In the Kammapatha sutta AN 3.164(A i 297) a note concerning the meaning of a passage (written by the author of the page dedicated to the sutta it seems) makes me question, the sutta and note are stated as follows :

Endowed with these three things, bhikkhus, as if one was carried off and put down there, one is in hell. Which three? One destroys life oneself, one incites others to destroy life, and one approves of destroying life.{1} Endowed with these three things, bhikkhus, as if one was carried off and put down there, one is in hell.


  1. one approves of destroying life: purchasing dead animals' flesh, in a context where other reasonable harmless choices are available, cannot be carried out without approving their killing.


It appears the author of the page establishes a link between approving the killing of an animal with the purchase of meat. I would appreciate understanding more about this link being established.

(As a personal background I had been a vegetarian for around 5 years but due to digestive issues decided to revert to the consumption (and therefore purchase) of meat which seem to be helping a lot).

With mettā.


11 Answers 11


"Jivaka, I say that there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard, or suspected (that the living being has been specifically slaughtered for oneself)... I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not heard, or suspected (that living beng has been specifically slaughtered for oneself)..." Furthermore, the Buddha added: "If anyone slaughters a living being for the Tathagata (i.e. Buddha) or his disciple, he lays up much demerit in five instances... (i) When he says:'Go and fetch that living being'... (ii) When that living being experiences pain and grief on being led along with a neck-halter... (iii) When he says: 'Go and slaughter that living being'... (iv) When that living bieng experiences pain and grief on being slaughter... (v) When he provides the Tathagata or his disciple with food that is not permissible..."

“Killing living beings, hunting, cutting, binding, theft, lying, fraud, deceptions, useless recitations, associating with the wives of others: This is a raw stench, not the eating of meat. Those people here who are unrestrained in sensuality, greedy for flavors, mixed together with what’s impure, annihilationists, discordant1 & indomitable: This is a raw stench, not the eating of meat. Those who are rough, pitiless, eating the flesh off your back,betraying their friends,uncompassionate, arrogant, habitually ungenerous, giving to no one: This is a raw stench, not the eating of meat. Anger, intoxication, stubbornness, hostility, deceptiveness, resentment, boasting, conceit & pride, befriending those of no integrity: This is a raw stench, not the eating of meat. Those of evil habits, debt-repudiators, informers, cheats in trading, counterfeiters, vile men who do evil things: This is a raw stench, not the eating of meat. Those people here who are unrestrained toward beings, taking what’s others’, intent on injury, immoral hunters, harsh, disrespectful: This is a raw stench, not the eating of meat. Those who are very greedy, constantly intent on hindering and killing; beings who, after passing away, go to darkness, fall headfirst into hell: This is a raw stench, not the eating of meat. https://www.dhammatalks.org/suttas/KN/StNp/StNp2_2.html

  • I was going to remark, "But that's addressed to monks: so it's not directly relevant to buying meat" -- but according to the link you posted, it's addressed to "a brahman ascetic", so perhaps not a monk -- but then again, it's a description of the Buddha (Kassapa) and inspired the brahman to "choose the Going Forth right there".
    – ChrisW
    Mar 7, 2021 at 11:32

First Theravada monk do not cook, they alms round, hence they do not purchase meat. They eat meat that was given and must qualified by not seeing killing, not hearing killing, not suspect killing is for him. So, your question is towards Buddhist layperson I think.

As Buddhist follower, a layperson practices minimum 5 precepts, for us to avoid bad kamma. Purchase of meat for consumption is not a bad kamma, because we purchase a dead body. However, we do not purchase by instructing the killing e.g. this chicken to be kill and I buy later. We just purchase whatever already becoming a dead body.

Do Buddhist approving killing because we purchase meat? No we do not approve killing and we do not have to stop from purchase meat. Buddhist do not approve killing, but we cannot stop others from killing and animal (even human) from being killed. Even Buddhist go vegetarian, animal still die because car, kill for fertilizer, kill for being too many, etc. Even Buddhist do not purchase meat, we stay in a house, to build a house kills animal & insects; we drive car, a car kill many animal or human on the road, etc...

Thus, trying to establish a link between approving the killing of an animal with the purchase of meat, should NOT be at the context of Buddhism, because it is not relevant, not kamma related.

As a layperson, if vegetarian helps you, you should, it is a good practice for you, and it avoid more animal being killed, it is a good deed. As a human, I try hard to avoid eating meat and purchase meat, but I knew it is not a requirements as Buddhist.

  • Thank you for your answer @Mudita, with mettā. May 2, 2021 at 8:09
  • I understand for monk. but telling lay people to buy meat. is really irnoy. You know deep down that you are part of this business of killing. and somehow you convince that you are safe... wow..ridiculous
    – enRaiser
    Mar 28 at 12:20

Speaking clinically, if you're buying meat, even if you're not killing the animal yourself, you're encouraging the person you're buying the meat from to kill the meat.

So, if you encourage a man to lie, or to cheat on his wife, or to commit murder, even though you do none of this yourself, are you without guilt if he does as you encouraged?


Trying to pretend that buying meat does not equate to killing is a complete cop out. My opinion is that when I eat meat, I have effectively killed the animal myself. However if you genuinely need meat to remain healthy then I would continue to do so, while choosing products that are as compassionately produced as possible and minimise suffering. e.g. choose organically raised free range chickens and outdoor raised animals, or eat only fish which is a less sentient animal. It would be better to position your mind as close to the animal as possible, rather than trying to distance yourself from it.

  • I don't know where you got this idea that a fish is "less" sentient than any other animal but you should really re-evaluate that concept. Realistically there is no such thing ass more or less sentience, but I guess what you are trying to say is intelligence, but even then so, who are we to judge who or what animal is more or less intelligent than the other. The only clear thing we can deduce is that humans are more intelligent than animals and a small amount of animals that have interacted a lot with humans have gained more intelligence than other. Also mammals, (possibly brain size) has an...
    – Remyla
    Mar 28 at 15:54
  • effect on an increase in intelligence to other animals. Still even insects can have high intelligence (for animals) Damn after writing this I only just realised the question is 3 years old.
    – Remyla
    Mar 28 at 15:55

The use of left-handed arguments to justify consumption of meat and, by extension, the killing of hapless animals cannot be accepted by anyone who claims to follow the Buddha. I think that is so plain and simple, convoluted logic notwithstanding. About the Buddha eating pork, the historical evidence is vague at best. He died of dysentery after consuming sūkaramaddava which was some kind of a mushroom, a delicacy in that area, that incidentally pigs too were very fond of. However, some historians have translated sūkaramaddava as 'tender, soft pork'. Sūkara, as we all know, stands for a pig but, my understanding is that the Buddha, one who laid such great stress on non-violence and was vehemently against Brahmins conducting animal sacrifice, would never have even remotely tolerated the killing of animals.


Buddha ate meat as an offering. He did not have any predilection towards non-vegetarianism or vegetarianism... Meaning he did not approve or disapprove of killing animals... He just ate what was offered.. It was not his choice ... therefore what he ate did not add up to his karma... You have to give up the choice...to experience a freedom like that of Buddha... but we humans are mere mortals ... we make choices... we want meat on some days... we crave for it... that is very much wrong... craving is prohibited in Buddhism.... but still we crave... and we ask such questions... if you want to make a choice then make a choice towards non-violence...find unpainful ways to eat... when you do not make any choice you are perfect .... you neither approve nor disapprove animal killing... but when you make choice ... try not to hurt anybody too much... under the spirit ... may all being be happy and joyful under your care... buying meat is equal to making a choice towards eating meat which equals to killing animals which equals to not so good a decision ... but then what can anybody say... it is your choice ... try to inflict as less pain as possible...

  • I believe this answer is based on a false premise, namely that people crave meat. All people most certainly do not crave meat. Mar 7, 2021 at 0:49
  • "Meaning he did not approve or disapprove of killing animals." I don't believe that is entirely true. The Buddha did not promote the intentional killing of any being.
    – Luv
    Mar 15, 2021 at 6:23
  • @Luv did I say he promote killing of animals ? Mar 15, 2021 at 6:24
  • He didn't. But, he most certainly disapproved it.
    – Luv
    Mar 15, 2021 at 6:27
  • @Luv Show me where he said killing for food is a sin. Not just killing but killing for food. He himself ate pork. Mar 15, 2021 at 6:28

Please read "Why is contributing to the market demand for meat not wrong?".

According to the Theravada school of Buddhism (and possibly also other schools), it is against the first precept to kill an animal yourself, but it is ok to buy frozen meat from the supermarket for consumption.

Let's say you go to a restaurant as a customer. If the restaurant prepares your meal order using frozen meat, then that's ok. But if you have to select the animal for slaughter (which happens in some Asian countries, for seafood dishes for e.g. you need to pick your lobster from an aquarium), then that breaks the first precept.

As long as you did not do the killing yourself or select the animal and ordered the butcher or chef to slaughter for you, it is not a violation of the first precept.

To summarize from that question:

  • It is wrong to kill or directly cause the killing of animals
  • It is wrong to have a livelihood on the business of meat
  • It is wrong to consume meat that is from an animal that is seen, heard or suspected to have been slaughtered specifically for you
  • It is ok to purchase and consume meat from the market (that was already dead long before you arrived at the market)
  • It is ok to order a meal from a restaurant, which is based on frozen meat

Why? This is because you did not have the intention to kill that animal. You are simply buying meat that was no longer alive when you first encountered it.

But what about the verse you quoted?

Endowed with these three things, bhikkhus, as if one was carried off and put down there, one is in hell. Which three? One destroys life oneself, one incites others to destroy life, and one approves of destroying life.

Asking the butcher or chef to slaughter a specific live animal for you, would be inciting others to kill.

I don't see buying meat at the supermarket as approving destroying life, because it is done after the killing was done i.e. you're just buying frozen meat that's already dead long before you arrived at the supermarket.

Instead, I would refer to AN 5.177:

"Monks, a lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison.

"These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in."

I would say "approving destruction of life" would be businesses that support the meat industry e.g. restaurants that buy frozen meat, chefs who cook frozen meat, logistics businesses that transport frozen meat, banks funding butchers and so on. They are engaging in a "business in meat" in my opinion, without doing the actual killing, and that is approving the destruction of life.

  • Thank you for such a thorough answer. Yet how would a chef or a restaurant buying frozen meat be different from someone buying frozen meat at a supermarket ? Mar 17, 2021 at 15:06
  • @AliochaKaramazov The chef or restaurant buying frozen meat, is having their livelihood indirectly in a business in meat.
    – ruben2020
    Mar 17, 2021 at 15:09
  • And regarding one working as a cashier/waiter within such a restaurant, would he be engaging in wrong livelihood considering his work revolves around service ? May 2, 2021 at 8:12
  • You guys are just fooling yourself. you very well know the market of today and market of 2500 back.... Now when you eat meat you are sponcering killing that all. so in future you will be killed and that killing will be a sponcered killng... its that simple.
    – enRaiser
    Mar 28 at 12:24

If you say to someone, “Kill for me,” then you will accumulate negative karma.”

The bhikkhu (pali language for monk) community was structured by the Buddha in a way that the monks would be completely reliant upon the lay communities thus creating a symbiotic relationship. Bhikkhus walked into a village with one of their only possessions, their alms bowl. The towns people who offer the monks food. Bhikkhus were to accept whatever was offered and therefore had no knowledge of an animal being killed nor carried any intentions of eating meat hence held no intention of any living being be harmed.
Fast forward to 2021AD- When someone orders any type of meat or dairy product, we are acutely aware of the incalculable amount of suffering created by the meat and dairy industry.

I would encourage anyone interested in creating a deeper relationship to the dhamma- specifically sila, to approach the question of the consumption of meat and dairy not from a legalistic framework but from sila, ethics.  
Even a cursory reading of the Metta Sutta, one cannot honestly justify partaking in the consumption of meat and dairy.

Metta Sutta Sn 1.8 & Khp 9 If you know what is truly good for you and understand the possibility of reaching a state of perfect peace, then this is how you need to live.

Start as a capable person, who is upright, gently spoken, flexible, and not conceited.

Make sure your sense experience is calm and controlled, be duly respectful, and don’t hanker after families or groups. And avoid doing anything unworthy, that wiser people would criticise.

May all be happy and secure. May all beings become happy in their heart of hearts!

And think of every living thing without exception: the weak and the strong, from the smallest to the largest, whether you can see them or not, living nearby or far away, beings living now or yet to arise – may all beings become happy in their heart of hearts!

May no on deceive or look down on anyone anywhere, for any reason. Whether through feeling angry or through reacting to someone else, may no one want another to suffer. May no one deceive or look down on anyone

As strongly as a mother, perhaps risking her life, cherishes her child, her only child, develop an unlimited heart for all beings.

Develop an unlimited heart of friendliness for the entire universe, sending metta above, below, and all around, beyond all narrowness, beyond all rivalry, beyond all hatred.

Whether you are staying in one place or travelling, sitting down or in bed, in all your waking hours rest in this mindfulness, which is known as like living in heaven right here and now!

In this way, you will come to let go of views, be spontaneously ethical, and have perfect Insight. And leaving behind craving for sense pleasures, from the rounds of rebirth you will finally be completely free!


Please note that I have excluded the lengthy scriptural quotations from my response to the OP’s question, which I have taken from an essay that I wrote in answer to this question, published on Medium.com here: Why Is It Necessary To Not Eat Meat?

It seems as if the eating of animal flesh is a flashpoint between the Buddha’s message and the desire of many Buddhists, even many ordained Buddhists, to eat the flesh of animals.

But the Buddha was clear that to eat meat is to abandon his teaching about compassion, to ensure a continued attraction to the lower realms of being for oneself, and to block the possibility of becoming enlightened, leaving ultimate freedom forever out of reach. Could this be the answer to why so few buddhists reach enlightenment nowadays?

Many buddhists seem to be playing fast and loose with the Buddha’s instructions to ordained sangha, who were dependent upon the charity of householders for their daily meal, specifying when it would carry no karmic danger for them to eat proffered alms consisting of animal flesh. His instructions were directed at a particular context which is rarely found in the modern world, and certainly not in Western countries where the tradition of begging for alms never existed and modern ordained sangha shop for their food.

Applying the exceptions given in the Buddha’s threefold contextual allowance for eating meat, given only to ordained sangha who were begging for their food thousands of years ago, to purchasing meat from the frozen food aisle in modern day supermarkets is, in my heart, the height of sophistry—using clever and false arguments to cover for one’s failings, and by so doing, leading others astray.

Eating meat is inconsistent with Buddha’s clear call for compassion for all sentient beings. Why else would he have gone to the trouble to delineate the cases where it wouldn’t cause a problem in the limited contexts existing during the time, and within the traditions, when he was teaching in the world. Obviously, he was making exceptions to his general prohibition against eating animal flesh.

Using the argument that it is ok to eat animal flesh so long as you have no direct involvement in the killing of the animal—in today’s context—is a fainthearted attempt to escape one’s weakness in following the Dharma, and culpability in providing a market for such murdered flesh. Without a willing buyer, there would be no killing. This is simple economics. It doesn’t matter who puts the words in the Buddha’s mouth, he never said that you, today, could eat meat without suffering the consequences of your culpability for the suffering of those animals.

Modern practices of killing animals are much worse than those in the past. Animals must stand by the hundreds in concentration camps, euphemistically called ‘feed lots’, for days, in the stench of death of their fellows, listening to the cries of horror at their fate, until their own time comes, some so sick and unable to walk, they must be bulldozed to the killing sheds.

And should we overlook the damage that is done to the Earth in order to raise the billions and billions of animals slaughtered for their flesh each year? Science is clear that the majority of the destructive gases filling our atmosphere, causing the Earth to heat up to a point where little life will remain, is due directly to our fashionable diet of dead flesh. So too is the mass destruction of wildlife habitat that is the necessary condition for global pandemics to emerge.

Eating flesh is incoherent with being Buddhist. The behavior most in tune with the Buddha’s message of compassion towards all sentient beings, and the end of suffering that was his heartfelt intent for all beings, is to never eat the flesh of animals.

As a Buddhist, one should also adhere to the doctrine of causes and conditions, and realize that eating the flesh of animals creates the possibility for a profitable demand for animal flesh in those of weak mind who are unconcerned about profiting from the suffering of others for their own benefit. By eating animal flesh, you may feel that you are not directly responsible for the animal’s death, but by creating the condition for someone of weak mind and strongly selfish desires to cause harm to others, you are responsible for leading them astray. You may try to abdicate your responsibility to protect the weak and voiceless, but you cannot escape responsibility for the actions of others that harm animals to provide you with meat. It is your actions that lead them, through their weakness, to the hell realms.

  • Dear StillJustJames's, wouldn't the Buddha have clearly outlined a rule or mentioned something about the consumpion/purchasing of meat to lay disciples if one were to suffer consequences of doing so ? Mar 17, 2021 at 15:44
  • Yes, he did Aliocha Karamazov. As I said in the first paragraph of my answer above, I took this material from an article that I published elsewhere, from which I excluded the lengthy sutra teachings on the subject, in which Buddha explicitly said that eating meat is against his teachings, so that my answer here would not be too long. I provided a link to the article (on Medium.com) in that first paragraph if you are interested in reading the sutra quotations. I apologize if that was not clear. Mar 17, 2021 at 16:04
  • Thank you for your answer. Is it a sutra from the Mahayana canon ? I asked the question as I'm gradually reading the Pāli canon and I have yet to find an explicit rule for lay disciples to forgo buying/eating meat. Isn't the Dalaï Lama also eating meat for health reasons? Mar 17, 2021 at 16:08
  • Five mahayana sutras and one sutta. Mar 17, 2021 at 16:12
  • I don’t know what the Dalai Lana eats, and as I said, eating meat is a flashpoint between the Buddha’s teachings and the desires of individual buddhists who want to eat meat. It is also, in my view, important to remind oneself that the enumeration of conditions when it was ok for ordained sangha, who were dependent on alms, to eat the meat offered them, does not in anyway exempt lay practitioners, nor modern ordained sangha members, from his clear statements about compassion and killing. (Continued) Mar 17, 2021 at 17:18

Suppose a butcher or a hunter slaughters an animal and dies shortly afterwards and inb4 the meat is sold. Then a person buys the meat from the deceased butcher's widow who herself doesn't kill and there are no other people involved. Here the buying of meat does in no way leads to further killing and the stupid argument of buying meat being equated to encouraging killing is entirely decapitated of it's limbs.

Suppose a butcher or a hunter slaughters an animal and is desperate to sell it in order to pay for a critical surgery for his wife. Now you come along and make a deal of buying the meat at a ridiculous price such that he can afford the surgery if he swears to abandon killing to which he agrees. Here too the buying of meat does in no way lead to further killing and the stupid argument of buying meat being equated to encouraging killing is entirely decapitated of it's limbs.

Do you know what encourages killing? The encouraging of killing does, speaking in praise of killing does, having an animal killed for you does. Not the buying of meat.

When you are willing to have yourself and your family tortured & set on fire because you won't kill an ant, then you are a person who doesn't kill and one who takes a categorical stance, not when you are choosing not to buy meat. When you are willing to have the entirety of the human race be killed by another because you won't kill an ant or to have another kill it for you, then you are one who doesn't kill, not when you are choosing not to buy meat.

  • we are living in 2024 man... wher market is monster... dont give simile of butcher widow.. and all. that was perfect argument 200 year back .. not now.. In todays time if you eat meat you are sponcering killing.. and if you dont eat meat someone else will eat it . dont worry of market.
    – enRaiser
    Mar 28 at 12:27

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