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I'm a strict vegetarian and non-alcoholic. But all my friends are non-vegetarians and alcohol consumers. So, when I host a party at my place, it becomes obligatory of me to host them with alcohol and non-vegetarian food (bought from a restaurant). Although, I have done this in the past, I have started to think if it is really right of me to do so, since I may be aiding them in breaking their Sila. But, coming from a culture where guests are to be treated as Gods, I also wonder if it will be rude of me to call them home and not serve to their liking.

So, should I, at the cost of hosting a boring(for them) party, appearing rude and risk losing their company, help them keep their Sila intact (if at all it does) at least for an evening? Or should I not bother about trying to combine preaching and hosting and keep my ethics limited to me?

P.S. I'm convinced that consumption of meat and alcohol is breaking of Sila in the true spirit of the Buddha's teachings, irrespective of how certain sects or traditions of Buddhism may justify alcohol and meat consumption.

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    What sects of Buddhism consider eating meat a breaking of lay precepts? – Adamokkha Sep 7 '15 at 5:13
  • @adamokkha Mahayana Buddhism in China, Taiwan, Viet Nam, Korea. Also Japan, but only before the Meiji. Numbers are hard to come by for the US, but in unscientific polls, as many as 50% of self identified Buddhists are vegetarian, which is 2500% higher than the general population. Some specific teacher in Tibetan Buddhism, but not entire sects/schools. Also, in East Asia, you sign up for as many or as few precepts as you want-- from refuge only to lay Bodhisattva precepts which is strongly vegetarian. – MatthewMartin Sep 11 '15 at 18:54
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A good friend is one who helps his friend become a better person, even at the cost of popularity.

I think reasonable people definitely do understand dietary choices when it's explained with humility and reason.

As your friends, they ought to be capable of respecting your wise choices in life.


In a bodhisattva sense one must engage with society, and host guests properly, but it's very tricky, and in many ways far tougher than wandering alone as a hermit.

I think you're being trapped into confirming to social norms as well as your beliefs. You need to decide which between the two is the tie breaker when they come in conflict.


If your friends don't understand your beliefs, and if you are of the Theravada bent of mind, then the answer is very clear - go alone, avoiding false companions. If you are more worldly, then there's other very sociable passages to quote from elsewhere in the Buddhist canon.


There are verses in the Dhammapada (verse 61 onwards) about choosing one's companions wisely. This is also reflected in some of the earliest suttas like the Rhinoceros (sword horn) sutra which precisely warns of this trap of being waylaid by misdirected compassion.

I'm quoting here select portions of the sutra linked above.

For a sociable person there are allurements; on the heels of allurement, this pain. Seeing allurement's drawback, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

One whose mind is enmeshed in sympathy for friends and companions, neglects the true goal. Seeing this danger in intimacy, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

There is sporting and love in the midst of companions, and abundant fondness for offspring. Feeling disgust at the prospect of parting from those who would be dear, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

We praise companionship -- yes! Those on a par, or better, should be chosen as friends. If they are not to be found, living faultlessly, wander alone like a rhinoceros.

People follow and associate for a motive. Friends without a motive these days are rare. They are shrewd for their own ends, and impure. Wander alone like a rhinoceros.

  • Although, I have found most of the answers to my question to be interesting and they have helped me build a perspective to the subject, they were mostly personal opinions. I have accepted this answer since, this was the only one which quoted a reference from a Buddhist text supporting the answer. I have read the Rhinoceros Sutta for the first time after it was quoted here and I feel it is extremely useful in helping one decide how to make choices from a Buddhist perspective. The Sutta is indeed highly inspiring and invigorating to uphold one's Sila and strive on, come what may. – kilocharlie Sep 11 '15 at 9:53
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"So, when I host a party at my place, it becomes obligatory of me to host them with alcohol and non-vegetarian food (bought from a restaurant). "

I don't see how it is obligatory. You could serve delicious vegetarian food and non-alcoholic drinks. If you take your Buddhist precepts you are not supposed break them yourself or encourage others to break them. I think your instincts on this are correct.

Would it be so boring? Have you spoken to your friends about this? Why not raise the subject and see what they say?

  • +1 because you suggested he asked before. Which is really a GREAT suggestion. If he invites them at "a Buddhist party", with them fully realising this means no meat and no alcohol, whoever comes will know what to expect and it will be great. – o0'. Sep 6 '15 at 21:10
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Party is made fun by people sharing their love and life experiences with each other, not by meat and alcohol.

More importantly, in this case, I think you should uphold your spirit and not bend to your friends' opinions. Do not be afraid to show your friends who you really are, your real value system. Living authentic life is better in long-term, than pretending to be someone else out of fear of losing the little you have.

No need to boast or preach. Just do what you truly believe in, they will see and ask, and then you can answer.

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    I'm unconvinced. I agree he should not pretend to be someone he isn't, but I also think that obliging your guest needs is still a very nice thing to do. If you are herbivore and I'll offer you dinner, I'll make sure there's something you can eat… if I'm not and if you're offering me dinner, it's absolutely normal to assume you'd like me to have some meat to eat. Forcing your self-imposed limitation upon the others has never and will never be a wise thing to do. – o0'. Sep 6 '15 at 21:08
  • @Lohoris you don't come to their houses to force your limitation on others, you don't even force it in your house - if you guests wanted to bring meat or alcohol you don't have to start a fight. Instead, you embody your value system in the way you act, including cooking and serving drinks. It is not like meat-eaters cannot eat vegetables, right? The desire to eat meat and drink alcohol is not a need, it's just a habit. You can have a very tasty and satisfying meal made with no meat, can't you? – Andrei Volkov Sep 7 '15 at 2:22
  • for the record, I'm not a vegetarian anymore - and my point isn't even about this, it is about being bold enough to express who you are in action, and to take the ownership and build the world the way you see it, at least in your own house. – Andrei Volkov Sep 7 '15 at 2:29
  • I understand your point, and I disagree. As you suggest, you would still be forcing your views upon others, who then will feel awkward and would definitely dislike this action of yours. You would be forcing a strong statement upon people you invited as friends. – o0'. Sep 7 '15 at 8:21
  • @Lohoris I suspect that's your victim consciousness talking in you ;) – Andrei Volkov Sep 7 '15 at 12:32
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On the subject of food, I do not see any issue with not serving meat. I would not expect any of my vegetarian friends to prepare meat for me.

With alcohol, the same applies, but because it's more "expected" in a party (depending on how it's advertised to the invitees), it would make sense to mention this and allow people to bring their own. "Alcohol will not be served but feel free to bring your own." This reduces the extent to which you could be seen as an "enabler" of their "sin".

"Bring your own" can also apply to food in some cases - when hosting a barbecue for example, you could provide vegetarian options while allowing guests to bring (and if necessary, cook) their own meat. You may need a separate grill in that case though.

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So often, people try to directly or indirectly force their religious beliefs on others (by not serving alcohol for instance). But I think that by doing so, you strain your friendships. No two people share the same exact beliefs about everything. But by being friendly and easy-going, you may teach others your beliefs and learn about their beliefs. Often times, different beliefs within the same religion will seem conflicting at first. For instance, Christians follow Drink no longer water, but use a little wine for thy stomach's sake and thine often infirmities. But there's also And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. These verses seem to be the opposite of each other: Drink or not drink. But by drinking in moderation and not in excess, one can live in harmony with both verses. I'm not saying to convert to Christianity. I'm just sharing my beliefs and trying to learn yours.

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    I'm just sharing my beliefs and trying to learn yours. An issue is that, in Buddhism, "abstain from alcohol" is explicitly one of the five commandments (i.e. "I undertake the training rule to abstain from fermented drink that causes heedlessness") -- so it's, I don't know, maybe analogous to asking a Muslim to serve alcohol. The "law" about vegetarianism varies somewhat from one school of Buddhism to another. – ChrisW Sep 7 '15 at 1:49
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As someone has already mentioned, a social gathering of any sort is for people to meet, share their troubles and joys and to unburden themselves from their daily routine. The food and drink served is secondary.

From your question it seems like your friends are important to you and so are your beliefs. It is not impossible for them to coexist peacefully.

Indeed you may think that by serving them meat and alcohol you are aiding them break their Sila but by forcing them to abide by the "my house, my rules" you would be seen as trying too hard to get them to see your opinions.

Losing friends just because they don't think like you is also not an option I'd suggest - you're never going to find people who think exactly like you do, and also it would be uninteresting. I'd find nothing new to learn if I wasn't in the company of people who were not like me.

I'd suggest a gentler approach. If you are happy to continue serving meat and alcohol, maybe talk to them about how you think being a vegetarian has been beneficial to you in more ways than one, how it is probably better for the environment and to our health, talk about some really delicious vegetarian dishes you managed to cook, talk about your beliefs and how they are important to you and gradually suggest going for a vegetarian only meal the next time they are around.

This way they will gradually and hopefully grow to respect your beliefs. It is a slow process but it bears more fruit than imposing a meat and alcohol ban or losing your friends.

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According to the Talaputa Sutta:

Any beings who are not devoid of passion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of passion, focus with even more passion on things inspiring passion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of aversion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of aversion, focus with even more aversion on things inspiring aversion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Any beings who are not devoid of delusion to begin with, who are bound by the bond of delusion, focus with even more delusion on things inspiring delusion presented by an actor on stage in the midst of a festival. Thus the actor — himself intoxicated & heedless, having made others intoxicated & heedless — with the breakup of the body, after death, is reborn in what is called the hell of laughter.

There is a discussion in this answer:

The Buddha quote from the sutta says that anyone with some passion, aversion or delusion, reinforces it by watching the actor's performance. The actor too is intoxicated with emotions due to getting into character to play the role. And by acting out the role on stage, the actor has the intention of getting the audience to experience the same emotions. This intention is karma.

So, this applies to your question too, if you had the intention to satisfy their craving for alcoholic intoxication, which is not allowed in the five precepts.

Meat on the other hand, may be a different story according to the Theravada tradition, based on this article and this question, as picking out meat from the supermarket does not count as having the intention of taking the animal's life, since it was already dead and you did not select it to be slaughtered.

While it could be argued that serving meat satisfies the craving for its taste, but then again, meat and any food is required for our physical sustenance, regardless of craving for sensual pleasure. So, this is OK in my opinion. Of course, good vegetarian food is also sufficient for physical sustenance and meat is not required (in most cases).

Alcohol on the other hand, is not needed for physical sustenance. It is used only for intoxication.

  • This is an answer about whether to drink yourself: but is it an answer about whether to allow (or 'enable') non-Buddhist friends to drink? – ChrisW Sep 11 '15 at 8:56
  • @ChrisW - You are right. I will update my answer with the "actors go to hell" sutta. – ruben2020 Sep 12 '15 at 10:11

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