December 11, 2011

Dear Dalai Lama: “Is it permissible for Buddhists to eat meat?”

Q & A with H.H. the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, November 2009

Q: Is it permissible for Buddhists to eat meat?

HH: Some Buddhist texts say that it is not permissible to eat any meat, but others, including the Abhidharma-Kosa, say it is permissible to eat meat on the condition that the animal was not slaughtered specifically for the person who eats it.

The best thing is to give up meat entirely. Sometimes one’s lifestyle and circumstances provide no alternative but to eat meat, and in these cases one should eat as little meat as possible. Tibetan monasteries and nunneries in south India became entirely vegetarian 15 years ago. Festivals and ceremonies in all Tibetan monasteries and nunneries should be completely vegetarian. When I was in Tibet, aged 13 or 14, my government officially banned meat from religious festivals and ceremonies.

Bonus: The Dalai Lama on eating “conventional” eggs like those served in most restaurants:

“The abuse we inflict on hens has always been particularly disturbing to me and I have always been particularly concerned toward how these animals are treated in industrial food production. I am troubled to learn about the practice of confining egg laying hens in tiny cages. In these cages, birds cannot engage in their natural behaviours, such as spreading their wings, laying eggs in a nesting area, perching, scratching at the ground, even standing on a solid surface. Each hen has less space to live than the very sheet of paper I have written this letter on. Turning these defenseless animals into egg-producing machines with no consideration for their welfare whatsoever is a degradation of our own humanity. Switching to cage free eggs would reduce the suffering of these animals.”

Bonus: The Buddha, on eating meat.

“Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you.”

~ Gotama Buddha

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