Namo Buddhaya

I want to ask something related to vegetarianism in Buddhism. This question started when I read about vegetarianism according to several schools of Buddhism such as Theravada and Mahayana.

According to Theravada, the Buddha allows Buddhist and monks to consume meat if it is not seen, heard, or suspected as a sentient being is not slaughtered only for the eater. This is stated in Jivaka Sutta, MN 55. There were also monastic guidelines in Theravada stated that Buddhists are prohibited to eat 10 types of meat such as humans, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears and hyenas. This is because these animals can be provoked by the smell of the flesh of their own kind, or because eating of such flesh would generate a bad reputation for the Sangha. This makes sense for me but why is cat not included ? So, the monks are not prohibited to eat meat and the rule is also not stated in the Vinaya (227 Patimokkha precepts).

According to Mahayana, the Buddha doesn't allow his followers not to eat any kind of meat. Even if vegetarian food has been touched by meat, it needs to be washed away before it can be eaten. The Mahayana's precepts refer to the Dharmadatu. It means when you eat the flesh of a sentient being, it is the same as you eat the flesh of a single dhatu. For example, when you eat a chicken's flesh, it is the same as you eat the flesh of the chicken's mother.

The 2 schools have made me confused which one is the right one? Why the Buddha's preaching about vegetarianism is not same in Theravada and Mahayana schools. Is the Buddha who preached about those not only Sidharta Gautama? However, because of this confusing, I take the own way or Middle way, that is, not to eat meat too often in order to save the world because of the green house gases.

I hope the Buddhists here can help me to attain bright explanation of vegetarianism in buddhism. I'm sorry if there are misintrepreted sentences from me. Thank you

Sabbe Satta Bhavantu Sukhitatta. I hope all sentient beings can live happily.

4 Answers 4


According to Mahayana, the Buddha doesn't allow his followers not to eat any kind of meat.

To my limited knowledge, this statement is not true. What I mean is that:

  1. I do not know of any Mahayana sutra in which the Buddha proscribed the eating of meat.
  2. There is no Pratimoksha vow (neither in the Mūlasarvāstivāda nor in the Dharmagupta linage) prohibiting even a monk to eat meat.

However, it is true that Mahayana tends to encourage the stoppage of meat consumption. For instance:

  1. One of the 8 Mahayana 24 hours precepts says not to eat at inappropriate times. Most Mahayana institutions interpret it to mean (in addition to not eating after lunch) not to eat black food. In this respect, Lama Yeshe says:

    Fasting. The foods we shouldn’t have are onion, garlic, eggs, and meat—these are recognized as black foods. Also, radish has a bad element, a bad power. Taking these foods affects the pure power of the mind. If we are only concerned for the body, it is okay, but for a person practicing Dharma and following precepts the reason is keeping the body clean but not with attachment. These foods destroy the power of the body and the power of the mind, making one sleepy, unconscious, and so on.

  2. Master Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, stated in his terma Jewel Lamp Commentary on the Three Roots: “The eating of meat should be gradually stopped,..."

  3. In some countries where Mahayana strives, it is expected of monks and nuns not to eat meat. It is even expected of them to eat vegan. Such is the case of Vietnam, for instance, where I went last summer. It is not because of the Pratimoksha, but because it is expected of monks holding the bodhisattva vows to express compassion in this way. It is a matter of principle, since there is no bodhisattva vow prohibiting the eating of meat.

I do not think it is related to the Dharmadhatu, but simply to the notion that eating meat amounts to eating the flesh of a sentient being that used to be one's mother. If anything, it is related to karma, rebirth and compassion. It is because the seven-fold training to arise the mind of enlightenment - bodhicitta - includes remembering that all sentient beings have been our mother, remembering their kindness, wanting to repay their kindness, generating compassion, etc.

Although Mahayana tends to encourage the stoppage of eating meat, several Mahayana practitioners do eat meat in fact. For instance, there is a great practitioner who eats so much meat that, when she approaches our area, we say the cows are crying.

Khenpo Sodargye Rinpoche gives his view on vegetarianism.


Strictly speaking the Buddha did not forbade the consumption of meat.

I am from the Chinese Mahayana tradition and I have taken the Refuge in the Triple Gem, as well as the Five Precepts. Even with taking upon the Five Precepts, I was not expected to be a vegetarian outside the setting of the temple.

Historically the Buddha considered the support of the Sangha and allowing people to perform Dana by giving alms much more important than a strict vegetarian diet.

Monks were expected to go on alms round, and were expected to accept any food offered by devotees. The Theravada Buddhist monks who continue to practice going out for alms are essentially not vegetarian.

Even in Tibet where they are also Mahayana, the monks as well as lay devotees consume meat, since vegetables do not grow at that altitude. In the modern day, vegetables are imported from the rest of China, so I have seen some vegetarian restaurants there during my visit. Most of Tibetans do still consume meat however, with Sichuanese cuisine being an apparent favorite due to the influx of Sichuanese immigrants.

The reason why vegetarianism became predominant in Chinese Buddhism as well as the rest of the Sinosphere is because of historical reasons.

First, historically the ruling Confucian philosophers objected to monks going out for alms, seeing them as a form of begging, which was against the civic-minded Confucian values. Monks were restricted to obtaining donations and many were forced to subsist by farming. Since the very first Precept require monks to abstain from killing, vegetarianism naturally arise. Hence Chinese tradition like Chan Buddhism have a long history of growing and cooking their own vegetarian food.

Second condition I believe was during the reign a Buddhist Chinese emperor (Liang Emperor if I recall) pious support for the Buddhist clergy, he found it rather contradictory to the teachings that so many animals were being slaughtered to be offered as alms for monks, so required the food to be vegetarian.

Finally it is expected that lay followers of the Bodhisattva precepts take up vegetarianism (but I believe is not strictly stated in the Precepts), out of compassion for animal. The karmic effect presumably is the same as the practice of freeing animals doomed for slaughter.

Further more, even though Chinese Vegetarianism is typically vegan, if someone offered cakes to the temple (typically having dairy and eggs), it would be accepted.

Essentially Chinese Buddhism encourage vegetarianism, but do not strictly require it.

The effect of this is that it is much easier to find vegetarian restaurants in Taiwan than say Thailand, despite the latter being much more overtly Buddhist.


This is not much to explain here. There is no evidence for results of kamma outside of your conscious experience. You have a conscience. The more you meditate & are sensitive to the heart, the clearer your conscience, the more compassion you have, the more ability to reason with wisdom. If the mind is free from greed & lust for food, it can calmly make a sensitive decision based on weighing various factors (costs & benefits). People have always eating meat for food, meat will always be available, we certainly feel better knowing we are minimizing harm & damage.

The Buddha's attitude for food is summed in the Puttamansa Sutta.


maybe you dont eat meat based on other Bodhisattvas you have or other holy perosns views which are not the historical buddha ??

About theravada which i follow : the buddha we are talking about at least didnt ban eating meat

i think in theravada its all about kusala and akusala

and i can think at the moment on benefits from being Vegan :

Restraint which helps in many ways - and it might even help in metta

probably more benefits also - and like all things you can have bad sides like if you give money and you get to proud of the fact you give money and think your better than others same with not eating meat ect

the problem with this issue is that meat tastes good - so people will look for ways to justify eating it but not so much why not to

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