Vegetarian or Not 吃素或吃葷
“Do you have to be vegetarian to be a Buddhist? “ This is a very common question.
First we need to go back and look at the history, during the Buddha’s time He and his disciples begged alms daily, to sustain their body for Dharma practice, they beg door to door, no matter the giver rich or poor, and beg no more than 7 homes, they accept any kind of food which lay-people offered, the goal was not to inconvenient people that make offerings. That means, they eat whatever people offered.
The vegetarian tradition begin after Buddhism transmitted to Southern Asia, the Theravada Buddhists, mostly in countries like Thai, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Burma, they believe eating meat is indirectly killing.
Also, In China, during Emperor Wu of Liang dynasty (464-549 AD), Emperor Wu created universities and extending the Confucian civil service exams, demanding that sons of nobles study. He was well read himself and wrote poetry and patronized the arts. Although for governmental affairs he was Confucian in values, he embraced Buddhism as well. He himself was attracted to many Indian traditions. He banned the sacrifice of animals and was against execution. It was said that he received the Buddhist precepts during his reign, earning him the nickname The Bodhisattva Emperor. The Emperor is a vegetarian, he ordered all monks and Buddhist to fellow him, eat no meats, this was vegetarian of Chinese Buddhist begun.
The goal Buddha’s teachings was to liberate spiritual suffering, the Dharma practice is training of the mind, lead to understanding of true reality of phenomena, which pure essence, realization of all things lack inherent existence, one therefore able to detach so call “suffering “ ( which is lack inherent existence) thus one attains spiritual freedom.
In the Vinaya of the Buddhist Tripitaka (Buddhist scriptures), states that there must include all five conditions to constitute “Killing”; 1. Something must have life, 2. You know it has life, 3. You have intention to kill, 4. Put effort to kill, 5. Death actual occurred due to action/effort.
There is fine line in explanations, for example; vegetarians eat only veggies, but now a days, the farmers spray insecticide killed countless visible and invisible lives, which can be said “indirectly killing”. Also, if a vegetarian Buddhist has not developed pure heart, what he / she eat will not help their Dharma path. We have seen many vegetarian monks developed mile nutrition, it is important to always take good care of our health.
I think it is best according individual person’s health condition and preferences.
My Guru allows his disciples to eat meet with conditions; 1. You did not kill the life in person; 2.you did not witness the killing; 3. The meat you received not specifically kills for you.
The Vajrayana practitioners do a “Bardo deliverance” before meal; first I form a Dharma-Boat Mudra (hand gesture), visualize the being (chicken, pork, fish etc.) in complete form, in the boat, visualize Buddhas great pure light shine upon the animals in the boat, then recite the “Deliverance Mantra”, then release the Mudra.
This is a prayer for the animals, thanking them for their sacrifice, delivering their spirit to higher realms. Also to remind ourselves that so much have sacrificed to sustain our body, therefore we must speedy achieve enlightenment, so we will be able to benefit all other beings.