Why does one need to practice vegetarianism, after learning Buddhism?

When Buddhism was first introduced to China from India, it did not stipulate that monks must not eat meat. Later, because of the “Nirvana Sutra”, in which the Buddha said “Carnivores break the seeds of compassion”, so from then on, people advocated vegetarianism to practise the spirit of compassion.

In Buddha’s era, monks beg for food, so they ate what they were given. As Tibet has a harsh and cold weather, vegetables cannot grow. Hence, the Lamas usually take beef or mutton as their staple. If life cannot be maintained, how can one practise Buddhism? The famous Zen master, Hui Neng, ate vegetables from meat dishes in a group of hunters. Therefore, the purpose of practising Buddhism is not only to become vegetarian. For real Buddhists, “eating” is not an important issue, “a pure mind” is the most important. If a person is a vegetarian and speaks of compassion and love, and yet his heart is filled with greed, hatred and ignorance, it is against his conscience!

If a person can adopt a vegetarian diet 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. Whether it is a meat or vegetarian dish, the most important thing is to consume our food with a thankful, shameful heart.

Buddhism advocates vegetarianism with the intention to cultivate peace, kindness and simplicity in the hearts of people who believe in Buddhism or wish to learn from Buddha.

Reference: Master Hsing Yun “Problems of Contemporary Society” (U.S.A, Los Angeles, University of the West Seminar)


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Venerable Ru De does a Question and Answer session in which he addresses a query on the going vegetarian:

I understand it as the purpose of going vegetarian is important rather than the act itself - the motivation of caring for your follow sentient beings.

This article may help trigger us to turn more to vegetarianism

Venerable Ru De adds that eating meat doesn’t mean that one is doing something bad. It depends on the motivation - for e.g. the motivation to harm or kill another sentient being.

Venerable pointed out that being vegetarian doesn’t mean one is “superior” to someone else that is eating meat. It will still depend on one’s cultivation of one’'s practice.

Venerable Ru Jun advocates building up the habit of going for vegetarian for our meals:
(4:16 min onwards)

可以從每天飲食的選擇中,就選擇素食,培養對眾生與樂拔苦 的善妙習慣。如是則能不費力地天天造善,快速累積大量的樂因。

My learning from this discourse:

  • we should contemplate when going vegetarian the benefit to all sentient being, not just those saved from a particular meal. The good karma generated will be of a bigger magnitude due to our more far reaching motivation
  • at the 5:12 min mark, Venerable talks about Master Ri-Chang being very certain of his motivation when taking his meals; I gather that the purpose of having food is to sustain one’s body for a bigger purpose rather than simply enjoying the food.

And if we need more reason to go for more meatless meals, Venerable Ru Jun shares the large number of sentient beings and resources sacrificed just to produce livestock for consumption:
(from 5:53 min mark)







My thoughts are that if one believes in collective Karma, one can say that we deserve fruits of our actions in terms of the environmental harm and disasters in recent years and the current Covid19 pandemic upheaval.

Let’s hope we have a growing awareness to do more good for our follow sentient beings and avert bigger calamities.