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Question
Hello.I have been trying to follow the precepts given by the buddha. i have a confusion about the precept that tells us to abstain from killing.
Vegetables and all other vegetarian food we consume has life. isn't this precept broken there?
moreover i have read in many places that if a bhikku gets meat in alms, he is supposed to accept it without any grudge against the giver.
I personally have been a great fan of nonveg food, but since i am trying to follow the precepts, i am confused as to wether i should continue eating nonveg or should i leave it?
thank you.

Answer
Dear Gurinder Singh,

Thank you for the opportunity to answer your questions. I get asked this one a lot!


Do Buddhists have to be Vegetarians?

Being a vegetarian is a personal choice. Not all Buddhists are vegetarians.
In fact, the Buddha himself was not a vegetarian. The Buddha did not teach his followers to be vegetarians. Being a vegetarian is not a prerequisite of being a Buddhist.
Many Buddhist vegetarians base their choice on the first of the five precepts:

Refrain from the intentional act of killing

As Buddhists who follow the first precept, we attempt to refrain from being directly responsible for the taking of life. However, it is often difficult if not impossible to prevent indirectly being responsible for the taking of life. Even vegetarians are indirectly responsible for taking life by eating vegetables. Animals have been killed to make the clothes we wear, insecticides have been used to clean the vegetables we eat, and the cars we drive cause pollution that kills people and animals.

It is impossible to live without indirectly affecting others; however, we can mindfully refrain from any and all direct taking of life.

In the Tipitaka, the doctor Jivaka asked the Buddha about eating meat, and the Buddha answered:
'Jivaka, those who say: 'Animals are slaughtered on purpose for the recluse Gotama, and the recluse Gotama knowingly eats the meat killed on purpose for him', do not say according to what I have declared, and they falsely accuse me. Jivaka, I have declared that one should not make use of meat it is seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. I allow the monks meat that is quite pure in three respects: if it is not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk.' (Jivaka Sutta)

If you are unsure whether you are directly responsible for the taking of a life by eating meat, ask yourself these questions:

1.   Did I kill it?
2.   Did I order someone else to kill it for me?
3.   Even if you did not ask, was it killed for you?
4.   Am I unsure, do I have doubts?

If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you should refrain from eating this particular meat.

For example, eating a frozen chicken bought from the grocery store is not wrong since:

1.   You did not kill this particular chicken
2.   You did not ask anyone to kill this particular chicken for you
3.   It was not killed for you in particular
4.   You have no doubt

However, eating fresh meat or seafood is wrong since you might have:

1.   Killed it yourself
2.   Ordered someone (waiter) to kill it for you
3.   Known it was killed for you
4.   You have doubt (the restaurant has a fish tank by the door, or your father who only eats fresh seafood has cooked crab for dinner)

People who criticize Buddhists who eat meat do not understand the Buddhist attitude towards food. A living being needs nourishment. We eat to live. As such a human being should supply his body with the food it needs to keep him healthy and to give him energy to work.

I hope I have answered your questions!

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Anandapanyo Bhikkhu

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I can answer questions about Buddhist practice, Buddhist understanding and how to apply Buddhism to daily life. I can help analyze Buddhist sayings and teachings. In addition, I can help with questions Buddhism stories, fables and Vinaya(rules). I have meditated for over 10 years and can help you start with meditation. In addition, I can help provide insight into what to do when you feel that you have hit a wall with your meditation. My main area of expertise is how to think in accordance with Sammaditthi (the right view - and number 1 in the Buddha's Noble Eightfold Path. If I cannot answer your question, I have many able teachers with over 20 years experience to help me, so chances are I will be able to find an answer for you.

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I have been practicing Buddhism since I was born, but as a serious practice since 2003. I started studying under various famous Thai Theravada masters. Finally, I met and studied under Phra Acariya Thoon Khippapanyo who has recently passed away on Nov 11, 2008 and is widely accepted as a great Arahant (fully enlightened) teacher of our time. In addition, I have personally read and studied much of the Buddhist scriptures and popular literature available. I have recently undertaken the ordination vows and have become a Buddhist monk in the theravada forest monk tradition. I reside at a temple with many dedicated practitioners and great teachers. I have been practicing training my mind to be aligned with right view (sammaditthi) for over 10 years. I have also been meditating for over 10 years. In my time spent with Acariya Thoon, I learned many things and was able to incorporate them into my life. In addition to practicing Buddhism within temples and my home, I used to own two restaurants and managed commercial real estate. I had to deal with many different and problems. I learned how to use Buddhism to fix my problems, both externally (my environment) and internally (within me).

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