The Buddha did not dictate that a Buddhist must not eat meat. In Buddha’s era, monks got their food by begging for food from others. They ate what was given by believers. While in Tibet, as vegetables cannot grow in the bitterly cold weather, beef or mutton becomes the monks’ staple.
Buddhism advocates vegetarianism with the intention to cultivate peace, kindness and simplicity in the hearts of people who wish to learn from Buddha.
If a person can become a vegetarian after learning Buddhism, that is the best. However, if one cannot become vegetarian because of family, work or other issues, one can choose to be vegetarian on the first or fifteenth day of the lunar calendar, on the six vegetarian days, or only consume vegetables in meat dishes, or consume three ‘clean’ meat.
Six vegetarian days: 8th, 14th, 15th, 23th, 29th, 30th day of the lunar calendar (28th and 29th for months with 29 days).
Three ‘clean’ meat: where one has not seen the creature killed, has not heard of it being killed for him, and has no doubt thereon.
Master Hsing Yun “Problems of Contemporary Society” (U.S.A, Los Angeles, University of the West Seminar)
here is an except from 如得法师 on being vegetarian vs eating meat.
I like the part in which he emphasized that being vegetarian does not mean you are definitely cultivating positive Karma or that eating meat means you are doing bad. It still depends on the motivation and intention behind why you turn to vegetarian. e.g. for the sake of the environment or to avoid the killing of sentient beings.
And also if one is eating meat, to try to go for the 三净肉 (the three “clean” meat as permitted by Buddha as mentioned in the earlier post)
不见为我杀 I did not see the living thing killed for me.
不闻为我杀 I did not hear the living thing killed for me.
不疑为我杀 I have no suspicion that the living thing was killed for me.
(the example given was if you noticed the surrounding has not much meat or livestock and thus you think that a living thing was just killed just for the meal you are able to have - you should then decline the meal).