the great vegetarian debate

Exploring Theravāda's connections to other paths - what can we learn from other traditions, religions and philosophies?
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Jechbi
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by Jechbi » Sun Mar 08, 2009 4:57 am

Ben wrote:Anyway, lets get back to Peter's questions...
I thought that's what I was doing. :shrug:

Hello Peter,
Peter wrote:You seem to be having trouble understanding the premise of the thread.
I don't think so, Peter. I think the answers I provided were based on an appropriate understanding of your premise when you created this thread.
Peter wrote:I will try to explain it in more detail.

The Buddha taught that one should not only abstain from killing but also abstain from urging another to kill. Some people maintain the act of buying meat always constitutes urging another to kill, the typical argument referring to the pressures of supply and demand. I am seeking to explore in closer detail the interactions of buyer to seller and buyer to killer and see if this interaction does indeed always include the element of urging. If we find that it does then we can conclude that buying meat is precluded by the Buddha's teachings. More likely we will find it some times is so and it sometimes is not so, that the situation is more complicated as you say.
Jechbi wrote:How well do you know this man? How many other customers does this man have? If you stopped buying meat there, would the man be inclined to slaughter fewer animals? These and a host of other factors all could contribute to whatever it is that might be regarded as "urging,"
I do not agree. These factors may contribute to whether the urging is successful but they do not contribute to whether there is any urging at all.
That's an oversimplification.
Peter wrote:
Jechbi wrote:depending on the definition of "urging" that everyone is accepting for the sake of discussion
I think since this is a Dhamma discussion we need to use the definition given by the Buddha. Perhaps instead of throwing our hands up in the air and saying "we can't know" we should instead ask what the Buddha means by "urging".
I would not advise throwing our hands up in the air and saying "we can't know." I would contend that actions are made up of multiple factors, so we have to be careful not to oversimplify and thus run the risk of rationalizing our actions, for example saying that we're not "urging" someone to do something when tacitly we are doing just that.
Peter wrote:I understand it to mean "an action taken with the intent of persuading another to do something."
Yes, and intent can be obscured or unknown to us or mixed with other intents. It's not black-and-white.
Peter wrote:I know you said otherwise, Jechbi, but it really looks like you're saying "sometimes buying constitutes urging and sometimes is doesn't."
I didn't say otherwise. But that's not what I was saying at the moment when you asked if that's what I was saying. It appears you were reading too much into my comments.
Peter wrote:This is a fine answer that in no way invalidates the discussion in this thread. I think some people would disagree with your answer. That's why it's a discussion.
I expect people to disagree with my answer, particularly if they layer the answer with extra nuances that were not part of the answer to begin with, which it appears you were doing.
Peter wrote:
Jechbi wrote:I do think the specific hypothetical questions are difficult to answer in a practical way, though.
I think it depends on the question. I think asking "What should I do in this hypothetical situation" is very difficult to answer in a meaningful way. But I think asking "What does Buddhism teach regarding this hypothetical situation" is not as difficult to answer.
Sure, but then you can build the hypothetical any way you want. There are countless hypotheticals. I agree it can be interesting and even informative, but at a certain point you have to realize all that hypothesizing will only go so far in helping you decide what is wholesome to do when the situation is at hand in the present moment.

Peter, I believe I'm answering your questions in a manner that does not fit with your expectations, but I believe I understand perfectly well what you're driving at. If you regard these comments as discourteous or off-topic or lacking in understanding, please have patience with me. You also may wish to avoid assuming that I'm saying something I'm not.

Metta
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Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by DNS » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:39 am

Chris wrote: As I understand it, Devadatta (the jealous relative and disciple of the Buddha who tried to injure and kill him) split the Sangha over the Vegetarian issue.
He wished the Buddha to state that eating meat was completely wrong and the Buddha refused,even knowing that the cost would be splitting the Sangha.

Although the Buddha thought that Vegetarianism is the preferred manner of eating, he resisted making it compulsory for monks, who are allowed to eat meat as long as they are unaware that the specific animal was killed specifically for their benefit. From the Buddha's perspective, vegetarianism is connected with extreme forms of asceticism, which he wants to avoid.
I know some teachers and some lay people like to quote the Devadatta list often to "show" that the Buddha did not make vegetarianism compulsory, but the Buddha allowed monks to follow the rules or suggestions by Devadatta, if they wanted to. It was not forbidden to follow the list, if a monk or nun wanted to. The refusal of the Buddha to accept the complete list also does not mean that he disagreed with everything in the list.

The Buddha praised Kassapa doing some ascetic practices (forest dwelling, wearing rags, etc.), some of them from the list of Devadatta (Samyutta Nikaya 16.5) which shows that the Buddha was not opposed to everything in the list. In another passage the Buddha said:

"I do not say householder, that all asceticism should be practiced; nor do I say of all asceticism that it should not be practiced" (Anguttara Nikaya 10.94).

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by DNS » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:45 am

Peter wrote: I am not asking about monks on alms round but rather laypeople in the supermarket. I suppose a relevant question might be "Is there a difference between the two?" I think the choice of a lay person shopping versus the lack of choice of a monk receiving alms is a significant difference. Maybe you disagree?
Exactly. Most of the references people use from the Buddha about meat were discourses given to and meant for monks. For lay people, we find things like:

All beings tremble before danger, all fear death. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill. All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill.”
Dhammapada, 129-130

Monks, one possessed of three qualities is put into Purgatory according to his actions. What three? One is himself a taker of life, encourages another to do the same and approves thereof.
Monks, one possessed of three qualities is put into heaven according to his actions. What three? He himself abstains from taking life, encourages another to so abstain, and approves of such abstention
.”
Anguttara Nikaya, 3.16

"He should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should he incite another to kill. Do not injure any being, either strong or weak, in the world.”
Dhammika Sutta, Sutta Nipata, Khuddaka Nikaya

". . . he abstains from killing living beings, exhorts others to abstain from killing living beings, and speaks in praise of the abstention from killing living beings." Samyutta Nikaya 55.7

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by Jechbi » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:48 am

Hi Ben and Peter,

To get all the cards on the table, I have the impression that this thread is intended to make the point that it's not unwholesome behavior to buy meat in the grocery store, or at least that the behavior is justifiable. I may be mistaken about this, but if my impression is correct, I think the intended point of this thread ought to be stated openly.

In this thread, we find the following very applicable statements:
Elohim wrote:... we should never forget the very nature of samsara.
Nyanaponika Thera wrote:Also for the strict vegetarian's sake, living beings have to die under the farmer's plowshare, and his lettuce and other vegetables have to be kept free of snails and other "pests," at the expense of these living beings who, like ourselves, are in search of food. A growing population's need for more arable land deprives animals of their living space and, in the course of history, has eliminated many a species. It is a world of killing in which we live and have a part. We should face this horrible fact ...
Full disclosure: I am not a vegetarian. I go into the grocery store and purchase meat for myself and for my family. I do not assume that my behavior is completely pure, completely wholesome. Rather, I do the best that I can given my understanding at this moment.
Ben wrote:What is urging another to kill is the financial imperative and the knowledge of past history of supply and demand, and market prices. Me as ultimate purchaser of the meat may, at an infintesimal level, influence things like market prices, but its a far cry from urging.
To fail to recognize our role and personal responsibility in what occurs in society strikes me as a rationalization. When we purchase, when we consume, we participate in a social order that cries out for killing, that urges killing. This is samsara. This is our reality at this moment. We shouldn't think for a minute that just because someone else killed the cow that provided the beef for our Hamburger Helper, that that means we bear no responsibility.

Certainly it doesn't rise to the same level as if we went to the farmer and told him: "Kill that cow! I want to eat him." There are multiple levels and degrees of responsibility. This is samsara.

Metta
:smile:
Rain soddens what is kept wrapped up,
But never soddens what is open;
Uncover, then, what is concealed,
Lest it be soddened by the rain.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:54 am

TheDhamma wrote:the Buddha allowed monks to follow the rules or suggestions by Devadatta, if they wanted to. It was not forbidden to follow the list, if a monk or nun wanted to.
I understand the Buddha allowed the monks to follow Devadatta's suggestions if they wanted to EXCEPT for vegetarianism. The Buddha's rules required monks to accept whatever they were given.
- Peter

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by DNS » Sun Mar 08, 2009 5:55 am

Peter wrote: When you buy a product, you contribute to the measured demand, true, but at the time of your action you have no idea whether there will be enough measured demand to prompt a replenishment of supply. I have bought the last of a product only to find it never replenished; obviously the store owner was relieved to finally have the product off his hands. I have also bought a product with the very clear intention of hoping the store owner would see my purchase as significant enough to continue to supply more. I have even at times verbalized my intent to the store owner. "Please continue to carry this item." I have also chosen products based on the choices available to me; if A is available then I'll buy A, otherwise I'll by B. Clearly, to me at least, not every act of buying results in the seller feeling urged to resupply, nor is every act of buying accompanied by the intention to urge.
When someone buys meat do you really think there is even the remote possibility that the grocery store is going to give up selling meat and call it quits for the meat department? For other items that might be the case, for example some type of jeans that are no longer in fashion, but meat? I think a little common sense shows that the meat will definitely be replenished.

I see a direct causal direction from meat purchases to another animal being killed. If some others do not see that direct relationship, that is fine. Monks and nuns do not purchase meat, so there is no issue for them in my opinion. Others that may not carry any unwholesome actions in my opinion, include:

a) minors living at home in their parents house who should graciously accept what their parents provide
b) guests at a meal served who did not mention or warn of a vegetarian diet or other restrictions, preferences
c) spouses who are not vegetarian and/or Buddhist who cook meat for their Buddhist and/or vegetarian husband/wife/partner

There may be some other acceptable situations, but this is what I can think of offhand, in my opinion.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by DNS » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:00 am

Peter wrote: I understand the Buddha allowed the monks to follow Devadatta's suggestions if they wanted to EXCEPT for vegetarianism. The Buddha's rules required monks to accept whatever they were given.
Correct, but as Bhante Appicchato has shown, when the food is served in the middle of a table or buffet style, the monks choose what they want to eat. All of the food is accepted by the lay people and then each monk places the food in their bowls or plate to eat. I have seen this done at Thai temples, Sri Lankan temples, and others. I know of other vegetarian monks who do it that same way too.

On alms rounds a vegetarian monk can and should receive meat that is offered to them and then once back at the temple, the food is gathered together in the middle of the table.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:07 am

Jechbi wrote:Peter, I believe I'm answering your questions in a manner that does not fit with your expectations, but I believe I understand perfectly well what you're driving at. If you regard these comments as discourteous or off-topic or lacking in understanding, please have patience with me. You also may wish to avoid assuming that I'm saying something I'm not.
You might wish to avoid the same. You assume I am looking for the answer to the question "What should I do in this or that situation." I tried to make it clear that is not what I'm after. I am seeking to clarify a particular teaching of the Buddha and I put forth some hypothetical situations in an effort to shed light on what this teaching might mean.
- Peter

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:10 am

TheDhamma wrote:
Peter wrote:The Buddha's rules required monks to accept whatever they were given.
Correct, but as Bhante Appicchato has shown, when the food is served in the middle of a table or buffet style, the monks choose what they want to eat.
It is my understanding this method of taking food is not in accord with the Vinaya. The Buddha put forth a number of rules precisely to keep monks from choosing what they want to eat. For example, a monk is not to visit a particular house more frequently than other houses.
Last edited by kc2dpt on Sun Mar 08, 2009 6:17 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by tiltbillings » Sun Mar 08, 2009 9:35 am

It would be good if this thread did not get personally contentious. I have consigned to the ether several msgs that did not further discussion of the topic, but did further personal bickering.

Peter has raised an interesting and very specific topic. Also, it is not unreasonable that he also wants to keep the discussion tightly focused. I think we can respect that request.

And for all involved please avoid personal comments.
>> Do you see a man wise [enlightened/ariya] in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for him.<< -- Proverbs 26:12

This being is bound to samsara, kamma is his means for going beyond. -- SN I, 38.

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by cooran » Sun Mar 08, 2009 10:20 am

Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:
Peter wrote:The Buddha's rules required monks to accept whatever they were given.
Correct, but as Bhante Appicchato has shown, when the food is served in the middle of a table or buffet style, the monks choose what they want to eat.
It is my understanding this method of taking food is not in accord with the Vinaya. The Buddha put forth a number of rules precisely to keep monks from choosing what they want to eat. For example, a monk is not to visit a particular house more frequently than other houses.
Hello Peter,

This is my understanding also after discussing it with the Bhante Dhammasiha today.

Daily - he always has a traditional alms round whereby he passes by each lay person who puts food in his bowl. He never looks at what he is getting, and never indicates pleasure or aversion to what is put in his bowl. He then chants and dedicates merits, and retires to eat his meal.

metta
Chris
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by appicchato » Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:10 pm

Chris wrote:Hello Bhante,

What is your understanding of the Buddha's refusal to make a clear pronouncement that eating ANY meat is forbidden or unwholesome?
It would have been so easy for him to state this. And yet, he refused, and, as I understand it, it was a condition for a split in the Ordained Sangha.

metta and respect,
Chris
Hi Chris,

I haven't ruminated over this too much, I have to say...so, the fact that the Buddha wasn't a vegie, is, I have to think, partially due to the fact that he considered the additional strain on lay supporters (to accommodate those who were)...time, expense, inconvenience...and who knows what other factors...was more detrimental to keeping the sangha going (and together) than not eating meat...and it wouldn't have sat too well had he abstained while not prohibiting the practice...

Also, we look at things through 21st century eyes, and conditions in 5th century BC India were a universe away from what they are today...who really knows His reasoning?...I don't really find a need to dissect it...and the four conditions He laid down to allow it seems to alleviate any/most problems on the matter...

I'm not real good at writing down my thoughts, so I hope this sounds at least somewhat coherent... :smile:

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by appicchato » Sun Mar 08, 2009 12:22 pm

Peter wrote:
TheDhamma wrote:
Peter wrote:The Buddha's rules required monks to accept whatever they were given.
Correct, but as Bhante Appicchato has shown, when the food is served in the middle of a table or buffet style, the monks choose what they want to eat.
It is my understanding this method of taking food is not in accord with the Vinaya. The Buddha put forth a number of rules precisely to keep monks from choosing what they want to eat. For example, a monk is not to visit a particular house more frequently than other houses.
Hi Peter,

By this line of reasoning, it would seem, that to be in accordance with Vinaya, a monk would have to eat some of everything...a reference please for why the Buddha put forth the rules 'precisely to keep monks from choosing...'

I'm referring here to plates on the floor, or a table, not what is put in one's bowl... :focus:

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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 2:59 pm

appicchato wrote:By this line of reasoning, it would seem, that to be in accordance with Vinaya, a monk would have to eat some of everything...a reference please for why the Buddha put forth the rules 'precisely to keep monks from choosing...'

I'm referring here to plates on the floor, or a table, not what is put in one's bowl... :focus:
I would expect you would know the Vinaya better than I would, Bhante. My understanding, and I my be mistaken, is that there isn't supposed to be plates on the floor or table but that food is to be offered by a lay person directly into the monk's bowl. I read this in a talk by a monk... I will try to find it. The bit about not choosing... again I will have to think about where I read this.

And yes, this discussion of monks and vegetarianism, while interesting, is completely off topic for this thread. I am wishing to specifically discuss whether and how "buying meat" constitutes "urging another to kill". Monks do not buy meat.
Last edited by kc2dpt on Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:14 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: some very specific vegetarian questions

Post by kc2dpt » Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:14 pm

TheDhamma wrote:When someone buys meat do you really think there is even the remote possibility that the grocery store is going to give up selling meat and call it quits for the meat department?
I'm not sure if it matters. If I take action A and I can be reasonable sure this will result in another person taking action B, does that make me responsible for action B? Are there any Buddhist teachings which speak to this question?

Then we would have the situation of "I suspect my action of buying meat causes the seller to kill or have killed another animal killed as a result." The seller ordering more meat is definitely a case of "urging another to kill". But the buyer? Wouldn't that be a case of urging another to urge another to kill? Does that count? But this then brings us back to my original list of questions. As more people get involved in the chain of distribution, the chain of urging becomes longer and longer. At some point we get to the level where any of our actions cause someone, somewhere to do something unwholesome. This is something no one, not even an arahant, can be free of. Thus I suspect anything outside of the most direct case of the seller also being the slaughterer, I think the link is not relevant to the issue of "urging another to kill".
I see a direct causal direction from meat purchases to another animal being killed.
Whether there is a direct causal connection is irrelevant to the topic I am trying to discuss. The question is whether a direct causal connection, no matter how long or complex, constitutes "urging another to kill". Again, I am trying to discuss this very narrow question.

Whether we find buying meat to be unwholesome or unacceptable for more general reasons is also off-topic for this thread. Please endeavor to stay on topic. I do not wish this thread to become a general debate on vegetarianism.
Last edited by kc2dpt on Sun Mar 08, 2009 3:19 pm, edited 1 time in total.
- Peter

Be heedful and you will accomplish your goal.

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