Author Topic: On the impossibility of eating meat  (Read 5280 times)

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: On the impossibility of eating meat
« Reply #75 on: May 28, 2018, 06:10:03 pm »
The Buddha taught us to do no harm to any living being.

When the mendicant monks were going hungry, he told them that if kind people put a little meat in their begging bowls, they could eat it, but ONLY if it had not been killed for them, a sort of accidental eating of meat.

From that simple truth, millions of Buddhists now ignore his first directive - to harm no living thing - and happily buy and eat meat from any butchers.

It is impossible to harm no living being and eat meat.

When a Buddhist renounces his or her attachment to eating flesh, I listen to them.
Theres no rule in Buddhism that you cant eat meat.  The distinction is that you are not to do harm to any sentient being.  If you go to a store and buy meat and you dont pick out the animal that you want to be butchered for you, all you are doing is buying meat so there is no bad karma incurred. 
Some Buddhists take it to mean that you shouldnt eat meat but that simply isnt true, even the Buddha himself ate meat.  Now, it is certainly true that some Buddhist sects have adopted vegetarianism or veganism but thats them and there is absolutely no rule that you cant eat meat, as long as you dont kill it yourself or specify that you want it killed for you.

We know this is the rule, that a Buddhist monk, even at a higher level of spiritual development than the average person, is allowed to eat meat as long as he doesn't kill the animal, and as long as he has no reason to think the animal was killed specifically to feed him.

However, the issue under discussion relates to the ethics, rationality and logic of these Buddhist conditions about eating meat. In other words, it seems like a compromise. The issue is perhaps too difficult to address because eating meat has been such a fundamental part of the human diet for tens of thousands of years.
I imagine the Buddha realized this, and realized that it would not be practical to attempt to carry forward that basic principle of 'not harming other living creatures', to a recommendation of a strict vegan diet for everyone.

There is also another Buddhist principle to consider; everything in moderation; avoid extremes. This is one of the main differences between Jainism and Buddhism, which were both contemporary religions, although Jainism preceded Buddhism.

The Jains are extreme in the sense that they are strict vegans. They also fast regularly.

"Some Jain monks fast for months at a time, following the example of Mahavira, who is said to have fasted for over 6 months. Even today there are Jains who fast for over six months like Hira Ratan Manek. Others have fasted for an year like Sri Sahaj Muni Maharaj who completed his record-breaking 365-day fast on May 1, 1998."

The Buddha appears to have been influenced by these extreme ascetic practices during his own search for enlightenment, hence the story of his fasting for such a long period that he became so gaunt that he realized he might die before reaching enlightenment, which would be pointless. As a result, he began eating again and realized that it was sensible to avoid extremes.

Strict veganism is an extreme, so in this respect, the Buddha's allowing the eating of meat under certain conditions, is consistent with his principle of 'everything in moderation', although I still see a degree of logical inconsistency. It doesn't quite seem right that the Buddhist layperson should be allowed to kill animals for himself and others, in contradiction to that fundamental principle of 'do no harm to other living creatures'.

The way around this problem is to either adopt the Jainism principle of strict veganism, or treat the animals we use for food in the most humane manner possible. Look after them well; give them a good life; then kill them humanely in a manner similar to the processes of euthanasia that are applied to people with terminal illnesses, in countries where it's legal.

Offline Shogun

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Re: On the impossibility of eating meat
« Reply #76 on: May 28, 2018, 11:53:34 pm »
Even a Buddhist layperson isnt allowed to kill any sentient being, be that for meat or otherwise.  Like I said though, the distinction lies in who does the killing.  As long as you dont kill it yourself or the animal is killed specifically for you, there is no bad karma incurred.

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: On the impossibility of eating meat
« Reply #77 on: May 29, 2018, 07:41:44 am »
Even a Buddhist layperson isnt allowed to kill any sentient being, be that for meat or otherwise.  Like I said though, the distinction lies in who does the killing.  As long as you dont kill it yourself or the animal is killed specifically for you, there is no bad karma incurred.

If this is true then it is not possible for a farmer or a fisherman to be a Buddhist. Even if the farmer grows vegetables, the plowing of the fields and the harvesting of the crops kills worms and other insects in the soil.

In the cities, in the modern world, people who place food in the monks' alms bowls, will have often bought the meat in a supermarket, so there's no connection between the slaughter of the animal and the name of a particular monk who might eventually eat the meat.

However, in the countryside, this is less likely to be the case, and during the times of the Buddha, I imagine that most people donating food to the monks would have produced the food themselves, whether vegetables or meat.

I see a major problem of ethical consistency here which I can only resolve with the concept of 'everything in moderation'.

Offline Shogun

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Re: On the impossibility of eating meat
« Reply #78 on: May 29, 2018, 10:55:21 am »
If this is true then it is not possible for a farmer or a fisherman to be a Buddhist. Even if the farmer grows vegetables, the plowing of the fields and the harvesting of the crops kills worms and other insects in the soil.
In some Buddhist sects, yes.  There are those who will wear surgical masks as not to breathe in any microscopic organisms, thus killing them.  However, most teachers would tell you that the key factor thats missing is intent.  When a farmer tills the ground, they are just tilling the ground.  They are not INTENDING to kill insects in order to eat them.  Thats the key distinction.  Theres a karmic different between intent to cause suffering and causing suffering accidentally.

Offline VincentRJ

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Re: On the impossibility of eating meat
« Reply #79 on: May 29, 2018, 06:16:23 pm »
If this is true then it is not possible for a farmer or a fisherman to be a Buddhist. Even if the farmer grows vegetables, the plowing of the fields and the harvesting of the crops kills worms and other insects in the soil.
In some Buddhist sects, yes.  There are those who will wear surgical masks as not to breathe in any microscopic organisms, thus killing them.  However, most teachers would tell you that the key factor thats missing is intent.  When a farmer tills the ground, they are just tilling the ground.  They are not INTENDING to kill insects in order to eat them.  Thats the key distinction.  Theres a karmic different between intent to cause suffering and causing suffering accidentally.

I recall a few years ago visiting a Santi Asoke communitiy in Thailand. This is a revolutionary Buddhist group that has attempted to address the major flaws in some of the traditional practices of Theravada Buddhism in Thailand, which include discrimination against women, the eating of meat, the wasting  of resources on the construction of massive Buddha statues and elaborate, glittering temples, and the discouragement of monks to engage in useful work, apart from sweeping the temple grounds.

These Santi Asoke communities are self-supporting. They grow organic vegetables, do not accept monetary donations but raise funds by selling their vegetables to the local market. The entire community lives on a strict vegan diet, except pregnant women and young children. Women are allowed to be ordained, and have a similar status to the monks.

When I visited one of the communities, with my camera, I was hoping to photograph both monks and nuns working together in the fields, harvesting vegetables.

I was disappointed. The monks and nuns worked as teachers in the school, attended to some of the machinery on the site and did some office work, but were not allowed to do any farming because of the risk of killing insects and worms.

Despite all the revolutionary reforms, which are even considered to be heretical by some, the possibility of killing insects, without intent, remains an obstacle to monks engaging in farm work.

I see a major flaw in the rationality of Buddhism here, as it is practiced. It's equivalent to a monk saying, 'It's all right for you to unintentionally kill worms and insects as you farm to support everyone, but it's not all right for me to unintentionally kill worms, because I am special.'

The logical conclusion of such an attitude suggests that the only way an entire community could be true Buddhists of equal status is if everyone were to live on fruit, berries and natural plants in the forests, as our distant ancestors used to do before they developed hunting tools.

 


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