April 15, 2005

Why is eating vegetables not killing?

Here is an answer I found from Master Hin Lun from Hong Kong

佛教主張不殺生,提倡素食。聽說植物也是有生命的,因為他們也會長高長大。吃素不也是殺生嗎?

佛教以有心、色此二種法和合才名一期生命。心指情識,有感情、懂分辨、知苦痛、愛生惡死。色指由四大(地、水、火、風)形成的色身。其中地大構成頭髮、指甲、牙齒、皮、肉、筋骨、骨髓、腦;水大構成血液、津液、痰、淚、精、大小便;火大指身體的暖氣;風大指呼吸和活動。簡言之,具足暖、息、識才是生命。
植物雖然會生長,但它是沒有心識,不辨苦樂,故它是有生氣而沒有生命。猶如人的指甲及頭髮也會生長,但是剪掉時卻不會有苦痛,因為頭髮和指甲都沒有生命。

It's very difficult to translate, I'll make an attempt next time, too late today :D


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  1. So he compares a plant to nails and hair in that nails and hair do not suffer pain or have a mind to understand their own existence. Humans, however, are composed of and understand that they are composed of the essential elements (so water, wind and fire) and "Knowledge is life", so humans, as living creatures, composed of the elements and able to understand themselves and feel pain are living whereas plants, which grow, do not live and, therefore, can be safely eaten.

    Interesting. I'll still enjoy my lamb and chicken, but I like the point of view :D.

    But then what does Buddhism say of Carnivorous animals? Hin Lun seems to be suggesting that eating meat is bad because it used to belong to an animal and an animal grows and feels pain and therefore lives and we should not take a life to eat. But what of an animal that solely eats meat or will eat a combination of meat and flora etc? Are they "evil" for doing so? Do they commit a wrong in the philosophy of Buddhism or is it the case that in not being able to understand Buddhism or such complicated human philosophies, they don't adhere to such rules? And if this is the case, then why does it not apply to animals which humans eat. If a tiger can kill and eat a deer, then why not a human kill and eat a cow, or a sheep? If pain is an issue, then surely if it was slaughtered in a humane manner then it would be getting a better deal out of it than nature would give them?

    And what about an animal that is already dead? Can a Buddhist consume a cow that died of natural causes? Or what about meat available in the supermarket. It has been killed by someone else, but the meat will eventually be consumed whether you eat of it or not and will be eaten or thrown out. Surely that should be OK to eat. You have not had the intention to kill the animal, but the animal is dead. Why waste the flesh?

    Anyhow, sorry for the rampant questions.

    15 Apr 2005, 12:32

  2. I can't see any word suggesting eating meat is evil in this text. It's true that Buddhism suggests to adopt a vegetarian/vegan diet. But it only suspends on the level of suggestion, instead of obligation. Most of the people in Thailand are Buddhist, but they all eat meat. It's mainly monks that are vegans. Apart from the teachings that of to be mindful and harmless, not to eat meat is also about to keep a light diet that keeps you away from cravings. I don't think I can explain this very clearly. I become a vegetarian solely because I wanted to see what happens to life when living without meat. So far, my life has run smoothly and happy, so I think it's not bad to live without those choices. And life becomes more focused and more simple.

    Moreover I don't think you'll enjoy your meat feast after spectating the event of killing.

    You can find more information on this paper

    I'm not opposed to other ppl eating meat after all :)

    15 Apr 2005, 14:30

  3. i think the idea is that you only eat what you need to make the world better

    15 Apr 2005, 16:12

  4. Umm… is this documented in the Pali Canon I wonder…??

    16 Apr 2005, 04:24

  5. What I can work out from transaltion:

    Buddhism preaches not to take life away, and thus advocates a vegetarian diet. Plants also have life, so they have a high precedence:

    Is eating a vegetable not also taking life away?

    Buddhism is about mind, and by colouring two kinds of thinking, gathers respect for the talents in life. The heart points to the sentiment of knowledge: it has sentiment, understands the relativity of things, knows pain, and knows that love lives and dies wickedly.

    The four colours refer to the body (Wood, Water, Fire, Wind), which is formed. Body consists of (Wood: ) hair, nail, tooth skin, meat, physique, marrow, brain, blood (with large amounts of Water), bodily fluids, phlegm, tears, essence, faeces, & urine: Warm air (Fire), Breath (Wind), and activity. In short, as long as your feet are warm, the rest of knowledge; is life.

    Plants can grow, but they do not have knowledge, they cannot distinguish sadness from happiness, therefore since birth, a plant has not had life. Just like a persons nails and hair can grow, but when you trim these they do not cause pain: because hair and nail do not have life.

    17 Apr 2005, 19:39

  6. I think that the Buddhist viewpoint on this would be one of non-harming (as it also is for Jains). The Buddha never said that you should not eat meet, and he never said that you should be vegetarian. The principle that the Buddha put forward was that killing causes suffering and so should be avoided. I think most people would agree that we should avoid killing. However, it is not as easy as it sounds. We often kill flies because they annoy us, we kill spiders cause they scare us, and we kill fish and birds in the name of sport. By consuming meat, it often seems that the responsibility is removed because someone else has killed the animal. If you look at it from another angle though it seems that we are contributing an industry that benefits from killing animals.

    I wonder what would happen if supermarkets did not stock meat and we had to go out to kill our animal before we could eat it?

    18 Apr 2005, 12:12

  7. The same thing that would happen if supermarkets did not stock apples and we had to go pick apples for ourselves before we could eat them…

    18 Apr 2005, 20:29

  8. do you think?

    19 Apr 2005, 11:23

  9. yeah apples dont grow on trees you know :)

    19 Apr 2005, 22:40

  10. i was thinking about it; the only diffrence between animals and plants is 'blood' really – that animals are "the same" as us: essentially both sets change the world "independently of nature" in the same way that we consider "manmade" things outside of the world. if we assumed 'life' and 'conciousnss' as we know it are really just interpretations of some grand scale, then it could be said that vegetarianism is kinda egotistical, and equally eating meat is stupid because of the high energy input required to make cow etc. but steaks good.

    20 Apr 2005, 11:09


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