(The Buddha’s Admonition Against Killing & Eating Of Sentient Beings)
The word ‘veganism’ denotes a philosophy and way of living which seeks to exclude — as far as is possible and practical — all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose; and by extension, promotes the development and use of animal-free alternatives for the benefit of humans, animals and the environment. In dietary terms, it denotes the practice of dispensing with all products derived wholly or partly from animals.
– Donald Watson (1910-2005), founder of The Vegan Society, who invented the word in 1944
[The] Great Buddha’s Crown’s Śūraṅgama Sūtra’s Sixth Scroll: Section [On] Four Kinds [Of] Clear [And] Definitive Instructions [On] Purity: Second Heavy Precept
Sūtra: [Śākyamuni Buddha]: ‘Ānanda , again, [if the] six paths’  sentient beings [of] all worlds, [are with] their minds without killing, then [will they] not follow it [with] births [and] deaths [in] continuous succession . You cultivate Samādhi , originally [to] exit dusts’ afflictions . [With] killing’s mind not eliminated, [these] dusts cannot [be] exited .
Comments:  When thoughts of killing are eradicated from the mind, there will be no deeds of killing, and thus no creation of negative karma from killing that binds us to rebirth.  As the precepts observed well form the foundation for cultivating samādhi, that leads to wisdom for liberation from all defilements, neglect of this Second Heavy Precept (第二重戒) in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra against killing surely means escape is impossible.
Sūtra: Even if having much wisdom [and] meditative concentration  manifesting presently, if not severing killing, [there will] definitely [be] fall [into ghosts’ and] gods’ paths. [With] persons of high grade, becoming ghosts [with] great power. [With the] middle grade then becoming flying yakṣas , all ghost chiefs [and] others. [With the] low grade then becoming ground-travelling rākṣasas . All those ghosts [and] gods, likewise have assemblies [of] disciples, [with] each [and every] one self-saying [to have] accomplished [the] unsurpassable path   .
Comments:  If there is theoretical (but not actual realised) wisdom, along with some concentration, but with breaking of this precept, this at best leads to rebirth as a ghost with some powers, never to liberation. This is so due to strong negative karma created.  Yet, due to possibly having some positive karma from other practices, they might be able to lead some minor ghosts. However, they might mislead themselves and others into thinking they are already Buddhas. This thus creates more negative karma with more suffering to come, keeping liberation even further away.
Sūtra: After my Parinirvāṇa , within [the] Dharma-Ending Age , many [of] these ghosts [and] gods [will] flourish [in the] world, self-saying [that] eating meat, attains [the] Bodhi path  .
Comments:  Such evil beings can multiply the destructive effects of their misconceptions on this precept by misleading human ‘teachers’ who mislead their followers. This phenomenon seems true these days, as predicted by the Buddha, as some ‘teachers’ directly claim meat-eating to be totally inconsequential to the physical and spiritual welfare of one and all. This clearly does not make sense as sentient beings’ physical and spiritual lives are at stake, as taught by the Buddha here.
Sūtra: Ānanda, I enable Bhikṣus  [to] eat five[fold] pure meat  , [with] this meat all [from] my supernormal power manifested [to] arise, [that is] originally without life’s roots . You Brāhmins , [live on] land  [that is] very hot [and] humid, in addition, [with] sand [and] rocks, [where] grass [and] vegetables [do] not grow [well]. I, with great compassion [and] supernormal power as empowered, due to great loving-kindness [and] compassion, [manifested that] falsely named as “meat” , [for] you [to] attain its taste.
Comments:  Fivefold pure meat is near impossible to find these days, especially if not living as a random alms-seeking monastic. [All purchased meat does not meet condition (iii) as the usual suspects for whom animals are continually killed are the continual purchasers themselves.] The Buddha was said to had first advocated the teaching of threefold pure meat for monastics, as based upon the first three conditions, but skilfully added more challenging conditions to meet over time, till eventually speaking for vegetarianism (avoidance of meat-eating), such as in the Brahmā Net Sūtra’s (梵网经) as the Third [Lighter Bodhisattva] Precept, and here, for veganism (avoidance of eating meat and all other animal products, including their usage). This gradual process was used as meat-eating, for most humans, is a heavily ingrained habit based on greed, that is not easy to swiftly eradicate.  Here, the Buddha revealed that all the meat eaten by the monastics in his time was ‘mock meat’! None of them ate real meat. The Buddha manifested ‘meat’ as it was already common where he was teaching, while the manifesting of much vegan food would be conspicuously strange, also making his gradual urge to renounce meat ineffective. There is no record of the Buddha eating meat personally, while there are many scriptural records of him gradually advocating vegetarianism, and here, veganism. In the Jātaka tales of the Buddha’s past lives as a Bodhisattva, he was even once a vegetarian lion king! How then, can he be a meat-eating human as a great Bodhisattva? As the highest-ranking Bodhisattva in the life he attained Buddhahood, even before becoming the Buddha, he should also be able to skilfully manifest non-vegan foods. Note too, that the Buddha’s last meal was not pork but truffles known as ‘pig’s delight’ as it is unearthed by pigs, even to this day.
Sūtra: How [can it be, that] after [the] Thus Come [One’s]  Parinirvāṇa, [those who] eat sentient beings’ meat, [are] named as Śākyamuni [Buddha’s] disciples ? You [and] others should know, [that] these people [who] eat meat, even if attaining minds awakening [to that] similar [to] Samādhi, [they are] all great rākṣasas, [and when their] retribution [bodies]  end, [they] will sink [into the] suffering ocean [of] birth [and] death , not [being the] Buddha’s disciples.
Comments:  Disciples of the Buddhas, especially those who aspire to walk the Bodhisattva path, should practise veganism, as further explained below. Otherwise, it would be impossible to perfect compassion, which is a requisite for Buddhahood too. For ‘beginners’, even if not turning vegan straightaway, there should at least be reduction in consumption of the non-vegan.
Sūtra: Of such persons, killing one another [and] swallowing one another, [with] eating [of] one another yet [to] stop, how can these people attain departure [from the] three realms   ? You [should] teach [the] world’s people [who] cultivate Samādhi, next [to] sever killing, [as this] is named [as the] Thus Come [One’s and] prior Buddha World-Honoured [Ones’] “Second Clear [And] Definitive Instruction [On] Purity”. Therefore, Ānanda, those if not severing killing, [while] cultivating meditative concentration, for example, [are] like a person, self-blocking his ears, [while] loudly shouting, hoping people [will] not hear [it]. This kind [of people are] named as [those] “desiring [to] hide [yet being] fully exposed” .
Comments:  The Buddha reminds us that all Buddhas teach this important teaching decisively and similarly. This makes perfect sense as all Buddhas must have the same guidelines for perfecting morality for the sake of all beings. Those who stubbornly reject this teaching by refusing to see its sensibility surely lack compassion and wisdom, while having much greed for meat, (passive or active) hatred for animals and delusion over this.
Sūtra: Pure Bhikṣus and all Bodhisattvas , at diverging roads  walking, [do] not step [on] living grass, moreover with [their] hands pluck [them] . How can [those with] great compassion, take many sentient beings’ blood [and] meat [to] fill [themselves as] food ?
Comments:  All who wish to practise greater compassion even avoid harming plants and insects who might live among them. The vegan diet minimises harm of humans, animals, insects, plants and the environment as vegans consume the lowest on the food chain. Vice versa, a heavy meat diet maximises harm as many insects are killed while producing many plants, that are killed to fatten many animals, who are killed to satisfy meat-eaters, while many poorer humans starve due to inability to afford meat. For example, it takes 14 kg of plants, along with many other resources such as land and water, to produce 1 kg of beef for only 1 meat-eater, while many vegans can consume the 14 kg of plants directly. Meat production is also one of the leading causes of the climate crisis, which affects all sentient beings adversely. It generates about 51% of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions.
Sūtra: If all Bhikṣus, [do] not wear eastern  silk waddings [and] silk clothing, and this land’s  [leather] boots [and] shoes , furs [and] down , [or eat and drink] milk, cheese, ghee [and] cream , such Bhikṣus, from [the] world, [will] truly [be] liberated. [Having] repaid past debts, [they will] not wander [through] the three realms. Why [is this] so? [Those] wearing their body parts, [are] all by those conditioned. Like people [who] eat this earth’s hundred grains within, [whose] feet [do] not leave [the] earth. If enabling [their] bodies [and] minds, of all sentient beings’ bodies or body parts , [with] both paths [of] body [and] mind, [to] not wear [and] not eat [them] , I say these persons, [will be] those truly liberated .
Comments:  It is clear here, by the many examples listed, that the Buddha in letter and spirit eventually advocated veganism, which is the non-consumption or use of animal products (meat) and their co-products (e.g. silk, leather, fur, down, wool, dairy produce, honey, eggs…) This is so as they necessitate capturing, breeding (through forced impregnation these days, which breaks the First Heavy Precept (第一重戒) in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra against sexual conduct), exploiting and usually eventual killing.  To rob other sentient beings of their bodies, parts and produce also breaks the Third Heavy Precept (第三重戒) in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra against stealing, while rendering one karmically indebted to those stolen from, thus becoming bound to rebirth for indefinite time.
Sūtra: Such that I [have] spoken, [is] named as Buddhas’ speech. Not such [as] spoken, is Pāpīyāms’  speech .’
Comments:  The Buddha is thus unequivocally conclusive on the above, while warning all that any other teachings that counter this is not only a non-Buddhist teaching, but that of the most evil one, capable of harming many sentient beings’ physical and spiritual lives.
We can see quite plainly that our present civilisation is built on the exploitation of animals, just as past civilisations were built on the exploitation of slaves, and we believe the spiritual destiny of man is such that in time, he will view with abhorrence the idea that men once fed on the products of animals’ bodies.
– Donald Watson
– 楞严经 (释迦牟尼佛)
Killing others’ physical lives, or eating their meat, [it] is such, [that] even [if] passing [the innumerable] fine [motes of] dust [of] kalpas [world cycles], [they] mutually eat [and] mutually kill [one another, when reborn], like [a] turning wheel, reciprocally as above [as victimisers, such as humans] and below [as victims, such as animals], without rest.
– Śūraṅgama Sūtra (Śākyamuni Buddha)
Glossary, Summaries And More Notes:
 Ānanda (阿难): The Buddha’s personal attendant monk, here representing the audience, including us.
 Six paths (六道): Realms of hell-beings (地狱众生), hungry ghosts (饿鬼), animals (畜生), human beings (人), asuras (阿修罗) and heavenly beings (天人).
 When thoughts of killing are eradicated from the mind, there will be no deeds of killing, and thus no creation of evil karma (恶业) from killing that binds us to rebirth (轮回).
 Samādhi (三摩地): Meditative concentration (禅定) for progress towards attainment of wisdom (智慧).
 Dusts’ afflictions (尘劳): Concerns, burdens or labours (劳) of worldly life. There are the six dusts (六尘) of sight (form) dust (色尘), sound dust (声尘), smell dust (香尘), taste dust (味尘), touch dust (触尘) and dharma (thought) dust (法尘). Afflictions (烦恼) are troubles of suffering arising from relating to the six dusts with the three poisons (三毒) of greed (attachment) (贪), hatred (aversion) (嗔) and delusion (ignorance) (痴).
 Summary (1): As the Precepts (戒) observed well form the foundation for cultivating Samādhi (三摩地), that leads to wisdom (智慧) for liberation (解脱) from all afflictions (烦恼), breaking this Second Heavy Precept (第二重戒) against killing makes liberation impossible.
 Meditative concentration (禅定):  Samādhi (三昧)
 Yakṣas (夜叉): Malevolent flesh-eating demonic ghosts who might cause possession.
 Rākṣasas (罗刹): Violent demonic ghosts who might cause sickness and disaster
 Unsurpassable path (无上道): The way to supreme enlightenment, i.e. the fruit of Buddhahood (佛果).
 Self-saying to have accomplished the unsurpassable path (自谓成无上道): This is to break the Fourth Heavy Precept (第四重戒).
 Summary (2): If there is much theoretical (but not actual realised) wisdom and practical meditative concentration (禅定), but with breaking of this Precept, due to the strong evil karma (恶业) created, this at best leads to rebirth as evil ghosts (恶鬼) with various powers, but never to liberation (解脱). Due to possibly having some remnant good karma (善业), they might be able to lead some minor ghosts. However, they will mislead themselves and others into thinking they are already Buddhas, (thus creating more evil karma for more suffering to come, keeping liberation even further away).
(True Concentration [定] and true Wisdom [慧] must arise from the Precepts (戒) being truly observed. Otherwise, what manifests as ‘concentration’ or ‘wisdom’ could be from one’s greedy and deluded minds, fooling oneself, and/or from external demons fooling oneself, to mislead one to serve them, and/or to eventually become reborn as one of them.)
 Parinirvāṇa (灭度): The Buddha’s relinquishment of his manifested physical form after completing his teachings and fulfilling his karmic affinity with sentient beings in his time.
 Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期): This current period of 10,000 years we are in, when the quality of the Right Dharma (正法) being taught, learnt, practised and realised is in general decline.
 Bodhi path (菩提路): Path to Buddhahood (佛果)
 Summary (3): Such evil beings will become innumerable in this Dharma-Ending Age (末法时期), who claim that meat-eating can attain Buddhahood (佛果), (thus misleading many to also break this Precept. They might claim that meat-eating is inconsequential to the physical and spiritual welfare of one and all. This clearly does not make sense as sentient beings’ physical and spiritual lives are at stake).
 Bhikṣus (比丘): Buddhist monks
 Fivefold pure meat (五净肉): Meat from (i) animals not seen killed (不见杀) for oneself, (ii) not heard killed (不闻杀) for oneself, (iii) not [known or suspected] for oneself killed (不[疑/知]为己杀), (iv) of natural death (自死) and (v) left over by scavenger birds (鸟残). Such meat is difficult to find, even by seeking of alms food. These conditions are extended from those of threefold pure meat (三净肉)  with addition of the last two conditions.
 Threefold pure meat (三净肉): Meat from (i) animals not seen killed (不见杀) for oneself, (ii) not heard killed (不闻杀) for oneself, and (iii) not [suspected] for oneself killed (不[疑]为己杀).
All purchased meat does not meet condition (iii) as the usual suspects for whom animals are continually killed are the continual purchasers themselves. Threefold pure meat was earlier taught as lesser conditions by the Buddha as skilful means, before teaching on fivefold pure meat (五净肉) to add more challenging conditions, until eventually speaking for total avoiding of meat (and animal products) in this and other sūtras. This gradual process was used as meat-eating is a heavily ingrained habit arising from greed, that is not easy for most to swiftly eradicate.
 Life’s roots (命根): Sentient beings’ consciousnesses
 Brāhmins (婆罗门): Those of the priestly caste
 Land (地): India
 False named as ‘meat’ (假名为肉): The Buddha can be said to be the first and foremost creator of the most realistic mock meats! The Buddha manifested ‘meat’ to conform with the prevalent conditions of that place and time. If he were to manifest much vegan foods instead, they would be conspicuously strange and distracting, also making his gradual encouragement to truly renounce meat-eating at both physical and mental levels less effective.
 Thus Come One (如来): The Buddha, who ‘as if came’ to be, from awakening of always present Buddha-nature (佛性); potential for Buddhahood.
 Summary (4): The monastics were earlier taught that eating of fivefold pure meat (五净肉) was allowed, as it is not from sentient beings, but manifested by the Buddha with his supernormal power out of loving-kindness and compassion for animals and the monastics. This was done as India’s climate and environment was then not suitable for growing much plant foods well. As after the Buddha’s departure, there would be no more manifestation of such false ‘meat’, those who eat real meat then cannot be regarded as the Buddha’s true(st) disciples.
(There is no record of the Buddha eating meat personally, while there are many scriptural records of him gradually advocating vegetarianism, and here, veganism. In the Jātaka Tales [本生故事] of the Buddha’s past lives as a Bodhisattva [菩萨], he was even once a vegetarian lion king! How then, can he be a meat-eating human, as the highest-ranking Great Bodhisattva [大菩萨] in the life he attained Buddhahood? Even before becoming the Buddha, he should had been able to manifest ‘non-vegan’ foods too. Note too, that the Buddha’s last meal was not pork, as often misunderstood, but truffles known as ‘pig’s delight’ as it is unearthed by pigs, even to this day.)
 Retribution bodies (报身): These physical bodies received with and for expression of negative karma by having pain and suffering.
 Suffering ocean of birth and death (生死苦海): Vast cycle of rebirth with suffering due to repetitive birth, ageing, sickness and death.
 With cyclical killing and eating of one another, thus creating negative karma to be killed and eaten endlessly, one another cannot be liberated.
 Three realms (三界): Desire realm (欲界), form realm (色界) and formlessness realm (无色界). (See Note )
 Summary (5): Those who eat meat, being and resembling rākṣasas (罗刹), will not attain true Samādhi, and are not true disciples of the Buddha. Continually killing and eating one another in the cycle of rebirth (轮回), they will be unable to exit it. (Thus, there should be renouncing of meat-eating instantly, or at least reducing of meat-eating in good time. This is also part of Bodhisattva practice [菩萨行] for cultivating compassion.)
 Summary (6): After severing sexual conduct, as taught in the First Heavy Precept (第一重戒), to cultivate Samādhi, as taught by all Buddhas explicitly and decisively, there should be severing of killing. (All Buddhas teach in the same way for guiding all to perfect their Precepts, so as to perfect meditative Concentration, and to perfect realisation of Wisdom. Those who stubbornly reject this teaching by refusing to see its sensibility surely lack compassion and wisdom, while having much passive and/or active greed for meat, [subtle or direct] hatred for animals and delusion over this.)
 Bodhisattvas (菩萨): Those practising the Buddha’s teachings to realise Buddhahood (佛果), who aspire to guide one and all to the same goal.
 Diverging roads (岐路): Where there are forks in the road, with grass patches in a ‘V’ shape between, that should not be walked across, perhaps as a shortcut from one road to the other.
 Although plants are non-sentient beings (无情众生), they should still be respected and not carelessly desecrated, as sentient beings (有情众生) depend on them for survival in the web of life, for food and shelter. As such, even grass should not be trampled on, what more pulled out. There might be small animals and insects living among the grass too.
 Summary (7): To practise greater compassion, even harm of non-sentient lifeforms (i.e. plants) should be avoided (or minimised), what more sentient beings, whose bodies should not be harmed, exploited and eaten.
(On how the vegan diet furthers the practice of compassion, it minimises harm of humans, animals, insects, plants and the environment, as vegans consume the lowest on the food chain. A heavy meat diet however, maximises harm as many insects are killed while producing many plants, that are killed to fatten many animals, who are killed to satisfy relatively fewer meat-eaters, while many poorer humans starve due to inability to afford meat. For example, it takes 14 kilograms of plants, along with many other resources such as much land and water, to produce 1 kilogram of beef for only 1 meat-eater, while many vegans and the poor can consume the 14 kilograms of plants directly.
Production of meat and animal products are also among the leading causes of the climate crisis, which affects all sentient beings adversely. Among other major interconnected problems, this generates about 18% of all human-related greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than that from all motor vehicles in the world combined.)
 Eastern land (东方土): China (中国)
 This land (此土): Western land (西方土); India (印度)
 Boots and shoes (靴履) made of animal skin (i.e. leather).
 Down (毳): Soft, fine and fluffy feathers of young birds or the insulating layer below contour feathers of adult birds.
 And all other dairy products, such as curds, whey, butter, ice-cream etc. These represent all animal products from all sentient beings, beyond meat.
 Bodies and body parts (身身分): Flesh (meat) or parts, such as bones, silk, skin (leather), fur, wool, feathers (down), hair, milk, blood, honey, eggs, gelatine etc
 With the body not wearing and eating animal products, and with the mind not thinking of doing so, due to latent greed and delusion.
 Summary (8): If there is no wearing, eating and drinking of sentient beings’ flesh and their products in thought and deed, there can be liberation after repaying karmic debts to them. To do otherwise is to incur more karmic debts, thus remaining bound to them in rebirth.
(It is clear by the many examples listed, that the Buddha eventually and clearly advocated veganism in the letter and spirit, which is the non-consumption of meat and all other animal products. This is so as they necessitate capturing, breeding [through forced impregnation these days, which breaks the First Heavy Precept (第一重戒) against sexual conduct], exploiting and eventual killing, [which breaks the Second Heavy Precept (第二重戒)]. To rob other sentient beings of their bodies, parts and produce also breaks the Third Heavy Precept (第三重戒) against stealing. To say otherwise about the above teachings is to break the Fourth Heavy Precept [第四重戒] against lying. Of course, as the fifth of the Five Precepts [五戒], alcohol should be avoided too, to prevent intoxication, which is to lose mindfulness, thus possibly breaking all Precepts.
On consumption in this sūtra, the Buddha also taught to avoid Five Pungent Roots [五辛] of garlic [大蒜], leek [革葱], onion [慈葱], chive [兰葱] and asafoetida [hing: 兴蕖]. This is so as when eaten cooked, they give rise to lust, and when eaten raw, they increase anger. Heavenly beings [天仙] will be disgusted by their foul stench, and all far depart from those who eat them, not coming to protect them. Many hungry ghosts [饿鬼] and such will be attracted to eat next, by licking and kissing their lips. Always with ghosts dwelling, their blessed virtues [福德] will by the day dissipate. Great powerful demon kings [大力魔王] will manifest as Buddhas to speak the false ‘Dharma’ to them, that slanders the prohibitive Precepts [such as these], that praises the three poisons [三毒] of lust [greed], anger [hatred] and delusion [ignorance] instead. When their lives end, they will become their family members. When their demonic blessings exhaust, they will fall into the Uninterrupted Hell [无间地狱].)
 Pāpīyāms (波旬): Māra-Pāpīyāms (魔波旬) in full. ‘Pāpīyāms’ is an epithet meaning ‘The Evil One’. ‘Māra’ (魔罗) means ‘Bringer Of Death’. He is the Demon King (魔王), a god ruling the Sixth Desire Realm Heaven (欲界天), as a heavenly demon (天魔). He is also named Namuci (那牟质), which means ‘Non-Releaser’, as he personifies death, which does not allow anyone to escape from its grasp (unless with the Right Dharma [正法] practised in time).
 Summary (9): The Buddha is thus unequivocally conclusive on the above, while warning all that any other teachings that counter these are not only non-Buddhist teachings, but are those of the most evil one, capable of harming many sentient beings’ physical and spiritual lives, keeping one another trapped in rebirth. These teachings are not to be compromised for the goal of Buddhahood.
Namo Amituofo : Translation, glossary, summaries and notes by Shen Shi’an
Why Do Buddhists Avoid Meat-Eating & Practise Animal Liberation? (Based On Brahmā Net Sūtra’s Precepts)
Documentary: Animals & The Buddha (Featuring Monastics Of All Buddhist Traditions)
Why Avoid The Five Pungent Roots?
Why Veganism Is The ‘Beginning’ & ‘End’ Of Vegetarianism
The Buddha’s Admonition Against Making False Spiritual Claims (The Fourth Heavy Precept)