Many people equate Buddhism to vegetarianism. Buddhists believe that life is sacred and that killing sentient beings is unjust. For many religions and even people, choosing vegetarianism is the way to live a more peaceful life. By avoiding meat, vegetarians avoid spreading violence.
Are Buddhists vegetarian? Well the answer is not all of them. There are different schools of Buddhism. One of them is the Mahayana and the other one is the Theravada. The former believes that people should follow a strict vegetarian diet while the other one does not. The Mahayanas believe that partaking in food that has animals in it contributes to suffering of sentient beings. On the other hand. The Theravadists believe that since Buddha himself ate meat, that it is allowable to eat meat as well. For them, they follow the teachings in Nipata Sutta, where it says that immorality and evil stems from impure thoughts, feelings and spirit and not from consuming meat. Buddha has also mentioned to avoid only certain types of meat. Thus it means some meat are allowable
To Be a Vegetarian or Not?
Many people choose the vegetarian or even vegan lifestyle in order to be healthier or even be a better person. They believe that if we start with ourselves, then we can spread the life of non-violence. Many vegetarian people think that that eating meat causes pain and suffering and thus should be avoided at all costs. They also say that it is a healthier choice since some meat cause cancer.
On the other hand, meat eaters or omnivores argue that eating meat is a healthy choice. They believe that meat provides us with better protein than what vegetables or plants do. They also argue that other animals eat other animals; much like a lion eats a zebra. This basically supports their claim to eating meat. For the Theravadists, they will eat meat, as long as they were not the one who directly killed the animal. They believe that harvesting plants also causes pain and thus is no different from buying butchered meat.
Benefits of Vegetarianism
Vegetarianism has many benefits. Aside from non-violence being a vegetarian can help you in a lot of ways. Many people who are trying to lose weight and keep the pounds off resort to being vegetarians. Aside from having a whole dose of vitamins and minerals, vegetables also contain protein. Studies find that certain vegetables like soy, broccoli, cauliflower may carry higher amounts of protein than meat.
Fruits also contain antioxidants that help ward off aging. Vegetable, fruits and grains have fiber that help fight cancer and promote a healthy digestion. Fruits and vegetable are also cheaper to produce and are easier to digest.
Benefits of Eating Meat
Meat is high in protein and zinc. Zinc an help fight of infection and diseases. Meat is also a good source of amino acids. The amino acids coming from meat is very similar to what the human DNA has and need. Meat such as fish also has Omega 3 Fatty Acids which is good for the brain and heart.
On the other hand, red meat may cause cancer if consumed too much. Moderation is key. Processed meat is also not advisable.
Buddhism and Peace
Gautama Buddha set out to be enlightened through the path of peace and love. He wanted to spread goodness in everyone. Ethical treatment of animals is needed in order for them to live a happy life even though they will later on die to serve man as food.
Eating meat is a personal choice. Not all Buddhists are vegetarians. Being a vegetarian has it’s pros and cons but if you feel that you will become a better person by not eating meat, then by all means do so. On the other hand, if you are a good person, care for animals but still eat meat, I don’t think you are evil. Peace comes from the heart. Buddhists and non Buddhists can learn from animals to take only what is needed and not more.