Monday, October 10, 2011

On Vegetarianism

As in all things, in the absence of direct guidance it’s up to the individual to make their own decisions about what is skilful and what is not.
I would like to make these points:
(1) As Bodhipaksa notes, a distinction is made in Buddhist thought between sentient and non-sentient beings and how they should be regarded. For example, there is certainly no ethical dilemma for Buddhists in eating plants and vegetables.
(2) At the same time it is clear that the Buddha ate meat, so his example and circumstances should be given some consideration in developing our own thinking.
(3) Boycotting those involved in the meat industry is seen by many as a logical extension of the First Precept against killing. However, please recall that the Precepts themselves are not commandments but guides to skilful actions.
(4) While guidelines for monks and nuns are not binding on lay followers, they do provide useful aids for making our own decisions, and so should not be dismissed out of hand just because they don’t suit our argument. Sure, we don’t have to be celibate either, but the aims of avoiding dukkha and of having the best possible conditions for meditation which underly this ideal, are things we can all benefit from and consider in the way we enjoy our sexuality as lay people.
(5) In traditional Buddhist countries, very few people are vegetarian, though they do appreciate the value of vegetarianism, and at least on poya or uposatha days avoid meat.
(6) It might be better for the lives of more cattle, etc if greater energy was focused on educating others of the benefits of avoiding meat, after all, Buddhists in Western countries are a very small part of the population.
(7) If we do decide to be vegetarian it helps to look at our motivation as well. How much of the decision is related to compassion and kindness and how much to our own ego? As in all decisions, the purity of our intention matters too.

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