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The spirit of first precept

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  • The spirit of first precept

    Dear Venerable,

    In Sri Lanka vegetarian Buddhists is not uncommon but in Thailand vegetarian Buddhists is quite rare compare to Sri Lanka.
    Both are practicing Dhamma taught by Buddha, based on Tipitaka. If everyone in a city practices five precepts particularly the first precept, the result is no one will kill the animals therefore everyone is vegetarian. That's why it's said vegetarianism is an inseparable extention of the first precept. But when asked the same question most Thai Buddhists has totally different answer they're not correspond with each other.

    Should we interpret the first precept based on our own personal understanding, I thought this precept is universal not personal? If we just be on the safe side I worry we could end up practicing extremism.

    Does Tipitaka say anything in particular about the correlation between the first precept and vegetarianism, did the Buddha want us to develop the spirit of vegetarianism, what did the Buddha really teach?

    I have sent a similar question. If venerable could answer this question instead the previous one that would be great. Hope venerable could clear up this confusion, thanks in advance.

  • #2
    Hi Steve,

    I answered your first question already. (I don't have internet often, that's why it takes some time.)

    All your questions I've answered there already, I think.

    But I can add that, if the Buddha would have the choice to make everybody vegetarian, I am quite sure he would have done so. But choices are not like that. Choices are made on a moment-to-moment basis.

    In Thailand the cuisine is very much focused on meat and fish. And since monks and nuns are not really allowed to ask for specific foods according to the Vinaya, they just have to eat what is served.

    For example, I stayed in a Cambodian monastery for a while. Most days there was just one person coming to bring food. If they bring meat as the main dish (aside from the rice), what to do? It's impolite to refuse. Moreover, this happened most days. You'd not get much besides rice if you didn't eat meat at all.

    So that's the choice I made: to eat meat. (Before that I was not for half a year or so.) It's not a bad intention, really, it's a good one: to make the person offering the food happy.

    Sri Lankan Buddhism, and the Mahayana tradition as a whole, were lucky in that it grew up in cultures that, as far as I know, have cuisines that contain less meat. Maybe it has to do with climate or something.

    Bye now!



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