Furthermore, the gods "will stay far away from them because they smell bad, [and] hungry ghosts will hover aroundand kiss their lips".
Being around ghosts will hinder one's quest for enlightenment. These demons have the power to appear as false Buddhas and speak false Dharma. The Buddha further warns that in the Dharma-ending Age (theage in which we are now) there will be an abundance of false prophets, or ghosts and demons who will appear asBodhissatvas. Those who are so far off the path might believe in or be possessed by ghosts or demons mascaradingas enlightened masters. These demons might talk the misguided ones into consuming "excrement and urine, or meatand wine" and justify it.
I discuss killing, the first and most important moral precept, last because it is the precept that is the heart of the focusof the Buddhist diet, indeed the most important aspect of it.In the Judeo-Christian tradition's
- "Thou shall not kill" is generally taken with multipleexceptions. For example, it is all right to kill in battle for protection, or to eat or sacrifice animals (in the OldTestament, God
animal sacrifices). By contrast, no kind of killing of animals or people is ever allowed inBuddhism - these are the indisputable guidelines. However, there are various levels of "severity" that these tenetshold in various times, places, and sects. For instance, in the early Indian
(Monastic Code), since the monkswere homeless wanderers, it was common practice to beg for food (this tradition is still practiced similarly inTheravada (or Hinayana) countries in SouthEast Asia). The monks "were expected to eat everything that was put intheir begging bowl without discrimination, including meat or rotten food".
The Vinaya was so strict that monks hadto watch out for any tiny organisms in their drinks or where they walked. Since the monks' food was obtained bybegging, they were to have no knowledge of the food's source beforehand. If they received meat,the monk had to be convinced that the meat was not specifically prepared for him. The criteria were that the monkhad not seen, not heard, or did not have a suspicion that the meat had been prepared specifically for the monks.
It was the monk's conscious effort to obtain vegetarian food that "counted".Inthe early centuries of the common era,Mahayana school Buddhism made its way into China (and eventually other Mahayana countries, Korea and Japan). Here, monasteries developed with land for monks to cultivate their own food,more or less guaranteeing its vegetarian nature that is not always possible through begging. This made it possible for the monks to follow a more strict vegetarian diet, and even develop a cuisine style
in Japan).It is a Mahayana goal to help all other beings achieve enlightenment. So it is due to the newer Mahayana traditionsthat the stricter vegetarian diets came, and eventually made its way into the culture of modern Buddhist lay persons.From the
text: A son of the Buddha shall not eat the flesh of any sentient beings. If he eats their flesh, he shall cut off greatcompassion, as well as the seed of Buddhahood within him.
So we see that the vegetarian diet is followed in both major Buddhist traditions (Theravada and Mahayana), but thatslightly different measures are taken to achieve this.Vegetarianism, "a natural and logical ramification of the moral precept against the taking of life"
is a diet thatincludes no animal meat. In modern terms, we might use the word "vegan" to describe the strict Mahayana diet. Theterm "vegan" refers to one that does not eat any animals, but also any animal products or derivatives, including milk,cheese, honey; or using animal furs, leathers, skins, etc. The Buddha recommended that pure Bodhisattvas followthis ideal:[they] who do not wear silk, leather boots, furs, or down ...and who do not consume milk, cream, or butter, can trulytranscend this world. Both physically and mentally one must avoid the bodies and the by-products of beings, byneither wearing them or eating them. I say that such people have true liberation.
The Buddhist term
is now being adopted by many secular vegans.
refers to the compassionate, non-violent treatment of animals and all sentient beings. Not only does the practice of ahimsa keep the Buddhist on theright path, it also enforces a "better life and better health".
Killing or eating meat breaks several rules at one time. One who does harms other sentient beings and restricts their path/chance to gain enlightenment/nirvana. One also hurts one's self since all beings are a part of one whole. Onealso spreads the bad killing karma, which will later cause one suffering, or propagate more killing. One also enforcesthe suffering caused by the cycle of death and rebirth.