Buddhism, along with
Jainism, recognizes that even eating vegetables could contribute to the
indirect killing of living beings because animal life is destroyed by
tilling the soil or the use of pesticides. Jainism consequently
considers death by starvation as the ultimate practice of non-violence,
while Buddhism considers extreme self-mortification to be undesirable
for attaining enlightenment.
and Theravada thinking is that eating meat in and of itself does not
constitute a violation of the Five Precepts which prohibit one from
directly harming life.
monks and nuns who follow the Theravadan way feed themselves by alms,
they must eat whatever leftover foods which are given to them, including
meat. (The Pali/Sanskrit term for monks and nuns means one who seek
alms.) The exception to this alms rule is when monks and nuns have seen,
heard or known that animal(s) have been specifically killed to feed the
alm seeker, in which case, consumption of such meat would be karmically
negative. This is also followed by lay Buddhists; and is known as the
consumption of the 'triply-clean meat' (三凈肉 sanjingrou).
On the other
hand, when lay communities specifically purchase meat for consumption of
monks and nuns, the permissibility of meat eating differ among Buddhist
sects. The Theravada Pali Canon records instances of Buddha eating meat
which were specifically purchased for Buddha. This act was deliberately
performed by the Buddha to demonstrate that if need be, a Buddhist can
bend the rules in times of emergency or inconvenience. Obstinately
observing vegetarianism or Buddhist rules in times when you cannot,
conflicts with Mahayana philosophy because obstinacy or attachment for
anything, is considered to be 'stubbornness' (執著 zhizhuo) which will
become an obstacle to nirvana or enlightenment. However even then, if
one undertakes a vow to be a Buddhist vegetarian, one is expected to
follow this vow until it is humanly impossible to continue one's
authenticity of the Pali Sutras differ within Mahayana sects and
Mahayana sutras do not record Buddha eating meat. While no Mahayana
sects consider Pali sutras to be inauthentic, Chinese Buddhist sects
tend to consider this particular part of writing in Pali sutras to be
false. Japanese Buddhist sects generally accept that Buddha ate meat.
Mahayana and Theravada Buddhists consider that one may practice
vegetarianism as part of cultivating Bodhisattvas's paramita. Since
Mahayana Buddhists recognise the consumption of meat to be cruel and
devoid of compassion, some Mahayana Buddhists are vegetarians. Numbers
of Mahayana sutra record Buddha praising the virtue of avoiding meat.
However, Tibetan Buddhism believes that tantric practice makes
vegetarianism unnecessary. All Japanese Kamakura sects of Buddhism (Zen,
Nichiren, Jodo) have relaxed Mahayana vinaya, and as a consequence, do
not practice vegetarianism but rather pescetarianism.
Chinese Buddhism and part of Korean Buddhism strictly adhere to
"Buddhist" cuisine differ from Western vegetarian cuisine in one aspect,
that is avoidance of killing plant life. Buddhist vinaya for monks and
nuns prohibit harming of plant. Therefore, strictly speaking, no root
vegetables (such as potatoes, carrots or onion) are to be used as this
will result in death of vegetables. Instead, vegetables such as beans or
fruits are used. However, this stricter version of diet is often
practiced only on special occasion.
Buddhists in China and Vietnam specifically avoid eating strong-smelling
plants, traditionally garlic, Allium chinense, asafoetida, shallot, and
Allium victorialis (victory onion or mountain leek), and refer to these
as 五葷 'Five Acrid And Strong Smelling Vegetables' or 五辛 'Five Spices'
as they tend to excite senses. This is based on teachings found in the
Brahma Net Sutra, the Surangama Sutra and the Lankavatara Sutra (chapter
8). In modern times this rule is often interpreted to include other
vegetables of the onion genus, as well as coriander.
The food that a
strict Buddhist takes, even if he/she is not a vegetarian is also
specific. For many Chinese Buddhists, beef and the consumption of large
animals and exotic species is avoided. Then there would be the
aforementioned sanjingrou rule. One restriction on food that is not
known to many is the abstinence from eating animal innards and organs.
This is known as 下水 (xiashui), and is a Chinese term and is not to be
confused with the Japanese term gesui (sewage).
other drugs are also avoided by many Buddhists because of their effects
on the mind and "mindfulness". It is part of the Five Precepts which
dictate that one is not to consume "addictive materials". The definition
of "addictive" depends on each individual but most Buddhists consider
alcohol and contraband drugs to be addictive. Stricter Buddhists
consider tobacco to be addictive as well.
vegetarian chefs have become extremely creative in imitating meat using
prepared wheat gluten, also known as "seitan" or "wheat meat", soy (such
as tofu or tempeh), agar, and other plant products. Some of their
recipes are the oldest and most-refined meat analogues in the world. Soy
and wheat gluten are very versatile materials, because they can be
manufactured into various shapes and textures, and they absorb
flavourings (including, but not limited to, meat-like flavourings),
whilst having very little flavour of their own. With the proper
seasonings, they can mimic various kinds of meat quite closely.
Some of these
Buddhist vegetarian chefs are in the many monasteries which serve wu hun
and mock-meat (also known as 'meat analogues') dishes to the monks and
visitors (including non-Buddhists who often stay for a few hours or
days, to Buddhists who are not monks, but staying overnight for anywhere
up to weeks or months). Many Buddhist restaurants also serve
vegetarian, vegan, non-alcoholic, and/or wu hun dishes. Some Buddhists
eat vegetarian only once per week or month, or on special occasions such
as annual visits to an ancestor's grave. To cater to this type of
customer, as well as full-time vegetarians, the menu of a Buddhist
vegetarian restaurant usually shows no difference from a typical Chinese
or far-Eastern restaurant, except that in recipes originally made to
contain meat, a chicken flavoured soy or wheat gluten might be served
instead (e.g. "General Tso's chicken" made with flavoured wheat gluten).