A Reader recently wrote:
The Buddha did not advocate vegetarianism and was not a vegetarian.
I’m a vegetarian myself but eating meat is not breaking the first precept.
The Buddhist scriptures say “Being rough, pitiless, back-biting, harming ones friends, ‚Ä®being heartless, arrogant and greedy – ‚Ä®this makes one impure, not the eating of meat. ‚Ä®Being of immoral conduct, refusing to repay debts, ‚Ä®cheating in business, causing divisions amongst people – ‚Ä®This makes one impure, not the eating meat.” ‚Ä®Sn. 246-7
Some of the people that were not pleased with Buddhism’s middle way ‚Ä®desired that it be more strict with it’s monks, demanding that the ‚Ä®Buddha make vegetarianism required for monks and followers, but the ‚Ä®Buddha refused. The fact that you are eating meat or vegetables both ‚Ä®mean that you are responsible for the suffering of life which ties in ‚Ä®with the First Noble Truth. Suffering is unavoidable.
Therefore you ‚Ä®can eat meat as long as you do not kill the animal itself. This is ‚Ä®what I have learned from my studies in Buddhism.
You are absolutely correct in that Buddha did not require vegetarianism. According to at least some of the legends, he died from eating spoiled pork, so that’s pretty much the final word on that! However, many groups do feel that harming animals breaks the first precept.
In modern days, meat animals are raised under terrible living conditions. No one who does any research on the subject can possibly say that animals raised for meat don’t suffer their entire lives. Now I have never killed a cow or a chicken in my life, but to say I am not responsible for many animal deaths is just avoiding the truth. Every cheeseburger that I eat causes suffering somewhere. The belief in reincarnation only adds to the problem.
I will be honest; I love steak, chicken, turkey and all that. I realize it causes suffering, but I don’t stop. Does this hurt my karma? I cannot see how it couldn’t. This is something I know I need to work on.