Are Zen Monks Vegetarian

David Lawrence
• Sunday, 25 October, 2020
• 8 min read

I know of two American Zen masters” who serve turkey on Thanksgiving Day. A turkey is a sentient being and has as much right to live unmolested by humans as any other animal.

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One of the few “sins” of Buddhism is claiming to have attained a higher degree of enlightenment than one actually has. That violation of Buddhist precepts was ranked by the Buddha as being the equivalent of killing one’s parents.

Ecologists have observed that a meat-eater riding a bicycle does more harm to the environment than a vegetarian driving an SUV. That somewhat funny comparison of two lifestyles is derived from the fact that about seventeen percent of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases is produced by the transportation industry and about eighteen percent by the meat/slaughterhouse industry.

The authority of the Edicts of Ashoka as a historical record is suggested by the mention of numerous topics omitted as well as corroboration of numerous accounts found in the Theravada and Mahayana Tripitaka's written down centuries later. Asoka Rock Edict 1 dated to c. 257 BCE mentions the prohibition of animal sacrifices in Ashoka's Maurya Empire as well as his commitment to vegetarianism; however, whether the Sang ha was vegetarian in part or in whole is unclear from these edicts.

However, Ashoka's personal commitment to, and advocating of, vegetarianism suggests Early Buddhism (at the very least for the layperson) most likely already had a vegetarian tradition (the details of what that entailed besides not killing animals and eating their flesh, were not mentioned, and therefore are unknown.) Many Buddhist vegetarians also oppose meat-eating based on scriptural injunctions against flesh-eating recorded in Mahayana surreys.

Mahayana views on vegetarianism are within the broader framework of Buddhist ethics or Silk. According to the Mahayana Mahparinirva Supra, a Mahayana supra giving Gautama Buddha's final teachings, the Buddha insisted that his followers should not eat any kind of meat or fish.

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The Buddha in certain Mahayana surreys very vigorously and unreservedly denounced the eating of meat, mainly on the grounds that such an act is linked to the spreading of fear amongst sentient beings (who can allegedly sense the odor of death that lingers about the meat-eater and who consequently fear for their own lives) and violates the bodhisattva's fundamental cultivation of compassion. Moreover, according to the Buddha in the Agulimlya Supra, since all beings share the same “That” (spiritual Principle or Essence) and are intimately related to one another, killing and eating other sentient creatures is tantamount to a form of self-killing and cannibalism.

In the Mahayana Mahparinirva Supra, which presents itself as the final elucidated and definitive Mahayana teachings of the Buddha on the very eve of his death, the Buddha states that “the eating of meat extinguishes the seed of Great Kindness”, adding that all and every kind of meat and fish consumption (even of animals found already dead) is prohibited by him. The Buddha also predicts in this supra that later monks will “hold spurious writings to be the authentic Dharma” and will concoct their own surreys and falsely claim that the Buddha allows the eating of meat, whereas he says he does not.

A long passage in the Lakvatra Supra shows the Buddha speaking out very forcefully against meat consumption and unequivocally in favor of vegetarianism, since the eating of the flesh of fellow sentient beings is said by him to be incompatible with the compassion that a Bodhisattva should strive to cultivate. This passage has been seen as questionable by a small minority of Mahayana Buddhist monastics (i.e. D.T.

Some suggest that the rise of monasteries in Mahayana tradition to be a contributing factor in the emphasis on vegetarianism. In this context, large quantities of meat would have been specifically prepared (killed) for them.

Henceforth, when monastics from the Indian geographical sphere of influence migrated to China from the year 65 CE on, they met followers who provided them with money instead of food. From those days onwards, Chinese monastics, and others who came to inhabit northern countries, cultivated their own vegetable plots and bought food in the market.

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This remains the dominant practice in China, Vietnam, and most Korean Mahayana temples; the exceptions being some Korean Mahayana temples who traced their lineages back to Japan. The most clear reference in Theravada Buddhism to monastic consumption of non- vegetarian food is found in the Pale Canon, where the Buddha once explicitly refused a suggestion by Metadata to mandate vegetarianism in the monks Vijaya monastic code.

The Buddha in the Angular Nikita 3.38 Kamala Outta, before his enlightenment, describes his family being wealthy enough to provide non- vegetarian meals even to his servants. After becoming enlightened, he respectfully accepted any kind of alms food offered with good intention, including meat (within the limitations described above), fruit and vegetables.

But this is not, strictly speaking, a dietary rule because the Buddha, on one particular occasion, specifically refused suggestions by Metadata to institute vegetarianism in the Sang ha. The Brahmin insisted his higher status is well-deserved due to his observance of a vegetarian diet.

There were monastic guidelines prohibiting consumption of 10 types of meat: that of humans, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears and hyenas. There are a significant minority of Theravada laypersons who practice vegetarianism especially in Thailand.

Of all his merit-making, Jig me Ling pa was most proud of his feelings of compassion for animals; he says that this is the best part of his entire life story. He often bought and set free animals about to be slaughtered (a common Buddhist act).

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He ‘changed the perception’ of others, when he once caused his followers to save a female yak from being butchered, and he continually urged his disciples to forswear the killing of animals. Above all, you must constantly train your mind to be loving, compassionate, and filled with Bodhisattva.

When asked in recent years what he thinks of vegetarianism, the 14th Dalai Lama has said: “It is wonderful. In 1999, it was published that the Dalai Lama would only be vegetarian every other day and partakes of meat regularly.

Roche, master of Drikungpa, said like this, “My students, whomever are eating or using meat and calling it Tokyo or took, then these people are completely deserting me and going against the dharma.” In Sri Lanka and the Theravada countries of South East Asia, monks are obliged by the Vijaya to accept almost any food that is offered to them, including meat, unless they suspect the meat was slaughtered specifically for them.

In the 9th century, Emperor Saga made a decree prohibiting meat consumption, except that of fish and birds. In particular, Sancho, who founded the Sendai sect of Japanese Buddhism, reduced the number of Vijaya code to 66.

( Yuan die) During the 12th century, a number of monks from Sendai sects founded new schools (Zen, Pure Land Buddhism) and de-emphasized vegetarianism. The removal of the ban encountered resistance and in one notable response, ten monks attempted to break into the Imperial Palace.

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(Source: inthekitchenwithbronwyn.com)

In Tibet, where vegetables historically have been scarce, and the adopted Vijaya was the Nikita Sarvstivda, vegetarianism is rare, although the Dalai Lama, the Karma pa, and other esteemed lamas invite their audiences to adopt vegetarianism whenever they can. Contradictory to the compassionate Tibetan Buddhist traditions in which a sanctity of life, both human and animal, is cherished, meat is often consumed as a form of sustenance due to lack of vegetation readily available.

On pp 131-132 : “The Ceiling war, which according to the 13th Rock Edict, was the main factor in Asoka's conversion to Buddhism is not mentioned in either the Theravada tradition or in the Asokavadana, which, since it was transmitted mainly in Mahayana circles, we shall refer to it as the Mahayana tradition…” and on page 141: “It is not wholly clear what form of Buddhism Asoka believed in, but it is evident that it was different from any form existing nowadays… Asoka’s reference to his “going forth to Cambodia” in the 8th Rock Edict may indicate the very beginning of the concept of the Bodhisattva…” ^ Sen, Amulyachandra (1956). Formerly in the kitchen of the Beloved of the gods, King Priyadarsin , many hundreds of thousands of animals were killed every day for the sake of curry.

But now when this Dharma-rescript is written, only three animals are being killed (every day) for the sake of curry, (viz.) It is quite likely that meat-eating was practiced more or less among the earlier Buddhists, which was made a subject of severe criticism by their opponents.

The Buddhists at the time of the Lakvatra did not like it, hence this addition in which an apologetic tone is noticeable. ^ () ^ Archived July 27, 2011, at the Payback Machine ^ ^ Phelps, Norm (2004).

^ Dharma Data: Vegetarianism ^ Jiivakasutta, this is an undated (and not formally published) translation by Sister Uppalavanna (b., 1886 as Else Buchholtz), originally distributed on the internet by the Sri Lankan website “Etta.OK”. ^ Vanilla Outta: Business (Wrong Livelihood) Archived November 19, 2005, at the Payback Machine ^ “Buddhism and Vegetarianism, The Rationale for the Buddha's Views on the Consumption of Meat” Archived 2013-10-07 at the Payback Machine by Dr V. A. Gunasekara” 'The rule of vegetarianism was the fifth of a list of rules which Metadata had proposed to the Buddha.

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Metadata was the founder of the tapas movement in Buddhism and his special rules involved ascetic and austere practices (forest-dwelling, wearing only rags, etc). The Buddha rejected all the proposed revisions of Metadata, and it was in this context that he reiterated the tikoiparisuddha rule.

Millet, cingula beans and peas, edible leaves and roots, the fruit of any creeper; the virtuous who eat these, obtained justly, do not tell lies out of sensuous delight...4. The Buddha Cassava: Taking life, beating, wounding, binding, stealing, lying, deceiving, worthless knowledge, adultery; this is stench.

In this world those individuals who are unrestrained in sensual pleasures, who are greedy for sweet things, who are associated with impure actions, who are of nihilistic views, crooked and difficult to follow, this is stench. In this world those who are rude, arrogant, backbiting, treacherous, unkind, excessively egoistic, miserly, and do not give anything to anybody; this is stench.

“Removal of the Ban on Meat: The Meat-Eating Culture of Japan at the Beginning of Westernization” (PDF). Edward Washburn Hopkins (1906), The Buddhist Rule against Eating Meat.

Philip Tableau, To Cherish All Life: A Buddhist Case for Vegetarianism (San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1982) ISBN 0-940306-00-X Vegetarianism : Living a Buddhist life series (2004) by: Bodhipaksa Releasing life (chapter 4: 'The Debate'): published by The Corporate Body of the Buddha Educational Foundation, Taipei, Taiwan. Page, Tony (1998), Buddhism and Animals (Nirvana Publications, London) Random, Shankar Ashok.

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