Veganism in Buddhism
Dr. Tony Page is a scholar and an authority on Mahayana Buddhism.
Dr. Page claims the Mahayana Buddhist scriptures support veganism:
"...it could be argued that the Buddha did not expect all Buddhists to give up all animal-products overnight - but to move toward that goal gradually. He himself says in the Mahaparinirvana Sutra:
"The Tathagata... prohibits by gradual steps and not at a time."
(The Mahayana Mahaparinirvana Sutra, in Three Volumes, translated by Kosho Yamamoto, The Karinbunko, Ube City, Japan, 1973 - 1975, p. 95)
"By the same token," comments Dr. Page, "it seems that, although many scriptures sanction the use of dairy products, the... goal was that of veganism."
In the Surangama Sutra we read:
"How... can you eat the flesh of living beings and so pretend to be my disciple?...
"All bhiksus [monks] who live purely and all Bodhisattvas always refrain even from walking on the grass; how can they agree to uproot it? How then can those who practice great compassion feed on the flesh and blood of living beings? If bhiksus do not wear garments made of silk, boots of local leather and furs, and refrain from consuming milk, cream and butter, they will really be liberated from the worldly...
"This teaching of mine is that of the Buddha whereas any other is that of evil demons."
(The Surangama Sutra, translated by Lu K'uan Yu, B.I. Publications, Bombay, India, 1979, pp. 153-154)
In the January 2003 issue of Live and Let Live, a pro-life / animal rights/ libertarian 'zine, James Dawson, raised Catholic and now a Theravadin Buddhist, comments:
"While I personally consider veganism an ethically superior diet to ovo and/or lacto vegetarianism, and as much as discipline and circumstances allow, try to move toward it as much as I can, Dr. Page's claim that the Buddha advocated veganism, to my mind is really stretching it.
"This isn't to say the scriptural evidence is nonexistent, but just very thin. However, even this might be worth considering further."
Dr. Page responds:
"...on the substantive issue regarding veganism: yes, the scriptural evidence for the Buddha's advocating veganism is very slim, that is true; amongst the Mahayana sutras, it is mainly to be found in the Surangama Sutra. But there is a lot of Mahayana sutric insistence on vegetarianism.
"I still believe that the Pali suttas (the canonical scriptures of Theravada Buddhism) clearly indicate great reservations about the eating of meat: clearly it was something that was not lightly to be undertaken. The passsages which I quote seem pretty clear to me that the Buddha was urging against meat consumption for monks.
"And in any case, as a Mahayanist, I believe that whatever the Buddha said in the Pali suttas (or agamas) is superseded by the more advanced teachings of the Mahayana (yes, James is right that I do regard Mahayana as a step forward within the Buddha's doctrines...).
Veganism would certainly be a logical conclusion of ahimsa (nonviolence toward humans and animals alike) within Buddhism. Roshi Philip Kapleau writes in his 1983 book, A Buddhist Case for Vegetarianism that the Buddha was:
"...a person so sensitive to the sufferings of all living beings that he would not drink milk from a cow during the first ten days after its calf was born..."
(A Buddhist Case for Vegetarianism, Roshi Philip Kapleau, Rider, London, 1983, pp. 24-25)
The Hindu scriptures describe the sage Narada teaching a hunter named Mrigari compassion for all creatures. Mrigari killed animals not because his survival depended upon it, but merely for the sadistic pleasure of causing pain to other living entitities.
Narada taught Mrigari to renounce hunting as well as the eating of meat. During the late 1980s, Govinda's Vegetarian Restaurant in San Diego, CA was a meeting place for members of San Diego Animal Advocates.
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