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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Ethics of Eating Meat

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Previously someone asked you about the importance of a vegetarian diet in Buddhism, and you responded that the importance lies in whether your diet is healthy for your body or not. I had a question regarding the ethics of eating meat.

I do not see anything wrong in killing an animal to eat and sustain yourself. I see this as being very natural, and it is apparent through the way our bodies are designed that we have the capability to eat both plants and animals. But I am a vegetarian and have been for about 2 years. The reason I decided to become a vegetarian is because I believe the way animals are treated in slaughterhouses is disrespectful of the animal that gives its life so that we may continue ours. I agree that any food source we have takes life from something and I accept this, but many animals are being crammed together in small living quarters with disgusting conditions as well as being force-fed and abused to yield the highest portion of meat. The way the "meat industry" is set up means that you can never know where your meat comes from or how those animals are treated.

What I would like to know is, which do you think is more important: eating the diet that our body is designed for, or eating a diet that abstains from meat that comes from a disrespectful death?

Also, because I enjoy the taste of meat I frequently find myself wanting to eat it, even after two years. Is this craving/temptation an indicator that I need to eat meat, or is it a sign that I am "addicted" to meat and should stay vegetarian?

Thank you,


Blogger GUDO NISHIJIMA said...

Dear Jared San.

Thank you very much for your sincere question whether we should be a vegetarian, or not.

And about such a problem my attitude is very loose, and so if someone likes to eat meat, there is no problem, and if someone prefers to be vegitarian, there is also no problem.

In other words, whether we eat meat or not, is not so important for us to be a Buddhist, and so if someone wants to be a vegitarian, there is no broblem, and if there is someone, who do not like to be a vegitarian, there is no promblem.

Therefore if you like to eat meat, there is no problem for you to eat as a Buddhist.

The most important matter for Buddhists are to practice Zazen everyday two times a day at least, and study Buddhism, especially Master Dogen's cheatings, sincerely.

So if you want to eat meat recently, there is no problem for you to eat meat at all.

But at the same time you should be diligent in practicing Zazen and studying Buddgist philosophy.

Gudo Wafu Nishijima

6:10 PM, February 11, 2008  
Blogger Jared said...

Dear Nishijima Roshi,

Thank you very much for your reply, it was extremely helpful.


1:48 AM, February 12, 2008  
Blogger vinegar-daoist said...

The "craving" for meat is a habit. There is no temptation, there is only desire and a choice which is either practical or not; that either accomplishes what you want or not; is either advantageous for you or not, there is no temptation.

IMO, your body and metabolism have evolved to eat meat as you came from meat eaters, omnivores. However, what is important is what your body needs to be healthy and how to best get what you need to be healthy so you can practise zazen with as little distraction as possible.

Zazen is not about food or drink. IMO, these things are irrelevant, they do not contribute or distract from zazen or buddhism except in a practical sense.

As for the lack or respect in the death of the animals or the way in which they are treated, there is meat that did not come to you that way and could be eaten. When meat is set before you you do not know the circumstances under which the animal was treated or killed.

Although there is an interdependence among all people and their actions I do not think we are thereby made responsible for the actions of others as though we contributed to the conditions or death.

To the extent we can change those actions through our actions we can do that. Does abstinence change those actions or simply protest those actions? Is abstinence an attempt to exonerate ourselves of a guilt we do not bear? Is abstinence an artificial abstract we overlay on reality or a reflection or reality?

What is the practical affect of abstinence? If you desire to eat meat, eat meat in moderation. If there is a concern for how animals are treated and killed it is not really about Buddhism although it may be a personal concern.

If it is a personal concern there is meat that can be eaten which came from animals humanely treated and killed. If it is about ethics it is not about Buddhist ethics IMO as I don't think Buddhism has "ethics" in the usual sense of the word.

But then what do I know? ;-). Less and less each day I find!

How you are doing well!

2:34 AM, February 22, 2008  
Blogger vinegar-daoist said...

Drinking green tea now!

4:26 AM, February 22, 2008  
Blogger Unknown said...

Dear Master Nishijima,

What is Dogen Zenji's relationship to Shojin Ryori?



7:29 AM, January 17, 2010  

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