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Ancient India and The East
Buddha (?563-483 BC) - vegetarian?

The Buddha: a title applied to Guatama Siddhartha, a nobleman and religious teacher of N.India, regarded by his followers as the most recent rediscoverer of the path to enlightenment; the founder of Bhuddism.

buddha: 1. a person who has achieved a state of enlightenment. 2. an image or picture of the Buddha.

Buddhist writings:
from The Extended Circle by Jon Wynne-Tyson.

  • For the sake of love of purity, the Bodhisattva should refrain from eating flesh, which is born of semen, blood, etc. For fear of causing terror to living beings let the Bodhisattva, who is disciplining himself to attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh...
    It is not true that meat is proper food and permissible when the animal was not killed by himself, when he did not order others to kill it, when it was not specially meant for him Again, there may be some people in the future who .. . being under the influence of the taste for meat will string together in various ways sophistic arguments to defend meat eating .
    But... meat eating in any form, in any manncr, and in any place is unconditionally and once for all prohibited... Meat eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit . - Lankavatara
  • The reason for practising dhyana [concentration of mind and seeking to attain Samadhi [equilibrium; tranquility; heightened and expanded awareness] is to escape from the suffering of life, but in seeking to escape from suffering ourselves why should we inflict it upon others? Unless you can so control your minds that even the thought of brutal unkindness and killing is abhorrent, you will never be able to escape from the bondage of the world's life. . . After my Parinirvana [complete extinction] in the last kalpa [the time between the start of a world cycle and its extinction] different kinds of ghosts will be encountered everywhere deceiving people and teaching them that they can eat meat and still attain enlightenment . . . How can a bhikshu, who hopes to become a deliverer of others, himself he living on the flesh of other sentient beings? - Surangama
  • The eating of rneat extinguishes the seed of great compassion. - Mahaparinirvana
  • I have enforced the law against killing certain animals and many others, but the greatest progress of righteousness among men comes from the exhortation in favour of non-injury to life and abstention from killing living beings. - Asoka's Edicts
  • Hurt not others with that which pains yourself. - Udanavarga
  • By whomsoever no evil is done in deed, or word, or thought, him I call a brahmin who is guarded in these three. - Dhammapada
  • The Buddha has mercy even on the meanest thing. - Vinaya, Cullavagga Khandhaka
  • To serve the creatures is to serve the Buddha. - Indian Proverb
  • All beings seek for happiness; so let your compassion extend itself to all. - Mahavamsa
  • The sacred eightfold path or middle way - right views, right resolve, right speech, right action, right living, right effort, right attention, right meditation . . which lead to the extinction of suffering and Nirvana. - Buddha's first sermon 4th truth. Vinaya, Mahavagga
  • The Goddess of Mercy has a thousand hands - and needs them all. - Japanese Proverb
  • He who, seeking his own happiness, punishes or kills beings who also long for happiness, will not find happiness after death. - Dhammapada
  • Let him not destroy, or cause to be destroyed, any life at all, nor sanction the acts of those who do so. Let him refrain from even hurting any creature, both those that are strong and those that tremble in the world. - Sutta-Nipata
  • Because he has pity on every living creature, therefore is a man called 'holy'. - Dhammapada
  • Full of love for all things in the world, practising virtue, in order to benefit others, this man alone is happy. - Dhammapada
  • One act of pure love in saving life is greater than spending the whole of one's time in religious offerings to the gods - Dhammapada

Some comments from readers of these pages:

  1. Many sources say Buddha died from eating bad mushrooms, not pork. It is understood that the Buddha taught his monks against killing animals, but, since they were to live on alms, to accept meat given to them so long as the animal had not been killed specifically for their benefit. However, people who offered food to Buddha would have certainly known his preference for vegetarian meals, so may have prepared fitting food.
  2. While there have been arguments that he ate meat when it was given as an alm, there are just as many arguments to the contrary (See To Cherish all Life by Roshi P. Kapleau). It is against the basic tenants of Buddhism to eat meat, and only those who whish to justify meat eating will argue differently.
  3. The Buddha was most certainly a vegetarian. There are many sutras composed after his death containing almost any imaginable sort of distortion or misrepresentation of the original teachings, so the fact that some sutra somewhere (or even many) claim that he ate meat is in itself meaningless. The only important criterion is what those sutras which are indisputably authentic say. These, without exception, very strongly advocate, even mandate, vegetarianism. I am a medical student at the Albert Einstein Collge of Medicine in NYC, and was a history major concentrating on Asian history, at Cornell U. I have lived in Japan for two and a half years, and my wife is Japanese and Buddhist. (She eats meat, just as many Christians do not forgive their enemies, etc. The practice of the nominal followers of the founder of a religion is no guide to the lives or even teachings of that founder.)

Gautama Buddha, 1st century CE, Gandhara