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(The Buddha’s Admonition Against Killing & Eating Of Sentient Beings)
释迦牟尼佛如何逐渐提倡全素 (佛陀对杀生与食肉的训诫) 

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

大佛顶首楞严经: 清净明诲章: 杀生篇

The Great Buddha’s Crown’s Foremost Śūraṅgama Sūtra:
Section On Clear Instructions For Purity:
Passage On Killing Sentient Beings

[释迦牟尼佛:] ‘阿难,又诸世界六道众生,其心不杀,则不随其生死相续。汝修三昧,本出尘劳,杀心不除,尘不可出。

Sūtra: [Śākyamuni Buddha:] ‘Ānanda [and all present], moreover, [of] all worlds’ six realms’ sentient beings [of hell-beings, hungry ghosts, animals, humans, asuras (demi-gods) and gods], [if] their minds [do] not [think of] killing, thus [will they] not accord with their [cycles of] birth and death continuously. You, [when] cultivating samādhi [meditative concentration], [is] originally [for] exiting dusts [of afflictions from defilements that] fatigue [you], [but if your] minds [of] killing [are] not eradicated, [from these] dusts [you] cannot exit.

Comments: [1] 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. [2] 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 with much wisdom, [and] meditative concentration manifesting before [yourself], if not severing killing, [you will] certainly fall [into the ghost or] god realm. [The] higher grade humans become ghosts [with] great power, [the] medium grade instead become flying yakṣas [who are flesh-eating demons], many [kinds of] ghost chiefs and others, [and the] lower grade will become ground-travelling rākṣasas [who are disease and disaster spreading demons]. Those many ghosts and gods also have assemblies [of] disciples, [with] each and every one [falsely] self-proclaiming [to have] accomplished [the] unsurpassable path [to Buddhahood, thus breaking the Fourth Heavy Precept (第四重戒) in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra against falsehood].

Comments: [3] 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. [4] 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 I [enter] parinirvāṇa, within [the Dharma] Ending [Age (which is this present era)], many such ghosts and gods, [will] proliferate in [this] world, personally saying [that] eating meat [can] attain [the] Bodhi path [to Buddhahood].

Comments: [5] 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 [Śākyamuni Buddha, now] allow Bhikṣus [monastics to] eat [the] five[fold] pure meat [from (i) animals not seen killed, (ii) not heard killed, (iii) not suspected killed, (iv) of natural death, and (v) left over by scavenger birds], [with] this meat all [from] my supernormal power manifested, [that is] originally without life force. You, Brahmins [of priestly caste and others present], [live in] lands very steamy [hot] and wet [humid], in addition, [with] sand [and] rocks, [where] grass [and] vegetables [do] not grow [well]. I, with great compassion [and] supernormal power as added, due to great loving-kindness, [manifested that] falsely named as “meat”, [for] you to attain its taste.

Comments: [6] 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. [7] 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 is it [that] after [the] Tathāgata’s [Buddha’s] parinirvāṇa, [those who] eat sentient beings’ meat, [are] named as disciples [of] Śākyamuni [Buddha]? You and all others should know, [that] those [who] eat meat, even if attaining [minor] awakening [of their] minds, similar [to having some] samādhi, [they are] all great rākṣasas, [whom at the] end [of their] retributive [lives, will] certainly sink [into] birth and death’s sea of suffering, [and are] not [the] Buddha’s disciples.

Comments: [8] 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: Such humans, killing one another, swallowing one another, [with] eating one another [in life after life] not yet stopped, how can these humans attain departure [from the] three spheres [of desire, form and formlessness, to attain liberation]? You, [who] teach [the] world’s humans [to] cultivate samādhi, next, [after severing sexual conduct], sever killing lives, [as] this is named [the] Tathāgata’s [and] previous Buddhas, World-Honoured Ones’ second definitive [and] clear instruction [for] purity. As thus, Ānanda, if not severing killing, [while] cultivating meditative concentration, [is], for example, like a human, self-stuffing his ears, [yet] loudly shouting, hoping [other] humans [do] not hear [it]. Such and others [are] named as “desiring to conceal [yet] fully revealing” [their faults].

Comments: [9] 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 divergent roads walking, [where there are grass patches], [do] not tread on living grass, what more with hands pluck [them]? How can [those with] great compassion, take many sentient beings’ blood and flesh [to] fill [themselves] as food?

Comments: [10] 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 [or Chinese fine and coarse] silk clothings [and] waddings, and this [Indian] land’s boots [and] shoes [of leather], fur [and] down [garments, [or eat and drink animal] milk, cheese, [curd], cream, [butter], ghee [and all other dairy products], such Bhikṣus, of [this] world [will] truly [be] liberated. [Having] repaid past [lives’ karmic] debts, [they will] no [longer] wander [through] the three spheres [of desire, form and formlessness]. Why is this so? Wearing their body parts, [they are] all by those [karmic] conditions [bound, just] as humans [who] eat this ground’s hundred grains, [vegetables and fruits] within, [whose] feet [do] not leave [the] ground. [Those who] resolutely cause [their] bodies [and] minds, [of] all sentient beings, [of their] bodies [as meat], or [of their] body parts [and products, with] both paths [of] body [in deed] and mind [in thought], not wearing [and] not eating [them], I say these persons, [will] truly [be] liberated ones.

Comments: [11] 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. [12] 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’ [i.e. “The Very Wicked One”; Māra (i.e. “Murderer”, who strives to kill all goodness); the evil demon king] speech.’

Comments: [13] 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)

– Translation & Comments By Shen Shi’an

Related Articles:

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)

2 Responses to “How The Buddha Eventually Advocated Veganism”

  1. CompassionPlease 22 June 2016

    The non-eating of meat is found in many sutras, including the Surangama Sutra and Brahma Net Sutra (see https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2016/06/why-do-buddhists-avoid-meat-eating-practise-animal-liberation ), as taught by Sakyamuni Buddha, especially in terms of the Bodhisattva practice of expanding compassion till it becomes universal for all beings, without which one cannot become a Buddha.

    A video summary of the Surangama Sutra teaching mentioned above:

    吃肉难以走出轮回的原因 (1)
    吃肉难以走出轮回的原因 (2)

    Extensive website on teachings of Buddhist vegetarianism:

  2. VictorLoh-1Answered 28 June 2016

    The Buddha did not say all monastics should go vegetarian as Devadatta demanded then at one point. The reason is simple – they were eating random alms food, as described in the article above. However, he did say they can if they wish. There is a big world of difference here. The Buddha was NOT anti-vegetarian/vegan. In the Surangama Sutra however, which the Buddha, he later thus taught the above as his final word on the issue – to go vegan – to relinquish even the fivefold meat as above. Do study the article carefully, with great compassion and wisdom to truly see how it makes perfect sense..

    Can we simply chant mantras to make meat ‘ok’? Here is the answer: https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2011/07/quickly-kill-to-deliver-me-please Do eat the human next to you if mantra-chanting can bring them to better rebirths – straightaways! Nom nom nom!

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