The Art of Persuasion by Susunaga Weeraperuma

Some Ethical Aspects of Vegetarianism by Susunaga Weeraperuma

Does Buddhism Condone or Condemn Meat Eating? by Susunaga

Vegetarian Poems by Claudia Weeraperuma


The Art of Persuasion


Susunaga Weeraperuma

Think of the awful slaughter produced by the superstition that animals should be sacrificed, and by the still more cruel superstition that man needs flesh for food.

--- Krishnamurti

That the world is likely to remain predominantly non-vegetarian in the foreseeable future is a gloomy prediction. Unfortunately no reliable statistics have been compiled as to the numbers of vegetarians in various countries. If regular surveys were made it would be possible to discover trends as to whether the ratio of vegetarians to non-vegetarians is increasing or otherwise. It may be fairly conjectured that for a long time to come vegetarians might have to resign themselves to remaining a minority. As a minority they have to face the majority demands of conformity in food matters. Some of the delicate relationships arising from this predicament are worthy of examination.

The need to advocate vegetarianism is no less important even in a predominantly and traditionally vegetarian country like India. Many young Indians scoff at vegetarianism in their eagerness to become “modern” or “western”. The vegetarian message needs continuous repetition if only in order to help born-vegetarians to rediscover their rich heritage.

The problem is as follows. How does one deal best with an unfriendly and sometimes hostile non-vegetarian world? Our attitudes, views and ways of living inevitably result in the formation of a “vegetarian image” in the eyes of society. For this reason every vegetarian has an immense responsibility towards the creation and maintenance of a favourable picture of the minority to which he belongs.

One doubts whether there is, or indeed can be, an ideal technique of persuasion or conversion. The modus operandi must necessarily depend on factors such as the age of the person, degree of interest, cultural background and attitude to vegetarianism (hostility, indifference or enthusiasm).

With children and young persons it is considerably easier to introduce vegetarianism. Children are better listeners and are free of mental inhibitions, which makes them more susceptible to influence. “Catch 'em young” is ethically questionable, for this technique is suggestive of foisting oneself on innocent minds. Nevertheless, the importance of introducing vegetarianism at an early age is stressed here not for the sake of early conditioning, but for alerting to the fact that fish, flesh and fowl are not necessarily man's only food. An early awareness of choice in food facilitates the growth of a sense of discrimination. This special sense will stand the child in good stead when subjected to the pressures of its environment. Such a child is likely neither to feel shy when eating different food in the company of its playmates nor to think it impolite and ill-mannered, for instance, to refuse sausage rolls or meat-pies at a party.

The aggressive vegetarian with his misdirected drive is somewhat of an embarrassment. I knew a person who made wild speeches at Hyde Park Speakers' Corner. He seized every opportunity to scorn and ridicule non-vegetarians. His sarcasm and sardonic humour had an appeal to the few vegetarians who suffered from a sense of oppression. In the long run this person created more enemies than converts. That such an impression was created was indeed saddening, for he had the capacity to buttress his case with facts, statistics, quotations and arguments drawn heavily from ethics, religion, medicine, physiology and dietetics. Encountering one's ideological opponents in open combat is poor strategy, although the resulting sparkling discussions are entertaining and instructive. Blunt opposition tactics put one's opponents on their defensive guard, giving rise to unconscious impulses to resist ideas.

An all-too-frequent failing among some vegetarians is the assumed air of moral superiority. Who cares for, likes or listens to the arrogant? Just as the destruction of animals for food is cruel and the result of man's psychic aberration, so also is pride. Arising from this point is the equally objectionable spirit of condescension which puts off non-vegetarians from vegetarians and vegetarianism.

An apologetic vegetarian is a poor advertisement for his cause. While it is imprudent to over-assert oneself lest this leads to misunderstanding and antagonism, an apologetic attitude unmistakably conveys the impression of a guilty mind and a sense of inadequacy. A simple and unaffected statement that one is a vegetarian seems a better proof of sincerity and joyous living. The very fact of being a vegetarian is in itself an eloquent fact.

Psychologically speaking, the desire to convert springs from an inward uncertainty and insecurity on many occasions. Under what circumstances, then, must one discuss vegetarianism? The probing or casual questions arising from one's “deviant” food habits have to be answered discreetly. The manner and tone of answering cannot be overlooked. Friendly replies aimed at imparting information are preferred to cutting ones expressed in a corrective or pedagogic spirit. The curiosity of the interested often invariably leads to the gathering of facts from various sources. As a librarian it is my duty to direct readers to sources of information. On the few occasions when there were inquiries relating to vegetarian literature, not being content with the mere provision of the latest publications, I went to the extent of naming vegetarian societies devoted to study and research.

I have found it helpful always to carry in my briefcase vegetarian pamphlets. These are distributed at the psychological moment to genuine inquirers only. It saves the need for lengthy discussions and provides the recipient with an opportunity to browse over the publications at leisure. It is imprudent to distribute vegetarian literature indiscriminately lest an unsought impression of propaganda with vested ideological and financial interests is unfortunately conveyed. After explaining briefly the theoretical basis of vegetarianism, I add, “But, friend, unless you experiment for a reasonable length of time it is difficult to know what a wonderful thing it is to think and feel like a vegetarian. Like the taste of salt, no amount of theorising is a substitute for experiencing.” I am happy to record that several persons heeded this suggestion and subsequently became life-vegetarians.

The cause may suffer considerably by thrusting vegetarianism on uninterested persons. This is not to underrate the obvious requirement of easy accessibility to information for potentially interested persons. Ensuring that every public library is well stocked with vegetarian literature, donated or bought, may well be the solution to this problem.

The passive vegetarian who simply “carries on” with a reluctance to discuss food also has a subtle influence. His example of “queer” food habits challenges tradition in the minds of observant onlookers. The “odd” man stimulates thought in his immediate circle of friends and acquaintances. A vegetarian of this sort may also be regarded as a missionary who, without deliberately attempting to be one, in fact liberates society from the path of dismal darkness. An “eccentric” may be ridiculed by those who lack understanding, but his “eccentric” food directs attention to the thoughtless food habits of the majority. So the silent vegetarian too proclaims a healthy and sane way of life by his quietude.

---Living and Dying From Moment to Moment

New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass

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Some Ethical Aspects of Vegetarianism


Susunaga Weeraperuma

The eating of flesh and fish involves the taking of life, often with cruelty; and an attitude of mind which tolerates this wholesale slaughter of millions of defenceless creatures, in order to satisfy a barbarous craving which has become a need through custom, must eventually induce a callous indifference towards suffering as a whole, and deaden the tender compassion which always characterizes the spiritual man”.

--- Krishnamurti

Vegetarians seem to fall into two distinct categories, depending on their respective attitudes to vegetarianism. There are the scientific vegetarians in contradistinction to the ethical vegetarians.


A scientific vegetarian may be described as a person who has chosen a vegetarian diet in the belief, expectation, hope or conviction that it is nutritionally superior to the one that involves the consumption of fish, flesh or fowl. Many are the intellectual, philosophical, medical, historical and anthropological arguments that can be adduced in support of scientific vegetarianism.

Ethical vegetarianism, on the other hand, does not derive its strength from an elaborate mass of intellectual considerations; it is based rather on one's sense of aesthetic and moral revulsion at the slaughter of animals. It is therefore more a way of feeling than of thinking. Ethical vegetarianism, in other words, originates in the heart and not in the mind. This is not to say that ethical vegetarians are mere unthinking and sentimental people who are indifferent to all the evidence that can be presented to buttress the vegetarian case. Interesting though the intellectual foundations of vegetarianism are, with ethical vegetarians, however, all such considerations are of secondary importance and are superseded by the overpowering love of animals. This point needs emphasising because, as an ethical vegetarian myself, I know that I can never be swayed from vegetarianism by any intellectual arguments. The scientific vegetarian's position, in contrast, is rather shaky for he might well consider abandoning vegetarianism altogether if, for example, it is scientifically proved to him by somebody that vegetarianism is injurious to health or is objectionable on certain economic, social or philosophical grounds.

Often one is asked about the possible risk of suffering from various nutritional deficiencies by becoming a vegetarian. Such fears are ill-founded because there is nothing in a meat-fish diet that cannot be derived, and indeed derived in a purer form, from vegetarian food. But if, for the sake of argument, it is assumed that undernourishment is the direct and inevitable consequence of vegetarianism then the ethical vegetarian's answer would be: “I would still prefer to be nutritionally deficient to all the crudeness of stuffing my poor body with the carcasses of helpless animals”.

It is interesting to know that certain outstanding men in history such as Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi were vegetarians, but if one unfailingly loves animals and genuinely cares for their welfare then one will respect the rights of animals anyway, regardless of the examples set by great personalities. Love needs no justification; it can operate without precedents. Love is a law unto itself.

Religious edicts do not necessarily ensure that animals are well treated. In Islam, for example, the prohibition on animal consumption is unfortunately confined mostly to swine. The Christian injunction “Thou shalt not kill” is generally misinterpreted to exclude animals and includes only humans but, alas, are even humans safe in the so-called Christian societies? It is clear that genuine morality does not have to originate in religion : there is no religion higher than compassion. Therefore it is not from the weight of ideological commitments that an ethical vegetarian derives his inspiration and strength, but rather from a certain tenderness of heart that overflows with compassion for all living beings.

Now, compassion for animals cannot end with the mere abstention from animal flesh. Vivisection inflicts unimaginable cruelties on animals in the name of “scientific progress”. Dumb animals cannot protest over their plight nor take part in demonstrations. If we remain unmoved or fail to act in this matter can we truly regard ourselves as being sensitive and human?

So-called civilised societies have sanctioned certain sadistic sports such as hunting and fishing. Children are encouraged by their thoughtless elders to participate in these perverted forms of “recreation”. A great many industries thrive on manufacturing and selling various accessories for games that involve the mutilation and destruction of animals. Do these “sportsmen” ever care to put themselves in the shoes of these innocent victimised animals and thereby experience their terrible death agonies? It is seldom realised that the callous treatment of animals is only another manifestation of violence in this monstrous world of ours. The ethical vegetarian cannot remain unmoved and unconcerned in the face of all these cruelties. To create a new society that is truly peaceful, must we not take the first step towards its realisation by ensuring that no killing, cruelty or any form of violence has been perpetrated in the production of the food we eat?

That animals are sentient beings who, like ourselves, are also capable of a very wide range of emotions, such as anxiety, fear, affection and so forth, is a fact that is frequently overlooked. Our vanity and mistaken sense of superiority prevents us from facing the startling biological truth that after all we also are animals. Animals deserve to be loved not merely because they are akin to human beings but in their own right. Since we ourselves are animals why do we practise double standards when it comes to other animals? Because I refuse to distinguish between humans and animals I cannot possibly be a party to the murder of animals in the same way that I will neither encourage nor condone the killing of humans for my meals or for any other purpose. Therefore is not the eating of animals a most vulgar, immoral and degenerate form of savage cannibalism that is unworthy of supposedly civilised people?

---Living and Dying From Moment to Moment

New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass

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Does Buddhism Condone or Condemn Meat Eating ?


Susunaga Weeraperuma

Eating meat was widely prevalent in India during the days of the Buddha. Yet there were certain religious sects such as the Niganthas whose commitment to the doctrine of harmlessness and non-injury (Ahimsa) was such that they abstained from meat altogether.

Jivaka, a vegetarian monk, asked the Buddha whether the consumption of meat was in accordance with his teachings. The Buddha is reported to have said that, provided animals were not seen, heard or suspected to have been specially killed for a monk, their meat may be eaten. The killing of living creatures for an Enlightened Teacher or his disciples results in the formation of demerit or bad karma. Presumably, then, the only permissible kinds of meat should be from animals that have either not been specially slaughtered for monks or whose deaths were caused by accident, illness or old age.

According to the Jivaka Sutta the Buddha declared that there are three instances in which meat must not be eaten --- when it is seen, heard or suspected that a living being has been killed for a monk. In other words, meat may be eaten when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected that a living being has been killed for a monk. Although this disciplinary rule applies only to monks, it is often taken to be applicable to all laypersons also.

For his survival a monk depends on the food he is offered. With a mind replete with loving-kindness, he spreads goodwill in all directions. So exalted is his inner state that the monk is devoid of hostility and ill-will. He radiates loving-kindness to one and all. His all-embracing compassion has no frontiers. It is everywhere, above, below and around. What has been described is, or should be, a monk’s inner state.

A householder or a householder’s son would extend to the monk an invitation to a meal. Carrying his begging bowl and outer robe, the monk would go to the host’s house and take the seat that has been prepared for him. Next the guest monk is served with good food. Then the monk does not think “How good it is that my hosts serve me with good food ! If only they serve me with such good food again !” Such negative and greed-driven thoughts do not, or should not, occur to him. But he partakes of the food without growing attached to it, without greed and without enthusiasm for food, for he sees the danger of attachment to anyone or anything and he also understands the importance of transcending all attachments

In the Jivaka Sutta the Buddha taught that, whoever slaughters any living being for the Buddha or his disciples produces demerit in the following five instances : First, when he says “Go and bring me that living being” ; Second, when the creature experiences pain and distress in the course of being led along with a thong that afflicts its throat; Third, when he says “Go and kill it” ; Fourth, when the animal experiences pain and grief as it is being killed ; Fifth, when he offers the Buddha and his disciples with the above-mentioned food which is not permitted.

Do Buddhist monks nowadays take the trouble to enquire whether an animal was killed on purpose for them before eating its meat ? They surely cannot be unaware of the fact that nearly all the available meat for consumption in modern cities comes from abattoirs. Since the monks are part and parcel of that particular group of meat consumers, does it not follow that the meat they devour with such relish was specially made available for them also ?

In most countries there are special shops in towns and villages that have in stock special supplies of meat and fish. Such special supplies are regularly or periodically made available for sale only because there is a special demand from special groups of meat-eaters such as householders, restaurants, hotels, monks and the like. If there were no special demand for meat and fish, there would be no special supplies of them either.

Let us examine a situation wherein a man buys meat or fish in a shop casually, without first having placed a special order for them. Could such a consumer escape the karmic consequences of consuming what he bought ? The customer, mark you, never made a special request for meat. Even so, it is probable that the customer incurs karmic responsibility because the customer in this case could not have been unaware of the fact that the shopkeeper had made a special effort to have additional meat and fish for unexpected clients such as himself who casually visit his shop.


If the only reason that makes me refrain from directly or indirectly killing animals for food is the fear that such actions result in the accumulation of demerit (akusala karma), then does it not indicate that I am not inspired by a compassionate concern for the suffering experienced by animals that are slaughtered, but rather by my egoism which is craving for so-called spiritual progress ?

Let us remind ourselves of the First Precept of the Five Precepts (Panca Sila) that the vast majority of Buddhists recite frequently in a parrot fashion. Some love to recite them in public in order to create a very favourable impression of themselves, eagerly wanting the world to regard them as deeply religious persons ! The very first moral precept is as follows : “I take the precept to abstain from the destruction of living beings” (Panati-pata veramani sikkha padam samadiyami).By taking the first precept, it is very clear that a true Buddhist resolves never to kill, which necessarily implies that one also resolves never to be a party to any deed involving the killing of a living being, regardless of whether the act of killing is done by oneself directly or done indirectly, by another person (such as a butcher or a fisherman) , on behalf of oneself.

Since such so-called Buddhists are painfully conscious that the first precept of their great religion is “I accept the precept not to kill”, they hypocritically try to absolve themselves from all moral blame by imagining that they are not vicariously responsible for the destruction of life. For Buddhists, who eat fish, flesh and fowl, justify their degenerate dietary practices by resorting to the specious argument that it is the poor fisherman, butcher or hunter who is solely responsible for all the killing ! Hence it is maintained that demerit (akusala karma) is acquired only by those engaged in the actual act of killing ! These Buddhists are callously indifferent to the fact that they are encouraging these unfortunate groups of persons to amass unfavourable karma in the course of their occupations and thereby prolonging their misery in the cycle of births and deaths (samsara).

The eaters of meat and fish, instead of themselves doing the very disgusting work of killing, which would inevitably result in the creation of unfavourable karma, get others to do the killing on their behalf ! Can they really free themselves from karmic guilt by participating in killing by proxy ? Non-vegetarian Buddhists, alas, fail to understand that the wicked and immoral crime of killing still remains an immoral crime, regardless of whether it is committed by the non-vegetarians themselves or the paid professional killers who serve them.


Although the letter of the teachings permits meat eating under certain circumstances, its spirit is somehow more in harmony with vegetarianism than non-vegetarianism. Given the great importance that the Buddha attached to loving-kindness to all living beings, it is a great pity that he failed to enjoin the members of his Order and lay disciples to avoid meat under all circumstances. We have seen that he allowed the eating of meat only when an animal had not been specially slaughtered. For the helpless animals that are subjected to the agony of slaughter, does it make much difference whether they are being specially killed or otherwise ?




Regarding vegetarianism, let us examine whether or not there is a moral contradiction in the teachings of the Buddha.

Those who frown on vegetarianism like to quote from the Amaganda Sutta. The word “amaganda” means “the stench emanating from fish and meat”. When a brahmin confronts the Buddha and proceeds to refer to the bad and dangerous consequences of eating fish and flesh, the Buddha counters by referring at length to what he regards as the real moral defilements, such as anger, intoxication, deceit, envy, pride, non-payment of debts, slandering and the like. The list is quite long. There are a number of verses that specify some moral defilements. Most of the verses end with the recurring words --- “…this is the defilement (i.e. moral defilement) from which the stench emanates, not the eating of meat”. For example, “If any are without pity, given to backbiting, harming friends, heartless, proud, lacking in generosity --- these are the defilements from which the stench emanates, not the eating of meat”(verse 244).

When one reads the Amaganda Sutta for the first time, it gives a superficial impression of being an attack on vegetarianism. In a sense that is so ; however, its underlying message is very clear --- a vegetarian diet, though never explicitly disallowed, is by itself just not good enough. A pure diet of vegetarian food will always remain very unsatisfactory, unless there is psychological purity as well. It is quite meaningless to live on meatless food, and to regard such a practice as a sign of purity, if one has psychological impurities at the same time.

Devadatta is frequently remembered in the Buddhist world as the Buddha’s cousin. He later became the Buddha’s rival and arch-enemy. He decided to confront the Master by making demands for the reform of the Order of monks (Sangha).

Devadatta insisted upon the following five reforms :

First, that monks should spend their lives in forests ;

Second, that monks must live solely on alms, even refusing invitations from laypersons for meals ; Third, that monks must wear rags ;

Fourth, that monks must live under trees and never enter rooms ;

Fifth, that monks must abstain from fish and meat.

The last of his proposals was a plea for the consumption of vegetarian food. On the whole Devadatta was requesting a return to the ascetic life of forest-dwelling mendicants.

Much to Devadatta’s displeasure, the Buddha turned down his package deal. This decision of the Buddha has frequently been misconstrued as a rejection of vegetarianism. What the Buddha rejected was the package deal : it was a case of accepting all the proposals or rejecting them in toto. Had Devadatta pressed only for vegetarianism, leaving aside his other four proposals, it probably would have been granted. Therefore the Buddha’s decision on this occasion was not necessarily an indication of his opposition to the practice of vegetarianism.

It is necessary to consider this question from what might have been the standpoint of the Buddha. Under the circumstances he had to reject the package deal which, if implemented, would have meant the eradication of the monastic system that the Buddha was keen on upholding. Had the Buddha accepted Devadatta’s fourth proposal that monks must live under trees and never enter rooms, this idea would have dealt a serious blow to the monastic system.

The Buddha was not against the widely prevalent practice of meditating in the solitude of forests. He encouraged it. At the same time, the Buddha wanted to encourage the development of monasteries for monks. He allowed the donation of parks for the establishment of religious communities wherein monks were able to meditate indoors. Not every monk has the physical stamina to live alone in a forest, especially in roofless conditions. A case in point is the poor health of the old and frail monks. It became the practice for monks to seek shelter and protection against the elements, particularly during the monsoons. Even the wandering Jain ascetics, who at first were forest dwellers, later settled for a monastic system.

Nowadays monks, be they Buddhist or Jain, have the freedom to lead their lives in forests, if that is what they wish to do. What the Venerable Sariputta , the chief disciple of the Buddha, had to say about this matter is noteworthy : “For the person whose senses are restrained, being under a roof or in a forest is immaterial, for he can meditate anywhere”.

It is necessary to emphasise the fact that during the final phase of his long and illustrious life, the Buddha categorically condemned the consumption of meat.

In the Sanskrit version of the Mahaparinirvana Sutra the Buddha declared : “I instruct the disciples that from today onwards they should stop the eating of meat”.

This important instruction is mysteriously missing in the Pali version of this sutra ! Therefore some commentators have questioned the authenticity of the Sanskrit version and even suggested that this particular statement has been interpolated into this sutra. On the contrary, there is good reason to suspect that this significant saying has been deliberately deleted from the Pali version by non-vegetarians who relish the taste of meat.

After a monk has reluctantly renounced the delights of social life, stifling his longing for hearth and home and the passing excitements of sexual indulgence, if any, what else is left to sustain him psychologically during the solitary years of monastic life ? As the joyless recluse has so far failed to find the bliss of Enlightenment, he naturally tends to regard the plate of meat as the only remaining pleasure ! Those who crave for even a small slice of meat would feel inclined to bend the rules so that they could satisfy that craving and thereby assuage their deep-seated animalistic instinct for flesh. Man is an animal at heart, which explains this urge to rationalise his violence and anger (Dosa) and especially the wild passion to eat the filthy flesh of dead animals. Over the centuries what strange reasons have been adduced to support greed (Tanha ), especially the greed for animal flesh ! Rather than eat curried carcasses, why not live on a healthy vegetarian diet consisting of milk, cheese, yoghurt, nuts, cereals, grains, herbs, fruits and vegetables ? Calm-inducing vegetarian food would be much more in accord with an austere lifestyle than the passion-arousing food of carnivorous creatures such as dogs and cats ; besides, it will combat the tendency of many a monk to become obese and lazy.

The Lankavatara Sutra consists of advice given by the Buddha to the Bodhisattva Mahamati on the abandonment of the craving for meat. In this sutra a strong case has been made out for vegetarianism. Of the 24 principal arguments that have been advanced against the eating of meat, the following one are striking :

Meat is the food of the carnivorous and its smell is nauseating. I tell you this, Mahamati, do not eat it. Eating meat is non-meritorious : avoiding it is meritorious. Mahamati, you should understand the harmful effects that meat-eaters bring down on themselves.”

The yogi must refrain from eating flesh as he himself originated in flesh and also because the killed have to suffer in terror.”

Meat eating results in arrogance, which causes erroneous thoughts, which in turn results in greed. The mind is stupefied by greed. Afterwards there is attachment to stupefaction and hence no release from the cycle of births and deaths.”

Sentient beings are slaughtered for profit by people. Others buy the flesh. Both parties are evil-doers whose misdeeds will produce bad results in hell.”

The eating of flesh is contrary to the words of the Awakened One. Flesh-eaters are evil-minded. Such evil-doers are destined for the most horrible hell.”

No meat can be considered as being pure, even in these three respects --- not planned or thought about beforehand, not requested and not forced. Therefore refrain from flesh-eating.”

Meat-eating is forbidden by me and by the Buddhas. Sentient beings who eat one another will be reborn as carnivorous animals.”

Meat-eaters stink. They deserve no respect. They lack intelligence.”

The Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and Sravakas condemn meat-consumption.”

Those avoiding meat will be reborn as brahmins or yogis and endowed with knowledge and riches.”

Craving is just as much an obstacle to Enlightenment as meat-eating and taking alcohol.”

In the future there might be people who foolishly remark, It is proper to eat meat and it is unobjectionable. The Buddha permitted it’.”

For all who are compassionate I forbid meat-eating at all places and at all times. Meat-eaters will be reborn as lions, tigers, wolves and the like.”

Therefore refrain from meat-eating as it will result in feelings of extreme fear. It will also be a hindrance to Emancipation. Such abstinence is the hallmark of the wise.”

*** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** *** ***

For centuries various Buddhists and Buddhist scholars have furiously debated whether the grave illness that preceded the Buddha’s death was precipitated by the eating of pork (as the non-vegetarians maintain), or , by the eating of truffles (as the vegetarians insist). Probably the truth of the matter might always remain obscure or unknown. Indeed the available records of the Buddha’s life and sayings are shrouded in a mist of legends, interpolations and deletions. But sometimes bright rays of light manage to penetrate the mist and give us an inkling of what the original teaching might have been, such as the following lines from The Dhammapada :


All fear the rod ; all fear death.

Taking this into account,

One should neither kill nor cause to kill”

(verse 129)

All fear the rod ; life is dear to all.

Taking this into account,

One should neither kill nor cause to kill”

(verse 130)


Therefore is it not incumbent upon every conscientious person to eat only such food in the production of which “one neither kills nor causes to kill” ?


There is abundant evidence that the Buddha, when he was a man of advanced years, denounced the practice of meat eating. That is the message for posterity from the Mahaparinirvana Sutra and the Lankavatara Sutra. Why did the Buddha do a complete about-turn in this matter before he passed away ? Evidently he realised that he had been mistaken. It is indeed a tribute to the Buddha’s humility, honesty and integrity that he corrected himself. He thereby gave new guidelines relating to food for the benefit of both monks and laypersons.

The question as to whether or not meat should be consumed is very controversial. There are Buddhist texts that justify the consumption of meat but only if certain conditions are met. But the Lankavatara Sutra and the Dhammapada are highly critical of the heartless practice of killing animals for food. The Lankavatara Sutra eloquently denounces non-vegetarianism in no uncertain terms.

What is the standard by which one should evaluate the evidence ? In a situation of this kind, must one stick to the letter of the texts or try to enter into the spirit of the teachings ?

Any thought, word or deed that directly or indirectly results in the destruction of life is surely contrary to the spirit of Buddhism where much emphasis is placed on purity, non-violence, compassion and respect for life. One must therefore challenge the authenticity of all texts that are clearly contrary to the aforementioned spirit of the teachings. The spirit of the Dharma is heavily weighted in favour of vegetarianism.

It is deplorable that so few are moved by the plight of the poor, innocent and helpless animals that non-vegetarians thoughtlessly devour. These pitiful creatures might well have been their former friends or dear departed relations of previous existences. Do animal-eaters realise that the tasty pieces of fish, mutton, beef or chicken that they enjoy eating might well have come from the cruel slaughter of animals that had once been their loved ones of long-forgotten past lives ? Are they aware that they are in a sense practising cannibalism ? Do they feel even an iota of sympathy for the suffering animals that are either expecting to be slaughtered or being slaughtered ? Therefore is it not important that those who have callously lived on such dreadful diets should consider this issue carefully ? When doing so, they should bear in mind the supreme importance of having the great virtues of loving-kindness (Metta) and compassion (Karuna) for not only humans but non-humans also.

Metta and Karuna are two of the four Sublime or Divine Abodes (Brahma-Vihara). It is in fact the all-embracing and boundless love for all sentient beings, which of course includes the various unfortunate animals that end up on our dining tables.

Much can be said in support of living on meatless meals, yet vegetarianism is much more than a mere ideology that upholds all animals’ right to life. People are vegetarians for a thousand different reasons, but vegetarianism becomes an expression of our spirituality only when it is inspired by loving-kindness and compassion. Vegetarianism, in other words, will have the quality of sublime spirituality only when it springs from the purified inner states of loving-kindness (Metta) and compassion (Karuna).

--- Living and Dying From Moment to Moment

New Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass

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Why this Senseless Sacrificial Slaughter of Cows ?


Susunaga Weeraperuma

The spirit of sacrifice expresses itself in manifold ways. In theistic religions it is the practice to make offerings to the Divine or to a deity from the animal or vegetable kingdoms. Often offerings of food, drink, perfume, incense and the like are made. Sometimes precious articles in gold and silver are offered. Objects placed on altars can be regarded as sacrifices, provided they are expressions of thanksgiving or atonement for wrongdoings. In the Christian tradition there is the strange belief that Jesus, by means of the crucifixion, offered himself to God in order to save man, as though salvation can be experienced vicariously! Sacrifice can also mean the giving up of something bad (such as drug addiction) or something pleasant (such as sexual indulgence) for the sake of achieving some higher spiritual objective.

‘If any devotee offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower or water,’ declared Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita, ‘I will accept it.’ It is implied that any offering, which is devoid of love and devotion, will be unacceptable. Love and devotion, in other words, are the two essential requirements that the Lord expects. Apparently the Lord craves for love! If He grants His favours only to those who sing His praises and shower Him with affectionate offerings, and if the Lord frowns on those who are lacking in such devotion, it only shows that God, if He exists at all, is certainly not ‘all-loving’. He is also, evidently, a being with human traits, who is full of predilections and aversions, like anyone who is entangled in Samsara.

Because Buddhists do not believe in the existence of a God, but rather regard this concept as nothing but a clever creation of man’s imagination, on the whole they see the utter absurdity of making sacrifices to the Divine. However, it has long been the practice in Sri Lanka, on account of the powerful influence of Hinduism on Buddhist society, for many Buddhists to make sacrifices to deities. Next they request the deities to do them various favours.

When a person has a profound understanding of the great truth that ‘one is one’s own liberator’ (Atta hi attano natho), his independent and self-reliant outlook is such that he realises the meaninglessness of trying to appease celestial beings with the intention of persuading them to do him favours. Admittedly, celestial beings, such as devas, can do us minor favours, but it is doubtful if they can make ineffective the operations of the karmic law in certain situations. If a man is guilty of murder, has any celestial being the power to nullify the consequences of that terrible crime? By the same token, can any deva help us to cleanse away our defilements such as hate (Dosa), greed (Lobha) or pride (Mana)? It is easy to overlook the fact that many invisible creatures have yet to drop their defilements. These unseen beings are, fundamentally, not different from ourselves, which explains why they, like ourselves, continue to remain ‘perpetual wanderers’ in the sea of life (Samsara).

In Hindu thought letting go, or detachment (Tyaga) is the essence of karma yoga, which is detachment from the fruits of one’s thoughts, words and deeds. Expressed differently, it is the renunciation of the desire for any reward whatsoever for all one’s sacrificial offerings. This is, at best, only an ideal, because in practice there is hardly any sense of detachment when Hindus give offerings to their numerous deities.

It is invariably the case that when a Hindu offers, say, a tray of flowers and fruits to a deity as a sacrifice, there is deep down in his heart of hearts this expectation --- ‘please god, this is just a little something for you in the hope that you would in exchange do me the following favour … (such as) help my son to find himself a good bride with a big dowry, or help my husband to find a better job, or help my son to pass his exam.’ Rarely, if ever, does he make an offering out of pure love, for every offering serves some ulterior purpose.

If the devotee were imbued with pure love he would love God for His own sake and never ask for help. It is probably a shortcoming on God’s part that He looks with favour on those who make sacrifices. If God were imbued with pure love, would He not go to the aid of all, whether or not sacrifices are made?

One wonders how some so-called Buddhists ever bring themselves to make sacrifices, which are usually made at Hindu shrines. An intelligent Buddhist is a person who understands the operations of the law of karma. He knows that he alone is in control of his destiny. He sees that his present sufferings, which are the inevitable outcome of his past demeritorious deeds, words and thoughts, cannot be totally prevented by means of sacrifices. Similarly, he realises that someday in the future he will have to reap the fruits of what he is sowing now --- his present thoughts, words and actions.

What, if any, are the sacrifices that a Buddhist needs doing? On the altar of purity he can ensure the termination of all his taints. He can, for instance, sacrifice greed (Lobha), hatred (Dosa) and delusion (Moha).

In the Brahmanadhammikasutta the Buddha denounced the degenerate Brahmins, who persuaded the king to do the terrible deed of slaying cows at sacrifices.

Many wealthy and elderly Kosalan Brahmins called on the Buddha. At that time he was staying at Savatthi in Jeta’s grove in the park of Anathapindika. After exchanging greetings with the Master, these decrepit Brahmins sat down by his side, and posed an interesting question: ‘O Venerable Gotama, do the present-day Brahmins conform to the Brahman-Dharma or customs of the ancient Brahmins?’


The present-day Brahmins,’ replied the Buddha,

Do not appear to be conforming

To the Brahman-Dharma

Of the ancient Brahmins.



‘Provided we are not causing an inconvenience,’ they said, ‘let the Venerable Gotama explain to us the customs of the ancient ones.’


Then listen attentively,’ said the Buddha,

To what I am going to say.

"The sages of yesteryear

Were well-behaved and austere.

The objects of their five sense organs

Having fallen away,

They devoted themselves

To their own spiritual good.


Those Brahmins owned

Neither cattle, gold nor corn.

Their riches consisted in the corn

Of meditation.

Leading the holy life

Was their treasure.

The food was prepared for them

And placed outside doors.

This they regarded

As offerings of faith

To seekers.


Prosperous persons from afar

Worshipped those Brahmins

And showed reverence for them

With differently coloured clothes, beds and homes.


The Brahmins were inviolate

And invincible.

The Dharma was their protection.

None would close his door

On a Brahmin.


They from youth to forty-eight

Were chaste and celibate.

In former times they were devoted

To knowledge and the holy life.


Brahmins did not wed women

Of other castes

Nor did they buy brides.

By common consent they lived together,

Linked by bonds of love.

Brahmins did not have sexual intercourse,

Except at the end of menstruation.


They valued purity and virtue,

Correctness, gentleness, austerity,

Tenderness, compassion and patience.

The best of them --- the highest Brahmin ---

Would not indulge in sexual intercourse

Even while dreaming.

Emulating him,

The wise of this world

Extol purity,

Virtue and patience.


After requesting rice, beds, clothes,

Ghee and oil,

And having properly brought them together,

They made their sacrifices.

These sacrifices did not involve

The slaughter of cows.

Just like our mother,

Father, brother, or other relations,

The cows are our best friends

Who bring forth medicines.

They provide food,

They provide strength,

Similarly they give us

A good complexion and happiness.

Seeing the truth of this,

No cows were killed.

Tender, large-bodied,

Beautiful and famous,

The Brahmins had their own

High standards of right and wrong.

They prospered

For the duration of their lives on earth.

But then they changed.

Little by little, they noticed

The king’s majesty

And ornamented women.

Well-constructed carriages

Drawn by thoroughbreds,

Coloured carpets,

Partitioned palaces and houses,

The vast wealth of people,

Herds of cows

And fair females ---

All these the Brahmins eagerly desired.

With this as their objective,

They composed hymns

And visited Okkaka and said,

King, you have much wealth and corn.

Sacrifice, for vast is your property!

Sacrifice, for vast is your wealth!”

Thereupon the king,

The lord of the warriors,

Who was persuaded by the Brahmins,

Performed these sacrifices ---

Assamedha (sacrifice of horse),

Purisamedha (sacrifice of man),

Sammapasa (probably it means animal sacrifice)

And Vajapeyya (drink of strength or of battle).

After offering the sacrifices,

He gave wealth to the Brahmins ---

Cows, beds, clothes, ornamented women,

Well-constructed carriages drawn by thoroughbreds,

Coloured carpets,

Beautiful and partitioned palaces

That were filled with corn.

This wealth he gave to the Brahmins.

After receiving this wealth,

They hoarded it.

They wanted more of it.

Their craving for wealth began to grow.

With this as their objective,

They composed hymns

And visited Okkaka again and said,

‘“Just as water, earth, gold, wealth and corn,

So are cows for men,

For this is needed for human beings.

Sacrifice, for vast is your property!

Sacrifice, for vast is your wealth!” ’


Thereupon the king,

The lord of the warriors,

Who was persuaded by the Brahmins,

Had many hundreds of thousands

Of cows slain as a sacrifice.

Neither by means of their feet

Nor by means of their horns

Do cows harm anyone in any way.+

With goat-like tenderness

Cows yield pails of milk,

Yet the king, holding them by the horns,

Had them slain.’



When the cows were

Being killed for the sacrifice,

This is wrong!” cried out the gods,

The fathers, Indra,

The Asuras and demons.’

In former times

There were three diseases ---

Desire, hunger and decay.

Now with the killing of cattle

The number has risen

To ninety-eight!’

This injustice of violence

Is of ancient origin.

Innocent cows are killed.

The sacrificing priests

Have deviated from justice.’

The wise denounce

This ancient and inferior practice.

When people notice it,

They blame the sacrificing priest.’

When justice disappeared in this way,

The workers (Sudras)

Clashed with the traders (Vaisyas),

And the Kshatriyas (lawmakers, law enforcers and military)

Disagreed in many ways,

And the wife had scorn for her husband.’

The Kshatriyas and the Brahmins,

And the others who had hitherto been

Separated by their castes,

Were overpowered by

Sensual pleasures.’

The wealthy Brahmins exclaimed, ‘Excellent, O Venerable Gotama, it is excellent! Just as one moves to an upright position what has been overthrown, or divulges what had remained a secret, or gives directions to a person who has become lost, or is an oil lamp and a light to those in the dark, so has the Venerable Gotama illustrated the Dharma in many ways. We take refuge in the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. May the Venerable Gotama accept us as his followers, we who have taken refuge in him until the end of our days.’


---The First and Best Buddhist Teachings

Sutta Nipata Selections and Inspired Essays

New Delhi: New Age Books.

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Vegetarian Poems

The Secret of Good Health


Claudia Weeraperuma



Why so pallid, Evelyne, little friend,

When school-days we'd together spend?

Much alike we were --- emaciated horribly,

Wheezing, sneezing, coughing terribly.

In all the following years we were apart

I had a healthy diet. For a start

I moved from town to countryside with mirth,

Since then I give the city noise a wide berth.

Its peace and silence soothes my nerves,

'Cause nerves relaxed give our bodies verve.

When young we'd inhale dirty city air.

Fresh rural air so clean keeps lungs in good repair.

Neither do I smoke nor drink.

These habits harm the liver, don't you think?

Those troubled days when we both holidayed,

I'd sleep all morning. What a spoilt Swiss maid!

But now I always rise before the dawn,

Enjoying Hatha Yoga on the dewy lawn.

Emptying my mind of thoughts for just an hour,

I remain relaxed and peaceful, never sour.

As children we for breakfast would have butter,

Bread plain white and jam with useless chatter.

But now each morn I take some wholemeal flakes

With honey, lemon, linseed, milk and dates.

For lunch those days we gobbled down spiced meat:

Hamburgers and sausages, which dogs would love to eat.

Thank goodness, now I don't take any meat!

Neither sea food, eggs nor geese.

I prefer a salad of raw vegetables with cheese.

These do help to lead a stress-free life of ease.

Today I do hard manual work,

Whereas housework, this I used to shirk!

Shopping, cooking, housekeeping and gardening:

Are these chores? My work is quite fulfilling!

Staying up so late was all part of the game,

Of course, my school marks put me quite to shame!

An early sleeper, always hale and hearty I became.

Finally, the secret of good health's a mind

Unburdened. Evelyne, we were fools and blind

When treated badly by some folk unkind.

From people quarrelsome I am now free,

Deep and fresh just like the open sea.

--- Ocean of Compassion


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The Cow


Claudia Weeraperuma



One night I waited in an empty cowshed

Where just a little light was shed

By a lantern on the wormy walls of wood.

Then suddenly came in a splendid cow.

She was so large that as she stood

The hut seemed small, its ceiling low.

Her tawny coat did brighten up the place throughout.

Then I began to pull at her full udder.

I tried to milk this curious cow to make some butter.

But not a drop of milk was coming out!

Then after many hours the bucked filled.

It wasn't milk. But I was thrilled

For it was sweetly scented curd!

The cow then turned her head. Her voice I heard:

“This, Oh daughter, is the Nectar of Immortal Life

For Which all animals and humans strive.

If you wish to taste It and to thrive

Listen to the gentle caring feelings deep within,

They make you see that every being is your kith and kin.

Could you ever be a party to a killing?

Who likes getting slaughtered? Anybody willing?”

--- Ocean of Compassion

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