International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


extracted from material written by
Honorary General Secretary. Burma Humanitarian League

In reply to an article entitled "People Esteem Austerity" by Ohn Gine, stating that "The Buddha, ate meat and allowed meat-eating to those in the Sangha on three conditions : that it has not been seen, heard, or suspected (to be killed especially for one),'" a long article was prepared in rejoinder, quoting at length from the Buddhist Scriptures, revealing the Buddha's attitude in this matter. Briefly summarized, U San Hla sets forth the following :

Fielding Hall in "The Soul a of People" testified that "No Burman will kill a cow or a bullock and no Burman will sell its meat." Though fish could be obtained anywhere and was freely eaten, the fisherman was an outcast from decent society. When Mr. Hall sent for a fowl for his dinner, his man was usually waylaid by some compassionate Burman woman who offered him double the price of the fowl that she might release it and thus gain merit. "Public opinion was so strong, he dared not refuse. The money was paid, the fowl set free, and I dined on tinned beef." Mr. Hall also noted that the villages were full of fowls, kept but certainly not for food.

At a meeting held on 18 May 1954, at the Kaba Aye Pagoda, Rangoon, to consider ways and means of propagating Buddhism in India, attended by Buddhist monks from many places, it was stated that anyone attempting such work must be "a vegetarian and a non-smoker. .. and be contended with such foods as dhall and jaggery that the Indians are wont to offer."

As for the story told that the General Siha slaughtered meat for a dinner for the Lord, when a man approached Siha and asked him if the news so spread was true, he definitely declared : "Not for our life would we ever intentionally kill a living being."

Rules regarding Meat and Fish:

The Lord, however, in the interest of the salvation of the great majority of the people who were not strict vegetarians, broke the ancient tradition by allowing in His Order those who ate fish obtained through three conditions and meat if it had not been specifically killed for food. Here are the Rules enunciated by Him:

"Let no one, O Bhikkhus, knowingly eat meat (of an animal) killed for that purpose. Whosoever does so is guilty of a dukkata (offence)

"I prescribe, O Bhikkus, that fish is pure to you in three cases: if you do not see, if you have not heard, if you do not suspect (that it has been caught especially to be given to you) (Mahavagga)

U San Hla points out that only the flesh of animals that has died a natural death through disease, old age, or accident, could be eaten if a monk is desirous of doing so. Since a dead body has no consciousness, nor feelings, and no killing is involved, hence there is no unwholesome karmic reaction attached to this. As for fish, it formed a necessary dish of a great majority of the people, especially the poorer classes, and it would be extremely difficult for them to give it up, even for the sake of their own salvation. Fishes are also less liable to pain than the animals of the land, as they are cold blooded creatures. Consequently, the killing of these is less liable to immoral karmic consequence. But even there the Buddhist Bhikku could not eat of fish caught for him - the slightest suspicion that such was the case made it prohibitory.

Nor can one purchase from a shop, consoling himself with the idea that such fish were not especially killed for him. U San Hla makes a compassionate plea to those who hold that the Buddha permitted meat to realize that they cannot imagine that the meat in a butcher-shop was not killed specifically for them - if there were no Buddhist Monks who ate meat, at least, in Rangoon alone, over five per cent of the animals killed would be saved from an unnatural death.

A description is given in detail of the dreadful way a pig is first spiked with a distance shot, and finally put into boiling water, before it is extinct after rolling on the ground bloodsmeared.

Rhys Davids and other philologists have definitely accepted "macchamamsa" as meaning a fish diet while "mams-macchi" means fish and meat; "dead"meat or meat that has by itself "appeared" is termed "pavatta mamsa" but killed meat is "udissaka mamsa" which means with intention or purpose.

But even in the case of fish, in Anguttara Nikaya the Lord inveighs against their slaughter, and stated he who does so will never reap happiness or prosperity. And similarly with those who gloat on the slaughter of animals and humans. Said the Lord to the Brahmin Ujjaya:

"In whatever sacrifice, Brahmin, cows are slaughtered, goats and sheep are slaughtered, poultry and pigs are slaughtered and divers living creatures come to destruction - such sacrifice, Brahmin, which involves butchery, I do not praise."

In the Dhammika Sutta, the Most-Compassionate Buddha said: "Let him not kill, nor cause to be killed any living being nor let him approve of others killing, those that are strong and those that tremble in the world." (Cullavagga S.B.E., X) In connection with this, Henry S. Ol;cott, who was a Buddhist and who did much for the revival of Buddhism in Ceylon, has the following footnote in his book, "The Golden Rules of Buddhisrn " : "One who buys butcher's meat or poultry violates this patha. For by paying the butcher for meat he has killed, the buyer shares his sin by 'sanctioning' his act."

Again quoting from Anguttara Nikaya [I: " He, having thus gone forth, having entered upon the may of life in the training followed by monks, abandoning the slaying of creatures, abstains therefrom. He lives as one who has laid down the rod, who has laid down the knife, who has scruples, is kind and has compassion for every living thing."

"Vegetarianism was once practised throughout Burma," writes U Ba in the "Message of Theosophy," January 1918: ''In the days of the Burmese Kings, if any person was found killing an ox, a cow, or a buffalo, or any flesh found in his possession, the following punishment was inflicted: The offender, with the meat hung round his neck as a visible sign of disgrace, was driven along the main roads of the town or village by a policeman beating a gong. When they reached the cross-roads, the offender received ten lashes on his back and ten lashes on his breast. ... When I was a boy we lived in Mandalay ... when King Thibaw reigned. . Evory Sabbath day, it was the custom. and at every corner of every street, the proclamation was called aloud that 'no flesh of ox, cow or buffalo was to be found for sale, that no flesh of any big animal or fish was to be sold in the market, that no animal was to be ill-treated, that infants and children were to be properly fed and cared for, that people were to observe the Pancha Sila every day and the Uposada Sila every Sabbath Day."

The Lord also enjoined the Bhikkhus that it was not enough to take it for granted that meat was from a harmless source: "Let no one, O Bhikkus, eat meat without having enquired what it is."

Could the Lord have countenanced any act of Himsa ithe Lord who said in the, Sutta Nivata - the Metta Sutta.

As a mother at the risk of her life watches over her own child, her only child, so also let every one cultivate a boundless (friendly) mind towards all beings.

"And let him cultivate goodwill towards all the world, a boundless (friendly) mind, above and below, and across, unobstructed, without hatred, without enmity."

When Devadatta attempted to stir up division in the Sangha by attempting to get the Lord to impose impossible conditions upon the Blikkhus, such as living only in the woods, it being an offence to go to a village, never accepting an invitation to eat, clothing themselves only in cast-off rags, never accepting a gift from a layman never sleeping under a roof, and making a life-long abstinence from fish, he hoped to put the Buddha in it difficult position - if he made these rules he would work incredible hardships upon the brethren; if he did not make them, he could be condemned as non-ascetic. But the Lord replied :

"No, Devadatta. Whosoever wishes to do so, let him dwell in the woods ; whosoever wishes to do so, let him dwell in the neighbourhood of a village. Whosoever wishes to do so, let him beg for alms ; whosoever wishes to do so, let him accept invitations from the laity. Whosoever wishes to do so, let him dress in rags: whosoever wishes to do so, let him receive gifts of robes from laymen. Sleeping under trees has been allowed by me, Devadatta, for eight months in the year; and the eating of fish, that is pure in the three points - to wit, that the eater has not seen, or heard, suspected that it has been caught for that purpose." - Cullavaga

This the Lord escaped the trap set by Devadatta. Yet in the Vinaya Texts, he actually praised the very things demanded by Devadatta to be set as an inescapable discipline, to wit, begging only for alms, living on rags, at the foot of a tree, with urine only as medicine.

However, the Lord Buddha always rebuked the Monks for any holier-than-thou attitude, whether for one's ascetiscism or for any other reason. Colonel Olcott writes in connection with the Amagandha Sutta cited as authority for buying and eating butcher's meat, that he cannot understand how anyone can quite their conscience by quoting the Scripted in question, since "the meaning of the Teacher here is so obvious... I have listened with amusement to the sophistical argument that the sin of the killing is with the butcher, and not with his sanctioning and abetting customer."

The spirit of the Sutta can be seen in the Dhammapada, V 141 which states:

"Not nakedness, not plaited hair, not dirt, not fasting, nor lying on the earth, nor rubbing with dust, nor sitting motionless, can purify a mortal who has not overcome desires."

The special verse 11 of the Amaghanda Sutta in Sutta Nipata states:

"Neither the flesh of fish macchamamsa, nor fasting, nor nakedness, nor tonsure, nor matted hair, nor dirt, nor rough skins, not the worshipping of the fire, not the many immortal panances in the world, nor hymns, nor oblations, nor sacrifice, nor observance of the seasons purify a mortal who has not conquered his doubt." (Fousboll transl.)

Did the Lord eat pork as his last meal?

T. W. and C. A. F. Rhys Davis in their translation of the "Maha Parinibbana Suttanta" state that the "sukara-maddava" partaken of was a form of "truffles" or a tuber that could be boiled and turned into a pwoder and after mixing with ghee, nuts, and honey, made into a halva. F. Woodward also endorses the opinion of these other eminent Pali scholars.

In the Vimana Vatthu is to be found records of many a man and woman who had obtained fine mansions in Deva Loka by giving alms such as flowers, fruits, milk-cooked rice, molasses, sugar-cane, Timburu fruit, cucumber, creeper fruit, greens, roots, mango-mash, oil, sesame seed cake, sweet-meats and cakes etc.; but nowhere is there any mention of anyone who had obtained happiness in Deva Loka by having offered such items as fish and meat.

In the Lankavatara Sutra, we find:

"for innumerable reasons, meat is non-edible for a compassionate Buddhist. Those who regard every living being like themselves, how can they eat flesh which is obtained only by killing animals?"

In the Majjhima Nikaya, (Cula-Kamma, Vibhanga Sutta) the Lord said:

"Now taske the case of anyone - man or woman - who, putting all killing from him and abstaining from killing anything, laying aside cudgel and sword, lives a life of innocence and mercy, full of compassion for everything that lives: Such deeds, if persisted in of deliberate choice, either bring that person at the body's dissolution after death to bliss in heaven; or, if his rebirth is again among mankind, then length of days is his portion in whatever station he is born into - such merciful courses tend to length of days here."

"In the Samanna-phala Sutta-Dialogues of tile Buddha, the Lord Said :

"And how, O King, is his conduct good?

In this, O King, that, the Bhikku, putting away the killing of living things, holds aloof from the destruction of life. The cudgel and the sword he has laid aside, and ashamed of roughness, and full of mercy, he dwells compassionate and kind to all crealures that have life."

In the Metta Sutta: The All-Compassionate Buddha said :

"All beings long for happiness; therefore let all beings be embraced in thy compassion."

Again in the Sutta Nipala, he declared: "As I am, so are these."

The Buddha's rules on self-control should be a point of reflection: "Monks, possessed of two things a monk in this very life lives painfully, harassed tormented, and when the body breaks up after death, the ill-bourn for him may be expected. What two things?' Not guarding the door of the sense-faculties and lack of restraint in eating..." - (Itivuttaka)

"Let us observe moderation in eating! Wisely reflective, let us partake of nourishment, not for the sake of the pleasure and enjoyment it may yield, nor yet out of ostentation and vanity, but only for the sake of the body's support and maintenance, its preservation against untimely decay, its help in living the Holy Life. So shall we banish the further feeling of discomfort from hunger, so shall we prevent the fresh arising of such a feeling, so shall we live free from fault and in comfort. Thus, Monks, have you to train yourselves." (Aasapura Sulta)

"So long as Dharma is only what He proclaimed. something external to us," said C. Jinarajadasa, the late President of the Theosophical Society, "Dhamma is not fully real to us. We Buddhists take upon ourselves to observe the precept not to take life. But so long as it is a precept which He gave to which we subscribe, it is not our own Dhamma, the inner law of our being. It is an external law. Then we begin our quibbles and excuses, and when we eat flesh of creatures we say to ourselves: 'I did not kill; and if another killed, that is his karma.' But when we have an inward Dhamma, the principle of our inmost self of Metta, Pity, then we live the First Precept, because it has ceased to be the Lord's Precept and become our own precept, a true expression of our soul."