Should Bodhisattva Preceptors Buy Meat For Others? 菩萨戒子该为别人买肉吗?Should Preceptors Break Precepts For Others? 持戒者该为别人破戒吗?

raw beef meat on white background
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Question: Is it so those who have committed to the Bodhisattva Precepts (菩萨戒) cannot buy meat for others?

Answer: The essence of the relevant Third [Light] Precept Against Eating Meat (第三食肉[轻]戒) in the Brahmā Net Sūtra《梵网经》should be understood first — ‘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… Eating meat attains immeasurable transgressions…’ (若佛子,故食肉,一切肉不得食。夫食肉者,断大慈悲佛性种子… 食肉得无量罪。…)

While this precept does not speak of not buying meat for others, it is clear that doing so ‘supports’ others’ intentional eating of meat, thus ‘supporting’ them in ‘sever[ing] the seed of their Buddha-nature’s great loving-kindness and compassion’, which ‘attains immeasurable transgressions.’ While meat-buying does not break the letter of the precept, it goes against the spirit of the precept. Also, no teaching says it is alright to buy meat for feeding others’ greed endlessly.

Question: Is there another precept inferring this?

Answer: Yes, as in the Second [Light] Precept Against Drinking Alcoholic Beverages (第二饮酒[轻]戒). If even alcohol (that does NOT involve killing) should not be passed to others, to prevent them from becoming intoxicated, (to thus possibly break other precepts), it does not make sense to think meat (that DOES involve killing) should be bought and passed to others — since killing breaks the First (Heavy) Precept (第一[重]戒).

Here is the precept — ‘If as Buddhas’ [Bodhisattva] disciples, of intentionally drinking alcoholic beverages, as alcoholic beverages give rise to faults of commission and omission that are immeasurable, if personally by hand passing vessels with alcoholic beverages to offer others to drink alcoholic beverages, for five hundred lifetimes will they be without hands [i.e. be born as handless or handicapped beings]; what more if to personally drink them? Likewise, they must not instruct all humans to drink, and all other sentient beings to drink alcoholic beverages, what more to personally drink alcoholic beverages. All alcoholic beverages must not be drunk. If intentionally personally drinking, or instructing others to drink, they commit a light defiled transgression.’ (若佛子,故饮酒,而酒生过失无量,若自身手过酒器与人饮酒者,五百世无手;何况自饮?亦不得教一切人饮,及一切众生饮酒,况自饮酒?一切酒不得饮。若故自饮,教人饮者,犯轻垢罪。)

Question: Does not buying meat for others impose personal beliefs on them?

Answer: No, as no one is forced to follow the precept. In fact, those who insist Bodhisattva Preceptors (菩萨戒子) to buy dead animals for them are the actual ones imposing with their self-centred insensitvity towards others. (To buy dead animals is to feed the demand for more animals to be killed.)

This is while the preceptors are actually practising compassion to both animals and these humans, to prevent more deaths of the first, and to prevent the latter from further severing from their loving-kindness and compassion. With such clear intentions for the good of all, to prevent more suffering of both parties (i.e. animals and consumers), especially if explained clearly, there is surely no imposing at all.

Question: Should lay Bodhisattva Preceptors not accommodate others?

Answer: Yes, but only with skilful means that do not go against the precepts. If trying to ‘accommodate’ by going against the precepts, how much of this should this be done, if at all? For example, in a ‘worst’-case scenario, what if a family member insists on eating freshly killed seafood for every meal every day, with each meal including many big and small animals, with crabs, fishes, clams…? Where is the line to draw on how much to buy? (How about none at all?)

How many more life-craving and death-fearing (贪生怕死) animals should be sacrificed with ongoing purchases? Not eating an animal does not cause death of a human (who has plenty of other choices), but it does support the killing and deaths of more animals. When the buying stops, the killing stops. When the buying reduces, the killing reduces. This is simple supply-demand economics that purchasers cannot excuse themselves from.

Those who insist preceptors to go against the precepts for them will create much negative karma for themselves. If these concerns are shared in good spirit and the family member still insists on eating animals, s/he ‘should’ buy them personally.

Preceptors can also offer kinder and healthier foods, which include plant-based meats, to help meat-‘lovers’ realise vegan foods can taste better, as greed for taste is the usual reason for ‘loving’ meat.

Question: Does this mean preceptors should not break precepts for others?

Answer: Yes, as the precepts are to be observed for all aspects of one’s life, not to be renounced when interacting with others, including those who do not care about the precepts. No one should excuse us from the precepts committed to.

If lines of dos versus don’ts are absent, the slippery slope of moral decay will be present. If it is ‘alright’ to break one precept for others, will it be ‘alright’ to break more or all other precepts too? Of course, it is not alright to break any precept for anyone.

Question: Is there more direct reasoning on why preceptors should not buy meat for others?

Answer: Yes. If it is ‘alright’ to support meat-eating by continually supplying meat-eaters with animals’ meat just because they demand it, does this make it ‘alright’ to supply human meat if they demand it too? If this is not alright, why is supplying animal meat ‘alright’, since the overall spirit of the Bodhisattva Precepts is to practise equanimous compassion for all beings, be they human, animal or otherwise?

Why have cognitive dissonance when it comes to practising compassion, that is supposed to be universal? (Those yet to truly understand this are perhaps not yet ready for receiving the Bodhisattva Precepts. They will have to cultivate greater compassion for more and all beings.)

Related Articles:

How Should All Aspiring For Buddhahood Eat And Drink?

Is A Meat-Buyer Also A Meat-Eater?

Should I Help Pay For Non-Vegan Food?

Should I Accommodate With Non-Vegan Meals?

Why Avoidance Of Alcohol Is So Important

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