On the Buddhist days for eating vegetarian, as laypeople is it okay if we eat eggs? I hear people say that eggs grown for eating are not devoid of life. If eaten, is one guilty of killing?

  • I'm going to make a wild guess and suppose you looking for an answer from a generally pro-vegetarian standpoint? (Since you are from Viet Nam, which does have a tradition of combining Buddhism and vegetarianism) Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 3:58
  • As a vegan i can say i think its not moral (wholesome ) to eat eggs - i think most places if not all of them to date are killing male chicks - do i think its a break of the first precept to eat eggs ? no - but i do think its not moral (unwholesome) about the egg contain a living being i am pretty sure it does not
    – breath
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 2:50

3 Answers 3


There is are few incidents mentioned in Buddhism about egg consuming leading to bad karma.

Explanation - "How could eggs be bad"

Recognition of life in Buddhism is not only walking talking life,it also includes potential life(like an egg).An egg is not a creature,true.But if correct conditions are given it turns to life,So it is potential life.And killing things alive or killing potential life is recognized as bad Karma.

People mentioned to have suffered from bad karma(From the consumption of eggs)when Lord Buddha was alive.

"One day a prince invited Lord Buddha to his new castle.He laid a carpet thinking if i will have children Lord Buddha will enter my palace walking on this carpet.When Lord Buddha arrived no such thing happend.Lord Buddha skipped the carpet and set foot on the ground.In the end the price asked why.Lord Buddha said i knew your wish,unfortunately you two will have no children so i didn't used the carpet.And Lord Buddha went on to describe why.

Lord Buddha said once in a previous life you were a merchant sailing across the sea to do your business.One day a storm took your ship and you were washed up to a beach of a small island.there was nothing but bird nests. You,fearing for your life consumed eggs of those birds.Because of that Karma you generated you will have no children"

This prince never had children as Lord Buddha said!

If you look you would find many tales of such incidents,we are Buddhists from birth in my country (Sri Lanka) and we are not in a common understanding about Farmed eggs (the white eggs you see in the market) because they supposedly have been modified to not to give bith.But most of us keep away from eggs unwilling to take the risk.

  • 1
    Extending the example of consuming eggs, how this play out if you were to kill a cockroach?
    – Motivated
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 7:29
  • 1
    A cockroach is a living being so obviously there is a violation of the first (avoiding harming any form of life).But this should be understood with some extra details. Even though Buddhism do not see a difference in the size of a being to value its life (all lives are equally valuable in Buddhism) the amount effort of effort and planing dedicated to a killing would define the force of negative (Bad karma) it would generate. @Lanka
    – Theravada
    Commented Oct 28, 2015 at 21:56
  • Taking eggs directly from a bird nest is stealing their chance to have offspring. But buying eggs from the supermarket doesn't count as the deed is done by another Commented Sep 12, 2017 at 11:17
  • Not the stealing, yes but the buyer is the one who breaks the egg and end all possibilities of a birth @SankhaKulathantille
    – Theravada
    Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 4:11
  • 1
    They say nearly all eggs sold commercially are produced by hens that have not mated. So i wouldn't worry about it. chowhound.com/food-news/54729/… Commented Oct 12, 2017 at 5:01

Buddhism does not have a clear, universal doctrine on being vegetarian: see for example,

  • Are all Buddhists vegetarian?

    Says that it varies from one tradition to another.

  • Food and Drink

    Theravada monks 'must' beg for their food, 'must not' eat after noon, and 'may choose' to be vegetarian

    If he wishes to be a vegetarian, he may choose from among the food placed in his bowl, although where he receives only little, this will be very difficult for him.

  • Vegetarianism

    Today it is often said that Mahayanists are vegetarian and Theravadins are not. However the situation is a little more complex than that. Generally Theravadins have no dietary restrictions although it is not uncommon to find monks and lay people in Sri Lanka who are strict vegetarians. Others abstain from meat while eating fish. Chinese and Vietnamese monks and nuns are strictly vegetarian and the lay community try to follow their example although many do not. Amongst Tibetans and Japanese Buddhists, vegetarianism is rare.

    Buddhists who insist on vegetarianism have a simple and compelling argument to support their case. Eating meat encourages an industry that causes cruelty and death to millions of animals and a truly compassionate person would wish to mitigate all this suffering. By refusing to eat meat one can do just that.

    Those who believe that vegetarianism is not necessary for Buddhists have equally compelling although more complex arguments to support their view: (1) If the Buddha had felt that a meatless diet was in accordance with the Precepts he would have said so and in the Pali Tipitaka at least, he did not. (2) Unless one actually kills an animal oneself (which seldom happens today) by eating meat one is not directly responsible for the animal's death and in this sense the non- vegetarian is no different from the vegetarian. The latter can only eat his vegetables because the farmer has ploughed his fields (thus killing many creatures) and sprayed the crop (again killing many creatures). (3) While the vegetarian will not eat meat he does use numerous other products that lead to animals being killed (soap, leather, serum, silk etc.) Why abstain from one while using the others? (4) Good qualities like understanding, patience, generosity and honesty and bad qualities like ignorance, pride, hypocrisy, jealousy and indifference do not depend on what one eats and therefore diet is not a significant factor in spiritual development.

    Some will accept one point of view and some another. Each person has to make up his or her own mind.

  • Buddhist cuisine

    Eggs are seen as almost meat and many Buddhists avoid them.

    (However Wikipedia provides no citation/reference for the above statement.)

If you follow the argument listed in "Vegetarianism", above, you might like to avoid eggs, for example because (so far as I know) egg production includes killing most of the male chickens as soon as possible.

On the other hand it does seem to vary from one tradition to another; if you're following a specifically-Vietnamese tradition you might want to ask this question of a specifically-Vietnamese Buddhist.

  • 1
    I'm 90% certain this is a Mahayana question looking for a Mahayana answer. Commented Nov 2, 2014 at 4:15
  • @MatthewMartin Do you think that I should add a Mahayana tag to the question, and delete from my answer the 2nd reference which mentions the Theravada Vinaya rules? I agree the OP is probably asking for a Mahayana answer. This is only the second question on this site tagged vegetarianism.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 10:37
  • I don't want to encourage anyone to self delete, but you might want to widdle your answer down to the mahayana part. Tagging is a good idea as vegetarianism as an open question is very controversial. Once you are on one side of the fence or the other, then it is a technical question of where to draw the lines-- even carnivores draw the line at eating their own species and unfamiliar species like roaches and frogs. Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 14:58
  • I know you've said that the 'vegetarianism' topic has resulted in arguments at other web sites; and maybe it was controversial even in Devadatta's day; but if or because the question is untagged I don't think it's wrong, I hope it's beneficial, to say that what is commonly-accepted varies from one tradition to another.
    – ChrisW
    Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 15:10
  • My point (if it fits in this small box) is that "Should Buddhist be vegetarians?" leads to flamewars. But "Given one has already decided to be vegetarian, what is on the acceptable list?" is comparatively answerable and if someone answers it with "Well, I enjoy steak" then it is a bad answer, but cromulent to "Should Buddhist be vegetarian at all". (Likewise "Given one has decided not to be vegetarian, what is on the acceptable list?" could be dispassionately answered, imho.) Commented Nov 3, 2014 at 15:15

I'm guessing you are asking what the boundaries are for Vietnamese Buddhism (which is generally similar in practice to Chinese & Korean Buddhism, at least with respect to how the dietary precepts are practiced).

The vegetarian precepts come from the Brahma Net Sutra and the Upaseka Sutra. These precepts discourage animal husbandry of any sort. So on that ground, it would imply animal products are off the menu.

The precepts related to preservation of life make it pretty clear that the problem with meat and animal products is that a sentient being must be killed. In modern agriculture, to make eggs, the male chicks must be killed, they are economically useless. The old hens are killed when they stop laying. The calves from cows are killed and sold as veal. The dairy cows in turn are killed when they can no longer produce milk.

I've heard of a no-kill dairy in India, but I've never heard of a no-kill egg farm.

The internet seems to say eggs and milk were sometimes allowed for monks in China, Korean and Vietnam, but I'm not finding a lot of good references. Milk was probably not consumed much anyhow, since lactose intolerance is very common in Asia, outside of Mongolia.

In the case of eggs, one Buddhist concern is can an unfertilized egg yield a living being. In some species, yes, sometimes. And for fertilized eggs, it certainly can yield a living being. This is much the same sort argument you see in the abortion issue.

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