The teaching of Buddha Kassapa in Snp 2.2:

“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.
Snp 2.2

(and more similar statements in the whole text of the same sutta)

From Buddha Kassapa's quote above, we see that eating meat by itself is not killing karma.

However, it is popular opinion that eating meat is definitely killing karma because it indirectly causes the killing of animals. This was also Tissa's attack on Buddha Kassapa, a brahmin by birth.

What is the correct understanding of the principle of karma in Buddhism, for this case of eating meat? Why does Snp 2.2 not consider eating meat to be killing karma?

  • @ChrisW I have deleted the first quote and summarized its view as "However, it is popular opinion that eating meat is definitely bad karma because it indirectly causes the killing of animals." And yes, I'm trying to prove this popular opinion wrong but at the same time I'm asking why is it that way? How does karma work in Buddhism, which explains this?
    – ruben2020
    Commented May 31, 2021 at 22:24
  • Recent questions/answers on the forum remind me of buddhism.stackexchange.com/q/37281/13375
    – user13375
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 13:54
  • Manufacturing meat during those times was a very different undertaking, and took place mostly out of the need for survival. As such, there was little to no akusala citta in the process. These days, meat manufacturing has reached a ridiculous impetus fuelled by greed. The animals suffer tremendously as a result. What was once a basic need for survival has now bled into full-blown akusala citta. Therefore, the sutta needs to be disregarded in terms of the changes in how we now produce meat.
    – user17652
    Commented Jun 2, 2021 at 19:01
  • The issue of meat (or fish) came up with Devadatta and the Buddha directly addressed it allowing it. See my answer in buddhism.stackexchange.com/questions/45003/non-vegetarianism It's in the Vinaya, Cullavagga. Specifically, it is about conduct for monks.
    – chongman
    Commented Jun 26, 2021 at 2:11

2 Answers 2


Because anyone with even a basic understanding of ecology recognizes that it is literally impossible to live on this planet without your existence causing the death of another creature. Let me ask you this- which is more horrible, the millions of cattle that are slaughtered for beef or the 70 billion creatures that die each year to produce staples like corn, wheat, rice and soy? At best, you can say they are karmically identical in that both resulted in the death of a creature, but at least in the case of beef, that animal is allowing another to live and isn't rotting in an open field somewhere, forgotten and abstracted away by the supposed ethical purity of vegetarian food.

Animal livestock can be used regeneratively in a way that fosters life. There are no sustainable agricultural systems either man-made or natural that don't involve animal inputs in some way. Either we can align ourselves with the rapacious practices of broad acre modern agriculture culture - the monocultures, the chemical inputs, the destruction of habitat - or we can live closer to closed loop natural systems that create habitat and improve the life conditions of all associated sentient beings.

I'm not saying every meal you eat should involve meat. That isn't sustainable either. But to eschew all animal products is to wholly disconnect yourself from the life web just so you can delude yourself into thinking you are eating a harmless diet.

And I think the Buddha was pretty clear as to what constituted killing and the negative karmic consequences of you personally engaging in that act. No action is pure if you pan out far enough. Every action, no matter how noble, has unintended negative consequences. To be a Buddha isn't to be perfect or to engineer a perfect world. We are all hanging from a tree by our teeth. If we can offer one word of wisdom, we fall to our deaths. If we stay silent we will be killed. Our practice in this world is to find a way out of that predicament.

  • Since you ask, an ecological argument against meat is that a lot of soy and so on is grown in order to feed cattle -- which is inefficient -- it requires less soy in total, less agricultural land, if you eat it directly, instead of using it to feed cattle to produce meat. More than three-quarters (77%) of global soy is fed to livestock for meat and dairy production
    – ChrisW
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 12:59
  • That is indeed true ChrisW, but it does not pertain to the question. Is the eating of dead flesh necessarily entail bad karma accruing...?
    – user13375
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 13:11
  • Cattle don't eat soy. Or at least they shouldn't. Feeding to them is frankly abhorrent. Managed properly on pasture, their natural habitat, they can subsist entire on forage (i.e. "grassfed" which is a bit of a misnomer; they also eat all sorts of dicots). The same holds true for sheep, bison, goats, and any other species who's digestive process uses fermentation. Essentially these animals eat sunlight - just at one remove. Back in the way back, pigs, chickens, and "fatted" calves were luxury items. The inputs required to raise these species was cost prohibitive to all but the wealthy.
    – user20272
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 13:50
  • I raise a couple of pastured chickens for myself. It's a cleaner product, tastes better, the birds are happier, and most importantly, all of the waste is recycled back into the soil. But FWIW, you're looking at about $10 a bird in supplemental organic feed and a grow out time of 12 weeks vs. the 7 weeks and pennies you are looking at with factory farmed chicken. If I were to sell these birds, you're looking at at least $5 a pound retail vs. the less than $5 a bird for the industrial raised stuff.
    – user20272
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 13:56
  • That's the price of sustainability and it's going to put a lot of people off grain-fed meat if we switch to that model. That's a good thing. It's a more realistic accounting of the value of life.
    – user20272
    Commented Jun 1, 2021 at 13:58

Kamma is intention in Buddhism.

A person who kills an animal or instructs another (like a butcher or hunter or chef) to kill an animal, clearly has the intention to cause the death of that animal. That's the kamma of killing imbued with aversion (dosa) and delusion (moha).

However, a person who eats a meat dish (made from an animal that was long dead) only has the intention to eat meat and taste meat. So, that's the kamma of eating and tasting meat imbued with greed (lobha). This is not the kamma of killing.

Eating any food that was grown in farms or wearing cotton clothes harvested from cotton farms, are also fraught with the indirect killing caused by tillage, use of pesticides etc. Surely one eating rice or bread doesn't have the intention to kill animals either, by doing so.

"Intention, I tell you, is kamma. Intending, one does kamma by way of body, speech, & intellect.
AN 6.63

All mental phenomena have mind as their forerunner; they have mind as their chief; they are mind-made. If one speaks or acts with an evil mind, 'dukkha' follows him just as the wheel follows the hoofprint of the ox that draws the cart.
Dhp 1

  • 1
    This is great Ruben! However, “… the kamma of eating and tasting meat imbued with greed” is “bad karma” so maybe adjust your question because the OP assumes that eating meat is not “bad karma”… where I think you meant it is not “killing karma”?
    – user13375
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 13:32
  • 1
    @YesheTenley Thanks for the hint!
    – ruben2020
    Commented Jul 4, 2021 at 13:37

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