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By Siew May Lim & Janice Yeung, 8 August 2017

Be Kind Be Vego is a project run by a Buddhist organisation and we are often asked this question.

The answer is: No, not all Buddhists are vegetarians. However, all monastics at Fo Guang Shan are vegetarians; all meals served at Fo Guang Shan temples and tea houses are vegetarian.  All members and devotees are encouraged to adopt meat free diet as a way to practise compassion. 

Many people have always seen vegetarianism as the hallmark of Buddhism.  However, this was not always the case.  When Buddhism was first transmitted from India to China, there was no requirement that monastics not eat meat.  During the Buddha’s time, monastics survived on alms offered by lay people.  There was no distinction between who they received this from, and what they received. The one thing they relied on was the generosity of others bringing food for them.  As such, they’re not able to choose between vegetarian and non-vegetarian offerings.

Even today, in countries such as Sri Lanka, Thailand and Burma the system of alms is still observed. The Monastics in these countries will have to accept different types of food offered to them.

Buddhism encourages people not to take life and that means putting into practice the Buddha’s spirit of compassion.   As Master Hsing Yun says, the goal of learning Buddhism is not to become a vegetarian. For “eating” is not the most important issue.  The purity of the mind is important.  Therefore, while Buddhists are encouraged to adopt meat free diet as a way to practise compassion, the Buddhism practice does not stop at “eating”. 

Life is precious.  To enjoy the delicacies of the land and sea requires the sacrifice of so many living creatures; wouldn’t it be good to let them go on living?  We do not have to make animals suffer to satisfy the desires of our appetites, especially there’s now plenty of delicious plant-based dishes available. 

You can read more about Buddhism and Vegetarianism here: http://www.fgsitc.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/05/Buddhism-and-Vegetarianism.pdf?