Buddhism and Vegetarianism
I have often wondered why there are quite a few people that claim to be Buddhist, but eat a lot of meat. I didn’t ask about why that may be, assuming it was just that people ate what happened to be available. I am also aware of the fact that monks are given food, and it would be rude to refuse the gift of food from others.
Last night, I found this.
In China for example, begging for food was seen as something disgraceful, and was not held to be something worthy of a holy person. Therefore, Buddhist monks had to begin providing themselves with their own food. Now since they were not able to change the social attitudes about begging for food, and given that the Buddha forbade killing of any living being, and also forbade monks to practice agriculture, they were faced with a tough decision in order to survive in the new culture and continue their work of transmitting the Dhamma. Of the two requirements (not killing, and not practicing agriculture) which one could be considered of lesser importance and relaxed to allow them to survive? Clearly, the latter one about practicing agriculture, and not the former about killing living beings. Thus, the Mahayanist monks in China began to grow their own food in order to survive. Since killing animals was not an option for them, they survived on vegetarian food only, and so a tradition grew up in the Chinese Sangha of being vegetarian.