As I was readings this week’s text “Food of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist teachings on Abstaining from Meat,” I found Shabkar’s arguments in favour of abstaining from meat to be very clear, as he continuously restates his points with examples from scriptures and teachings. The root message within the text is that “It is evil to take life” (20).
As Shabkar comments on excerpts from scriptures and teachings, repetition seemed to be constant within the reading. The main faults that were discussed exhibited meat as a source of many evils. Eating meat is contrary to the teachings. Shabkar highlights that for a bodhisattva, when one eats meat, the lust for it grows and compassion diminishes. When one eats meat, they are eating like a beast. In fact, there is discussion of one’s rebirth as a carnivorous beast. One can even go to hell and have hot molten metal poured in heir mouths. Every being is seen as one’s child or parent. So in turn, how can one eat their family member? Cannibalism is discussed a great deal. Shabkar discusses the small difference, which he argues there is not even a difference, between the animal killer and the meat eater. The meat eater is supporting the killing of animals. With no meat eater, there is no animal killer. The Buddha has defined eating meat as an evil action “that directly or indirectly brings harm to beings” (101).
Some schools of Buddhism say that the Buddha allowed his monastic students to eat meat if the animal was not killed for the purpose of providing food specifically for them. This rule was seen to be only directed toward the monastics and the lay people could eat whatever they desired. The act of eating meat was deemed karmically neutral. The act of killing or having something killed for you to eat was karmically negative. Shabkar attacks this idea with passion. Shabkar claims that the doctrine is being twisted to what a meat eater wants it to say. The Buddha only ate meat under certain circumstances to benefit another. Shabkar expresses that if one can live amongst animals, and both humans and animals are happy, the teachings are present (110).
Reading this text gave me new insight to a religious view if vegetarianism. I am familiar with modern views and reasoning to make this lifestyle choice, but never truly learned how it was present in Buddhism. I had a vague idea, but Shabkar outlined the very specific reasoning behind the stance of abstaining from meat, as he used scripture and interpretation to heed vegetarianism within Buddhism. As I am neither a practicing Buddhist nor vegetarian, my view that I am about to express could be completely off the wagon. But, after reading Shabkar’s views and arguments, I had a thought. Since Buddhists have taken vows not to kill, they should not support a livelihood that makes others kill. Even if one does not have compassion for animals, this would help prevent others from performing bad actions and help keep all beings, as Shabkar stresses that animals are included in this bracket, at peace. So, I think that the power of each human being becoming vegetarian releases the most intense suffering of animals, and they could possibly finally reach the same state as that of a human. As Shabkar touches upon, animals are beings that have the same Buddha nature as all humans.