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第三食肉[轻]戒:若佛子,故食肉,一切肉不得食。夫食肉者,断大慈悲佛性种子,一切众生见而舍去。是故一切菩萨,不得食一切众生肉。食肉得无量罪。若故食者,犯轻垢罪。

– 释迦牟尼佛
(梵网经菩萨戒本)

[The] Third [Light] Precept [Against] Eating Meat: If [as] Buddhas’ [Bodhisattva] disciples, [of] intentionally eating meat, all meat should not [be] eaten. Those [who] eat meat, sever [the] seed [of their] Buddha-nature’s great loving-kindness [and] compassion, [with] all sentient beings [who] see [them] abandoning [them]. Thus, all Bodhisattvas, should not eat all sentient beings’ meat. Eating meat attains immeasurable misgivings. If intentionally eating [it, they] commit [a] light defiled misgiving.

– Śākyamuni Buddha
(Brahmā Net Sūtra: Bodhisattva Precepts’ Text)

In terms of stringent observation of the (Bodhisattva) Precepts, which is worse? To eat minced meat mixed mixed with vegetables, or garlic mixed with the same vegetables? For the context of this question, the Bodhisattva Precepts in the Brahmā Net Sūtra prohibit the consumption of both meat and the five pungent roots, of which garlic is one. Of course, to give a more qualified answer, the quantities have to be taken into account. But if they are equal, back to the question… which is worse?

The sequence of the precepts can offer hints on their priorities of importance, as generally, the more heavy precepts are ahead of the lighter ones. Of course, we should aspire to observe all precepts as strictly as possible, as monastics or lay people. Note that the Brahmā Net Sūtra’s precepts, where applicable, are encouraged to be observed by laity too, as among the loftiest precepts available. As the Third and Fourth [Light] Precepts prohibit eating of meat and the five roots respectively, to consume the first is worse.

Meat-eating links one directly or indirectly to the supply and demand of killing of other sentient beings, while eating any of the five roots does not harm other beings directly, though it can be harmful indirectly. This difference in severity explains the precepts’ order. However, observation of the precepts is not about trying to pick the less of two or more evils, but the weeding out of as many evils as possible. Why not avoid both foods, to eradicate greed and delusion in eating?

Before personally eating (or passing on) food, we should mindfully check their ingredients. To directly eat (or pass them) is expression of greed having overpowered compassion and wisdom. Even to knowingly eat a little of the prohibited is to give in a bit to greed. Without attention to details, how can we be perfected morally, what more fully enlightened? If we cannot imagine any Buddha with imperfect morality, why imagine we can be Buddhas with slipshod morality?

Incidentally, in the same area of consumption, the Second [Light] Precept [Against] Drinking Alcoholic Beverages (第二饮酒[轻]戒) precedes the meat-eating and root-eating precepts, as observation of it prevents loss of mindfulness, which might lead to breaking of more, and even all other precepts. Finally, beyond ‘usual’ consumption, in the Śūraṅgama Sūtra’s Section [On] Clear Instructions [On] Purity (楞严经:清净明诲章), the Buddha strictly discouraged use of animal by-products and co-products, as they too arise from exploitation of animals, usually leading to slaughter for their flesh, skin, fur and more when deemed unproductive.

第四五辛[轻]戒:若佛子,不得食五辛:大蒜、革葱、慈葱、兰葱、兴蕖。是五辛,一切食中不得食。若故食者,犯轻垢罪。

– 释迦牟尼佛
(梵网经菩萨戒本)

[The] Fourth [Light] Precept [Against Eating The] Five Pungent [Roots]: If, [as] Buddhas’ [Bodhisattva] disciples, [they] should not eat [the] five pungent [roots, of] garlic, leeks, onion, chives [and] asafoetida [i.e. hing]. These five pungent [roots, mixed] within all foods, should not [be] eaten. If intentionally eaten, [they] commit [a] light defiled misgiving.

– Śākyamuni Buddha
(Brahmā Net Sūtra: Bodhisattva Precepts’ Text)

Related Article:
Rationale For The Buddha’s Teachings On Eating & Drinking
https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2016/10/how-should-all-aspiring-for-buddhahood-eat-and-drink

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