[W]e are supposed to be the refuge and protector of all infinite beings. The beings with unfortunate karma that we are supposed to be protecting are instead being killed without the slightest compassion, and their boiled flesh and blood are being presented to us and we – their protectors, the Bodhisattvas – then gobble it up gleefully, smacking our lips. What could be worse than that?
– Patrul Rinpoche
(The Words Of My Perfect Teacher:
A Complete Translation of a Classic Introduction to Tibetan Buddhism)
Rather than stating categorically that one should or should not be vegetarian [or vegan], we might instead look at the motivation for our decision. Every Buddhist needs to cultivate compassion and wisdom. This is the root of Buddhist practice. Lacking these, it is doubtful that even outwardly kind deeds will be beneficial.
If the development of compassion leads to a feeling of empathy with other beings, it is natural to wish to protect them from harm. Becoming a vegetarian, [or even better, a vegan] is one way to channel such an aspiration. Furthermore, the development of wisdom leads us to become aware of the consequences of our actions.
Purchasing meat in the supermarket may not be the direct cause of the slaughter of the animal whose flesh we are eating, but certainly we will not be blind to the connection. It is obvious that if meat is bought, it will be replaced. We are not the killers, but we are perpetuating an industry of slaughter [which the Buddha prohibited as wrong livelihood].
If a country has a high meat [and other animal produce] consumption, many lives are taken on a daily basis, and we are definitely not exempt from the common [or collective negative] karma [if we keep up with the demand]. These points might be considered. However, our decision to become vegetarian [or vegan] should not cause us to be hostile to those who eat meat… Nevertheless, those who eat meat should not do so callously, blind to the animals’ suffering.
Releasing Life: An Ancient Buddhist Practice In The Modern World
Shenphen Zangpo (Stephen Powell)
You, ‘Animals And The Buddha’