VEGETARIANISM

The U.S. Food and Drug ---o0o---

What is vegetarianism? Vegetarians are people who do not eat meat products and may also not consume dairy products or eggs. They may do so for health reasons or for philosophical and moral reasons. Some people, such as Seventh Day Adventists, are vegetarians because of their religious beliefs. Many people eat plant foods simply because they are cheaper than animal products. There are three main types of vegetarians: lacto-ovo-vegetarians, who eat dairy foods and eggs; lacto-vegetarians, who eat dairy foods, but no eggs; and vegans who consume no animal foods of any type. What are the health benefits of vegetarianism? According to registered dietitian Johanna Dwyer of Tufts University Medical School and the New England Medical Center Hospital in Boston, data is strong that vegetarians are at lesser risk of:
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obesity lung cancer alcoholism atonic [reduced muscle tone] constipation

Dwyer says evidence is good for lower risks for:
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hypertension coronary artery disease type II diabetes gallstones

Dwyer says data are only fair to poor for lower risks of:
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breast cancer diverticular disease of the colon colonic cancer calcium kidney stones osteoporosis dental erosion dental caries

Do vegetarians live longer? Dwyer says vegetarians' longevity is equal to or greater than that of non-vegetarians, but is influenced in Western countries by healthy lifestyle habits, such as not smoking, abstaining or practicing moderation in alcohol use, exercising, getting enough rest and seeking help for health problems. What special dietary needs to vegetarians have? As with any diet, it's important for the vegetarian diet to include many different foods, since no one food contains all the nutrients needed for good health. Of particular concern may be calcium, iron, riboflavin, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Vitamin B12, for example, occurs only in animal foods. The Institute of Food Technologists recommends that vegetarians who don't eat dairy foods take calcium supplements, especially during pregnancy, when breast-feeding. Also have infants and children take the supplements. Unless advised otherwise by a doctor, people taking dietary supplements should limit the dose to 100 percent of the U.S. Recommended Daily Allowance. Here are some suggestions from the FDA of non-animal substitutes for those nutrients most likely to be lacking from vegetarian diets:
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vitamin B12: fortified soy beverages and cereals vitamin D: fortified soy beverages and sunshine calcium: tofu processed with calcium, broccoli, seeds, nuts, kale, bok choy, legumes (peas and beans), greens, lime-processed tortillas, and calciumenriched soy beverages, grain products and orange juice. iron: legumes, tofu, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, whole grains and ironfortified cereals and breads, especially whole wheat. Iron absorption is improved by vitamin C, found in citrus fruits/juices, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, peppers, dark-green leafy vegetables and potatoes with skins. zinc: whole grains (especially the germ and bran), whole wheat bread, legumes, nuts and tofu. protein: tofu and other soy-based products, legumes, seeds, nuts, grains and vegetables.

Protecting Your Bones
Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

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The bone-thinning condition called osteoporosis can lead to small and not-so-small fractures. Although many people think of calcium in the diet as good protection for their bones, this is not at all the whole story. In fact, in a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women, those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk.1 Similarly, a 1994 study of elderly men and women in Sydney, Australia, showed that higher dairy product consumption was associated with increased fracture risk. Those with the highest dairy product consumption had approximately double the risk of hip fracture compared to those with the lowest consumption.2 To protect your bones you do need calcium in your diet, but you also need to keep calcium in your bones. How to Get Calcium into Your Bones 1. Get calcium from greens, beans, or fortified foods.

The most healthful calcium sources are green leafy vegetables and legumes, or "greens and beans" for short. Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, collards, kale, mustard greens, Swiss chard, and other greens are loaded with highly absorbable calcium and a host of other healthful nutrients. The exception is spinach, which contains a large amount of calcium but tends to hold onto it very tenaciously, so that you will absorb less of it.

Beans are humble foods, and you might not know that they are loaded with calcium. There is more than 100 milligrams of calcium in a plate of baked beans. If you prefer chickpeas, tofu, or other bean or bean products, you will find plenty of calcium there, as well. These foods also contain magnesium, which your body uses along with calcium to build bones. If you are looking for a very concentrated calcium source, calcium-fortified orange or apple juices contain 300 milligrams or more of calcium per cup in a highly absorbable form. Many people prefer calcium supplements, which are now widely available. dairy products do contain calcium, but it is accompanied by animal proteins, lactose sugar, animal growth factors, occasional drugs and contaminants, and a substantial amount of fat and cholesterol in all but the defatted versions. 2. Exercise, so calcium has somewhere to go. Exercise is important for many reasons, including keeping bones strong. Active people tend to keep calcium in their bones, while Sedentary people lose calcium. 3. Get vitamin D from the sun, or supplements if you need them. Vitamin D controls your body's use of calcium. About 15 minutes of sunlight on your skin each day normally produces all the vitamin D you need. If you get little or no sun exposure, you can get vitamin D from any multiple vitamin. The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 200 IU (5 micrograms) per day. Vitamin D is often added to milk, but the amount added is not always well controlled. How to Keep It There It's not enough to get calcium into your bones. What is really critical is keeping it there. Here's how: 1. Reduce calcium losses by avoiding excess salt. Calcium in bones tends to dissolve into the bloodstream, then pass through the kidneys into the urine. Sodium (salt) in the foods you eat can greatly increase calcium loss through the kidneys.3 If you reduce your sodium intake to one to two grams per day, you will hold onto calcium better. To do that, avoid salty snack foods and canned goods with added sodium, and keep salt use low on the stove and at the table. 2. Get your protein from plants, not animal products. Animal protein —in fish, poultry, red meat, eggs, and dairy products—tends to leach calcium from the bones and encourages its passage into the urine. Plant protein—in beans, grains, and vegetables—does not appear to have this effect.4 3. Don't smoke.

Smokers lose calcium, too. A study of identical twins showed that, if one twin had been a long-term smoker and the other had not, the smoker had more than a 40 percent higher risk of a fracture.5 American recommendations for calcium intake are high, partly because the meat, salt, tobacco, and physical inactivity of American life leads to overly rapid and unnatural loss of calcium through the kidneys. By controlling these basic factors, you can have an enormous influence on whether calcium stays in your bones or drains out of your body. Hormone Supplements Have Serious Risks Some doctors recommend estrogen supplements for women after menopause as a way to slow osteoporosis, although the effect is not very great over the long run, and they are rarely able to stop or reverse bone loss. Many women find these hormones distasteful because the most commonly prescribed brand, Premarin, is made from pregnant mares' urine, as its name suggests. What has many physicians worried is the fact that estrogens increase the risk of breast cancer. The Harvard Nurses' Health Study found that women taking estrogens have 30 to 80 percent more breast cancer, compared to other women.6 Moreover, Premarin may aggravate heart problems. In a study of 2,763 postmenopausal women with coronary disease followed for an average of four years, there were as many heart attacks and related deaths in women treated with the combined regimen of estrogens and a progesterone derivative, as with placebo, but the coronary problems occurred sooner in women taking hormones. Hormone-treated women were also more likely to develop dangerous blood clots and gallbladder disease.7 Controlling calcium losses is a much safer strategy. Reversing Osteoporosis If you already have osteoporosis, you will want to speak with your doctor about exercises and perhaps even medications that can reverse it. Osteoporosis in Men Osteoporosis is less common in men than in women, and its causes are somewhat different. In about half the cases, a specific cause can be identified and addressed:8

Steroid medications, such as prednisone, are a common cause of bone loss and fractures. If you are receiving steroids, you will want to work with your doctor to minimize the dose and to explore other treatments. Alcohol can weaken your bones, apparently by reducing the body's ability to make new bone to replace normal losses. The effect is probably only significant if you have more than two drinks per day of spirits, beer, or wine. A lower than normal amount of testosterone can encourage osteoporosis. About 40 percent of men over 70 years of age have decreased levels of testosterone.

In many of the remaining cases, the causes are excessive calcium losses and inadequate vitamin D. The first part of the solution is to avoid animal protein, excess salt and caffeine, and tobacco, and to stay physically active in order to reduce calcium losses. Second, take vitamin D supplements as prescribed by your physician. The usual amount is 200 IU (5 micrograms) per day, but it may be doubled if you get no sun exposure at all. If you have trouble absorbing calcium due to reduced stomach acid, your doctor can recommend hydrochloric acid supplements. Calcium and Magnesium in Foods (milligrams) Food Source Calcium Magnesium Collards (1 cup, boiled) 358 52 Orange juice, calcium-fortified (1 cup) 350* -Oatmeal, instant (2 packets) 326 70 Figs, dried (10 medium) 269 111 Tofu, calcium-set (1/2 cup) 258 118 Spinach (1 cup, boiled) 244 158 Soybeans (1 cup, boiled) 175 148 White beans (1 cup, boiled) 161 113 Mustard greens (1 cup, boiled) 150 20 Navy beans (1 cup, boiled) 128 107 Vegetarian baked beans (1 cup) 128 82 Great northern beans (1 cup, boiled) 121 88 Black turtle beans (1 cup, boiled) 103 91 Swiss chard (1 cup, boiled) 102 152 Broccoli (1 cup, boiled) 94 38 Kale (1 cup boiled) 94 24 English muffin 92 11 Butternut squash (1 cup, boiled) 84 60 Pinto beans (1 cup, boiled) 82 95 Chick peas (1 cup, canned) 80 78 Sweet potato (1 cup, boiled) 70 32 Green beans (1 cup, boiled) 58 32 Barley (1 cup) 57 158 Brussels sprouts (8 sprouts) 56 32 Navel orange (1 medium) 56 15 Raisins (2/3 cup) 53 35 Source: J.A.T. Pennington, Bowes and Church's Food Values of Portions Commonly Used. (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1994.) *Information from manufacturer

References 1. Feskanich D, Willett WC, Stampfer MJ, Colditz GA. Milk, dietary calcium, and bone fractures in women: a 12-year prospective study. Am J Publ Health 1997;87:992-7. 2. Cumming RG, Klineberg RJ. Case-control study of risk factors for hip fractures in the elderly. Am J Epidemiol 1994;139:493-503. 3. Nordin BEC, Need AG, Morris HA, Horowitz M. The nature and significance of the relationship between urinary sodium and urinary calcium in women. J Nutr 1993;123:1615-22. 4. Remer T, Manz F. Estimation of the renal net acid excretion by adults consuming diets containing variable amounts of protein. Am J Clin Nutr 1994;59:1356-61. 5. Hopper JL, Seeman E. The bone density of female twins discordant for tobacco use. N Engl J Med 1994;330:387-92. 6. Colditz GA, Stampfer MJ, Willett WC, et al. Type of postmenopausal hormone use and risk of breast cancer: 12-year follow-up from the Nurses' Health Study. Cancer Causes and Control 1992;3:433-9. 7. Hulley S, Grady D, Bush T, et al. Randomized trial of estrogen plus progestin for secondary prevention of coronary heart disease in postmenopausal women. JAMA 1998;280:605-13. 8. Peris P, Guanabens N, Monegal A, et al. Aetiology and presenting symptoms in male osteoporosis. Br J Rheumatol 1995;34:936-41.

Animal Rights and the Dhammapada
Rosemary A. Amey  Copyright retained by the author, December 1996 ---o0o--Do not what is evil Do what is good. Keep your mind pure. This is the teaching of Buddha. (Dhammapada, 183.) Background: Buddhism and the Dhammapada What does Buddhism have to say about animal rights? Among the world's hundreds of millions of Buddhists, there is disagreement about this basic issue. I first became interested in Buddhism because two of my favourite restaurants (Buddha's Vegetarian Foods and the Lotus Garden, both on Dundas Street West in Toronto) are Buddhist, and are very careful to serve only vegetarian food with no eggs. In one restaurant I was told that this was necessary because Buddhist monks and nuns eat there. This suggested to me that Buddhism takes the plight of nonhuman animals very seriously indeed. On the other hand, my fianc and I have several friends who are Buddhist, but continue to eat meat and feel this is consistent with Buddhism.

Do Buddhists, or at least Buddhist nuns and monks, have to be vegetarian? What does Buddhism have to say about our treatment of animals in general? To resolve this controversy, it is necessary, I feel, to return to the Buddhist scriptures and see what (if anything) they have to say about the issue. So far, I have been frustrated in my attempts to purchase my own copy of the Bhuddist Pali scriptures -- perhaps because they are eleven times as long as the Bible. The bookstores I have been to all stock large numbers of books about Buddhism, but not the scriptures themselves! These secondary (or worse!) sources about Buddhism shed little light on what the Buddha's own teachings about animals were. However, I have been able to acquire a copy of an important part of the Pali scriptures, the Dhammapada. Dhamma (Dharma in Sanskrit), means "law, a moral law, a spiritual law of righteousness, the eternal law of the Universe, Truth;" and pada means "foot" or "step." So the Dhammapada are the steps we must take to live according to (Buddhist) moral and spiritual laws. According to scholar Juan Mascar, "that the spirit of the Dhammapada is the spirit of Buddha is accepted both by his followers and by scholars." Therefore, it seems reasonable that we can derive at least a first approximation of the Buddhist approach to the question of animal rights from the basic moral foundation laid by Gotama Buddha in the Dhammapada. Not Killing and Not Hurting In Buddhism, there are five "precepts," which could be considered to play a similar rle as the Ten Commandments do for Jews and Christians. These precepts provide moral guidance for lay Buddhists as well as monks and nuns. They are concisely summed up as follows: He who destroys life, who utters lies, who takes what is not given to him, who goes to the wife of another, who gets drunk with strong drinks -- he digs up the very roots of his life. (Dhammapada, 246-247) The injunction against destroying life is known as the First Precept. In addition, the Buddha also tells us not to "hurt" others, for example: He who for the sake of happiness hurts others who also want happiness, shall not hereafter find happiness. (Dhammapada, 131.) Probably because not killing and not hurting are so important, Buddha repeatedly asks us not to do either in many places throughout the Dhammapada (see next section for details). The fact that the First Precept and other teachings forbid killing and hurting is not controversial among Buddhists. Where the controversy comes in is the question of whom Buddhists are forbidden to kill or hurt.

Who is Protected by The First Precept and the Prohibition on Hurting? Do the First Precept and other passages against hurting protect non-human animals? Perhaps they, like the Judeo-Christian Commandment "Thou shalt not kill," were intended to apply only to humans. This possibility can be ruled out almost immediately, for in the Dhammapada, there are numerous explicit injunctions against killing or otherwise hurting "living beings," rather than "persons": But although a man may wear fine clothing, if he lives peacefully; and is good, selfpossessed, has faith and is pure; and if he does not hurt any living being, he is a holy Brahmin, a hermit of seclusion, a monk called a Bhikkhu. (Dhammapada, 142. Emphasis added.) The wise who hurt no living being, and who keep their body under self-control, they go to the immortal NIRVANA, where once gone they sorrow no more. (Dhammapada, 225 Emphasis added.) A man is not a great man because he is a warrior and kills other men; but because he hurts not any living being he in truth is called a great man. (Dhammapada, 405. Emphasis added.) It seems clear that the Buddha has taken pains to make it clear that the injunction against killing or hurting is not confined to humans, but extends to other "living beings." Then we might wonder, who or what are these "living beings"? Some have argued that the protection of "living beings" extends to plants as well as to animals, for they are also alive. If this were the case, then it could be claimed that for a Buddhist, eating a rabbit is no worse than eating a carrot. Here I am at a disadvantage, as I have not yet learned Pali, nor do I have the scriptures as originally rendered in Pali. However, a beautiful passage suggests that the beings referred to are sentient beings: 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.) Here, the Buddha explains that we should not kill out of consideration for the feelings of fear and the love of life that beings experience. Moreover, he says all beings share these attributes, suggesting that the word which Mascar has translated as "beings" really means "sentient beings." Some skeptics may claim that nonhuman animals are not really sentient. However, in another passage, the Buddha alludes to the sentience of fish in a metaphor describing an unquiet mind:

Like a fish which is thrown on dry land, taken from his home in the waters, the mind strives and struggles to get free from the power of Death. (Dhammapada, 34.) This passage suggests that, like the "beings" referred to in Dhammapada 130 (see above), the fish's life is dear to him -- otherwise why would he "strive and struggle to get free from the power of Death" when removed from his aquatic home? If the Buddha believed fish to be sentient, it is highly improbable that he would deny that many of the other animals commonly killed and hurt by humans (e.g. mammals and birds) are not sentient. Therefore, at least fish, birds, and mammals could not be killed or otherwise hurt according to the First Precept and other teachings which protect sentient beings. It is quite possible that the First Precept covers other animals as well. So why didn't the Buddha come right out and say that "animals" should not be harmed, rather than "living beings"? Perhaps it was because, when and where the Buddha lived, practitioners of other well-known religions such as Jainism were already conscientious about protecting animals and so it would have been obvious to the Buddha's students that not killing "living beings" meant not killing animals. Perhaps there was no word in Pali which would encompass both nonhuman and human animals, so that the term translated as "living beings" was needed to be inclusive. Or perhaps the Buddha wanted us to be more concerned about sentient animals, rather than any nonsentient animals which might exist. Implications for Our Treatment of Animals Since the Buddha's time, there have been enormous changes in the relationship between human and nonhuman animals. Practices such as vivisection and factory farming would have been unknown to the Buddha, and so of course they are not explicitly mentioned in the Dhammapada. Moreover, the Dhammapada is very concise, and does not catalogue all the possible misdeeds which could be committed against animals (note that includes humans as well as nonhumans!) However, although the myriad harms to animals are not all explicitly mentioned in the Dhammapada, we can infer a great deal merely from the First Precept and the teachings against hurting other beings. It is clear that the Buddha does not want us to kill or hurt animals ourselves. Therefore, Buddhists cannot be hunters, fisherpeople, trappers, slaughterhouse workers, vivisectors, etc., nor can we "euthanize" homeless animals in so-called animal "shelters." What about eating meat? Some might claim that, as long as people don't kill animals themselves, it is okay to eat meat. However, note that passages 129 and 130 in the Dhammapada specify that we should not "kill or cause to kill." When people buy products made from the bodies of dead animals, they must necessarily cause someone to kill those animals. Therefore, meat, leather, and fur are off limits. It is probably true that, in order to be economically viable, killing older, less productive animals is necessary to produce milk and eggs -- certainly this is one claim of the egg and milk industries in justifying this practice. If so, then buying milk and eggs also necessarily causes killing, and thus should be avoided under the First Precept.

How about meat that someone else has bought? In most, perhaps all cases, by accepting meat served to us by someone else, we are causing killing. For example, if meat-eating friends invite us over for dinner, they will buy extra meat for us in anticipation of our visit, or if our visit was unplanned they are likely to buy extra meat to restock their larder after we leave. In either case, our acceptance of the meat has caused additional animals to be killed. So ideally, we should not accept meat served to us by others, and should let people know this in advance whenever possible. Some claim that the contents of their stomach do not matter, only the contents of their mind. However, the Buddha points out that we should give thought to what we eat: He who lives only for pleasures, and whose soul is not in harmony, who considers not the food he eats, is idle, and has not the power of virtue -- such a man is moved by MARA, is moved by selfish temptations, even as a weak tree is shaken by the wind. (Dhammapada, 7. Emphasis added.) Not to hurt by deeds or words, self-control as taught in the Rules, moderation in food, the solitude of one's room and one's bed, and the practice of the highest consciousness: this is the teaching of the Buddhas who are awake. (Dhammapada, 185. Emphasis added.) Probably these passages refer to avoiding gluttony as well as vegetarianism. Certainly, people who find the thought of "giving up" meat (or other products of animal killing) distressing should also consider if they have allowed themselves to become too attached to material pleasures, and heed the words of the Buddha: He who does what should not be done and fails to do what should be done, who forgets the true aim of life and sinks into transient pleasures -- he will one day envy the man who lives in high contemplation. Let a man be free from pleasure and let a man be free from pain; for not to have pleasure is sorrow and to have pain is also sorrow. (Dhammapada, 209-210.) Although the ideal of detachment does not mean we are forbidden to experience material pleasures, clearly allowing one's attachment to, say, the taste of meat to override adherence to the First Precept is contrary to the spirit of the Dhammapada. Many people have tried to justify killing animals because of the (alleged) benefits it brings, whether economic benefits to people who work in animal-killing occupations, or potential medical benefits which might arise from vivisection. But the Buddha says: He who for himself or others craves not for sons or power or wealth, who puts not his own success before the success of righteousness, he is virtuous, and righteous, and wise. (Dhammapada, 84. Emphasis added.) That is, doing the righteous thing (obeying the Precepts) has a higher priority over worldly "success." Moreover, the Buddha cautions against being overly attached to our current bodies:

Consider this body! A painted puppet with jointed limbs, sometimes suffering and covered with ulcers, full of imaginings, never permanent, for ever changing. This body is decaying! A nest of diseases, a heap of corruption, bound to destruction, to dissolution. All life ends in death. Look at these grey-white dried bones, like dried empty gourds thrown away at the end of the summer. Who will feel joy in looking at them? A house of bones is this body, bones covered with flesh and with blood. Pride and hypocrisy dwell in this house and also old age and death. The glorious chariots of kings wear out, and the body wears out and grows old; but the virtue of the good never grows old... (Dhammapada, 147-151). Although the Buddha does not ask that we harm our body, either directly or by neglecting our bodies' needs (this would be pointless), he emphasizes that the body is impermanent, and we should be more concerned about being virtuous than about preserving the body. Therefore, killing animals (a violation of the First Precept), cannot be justified by the claim that it will prolong human life. Moreover, unlike the JudeoChristian scriptures, the Dhammapada does not claim that humans are superior to or more important than other animals. Where does it end? It is a depressing fact of life that absolutely everything we buy has involved harm to sentient beings at some point in its production, simply because the vast majority of people are willing to harm nonhumans whenever it is expedient. For example, the vegetables we eat may have been fertilized with bone meal, plant-fibre clothing may have been treated with animal-derived products, medications are currently required by law to be tested on animals. However, in buying products such as these which do not require killing for their production, it is not clear that we are causing others to kill -- especially if we are also working to change the practices in these industries. Still, it is best to keep the consumption of all products to a minimum, both to minimize our monetary contribution to killing, and in keeping with the Buddhist ideal of detachment. Implications of the Dhammapada for Animal Rights Activists At a minimum, the Dhammapada is consistent with animal rights. Indeed, it seems to mandate many of the goals of the animal rights movement, for example the abolition of the meat industry and vivisection. Given that the Dhammapada is one of the core scriptures of Buddhism, it is difficult to see how Buddhists who do participate in activities which kill animals can justify the discrepancy between their practice and the words of the Buddha. However, animal rights activists should note that killing of animals in "shelters" is also forbidden. As far as I am concerned, this is a logical consequence of animal rights as well as Buddhism, however it is an unfortunate reality that many who consider themselves part of the animal rights movement still see killing of homeless cats and dogs as legitimate or perhaps even necessary.

Also, although the goals of animal rights are by and large consistent with Buddhism, too often the actions taken to achieve these goals are not. Many animal rights advocates speak harshly of those who oppress animals, but what good does that do? The Buddha reminds us to Never speak harsh words, for once spoken they may return to you. Angry words are painful and there may be blows for blows. (Dhammapada, 133.) So how are we to work to liberate our fellow sentient beings from suffering? We would do well to reflect frequently and often on the following: Overcome anger by peacefulness: overcome evil by good. Overcome the mean by generosity; and the man who lies by truth. (Dhammapada, 223.) It is sufficient merely to tell the truth about what is happening to animals -- there is no need to attack the character of the people committing these actions as well. And striving to live peacefully will teach the world more about compassion than hostile ranting. Of course, this isn't easy! I don't claim to have mastered this myself, although it is something I continue to strive for. Buddha acknowledges the difficulty, but encourages us to keep striving: If he makes himself as good as he tells others to be, then he in truth can teach others. Difficult indeed is self-control. (Dhammapada, 159.) At times when this ideal seems pointless, and frustrating, and futile, let us try to set aside our rage and despair at what our fellow humans are doing to animals, and focus on the love for animals which motivates our animal rights work: For hate is not conquered by hate: hate is conquered by love. This is a law eternal. (Dhammapada, 5.) References The Dhammapada, (translated by Juan Mascar). Penguin, 1973. Rahula, Walpola. What the Buddha Taught (2nd ed.). Grove Weidenfeld, 1974.

Buddhism and Vegetarianism
Ajahn Jagaro
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On a previous occasion when I gave a talk on Buddhism and vegetarianism there were some very strong reactions from some members of the audience. People who have strong reactions to talks are people who have very strong feelings about the topic, which means they have very strong views about the topic. This is a great danger, because as soon as we develop very strong, fixed views about anything, it tends to make us rather rigid. We develop a closed mind, which makes us over-react to anything that is said. If it's not in agreement with us it must be against us. That's all we see black and white - and that is a great shame. The Buddha warned against attachment to views and opinions as one of the fundamental causes of suffering. We see this over and over again in every aspect of life. Most of the conflicts that we are involved in during our lives arise out of disagreement with regard to certain views about things. These conflicts and due to attachment to our views and our perceptions. Of course, we need views, we cannot live without them. A view is the way we see something, the way we understand something, our preference with regard to the variety of choices available in regard to things. This is quite natural. As long as we think, perceive, or have been conditioned in a certain way, we will have views, and on some topics these may be very strong and fixed. Vegetarianism is one such topic. This evening I will talk about the topic as a contemplation. It is not my intention to sit here and tell you what the final word on Buddhism and vegetarianism is. That is neither my intention nor the Buddhist way. My understanding comes from my experience, from my perspective, from my contemplation. You may agree or you may not; it doesn't matter as long as you reflect clearly on the matter and come to your own conclusions. I take a neutral position because I do not feel that this particular topic can be seen simply in terms of black and white. I take the Buddhist position as I understand it. Scriptural basis

Let's begin with a fundamental question: Is it a prerequisite for a Buddhist to be a vegetarian according to the teachings of the Buddha, as far as we can assess? I would have to say, No, according to the Buddhist scriptures it is not a prerequisite for a person to be a vegetarian in order to be a Buddhist. People say, "Well how do you know what the Buddha taught, anyway?" It's true. I don't know from personal experience; if I was there, I don't remember it. So what do we have to rely on? We have to rely on these scriptures that have been handed down through the centuries. As to whether we can trust these scriptures depends on whether we accept them as accurate recordings of the Buddha's teaching or not. In the Theravada tradition we have what we call the Pali Canon, the Buddhist scriptures. There are many volumes, the Vinaya Pitaka, the discipline for monks and nuns, the Suttanta Pitaka, which contains the discourses or teachings given by the Buddha, and finally the Abhidhamma Pitaka, which is the system of philosophy and psychology developed from the basic texts. Most scholars agree that the Abhidhamma Pitaka, the 'higher teaching', was developed by teachers of later periods from the basic texts of the Suttas as a system of analysis for easier explanation and for use in debate. So there are three collections of scriptures. My research is limited to the Vinaya and the Suttas, the books of discipline and the books of discourses. From my studies I have great confidence that what is presented in these scriptures accurately represents what the Buddha taught. However, I do not claim that every word in these scriptures is exactly the word of the Buddha. There have been some changes, some additions and some alterations through the ages, but the essence is there. In essence the texts are a very true and accurate record of what the Buddha taught. My basis for this reasoning is simply the fact that the people who passed on these teachings and checked them were disciples, monks and nuns who had tremendous respect for the Buddha, just as monks today have, and I don't think that many monks would dare to intentionally change the teachings of the Buddha. Very few monks would be prepared to do that. Any alterations that have taken place were simply an expedient means for making recitation more convenient. There may have been accidental alterations, but I do not think that the texts were corrupted intentionally, certainly not in any serious or major way. This is verified in particular with regard to the Books of Discipline, which deal with the monastic discipline. Through the ages Buddhism slowly spread from the Ganges Valley throughout India, moving south to Sri Lanka, across to Burma and Thailand, then north towards Tibet and eventually China. Over the centuries it began to fragment into various schools. Some of these schools flourished in different parts of India and more distant locations, and so had very little or no contact with each other. When we compare the Books of Discipline, however, there's remarkable similarity between these different schools. They are so similar that they must have originally come from the same source. So there is good reason for confidence in what we call the Pali Canon and to accept that it does represent the teachings of the Buddha. In any case, this is the evidence we have to deal with, because there is no one here who can say, "I heard the Buddha say differently." These scriptures are the most authoritative or the most definitive representation of the Buddha's teachings.

If we study these scriptures very carefully we will find that nowhere is there any injunction to either lay people or to monks with regard to vegetarianism. There is not a single mention of it as a Buddhist injunction on either the monks and nuns or lay people. If the Buddha had made vegetarianism a prerequisite it would have to be somewhere in the scriptures. Quite to the contrary, one does find a number of instances where the Buddha speaks about food, especially on the rules pertaining to the monks, indicating that, during the time of the Buddha, the monks did sometimes eat meat. If you'll bear with me I would first like to present to you some of this historical evidence. In these scriptures, particularly in the Books of Discipline, there are many references to what monks are and are not allowed to do. A lot of these rules have to do with food; there are rules about all sorts of things pertaining to food, some of them very unusual. If the monks had to be vegetarian then these rules would seem to be completely useless or irrelevant. For instance there is one rule which forbids monks from eating the meat of certain types of animals, such as horse, elephant, dog, snake, tiger, leopard and bear. There are about a dozen different types of meat specified by the Buddha which are not allowed for monks. That he made a rule that certain types of meat were not to be eaten by monks would indicate that other types of meat were allowable. There is another rule: a monk was ill, and as he was quite sick a devout female disciple asked him if he had ever had this illness before and what did he take to cure it? It was some sort of stomach problem, and he said that he'd had it before and last time he had some meat broth which helped to relieve the symptoms. So this woman went off looking for meat to prepare a meat broth for the sick monk. However it was an uposatha (observance) day, so there was no meat available anywhere. It was a tradition in India not to slaughter animals on such days. Out of great devotion this lady decided that the monk could not be left to suffer, so she cut a piece of her own flesh and made a meat broth. She took it to the monk, offered it to him, and apparently he drank it and recovered. When the Buddha heard about this, he made a rule that monks are not allowed to eat human flesh. Thank goodness for that! So here is another strange rule that would be completely pointless if there had been a stipulation that the monks never eat meat. There are many similar instances both in the Rules of Discipline and in the Discourses. When the Buddha heard a charge that Buddhist monks caused the killing of animals by eating meat, he stated that this was not so. He then declared three conditions under which monks were not to eat meat: if they have seen, heard or they suspect that the animal was killed specifically to feed them, then the monks should refuse to accept that food. At other times, when the monks go on almsround, they are supposed to look into their bowls and accept whatever is given with gratitude, without showing pleasure or displeasure. However, if a monk knows, has heard or suspects that the animal has been killed specifically to feed the monks, he should refuse to receive it. There are many more examples than I have given here, scattered throughout the scriptures, indicating that it was not a requirement that either the monks or the lay people be vegetarian.

Furthermore, we can see that throughout the history of Buddhism there has not been one Buddhist country were vegetarianism was the common practice of the Buddhist people. This would indicate that it hasn't been the practice right from the very beginning. Although some Mahayana monks, in particular the Chinese, Vietnamese and some of the Japanese, are vegetarian, the majority of lay people are not. Historically, right up to the present day, Buddhist people in general haven't been strictly vegetarian. This would seem to support the conclusion drawn from an examination of the scriptures, that it has never been a prerequisite for people who want to be Buddhists to be vegetarian. Of course it can be argued, and it often is argued, by vegetarian monks in particular, but also by lay people, that the scriptures were altered. They argue that the Buddha did teach vegetarianism, but those monks who wanted to eat meat went and changed every reference to it in all the texts. They didn't have a computer to just punch in 'reference to meat' and get a whole list. The scriptures were initially handed down by word of mouth and many monks were involved. No one had it on a disk so that it could be changed in half an hour. It would have been very difficult to change as there are many references to it throughout the scriptures. You could change it in one place but then it would be inconsistent with other references. It is highly unlikely that the monks could have achieved consistency in changing so many references throughout the scriptures, so I think the claim of corruption of the scriptures by meat-loving monks is a bit far-fetched. I think the scriptures are accurate. I think that the Buddha did not make it a prerequisite for people, nor do I think that it was laid down as a rule of training for monks. Another point of contention arises over the Buddha teaching, as one of the training rules for everybody who wanted to be his disciple, that they are not to kill any living creature. The very first precept for a lay Buddhist is: 'Panatipata veramani sikkhapadam samadiyami.' (I undertake the training rule of not killing any living creature.) This is a training for every Buddhist monk, nun, novice, postulant, layman and laywoman, which is absolutely fundamental to the training in harmlessness. There appears to be an inconsistency, it doesn't seem to add up, but this is simply due to not thinking clearly about the topic. Obviously the Buddha saw a great difference in these two trainings - the training of not killing and the training regarding diet. They operate at different levels. The Buddha was very pragmatic. When he laid down training rules, he laid down rules that people could keep, that they had a good likelihood of keeping. For instance, he did not lay down a training rule saying that you must not over-eat. The monks are supposed to be alms mendicants and he laid down a lot of rules about eating for monks - they are allowed to eat only in the morning, when they eat they are not supposed to make chomping or slurping sounds, they are not supposed to drop grains of rice, they are not supposed to scrape the bowl, they are not supposed to look around - yet he didn't make one rule about over-eating. You can really stuff yourself and not break a rule. You would think that the Lord Buddha would have made a rule about that. Why not, when he made all these other rules? It's up to the individual to train oneself to eat in moderation. It is something you take responsibility for and train yourself toward gradually, but it is not a rule to start with.

There is a big difference between eating meat and killing animals, although it can be argued that when we eat meat we indirectly support the killing of animals. There's something to that, and I'll go into it in greater detail later on. There is a big difference between the two, however, because the killing of animals refers to intentionally depriving an animal of life or intentionally causing or directly telling somebody else to kill an animal. That is what the first precept is about - the intention to kill an animal. That is the purpose behind the action. There is intention, there is purpose and there is the actualisation of that purpose in killing. If you drove your car here this evening I'm sure that you killed something - on your windscreen there would have been a few smashed insects. When we drive from the monastery where I live in Serpentine to Perth, which is approximately 60 kilometres, the windscreen gets covered with dead insects, especially in the mornings and evenings. I know when I get into the car and ask someone to drive me somewhere that some insects are going to die. I know that, but that is not my intention for getting into a car and being driven somewhere. I don't say, "Let's go for a spin to see how many insects we can squash." If that was my intention then I would be killing, intentionally killing. But we don't do that. We get into a car to go from A to B for a purpose. Perhaps some beings get killed, but it's not our intention to kill them. That is not killing - there is death but you are not creating the kamma of killing animals. This rule is the foundation of the Buddhist training in harmlessness: you refrain from intentionally killing living creatures. When people eat meat what is their intention? How many people eat meat with the intention to kill cows, pigs and sheep? If their intention in eating is to kill more cows, that would be very close to killing. If you consider why people really eat meat you will see that it is for very different reasons. Why did people in more basic, rural societies, such as in northern Thailand where I lived, where most of the people were Buddhist, eat meat? They ate frogs, grasshoppers, red ants, ant larvae .... all sorts of things. Why? For protein, they had to survive, they had to have food and it's very hard to get food. What did a caveman eat? He ate whatever he could get. Due to the fundamental drive to survive he would eat whatever he could get. That has a lot to do with what we eat the primary instinct of survival. It depends on what is available. Then there is the cultural influence, the way your tastes are conditioned by your upbringing. If you are accustomed to certain types of food, you find those kinds of food agreeable. That is why you buy them. That is the sort of food that you know how to cook. Why are most Australians non-vegetarian? They eat meat because that is what they are conditioned to eat. That is part of the conditioning of the Australian culture. So when most people who are not vegetarians eat meat, it is not because they want to kill animals. It's just that that is what they have been conditioned to eat since childhood. It is part of their culture, that is what they know how to cook and that is what they know how to eat. It agrees with them, that is why they eat it. You might say it's ignorance. Well, most people are ignorant; most people have limited scope in their overall understanding of options and possibilities; most people live

according to their conditioning. It doesn't have to be that way, but that is how it is for most people. It is important to make this distinction. Eating meat is not the same as killing animals, because the intention is different. The Buddha laid down this rule, to refrain from intentionally killing any living creature, as the first step towards respecting life, both human and animal. It's just a start, not the end. And most people can't even do that. How many people in the world can truly refrain from killing living beings? We could get into an idealistic battle as to why everybody should be vegetarian, but you have to admit that the great majority of people on this planet cannot even keep to the level of not intentionally killing. If they could keep to that level, things would be a lot better. The Buddha had a pragmatic approach to things, so he said to at least start at this level. Thus far I have given you reasons why Buddhism doesn't make vegetarianism compulsory. Does Buddhism then encourage the eating of meat? Nowhere in the scriptures do we read that the Buddha said, "Eat more meat, it is good for you." Nowhere does it say to "give the man meat." There is not a single reference to giving the monks more meat. The scriptures certainly do not encourage the eating of meat; there are no references to it, no suggestion of encouragement for it. What are we to make of this? Simply that each individual must consider this matter carefully, come to his or her own conclusions and take responsibility for them. Ethical considerations Now we must consider whether vegetarianism is compatible with the teachings of the Buddha. I would say wholeheartedly that it is compatible. Vegetarianism is a very beneficial practice for one who is developing two conditions which every Buddhist should be trying to develop: compassion and wisdom. That is what we endeavour to cultivate through the spiritual path. Compassion means feeling with, feeling for, being sensitive to the pain of others. The natural outcome of developing such compassion is that we do not want to kill, we do not want to hurt others. Through wisdom we begin to realise that not only do our actions have direct results, but also indirect results. This is the arising of understanding. I've often referred to one of the fundamental laws of nature, called Dependent Origination or Conditioned Arising "When this is, that comes to be." In other words, certain conditions bring about certain results. As we develop greater clarity of mind and greater awareness, we begin to see the relationship. Whatever we do has its consequences. The way we live gives rise to causes and results. We begin to see that this is a fundamental law of nature and we become a lot more aware of how we are living and the consequences of our actions. As we become more compassionate and wise we will start to direct our lives so that we become more harmless, or contribute less to the suffering and destruction in life. Now let's consider this on a broader scale than just vegetarianism, because this topic of 'Buddhism and Vegetarianism' is far too narrow. We cannot discuss vegetarianism as if it was an isolated thing all by itself. There's much more to it; it involves the ecology, it involves every aspect of life. Perhaps 'Buddhism and Ecology' or 'Buddhism and Life' would be more fitting titles.

Once we realise that how we live has its consequences, what effect will this have on how we live and how we regard what we are doing? Everything we do and say has its consequences, because we are part of a system. Every person sitting here is part of the system, the whole universe. There is one system and you are part of it. Everything you do has an effect on the universe. You may think, "What can I do to affect the movement of the planets and the galaxies?" Perhaps very little, but according to the relationship of interdependence, everything you do affects everything else. If you can't see it as a whole you can certainly see it in this room. What you do here this evening will affect everybody else. What I do is affecting you. What we do affects the outside. Everything we do has its long range effect on everything else. So when we eat meat, that has its consequences. What are the consequences? We are directly supporting an industry that is based on rearing animals, quite often under terrible conditions, for the sole purpose of slaughter. The meat can then be available in neatly wrapped little packages so that we can buy it can eat it. Our intention when we cook and eat meat is not to kill animals - I don't think anyone has that intention however the fact remains that by the acts of buying, cooking and eating, we indirectly support the killing of the animal. It's not killing, but it is supporting. Now, with that understanding, certain individuals may decide not to support killing. They won't want to be part of it; they will want to remove themselves from it. If there is one reason why a Buddhist should decide to be a vegetarian, it should be based on this perspective. There is only one good, valid reason, and that is compassion - not wanting to contribute to the suffering any more than one has to. Vegetarianism is a matter of individual choice and responsibility, not something that can be forced, but it is certainly praise-worthy and compatible with the Buddha's teaching. But does it stop there? Are you now pure? You've become vegetarian, but are you blameless? Are your hands clean? Let me tell you that as long as you are alive on this planet, as long as you are a member of this system, your hands will never be clean. It doesn't matter what you eat, you are always contributing to death and destruction, regardless of what you do. You can be a vegetarian, but you still contribute to destruction just because you are part of this system. You can't escape it. You are sitting on chairs, where do they come from? The chairs are on the carpet: where does the carpet come from? The electricity? Airconditioning? The building, the motor car, the trains, the buses, where does all that come from? It's all interrelated. Everything is interrelated. We're always involved in the whole system, and as long as we live in this system we are always contributing. We make use of the air-conditioning, we make use of the electricity, which means that we are in a way supporting the building of dams, which entails the destruction of forests. There can be no doubt about it. You are wearing clothes, you are wearing shoes. If you don't wear leather shoes, you wear plastic shoes. Who makes the plastic shoes? The chemical companies, the ones that make napalm and poisons. You are supporting them.

As I said, the training for a monk is to accept what one is given and not to ask for anything special. Most of the food we get is vegetarian, but not all. So I can be accused of contributing. I confess, my hands are not clean. Even if I am vegetarian, as I can be most of the time, my hands are still not clean. Where do you think the fruit and vegetables come from? How do those vegetable gardens get to be so free of trees and bushes? What happened to all the trees and bushes? Those huge fields of wheat and corn and the orchards - what happened to all the forests? - gone with the ploughing and spraying. We have nice vegetables, but for them to be nice vegetables you've got to do something about the insects. On an individual basis, if you really are compassionate, if you really are wise, you can do as much as you can to minimise the damage. But when you consider that there are some six billion people on this planet, that's a lot of people to feed and clothe, so there has got to be a lot of destruction, either directly or indirectly. Life is like that. What I am saying is not fatalistic. It is simply making us aware of reality. Within this reality we all can and should consider carefully what we are doing, how we are living and what we are consuming. How much are we contributing to death and destruction? It's not just a matter of vegetarianism. That is praise-worthy if done properly, and, as I said, compatible with the teachings of the Buddha, but there's more to it than that much more. Treading lightly Even if one isn't vegetarian there's a lot to do. Nowadays we are beginning to understand this. We cannot continue to consume more and more, demand more and more, want more and more of everything and expect that this limited planet with its limited resources can supply it for us. One of the fundamental teachings of Buddhism is to be contented with little. It doesn't mean starving yourself, it's just a matter of being contented, of not being continually caught in the obsession to get more, which is basically the present-day consumer society syndrome, isn't it? Nearly all of us in Western society are suffering from it. I have an American student who complains because there is such a limited range of food here in Australia. We've only got three kinds of this type of chocolate, she says, whereas in America they have twenty kinds. Twenty kinds of chocolate, one hundred and twenty kinds of ice-cream to choose from - a marvellous achievement for the human race, the apex of human civilisation. This is consumerism, where the word is 'more, more, more'. It's always more, with little or no emphasis on contentment. You can see where this is going to lead, this hungry ghost syndrome of forever wanting more, of never being satisfied. It's going to destroy the whole planet. The planet is limited and the consequences are very far reaching. One hungry ghost is not so bad, but when you start getting millions of them, this wanting more and more is going to consume the whole world. It already is consuming the world at an alarming rate. The Buddha was pointing to a very fundamental principle: craving is the source of the problem and it can never be satisfied by feeding it. Contentment, being satisfied with few needs, is so important. Of course this had to be a personal judgement. The Buddha

can't sit down and say, "I allot twenty grams of cheese per person per day." That's ridiculous! The Buddha was an enlightened being and he wanted people to become enlightened, to become responsible. The Buddha doesn't take responsibility away from you, it is up to each individual. He offers guidelines which each one of us must use in considering our lives, reflecting on what we are doing, the consequences thereof, and taking responsibility. How much are we willing to give up? Each person must find his or her own limit. For some people that may be one car, for others two cars; some people may only want a bicycle - that is their assessment of their need. The more we stress compassion and understanding of the consequences of actions, the more people will be able to make the right choices, to simplify, to develop more contentment and know moderation. This is much more important than just vegetarianism. Vegetarianism is just one factor, just one aspect of the whole picture. The whole is much greater because it deals with how much we consume, even of fruit and vegetables, clothing, shoes, power, air, fuel, everything - because all consumption brings about destruction. This is the Buddhist way of life: beginning to cultivate compassion and understanding, and from there beginning to redirect our lives by making the right choices. It's up to each individual to decide how far he can go, but the direction is toward trying to tread as lightly as possible on the planet, so that our lives won't be the cause of so much destruction. It is a personal thing. It does no good going around pointing fingers at people and demanding that they stop: "You'd better stop using bleached toilet paper otherwise we'll imprison you." If society reaches that point, then banning such a product may be a good thing, but you can't do so until sufficient people appreciate and understand the need for it. The main thrust of Buddhism is always to encourage compassion and understanding. From there, everything else will come about in accordance with the individual's response and sense of personal responsibility. You can see why I feel quite confident that the Buddha would not have made vegetarianism compulsory, because that is not the way he would approach it. His main concern would be to set a fundamental standard, but even that would be voluntary. It is then up to you whether you follow it or not. It is up to the individual, through the teaching, to become more compassionate and wise, to take responsibility for one's life. Whether you make a rule or not, what matters is whether people are going to keep it. The Buddha's approach, the main thrust of his teaching, was to try to encourage more understanding and compassion, so that the individual would make the appropriate choices - not only vegetarianism, but about many other things. Vegetarianism is a very noble choice, but that choice should be made from the right stand point - out of compassion and understanding. Having made such a choice, don't pollute it with aversion for those who are not vegetarian. The goodness generated by such a choice then becomes corrupted, and in some ways you will be worse than nonvegetarians. We make our choice out of compassion. If we are in a position to explain, we explain it to others according to reason and logic, not by being critical of them for not being vegetarian.

I respect people who are vegetarian. They are acting very nobly; it is a gesture of renunciation. It is a small thing but noble, and very much in keeping with the Buddha's teaching of compassion and understanding. But don't stop there. Even if you are not vegetarian don't think there is nothing else you can do. There's a lot to be done in every area of life, in the way we speak, in the way we act, in everything. Be one who treads lightly, be one who doesn't add unnecessarily to the suffering of humanity and all other sentient beings on this planet. Once we have the intention to at least try, to move in the right direction, we are good disciples of the Buddha. Each person has to walk at his or her own pace. Ajahn Jagaro (1994) About the Author Ajahn Jagaro was born John Cianciosi in 1948, in Italy, and migrated with his parents to Australia at the age of ten. After completing a Diploma in Applied Chemistry and working for a short time, he took leave of his home to travel in Asia. With no clear aim in mind, his travels eventually took him to a Buddhist monastery in Bangkok, where a casual interest in meditation developed into a decision to take ordination as a Buddhist monk in 1972. After a year spent in Bangkok and Southern Thailand, he travelled to the north-east, where he met his teacher, Venerable Ajahn Chah, the well-known forest meditation teacher, and spent the next ten years in and around Ajahn Chah's monastery, Wat Pah Pong, and its many branches. In 1979, Ajahn Chah invited Venerable Jagaro to become the senior monk, or Abbot, at Wat Pah Nanachat, a monastery not far from Wat Pah Pong. Wat Pah Nanachat had some years previously been established by Ajahn Chah and Ajahn Sumedho (his senior Western disciple, who now lives in England, Abbot of Amaravati Buddhist Centre) as a centre for Westerners interested in training in the monastic lifestyle of the forest tradition. During his time at Wat Nanachat, Ajahn Jagaro gained invaluable experience in dealing with monastic administrative duties, in addition to developing a reputation in Thailand as a gifted teacher. In February, 1982, he was invited to Perth, Western Australia, as resident monk for the Buddhist Society of Western Australia. Interest there was sufficient to see the establishment of Bodhinyana Forest Monastery in Serpentine, 60 kms south of Perth, where he led a small community of Buddhist monks and nuns of varying nationalities and acted as mentor for the Buddhist Society of Western Australia up until 1995. In 1995, Ajahn Jagaro made the difficult decision to disrobe, expressing his gratitude for his contact with Ajahn Chah and all his Dhamma friends within the Buddhist Community. ** Prepared at BuddhaNet for free distribution 2000 ** Transcribed by Antony Woods email: antony272@hotmail.com

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