 1847.3 However, the idea on Vegetarianism has actually been push aside since a very long time ago, on an indefinite point of time. Abstinence from any food made of meat was noted as one of the teachings of Pythagoras, thereafter followed and secured by Plato, Epicurus, Plutarch, and other pagan philosophers. In Jambudvipa (India during the era of the Gotama Buddha), the adherents of Jainism --with Mahavira as the leader-- were known as the hermits very strictly practising the way of abstinence.4 Within the circle of the Buddhists, Devadatta was the main pioneer for practice of Vegetarianism. Accompanied by his four conspiring monks, he strived for imposition of five extreme rules to the whole members of the Sangha, one of which was the rule to abstain absolutely from any food made of fish or meat. In response to this demand, the Gotama Buddha stated that the monks who felt comfortable, agreeable, and suitable to the rule may practice it. However, He rejected to validate and to apply the rule to all the monks compulsorily.
From the discretion provided by the Gotama Buddha, it is very clear that Vegetarianism is actually not an official part of the Dhamma Vinaya. Vegetarianism is an unrequired and unimportant practice. The practice of Vegetarianism is not a 'passport' for achievement of the purity and the Real Freedom (Nibbana). In other words, whether Vegetarianism is practised or not, a person still has an opportunity and capacity to achieve the purity and the Real Freedom.
The Gotama Buddha was repeatedly confronted with the problems of Vegetarianism. Nigantha Nathaputta -- also known as Mahavira -- was the leader of Jainism frequently ridiculing Him. The Brethren discussed this matter in their Hall of Truth: "Friend, Nathaputta the ascetic goes about sneering, because, he says, 'Priest Gotama eats meat prepared on purpose for him, with his eyes open'." Hearing this, the Master rejoined: --"This is not the first time, Brethren, that Nathaputta has been sneering at me for eating meat which was got ready for me on purpose; he did just so in former times." Then He told them an old-world tale. Once on a time, when Brahmadatta was king of Benares, the Bodhisatta was born as a brahmin. When he came of age he embraced the religious life. He came down from Himalaya to get salt and seasoning, and next day walked the city, begging alms. A certain wealthy man designed to annoy the ascetic. So he brought him to his dwelling, and pointed out a seat, and then served him with fish. After the meal, the man sat on one side, and said: "This food was prepared on purpose for you, by killing the living creatures. Not upon my head is this wrong, but upon yours!" And he repeated the first stanza:--"The wicked kills, and cooks, and gives to eat: He is defiled with sin that takes such meat." On hearing this, the Bodhisatta recited the second stanza: "The wicked may for gift slay wife or son; Yet, if the holy eat, no sin is done." 5 So, it can be stated that those who take life are in fault, but not the persons who eat the flesh. The monks have permission to eat whatever food it is customary to eat in any place or country, so that it be done without the indulgence of the appetite, or evil desire.
A Buddha does not have the authority to prevent any other person from killing a living creature. Any person is entitled to do anything as he wants, and he will be responsible for and receive by himself the result as well. On many occasions, the Gotama Buddha confirmed that any murder is bad action (akusala-kamma) which will cause suffering, and animal meat trading 6 (mamsa-vanijja) is one of the five kinds of trading which ought not be done by the Buddhists. Therefore, in this the Buddhists showed their equanimity (upekkha). All creatures own their respective action. Whatever action done by them --good or bad--, of that they will be the heir.
The view and attitude shown by the Gotama Buddha in facing the problems of Vegetarianism is the most prudent wisdom produced by a great man in this world. After judging for himself the objective --not unilateral-- view and attitude which really conform to the real essence, Jivaka Komarabhacca, a well-known physician, declared himself as follower of the Gotama Buddha. At one time, he paid a visit to the Master. After paying homage and taking a proper seat, he said: "This is what I have heard, revered sir: that they kill living creatures on purpose for the recluse Gotama, and that the recluse Gotama knowingly makes use of the meat killed on purpose and specially provided for him. Those who speak thus, revered sir: 'They kill...'-- now, are these quoting the Lord's own words, revered sir, not misrepresenting the Lord with what is not fact, are they explaining in conformity with Dhamma, and does no reasoned thesis give occasion for contempt?" In response to this question, the Buddha spoke: "Jivaka, those who speak thus: 'They kill...'-- these are not quoting my own words, but are misrepresenting me with what is not true, with what is not fact. I, Jivaka, say that in three cases meat may not be used: if it is seen, heard, suspected (to have been killed on purpose for a monk). In these three cases, I, Jivaka, say that meat may not be used. But I, Jivaka, say that in three cases meat may be used: if it is not seen, heard, suspected. In these three cases I, Jivaka, say that meat may be used."
Furthermore, the Buddha explained that wherever they are, the monks in the Dhamma Vinaya always develop loving-kindness (metta), compassion (karuna), sympathetic joy (mudita), and equanimity (upekkha) to all creatures, far-reaching, wide-spread, immeasurable, without enmity, without malevolence. If a householder invites them to partake of food, they will accept it consciously, anything dedicated to them. They have never thought: "Indeed it is good that a householder wait on us with sumptuous almsfood." They have never expected as well: "O may a householder also wait on us in the future with similar sumptuous almsfood." They make use of that almsfood without being ensnared, entranced or enthralled by it, but seeing the peril in it, wise as to the escape. "What do you think about this, Jivaka? Are those monks at that time striving for the hurt of themselves or are they striving for the hurt of others or are they striving for the hurt of both?," asked the Buddha. "Not this, revered sir," replied the Jivaka Komarabhacca. Then the Master asked again, "Are not those monks at that time, Jivaka, eating food that is blameless?" He replied: "Yes, revered sir. I had heard this, revered sir: Sublime is abiding in friendliness. The Lord is seen as my witness for this, revered sir, for the Lord is abiding in friendliness."
In the meantime, the Buddha also explained that anyone who kills a living creature on purpose for a Tathagata or His disciples stores up much demerit in five ways: In that, when he speaks thus: 'Go and fetch such and such a living creature'; In that, while this living creature is being fetched it experiences pain and distress because of the affliction to its throat; In that, when he speaks thus: 'Go and kill that living creature'; In that, while this living creature is being killed it experiences pain and distress; and in that, if he proffers to a Tathagata or His disciples what is not allowable.
Based on the conception in the above sutta, it may be concluded that the fish or animal killed (by one's self or through another person) intentionally offered to a monk as dedication (udissa-mamsa) is the food inappropriate to a monk, whereas the fish or/and meat (in dead condition) purchased by a devout follower from a market -- sold for public consumption (pavatta-mamsa) -- is the food permitted by the Buddha to be accepted and to be eaten by the monks, His disciples.
3 According to "The World Book Encyclopedia", Field Enterprises, Inc., Chicago.
4 John Blofeld, a well-known Mahayana writer, seemed to disregard this historical fact when he made a wrongful statement: "Ancient books show that Vegetarianism was unknown to India until the period when Buddhism swept over the country. Hindu scholars themselves admit that the practice was received from Buddhism..."
5 Please compare it to the saying of Jesus in Matthew XV, 10-19 which reads: "Not what goes into the mouth defile a man,... But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a man. For out of the heart, come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, fornication, theft, false witness, slander."
6 It is important to be understood that this term 'trading' only refers to the act of 'selling', not relating to the act of 'purchasing'.
Life of Animal, and Vegetarianism in the Opinion of Theravada
Theravada recognizes animal as an intact manifestation of life. Animal does not only have a shape of body (rupa) and instinct, but also has comprehensive mental elements --feeling (vedana), perception (sanna), mental states (sankhara), and consciousness (vinnana).7 It is very precarious to prove scientifically that the capability of animal in identifying its species, caring and loving its offspring, selecting a suitable shelter for it, rightly remembering to return, being afraid of threat to life, and feeling happy when it is loved, being loyal and willing to make sacrifice for the protection of its caretaker whenever he is facing any danger, and the like are only motivated by instinct. Actually, it will be more accurate when it is said: the person who adheres to misleading dogma that animal has only instinct is the person who uses his instinct rather than his common sense as a man. Also, animal does not live only once, namely in this present life, but came from its past lives, and the life will continue from time to time in the future. Death in the present life for it is not the end of everything.
Animal is not a humble creature nor accursed creature which may be treated arbitrarily. The animal slaughter as offering, as practised by primitive religion to bribe, to worship or to satisfy the low-desire of blood thirsty imaginative gods is a culpable action which could not be justified at all by Theravada. It is an official rule for any Theravadin to abstain from any form of animal killing. In addition, Theravada has never allowed animal butchery for food consumption.
It is also necessary to understand that animal is not intentionally created for men. Dr. K. Sri Dhammananda, a Theravada leader from Ceylon who became a Dhammaduta in Malaysia for many years commented: "If we believe that animals were created by someone for man, there are reasons to say that men are also created for animals since there are some animals who eat human flesh."8
However, Theravada does not agree with the opinion that killing of animal can be prevented by launching a protest or action of strike in the form of abstaining from food made of meat (in the sense that it is required to practise Vegetarianism). The effective way to reduce the killing of a number of animals is to provide intensively the people with information about the Dhamma. It is only in this way that they can really bear in mind that the value of life is so important for any creature, including animal. This means that any creature is entitled to its life. As other living creatures, animal also covets happiness and does not want any form of suffering at all. The life loved very much by it should not be disturbed or even destroyed for any reason --which include satisfying human appetite. By means of such a right view, the people will not kill or slaughter any animal for personal consumption or for sale on the market. Thus, the life of animal can be saved not by forbidding the eating of its meat or considering its meat as dirty, but by referring to the value of life, and fighting for basic rights of the animal. There is no doubt that the way taken by Theravada to overcome the problem of slaughter may be stated as a method of solution straight to the point. This is absolutely different from the method proposed and adopted by the vegetarians, which may be considered as an endless method, a seeming salvation.
7 Being covered with ignorance and because of its condition as well as natural characteristics, animal is not so able to raise its civilization, develop its pattern of thinking and enhance its discretion.
8 "What Buddhists Believe", Kuala Lumpur: The Buddhist Missionary Society, 1973, page 78.
Vegetarianism in Mahayana Concept
Many people have known that Vegetarianism is closely related to Mahayana concept. A rule for practice of Vegetarianism was expressly outlined in Bodhisattva Sila in article three of Lahukapatti section, which reads: "A monk who eats flesh that comes from animal life, commits a Lahukapatti sin."
A sufficiently strong statement was inserted in Nirvana Sutra, "Meat eating smashes the seed of great compassion."
A statement of similar spirit was also appended in Brahmajala Sutra of Sanskrit text, "A disciple of the Buddha should not intentionally eat meat of any living creature because if he does so, he smashes great compassion, virtue, and seed of the Buddhahood. This also causes all the creatures meeting him to evade him. Therefore, all the Bodhisattva have to avoid the eating of meat of any living creature. Meat eating is the source of unlimited sin." 9
Surangama Sutra contains a refusal and sharp criticism against the practice of meat eating: "After my Nirvana, in the Dharma ending age, these ghosts will be found throughout in the world, and will boast of how they feed on flesh which leads them to realize Bodhi (Enlightenment). Ananda, I permit the bhiksu to eat only the five kinds of pure flesh which are the product of my transcendental power of transformation and not of animal slaughter. You, Brahman, live in a country where vegetables do not grow because it is too damp and hot and because of all the gravel and rock, I will use my spiritual power of compassion to provide you with illusory meat to satisfy your appetite. How then, after my Nirvana, can you eat the flesh of living beings and so pretend to be my disciple? You should know that those who eat meat, though their minds may open and realize a semblance of Samadhi (Concentration), are but great raksasa (demon) who, after this life, will sink back into the bitter ocean of Samsara (circle of continued life) and cannot be my disciples. They will kill and devour one another ceaselessly; how then can they escape from the three worlds of existence?" 10
In the meantime, in Lankavatara Sutra there is a special chapter discussing the matter on meat eating. This is a dialogue with a bodhisattva-mahasattva named Mahamati. A part of the content can be quoted as follows: "It is not true, Mahamati, that meat is proper food and permissible for the Sravaka when (the victim) was not killed by himself, when he did not order others to kill it, when it was not specially meant for him. Again, Mahamati, there may be some unwitted people in the future time, who, beginning to lead the homeless life according to my teaching, are acknowledged as sons of the Sakya, and carry the Kashaya robe about them as a badge, but who are in thought evilly affected by erroneous reasonings. They may talk about various discriminations which they make in their moral discipline, being addicted to the view of a personal soul. Being under the influence of the thirst for [meat-] taste, they will string together in various ways some sophistic arguments to defend meat-eating.... Further, a tenfold prohibition is given as regards the flesh of animals found dead by themselves. But in the present sutra all [meat-eating] in any form, in any manner, and in any place, is unconditionally and once for all, prohibited for all.... There is no meat to be regarded as pure in three ways; not premeditated, not asked for, and not impelled; therefore, refrain from eating meat.... Let one avoid all meat-eating [whatever they may say about] witnessing, hearing, and suspecting; these theorizers born in a carnivorous family understand this not." 11
Opposition against meat eating and suggestion to practise Vegetarianism are found in may other Sanskrit texts, that is: Hastikakshya, Mahamegha, Nirvana, and Anglimalika. However, all those sources have no equivalent comparison in any section of the Tipitaka (Pali) adopted by Theravadins.
The thing to be investigated now is: What source is reliable? Can it be accounted for in terms of originality in this case? Did the Theravadins eliminate it? Or, did the Mahayanists interpolate it? In other question, were the rules and doctrine really stated and established by the Gotama Buddha himself or not? Both the Mahayanists and Theravadins stick to their respective opinion that it is their own scripture which is pure and original.
It is considered necessary to study this case more profoundly. The study mentioned herein does not mean to analyze the rules and doctrine in terms of Mahayana as well as Theravada, because such an effort will cause a subjective and unilateral impression. The most accurate study to be conducted is to verify the validity of the rules and doctrine by virtue of historical evidences.
In the Bodhisattva Sila translated by Kumarajiva, there are 58 articles divided into two classifications. Ten articles are classified into heavy offence (garukapatti), the first four articles of which are the basic rules precisely similar to four articles of Parajika in the text of Patimokkha, Vinaya Pitaka (Pali). The rule for practice of Vegetarianism is set forth as the third article of the 48 articles on light offence (lahukapatti). What should be analyzed further is the eighth article on Lahukapatti, which reads: "A monk who speak ill of or is opposed to the Buddhist Dharma in the Mahayana Doctrine, commits a Lahukapatti sin." 12 The emergence of the term 'Mahayana' in the rule is a very outstanding peculiarity. In "A Historical Study of the Terms Hinayana and Mahayana, and the Origin of Mahayana Buddhism", a lecturer at Calcutta University, Department of Ancient Indian History and Culture, Ryukan Kimura, concluded --based on historical data-- that the term Mahayana was not known to the Buddhist community in the early period when the Gotama Buddha had not attained the Final Release. In the Pali Nikayas 13 as well as in the Chinese Agamas 14, which are the most reliable texts as the original manifestation in the early Buddhism, such a term could not be found at all. The term, at least, was just revealed after the Second Council (Sangayana) had been held, about one hundred years after the Mahaparinibbana, which resulted in the separation within the Sangha. Mahasanghika followers felt annoyed and embittered by the label given by those who were conservative and loyal to the pure doctrine of the Gotama Buddha as is [Theravada] as 'papa bhikkhu' (evil monks) and 'adhammavadi' (adherents of false doctrine). They tried to find a new term which could strengthen and take into superiority the opinion, concept, and doctrine followed by their own group, and on the contrary to oppose as well as to look down on the opinion, concept, and doctrine adopted by other groups. Some term such as 'Bodhisattvayana', 'Buddhayana', 'Arhatyana', 'Sravakayana', 'Dviyana', and the like could be composed successfully by them in a relatively short period of time. However, they seemed to be not so satisfied with the terms because all these were specific, only able to show differences in certain aspects. They required a term which could really accommodate, represent and cover differences of opinion, concept, and doctrine as a whole. At last, they created a term felt to be more agreeable, namely: 'Mahayana' for their own party and 'Hinayana' for other parties, literary meaning "Great Vehicle" and "Lesser Vehicle". During the period from the time of the separation up to the time of Nagarjuna (the second century A.D.), the term Mahayana and Hinayana were only used to indicate differences of the basic doctrine --as contained in Saddharmapundarika Sutra. Just in the time of Nagarjuna and thereafter, the term was subjected to change of connotation, not only referring to the differences of the basic doctrine, but also referring to the difference of school/sect --as written in Prajnaparamita Sastra. Those who were classified into Hinayana were not only the group of Theravada, Sarvastivada, but also the group of Mahasanghika which was its founder. From the above analyses, it is clearly proved that the term Mahayana was actually just known to the Buddhist community later. Coming back to the context of this writing, it is necessary to ask a question: How was it possible that the term Mahayana which was never stated by the Buddha may appear in one of the articles of Bodhisattva Sila? Certainly, none can help but say that the term is a new insertion. The next point of contemplation is: When they did not feel 'sinful' at all to insert the term Mahayana and to threaten the persons who humiliated and opposed their doctrine, would they feel 'guilty' of making the idea of Vegetarianism penetrate the Bodhisattva Sila and of swindling the name of the Buddha as the person who made the rule effective? In terms of its title, the validity of the Bodhisattva Sila itself is actually still very obscure. All the articles set forth therein are the rules especially directed to the monks. In this case, the composer of the Bodhisattva Sila presumably laid the fact aside that the bodhisattvas were not absolutely born to be monks or laity, but they might be born to be other living creatures such as animals. If the Bodhisattva Sila is applied to any of the bodhisattva born in any world, the practice will be peculiar and funny. Conversely, if the Bodhisattva Sila is declared as a rule especially applied to a bodhisattva being born as a monk, the use of 'Bodhisattva' Sila can certainly be considered inaccurate.
In reality, it is not too difficult to prove on the basis of historical data, evidences and facts, whether the monks in the early period, and even the Gotama Buddha himself ate animal flesh or not. In Pratimoksa Sutra (Sanskrit) of the Mahasanghika group, the origin of Mahayana sect, in the 39th article of Pacattika 15, there is a rule which reads: "Whatever monk who is not ill, asking or having families asked for such foods which are regarded as excellent, for himself, should chew or consume them, that is a Pacattika. These are foods which are regarded as excellent (pranitasammatani bhojanani), namely: clarified butter, oil, honey, molasses, milk, curds, fish, and meat." 16 Indirectly, this rule implies that a monk who is ill may ask for and eat fish and meat, whereas a monk who is not ill may also eat it provided that he does not request it from a householder who is not his relative. Thus, there is no doubt that fish and meat are the food appropriate and common to the monks from the early period in the time of the Gotama Buddha.17
Relating to Lankavatara Sutra, a Sanskrit expert and well-known Buddhist intellectual, Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, commented on the introduction to the translation of the Lankavatara Sutra and also in his commentary book, "Studies in the Lankavatara Sutra" that the eighth chapter of this sutra, namely "on Meat Eating" is a later addition, like the introductory chapter, which relates the dialogue with Ravana --a legendary giant king also known in the Hinduism myth. It is clearly visible that there was an effort to append this chapter into the main part of the sutra. The chapter which has no organic connection with the text proper, suffered certain modifications, especially on the translation worked by Bodhiruci (Wei) in 513 A.D.. There must have been the accepting of meat-food among the followers of Buddhism in the time when the Lankavatara Sutra was compiled. Evidently, the Buddha did not object to their eating it if the animal was not especially killed for them. This caused unfavourable comments among the other religions, for instance, the Lokayatas, and the Buddhists naturally did not like them, and this must have started the new effort to prohibit meat-eating altogether among the Mahayana advocates. In any way, Lankavatara Sutra which just a collection of notes unsystematically strung together, is not a discourse directly preached by the founder of Buddhism, that it is a later composition which developed some time after the Buddha.
Based on the result of the critical analysis conducted by D.T. Suzuki for seven years, as summarized above, the statement of Maitridevi in Pancaran Dharma magazine, issue number 149, that ". . . If a sutta or sutra is contained in the Holy Book of Tipitaka or Tripitaka, the sutta or sutra was certainly preached by the Gotama Buddha or Sakyamuni Buddha, such as Lankavatara Sutra contained in the Tripitaka.", may be considered as a very rash statement expressed with the blind dedication and emotion --beyond historical data, evidences, facts--; a very primitive attitude in believing something, if it is not a hypocrite effort in reuniting sects in Buddhism. In the Dipavamsa, it is straight-forwardly narrated that the deviating monks of Vajjiputtaka group, founders of Mahayana sect, who did not understand the real meaning of the pure doctrine of the Buddha, put aside at their will some parts of the profound sutta and vinaya, and composed false new sutra and vinaya. It seems many Buddhists in Indonesia at present have not realized so much the advice of Bhikkhu Narada that: "Don't believe rashly that a sutra beginning with the concocted phrase 'Thus I have heard, once upon a time the Buddha lived at Sravasti...' is definitely a sermon really preached by Him. For certain groups, to write such a phrase is as easy as to write a novel, and to insert new sutras into the Tripitaka is as easy as to put new books in a row at a library!"
9 "Mahayana Vinaya", by Bhiksu Yen Kiat, Bangkok: Wat Bhoman Khunnarama, 1960, page 60.
10 "The Surangama Sutra" (Leng Yen Ching), translated by Charles Luk, London: Rider & Company, 1966, page 153.
11 "Lankavatara Sutra", translated by Daisetz Teitaro Suzuki, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, Ltd., 1973, page 211221.
12 "Mahayana Vinaya", by Bhiksu Yen Kiat, Bangkok: Wat Bhoman Khunnarama, 1960, page 60.
13 Digha Nikaya, Majjhima Nikaya, Samyutta Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya, and Khuddaka Nikaya.
14 Dirghagama, Madhyamagama, Samyuktagama, and Ekottarikagama.
15 "Buddhist Monastic Discipline", translated by Charles S. Prebish, New York: The Pennsylvania State University Press, 1975, page 80.
16 This rule which is comparable with the Patimokkha of the Theravada, is set forth as the 40th article in the Pratimoksa Sutra of the Mulasarvastivada.
17 In Suttavibhanga, Vinaya Pitaka, it was narrated that Uppalavanna Theri --a chief arahant nun-- had offered a meal in the form of cooked meat to the Gotama Buddha.
Between Vegetarianism and Purity
Practice of Vegetarianism is frequently associated with the attainment of purity. A person abstaining from any food made of fish and meat is considered as a holy person. Can purity be attained in such an easy way? Certainly not! The purity depends on the condition of a person's mind, not on something beyond. A person's purity can be appreciated from "what extent he can restrain, and leave out his desire for food", and not viewed from "what he eats". In Amagandha Sutta, Sutta-nipata, Khuddaka Nikaya, it was written: "Neither the flesh of fish, nor fasting, nor nakedness, nor tonsure, nor matted hair, nor dirt, nor rough skins, nor the worshipping of the fire, nor the many immortal penances in the world, nor hymns, nor oblations, nor sacrifice, nor observance of the season, purify a mortal who has not conquered his doubt." Based on the saying expounded by Kassapa Buddha to the ascetic Tissa as mentioned above, it can be declared that abstinence from any food made of fish or meat is not criteria for a person's purity. If only because of eating plants, vegetables, and fruits a person is considered pure; goat, horse, cow and the like are certainly pure from their time of birth! The statement of similar notion was also expressed by the Gotama Buddha against the people in Jambudvipa who believed that taking a bath in certain rivers [Gangga for example] a person can wash out all his desire, sin, and suffering. His saying is as follows: "Supposing water of the river can be used for washing out all the desire, sin, and suffering, it is sure that all turtles, crabs, fish, and shrimps living in the river considering as holy have been for a long time exempted from their desire, sin, and suffering."
Fish-dish and Meat, Living Products?
At present, when someone questions what is the basic difference between Theravadin monks and Mahayanist monks, people will promptly answer that the Mahayanist monks abstain from the food which is a living product, whereas the Theravadin monks may be free to eat anything as they like. This answer is indeed extremely mistaken and unreasonable. To declare that the Theravadin monks do not abstain from the food which is a living product, is as evil as to slander the Theravadin monks as 'killer'.
In Catuppaccaya Paccavekkhana Patha , it was specified how a Theravadin monk should have a certain attitude in accordance with the Dhamma to the food offering served by householders. Before receiving it, a monk should know and realize the food offering is only an element (dhatuso), loathsome (patikkulato), non-being (nissato), lifeless (nijjivo), and empty in the real sense (sunno).18 Likewise, when and after eating it, a monk should understand and realize it as the five things are.
For the Theravadin monks, there is no difference between fish-dish/meat and plants/vegetables. The two kinds of food have the same function, namely to support survival, to contribute to pure life, to maintain physical health, to remove hunger, to sustain pain, to release physical disturbance, and to make the life easy. Any food should be eaten not for enjoyment, addiction, fattening or body embellishment.
Fish-dish or meat (cooked) is a kind of food permitted by the Gotama Buddha to be accepted and to be eaten by the monks. The reason is that the fish-dish and meat are no longer living creatures or living products. As soon as an animal is dead, no consciousness (vinnana) or psychic life (nama-jivitindrya) will arise and exist within itself. Only the persons who stick to misconception on Atta will not be able to distinguish the cooked fish-dish/meat from the living creature. The concept of mind and body (Nama-rupa) for such persons is certainly blurred. If so, how is possible for them to covet the attainment of purity?
In addition, it should be explained herein that in Buddhism there is no belief that the meat of the slaughtered animal contains fury or mystical vibrations which will cause the eater to sustain nervousness, stress, worry, and the like. This is a misleading belief adopted by some ancient religions in India.19 Anger (patigha) or hatred (dosa) is one of the fifty-two mental states (cetasika) which may not arise in the dead creatures. Mental states is also not something eternal, independent, roaming around or entering any material.
18 "The Book of Chants", Bangkok: Mahamakut Press, 1975, page 263.
19 There is a Chinese belief that soul of the deceased persons is roaming around their family house for several days before rebirth. Contrary to this belief, the Abhidhamma Scripture presents clear explanation that as soon as deceasing consciousness (cuti-citta) is extinct, relinking consciousness (patisandhi-citta) arises; it works without respite.
Compassion, Basis of Vegetarianism Practice?
Most of Vegetarian Buddhists stated that they abstain from any food made of meat for cultivation of compassion (karuna). This statement should be studied further based on the pure doctrine of the Buddha. Several books on Abhidhamma 20 define compassion as: something having compassion to dukkhita-satta, namely unhappy living creatures or/and those who will afflicted with sufferings in the future. As meat (in the form of cooked food) is no longer considered as a living creature, as described before, it is impossible for anyone to develop compassion for it. This practice is as impossible as the development of compassion to vegetables, plants, table, chair, and other unliving items. It should be mentioned further that the compassion may not be developed in the formless worlds (arupa-bhumi) because in those worlds there is no object in the form of living creature or person. Seeing 'living creature' who is suffering or/and will suffer is an immediate cause of compassion (dukkhabhibhutanam anathabhavadassana padatthana). Thus, the presence of 'living creature' as object for practice of compassion is the main condition. It must also be understood that a manifestation of compassion is usually accompanied with intention, expectation and effort to help a living creature escape from suffering (dukkhapanayanakarapavattilakkhana). In this case, no one may release an animal from the suffering which already afflicted it, with eating no meat. Whether its meat is eaten or not, the animal had already died, and might not come to life with its dead body. The underlying objective of all the teachings of the Buddha is to relieve one's self or/and other creatures from the suffering which is being or/and will be possibly experienced; not 'the suffering which has been passed'. A past suffering may not be changed anymore.
It was said that when he was still a bodhisatta, the Gotama Buddha had lived in the past life as a heron. One day, he saw a fish floating in the river. As he thought that the fish was dead, he pecked the fish. When the fish was squeezed, it floundered. The bodhisatta living as heron released the fish immediately. However, the other fishes known to be dead certainly became his daily meal. Since the bodhisatta was born as heron, tiger, and other carnivorous animals, could he sustained himself with vegetables, spinach and the like? Eating the dead body of the fish did not mean that the bodhisatta had no compassion. It can be judged that he develop no compassion if he killed his prey by himself, as a custom for animals which were born not as bodhisatta. In "Dictionary of Comparative Religion", Trevor O. Ling, M.A., Ph.D. simplifies in the entry "Food": ". . . Among Buddhists, emphasis is laid on wrongfulness of killing animal (since it is a sentient being), rather than on eating its flesh when dead. The onus of bad kamma comes upon the slayer rather than the eater --a somewhat different attitude from that found among Hindus, who regard eating of meat as equally fraught with bad karma consequences." There is evidence of difference between killing a living creature and eating meat. Thus, compassion --in the above context-- actually has no relation in any way to eating or not eating meat, Vegetarianism.
20 "Paramatthajotika", composed by Phra Saddhammajotika, Bangkok: Abhidhamma University, 2526 B.E., and Handbook of "Abhidhammattha-sangaha", summarized by Vannasiddhi, Bangkok: Neb Mahaniranta Foundation, 2530 B.E..
In Golden Drum --a magazine which becomes a mouth-piece for the Mahayanists in West in advocating the Vegetarianism, the 14th issue, Sagaramati wrote in his article entitled "Do Buddhists Eat Meat": "To say that eating an animal's flesh has no ethical connection with the brutal act of killing it and the fear and terror experienced by it shows a thoroughgoing insensitivity to life, a poverty of imagination, and an incapacity to reason. Although one may not have killed the animal oneself or had someone else kill it for one, one is not freed from responsibility for the killing. A butcher or slaughterman kills an animal not for himself but for a market of consumers. If there were no of meat-eaters, there would be no point in butchering animals except for one's own consumption. Therefore, if one decides to eat meat one has also decided to become part of the market of meat consumers. And if one has become part of this market one is connected with the demand to which the butcher or slaughterman responds. There is a very definite relationship between the meat-eater and the brutal act of killing, between one's desire to taste flesh and the actual pain and suffering undergone by the animals."
In the tone of similar lyric, John Blofeld --a well-known author of some books of Mahayana-- also wrote in the Foreword of the book "Mahayana Vinaya" composed by Bhiksu Yen Kiat: "In modern times, animals are seldom specially killed for individuals; yet it is clear that all of us are indeed responsible for their death, as the butchers supply meat according to our demand for it. Thus, it does not seem at all logical under the present-day conditions for monks to claim that they can eat meat as they are unaware that the slaughtering takes place for them."
At a glance, the writings seem to be logical and reasonable. However, if such a pattern of reasoning is applied consistently, the Vegetarians will not escape from the liability and the effect of the killing committed by another person. For the moment, they can crow over the developed loving-kindness and compassion since they have never looked at with their own eyes the process of planting, plowing, and harvesting of crops, vegetables, fruits and other agricultural products. Supposing the crops and other agricultural products are able to speak, they will perhaps tell about the groans of earth-worms, and other crawling creatures whose bodies are torn up by eyeless hoes; about screams of mice whose heads are crushed by unfeeling sticks; about murmur of insects whose breathing cavity has burned down by spraying D.D.T.; and about many other touching and heart breaking stories! Apparently, nature has not been prepared to make the crops and other agricultural products as the living witnesses who can speak and seek for justice before the herbivorous people. The screams, groans, and murmur are still considered as meaningless cry in the wilderness. It should be questioned whether indeed only cattle and fowl are appropriate for and entitled to loving-kindness and compassion, whereas the life of earth-worms, and other soil-animals, mice, and insects may be neglected in such a simple way? If the herbivores imagine how happy the cattle and fowl would be if in the world there are no carnivorous persons, it will be also fair enough if the carnivores imagine how glad the earth-worms, mice, and insects would be if in the world there are no herbivorous persons --in which it is possible for them to have a party safely on any wet and dry rice fields!
Can Vegetarianism Change Somebody's Character?
Some people said that practice of Vegetarianism can change human character. This was said by means of a comparison that the animals belonging to carnivorous are much more cruel, vicious, and wild than herbivorous animals. The thing to be observed further is: Can the life of animal be compared absolutely to the life of human being whose civilization is quite different? That is actually not the case. Many meat-eating persons are proved to be good-natured, modest, polite, devoted and religious.
The above fact appears to have been realized by a graduate of Cambridge University who is assigned at the World Health Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization, Geoffrey Bell. He acknowledged honestly: "An Eskimo, who is perhaps a Carnivore forever and ever, may be a Buddhist better than me, who usually abstains from the food made of meat!"
If everybody has such a wide-viewpoint, the life story of the founder of German National Socialist Party (NAZI), Adolph Hitler, would certainly not make such a stir in the world. To the allies as well as his enemy in the battle, Adolph Hitler was known as a strict Herbivore --if he might not be called a Vegetarian.21 Such a way of life represents the attitude of Adolph Hitler who more appreciate an animal than hundreds or even thousands of man slaughtered by him. A question should be put forward: Does animal need more loving-kindness and compassion than man?
From the above real example, it can be concluded that it is very imprudent to evaluate a person's loving-kindness/compassion or harshness/cruelty only based on something usually eaten by him. In connection therewith, J.M. Brower commented: "If the statement that meat-eating will bring a person to the social harshness is true, the Eskimos will certainly be noted for their harshness, and India (in which the Vegetarianism develops rapidly) will certainly become the most peaceful country in the world!" That is not the fact. Thus, the statement that Vegetarianism can influence a person's characteristic is a superficial assumption which is groundless and unproved in a real way.
21 WFB Review, Vol. XXI, No. 1, January -- March 1984, page 83.
Can Vegetarianism Diminish Rate of Slaughters?
Many people said that the practice of Vegetarianism can make a person feel sad to see, to hear, or to imagine the event of killing committed by any other person (not to mention by himself) against animals as foodstuff to meet the need of life. This sad feeling then became a stimulus of spirit and support of determination for them in continuous practice of Vegetarianism. Is the statement in conformity with the reality? It is still up in the air! If it really makes a person feel sad..., the practice of Vegetarianism should also make a person at least feel shy to use parts of animals body [which have been processed in such a way] in fulfillment of their needs of life. In other words, when a person is determined to avoid any food made of meat or fish, in the logical consequence, he should also be determined to avoid any necessities of life made of animals! However, it seems that the fact is not as expected. It is not too difficult to find a drum [made of animal leather], candles [one of basic materials of which is derived from animal fat (tallow)] 22 at the Mahayana temples, and it is quite easy to find the Vegetarian monks who take honey [pressed from honeycombs in which its eggs or offspring must die] 23 and wear silk robes [the fibre of which might only be taken first by killing --by means of heating or steaming-- the larvae when they are still in their cocoon before dipping into the cocoon in the process of metamorphosis], and it is very easy to find Vegetarian layman who wears elegantly leather belt, leather sandals, leather shoes 24, and other articles clearly made of parts of animal bodies. The consistent Vegetarian should also not take any medicines in view of the fact that any findings by medical experts demand the life of experimental animals.
If an accusation is made that consumption of meat or fish as foodstuff can multiply the rate of slaughters, it is necessary to ask in turn whether the use of the above goods does not give the same opportunity? Presumably, the moment has come for the Vegetarian Buddhists to give the H.H. Dalai Lama XIV (Tendzin Gyatso) a special authority, namely 'infallibility' in making any statement about moral, doctrine, concept, and anything relating to the teaching [as that owned by a Pope in the Catholic] that in a free and safe way he can immediately pontificate that: "For certain reasons, which should not be put forward herein, I declare that only consumption of meat as foodstuff will increase the rate of slaughter, whereas any other use will not increase it at all, and even it is totally allowed!"
Nevertheless, supposing he has such a special authority, the H.H. Dalai Lama XIV should think thousands of times in order to issue such a statement. The reason is simple: he is not a Vegetarian forever! He strives to abstain from any shrimp-containing foods only due to the fact that he is bogged down with health problem, allergy.25 Presumably, the suggestion to practice Vegetarianism integratedly and comprehensively in order to decrease the rate of slaughters since many centuries ago up to now is only "an unfinished plan" [If it may not be mentioned as a dream].
22 High quality candle contain spermaceti of whales.
23 In the Lankavatara Sutra, honey is even declared to be one of the suitable foods for the Mahayana adherents.
24 Even, a well-known Vegetarian in Jakarta established a large leather shoes industry. Perhaps she is of the opinion that a slice of meat abstained from her daily menu can discharge hundreds of unsinful animals which die of skinning.
25 The resource person of this statement is Bhikkhu PaŮŮ‚varo, the Indonesian Therav‚da Sanghan‚yaka.
Vegetarianism and "Artificial Meat"
Among their active efforts in practising and publicizing their way of living, uncounted vegetarians buried themselves in creating a new kind of food which has never occurred to any of very creative professional cooks before, namely: "artificial meat". This artificial meat is made of wheat flour kneaded with other ingredients in such a way that its taste, aroma and even form are exactly like original meat sliced and cooked from an animal --even, a cook will feel difficult to differentiate the artificial one from the original one. Although the method of preparation is very sophisticated and the expenses to be incurred are much more expensive than those of the original one, the idea to produce the artificial meat is quite exciting and attracting the people of various walks of life, adhering to the Vegetarianism or not. The restaurants serving such a kind of food appear suddenly in large numbers in some big cities in the world. Even, some Buddhist magazines [not cook books] in Indonesia do not fall behind in inserting various recipes of such a vegetarian food, from artificial roast chicken up to artificial pork roasted on skewers. Many questions should be put forward to the vegetarians who are interested in and have an appetite for such an artificial meat. How are the idea and practice of artificial food production in terms of religion? If the eaten food is artificial meat, is the attained purity also not an 'artificial purity'? Is such a practice just the same as an effort to press a mental stain by raising another mental stain, which is more loathsome? Furthermore, may it not be considered as a great hypocrisy in this religious world?
Based on the fact which can be monitored, the 'appetite' of the person who practice Vegetarianism is surely no less than that of carnivores. Desire or mental defilement is never indiscriminate. It is indeed possible that a person who has been practising the Vegetarianism for a long period of time can press or forget his desire for food made of meat. However, this is not a guarantee at all that the desire will not change its object to another kind of food, vegetarian food --in the sense that he longs for and attaches to plants, vegetables, fruits, and other agricultural produces which are of good quality and selected, and which are delicious and tasty, pleasing, and have an enchanting form. Thus, the desire actually cannot be eliminated only by replacing, changing, or shifting its object. The desire can only be eradicated from its own source.
Last Meal of the Gotama Buddha, Mushroom or Pork?
The term 'sukara-maddava' appears in the whole part of Tipitaka (Pali) twelve times.26 It is set forth six times in Mahaparinibbana Sutta, Digha Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka, and on the other part it is set forth in Cunda Sutta, Udana, Khuddaka Nikaya, Sutta Pitaka. These two sources refer to the same event, namely that: the householder Cunda --a rich goldsmith-- invited and served the food in the form of sukara-maddava to the Gotama Buddha. This dish of food became the last meal of the Gotama Buddha before His Absolute Release (Mahaparinibbana).
Recently, there is apparently an effort to translate the term sukara-maddava into "a kind of mushroom liked by pigs" or "a kind of mushroom that grows in ground trodden under foot by swine" or "a kind of mushroom growing at the places where pigs usually stay".27 It is not known definitely who made this translation appear for the first time, but it is clear that this translation is fully supported by the vegetarian Buddhists. From the former times, they have really done their utmost in various ways to prove that the Gotama Buddha was a vegetarian abstaining from any food made of meat. The translation should be examined more profoundly.
In Sumangalavilasini --the book of commentary on Mahavagga, Digha Nikaya--, Buddhaghosa Thera 28 wrote that what is called sukara-maddava is "meat of pig of prime species, which is in moderate age --not too young but not too old--, which is tender, which is available in the market for public consumption (pavatta-mamsa)." This opinion is strongly supported by Dhammapala Thera, writer of Paramatthadipani --the commentary book of Udana, Khuddaka Nikaya-- saying that in Maha-atthakatha 29 there is also such a statement. In addition, Buddhadatta Thera who wrote Mathuratthavilasini --a book of commentary on Buddhavamsa, Khuddaka Nikaya-- also stated that one of the thirty natural points for each Sammasambuddha is: His last meal before Final Release is 'animal meat' (parinibbanadivase mamsarasabhojanam). In the Tipitaka Scripture in Thai language --published by Mahamakut-rajavidyalay--, and in Burmese language (and its translation in English) --published by Burma Pitaka Association--, the term sukara-maddava is translated into "tender pork".30
If it is examined according to its derivation of word, the validity of the translation should not be doubted anymore. The term sukara-maddava is derived from two words, namely: 'sukara' and 'maddava'. In "A Dictionary of the Pali Language" compiled by Robert Caesar Childers, and in "Pali Glossary" compiled by Dines Anderson, as well as in "Concise Pali-English Dictionary" compiled by Ven. A.P. Buddhadatta, the noun sukara is translated into "a pig, a hog, a boar", whereas the adjective maddava is translated into "flaccid, mildness, softness". Thus, based on the derivation of word, the term sukara-maddava actually bears no relation to "mushroom" or any kind of fungus.
In the meantime, it should be understood that householder Cunda was a devote 31 who knew that the Gotama Buddha was in poor health condition. He cooked intentionally a special food, sukara-maddava, with the expectation that His health would be improved. It would be very risky if the served food was a kind of food mixed with 'mushroom' --since a very long time ago known by the people as a kind of plant which 'may be' poisonous 32 --at least, according to the nutritionists, which may cause weakness and intoxication. Moreover, mushroom is a food of a very low nutrient content and even it may be said to have insignificant nutritive value.33 In other words, mushroom are not any more nourishing than juicy cabbage leaves. Therefore, it is very improper to expect that such a food will support the health. It should also be known that the Absolute Extinction of the Gotama Buddha was actually not caused by sukara-maddava served by the householder Cunda --as misconstrued by many persons--; but it was because of the extreme weakness of His body, and because of the period of life he had to live having been exhausted. Three months before, He determined to terminate His life when it was full moon in the month of Vesakha. In the event presently recorded in the Mahaparinibbana Sutta and the Cunda Sutta, the Gotama Buddha had never said that sukara-maddava served by the householder Cunda contained killing poison.34 He only said that in this world, no one, man, brahmin, ascetic, god, mara or brahma would be able to 'digest' (jirapeti) the dish of food, except himself. Nagasena Thera and Buddhaghosa Thera commented that when the sukara-maddava was being cooked, many gods put heavenly 'oja' (nutriments) in a large quantity into it, thinking that it was the last meal of the Gotama Buddha. Seeing the event, the Gotama Buddha told the householder Cunda not to offer the sukara-maddava containing the heavenly 'oja' to the monks who accompanied Him, which might cause 'overdose'. The gods put the heavenly 'oja' in the dose especially allocated to the Gotama Buddha. Thus, the translation of the term sukara-maddava into 'mushroom' with the presumption that the Absolute Extinction of the Gotama Buddha was caused by the 'poison' contained in the food, is really not in conformity with the fact.
In any way, it is actually not so important and should not be used as material of debate by the Buddhists. Whether sukara-maddava is really mushroom or not, it cannot be used as the ground or reason to support the Vegetarianism. The kind of food ever eaten by the Gotama Buddha certainly cannot be concluded only by seeing His 'last meal'. Several sources in the Tipitaka Scripture clearly indicate how the Gotama Buddha had His own attitude towards the Vegetarianism, and applicable to His disciples.
26 This term also appears in the "Milinda Panha" --a Pali scripture which tells about the debate between King Milinda and the Nagasena Thera.
27 In Mahaparinibbana Sutta and Milinda Panha, Prof. Rhys Davids translated this term as 'dried flesh of the boar' and 'tender pork'. But, I.B. Horner, in her translation of Milinda Panha, translated this term as 'truffle'.
28 He was a famous commentator on several parts of the Tipitaka (Pali) Scripture living about the fifth century A.D..
29 An eldest and most important book of commentary (on Tipitaka Pali) taken to Ceylon by Milinda Thera, son of King Asoka.
30 In the Singhalese (Ceylon) Tipitaka, this term is maintained in the original form, not translated.
31 Commentator said that he attained the stage of Sotapanna, one who has entered the stream of Path (to the Real Emancipation/Nibbana).
32 In "The World Book Encyclopedia", it is written that only botanists who are quite accurate will be able to differentiate between poisonous fungus and unpoisonous fungus. It is due to the fact that edible mushrooms sometimes have similar type, odor, and colour to those of toadstool.
33 Almost all kinds of mushroom are composed of: more than 90 per cent of water, less than three per cent of protein, less than five per cent of carbohydrate, less than one per cent of fat, and about one per cent of mineral salt as well as vitamin.
34 Supposing it contained poison, caused disease or caused His Absolute Extinction, the dish of food would certainly not be declared as an offering which would grant a very great merit, equivalent to the offering served by Sujata before the attaintment of His Supreme Enlightenment.
Must a Bodhisatta Practice Vegetarianism?
Some people interpret that the idea to formulate the Vegetarianism was inspired by the misery sustained by the Bodhisatta Siddhattha for six years in the Uruvela forest, namely that he only ate leaves and fruits --did not eat fish or meat. This is actually a misinterpretation -- if it may not be said to be an invented story. He sustained the misery only due to his evil action in the pas life, namely that he insulted Kassapa Buddha. Thus, the misery was truly not within the framework of practising and cultivating the loving-kindness. Vegetarianism bears no relation to Perfection (Paramita) which should be developed by Bodhisattas. Moreover, his Paramita were actually completed unimpairedly before his rebirth in Tusita Heaven waiting for the right moment for emergence of a Sammasambuddha in the world.
Practice of Vegetarianism for Monks
The Gotama Buddha never forbade nor suggested to the monks to practise Vegetarianism. If a monk feels pleasant, agreeable, and comfortable to the Vegetarianism, he may practice it freely. However, the Vegetarianism should not be practised at the expenses of other rules stipulated formally by the Buddha and also should not be practised blindly with total fanaticism -- since the Vegetarianism has no established standing foundation in terms of doctrine.
As it is forbidden to ask for any food from householders -- unless he is ill --, a monk who practises the Vegetarianism should not order the householders to prepare special food which is not made of fish or meat. He should be satisfied with anything offered sincerely and faithfully by the householders. If not, he is certainly not an easily supportable monk (subharo). The difficulty in choosing food is not a reason for breaching of any other formal rule. He should know and realize which one is a primary rule, and which one is a secondary rule; which should be given priority and which should be subordinated.
In addition, he should not boast by telling another person and even the public that he abstains from any food made of fish or meat. It is enough for him if he contended within himself. In any way, the main objective of all the rules is to train and to control oneself, not to enhance himself by an air of arrogance, boasting, or/and egoism. In other words, Vegetarianism should be practised not for humiliating, blaming or ridiculing the other monks who do not practise it 35, or for other purpose which are not in line with the Dhamma Vinaya -- as what was done by Devadatta, one of the pioneers of Vegetarianism. If not, a monk who practises the Vegetarianism will not diminish, but on the contrary multiply his mental defilement.
In the meantime, a monk who practises the Vegetarianism should realize that the Vegetarianism is only a rule which should not be obeyed blindly. By disregarding this view, he will not be able to attain the purity or the Real Emancipation. Even, the lowest stage of purity (Sotapanna) will never furnish any place for a person who is still put himself in the chains of attachment to the rules and rituals (silabbataparamasa).
For the monks, the practice of Vegetarianism sometimes gives an attractive experience. There was a monk who told some of his followers that he would practise the Vegetarianism for several months. As it is a custom of the monks not to refuse any food served to him --unless it is in contravention of the Dhamma Vinaya-- the monk received, but did not eat the food made of fish and meat. One day, which might be an unlucky day for the monk, one of his followers addressed him: "Venerable Sir, didn't you know that the dish of food, served by the other person, which you have just eaten actually contained meat?" Cornered by this very simple question, in a few moments the monk was conspicuously silent. However, as he was indeed good at speaking glibly, a few moments later the monk could control the situation. Apparently, the monk found an answer which could really protect himself from the question, namely by making use of the three conditions for purity of meat as provided by the Buddha. In sinless face and in calm voice, the monk said spuriously, "Heck,... I didn't see, hear, and assume the dish of food contained meat. If I knew before, of course I would avoid and not eat it." This answer was certainly accepted with a weak smile and a light nod as if a very young boy has been just advised by his father. However, it was not impossible that behind the smile and nod there was an unimaginable valuation. There is an analogy which can clarify the difference between the Vegetarianism and the three conditions for purity of meat provided by the Buddha, namely a blade of sword and its scabbard. The three conditions for purity play a role as blade of sword, whereas the Vegetarianism is a scabbard. In a safe condition, a person usually appreciates, admires, and boasts only the beauty of the scabbard adorned with jewelry and carving. The existence of the blade of sword is neglected and forgotten. However, in a critical condition, the presence of the blade of sword which can slash anything, is more required and expected than the scabbard. In the safe condition, the scabbard can show its superiority, but in the critical condition, the scabbard can only entrust its safety behind the sharp blade of sword.
From the above example, it is clear that it is actually difficult for a monk to practise Vegetarianism, especially those who are non-expert in cooking. The use of foodstuffs for cooking sometimes deviates from the assumption. For an example, a monk certainly feels difficult to differentiate between the soya bean cake fried by using coconut oil and the soya bean cake fried by using lard [the white rendered fat of a hog]. The nature does not favour men with a sharp sense of smell like that given to certain animals. However, supposing he has such a special sensitivity, a monk will face some difficulties, especially in terms of ethics. Presumably, it is not decent when a monk should first sniff repeatedly the food to be eaten by him.
35 In Thailand, there is a leader of heretics "Santi Asoke" named Bodhiraksa who likes to criticize the persons who eat fish or meat as demon (yakkha), devil (mara), and the like.
Practice of Vegetarianism by Laity
Being different from the monks, laity will not face so many difficulties in the practice of Vegetarianism because they may examine carefully, look into, choose, and cook by themselves with the basic materials and ingredients to be used. One difficulty which will perhaps be faced is to prevent that no fly attacks it indiscriminately or no ant slips on the food pan. If this happens, they will be cornered in hesitation and skepticism because no holy book can prove scientifically: Whether the food in the pan is still pure as vegetarian food or not. Based on logic, the food cannot be considered as pure vegetarian food. However, if the food is declared in terms of religion as the food which is no longer vegetarian food, in this world actually none succeeds or will succeed in practising the Vegetarianism! Which food has never been touched or dirtied by animal carcass? Such question should be answered by the vegetarian laity: Are the rice; flour; and the like, mixed with louse carcass and other things in the bags, vegetarian foods? Are the plants; vegetables; fruits and other agricultural produces, containing worms; insects; and eggs, vegetarian foods? Are the cakes of soya bean and soya flour grasped or touched by the other buyers who have just chosen and sliced the meat in the market, vegetarian foods? Presumably, up to now there is no valid criteria to resolve this matter. Therefore, the success in practising the Vegetarianism is still an unresolved puzzle.36
36 This discussion is not a trumped-up or invented story, but based on the fact. The writer used to practise Vegetarianism strictly for more than four years. One day, a friend around the same dining table, who was rather reckless, put a spoon just used to dip up chicken soup into the cup of vegetarian soup. Although resolving not to eat it, the writer --for several months-- has not yet succeeded in getting a correct answer whether the food was still pure in terms of Vegetarianism or not. Later, a question arose in his own mind, "What and how is Vegetarianism actually?"
Practice of Vegetarianism in the Modern Age
There is no denying the fact that in this modern age, human beings are necessary required and even compelled to get the basic needs of their life, such as clothing, food, shelter, or medicines, which are processed and produced in the factories. Among the products available in the market at present are such as goods made of parts of animal body which are obtainable without any difficulty. Even, the daily necessities are not free from them. One of the examples is that some observers said that Colgate toothpaste, Camay and Palmolive soaps, and the like sold in the markets in Los Angeles, United States, contain lard.37 In view of this fact, can someone in this modern age practise the Vegetarianism rigidly? He can! If he is willing to take risk by avoiding all the products of factory, then he should clean his teeth by using brick powder; take bath by using a river stone instead of soap, or in other words: he should go back to the primitive way of life. However, before resolving this matter, someone should consider profoundly: Is it proper and sensible to live in such a manner? Another moderate way of life is: to be indifferent to the ingredients contain in the basic materials and the component of the products processed and produced by the factories. If no animal bone was slipped into the toothpaste, soap, soy sauce, frying oil, and the like; then look at all the things as legally allowed products --not made of any part of animal body! However, if the later way of life is chosen, someone should be able to give an accurate answer to the question: "Does this way conform to the early spirit of Vegetarianism?"
37 Weekly magazine TEMPO, No. 41, XVth Year, December 7, 1985.
Between Vegetarianism and Atthasila, an Optional Alternative?
As both are related to the matter of eating, Vegetarianism is frequently connected with Atthasila (Eight Precepts), one point of which is the practice to abstain from eating food after the midday. Almost all the Mahayana monks who practise the Vegetarianism do dot observe the rule in the Patimokkha (Pali) set forth in the part of Pacittiya.38 It seems that the two rules are considered as an optional alternative, either of which may be chosen as one wishes. The pretext is: "Let those who feel agreeable to Vegetarianism practise the Vegetarianism, and those who are agreeable to the sixth precept of the Atthasila practise this precept. In any way, both are all the same for moral development, typical of the Buddhist Dharma." 39 Actually, such a pretext is really not in conformity with the pure teaching of the Gotama Buddha. At least, this pretext reflects a generalization between the teaching of the Gotama Buddha and the wrong proposal of the insurgent, Devadatta!
It is irrelevant if the practice of Vegetarianism is connected with the practice of the sixth precept of the Atthasila. Being different from the doubtful position of Vegetarianism, Atthasila was formally declared by the Gotama Buddha as a means which could lead one to the Heaven, even to the gate of purity. Therefore, it seems to be imprudent if someone jacks up and then replaces one of the precepts in the Atthasila with the Vegetarianism. Presumably, many persons still misunderstand the sixth precept. The precept is actually not only a rule of discipline, but also a tradition practised by the Buddhas, monks, and laity from the past ages. At present, the precept was formerly enforced by the Gotama Buddha just following an event. However, it does not mean that the rule did not exist before. The occurrence of an event was only a strong reason for a Buddha to start a formal enforcement of a rule. For that reason, it is quite wrongful to interpret that the rules of discipline are only the order outlined by the Gotama Buddha in His personal opinion and judgement. Thus, the corruption of the sixth precept of the Atthasila by the Mahayanists, does not only mean a failure in practising the precept, but also means to tear the tradition spread out perfectly by the Buddhas!
Certain people are of the view that the benefit of the sixth precept of Atthasila is only to practise moderate way in manner of eating, and apart from this, there is no other benefits. However, this is not the case. Besides giving many benefits to religious observance, the practice of the precept also maintains good physical health. The practice of the precept, known as "Juice Fasting" 40 in the modern medical term, has been proved valid in may developed countries: America, Germany, Sweden, Russia, and the like. A medical research institute, which is very famous in the world, Karolinska (Stockholm), recommends it as an effective method of treatment. In the absence of intake of protein and fat during fasting, body burns up and digest, in the nature course, its own muscles in the process called 'autolysis' or 'self-digestion'. This is carried out very brilliantly, namely by picking out unhealthy, old and dead parts of cells. In that way, the body will be clear of wastes piled up for a few moments. Dr. Otto Buchinger, M.D. called this method of fasting as a refuse disposal, a burning of rubbish. During the period of fasting, alimentary canal, liver and kidney can function more effectively because they are exempted from the duties to digest new food, and can specialize in cleaning out the heap of combustion refuse and eradicating as well as discharging any poison (uric acid, purine, etc.) out of the body. At the same time, process of formation of new sound and powerful cells will be accelerated. Someone should not fear for lack of protein content during the fasting period. It is because that the protein saved in the body is in a dynamic state, which can be continuously re-synthesized, re-utilized for various needs in the body.41 Some scientist have now been able to prove that naturally, body can digest, process and absorb nutriments much better in the morning than during the night. Therefore, morning is the best time for all creatures --except flying bat and other night animals-- to fill their belly, whereas night is the time to take a rest. Presumably it is less human if someone puts his stomach, intestines, and other digestive organs to work by force during day and night!
38 In the Pratimoksa Sutra (Sanskrit), adopted by the Mahasanghika followers, this rule is still set forth.
39 U. Tedjo Joewono in the article entitled "Food" in Svara Dharma magazine, No. 9, October--November 1985.
40 The Buddhist way of fasting is really in line with the method introduced by the scientists (Juice Fasting) due to the fact that the Buddha allowed fruits juice drinking, containing vitamins required by the body continuously. This is one of the superiorities of the Buddhist way of fasting in terms of health, in comparison with that thought by some other religions, namely a "total fasting" which forbids even clean water drinking.
41 This information was derived from "Juice Fasting: Royal Road to Health and Long Life" in the best-seller book "How to Get Well", written by Paavo Airola, Ph.D., N.D.
Benefit of Vegetarianism in Terms of Physical Health
In the preceding part, it is discussed in details whether the practice of Vegetarianism can really give benefits in terms of religion or not. Now, as the last topic of discussion, it is considered necessary to present a discussion in terms of physical health. There is an opinion that by abstaining from any food made of fish or meat, some persons will be healthier and stronger. However, there is other opinion that it is due to eating fish and meat that persons will be healthier and stronger. Which is the right one between the two opinions? There is no absolute truth in this matter. In other words, whether the practice of Vegetarianism is beneficial to physical health or the other way around, it will depend on each individual. For the persons who suffer from certain diseases: allergy, hypertension, heart attack, and the like, or the persons whose bodies have high content of cholesterol, the practice of Vegetarianism [More accurately, it may be called as 'diet'] can indeed support their health. However, for babies and children, the practice of Vegetarianism will certainly hamper their growth, especially the development of their brains. Consumption of vegetables protein contained in the agricultural products cannot substitute the demand for animal protein as a whole. It should also be realized that fish and meat contain certain elements which are less or even cannot be found in the plants, vegetables or fruits, for instance vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 which cannot be produced artificially is very beneficial to formation and renewal of blood cells. Besides anemia, lack of vitamin B12 may result in damage to brain, indolence and mental defect. The symptoms are formication up to nervous disorder or paranoia. If the condition is not overcome early, this will result in permanent mental deterioration paralysis.42 It is clear that absolute abstinence from fish and meat leads to negative effects on one's health. If not, why do the health organizations stick to the motto: "Four for Health, Five for Perfection", and it is not replaced with "Three Enough for Health" --in the sense that fish/meat and milk are excluded from the basic menu. Several alleviations applied by a certain vegetarian group in the West by legally allowing milk, egg and even fresh-water fish, indirectly expose their disguised fear that the rigid practice of Vegetarianism may threaten and endanger physical health. Thus, it would be concluded herein that actually, Vegetarianism is only appropriate for the persons who suffer from (certain) diseases, the persons who bear excessive nutriments or the person who do light labour [for instance, only sitting with legs dangling while instructing their subordinates]-- because they do not need a high consumption of animal protein or other elements contained in fish and meat. On the contrary, children, persons with malnutrition, or persons who work very hard --in which the consumption of animal protein and other elements contained in fish/meat and milk are required in a large quantity--, the practice of Vegetarianism should be taken into serious consideration.
42 "Nutrition Almanac", John D. Kirschmann, Lavon J. Dunne, Nutrition Search Inc., U.S.A.: McGraw-Hill Book Company, 1984.
After reading attentively the discussions cited above, now the readers can certainly give the correct answer to the question: "Are You Herbivore or Carnivore?" The answer which is in line with the Dhamma, pure teaching of the Buddha, should not be either of the two alternatives. A real Buddhist would not be trapped in the dilemma of Vegetarianism. The Gotama Buddha set a prudent example and an excellent guide to face as well as to overcome the problems of Vegetarianism. No Buddhist should consider or classify himself into Carnivore [only eating fish and meat], especially shows an attitude as if he is a salesman of producers of the food made of fish or meat; who very ambitiously offers his commodities in pursuit of a high amount of incomes and in various ways does his utmost to legally allow animal killing. However, no Buddhist should consider or classify himself into Herbivore [only eating plants, vegetables, fruits, and other agricultural products], especially shows an attitude as if he is henchman of the Vegetarians, who very fanatically spreads the way of living as Herbivore. Buddhists are the persons who have a "typical way of living" in fulfilling their demand for food, which cannot be classified into the way of living of Vegetarianism or non-Vegetarianism. Thus, in response to the question which becomes the title of this book, a Buddhist may state expressly and firmly: "I am neither a Herbivore nor a Carnivore! I am an eater of any food which conform to the Dhamma, pure teaching of the Buddha..."
A fool likes to raise frivolous questions and choosy on "what" kind of food to be eaten, while a wise is more attentive and more considerate "how" the food should be partaken mindfully; without arousing mental defilement.
Source: Theravada Net , http://www.theravada.net/
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