A Study on Mahāyana Buddhism and Vegetarianism


A Study on Mahāyana Buddhism and Vegetarianism

Lee, Jae-so

(Researcher of Electronic Buddhist Text Institute,

Dongguk Univ.)

The Śākyamuni Buddha may have permitted monks to eat meat under very limited circumstances. There are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected. The Buddha and monks got their food either by going on donations or by being invited to the houses of their supporters and in both cases they ate what he was given. In early Buddhism we should be remember that the First Precept prohibits killing. It also makes anyone who causes another to take a life equally culpable. Eating meat is the cause of killing animals and it is clearly a violation of the First Sila.

Why do Mahāyana Buddhism advocate vegetarianism? The main reason is maitrī-karuṇa(compassion), and because we cannot bear to eat the flesh of living beings.

The Mahā-parinirvāṇa Sūtra tells us that if we eat the meat of living beings, we are destroying the seeds of compassion. And In the Laṅkāvatāra Sūtra says, how can the Bodhisattva who desires to approach all living beings as if they were himself and to practice the Buddha-truths, eat the flesh of any living being that is of the same nature as himself?

At the conclusion of this study, I say that practice of compassion and mercy toward all beings in the world must necessary lean on Ahiṃsā(non-violence) and vegetarianism.