Theravāda Buddhism and Vegetarianism

 

 

 

 

 

 

A Review and Study Guide

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bhikkhu Mahinda

(Anāgārika Mahendra)


Library of Congress Control Number: 2021918106

 

Second Edition 2022

 

ISBN: 978-0-9990781-6-7 – Paperback/Softcover

 

© 2019, 2022 Dhamma Publishers

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itivuttaka@gmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

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Dedication

To all whom I have wronged –

In This Life and in Past Lives;

Intentionally and Unintentionally;

Bodily, Verbally, and Mentally –

I see my transgressions as transgressions, ask for forgiveness, and undertake future restraint.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bhikkhus, a lay follower should not engage in these five trades.  What five?  Trading in weapons, trading in living beings, trading in meat, trading in intoxicants, and trading in poisons.  A lay follower should not engage in these five trades.”                                                                                  (NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta)

 

Behavior in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous behavior, is better than behavior contrary to the Dhamma, unrighteous behavior.  Dhanañjāni, there are other kinds of work, profitable and in accordance with the Dhamma, by means of which one can support ones parents and at the same time both avoid doing evil and practise merit.”                                                                        (MLDB 97 Dhanañjāni Sutta)


Gratitude

I am thankful to all the kalyāṇamittā who have introduced me to the Dhamma, helped me understand it, and encouraged me all along.  All the Dhamma teachers and writers have helped me enormously in learning the multi-faceted Dhamma through their teachings, talks, and writings.  Without all these erudite translations extant in English, I wouldn’t have been able to read and understand the Dhamma and make connections between the teachings to arrive at a framework, as presented in this book.  The clearly understandable and meaningful Dhamma contained herein is due to them – all errors and misunderstandings are mine alone.

A lion’s share of the quotations in this book is taken from the CDB, MLDB, NDB, and Sn-B translations by Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi.  It was due to his very kind and generous unfettered and unconditional permission to use whatever was needed and his running interference to make this a reality that the reader holds this book in her hands.  Similarly Wisdom Publications, in particular Daniel Aitken and Alexandra Makkonen, are thanked for their kind and meritorious help in granting permission to use the quoted material from the CDB, LDB, MLDB, NDB, and Sn-B translations.  While a majority of the quotes fall under the Fair Use dictum, the long quotations are used and reprinted with the kind permission of Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi and Wisdom Publications.  May they all enjoy abundant fruits of this highly meritorious activity resulting in heavenly happiness here and now and leading onwards to Nibbāna.

Grateful thanks are also due to University of Chicago Press and Ms. Whitney Rauenhorst for their kind permission to use the quotes from EA-NM.

VRI-India, Mr. S. P. Goenka, and Mr. Lokesh Goenka are thanked for their gracious permission to reproduce the CST edition Pāḷi source text in the book.  All Pāḷi text prefixed with CST is taken from the VRI CST.  Gratitude is due and expressed to all the monasteries and meditation centers that have willingly taken on the task of distributing this book.

This book was completed while I stayed at the Sumathipāla Arañña, Kanduboda, Sri Lanka under the guidance of Venerable Pemāsiri Bhante.  All the donors and supporters in Sri Lanka are thanked for their kind and generous contributions of time and material that helped make this book a reality.

Using a concept currently in vogue that uses “crowd” to do activities (e.g. crowd-sourcing, crowd-funding, etc.), I thought why shouldn’t we do a “crowd-reviewing” of this book by Buddhist monastics and laity alike?  So we did and I would like to thank the reviewers who did a thorough review and helped make this book a better product.  Of particular note is the extremely detailed help provided by Janemarie Duh, a kalyāṇamitta I have known for long.  She went thru the entire book methodically, doing both copy-editing and reviewing to make the book more readable and understandable.

Big thanks are also due to Sri Lanka Immigration for extending my visa to complete this book.

Mr. Nalin Ariyarathne, as always, has done a superlative book layout and cover design, and thanks are due to Ms. Pooja Gokul for the permission to use the Sanchi Torana sketch in the back cover logo.

May they all share bountifully in the merits of this work.  May all beings share in the merits of this work.  May all beings be happy, be peaceful, be liberated.

 

Sumathipāla Arañña, Kanduboda

Sri Lanka

January 2022

itivuttaka@gmail.com


Guide to Pāḷi Pronunciation

The Pāḷi alphabet consists of:

Vowels:

§  a (as in “cut” or “us”)

§  ā (as in “ah” or “art”)

§  i (as in “king” or “is”)

§  ī (as in “keen” or “eel”)

§  u (as in “put”)

§  ū (as in “rule” or “boon”)

§  e (as in “way” or “end”)

§  o (as in “home” or “ox”)

§  e and o are long before a single consonant (“me” & “bone”)

§  e and o are short before a double consonant (“end” & “ox”)

 

Consonants:

§  Gutturals: k, kh, g, gh, ṅ

§  Palatals: c, ch, j, jh, ñ

§  Cerebrals: ṭ, ṭh, ḍ, ḍh, ṇ (tongue on roof of mouth)

§  Dentals: t, th, d, dh, n (tongue behind upper teeth)

§  Labials: p, ph, b, bh, m

§  Semivowels: y, r, ḷ, l, v

§  Sibilant: s

§  Aspirate: h

§  Niggahīta: ṃ (like ng in “song”)

§  Among the consonants, g is always pronounced as in “good,” c as in “church,” ñ as in “onion”.

§  The aspirates kh, gh, ch, jh, ṭh, ḍh, th, dh, ph, bh are single consonants pronounced with slightly more force than the non-aspirates, thus th as in “Thomas” (not as in “thin”), ph as in “puff” (not as in “phone”).

§  Double consonants are always enunciated separately, thus dd as in “mad dog,” gg as in “big gun.”

§  An o and an e always carry a stress; otherwise the stress falls on a long vowel ā, ī, ū, or on a double consonant, or on ṃ.

 

(Courtesy Venerables Balangoda Ānanda Maitreya and Bhikkhu Bodhi)

Table of Contents

Dedication  iv

Gratitude  v

Guide to Pāḷi Pronunciation  vii

Table of Contents  viii

Bibliography and Abbreviations  xi

Preface  xv

Chapter One – Introduction  1

Chapter Two – What Lord Buddha Taught  5

§2.1 Introduction  5

§2.2 Right View   6

§2.3 Right Intention  17

§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood  20

§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing  29

§2.6 Sacrifice and Giving  37

§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth  46

§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) 63

§2.9 Comparison with Meat  71

§2.10 Comparison with Vegetarian Items  75

§2.11 Offerings to the Saṅgha  77

§2.12 Standard for Offering Meat  88

§2.13 Food as Nutriment  92

§2.14 Conclusion  96

Chapter Three – What Emperor Ashoka Wrote  99

§3.1 Introduction  99

§3.2 Reading  100

§3.3 Discussion  108

§3.4 Conclusion  111

Chapter Four – What the Bharhut Sculptor Thought  117

§4.1 Introduction  117

§4.2 Reading  118

§4.3 Discussion  130

§4.4 Conclusion  134

Chapter Five – What We Nought and What We Ought  135

§5.1 Criteria For Judgment  135

§5.2 What We Nought  137

§5.3 What We Ought  139

§5.4 Tying the Loose Ends  142

§5.5 Exhortation  142

Appendix One: Types of Giving and Brahma-Vihārā  145

Appendix Two: Vinaya and Meat  151

§A2.1 Meat As Medicine  151

§A2.2 Lord Buddha As The Role Model  152

§A2.3 The Best Medicine  152

§A2.4 Meat As Food  154

§A2.5 Devadatta’s Demands 154

Appendix Three: More on Meat  159

§A3.1 Āmisa & Sāmisa versus Nirāmisa  159

§A3.2 Meaning of Māṃsa  162

Appendix Four: FAQs  163

§A4.1 Meat, Merits, & Monks  163

§A4.2 Refrigeration, Transportation, & Storage of Meat  165

§A4.3 Donating Meat to A Monastic  165

§A4.4 Food Fights  166

Appendix Five: Emperor Ashoka  168

Appendix Six: Notable Teachings and Quotes  171

§A6.1 Venerable Ledi Sayadaw   171

§A6.2 Venerable Mun Bhuridatta  171

§A6.3 Upāsikā Kee Nanayon  172

§A6.4 Venerable Mahāsī Sayadaw   173

§A6.5 Venerable Ajaan Lee  174

§A6.6 Venerable Ajahn Chah  174

Appendix Seven: Seven People With Merits  177

Similes And Metaphors  178

Index of Suttā References  179

Index of Vinaya References  188

Pāḷi-English Glossary  189

List of Books by Bhikkhu Mahinda (Anāgārika Mahendra) 214

Learn Buddhism App  215

 


Bibliography and Abbreviations

AN             CST Aṅguttara Nikāya.

BHA1         BHARHUT on Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bharhut).

BHA2         BHARHUT on Jatland Wiki (http://www.jatland.com/w/index.php?title=Bharhut&oldid=169485).

BL              Burlingame, Eugene Watson; Buddhist Legends – Dhammapada Commentary (3 Volumes), Harvard University Press.  1921 Edition.  PDF Edition from www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net.

BP              Burlingame, Eugene Watson; Buddhist Parables, Yale University Press.  1922 Edition.  PDF Edition from www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net.

CDB           Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi; The Connected Discourses of the Buddha: A New Translation of the Saṃyutta Nikāya (Teachings of the Buddha), Wisdom Publications.  2000 Kindle Edition.

CHAH        Ajahn Jayasaro; Stillness Flowing: The Life and Teachings of Ajahn Chah, 2017, Panyaprateep Foundation.

CP              Bhikkhu, Mahinda; Cariyāpiṭakapāḷi – Book of Basket of Conduct: A Contemporary Translation, First Edition, Dhamma Publishers.  2022 Kindle Edition.

CST            Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyanā Tipiṭaka 4.0.0.15 Electronic Edition copyright © 1995 Vipassana Research Institute.

                  See footnote on “4.2 Reading CST Jātakapāḷi” for abbreviations used by CST.

DHP           CST Dhammapadapāḷi.

DPPN        Malalasekera, G. P.; Dictionary of Pāḷi Proper Names (Online Version: http://www.aimwell.org/DPPN/index.html).

EA-NM      Nikam, N. A. and McKeon, Richard (editors and translators); The Edicts of Asoka, University of Chicago Press.  1978 Midway Reprint Edition.

EA-TM       Talim, Meena (translator); Edicts of King Asoka – A New Vision, Aryan Books International.  2010 First Edition.

GDB           Venerable Nyanaponika Thera and Hecker, Hellmuth; Great Disciples of the Buddha: Their Lives, Their Works, Their Legacy (Teachings of the Buddha), Wisdom Publications.  2003 Kindle Edition.

GOM1       Gombrich, Richard; “Ashoka – The Great Upāsaka” in King Ashoka and Buddhism, Anuradha Seneviratna (editor); 1994 BPS Edition.

HBC           Walpola, Venerable Rahula; History of Buddhism in Ceylon: The Anuradhapura Period, 1956 Colombo Edition.

ITI              Bhikkhu, Mahinda; Itivuttakapāḷi – Book of This was Said: A Contemporary Translation, Second Edition, Dhamma Publishers.  2022 Kindle Edition.

JAT1          Rhys Davids, T. W. (translator), and Rhys Davids, C. A. F. (revised edition); Buddhist Birth Stories, Trübner & Co Ltd.  1880 Edition.

JAT2          Cowell, E. B. (editor) and Chalmers, Robert (translator); Jātakapāḷi – Stories of the Buddha’s Former Births, Volume 1, Cambridge University Press.  1895 Edition.

KEE            Upāsikā Kee Nanayon (author) and Venerable Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu (translator); Going Against the Flow.  Access to Insight Edition (https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/kee/theflow.html).

LDB            Walshe, Maurice; The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya (Teachings of the Buddha), Wisdom Publications.  1987, 1995 Kindle Edition.

LEE            Ajaan Lee Dhammadharo (author) and Venerable Ṭhānissaro Bhikkhu (translator); Autobiography of Ajaan Lee.  Access to Insight Edition (https://www.accesstoinsight.org/lib/thai/lee/index.html).

LDB            Walshe, Maurice; The Long Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Dīgha Nikāya (Teachings of the Buddha), Wisdom Publications.  1987, 1995 Kindle Edition.

LS              Venerable Sitagu Sayādaw; A Short Biography of Venerable Ledi Sayadaw, Pariyatti Books.  PDF Edition from pariyatti.org (pages unnumbered).

MBT          Venerable Mahā Boowa Ñāṇasampanno (author) and Bhikkhu Dick Sīlaratano (translator); Biography of Venerable Mun Bhūridatta Thera, Forest Dhamma Books.  2004 Edition.  PDF Edition from forestdhammabooks.com.

MIL1          Horner, I. B.; Milindapañhapāḷi-Milinda’s Questions, Volume 1, Pali Text Society.  1996 Edition.

MIL2          Horner, I. B.; Milindapañhapāḷi-Milinda’s Questions, Volume 2, Pali Text Society.  1999 Edition.

MLDB        Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi; The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha: A Translation of the Majjhima Nikāya (Teachings of the Buddha), Wisdom Publications.  2005 Kindle Edition.

MN            CST Majjhima Nikāya.

NDB           Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi; The Numerical Discourses of the Buddha: A Complete Translation of the Aṅguttara Nikāya (Teachings of the Buddha), Wisdom Publications.  2012 Kindle Edition.

PATH         McGee, Joah; Golden Path, 2015, Pariyatti.

SBE4          Rhys Davids, T. W. and Oldenberg, Hermann; Sacred Books of the East: Volume 4, Vinaya Texts: Pātimokkha & Mahāvagga, Clarendon Press Oxford.  1882 Edition.

SBE17        Rhys Davids, T. W. and Oldenberg, Hermann; Sacred Books of the East: Volume 17, Vinaya Texts: Mahāvagga & Cūḷavagga, Clarendon Press Oxford.  1882 Edition.

SBE20        Rhys Davids, T. W. and Oldenberg, Hermann; Sacred Books of the East: Volume 20, Vinaya Texts: Cūḷavagga, Clarendon Press Oxford.  1885 Edition.

SN             CST Saṃyutta Nikāya.

Sn-B          Venerable Bhikkhu Bodhi; The Suttanipāta: An Ancient Collection of the Buddha’s Discourses Together with Its Commentaries (Teachings of the Buddha), Wisdom Publications.  2017 Kindle Edition.

THAG         Bhikkhu, Mahinda; Theragāthāpāḷi – Book of Verses of Elder Bhikkhus: A Contemporary Translation, Second Edition, Dhamma Publishers.  2022 Kindle Edition.

THIG          Bhikkhu, Mahinda; Therīgāthāpāḷi – Book of Verses of Elder Bhikkhunis: A Contemporary Translation, Second Edition, Dhamma Publishers.  2022 Kindle Edition.

UD             Bhikkhu, Mahinda; Udānapāḷi – Book of Inspired Utterances: A Contemporary Translation, Dhamma Publishers.  2022 Kindle Edition.

Online Dictionaries

DICT-P       (1) PTS Pāḷi-English Dictionary–http://dsal.uchicago.edu/dictionaries/pali/

DICT-S       (2) Sanskrithttp://andhrabharati.com/dictionary/sanskrit/index.php#ws-1

DICT-W      (3) Wisdom Library–http://www.wisdomlib.org/

Other References

Gaziano, Joe and Lewis, Jacquie; All Beings are Equal but Some are More Equal than Others: Buddhism and Vegetarianism in the U.S., Western Buddhist Review 2013, Volume 6 (https://thebuddhistcentre.com/westernbuddhistreview?display=latest).

Gethin, Rupert; Can Killing a Living Being Ever Be an Act of Compassion?  The analysis of the act of killing in the Abhidhamma and Pãli Commentaries, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume 11, 2004 (http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/).

Horner, Isaline; Early Buddhism and Taking of Life, BPS Wheel Number 104.  2008 BPS Online Edition (http://www.bps.lk/library-search-select.php?id=wh104).

Micic, Nikola; Science: Why Eggs Are Not Vegetables, Hinduism Today Magazine, July-September 2019 (https://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5949).

Stewart, James; Violence and Nonviolence in Buddhist Animal Ethics, Journal of Buddhist Ethics, Volume 21, 2014 (http://blogs.dickinson.edu/buddhistethics/).

Venerable Ānandajoti Bhikkhu; Translation of Apadānapāḷi-1 39.10.  PDF Edition from www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net (https://www.ancient-buddhist-texts.net/Texts-and-Translations/Connection-with-Previous-Deeds/index.htm).

Venerable Dhammika Shravasti; To Eat or Not to Eat Meat: A Buddhist Reflection, Buddha Dhamma Mandala Society Singapore.  2010 Edition.

Venerable Bhikkhu Sujato; Why Buddhists Should be Vegetarian, https://sujato.wordpress.com/2012/01/28/why-buddhists-should-be-vegetarian-with-extra-cute/,  2012.

Zangpo, Shenphen; Releasing Life, Corporate Body of Buddha Educational Foundation.  2004 PDF Edition (http://ftp.budaedu.org/ebooks/pdf/EN175.pdf).


 

Preface

The present book is an attempt to comprehensively survey and review the Sutta Piṭaka teachings in terms of the role of vegetarianism in Buddhism.  To accomplish this, I have followed a two-pronged strategy.  One, most of the known English translations were scanned to identify related teachings.  Two, I also used the built-in word search function within CST to search for key words related to food, meat, and so on.  However, due to the variety of declensions and words used in combinations, I must have missed many such word usages.

While it would be easy to organize and survey the teachings by the book in which they appear, for our purposes such a survey would be of limited use.  So, these teachings are organized by both the limbs of the Noble Eightfold Path and by topics of interest.  Some teachings are necessarily, and many times intentionally, repeated across multiple sections with the hope that such repetition will help the reader connect the dots better.

Notes on Pāḷi Text

In this book, I have tried to minimize the number of translations I have had to do and focused more on sewing the concepts together to present a unified whole.  However, in some cases, I have done translations – especially seeing how the Nigrodhamigajātakaṃ translation was dated by over 100 years.

When translating, I have not attempted any linguistic or grammatical comparison or analysis and have largely gone with translating the CST edition, except when an alternate version from a different source (as identified in the CST source) made better sense.  In most cases, such information can be gleaned from the notes.

As with my previous translations, I have not been overly concerned with the commentarial exegesis but in the case of Apadānapāḷi, Dhammapadapāḷi, Jātakapāḷi, Theragāthāpāḷi, and Therīgāthāpāḷi – all of which contain only verses – we must resort to the commentaries (both Pāḷi original as well as English translations) to get the story.

While Dhammapadapāḷi has many verses (e.g. 6, 129-130, 131-132, 270, and 405) dealing with non-violence and killing, only the verses that have a background story matching with killing of beings are included and discussed herein.

I have compared my Nigrodhamigajātakaṃ (Banyan Deer Birth-Story) translation with both Rhys Davids and E. B. Cowell translations (JAT1 and JAT2, respectively).  And I must state I stand deeply indebted to them for clarifying many confusing language usages.

This leaves us with a few technical things to be noted.

Notes on Translation

1.         I have NOT translated Buddha, Tathāgata, Arahant, Dhammā, Saṅghā, Nibbāna, Bhikkhu, Bhikkhuni, Brahma, Brāhmaṇā, Devā, Devatā, and Kamma (and their derivations) except as noted in glossary and/or notes.

a.                  Dhamma/Dhammā, when translated, has been translated as nature.

b.                  Kamma/kammā, when translated, has been translated as work (in Nigrodhamigajātakaṃ – Banyan Deer Birth-Story translation).

2.         For my translations, both the Pāḷi text in Roman Diacritics as well as the English translation is provided in this book so it is easy for interested readers to compare them.

3.         For my translations, a full Pāḷi-English glossary that provides both original and deconstructed Pāḷi terms and their English translations will help the reader understand how Pāḷi words are constructed and what each constituent word means.

4.         Since this is an English translation, all the references provided are to the contemporary English translations so that it’s easy for the reader to follow up the references provided and deepen their understanding.

5.         In the information quoted from DPPN, for the sake of brevity, references to Pāḷi sources have been removed (and replaced by references to contemporary English translations, as far as references can be tracked).  The DPPN source is from the online edition.

6.         Translations in the notes and appendices are from the sources as indicated.

7.         A note on the punctuation and quotation style – I have chosen to keep all punctuation outside the quotation marks, so I have used the UK style (“.) rather than the US style (.”).

Notes on Quotations and Copyrights

For all the quotes in this book where the source is mentioned as CDB, LDB, MLDB, NDB, or Sn-B, the quote is reproduced with full credit and grateful thanks to the respective copyright holders and sometimes under the fair use guidelines.

Similarly, all the quotes from EA-NM are reproduced with deep thanks and full credit to the University of Chicago Press and Ms. Whitney Rauenhorst.

All the quotes from EA-TM are reproduced with deep thanks and full credit to the Aryan Books International and Meena Talim.

All the original Pāḷi source text in this book where the source is mentioned as CST is taken from “Chaṭṭha Saṅgāyanā Tipiṭaka 4.0.0.15 Electronic Edition” © 1995 Vipassana Research Institute and is reproduced with full credit and grateful thanks to the Vipassana Research Institute, India.

A note on the purpose and use of this book

The very first criticism this book received was “does a project like this lead to peace”?  In my opinion, the answer is an emphatic yes because what this book focuses is not on proving or disproving a view or a food philosophy.  We don’t start with a hypothesis like “vegetarianism is the only way” or “non-vegetarianism is the wrong way”.  The book isn’t about proving the superiority of one view or another.  The objective is to learn how to give up views about food and instead, use food as the means of austerity, as a tool, to reach the objective: Nibbāna.  If this book is used in an appropriate way, it can lead to purification of virtue as well as view.  And one may ask: what is an “appropriate” way?  In this case, the appropriate way would be to not strongly adhere to any view – whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian – and being easy to admonish.

Ideally, this book should be read sequentially, in the order as given.  However, those who are pressed for time or are interested in getting the gist of the conclusions can start with Chapter 5 and from there on, follow the references given for each of the conclusions.  Also, the appendices contain much additional information on vital topics which required detailed treatment and should not be overlooked.

It is my sincere hope that this book helps clarify the place of vegetarianism in the dispensation and the potential role it can play in purifying the virtue and the view, when used as an aide or as an austerity.  I trust this book conveys a clear and emphatic understanding of not having any views about food – whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian.  If one chooses to be a vegetarian, it should be without any view and solely to live a compassionate lifestyle.  Furthermore, no one should take this book as an extolling of vegetarianism as the right way and a denigrating of non-vegetarianism as the wrong way, as will become abundantly clear.  There is no intention to offend anyone in any way or create new camps that lead to verbal wars, fights, quarrels, and schisms.  The ultimate hope is that it will bring all these camps related to food under the roof of Dhamma and help cleanse the view.

What’s new in this Edition

This is a completely reworked edition, with numerous grammatical and textual changes to the entire book.  Many Pāḷi terms have been modified and now they have been standardized across all the translations I have authored.  All the DPPN info has been updated as well as several new references have been incorporated.

The sections on Venerables Mahāsī Sayadaw, Ajaan Lee, and Ajahn Chah in “Appendix 6: Notable Teachings and Quotes” and “Appendix 7: Seven People With Merits” are newly added.

This edition also corrects one glaring mistake of the First Edition.  In there, I had described Emperor Ashoka as a stream-enterer in Chapter One, Footnote 65 on “§3.1 Introduction” section, and in “§3.3 Discussion” section.  No Sri Lankan source states Ashoka to be a stream-enterer so I stand corrected. 

If this book offends anyone, I sincerely apologize because that is neither the intention nor the purpose.  On the other hand, if this book helps clarify the teachings and generate the right view for even one reader, then this effort has been very worthwhile.


Namo tassa bhagavato arahato sammāsambuddhassa

Veneration to the Blessed One, Arahant, Rightly Self-Enlightened

Chapter One – Introduction

 

For people hailing from the Indian subcontinent – in particular for those belonging to the Dharmic religions, as compared and contrasted to Abrahamic religions [1] – and for many others who are attracted to Buddhism, a core component of their initial attraction is the expectation that Buddhism as a religion espousing non-violence to even the tiniest creatures, would certainly be the one where they would find vegetarianism in full swing and it would be a relatively easy transition.  Imagine their surprise when they find out that it isn’t so and that in particular in the Theravāda tradition prevalent in South Asia as well as it’s transplanted temples and monasteries worldwide, meat and fish are served not only to monks but also offered to the Buddha rūpa!  This also acts as a damper for the lay people from other Buddhist traditions such as Mahāyāna who are attracted to Theravāda because of the early teachings.

In certain cases, this leads to confusion while in many other cases, it leads to giving up on Buddhism based on the first impressions and categorizing it as yet another sectarian religion embracing meat-eating and thus extolling violence – directly or indirectly.  Neither outcome would be considered a skillful one by a practitioner of Lord Buddha’s teachings.  Even those who don’t give up and are still curious enough to investigate further discover, time and again, that this topic is never addressed in the sermons, is usually not a part of the advice, and is not touched upon except for formulaically reciting it as part of the taking precepts ceremony.  Most books on Buddhism are also silent on this topic and when they do discuss it, they do so in a perfunctory manner.  Whenever arguments are made for or against vegetarianism, those arguments spring forth from the ideologies of ethics, animal rights, prevention of cruelty against animals, egalitarianism, ecological considerations, and so on.  While being fully cognizant of these ideologies and their merits, I feel that even though the Theravāda Pāḷi canon is rich in the teachings related to food, no attempt, to my knowledge, has been made so far to systematically survey the entire Sutta Piṭaka and connect the teachings to get guidance on this topic of vital import.

Furthermore, in absence of specific guidance, most people take the precepts and then depending on their own interpretation, decide what exactly the precepts mean.  As a real-life example, the fifth precept of not taking intoxicants is misunderstood by some educated lay people (who are not conversant with Pāḷi language) as permission to consume liquor in the middle way (say one shot a day)! [2]  And if this is the case of educated lay people, imagine what others may think and do.  In the same way, the first among all precepts, the precept of not killing and harming any being (pāṇātipātā) has been much misunderstood, variously interpreted, and subject of many a heated discussion.  Most informed Theravādan followers would quote Jīvaka Sutta or Āmagandha Sutta in support of their position of eating meat-fish-eggs, without understanding how it ties up with the rest of the teachings.  All this leads one to the direction 180 degree opposite to Nibbāna.

On the other hand, vegetarians themselves many a time follow vegetarianism as a view, expecting that being a vegetarian in itself is a sufficient condition to be liberated.  This in turn leads to a sense of superiority, conceit, and a misplaced sense of accomplishment and complacency.  This too is a direction 180 degree opposite to Nibbāna.

A few major questions always come up in these kinds of discussions such as “why did Lord Buddha allow eating of meat”? and “why did he not outright prescribe vegetarianism and proscribe meat-eating”?  These are good questions and as we go along, some of the answers will manifest themselves.

In light of this, I propose to look at the concept of vegetarianism based on the earliest teachings that have been handed down to us.  Our focus in this book is exclusively on the Pāḷi or the Southern canon, as the name of the book clearly suggests.  We will review and focus on the canonical texts to reduce the chances of later interpolations, additions, and interpretations clouding the matter.  This means we will mostly be looking at the Sutta Piṭaka and not so much at the commentaries – except in the case of Apadānapāḷi, Dhammapadapāḷi, Jātakapāḷi, Theragāthāpāḷi, and Therīgāthāpāḷi; where we must take the help of commentaries to understand the story behind the verse(s).  For other books of the Pāḷi canon, our review of the commentaries would be surface-scratching only, if that.  Also, we will not cherry-pick suttā in terms of what scholars think is early and what is late, or what supports vegetarianism and what supports non-vegetarianism.  If we find it in the canonical books, we will use it – period.

This is a book for the Buddhist laity, though everyone is welcome to learn from it.  Since it focuses on providing guidance to the laity, Vinaya Piṭaka is not very relevant to our discussion here but whatever we can learn from it that can guide us, we will gladly do.  The infamous episode of Devadatta asking Lord Buddha to order monks to live by five rules, even though properly belonging to the Vinaya Piṭaka, will be discussed in full to extract lessons from it.

We will also look at the source – closest to Lord Buddha in terms of time – put down on stones that cannot be doubted as to its authenticity and timing.  These are the edicts of Emperor Asoka, who ruled over a vast empire over most of the Indian sub-continent in the 3rd century BCE.  He is the first of the four Dhamma Emperors extolled in the Buddhist literature and was the Chief Patron of the Third Council at Pāṭaliputta.  Under his patronage, Buddhism was propagated to various countries, including sending his own son Venerable Mahinda and daughter Venerable Saṅghamittā to Sri Lanka.  In fact, this is what Richard Gombrich has to say about Ashoka and his wide-ranging influence:

“Asoka has been the model for rulers all over the Buddhist world.  Within the next thousand years at least five kings of Sri Lanka prohibited the killing of animals”. [3]

In the same vein, most likely under the influence of Ashokan traditions, the greatest Khmer Buddhist Emperor Jayavarman VII; the builder of the mystical Bayon, Ta Prohm, and Preah Khan temples at Angkor Wat; built 121 "houses with fire" (rest houses) every fifteen kilometers along raised highways for travelers, and 102 hospitals (from the inscription at the Prasat Pra Khan). [4]

Another source on stone we will look at is the Nigrodha Miga Jātaka (Banyan Deer Birth-Story) depicted on the world-famous stupa of Bharhut (100-125 BCE, in the Indian Museum, Kolkata, India).  This jātaka, along with a few other jātakā, was chosen from 547 jātakā to be carved on the railing of the Bharhut Stupa in the 2nd century BCE.  This tells us of the enormous importance attached to this jātaka in the times of yore – when the Dhamma was not yet so much in decline.  We will review the story behind this jātaka to learn what message it conveys.

Chapter Five is where we will wind up the discussion with the guidance: what not to do and what to do.

While reading this book, remember what we are trying to elicit is extremely subtle and difficult to see Dhamma.  We are first making dots across various teachings, and then connecting those dots and teachings to arrive at an outline of a picture – like a student using a connect-the-dots picture to make a bird or animal and then color it.  The chapters and the sections (most of the time) successively build on the previous ones but I have not been able to explicitly identify many linkages and provide requisite glue – due to the limitations of space, of time, and of myself.  You may need to read through some or all of the sections multiple times to connect the dots and get the picture in full.

Do keep in mind the following two qualities of a disciple in higher training as we begin our journey – (1) the ability to recall and recollect what was done and spoken long ago (in our case, this means the ability to remember and connect the teachings), and (2) being easy to admonish by not strongly adhering to views and relinquishing those views easily (in our case, this applies to the adherents of both the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian views):

MLDB 53 Sekha Sutta:

16. “He has mindfulness; he possesses the highest mindfulness and skill; he recalls and recollects what was done long ago and spoken long ago” (emphasis added).

MLDB 15 Anumāna Sutta:

5. (16) “Again, a bhikkhu does not adhere to his own views or hold on to them tenaciously, and he relinquishes them easily; this is a quality that makes him easy to admonish“ (emphasis added).


Chapter Two – What Lord Buddha Taught

 

In this chapter, we will study and review the teachings of Lord Buddha in two different ways: as they relate to the selected limbs of the Noble Eightfold Path and as they relate to the topics of interest.  Necessarily, there will be some repeating of teachings across the limbs and the topics but such repetitions are meant to help with clarifying the understanding as well as linking the teachings together in a coherent whole.

The limbs of the Noble Eightfold Path we will review are:

·         Right View

·         Right Intention

·         Right Action and Right Livelihood

In the topical review, the teachings will be reviewed under the headings of:

·         First Precept of Non-killing

·         Kammā and Rebirth

·         Sacrifice and Giving

·         Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings)

·         Comparison with Meat

·         Comparison with Vegetarian Items

·         Offerings to the Saṅgha

·         Standard for Offering Meat

·         Food as Nutriment

§2.1 Introduction

The Noble Eightfold Path (ariyo aṭṭhaṅgiko maggo) has eight factors or limbs, divided into the three divisions of Morality or Virtue (Sīla), Concentration (Samādhi), and Wisdom (Paññā), as shown in the table below.

 

Table 2.1: Noble Eightfold Path – Limbs and Divisions

 

Individual Limbs (Aṇga)

Divisions or Aggregates (Khandha)

1.                   

Right View (sammādiṭṭhi)

Wisdom (Paññā)

2.                   

Right Intention (sammāsaṅkappo)

3.                   

Right Speech (sammāvācā)

Morality (Sīla)

4.                   

Right Action (sammākammanto)

5.                   

Right Livelihood (sammāājīvo)

6.                   

Right Effort (sammāvāyāmo)

Concentration (Samādhi)

7.                   

Right Mindfulness (sammāsati)

8.                   

Right Concentration (sammāsamādhi)

 

Please note that the two limbs that make up the Wisdom division – right view and right intention – are listed first when we speak of the Noble Eightfold Path in terms of the individual limbs but when we speak of the Noble Eightfold Path in terms of the divisions, the division they are part of is always listed at the end (Sīla, Samādhi, and Paññā).  The importance of this fact will become apparent in the next section.

A second very important point to keep in mind throughout this study guide is the following discussion that took place between the lay male devotee Visākha and the arahant Therī Venerable Dhammadinnā (in lay-life, she was wife of the lay devotee Visākha):

MLDB 44 Cūḷavedalla Sutta:

11. “Lady, are the three aggregates included by the Noble Eightfold Path, or is the Noble Eightfold Path included by the three aggregates”?

The three aggregates are not included by the Noble Eightfold Path, friend Visākha, but the Noble Eightfold Path is included by the three aggregates.  Right speech, right action, and right livelihood – these states are included in the aggregate of virtue.  Right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration – these states are included in the aggregate of concentration.  Right view and right intention – these states are included in the aggregate of wisdom” (emphasis added).

What this means – in simple terms – is when one follows the Noble Eightfold Path and perfects right speech, right action, and right livelihood; one hasn’t perfected the entire Sīla or Morality division because that division encompasses the three factors of Sīla (right speech, right action, and right livelihood) and there is still more that remains to be done.  And what is that more that remains to be done?  We will try to answer that as we progress through this book.

With that said, let us review the relevant teachings for each of the limbs of the Noble Eightfold Path that are pertinent to the discussion at hand.

§2.2 Right View

One of the question that always comes up is “Why this insistence on having the right view”?  Let us answer it before we analyze right view in depth:

CDB 47.3 A Bhikkhu Sutta:

[Here, a bhikkhu approaches and asks Lord Buddha for Dhamma in brief using which he can meditate ardently]

“Let the Blessed One teach me the Dhamma in brief!  Let the Fortunate One teach me the Dhamma in brief!  Perhaps I may understand the meaning of the Blessed One’s statement; perhaps I may become an heir of the Blessed One’s statement.”

Well then, bhikkhu, purify the very starting point of wholesome states.  And what is the starting point of wholesome states?  Virtue that is well purified and view that is straight.  Then, bhikkhu, when your virtue is well purified and your view straight, based upon virtue, established upon virtue, you should develop the four establishments of mindfulness in a threefold way” (emphasis added).

In the previous section, we stated that as a factor, right view is first but as a division, morality is first.  This sutta answers why – virtue that is purified is before the view that is straight [right].  In fact, the purified virtue is the bedrock for the view that is straight [right].  Purified virtue and the right view – mundane when we start practicing and supramundane as we penetrate to the Dhamma – are the necessary foundations for a successful practice and progress on the path.

One more thing: the four establishments of mindfulness mentioned in the sutta above are called the direct path to Nibbāna in MLDB 10 Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta.  Therefore, the stronger the foundation with well-purified virtue and a straight view, the better the practice and the outcome.

Moving on to the right view, it is of two kinds: mundane and supramundane.  Keep in mind as you read the following that arriving at right view requires right effort and right mindfulness – they go hand-in-hand.

MLDB 117 Mahācattārīsaka Sutta:

4. “Therein, bhikkhus, right view comes first.  And how does right view come first?  One understands wrong view as wrong view and right view as right view: this is one’s right view.

5. “And what, bhikkhus, is wrong view?  ‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed; no fruit or result of good and bad actions; no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have realized for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’  This is wrong view.

6. “And what, bhikkhus, is right view?  Right view, I say, is twofold: there is right view that is affected by taints, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions; and there is right view that is noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path.

7. “And what, bhikkhus, is right view that is affected by the taints, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions?  ‘There is what is given and what is offered and what is sacrificed; there is fruit and result of good and bad actions; there is this world and the other world; there is mother and father; there are beings who are reborn spontaneously; there are in the world good and virtuous recluses and brahmins who have realized for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’  This is right view affected by taints, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions.

8. “And what, bhikkhus, is right view that is noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path?  The wisdom, the faculty of wisdom, the power of wisdom, the investigation-of-states enlightenment factor, the path factor of right view in one whose mind is noble, whose mind is taintless, who possesses the noble path and is developing the noble path: this is right view that is noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path.

9. “One makes an effort to abandon wrong view and to enter upon right view: this is one’s right effort.  Mindfully one abandons wrong view, mindfully one enters upon and abides in right view: this is one’s right mindfulness.  Thus these three states run and circle around right view, that is, right view, right effort, and right mindfulness” (emphasis added).

What is important to note here is that the mundane right view is the right view that is based on kammā.  Here is another definition of the supra-mundane right view:

CDB 12.15 Kaccānagotta Sutta:

“This world, Kaccāna, is for the most part shackled by engagement, clinging, and adherence.  But this one [with right view] does not become engaged and cling through that engagement and clinging, mental standpoint, adherence, underlying tendency; he does not take a stand about ‘my self.’  He has no perplexity or doubt that what arises is only suffering arising, what ceases is only suffering ceasing.  His knowledge about this is independent of others.  It is in this way, Kaccāna, that there is right view.  “ ‘All exists’: Kaccāna, this is one extreme.  ‘All does not exist’: this is the second extreme.  Without veering towards either of these extremes, the Tathāgata teaches the Dhamma by the middle: With ignorance as condition, volitional formations [come to be]; with volitional formations as condition, consciousness.  ... Such is the origin of this whole mass of suffering.  But with the remainderless fading away and cessation of ignorance comes cessation of volitional formations; with the cessation of volitional formations, cessation of consciousness.  ... Such is the cessation of this whole mass of suffering” (emphasis added).

This second definition clarifies for us that the supra-mundane right view looks at phenomenon in terms of only suffering arising and suffering ceasing.  One who has arrived at such an understanding is called “independent in the dispensation” and “arrived at this true Dhamma” (see next sutta) – a stream-enterer.

And here is the right view defined in terms of the first four precepts plus the three roots of wholesome and unwholesome:

MLDB 9 Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta:

3. “When, friends, a noble disciple understands the unwholesome and the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome and the root of the wholesome, in that way he is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has unwavering confidence in the Dhamma and has arrived at this true Dhamma.

4. “And what, friends, is the unwholesome, what is the root of the unwholesome, what is the wholesome, what is the root of the wholesome?  Killing living beings is unwholesome; taking what is not given is unwholesome; misconduct in sensual pleasures is unwholesome; false speech is unwholesome; malicious speech is unwholesome; harsh speech is unwholesome; gossip is unwholesome; covetousness is unwholesome; ill will is unwholesome; wrong view is unwholesome.  This is called the unwholesome.

5. “And what is the root of the unwholesome?  Greed is a root of the unwholesome; hate is a root of the unwholesome; delusion is a root of the unwholesome.  This is called the root of the unwholesome.

6. “And what is the wholesome?  Abstention from killing living beings is wholesome; abstention from taking what is not given is wholesome; abstention from misconduct in sensual pleasures is wholesome; abstention from false speech is wholesome; abstention from malicious speech is wholesome; abstention from harsh speech is wholesome; abstention from gossip is wholesome; uncovetousness is wholesome; non-ill will is wholesome; right view is wholesome.  This is called the wholesome.

7. “And what is the root of the wholesome?  Non-greed is a root of the wholesome; non-hate is a root of the wholesome; non-delusion is a root of the wholesome.  This is called the root of the wholesome.

8. “When a noble disciple has thus understood the unwholesome and the root of the unwholesome, the wholesome and the root of the wholesome, he entirely abandons the underlying tendency to lust, he abolishes the underlying tendency to aversion, he extirpates the underlying tendency to the view and conceit ‘I am,’ and by abandoning ignorance and arousing true knowledge he here and now makes an end of suffering.  In that way too a noble disciple is one of right view, whose view is straight, who has unwavering confidence in the Dhamma, and has arrived at this true Dhamma” (emphasis added). [5]

MLDB 98 Vāseṭṭha Sutta:

36. “Who has laid aside the rod, against all beings frail or bold;

Who does not kill or have them killed: he is the one I call a brahmin”

(emphasis added).

MLDB 73 Mahāvacchagotta Sutta:

4. “Vaccha, greed is unwholesome, non-greed is wholesome; hate is unwholesome, non-hate is wholesome; delusion is unwholesome, non-delusion is wholesome.  In this way three things are unwholesome and the other three things are wholesome.

5. “Killing living beings is unwholesome, abstention from killing living beings is wholesome; ...”.

Looking at these definitions, it is clear that for both mundane and supramundane right view, the essential fact is to understand kammā and its implications (we will review this in detail in “§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth” section), what is wholesome and what is not, and developing both the virtue (morality) and the right view that provides a solid foundation for the practice.

It’s very important to understand that “who does not kill or have them killed” means that the excuse and thinking of ‘someone else kills, I just eat it’ disappears.

We saw the definitions of the wrong view in MLDB 117 Mahācattārīsaka Sutta and MLDB 9 Sammādiṭṭhi Sutta above but it helps to put that knowledge in practical perspective by looking at a few examples of wrong view, particularly as related to food.

Examples of Wrong View:

LDB 24 Pāṭika Sutta:

1.11. ‘Once, Bhaggava, I was staying at Vesālī, at the Gabled Hall in the Great Forest.  And at that time there was a naked ascetic living in Vesālī called Kaḷāramuṭṭhaka who enjoyed great gains and fame in the Vajjian capital.  He had undertaken seven rules of practice: “As long as I live I will be a naked ascetic and will not put on any clothes; as long as I live I will remain chaste and abstain from sexual intercourse; as long as I live I will subsist on strong drink and meat, abstaining from boiled rice and sour milk; as long as I live I will never go beyond the Udena shrine to the east of Vesālī, the Gotamaka shrine to the south, the Sattamba shrine [10] to the west, nor the Bahuputta shrine to the north.”  And it was through having undertaken these seven rules that he enjoyed the greatest gains and fame of all in the Vajjian capital” (emphasis added).

In this case, while Kaḷāramuṭṭhaka the naked ascetic enjoyed great gains and fame and survived on strong drinks and meat, abstaining from rice and sour milk, he certainly didn’t attain Nibbāna.  In fact, as the sutta states later, it came to pass that Kaḷāramuṭṭhaka the naked ascetic got clothed, was married, subsisted on boiled rice and sour milk, went beyond all four shrines, and died having lost all his reputation.  This is the wrong view related to non-vegetarianism.

Now, following is the wrong view related to vegetarianism.

MLDB 12 Mahāsīhanāda Sutta:

45: ... “I accepted no fish or meat, I drank no liquor, wine, or fermented brew. ... I was an eater of greens or millet or wild rice or hide-parings or moss or ricebran or rice-scum or sesamum flour or grass or cowdung.  I lived on forest roots and fruits; I fed on fallen fruits” [as part of austerities].

52-55: “Sāriputta, there are certain recluses and brahmins whose doctrine and view is this: ‘Purification comes about through food.’  They say: ‘Let us live on kola-fruits,’ ... ‘Let us live on beans,’ ... ‘Let us live on sesamum,’ ... ‘Let us live on rice,’ and they eat rice, they eat rice powder, they drink rice water, and they make many kinds of rice concoctions. ...”

56: “Yet, Sāriputta, by such conduct, by such practice, by such performance of austerities, I did not attain any superhuman states, any distinction in knowledge and vision worthy of the noble ones” (emphasis added).  [6]

What is important to note is that vegetarianism is the only wrong view that requires four paragraphs (52 to 55) to describe it fully which shows the strength of the vegetarianism when grasped incorrectly as a wrong view.  The other five kinds of wrong views (not quoted above) are described in a paragraph each.

For those inclined to think that this must mean “being a vegetarian equals having a wrong view”, wait – do not jump to that conclusion yet.  If you haven’t already noticed, even the fifth precept of not taking intoxicants is used here as an example of the wrong view (“I drank no liquor, wine, or fermented brew”).  Does that mean we say “being a non-drinker means having a wrong view’?  Certainly not.

So, it’s not the case that one should start or stop taking intoxicants with wrong view but the case that one should not take intoxicants with the right view that intoxicants make a person become heedless and lose mindfulness. [7]  Similarly, one should not become vegetarian with a wrong view that this is a sufficient condition to liberate them or with a wrong view that ‘Purification comes about through food’.  Instead, vegetarianism when practiced should be with the right view and for the right reasons.  So, what are the right reasons?  Let us review them next.

Another important point to keep in mind is that if such views about food are held incorrectly, they can lead to the fetter of wrong grasp of rites and rituals (sīlabbataparāmāsa), which can keep one from progressing further on the path.  This fetter, one of the five lower fetters, must be broken to attain stream-entry – the first level of realization.

MLDB 24 Rathavinīta Sutta:

9. “Is the holy life lived under our Blessed One, friend?” – “Yes, friend.”

“But, friend, is it for the sake of purification of virtue that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One?” – “No, friend.”

“Then is it for the sake of purification of mind that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One?” – “No, friend.”

“Then is it for the sake of purification of view that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One?” – “No, friend.”

“Then is it for the sake of purification by overcoming doubt that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One?” – “No, friend.”

“Then is it for the sake of purification by knowledge and vision of what is the path and what is not the path that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One?” – “No, friend.”

“Then is it for the sake of purification by knowledge and vision of the way that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One?” – “No, friend.”

“Then is it for the sake of purification by knowledge and vision that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One?” – “No, friend.”

10. “...For the sake of what then, friend, is the holy life lived under the Blessed One?” – “Friend, it is for the sake of final Nibbāna without clinging that the holy life is lived under the Blessed One” (emphasis added).

The MLDB 24 Rathavinīta Sutta is a supremely interesting and enlightening sutta on multiple fronts but most of all, it tells us why and how the holy life is lived under the Blessed One; and while the final goal is Nibbāna and not the seven purifications, we must still engage in these seven purifications, starting with the purification of virtue, to reach Nibbāna.  The example given in the sutta to convey this understanding is that of relay chariots to travel from Sāvatthī to Sāketa, two cities in ancient India in the Kingdom of Kosala.  As an early 20th century example, before the time of jet planes, say one would fly from NYC to Toronto to Reykjavik to London to Paris to Cairo to Karachi to Mumbai.  If asked in Mumbai “did you come on this plane from NYC?”, the flier will have to answer in the negative and will have to describe all seven flights and the route.  Similarly, to reach Nibbāna, one must practice through all these seven stages of purifications; they are like the successive steps on the ladder, the connecting flights on the itinerary.  To get to the top step of the ladder, Nibbāna, you must step-up through each step of the ladder.  To reach the final destination, you must take each flight in the order listed.  We understand this correctly when we read the MLDB 24 Rathavinīta Sutta in conjunction with §2.14 Conclusion LDB 1 Brahmajāla Suttaand learn that the first stage of purification of virtue (elemental matters of morality – vegetarianism and refraining from addiction to meat) is a vital first purification in the seven purifications leading onwards to Nibbāna.

Thus, vegetarianism as a view is a wrong view and doesn’t lead to liberation and in fact may become the fetter of “wrong grasp of rites and rituals” (sīlabbataparāmāsa) and tie one to the saṃsāra ever more tightly.  One should adopt vegetarianism as a practice in accordance with the teachings so it may conduce for the good of the practitioner for a long time to come and lead her onwards to Nibbāna.  On the other hand, non-vegetarianism as a view, based on a faulty and improper understanding of the teachings, is a wrong view too because it ignores the well-being of others and is an approach full of cruelty and is non-conducive to developing the Brahma-Vihārā of loving-friendliness, compassion, and altruistic joy.  Furthermore, being an addiction (see §2.14 Conclusion LDB 1 Brahmajāla Sutta”), non-vegetarianism creates very strong craving and greed for tastes.

It is for such grasps that people end up with that Lord Buddha gave the simile of the snake: a person needing a snake must grasp the snake correctly otherwise the snake may turn back and bite him, leading to death or deadly suffering.  Do note as you read the sutta below that the one grasping the snake incorrectly is called a misguided man (i.e. an outsider to the Dhamma) while one grasping the snake correctly is called a clansman (i.e. an insider to the Dhamma).

MLDB 22 Alagaddūpama Sutta:

10. ... Suppose a man needing a snake, seeking a snake, wandering in search of a snake, saw a large snake and grasped its coils or its tail.  It would turn back on him and bite his hand or his arm or one of his limbs, and because of that he would come to death or deadly suffering.  Why is that?  Because of his wrong grasp of the snake.  So too, here some misguided men learn the Dhamma. ... Why is that?  Because of the wrong grasp of those teachings.

11. ... “Suppose a man needing a snake, seeking a snake, wandering in search of a snake, saw a large snake and caught it rightly with a cleft stick, and having done so, grasped it rightly by the neck.  Then although the snake might wrap its coils round his hand or his arm or his limbs, still he would not come to death or deadly suffering because of that.  Why is that?  Because of his right grasp of the snake.  So too, here some clansmen learn the Dhamma. ... Why is that?  Because of the right grasp of those teachings” (emphasis added).

MLDB 36 Mahāsaccaka Sutta:

5: “Well, there are, for example, Nanda Vaccha, Kisa Sankicca, Makkhali Gosāla.  ...  they accept no fish or meat, they drink no liquor, wine, or fermented brew” (emphasis added). [8]

This sutta reiterates the vegetarian wrong view again – and it is held by the sectarian teachers of the wrong, non-emancipating teachings.  To give an example the reader might be familiar with, Hitler was a vegetarian as well as a teetotaler.  Neither of these attributes made him a compassionate person; let alone an enlightened one.  On the other hand, using Hitler as an example and saying “all vegetarians and teetotalers are evil and no one should practice vegetarianism and everyone must drink” is similar to throwing the baby out with the bathwater.  A practitioner of the teachings would not indulge in either of these extremes because they espouse wrong views.

In the two suttā reviewed (MLDB 12 Mahāsīhanāda Sutta and MLDB 36 Mahāsaccaka Sutta), as can be seen, both Bodhisatta and the sectarian teachers have the same wrong view which is non-emancipating and must be relinquished to progress on the path.  Some wise and knowledgeable people here may think: “sectarian teachers having wrong view makes sense but Bodhisatta too”?  The answer is simple: before becoming fully enlightened, Bodhisatta may temporarily adopt a practice thinking this will lead to Nibbāna.  He will also practice under sectarian teachers.  And he does all this, engages in all this not-leading-anywhere-and-sometimes-regressing-practices with boundless compassion.  So that as the unparalleled teacher of the devā and humans, he can tell them what are the dead ends, what isn’t profitable to pursue, and what should be cultivated.

Arising of Right and Wrong Views:

NDB 2.125:

“Bhikkhus, there are these two conditions for the arising of wrong view.  What two?  The utterance of another [person] and careless attention.  These are the two conditions for the arising of wrong view”.

NDB 2.126:

“Bhikkhus, there are these two conditions for the arising of right view.  What two?  The utterance of another [person] and careful attention.  These are the two conditions for the arising of right view”.

NDB 10.106 Wearing Away Sutta:

(1) “For one of right view, wrong view is worn away, and the numerous bad unwholesome qualities that originate with wrong view as condition are also worn away, and with right view as condition, numerous wholesome qualities reach fulfillment by development”.

We see that the same conditions generate either the wrong view or the right view.  This is similar to what we see in the physical world around us: the same land, sunlight, water, and fertilizer give rise to both mangoes and bitter melons – one unbelievably sweet and the other so bitter.  Hence the need to associate with a kalyāṇamitta (“people of integrity”) – a friend who is interested in your true welfare.  Also note that both conditions listed in NDB 2.126 – “utterance of another” (parato ca ghoso) and “careful attention” (yoniso manasikāro) are two of the four factors for stream-entry (the remaining two factors being “associating with people of integrity” and “practice in accordance with the Dhamma”).

We also see that to wear away the wrong view we have to arouse the right view (which in turn requires right effort and right mindfulness).  And the right view in the beginning is always the mundane right view related to kammā.

Let us round up this section on right view with what are proclaimed to be the Brahmin Truths:

NDB 4.185 Brahmin Truths Sutta:

Wanderers, there are these four brahmin truths that I have proclaimed, having realized them for myself with direct knowledge.  What four?

(1) “Here, wanderers, a brahmin says thus: ‘All living beings are to be spared.’  Speaking thus, a brahmin speaks truth, not falsehood.  He does not, on that account, misconceive himself as ‘an ascetic’ or as ‘a brahmin.’  He does not misconceive: ‘I am better’ or ‘I am equal’ or ‘I am worse.’  Rather, having directly known the truth in that, he is practicing simply out of sympathy and compassion for living beings.

(2) “Again, a brahmin says thus: ‘All sensual pleasures are impermanent, suffering, and subject to change.’ ... he is practicing simply for disenchantment with sensual pleasures, for their fading away and cessation.

(3) “Again, a brahmin says thus: ‘All states of existence are impermanent, suffering, and subject to change.’ ... he is practicing simply for disenchantment with states of existence, for their fading away and cessation.

(4) “Again, wanderers, a brahmin says thus: ‘I am not anywhere the belonging of anyone, nor is there anywhere anything in any place that is mine.’ ... he is practicing the path of nothingness” (emphasis added). [9]

We will discuss this sutta at other appropriate places but do keep in mind the facts of the first brahmin truth: all living beings are to be spared; without any misconceptions or conceit; and only out of compassion and sympathy.  The importance of this sutta cannot be overemphasized: it lists non-violence as the first brahmin truth, followed by two of the three taints (āsavā) that keep us bound to the round of existences, and finally the meditation to remove identity or personality view, which appears at only three places: here, in NDB 3.70 Uposatha Sutta (in relation to Nigaṇṭhā), and in MLDB 106.8 Āneñjasappāya Sutta (Pāḷi source is identical across them but English translations differ slightly).  To clarify matters a little more, removing identity or personality view makes one a stream-enterer.  Also, the sutta clearly states all living beings are to be spared and there are no pre-conditions.  One cannot cheat with this first brahmin truth by saying “all living beings are to be spared – except the ones I am going to eat, or the ones others will kill, or the ones already dead”.  One who understands this brahmin truth with a right view becomes incapable of partaking of any food that comes about as a result of violence to beings – all the various rules and injunctions about acceptability of meat-fish-eggs notwithstanding.  With that said, let us review right intention.

§2.3 Right Intention

We just saw in NDB 4.185 Brahmin Truths Sutta what should be the intention for not killing anything: compassion and sympathy for living beings.

Moving on: right intention is of two kinds – mundane and supramundane.  Also keep in mind as you read the following that arriving at right intention requires right view, right effort, and right mindfulness – they go hand-in-hand.

MLDB 117 Mahācattārīsaka Sutta:

10. “Therein, bhikkhus, right view comes first.  And how does right view come first?  One understands wrong intention as wrong intention and right intention as right intention: this is one’s right view.

11. “And what, bhikkhus, is wrong intention?  The intention of sensual desire, the intention of ill will, and the intention of cruelty: this is wrong intention.

12. “And what, bhikkhus, is right intention?  Right intention, I say, is twofold: there is right intention that is affected by taints, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions, and there is right intention that is noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path.

13. “And what, bhikkhus, is right intention that is affected by taints, partaking of merit, ripening in the acquisitions?  The intention of renunciation, the intention of non-ill will, and the intention of non-cruelty: this is right intention that is affected by taints ... ripening in the acquisitions.

14. “And what, bhikkhus, is right intention that is noble, taintless, supramundane, a factor of the path?  The thinking, thought, intention, mental absorption, mental fixity, directing of mind, verbal formation in one whose mind is noble, whose mind is taintless, who possesses the noble path and is developing the noble path: this is right intention that is noble ... a factor of the path.

15. “One makes an effort to abandon wrong intention and to enter upon right intention: this is one’s right effort.  Mindfully one abandons wrong intention, mindfully one enters upon and abides in right intention: this is one’s right mindfulness.  Thus these three states run and circle around right intention, that is, right view, right effort, and right mindfulness” (emphasis added).

Another definition of right intention and wrong intention follows.  While reading the following, keep in mind that intention and view go hand-in-hand.  When you have the right view, it’s very likely your intentions will be right too – and vice-versa.

MLDB 41 Sāleyyaka Sutta: [10]

10. “And how, householders, are there three kinds of mental conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct?  Here someone is covetous; he covets the wealth and property of others thus: ‘Oh, may what belongs to another be mine!’  Or he has a mind of ill will and intentions of hate thus: ‘May these beings be slain and slaughtered, may they be cut off, perish, or be annihilated!’  Or he has wrong view, distorted vision, thus: ‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed; no fruit or result of good and bad actions; no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have themselves realized by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’  That is how there are three kinds of mental conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct.  So, householders, it is by reason of such conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, by reason of such unrighteous conduct that some beings here on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in states of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell. ...

14. “And how, householders, are there three kinds of mental conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct?  Here someone is not covetous; he does not covet the wealth and property of others thus: ‘Oh, may what belongs to another be mine!’  His mind is without ill will and he has intentions free from hate thus: ‘May these beings be free from enmity, affliction and anxiety!  May they live happily!’  He has right view, undistorted vision, thus: ‘There is what is given and what is offered and what is sacrificed; there is fruit and result of good and bad actions; there is this world and the other world; there is mother and father; there are beings who are reborn spontaneously; there are good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have themselves realized by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’ That is how there are three kinds of mental conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct.  So, householders, it is by reason of such conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, by reason of such righteous conduct that some beings here, on the dissolution of the body, after death, reappear in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world” (emphasis added).

In simple terms, what this means is when we are interested in animals as part of our food-chain and something to eat and enjoy, it’s not really possible for us to wish ‘May these beings be free from enmity, affliction and anxiety!  May they live happily!’  How can they live happily and live long when one or another of us is after them?  How can they be free of fear and enmity if they are always afraid to end up on a platter or between two pieces of bread?  How can one generate the right intention if one is accustomed to eating them and seeing them as food?  Can a lion or a cheetah on the Serengeti Plain, seeing a newly born-not-yet-walking wildebeest baby ever think “Wow, what a beautiful baby, may you live happily and peacefully”?  That would be impossible (unless the lion or cheetah happened to be a Bodhisatta).  For a lion or a cheetah, that wildebeest baby is nothing more than an easy lunch, gained without too much trouble, a benefit visible and available in the present.  Similarly, until one gives up the notion of looking at animals as food, it’s almost impossible to generate the right intention of non-cruelty.

To generate the right intention, one has to start with right view and hence all things, including the Noble Eightfold Path, begin with the right view – and again, the right view in the beginning is always the mundane right view related to kammā.

Arising of Right and Wrong Intention:

NDB 10.106 Wearing Away Sutta:

(2) “For one of right intention, wrong intention is worn away, and the numerous bad unwholesome qualities that originate with wrong intention as condition are also worn away, and with right intention as condition, numerous wholesome qualities reach fulfillment by development”.

MLDB 114 Sevitabbāsevitabba Sutta: [11]

42. “ ‘ Sāriputta, Almsfood is of two kinds, I say: to be cultivated and not to be cultivated.  So it was said by the Blessed One.  And with reference to what was this said?

Venerable sir, such almsfood as causes unwholesome states to increase and wholesome states to diminish in one who cultivates them should not be cultivated.  But such almsfood as causes unwholesome states to diminish and wholesome states to increase in one who cultivates them should be cultivated“ (emphasis added, a composite of 41 and 42 with minor edits).

With these two suttā, we see that:

To wear away the wrong intention we have to arouse the right intention (which in turn requires right view, right effort, and right mindfulness) and we should stay away from any food that causes unwholesome states such as craving, lust, hate, and intentions of cruelty to arise.

§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood

Right action and right livelihood are two separate limbs but, since both deal with bodily or physical actions, they are almost inseparable so we will treat them together under the same heading here.

MLDB 117 Mahācattārīsaka Sutta:

23. “And what, bhikkhus, is wrong action?  Killing living beings, taking what is not given, and misconduct in sensual pleasures: this is wrong action”.

MLDB 41 Sāleyyaka Sutta: [12]

8. “And how, householders, are there three kinds of bodily conduct not in accordance with the Dhamma, unrighteous conduct?  Here someone kills living beings; he is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. ...

12. “And how, householders, are there three kinds of bodily conduct in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous conduct?  Here someone, abandoning the killing of living beings, abstains from killing living beings; with rod and weapon laid aside, gentle and kindly, he abides compassionate to all living beings”.

Again, the key understanding to develop here is to unsubscribe from the notion of: “I don’t kill anything – I only buy dead things”.  Without a purchaser, there cannot  be a seller and a butcher.  Also see the story of Venerables Mahākassapa and Bhaddā Kāpilānī later in this section.

Now, here is a description of how an untrue man acts and holds views:

MLDB 110 Cūḷapuṇṇama Sutta:

10. “And how does an untrue man act as an untrue man?  Here an untrue man kills living beings, takes what is not given, and misconducts himself in sensual pleasures.  That is how an untrue man acts as an untrue man.

11. “And how does an untrue man hold views as an untrue man?  Here an untrue man holds such a view as this: ‘There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed; no fruit or result of good and bad actions; no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have realized for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world.’  That is how an untrue man holds views as an untrue man”.

Here, the word used for the untrue person is the same as the one used for describing the “person of no integrity” – one must stop being a “person of no integrity” to progress towards stream-entry – the first level of enlightenment.

MLDB 117 Mahācattārīsaka Sutta provides a definition of wrong livelihood but that is applicable mostly to Buddhist monastics and not so much to laity (with some exceptions).  For our purposes, the seminal definition of wrong livelihood for Buddhist laity is this:

NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, a lay follower should not engage in these five trades.  What five?  Trading in weapons, trading in living beings, trading in meat, trading in intoxicants, and trading in poisons.  A lay follower should not engage in these five trades” (emphasis added).

This is a sutta of utmost importance for us as Buddhist laity.  All these injunctions are meant to eliminate both killing as well as the means of killing.  By not trading in weapons or poisons, one stops providing means of destruction to people – whether to destroy self or others.  By not trading in living beings – whether for slaughter, for riding, for circus, for milk, for eggs, for wool, et. al. – one eliminates causes of cruelty and killing.  By not trading in meat, one eliminates the destruction of living beings.  And by not trading in intoxicants, one stops providing means of heedlessness to others; using which means they could become heedless and kill, maim, or murder.

The most misunderstood word common across all five injunctions is “trade” (vaṇijjā).  In the standard Theravāda understanding, most people assume that “trade” means these injunctions apply to the seller and not to the buyer.  What they fail to take in account is the fact that the term trade, by very definition, implies two parties: a seller and a buyer.  Trade is NOT an activity undertaken by one party (e.g. seller) in a vacuum.  Trade does NOT mean selling only.  If the intention was to only prohibit selling but allow buying, as some Theravādans contend, Lord Buddha would have used the term vikkiṇāti (= selling) instead of vaṇijjā (= trading, buying and selling)NDB 6.18 The Fish Dealer Sutta, which we will review shortly, uses the term vikkiṇāti which is correctly translated there as selling.

In the Government of India, there is the वाणिज्य एवं उद्योग मंत्रालय (Vāṇijya evaṃ Udyog Mantrālaya) which is translated by the Government of India as “Ministry of Commerce and Industry”.  According to the mistaken Theravādan understanding stated above, it should be translated as “Ministry of Selling and Industry” – and since there is no separate ministry for buying, natural implication would be that only selling needs a ministry, buying doesn’t need one!

Further, in the olden times, bartering was far more prevalent, as reported in several jātakā, and only in very large cities were there merchants and guilds that operated on money concept.

In fact, it would be hypocritical, farcical, and non-sensical to say that as Buddhist laity, we cannot sell gun, cow, beef, whisky, and poison; but as Buddhist laity, we can buy the same five things.  In this case, buying gun and poison will be against the first precept, and buying whisky or any other intoxicants will be against the fifth precept.

One more clarification.  As we will see in “§2.11 Offerings to the Saṅgha” section, we have only three cases (one of which is doubtful) in the Sutta Piṭaka of lay disciples offering meat to Lord Buddha and Saṅgha: Ugga of Vesālī, Sīha, and Cunda.  Therefore, someone here can argue that Lord Buddha allowed lay disciples to buy and offer meat to the Saṅgha.  In the absence of the exact chronology of every sutta, it is equally likely that after seeing these cases of lay disciples offering meat to the Saṅgha, the NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta was preached to make those lay disciples aware of the kamma they were creating by offering meat.  And it’s also possible that in the absence of quick global communications like nowadays; the message of NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta hadn’t yet reached Cunda so he still offered “sūkaramaddavaṃ” to Lord Buddha.

To summarize, Buddhist laity should not engage in these five trades – no matter which side of the counter they are on.

Thus, this begs the question: if there is no animal seller, no butcher, no meat seller, and no meat buyer in a village – pray tell where does the question of getting meat arise?  And how can one serve meat if there is no meat-trade anywhere?  This is the basic tenet that is largely missing in most discussions of this topic.  Instead of looking at Lord Buddha’s teachings like a lawyer to identify loopholes to support various cravings, we must look at the teachings like a true seeker of our own welfare.  For, who else can help oneself but one herself?

Arising of Right and Wrong Action and Livelihood:

NDB 10.106 Wearing Away Sutta:

(4) “For one of right action, wrong action is worn away, and the numerous bad unwholesome qualities that originate with wrong action as condition are also worn away, and with right action as condition, numerous wholesome qualities reach fulfillment by development.

(5) “For one of right livelihood, wrong livelihood is worn away, and the numerous bad unwholesome qualities that originate with wrong livelihood as condition are also worn away, and with right livelihood as condition, numerous wholesome qualities reach fulfillment by development” (emphasis added).

NDB 5.133 The King Sutta:

“So too, bhikkhu, the Tathāgata, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One, the righteous king of the Dhamma, relying just on the Dhamma, honoring, respecting, and venerating the Dhamma, taking the Dhamma as his standard, banner, and authority, provides righteous protection, shelter, and guard for the bhikkhus ... for the bhikkhunīs ... for the male lay followers ... for the female lay followers, saying: (1) ‘Such bodily action should be cultivated; such bodily action should not be cultivated.  (2) Such verbal action should be cultivated; such verbal action should not be cultivated.  (3) Such mental action should be cultivated; such mental action should not be cultivated.  (4) Such livelihood should be cultivated; such livelihood should not be cultivated.  (5) Such a village or town should be resorted to; such a village or town should not be resorted to.’

“Having provided such righteous protection, shelter, and guard, the Tathāgata, the Arahant, the Perfectly Enlightened One, the righteous king of the Dhamma, sets in motion the unsurpassed wheel of the Dhamma solely through the Dhamma, a wheel that cannot be turned back by any ascetic, brahmin, deva, Māra, or Brahmā, or by anyone in the world” (emphasis added, edited for length).

What is extremely important here is to note that providing such righteous protection, shelter, and guard about what right action and right livelihood should be cultivated is a preliminary to setting the Dhamma wheel rolling – a supremely important and auspicious event for the Dhamma dispensation to begin and light up the world.

NDB 9.5 Powers Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, there are these four powers.  What four?  The power of wisdom, the power of energy, the power of blamelessness, and the power of sustaining a favorable relationship.

“These, bhikkhus, are the four powers.  When a noble disciple possesses these four powers, he has transcended five fears.  What five?  (5) Fear of [loss of] livelihood, (6) fear of disrepute, (7) fear of timidity in assemblies, [365] (8) fear of death, and (9) fear of a bad destination.  The noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am not afraid on account of my livelihood. ... I am not afraid of disrepute. ... I am not afraid of timidity in assemblies. ... I am not afraid of death. ... I am not afraid of a bad destination.  Why should I be afraid on account of my livelihood?  I have the four powers: the power of wisdom, the power of energy, the power of blamelessness, and the power of sustaining a favorable relationship.  An unwise person might be afraid on account of his livelihood; a lazy person might be afraid on account of his livelihood; a person who engages in blamable bodily, verbal, and mental action might be afraid on account of his livelihood; a person who does not sustain favorable relationships might be afraid on account of his livelihood” (emphasis added, edited for length).

This sutta guides us in choosing the right action as well as right livelihood – one that is blameless.  And this does not apply only to a butcher or a fisherman – if you are making sushi at the local super market or selling live lobsters for people to cook at home or slicing the salami or honey-baked ham – such professions are equally blamable and so is being involved in any meat-trade or bartering.  The two verses below are from one of the most-recited protective and blessing sutta.  These verses advise Buddhist laity what are some of the highest blessings in life: an honest occupation and blameless deeds.

Sn-B 2.4 Mahāmaṅgala Sutta:

262. “Serving one’s mother and father, maintaining a wife and children,

and an honest occupation: this is the highest blessing.

263. “Giving and righteous conduct, assistance to relatives,

blameless deeds: this is the highest blessing” (emphasis added).

And here’s Venerable Sāriputta’s advice to Brahmin Dhanañjāni on actions and livelihood:

MLDB 97 Dhanañjāni Sutta:

Behavior in accordance with the Dhamma, righteous behavior, is better than behavior contrary to the Dhamma, unrighteous behavior.  Dhanañjāni, there are other kinds of work, profitable and in accordance with the Dhamma, by means of which one can support ones parents and at the same time both avoid doing evil and practise merit” (emphasis added).

Examples of Wrong Action and Wrong Livelihood:

NDB 3.119 Activity Sutta:

Bhikkhus, there are these three failures.  What three?  Failure in activity, failure in livelihood, and failure in view.

(1) “And what is failure in activity?  Here, someone destroys life ... and indulges in idle chatter.  This is called failure in activity.

(2) “And what is failure in livelihood?  Here, someone is of wrong livelihood and earns a living by a wrong type of livelihood.  This is called failure in livelihood.

(3) “And what is failure in view?  Here, someone holds wrong view and has an incorrect perspective thus: ‘There is nothing given ... there are in the world no ascetics and brahmins of right conduct and right practice who, having realized this world and the other world for themselves by direct knowledge, make them known to others.’  This is called failure in view” (emphasis added).

[And the counter-qualities are called accomplishments: accomplishment in activity, accomplishment in livelihood, and accomplishment in view].

NDB 4.216 and 4.226 state that failure in livelihood leads to hell and much demerit while success in livelihood leads to heaven and much merit.

NDB 6.18 The Fish Dealer Sutta:

On one occasion the Blessed One was wandering on tour among the Kosalans together with a large Saṅgha of bhikkhus.  Then, while traveling along the highway, in a certain spot the Blessed One saw a fish dealer killing fish and selling them.  He left the highway, sat down on a seat that was prepared for him at the foot of a tree, and addressed the bhikkhus: “Bhikkhus, do you see that fish dealer killing fish and selling them?”

“Yes, Bhante.”

(1) “What do you think, bhikkhus?  Have you ever seen or heard that a fish dealer, killing fish and selling them, might, by means of this work and livelihood, travel around by elephant or horse, by chariot or vehicle, or enjoy wealth or live off a large accumulation of wealth?

“No, Bhante.”

“Good, bhikkhus.  I too have never seen or heard of such a thing.  For what reason?  Because he looks on cruelly at the captive fish as they are brought for slaughter.  Therefore he does not travel around by elephant or horse, by chariot or vehicle, or enjoy wealth or live off a large accumulation of wealth.

[The same is then repeated for a cattle butcher, a butcher of sheep, a butcher of pigs, a butcher of poultry, and a butcher of deer]

“Bhikkhus, one who looks on cruelly at captive animals as they are brought for slaughter will not travel around by elephant or horse, by chariot or vehicle, or enjoy wealth or live off a large accumulation of wealth.  What then can be said about one who looks on cruelly at a condemned human being brought up for slaughter?  This will lead to his harm and suffering for a long time.  With the breakup of the body after death, he will be reborn in the plane of misery, in a bad destination, in the lower world, in hell” (emphasis added, edited for length). [13]

Here, Lord Buddha is making a direct connection that when an action or occupation is conducted with the intentions of ill-will and cruelty, the result is always ill for the doer of that kammā.

A very natural question will arise at this point – especially for the audience that grew up, and is growing up, under the influence of the golden arches, king, and colonel – “If that is so, then why do we see the mass butchers who count burgers in billions (and advertise it on the billboards to boot) and meat in train-loads; the industrial fishers who catch fishes by ship-loads plying the five oceans; making tons of money and getting rich like there is no tomorrow”?  A very valid question and the answer is this:

(1)   We can’t fathom the workings of the kammā in terms of when their kammā will ripen and bring results for them (kammā being one of the four imponderables). [14]

(2)   Lord Buddha’s teachings and the Dhamma are timeless but the examples he gives are necessarily dictated by the milieu within which he teaches.  He must employ the principle of skillful means to give examples his audience can see, understand, and grasp – something that can quicken their journey to Nibbāna.

This also brings up the story of Venerables Mahākassapa and Bhaddā Kāpilānī, the former husband and wife in lay-life.  I briefly paraphrase the story below but those interested should read it up fully in GDB.

It is said that when Venerables Mahākassapa and Bhaddā Kāpilānī took charge of their estate upon the death of the parents of Venerable Mahākassapa, they observed the reality firsthand and renounced household that very day.  What reality was it that they observed?  As a large land-owner, Venerable Mahākassapa saw his servants ploughing and tilling the fields and in doing so, turning the earth and bringing up the worms which were being eaten by the birds.  When he asked who will bear the consequences of this kammā, he was told he will as the owner.  This transformed his outlook on the household life completely.  Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Venerable Bhaddā Kāpilānī also underwent the same experience and transformation: her maid-servants were drying sesame seeds, and birds were eating the worms attracted by the seeds, and upon asking who will bear the consequences of this kammā, she was told she will as the owner.  This was the “enough is enough” moment for both of them and they renounced that very day, giving up all their wealth. [15]

At this point, another question – an argumentative one to be sure – will raise its head: since farming and agriculture also result in the death of so many creatures as we just read above – isn’t it hypocritical to say don’t kill chicken but it’s OK to kill earthworms to grow wheat?  From one perspective, it would appear so but that perspective is on the extreme end of vegetarianism and is a wrong view – we will discuss this further in “§2.13 Food as Nutriment” section.  We must not be a vegetarian because of a wrong view on vegetarianism.  If there is any solace it would be this: the number of living beings dying in agricultural activities are far less compared to in supporting a non-vegetarian diet.  Another point is this: far more of the agricultural products are grown to feed the livestock which then are killed to feed humans – so there is a double whammy, as it were, with a non-vegetarian diet: first kill beings to grow the crops and feed them to animals, and then slaughter those animals.

The unassailable fact is this – any human activity invariably results in the death of creatures: you walk and many beings die under your feet; you drive and they get squashed on the windscreen; you do the laundry and many small creatures lose life.  The question is where to draw the line and that is where the essence, the genius, the marvel of this Dhammā-Vinayā lies:

(1)   Draw the line where one can see what one could have eaten but chose not to and instead developed loving-friendliness, compassion, and altruistic joy for those creatures and gave them the boon of fearlessness.

(2)   Draw the line where the action was not done because of wrong view.

(3)   Draw the line where the action was done without wrong intentions of lust, hate, cruelty, and craving for the tastes.

(4)   Draw the line where the death and destruction of the creatures is minimized.

We must chart a middle path of consciously choosing to grant the boon of fearlessness to as many creatures as possible while taking care not to fall down in the ditches on the either side: over-zealous vegetarianism or creature-unconscious omnitarianism.

Coming back to the story, it tells us that farming out the bad deeds, both literally and figuratively, doesn’t work.  We can’t just put the burden of kammā on the owner of the slaughterhouse, owner of the fishing ship, owner of the franchise chain, and so on.  If you have the intention or participate in the collective kammā, then you must bear the consequences of that evil kammā – in part or in full, but bear you must.  For, so it is said:

MLDB 130.4 Devaduta Sutta:

“Then King Yama says: ‘Good man, did it never occur to you – an intelligent and mature man – “I too am subject to birth, I am not exempt from birth: surely I had better do good by body, speech, and mind”?’  He says: ‘I was unable, venerable sir, I was negligent.’  Then King Yama says: ‘Good man, through negligence you have failed to do good by body, speech, and mind.  Certainly they will deal with you according to your negligence.  But this evil action of yours was not done by your mother or your father, or by your brother or your sister, or by your friends and companions, or by your kinsmen and relatives, or by recluses and brahmins, or by gods: this evil action was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result’ “ (emphasis added).

We will conclude the story of Venerables Mahākassapa and Bhaddā Kāpilānī in “§2.13 Food as Nutriment” section, where we will review Venerable Mahākassapa’s verses from THAG.  Now let us continue with our theme of reviewing Examples of Wrong Action and Wrong Livelihood:

MLDB 51 Kandaraka Sutta: [16]

9. “What kind of person, bhikkhus, torments others and pursues the practice of torturing others?  Here a certain person is a butcher of sheep, a butcher of pigs, a fowler, a trapper of wild beasts, a hunter, a fisherman, a thief, an executioner, a prison warden, or one who follows any other such bloody occupation.  This is called the kind of person who torments others and pursues the practice of torturing others”.

To wrap-up the section, here is a verse and the related story from the Dhammapadapāḷi:

CST DHP V270:

“Na tena ariyo hoti, yena pāṇāni hiṃsati;

Ahiṃsā sabbapāṇānaṃ, “ariyo”ti pavuccati”.

“He is not noble, one who is violent to beings;

One non-violent to all beings, he is called ‘Noble’ ” (emphasis added).

The commentary on Dhammapadapāḷi states that Lord Buddha spoke this verse to a fisherman named Ariyo (Noble) when he knew that the fisherman was ripe for insight.  The commentary doesn’t say anything further so presumably fisherman Ariyo woke up and went the way of Dhamma. [17]

With this, we have completed our discussion of the teachings as related to the selected limbs of the Noble Eightfold Path.  Let us now continue with a topical review of the teachings.

§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing

This precept, defined as “I undertake to abstain from killing beings”, is the first among the five precepts, and is much misunderstood, variously interpreted, and generally never discoursed upon.  There is a reason why it’s the first precept – because at least a few of the limbs of the Noble Eightfold Path are directly dependent upon it and derive support from it (Right View, Right Intention, Right Action, and Right Livelihood).

The perplexing question is why everyone tends to pay lip service to it and then sweep it under the rug?  Perhaps because of complacency, perhaps because of thinking with conceit that this is easy to understand, perhaps because of greed and lust for tastes and flavors.

While monastics may have the Vinaya injunctions and other rules that may prohibit them from discussing it, we as Buddhist laity can and should discuss it so we know what is it that we must do to support the growth of Dhamma, to support the Saṅgha, and to grow ourselves in the Dhamma.

NDB 8.41 [Uposatha] in Brief Sutta: [18]

(1) “Here, bhikkhus, a noble disciple reflects thus: ‘As long as they live the arahants abandon and abstain from the destruction of life; with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, they dwell compassionate toward all living beings.  Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from the destruction of life; with the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, I too shall dwell compassionate toward all living beings.  I shall imitate the arahants in this respect and the uposatha will be observed by me.’  This is the first factor it possesses” (emphasis added).

The key operative concept here is “Today, for this night and day, I too shall abandon and abstain from the destruction of life”.  This doesn’t mean that only the butchers, trappers, fishermen, and others with such bloody occupations undertake to suspend their livelihood for that night and day and lay rod and weapon aside – that would exclude all cowherds, farmers, accountants, computer programmers, technical writers, helpdesk staff, professors, diplomats, drivers, and others who don’t have such bloody occupations.  What it really means is for that day and night, the lay devotee – irrespective of her profession and her livelihood – abstains from any occupation, from killing anything, and from consuming anything that comes about as a result of violence to beings (read: meat-fish-eggs), dwelling with a kind and compassionate mind toward all beings everywhere.  By abstaining from meat-fish-eggs, she doesn’t support and encourage killing of beings and gives a first gift, a great gift, a primal gift, an ancient gift, of freedom from fear to the beings.  The pertinent sutta, NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta, is discussed in full in both “§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings)” section later in this chapter and in “Appendix One: Types of Giving and Brahma-Vihārā”.

This is what has been misunderstood as far as the first precept of non-killing goes – everyone gets fixated on saying that I didn’t kill it so I can eat meat-fish-eggs.  While some super-markets in some Buddhist countries don’t sell fresh meat that day, frozen meats are still sold, and meat-fish-egg offerings or sacrifices are still made at thousands of monasteries and meditation centers.  We will discuss the concept of sacrifice in depth in “§2.6 Sacrifice and Giving“ section.

Coming back to the topic at hand, as if what was stated in NDB 8.41 [Uposatha] in Brief Sutta wasn’t enough, Lord Buddha then added this in another sutta:

 NDB 8.44 Vāseṭṭha Sutta: [19]

... “If these great sal trees would observe the uposatha complete in eight factors, that would lead to the welfare and happiness of these great sal trees for a long time, [if they could choose].  How much more than for a human being!”

NDB 4.201 Training Rules Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, I will teach you about the bad person and the person inferior to the bad person; about the good person and the person superior to the good person.  Listen and attend closely; I will speak.”

“Yes, Bhante,” those bhikkhus replied.  The Blessed One said this:

(1) “And who, bhikkhus, is the bad person?  Here, someone destroys life, ... This is called the bad person.

(2) “And who is the person inferior to the bad person?  Here, someone himself destroys life and encourages others to destroy life; ... This is the person inferior to the bad person.

(3) “And who is the good person?  Here, someone abstains from the destruction of life, ... This is called the good person.

(4) “And who is the person superior to the good person?  Here, someone himself abstains from the destruction of life and encourages others to abstain from the destruction of life; ... This is called the person superior to the good person” (emphasis added).

In this sutta, the word used for the good person is the same as the one used for describing the “people of integrity” – associating with them is the first factor for attaining stream-entry.  Imagine if associating with good people can bring that mind-boggling humongous benefit, what benefit one can realize if one associates with the person superior to the good person!  And even more so, what if one herself becomes the person superior to the good person!!  That must be the ideal a Buddhist lay person should strive for – abstain herself from the destruction of life and encourage others to abstain from the destruction of life (such as butchers, meat traders, meat sellers, and related occupations by not giving them the business).  We saw that Venerable Sāriputta gave same kind of advice to Brahmin Dhanañjāni on actions and livelihood (“§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood – MLDB 97 Dhanañjāni Sutta”).

NDB 4.264 Destruction of Life Sutta: [20]

Bhikkhus, one possessing four qualities is deposited in hell as if brought there.  What four?  He himself destroys life; he encourages others to destroy life; he approves of the destruction of life; and he speaks in praise of the destruction of life.  One possessing these four qualities is deposited in hell as if brought there.

Bhikkhus, one possessing four [other] qualities is deposited in heaven as if brought there.  What four?  He himself abstains from the destruction of life; he encourages others to abstain from the destruction of life; he approves of abstaining from the destruction of life; and he speaks in praise of abstaining from the destruction of life.  One possessing these four qualities is deposited in heaven as if brought there” (emphasis added).

Let us analyze this in detail to understand the implications.  I have put it in a tabular form below.  A score of +1 is assigned for positive qualities and -1 for negative qualities and I have assumed that qualities are cumulative (i.e. one with a score of -3 is engaging in all of the first three negative qualities).  We see the gradation from one extreme to the other extreme.  The more right actions we do, the closer we move to the positive end – and that’s what a true-seeker of welfare should strive for.

 

Table 2.2: Defining the Type of Person based on Action

Type of Person

Qualities [Actions]

Score

Bad Person (asappuriso)

Destroys Others’ Lives

Praises destruction of life

-4

Approves of destruction of life

-3

Encourages others to destroy life

-2

Destroys life

-1

Good Person (sappuriso)

Cherishes Others’ Lives

Abstains from destroying life

+1

Encourages others to abstain

+2

Approves of abstaining

+3

Praises abstaining

+4

 

Let us take an example to put this table in perspective in terms of actions:

Bad Person:

As Thanksgiving approached, an IT Manager went to the supermarket and bought a turkey.  He right there engaged in destroying life plus encouraged others in destroying life (by giving business to the industry that depends on animal-farming, butchering, transportation, storage, and selling) in a single stroke.  He also had a friend with him.  Seeing him buying a turkey, the friend also bought a turkey.  The scope of destroying life and encouraging the destruction of life just doubled.

By buying turkey, he also approved of the destruction.  So in one stroke, he earned three negative points.

Then, at the Thanksgiving family dinner, he cooked that turkey and found it was agreeable.  Next Monday, back to work, being a talkative and outgoing person, he spoke in praise of the turkeys from such and such brand to anyone who would listen.  He even explained the recipe in detail.  That earned him the fourth negative score.  He earned a total of four negatives by initiating one action.

Good Person:

As Thanksgiving approached, an IT Manager went to the supermarket and bought a tofurkey. [21]  He right there engaged in abstaining from destroying life plus encouraged others from abstaining (by NOT giving business to the industry that depends on animal-farming, butchering, transportation, storage, and selling plus at the same time giving business to the industry that depends on making tofu and tofurkey) in a single stroke.  He also had a friend with him.  Seeing him buying a tofurkey, the friend also bought a tofurkey instead of a turkey.  The scope of abstaining from destroying life and encouraging the abstaining from destruction of life just doubled.

By buying tofurkey, he also approved of the abstaining from destruction.  So in one stroke, he earned three positive points.

Then, at the Thanksgiving family dinner, he cooked that tofurkey and found it was agreeable.  Next Monday, back to work, being a talkative and outgoing person, he spoke in praise of the tofurkeys from such and such brand to anyone who would listen.  He even explained the recipe in detail.  That earned him the fourth positive score.  He earned a total of four positives by initiating one action.

What one must understand is this: when one buys meat-fish-eggs, one engages in all four negative actions at the same time: he himself destroys life; encourages others to destroy life; approves of the destruction of life; and speaks in praise of the destruction of life.

MLDB 54 Potaliya Sutta:

6. “ ‘With the support of the non-killing of living beings, the killing of living beings is to be abandoned.’  So it was said.  And with reference to what was this said?  Here a noble disciple considers thus: ‘I am practicing the way to the abandoning and cutting off of those fetters because of which I might kill living beings.  If I were to kill living beings, I would blame myself for doing so; the wise, having investigated, would censure me for doing so; and on the dissolution of the body, after death, because of killing living beings an unhappy destination would be expected.  But this killing of living beings is itself a fetter and a hindrance.  And while taints, vexation, and fever might arise through the killing of living beings, there are no taints, vexation, and fever for one who abstains from killing living beings.’  So it is with reference to this that it was said: ‘With the support of the non-killing of living beings, the killing of living beings is to be abandoned’ “ (emphasis added).

The sutta above is preached to the householder Potaliya who was neither a butcher nor was he engaged in any bloody profession – in fact householder Potaliya was a retiree, a pensioner – and still he is told to refrain from killing.  Why was this teaching given to him then?  First, to practice and perfect the Brahma-Vihārā of loving-friendliness, compassion, and altruistic joy – we will review this in the “§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings)“ section.  Second, in the olden times, most killing was done at the family level and usually only larger animals were butchered by butchers.  So, it is likely that Potaliya the householder, while being a retiree, was still killing beings for food – or at the minimum, if he was not wielding the knife himself, he was going to the butcher shop and selecting an animal to be butchered.  Hence the teaching to him.  As head of the household and as a retiree, even if he had given away all his wealth, grain, silver, and gold to his children and was merely living on food and clothing; he would still be going shopping for food while his children were out and about at work or on the farm.

The sutta states that the killing of living beings is a fetter and a hindrance.  Let us understand why it’s called both a fetter and a hindrance.  It’s a fetter because when actions result in the harming or killing of living beings, this results in kammā which ties one to re-becoming, again and again.  It’s a hindrance because killing and harming living beings leads to remorse and restlessness, resulting in lack of attention and concentration on the wholesome activities of study, meditation, and mindfulness.

One must consciously break out of this cycle of violence and counter-violence to progress on the Noble Eightfold Path.

NDB 10.167 Paccorohaṇī Sutta:

(1) “Here, brahmin, the noble disciple reflects thus: ‘The result of the destruction of life is bad both in this present life and in future lives.’  Having reflected thus, he abandons the destruction of life; he descends from the destruction of life” (emphasis added).

NDB 10.175 Avoidance Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, this Dhamma offers a means of avoidance.  It does not lack a means of avoidance.  And how does this Dhamma offer a means of avoidance and not lack a means of avoidance?

(1) “One who destroys life has abstention from the destruction of life as the means to avoid it” (emphasis added).

CDB 55.7 The People of Bamboo Gate Sutta: [22]

“Master Gotama, we have such wishes, desires, and hopes as these: ‘May we dwell in a home crowded with children!  May we enjoy Kāsian sandalwood!  May we wear garlands, scents, and unguents!  May we receive gold and silver!  With the breakup of the body, after death, may we be reborn in a good destination, in a heavenly world!’  As we have such wishes, desires, and hopes, let Master Gotama teach us the Dhamma in such a way that we might dwell in a home crowded with children ... and with the breakup of the body, after death, we might be reborn in a good destination, in a heavenly world.”

“I will teach you, householders, a Dhamma exposition applicable to oneself.  Listen to that and attend closely, I will speak.”

“Yes, sir,” those brahmin householders of Bamboo Gate replied.  The Blessed One said this:

“What, householders, is the Dhamma exposition applicable to oneself?  Here, householders, a noble disciple reflects thus: ‘I am one who wishes to live, who does not wish to die; I desire happiness and am averse to suffering.  Since I am one who wishes to live ... and am averse to suffering, if someone were to take my life, that would not be pleasing and agreeable to me.  Now if I were to take the life of another – of one who wishes to live, who does not wish to die, who desires happiness and is averse to suffering – that would not be pleasing and agreeable to the other either.  What is displeasing and disagreeable to me is displeasing and disagreeable to the other too.  How can I inflict upon another what is displeasing and disagreeable to me?’  Having reflected thus, he himself abstains from the destruction of life, exhorts others to abstain from the destruction of life, and speaks in praise of abstinence from the destruction of life.  Thus this bodily conduct of his is purified in three respects” (emphasis added).

This sutta is very important for all the lay people who are intensely interested in enjoying current and future happy lives and Nibbāna is not yet on their radar.  It gives them guidance on how to purify their conduct so they can attain heavenly happiness.  Do note that the sutta is preached to a group of lay people.  They weren’t all butchers and torturers nor was the town of Bamboo Gate a town of hunters and trappers.  But, because most of the killing and butchering for food was done at the family and local level, they are told to restrain themselves.

This sutta gives us the great principle we can use to evaluate our actions:

“What is displeasing and disagreeable to me is displeasing and disagreeable to the other too.  How can I inflict upon another what is displeasing and disagreeable to me”?

Before eating any meat-fish-eggs, reflecting in the following way one can eliminate much of the lust and craving for such food:

I would not want to be de-beaked, de-feathered, de-tailed, de-hooved, de-horned, eaten alive, peeled alive, skinned alive, boiled alive, and ultimately ‘de-lifed’ to be placed on people’s dining tables and in their lunch-boxes.  If that is not agreeable and pleasing to me, how can that be agreeable and pleasing to the hens, cows, deers, pigs, fishes, shrimps, lobsters, and other beings I may eat?

Here is a simple test the reader can do for herself: give up eating meat-fish-eggs for a definite length of time, continue walking on the path perfecting virtues and meditating during that time, and at the end of that period, make an estimate of how many living beings escaped the punishment of death and received the boon of fearlessness because of your action.  Think about it during the meditation and see if that brings about a sense of peace, tranquility, rapture, and joy.  If it does, that’s your proof right there.  But what if it doesn’t?  Then see if you were engaging in hunting, selling weapons, drinking intoxicants, doing drugs, lying, gossiping, backbiting, cheating, dishonesty, corruption, or any other such unwholesome actions during that time and if that was so, give up those unwholesome practices and try again.  This purification of virtue will give you the solid foundation on which you will practice and perfect the remaining purifications and keep progressing on the Noble Eightfold Path.  That’s when one sees the benefits of wholesome actions here and now.

§2.6 Sacrifice and Giving

The concept of sacrifice and giving is much intertwined with many other concepts.  In India during the time of Lord Buddha, sacrifices were elaborate affairs conducted by priests to propitiate various deities and gods.  Everyone who was well to-do had the desire to conduct such rites and rituals and offer sacrificial oblation to the deities.  In such sacrifices, a large number of attendees were invited and provided both food as well as gifts.  This necessarily resulted in the death of a large number of living beings to feed the attendees.

In those times, there weren’t restaurants one could go to and order food.  So such sacrifices were the occasions when people would indulge in tastes and since meat was expensive (we will discuss this in the “§2.9 Comparison with Meat“ section), these sacrifices were the time they would get to enjoy meat for free.  Hence, most sacrifices entailed some sort of sacrificing or killing living beings in the name of deities and then butchering them to feed the attendees.  Thus, such sacrifices were both religious rites and social gatherings – two in one.

So, when one thinks of sacrifice, the mental picture of an elaborate religious ceremony with a large number of attendees in which a large number of items are sacrificed and donated emerges.  But, in reality, even if you give one simple item to one person, it is a sacrifice.  So, in essence, any giving is a sacrifice.  In the ultimate sense, any wholesome giving up, any wholesome renouncing is also sacrifice.  If one gives up household life and becomes a renunciate that is a sacrifice too.

Also remember that Lord Buddha redefined sacrifice to mean giving and donating rather than killing beings (e.g., see THIG V287-V288 where sacrifice is redefined as offering and giving to renunciates).

Keeping this basic understanding in mind, let us now review the relevant teachings:

LDB 5 Kūṭadanta Sutta:

9. Sitting to one side, Kūṭadanta addressed the Lord: ‘Reverend Gotama, I have heard that you understand how to conduct successfully the triple sacrifice with its sixteen requisites.  Now I do not understand all this, but I want to make a big sacrifice.  It would be well if the ascetic Gotama were to explain this to me.’  ‘Then listen, Brahmin, pay proper attention, and I will explain.’  ‘Yes, sir’, said Kūṭadanta, and the Lord said: ...

16. ‘Then, prior to the sacrifice, the chaplain dispelled the King’s qualms with ten conditions for the recipient: “Sire, there will come to the sacrifice those who take life and those who abstain from taking life.  To those who take life, so will it be to them; but those who abstain from taking life will have a successful sacrifice and will rejoice in it, and their hearts may be calmed within. ...

18. ‘In this sacrifice, Brahmin, no bulls were slain, no goats or sheep, no cocks and pigs, nor were various living beings subjected to slaughter, nor were trees cut down for sacrificial posts, nor were grasses mown for the sacrificial grass, and those who are called slaves or servants or workmen did not perform their tasks for fear of blows or threats, weeping and in tears.  But those who wanted to do something did it, those who did not wish to did not: they did what they wanted to do, and not what they did not want to do.  The sacrifice was carried out with ghee, oil, butter, curds, honey and molasses. ...

22. ‘And, Reverend Gotama, is there any other sacrifice that is simpler, less difficult, more fruitful and profitable than this threefold sacrifice with its sixteen attributes?’  ‘There is, Brahmin.’

‘What is it, Reverend Gotama?’  ‘Wherever regular family gifts are given to virtuous ascetics, these constitute a sacrifice more fruitful and profitable than that.’ ...

[After this, Lord Buddha describes successively more profitable sacrifices]

24. ‘Brahmin, if anyone provides shelter for the Saṅgha coming from the four quarters, that constitutes a more profitable sacrifice.’ ...

25. ‘Brahmin, if anyone with a pure heart goes for refuge to the Buddha, the Dhamma and the Saṅgha, that constitutes a sacrifice more profitable than any of these three.’ ...

26. ‘Brahmin, if anyone with a pure heart undertakes the precepts to refrain from taking life, from taking what is not given, from sexual immorality, from lying speech and from taking strong drink and sloth-producing drugs that constitutes a sacrifice more profitable than any of these four.’ ...

27. ‘Brahmin, a Tathāgata arises in this world, an Arahant, fully-enlightened Buddha, endowed with wisdom and conduct, Well-Farer, Knower of the worlds, incomparable Trainer of men to be tamed, Teacher of gods and humans, enlightened and blessed.  He, having realized it by his own super-knowledge, proclaims this world with its devā, mārā and Brahmā, its princes and people.  He preaches the Dhamma which is lovely in its beginning, lovely in its middle, lovely in its ending, in the spirit and in the letter, and displays the fully-perfected and purified holy life.  A disciple goes forth and practises the moralities, etc.  Thus a monk is perfected in morality.  He attains the four jhānas.  That, Brahmin, is a sacrifice ... more profitable.  He attains various insights, and the cessation of the corruptions.  He knows: “There is nothing further in this world.”  That, Brahmin, is a sacrifice that is simpler, less difficult, more fruitful and more profitable than all the others.  And beyond this there is no sacrifice that is greater and more perfect’ “ (emphasis added, edited for content).

There are a few significant points that emerge from this sutta.

(1)   In #16 above, when it is said: “Sire, there will come to the sacrifice those who take life and those who abstain from taking life.  To those who take life, so will it be to them; but those who abstain from taking life will have a successful sacrifice and will rejoice in it, and their hearts may be calmed within” – there are three takeaways from it:

a.      First, this doesn’t mean butchers and non-butchers will come to the sacrifice – in essence it means non-vegetarians and vegetarians will come.

b.      Second, “To those who take life, so will it be to them” means those who kill or cause to kill will suffer death or deadly pains as a result of the present bloody kammā.  This is said to include some people who would come hoping to eat meat for free and finding out there is no meat, they would buy a chicken, slaughter it, cook it, and then eat it with the vegetarian fare that is provided.

c.       Third, “those who abstain will have their hearts calmed within” means they will have no remorse and restlessness and gain concentration easily.  We discussed remorse and its elimination in the “§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing MLDB 54 Potaliya Sutta” and will discuss it in “§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) – NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta” as well.

(2)   All giving and giving-ups are sacrifices – literally and figuratively.

(3)   The lowest sacrifice is the one with the popular common meaning of a ceremony where things are sacrificed.  However, a sacrifice where living beings are sacrificed is of very low fruit and low meaning; compared to a sacrifice that sees no meat-fish-eggs (also see LDB 23 Pāyāsi Sutta below).  In the sacrifice above, neither were non-vegetarian items offered, nor were trees and grass cut, nor was any forced labor used.  From today’s perspective, this would be called a true green, compassionate, and labor-rights oriented sacrifice.

(4)   In the sense of successively better sacrifices, we see the following order:

a.      A sacrificial ceremony where animals are slaughtered (i.e. meat-fish-eggs are used), grass and trees are cut, and people are forced to work

b.      A sacrificial ceremony conducted with only vegetarian items, where grass and trees are not cut, and no one is forced to work

c.       Giving regular donations to virtuous ascetics

d.      Giving a shelter for the Saṅgha

e.      Taking refuge in Lord Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha with a pure heart

f.        Undertaking and following the five precepts

g.      Going forth in the Dhamma, practicing it, and becoming an arahant (this can be further subdivided into levels such as stream-enterer, once-returner, non-returner, and arahant).

LDB 23 Pāyāsi Sutta: [23]

31. ‘Prince, when a sacrifice is made at which oxen are slain, or goats, fowl or pigs, or various creatures are slaughtered, and the participants have wrong view, wrong thought, wrong speech, wrong action, wrong livelihood, wrong effort, wrong mindfulness and wrong concentration, then that sacrifice is of no great fruit or profit, it is not very brilliant and has no great radiance.  Suppose, Prince, a farmer went into the forest with plough and seed, and there, in an untilled place with poor soil from which the stumps had not been uprooted, were to sow seeds that were broken, rotting, ruined by wind and heat, stale, and not properly embedded in the soil, and the rain-god did not send proper showers at the right time — would those seeds germinate, develop and increase, and would the farmer get an abundant crop?’  ‘No, Reverend Kassapa’ (emphasis added).

CDB 1.32 Stinginess Sutta:

92 “If one practises the Dhamma

Though getting on by gleaning,

If while one supports one’s wife

One gives from the little one has,

Then a hundred thousand offerings

Of those who sacrifice a thousand

Are not worth even a fraction

[Of the gift] of one like him.”

Then another devatā addressed the Blessed One in verse:

93 “Why does their sacrifice, vast and grand,

Not share the value of the righteous one’s gift?

Why are a hundred thousand offerings

Of those who sacrifice a thousand

Not worth even a fraction

[Of the gift] of one like him?”

Then the Blessed One answered that devatā in verse:

94 Since they give while settled in unrighteousness,

Having slain and killed, causing sorrow,

Their offering tearful, fraught with violence

Shares not the value of the righteous one’s gift.

That is why a hundred thousand offerings

Of those who sacrifice a thousand

Are not worth even a fraction

[Of the gift] of one like him” (emphasis added).

And again, this isn’t only applicable to the then Indian Society but all sacrifices and offerings – whether by Brāhmaṇā or by Buddhists.

And finally, a comparison of the great sacrifices to giving a gift:

NDB 7.52 Giving Sutta:

(5). “ ‘Just as the seers of old – that is, Aṭṭhaka, Vāmaka, Vāmadeva, Vessāmitta, Yamataggi, Aṅgīrasa, Bhāradvāja, Vāseṭṭha, Kassapa, and Bhagu  – held those great sacrifices, so I will share a gift’ “ (emphasis added). [24]

Arising of Sacrificial and Giving Intention:

NDB 7.47 Sacrifice Sutta:

Then the brahmin Uggatasarīra said to the Blessed One: “Master Gotama, I want to kindle the sacrificial fire and raise the sacrificial post.  Let Master Gotama exhort me and instruct me in a way that will lead to my welfare and happiness for a long time.”

Brahmin, one kindling the sacrificial fire and raising the sacrificial post, even before the sacrifice, raises three knives that are unwholesome and have suffering as their outcome and result.  What three?  The bodily knife, the verbal knife, and the mental knife.

“Brahmin, one kindling the sacrificial fire and raising the sacrificial post, even before the sacrifice, arouses such a thought as this: ‘Let so many bulls ... bullock ... heifers ... goats ... rams be slain in sacrifice!’  Though he [thinks], ‘Let me do merit,’ he does demerit.  Though he [thinks], ‘Let me do what is wholesome,’ he does what is unwholesome.  Though he [thinks], ‘Let me seek the path to a good destination,’ he seeks the path to a bad destination.  One kindling the sacrificial fire and raising the sacrificial post, even before the sacrifice, raises this first knife, the mental one, which is unwholesome and has suffering as its outcome and result.

“Again, brahmin, one kindling the sacrificial fire and raising the sacrificial post, even before the sacrifice, utters such speech as this: ‘Let so many bulls ... bullocks ... heifers ... goats ... rams be slain in sacrifice!’  ...  One kindling the sacrificial fire and raising the sacrificial post, even before the sacrifice, raises this second knife, the verbal one, which is unwholesome and has suffering as its outcome and result.

“Again, brahmin, one kindling the sacrificial fire and raising the sacrificial post, even before the sacrifice, first undertakes the preparations to slay the bulls ... bullocks ... heifers ... goats ... rams in sacrifice“. ... One kindling the sacrificial fire and raising the sacrificial post, even before the sacrifice, raises this third knife, the bodily one, which is unwholesome and has suffering as its outcome and result” (emphasis added, edited for length).

So, we see here that in the case of any giving, we must be aware of our intention, speech, and action.  In fact, the most important key operative word here is cetanā – intention, volition, will.  As Lord Buddha has stated:

CST AN 6.63 Nibbedhikasuttaṃ: [25]

Cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi. Cetayitvā kammaṃ karoti – kāyena vācāya manasā”.

“Bhikkhus, it is intention that I call kamma.  Having intended, one does the kamma – bodily, verbally, mentally” (emphasis added).

Now, for us as Buddhist laity, the implications may not be clear of the preceding two suttā.  Some wise people here understand by example, so let us take a real-life example that must be happening thousands of times every year:

Let us say we are the chief sponsors for the Kathinā ceremony at the local Theravāda Buddhist Temple.  We start planning for it and reckon that about 500 people will attend the ceremony.  In addition to other arrangements, we have to plan and prepare food for the attendees.  So we start calculating: “500 lunches = 8 trays of chicken curry, 12 trays of fried fish, 12 trays of baked fish, 10 trays of egg-curry, and 20 side-dishes’.  Right there, the mental knife has been raised.  Then we send out an email to the supporters stating ”please select what you would like to bring on the attached spread-sheet.”  Right there, the verbal knife is raised.  And then those supporters, having chosen to bring chicken, fish, and egg dishes; jointly and severally scour the local supermarkets, cut coupons, search for deals, and network with each other to source enough fresh or frozen chicken, fish, and eggs (‘Hey, A&P has frozen chicken on sale this Tuesday 10 AM to 2 PM!  Can you pick me up and we can shop together’).  Right there, the third knife of physical action has been raised.

In the words of Lord Buddha, a sacrifice of this nature “is of no great fruit or profit, it is not very brilliant, and has no great radiance”.

Though he [thinks], ‘Let me do merit,’ he does demerit.  Though he [thinks], ‘Let me do what is wholesome,’ he does what is unwholesome.  Though he [thinks], ‘Let me seek the path to a good destination,’ he seeks the path to a bad destination”.

Here is some guidance from Lord Buddha on how to do actions and with what purpose:

CDB 47.19 Sedaka Sutta:

[In this sutta, Lord Buddha narrates the dialog between a master acrobat and his apprentice – master acrobat tells apprentice to get up on the pole and by watching out for each other, they can perform and make money.  But the apprentice corrects the master and says that we should each watch over ourselves and perform and make money.  Lord Buddha then continues:]

“That’s the method there,” the Blessed One said.  “It’s just as the apprentice Medakathālikā said to the teacher.  ‘I will protect myself,’ bhikkhus: thus should the establishments of mindfulness be practiced.  ‘I will protect others,’ bhikkhus: thus should the establishments of mindfulness be practiced.  Protecting oneself, bhikkhus, one protects others; protecting others, one protects oneself.

“And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting oneself one protects others?  By the pursuit, development, and cultivation [of the four establishments of mindfulness].  It is in such a way that by protecting oneself one protects others.

And how is it, bhikkhus, that by protecting others one protects oneself?  By patience, harmlessness, lovingkindness, and sympathy.  It is in such a way that by protecting others one protects oneself” (emphasis added).

Here, Lord Buddha is making a clear connection between harmlessness, loving-friendliness, and sympathy with protecting others.  One must become harmless to living beings, one must have loving-friendliness for them, and one must be sympathetic to them, their aspirations, hopes, and desires.  One who has developed these three qualities, along with patience, will no longer be interested in looking at beings as food.  Looking at meat-fish-eggs, she will be full of compassion and sympathy for the being that was subjected to such cruelty and violence and came to an end because of greed for tastes and ignorance about kammā and its results.

And, here is something of utmost importance to understand: by protecting others using harmlessness, loving-friendliness, and sympathy; one actually protects oneself.  How so?  By eliminating such kammā, one doesn’t have to bear the evil results that could lead one down to bad destinations.  And therefore, one must become extremely selfish, but the right kind of selfishness of protecting oneself from doing evil kammā and thus protecting others.

That is the same message as the message from NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta which we will review in “§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings)” section:

By abstaining from the destruction of life, the noble disciple gives to an immeasurable number of beings freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction.  He himself in turn enjoys immeasurable freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction”.

Sn-B 2.7 Tradition of the Brahmins Sutta:

295. “Having requested rice, bedding, clothes, ghee, and oil,

having righteously collected them, they then performed sacrifice.

But at the sacrifice that was arranged, they did not slaughter cattle.

311. “Formerly there were three illnesses: desire, hunger, and old age.

But because of the slaughter of cattle, there came to be ninety-eight.

312. “This unrighteousness by violence has come down as an ancient custom.

They kill the harmless creatures; the sacrificers fall from righteousness.

313. “In such a way this mean practice, though ancient, is censured by the wise.

Wherever they see such a thing, people censure the sacrificer” (emphasis added).

Again, we see that Brahmins of yore used to be vegetarian and not consume meat-fish-eggs.  Observe that because of the consumption of the meat (cattle slaughter), the number of diseases went up from three to ninety-eight – an increase of more than 3,100%.  This reminds one of the various new diseases like mad-cow disease, Avian flu, SARS, MERS, Swine flu (H1N1), Ebola virus, Zika virus, Nipah virus, 2019-nCoV Corona virus, and so on which were not heard of before now.  Many of these diseases have clearly originated in animals and transmitted to humans.  When there is much killing and cruelty, the sacrificers (donors) fall from righteousness and the Dhamma declines.  We will study in Chapter 3 how this was a major concern for Emperor Ashoka.

In the sutta below, the ideal sacrifice is described as the one free from violence.  Such a sacrifice is not only vast (meaning the fruit is vast), but even the deities are pleased.

NDB 4.39 Ujjaya Sutta:

“The horse sacrifice, human sacrifice, sammāpāsa, vājapeyya, niraggaḷa;

these grand sacrifices, fraught with violence, do not bring great fruit. [26]

“The great seers of right conduct, do not attend a sacrifice;

where goats, rams, cattle, and various creatures are slain.

“But when they regularly offer by family custom, sacrifices free from violence;

no goats, sheep, and cattle or various creatures are slain.

“That is the sacrifice the great seers, of right conduct attend;

The wise person should offer this, this sacrifice is very fruitful.

“For one who makes such sacrifice, it is indeed better, never worse.

Such a sacrifice is truly vast, and the deities too are pleased” (emphasis added).

§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth

The concept of kammā and rebirth is something that is quite mysterious for most people but unless one understands this concept in its entirety, with all the ramifications it entails, one will not understand the path of liberation in entirety.  Therefore, it is wise to pay heedful attention to this topic.  Many people like to choose some parts and drop other parts – in particular, parts they find objectionable due to their upbringing, their thinking, and/or the social milieu around them.  But such an approach will result in a lopsided understanding that might be more harmful then helpful.

Kammā in essence means volitional actions – bodily, verbally, and mentally.  In the “§2.2 Right View” section, we noticed that the mundane right view is nothing but kammā.  In the “§2.6 Sacrifice and Giving” section, Lord Buddha described intention as the kammā, and this also is the message from CST DHP V1-V2 where mind (intention) is the forerunner of everything.  Kamma-vipāka means the fruits of the actions and these fruits affect one’s subsequent rebirths, destinations, and directions.  This topic underlies everything else in Buddhism.  In fact, kammā is called the soil in which existence comes to fruition.

NDB 3.76 Existence Sutta: [27]

Then the Venerable Ānanda approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, sat down to one side, and said to him:

“Bhante, it is said: ‘existence, existence.’  In what way, Bhante, is there existence?”

(1) “If, Ānanda, there were no kamma ripening in the sensory realm, would sense-sphere existence be discerned?”

“No, Bhante.”

Thus, Ānanda, for beings hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving, kamma is the field, consciousness the seed, and craving the moisture for their consciousness to be established in an inferior realm.  In this way there is the production of renewed existence in the future” (emphasis added).

[The same is repeated for form-sphere and formless-sphere existence].

Keeping this in mind, let us review the applicable teachings.  The next sutta gives us the standard injunction on kammā as well as repeats the standard definition of wrong view so we can see everything in one place.

NDB 10.216 Creeping Sutta: [28]

“And what, bhikkhus, is that exposition of the Dhamma on creeping?  Bhikkhus, beings are the owners of their kamma, the heirs of their kamma; they have kamma as their origin, kamma as their relative, kamma as their resort; whatever kamma they do, good or bad, they are its heirs. [29]

(1). “Here, someone destroys life; he is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings.  He creeps along by body, speech, and mind.  His bodily kamma is crooked; his verbal kamma is crooked; his mental kamma is crooked.  His destination is crooked; his rebirth is crooked.  But for one with a crooked destination and rebirth, I say, there is one of two destinations: either the exclusively painful hells or a species of creeping animal.  And what are the species of creeping animals?  The snake, the scorpion, the centipede, the mongoose, the cat, the mouse, and the owl, or any other animals that creep away when they see people.  Thus a being is reborn from a being; one is reborn through one’s deeds.  When one has been reborn, contacts affect one.  It is in this way, I say, that beings are the heirs of their kamma.

(9). ... has a mind of ill will and intentions of hate ...

(10). ... holds wrong view and has an incorrect perspective thus: ‘There is nothing given ... ” (emphasis added, edited for length). [30]

[And of course, the counter qualities lead to heaven].

Sn-B 3.11 Nālaka Sutta: [31]

705. “[Reflecting] ‘As I am, so are they; as they are, so am I,’

Having taken oneself as the criterion, one should not kill or cause others to kill” (emphasis added).

As can be seen, the message from the Sn-B 3.11 Nālaka Sutta is identical to what we saw in the “§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing – CDB 55.7 The People of Bamboo Gate Sutta” where it was stated:

“What is displeasing and disagreeable to me is displeasing and disagreeable to the other too.  How can I inflict upon another what is displeasing and disagreeable to me”?

When it is said that “one should not kill or cause others to kill”, that includes those who argue that I only buy dead animals, I do not kill anything.  By buying a dead being, one is encouraging others to kill a living being to refill the store freezer or shelf.

CST DHP V157:

“Attānaṃ ce piyaṃ jaññā rakkheyya naṃ surakkhitaṃ;
Tiṇṇamaññataraṃ yāmaṃ paṭijaggeyya paṇḍito”.

“Knowing one is dear to oneself, one should guard oneself well;

In one of the three stages [watches], wise should look after [himself]”.

According to the commentary on Dhammapadapāḷi, this verse was uttered by Lord Buddha when, as described in the MLDB 85 Bodhirājakumāra Sutta, he visited the newly built palace of Prince Bodhi where Prince Bodhi had spread white cloth with an aspiration that if I am to have a child, Lord Buddha will step on this white cloth.  Lord Buddha didn’t step on that cloth knowing that due to previous kammā, the couple was destined to remain childless.  I paraphrase the story related in the commentary on Dhammapadapāḷi below: [32]

Once upon a time, an ocean-going ship suffered a shipwreck and with the exception of a husband-wife couple, everyone else perished.  The couple reached a remote island on a piece of plank.  This island had a large flock of birds.  Not finding anything to eat and overcome with hunger, the couple started eating eggs of the birds.  When eggs didn’t satisfy their hunger, they started eating the young birds.  They spent their entire lives like that and were never heedful of what they were doing in any stage of their lives – in youth, in middle age, or in old age.  Even if they had been heedful in only one of the life-stages, they would have obtained a child in that stage.  Even if only one of them had been heedful, even then they would have obtained a child.  This was the reason that they were destined to remain childless in the present existence.

This story gives a good example of what I have called collective kammā at various places in this book (e.g. in “§A2.5 Devadatta’s Demands”).  Instead of trying to figure out how kammā operates in minute details (which in itself is an imponderable), we should be aware of the implications and be heedful and mindful of the actions we are undertaking. [33]

In the sutta we review next, once upon a time thirty bhikkhus from Pāvā visited Lord Buddha.  All of them were forest dwellers, almsfood eaters, rag-robe wearers, triple-robe users, and yet none were arahants.  Lord Buddha preached this sutta to free them from their taints by non-clinging, thus making them arahants.

CDB 15.13 Thirty Bhikkhus Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning.  A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.  What do you think, bhikkhus, which is more: the stream of blood that you have shed when you were beheaded as you roamed and wandered on through this long course – this or the water in the four great oceans?”

“As we understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, venerable sir, the stream of blood that we have shed when we were beheaded as we roamed and wandered on through this long course – this alone is more than the water in the four great oceans.”

“Good, good, bhikkhus!  It is good that you understand the Dhamma taught by me in such a way.  The stream of blood that you have shed when you were beheaded as you roamed and wandered on through this long course this alone is more than the water in the four great oceans.  For a long time, bhikkhus, you have been cows, and when as cows you were beheaded, the stream of blood that you shed is greater than the waters in the four great oceans.  For a long time you have been buffalo, sheep, goats, deer, chickens, and pigs.  ...  For a long time you have been arrested as burglars, highwaymen, and adulterers, and when you were beheaded, the stream of blood that you shed is greater than the water in the four great oceans.  For what reason?  Because, bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning.  ...  It is enough to be liberated from them.

This is what the Blessed One said.  Elated, those bhikkhus delighted in the Blessed One’s statement.  And while this exposition was being spoken, the minds of the thirty bhikkhus from Pāvā were liberated from the taints by nonclinging” (emphasis added).

What a miraculous sutta!  Not the miracle of the worldly kind but the miracle of instruction. [34]  Most likely, some of the bhikkhus were clinging to almsfood and tastes and some others were clinging to existence so they were probably at different levels of attainment with varying degrees of fetters.  All those fetters were removed with one stroke of the sword of wisdom – namely this sutta.

Do note that all examples given are of animals that are sources of meat – no examples are given of how many times we have been tigers or hyenas or sharks.

CDB 15.14-19 Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter Suttā:

At Sāvatthī.  Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning.  ...  It is not easy, bhikkhus, to find a being who in this long course has not previously been your mother ... your father ... your brother ... your sister ... your son ... your daughter.  For what reason?  Because, bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. ...  It is enough to be liberated from them” (emphasis added).

Now, if we combine these two suttā, a few facts become crystal clear:

(1)   The saṃsāra we dwell in is without a discoverable beginning.

(2)   A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

a.      What the ignorance?  Ignorance of the four Noble Truths, and of the kammā and its results.

b.      What the craving?  Craving for (i) sensuality including tastes, (ii) desire for existence, and (iii) desire for non-existence.

(3)   Depending on our past kammā, from time to time we have become various types of “source of food” animals and have been slaughtered again and again and again.  So much so that when we were slaughtered even as just one type of “source of food” animal, the blood we shed is more than the water in the four oceans.

(4)   Since this saṃsāra is such a long one without a discoverable beginning, every creature we encounter is related to us in one way or another.  Every time we partake of fried chicken or pork loins or steak, we are invariably eating a being that was our mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter in some past existence.  We are thus engaging in cannibalism incessantly.  This reflection alone should make us full of disgust and detest and despise the meat-fish-eggs the moment we think about it, let alone see it or eat it.

(5)   Therefore, when various suttā talk about no killing and when we take the first precept of no killing, we are not just taking the restraint to abstain from killing mosquitoes, flies, and bedbugs.  Far more so, the precept applies to not being responsible for the death of any creature – directly or indirectly – whether as egg, as young, as adult, or as old – in any form and in any stage of life, ours or theirs.

MLDB 135 Cūḷakammavibhanga Sutta:

3. “Master Gotama, what is the cause and condition why human beings are seen to be inferior and superior?  For people are seen to be short-lived and long-lived, sickly and healthy, ugly and beautiful, uninfluential and influential, poor and wealthy, low-born and high-born, stupid and wise.  What is the cause and condition, Master Gotama, why human beings are seen to be inferior and superior?” ...

5. “Here, student, some man or woman kills living beings and is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings.  Because of performing and undertaking such action, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell.  But if on the dissolution of the body, after death, he does not reappear in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, in hell, but instead comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is short-lived.  This is the way, student, that leads to short life, namely, one kills living beings and is murderous, bloody-handed, given to blows and violence, merciless to living beings. ...

7. “Here, student, some man or woman is given to injuring beings with the hand, with a clod, with a stick, or with a knife.  Because of performing and undertaking such action, on the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation. ... But if instead he comes back to the human state, then wherever he is reborn he is sickly.  This is the way, student, that leads to sickliness, namely, one is given to injuring beings with the hand, with a clod, with a stick, or with a knife” (emphasis added).

[and counter-qualities of non-killing and non-violence lead to long-life and healthiness].

NDB 8.40 Conducive Sutta:

(1) “Bhikkhus, the destruction of life, repeatedly pursued, developed, and cultivated, is conducive to hell, to the animal realm, and to the sphere of afflicted spirits; for one reborn as a human being the destruction of life at minimum conduces to a short life span” (emphasis added).

CDB 19.1 Skeleton Sutta:

... “Venerable Lakkhaṇa said to the Venerable Mahāmoggallāna: Here, as he was coming down from Mount Vulture Peak, the Venerable Mahāmoggallāna displayed a smile in a certain place.  For what reason, friend Moggallāna, did you display that smile?” [35]

“Here, friend, as I was coming down from Mount Vulture Peak, I saw a skeleton moving through the air.  Vultures, crows, and hawks, following it in hot pursuit, were pecking at it between the ribs, stabbing it, and tearing it apart while it uttered cries of pain.  It occurred to me: ‘It is wonderful, indeed!  It is amazing, indeed!  That there could be such a being, that there could be such a spirit, that there could be such a form of individual existence!’ ”

Then the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: “Bhikkhus, there are disciples who dwell having become vision, having become knowledge, in that a disciple can know, see, and witness such a sight.  In the past, bhikkhus, I too saw that being, but I did not speak about it.  For if I had spoken about it, others would not have believed me, and if they had not believed me that would have led to their harm and suffering for a long time.

“That being, bhikkhus, used to be a cattle butcher in this same Rājagaha. Having been tormented in hell for many years, for many hundreds of years, for many thousands of years, for many hundreds of thousands of years as a result of that kamma, as a residual result of that same kamma he is experiencing such a form of individual existence”.

This same sutta is then repeated with various “what was seen” and the ”occupation leading to that condition” as listed in the table below.  The key take-away from this table is that the result of evil kammā is always evil – sooner or later.  And one cannot make an excuse that “my brother-in-law bought the fish and chips lunch for me, I just devoured it”.  Imagine if the corrupt judge in the table below made an excuse: “I didn’t take any money, my admin assistant took it and deposited in my Cayman Islands bank account; I just gave the [corrupt] judgement”!

 

Table 2.3: Summary of Suttā CDB 19.1 to 19.10

What was seen

Occupation leading to this condition

a skeleton

cattle butcher

a piece of meat

cattle butcher

a lump of meat

poultry butcher

a flayed man

sheep butcher

a man with body-hairs of swords

hog butcher

a man with body-hairs of spears

deer hunter

a man with body-hairs of arrows

torturer

a man with body-hairs of needles (1)

horse trainer T1

a man with body-hairs of needles (2)

slanderer

a man with pot testicles

corrupt judge

Table Notes:

T1  While at first glance it might appear strange and out of place for the horse trainer to have such a terrible outcome, it is in accordance with the NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta where lay people are enjoined from trading in living beings.  Furthermore, he might have been training horses with cruelty and perhaps even killing the horses that fail the training (see NDB 4.111).  Otherwise, horses are one of the favorite subject of Lord Buddha and there are a plethora of suttā, particularly in NDB, on the simile of horse – whether a thoroughbred or a colt: see NDB 4.111 for a comparison of the horse training to the bhikkhu training and NDB 11.9 on the Meditation of a wild colt versus that of a thoroughbred.  Other suttā of interest would include NDB 4.113, 4.259, 5.203, 6.5-7, 8.13, 8.14, and 9.22.

 

The Commentary on UD 46 Soṇa (Kuṭikaṇṇa) Sutta narrates following incident:

Commentary on UD 46 Soṇa (Kuṭikaṇṇa) Sutta:

Venerable Soṇa Kuṭikaṇṇa once went with a caravan to Ujjeni, and when the caravan stopped for the night he slept away from the rest of its members.  The caravan started very early and nobody woke-up Soṇa.  When he finally awoke, he ran along the road until he came to a large tree.  There he saw an ugly man tearing off his own flesh and eating it.  On enquiry, Soṇa learnt that he had been a wicked merchant of Bhārukaccha, who had been born as a hungry ghost (peta) because he had deceived his patrons (Note: DPPN omits to mention that the ugly man never shared his food with renunciates and when they came begging for food, he cursed them “may you eat your [own] meat”“Ahaṃ pubbe bhārukacchanagaravāsī kūṭavāṇijo hutvā paresaṃ santakaṃ vañcetvā khādiṃ, samaṇe ca bhikkhāya upagate ‘tumhākaṃ maṃsaṃ khādathā’ ti akkosiṃ, tena kammena etarahi imaṃ dukkhaṃ anubhavāmī”ti).

In addition, various other incidents of rebirths related to killing animals are narrated in commentary on Dhammapadapāḷi, which I paraphrase below:

CST DHP V15:

“Idha socati pecca socati, pāpakārī ubhayattha socati;

So socati so vihaññati, disvā kammakiliṭṭhamattano”.

“Sorrows here, sorrows here-after, evil-doer sorrows in both worlds;

He sorrows, he is oppressed, seeing the defiled kamma done by himself”.

In this incident, Cunda the pork-butcher, who used to kill pigs for himself and only sell the surplus meat, goes stark mad here and now and is then reborn in hell.  The description given below of how he treated the pigs and killed them is no different than the mass-butchering that goes on nowadays behind the security patrolled, remote monitored, electrified fences.

“Back of his house he had a plot of ground fenced off as a sort of pigsty, and there he kept his pigs, feeding them all kinds of shrubs and excrement.

Whenever he wanted to kill a pig, he would fasten the pig securely to a post and pound him with a square club to make his flesh swell plump and tender.  Then, forcing open the pig’s jaws and inserting a little wedge in his mouth, he would pour down his throat boiling hot water from a copper boiler.  The hot water would penetrate the pig’s belly, loosening the excrement, and would pass out through the anus, carrying boiling hot excrement with it.  So long as there was even a little excrement left in the pig’s belly, the water would come out stained and turbid; but as soon as the pig’s belly was clean, the water would come out pure and clear.

The rest of the water he would pour over the pig’s back, and the water would peel off the black skin as it ran off.  Then he would singe off the bristles with a torch.  Finally, he would cut off the pig’s head with a sharp sword.  As the blood gushed forth, he would catch it in a dish; then he would roast the pig, basting it with the blood he had caught.  Then he would sit down with his wife and son and eat the pig.  Whatever meat was left over, he would sell.  In this way he made a living for fifty-five years.  Although the Teacher was in residence at a neighboring monastery, not on a single day did Cunda do him honor by offering him so much as a handful of flowers or a spoonful of rice, nor did he do a single work of merit besides” (emphasis added). [36]

Note that he is killing pigs for himself and sells ONLY the surplus meat – so he is not a butcher as most lay people would understand that term.  Hence the emphasis by Lord Buddha on cease and desist from killing.

Further, as the highlighted passage at the end reads, Cunda never did any homage to Lord Buddha in 45 years.  And what would have been the homage he could have done?  According to the commentary, offering flowers or a spoonful of rice.  Strangely enough, Cunda is a pork-butcher – why not offer freshly roasted pork, basted in blood, to Lord BuddhaBy not even mentioning that choice, the commentary implies that such pork, and by extension any such meat-fish-eggs, would not have been acceptable to Lord Buddha, because of the bloody kammā it was born of.

CST DHP V60:

“Dīghā jāgarato ratti, dīghaṃ santassa yojanaṃ;

Dīgho bālānaṃ saṃsāro, saddhammaṃ avijānataṃ”.

“Long is the night for one awake, long is the yojana [for one walking];

Long is the round of existences for fools, unaware of the good Dhamma”.  [37]

Mallikā, the Queen of King Pasenadi of Kosala, in a previous birth, asked her maid to get some meat for a guest but maid was unable to find any meat available for sale.  Then, Mallikā herself slew a ewe lying in the back of her home and cooked it for the guest.  Because of that evil deed, she suffered in hell and then she herself suffered violent death as many times as there were hairs in the ewe’s fleece. [38]

Again, note that here Mallikā herself kills the ewe when no meat is available.  So, much killing in those times was at the local level, not separated away from people like nowadays.  And Mallikā must have been experienced at doing this otherwise she wouldn’t undertake killing a ewe because it would entail skinning, chopping, hacking, pounding, and baking.  And she must have had all those sharp utensils available as well.

Hence, Lord Buddha tells again and again not to kill because most people were doing their own killing – that teaching on non-killing wasn’t meant only for butchers and hunters but for everyone who indulged in meat-fish-eggs.

CST DHP V235-V238:

“Paṇḍupalāsova dānisi, yamapurisāpi ca te [taṃ (sī. syā. kaṃ. pī.)] upaṭṭhitā;

Uyyogamukhe ca tiṭṭhasi, pātheyyampi ca te na vijjati.

“So karohi dīpamattano, khippaṃ vāyama paṇḍito bhava;

Niddhantamalo anaṅgaṇo, dibbaṃ ariyabhūmiṃ upehisi [dibbaṃ ariyabhūmimehisi (sī. syā. pī.), dibbamariyabhūmiṃ upehisi (?)].

“Upanītavayo ca dānisi, sampayātosi yamassa santike;

Vāso [vāsopi ca (bahūsu)] te natthi antarā, pātheyyampi ca te na vijjati.

“So karohi dīpamattano, khippaṃ vāyama paṇḍito bhava;

Niddhantamalo anaṅgaṇo, na punaṃ jātijaraṃ [na puna jātijaraṃ (sī. syā.), na puna jātijjaraṃ (ka.)] upehisi”.

“[You are] Here like a yellow-leaf, attendants of Yama are present too;

You are standing facing the death, and no provisions for the journey are seen. [39]

“He should make an island for himself, wise one does this with quick effort;

Cleaned of soil, lust-less, [he] approaches the stage of divine noble ones.

“Here gone to the end of life, going closer to Yama [death];

You have no abode in the meanwhile, and no provisions for the journey are seen.

“He should make an island for himself, wise one does this with quick effort;

Cleaned of soil, lust-less, [he] doesn’t approach the birth-aging again”.

In this narration, a killer of cows would kill cows, choose select portions of the meat for himself, and sell the rest.  He would never-ever eat food without meat.  One day, he gave choice portions of meat to his wife to cook and off he went to bathe. [40]  In the meantime, his friend came over needing some meat and took his meat away.  When wife served him only the rice and no meat, he refused to eat it and went out with a knife.  He inserted his hand in the mouth of an ox, pulled out its tongue, and cut it off.  He then cooked that tongue on fire and sat down to eat.  At the first morsel of that tongue-meat, his own tongue was cleft in twain and fell-out.  He then died and was reborn in hell. [41]

Again, note that he is killing cows, keeping select portions for himself and sells ONLY the rest of the meat – so he is not a butcher as most lay people would understand that term.  Hence the emphasis by Lord Buddha on cease and desist from killing.

CST-Jātakapāḷi-190 Sīlānisaṃsajātakaṃ (BP page 274):

In this, a lay disciple came to visit Lord Buddha.  It was late evening so the boatman had closed ferry for the day.  The lay disciple recalled the Triple Gem and walked on River Aciravatī.  Hearing this, Lord Buddha related a story of the past from Lord Kassapa Buddha’s time.  At that time, some stream-enterer lay disciple was in a ship-wreck with a barber who was his charge.  These two persons, lying on a single plank, reached an island. There the barber killed some birds and cooked and ate them, and offered also to the lay disciple.  The stream-enterer lay disciple said no, refusing to eat them.  He realized that in this forlorn place, there is no refuge except for the Triple Gem of Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha. 

So he began to meditate on the Triple Gem. As he meditated and meditated on the Triple Gem, a Nāga reborn on that little island, formed and created out of his own body a great ship, with a sea-spirit as the captain. The ship was filled with the seven kinds of jewels.

When the lay-disciple embarked and also called out barber to join, the sea-spirit said: “You alone may come, that person may not!” “Why not?” “That person does not walk in the moral virtues, that is why”.  “I share with him the fruit of the merit which I have acquired by the alms I have given, by the virtues I have kept, by the meditation I have done.”   And this is how the lay-disciple and the barber reached home safely.  That lay disciple became an Arahant and passed away at that time.

The lessons here are two-fold: (1) as the commentary states “one should associate with good people”, the first factor for stream-entry.  The good person here is the stream-enterer lay disciple.  (2) The second lesson, not explicitly stated as such by the commentary, is this: eating meat that comes as a result of others unhappiness and destruction is a break in the virtues.  The stream-enterer lay disciple rejected the food that came about as a result of death, destruction, and unhappiness of the birds whereas the barber not only caught, killed, plucked, and cooked those birds but he also rejoiced in such food.

Kammā and End of Kammā:

So, naturally a question would arise: what are the causes of evil kammā, where does it spring forth from?  How to eliminate those causes, how to dry the spring of evil kammā?  The two suttā below should help answer these questions.

NDB 10.174 Causes of Kamma Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, the destruction of life ... Taking what is not given ... Sexual misconduct ... False speech ... Divisive speech ... Harsh speech ... Idle chatter ... Longing ... Ill will ... Wrong view, I say, is also threefold: caused by greed, caused by hatred, and caused by delusion.

Thus, bhikkhus, greed is a source and origin of kamma; hatred is a source and origin of kamma; delusion is a source and origin of kamma.  With the destruction of greed, a source of kamma is extinguished.  With the destruction of hatred, a source of kamma is extinguished.  With the destruction of delusion, a source of kamma is extinguished” (emphasis added, edited for length).

NDB 10.47 Mahāli Sutta adds two additional causes of evil kammā: (4) careless attention and (5) wrongly directed mind.  We saw in §2.2 Right View – NDB 2.125“ that careless attention arouses a wrong view.  This wrong view in turn leads to doing kammā that are evil and leading downwards.

The five opposites, namely: non-greed, non-hatred, non-delusion, appropriate attention, and a rightly directed mind are declared the source of good kammā in NDB 10.47 Mahāli Sutta.  Again, in §2.2 Right View – NDB 2.126“ we noticed that appropriate attention arouses the right view.  The right view in turn leads to doing kammā that are good and leading upwards.

Thus, our greed and lust for various eatables leads us to look for new textures and different types of meats.  When we overcome and eliminate our lust, greed, and addiction to meat-fish-eggs, we extinguish a source of evil kammā.  We will discuss meat as addiction in §2.14 Conclusion – LDB 1 Brahmajāla Sutta” where Lord Buddha classified meat as a special class of addiction, distinct and separate from food.

MLDB 46 Mahādhammasamādāna Sutta:

14. (1) “What, bhikkhus, is the way of undertaking things that is painful now and ripens in the future as pain?  Here, bhikkhus, someone in pain and grief kills living beings, and he experiences pain and grief that have killing of living beings as condition.  In pain and grief he takes what is not given ... misconducts himself in sensual pleasures ... speaks falsehood ... speaks maliciously ... speaks harshly ... gossips ... is covetous ... has a mind of ill will ... holds wrong view, and he experiences pain and grief that have wrong view as condition.  On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a state of deprivation, in an unhappy destination, in perdition, even in hell.  This is called the way of undertaking things that is painful now and ripens in the future as pain.

15. (2) “What, bhikkhus, is the way of undertaking things that is pleasant now and ripens in the future as pain?  Here, bhikkhus, someone in pleasure and joy kills living beings, and he experiences pleasure and joy that have killing of living beings as condition. ...

16. (3) “What, bhikkhus, is the way of undertaking things that is painful now and ripens in the future as pleasure?  Here, bhikkhus, someone in pain and grief abstains from killing living beings, and he experiences pain and grief that have abstention from killing living beings as condition.  In pain and grief he abstains from taking what is not given ... he holds right view, and he experiences pain and grief that have right view as condition.  On the dissolution of the body, after death, he reappears in a happy destination, even in the heavenly world.  This is called the way of undertaking things that is painful now and ripens in the future as pleasure.

17. (4) “What, bhikkhus, is the way of undertaking things that is pleasant now and ripens in the future as pleasure?  Here, bhikkhus, someone in pleasure and joy abstains from killing living beings, and he experiences pleasure and joy that have abstention from killing living beings as condition. ...” (emphasis added, edited for length).

This sutta is summarized in the table below.  What is instructive to note is that the present experience remains same as the cause of action whether one kills or not but the moment you move to future, the experience becomes diametrically opposite.  It’s like two super long-range space rockets being fired simultaneously with their angles of firing just one second apart here at the source.  Here and now it appears that both rockets are going in the same direction but when they are observed after a month of travel, one sees that one rocket is going to one galaxy and the other one to another galaxy.  Present experience appears same but the future experience is poles – nay, realms – apart.

Table 2.4: Kammā and Present and Future Experience

Action

Cause of Action & Present Experience

Future Experience

kills beings

pain and grief

state of deprivation, unhappy destination, perdition, hell

pleasure and joy

abstains from killing

pain and grief

happy destination, heavenly world

pleasure and joy

 

Let us take an example to understand this sutta and this table:

Say, for the first row of “kills beings”, there is someone who is depressed because some people were making fun of him.  Because of the resultant suffering, he goes insane and loses the balance of his mind.  He goes out and mass-shoots.  He thus kills in pain and grief and gets pain and grief here itself by being imprisoned or shot-down by law enforcement.  And the future for him is also bleak. [42]

On the other hand, for the second row of “kills beings”, someone kills here because he is a hunter and during the deer-hunting season, he kills with pleasure and joy and brings jeep-loads of deer-meat home and fills up deep freezers with them, which he continues to barbecue and eat until the next deer-hunting season.  Thus he kills in pleasure and joy and gets pleasure and joy here but the future for him is very bleak.

Now, let us look at the same scenario again with the same people but instead of killing, now they are abstaining from killing.

Say, for the first row of “abstains from killing”, the depressed person or the one being made fun of, instead of going on a shooting spree killing people, approaches the school-counselor or tells his parents who get him admitted to the hospital where he suffers for some time from being given injections, shock-therapy, his liberty curtailed, et. al.  He went there out of pain and grief and for some time he will experience pain and grief but the future – it is not bleak for him.

Finally, for the second row of “abstains from killing”, let us say the hunter read this book, realized what he was doing was wrong, and cultivated the right view, right intention, right action, and right livelihood.  With that, in the deer-hunting season, instead of going hunting, he went out with a nice expensive camera and binoculars and observed deer in the wild and took lots of picture.  He then wrote an article in the Outdoor Life of Timbuctoo magazine about the wild deer of Timbuctoo.  He did this out of joy and pleasure and got lot of joy and pleasure here itself being an author and authority on the wild deer of Timbuctoo.  The future for him is not bleak either.

I have taken extreme examples in this story but you can substitute different jobs there.  For example a meat-chef who sources exotic meats from world over changes his outlook and becomes a vegetarian chef par excellence.  Or a gourmet omnitarian frequently visiting an oyster-bar and bringing countless oysters to ruination, now becoming a tofu aficionado.

Finally, here are couple suttā that tell us how kammā is experienced and how to mitigate the impact of kammā done in the past.

NDB 3.100 A Lump of Salt Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, if one were to say thus: ‘A person experiences kamma in precisely the same way that he created it,’ in such a case there could be no living of the spiritual life and no opportunity would be seen for completely making an end of suffering.  But if one were to say thus: ‘When a person creates kamma that is to be experienced in a particular way, he experiences its result precisely in that way,’ in such a case the living of the spiritual life is possible and an opportunity is seen for completely making an end of suffering’ “.

CDB 42.8 The Conch-Blower Sutta:

“Then a disciple has full confidence in that teacher.  He reflects thus: ‘In many ways the Blessed One criticizes and censures the destruction of life, and he says: “Abstain from the destruction of life.”  Now I have destroyed life to such and such an extent.  That wasn’t proper; that wasn’t good.  But though I feel regret over this, that evil deed of mine cannot be undone.’  Having reflected thus, he abandons the destruction of life and he abstains from the destruction of life in the future.  Thus there comes about the abandoning of that evil deed; thus there comes about the transcending of that evil deed. ...

“Then, headman, that noble disciple – who is thus devoid of covetousness, devoid of ill will, unconfused, clearly comprehending, ever mindful – dwells pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with lovingkindness ... compassion ... altruistic joy ... equanimity, likewise the second quarter, the third quarter, and the fourth quarter.  Thus above, below, across, and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he dwells pervading the entire world with a mind imbued with lovingkindness ... compassion ... altruistic joy ... equanimity, vast, exalted, measureless, without hostility, without ill will.  Just as a strong conch blower can easily send his signal to the four quarters, so too, when the liberation of mind by lovingkindness ... compassion ... altruistic joy ... equanimity is developed and cultivated in this way, any limited kamma that was done does not remain there, does not persist there” (emphasis added, edited for length).

What is super-important to note here is the role of Brahma-Vihārā in mitigating the effects of past evil kammā.  After ceasing from doing evil kammā, one must develop Brahma-Vihārā, which we will review shortly in the next section.

Kammā and Lord Buddha:

Kammā is very pervasive and long-lasting, so much so that even after attaining sammāsambodhi, Lord Buddha still had to suffer the results of the kammā done in the past lives.  We review an example below, which is self-explanatory.

CST Apadānapāḷi-1 39 Avaṭaphalavaggo-10 Pubbakammapilotikabuddhaapadānaṃ V86-V87:

“Ahaṃ kevaṭṭagāmasmiṃ, ahuṃ kevaṭṭadārako;

Macchake ghātite disvā, janayiṃ somanassakaṃ [somanassahaṃ (udāna aṭṭha.)].

“Tena kammavipākena, sīsadukkhaṃ ahū mama;

Sabbe sakkā ca haññiṃsu, yadā hani viṭaṭūbho [viṭaṭubho (syā. ka.)]”.

“In a fishermen’s village, I was a young fisherman;

Having seen fishes being destroyed, it produced mental happiness.

“As a result of that kamma, my head pained;

All Sākyans were oppressed, when killed by Viḍūḍabha” (emphasis added).

In the verse above, the Sākyans in the present life were Lord Buddha’s companions in the past and they had also gone with him and were happy seeing the fishes being destroyed.  As a result, in this life, all of them were destroyed by Viḍūḍabha, the usurper-successor son of King Pasenadi of Kosala, who had a grudge against them.

Note that the Bodhisatta was only getting happy seeing the fishes being destroyed – he was neither catching fishes nor killing them nor selling them.  If just the thought of happiness at the misery of other creatures can bring such dire consequences even for the Teacher, imagine what the results could be when one looks at living beings and salivates at the various textures, filets, and so on.

§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings)

The Brahma-Vihārā, literally the dwellings of the Brahmā, are called thus because the highest deity, Mahābrahmā, constantly dwells in them.  The very first sutta we take up here can perform the triple-duty of helping us perfect the three divine dwellings of loving-friendliness, compassion, and altruistic joy.

Earlier, in the “§2.2 Right View” section, we saw:

NDB 4.185 Brahmin Truths Sutta:

“Here, wanderers, a brahmin says thus: ‘All living beings are to be spared.’  Speaking thus, a brahmin speaks truth, not falsehood.  He does not, on that account, misconceive himself as ‘an ascetic’ or as ‘a brahmin.’  He does not misconceive: ‘I am better’ or ‘I am equal’ or ‘I am worse.’  Rather, having directly known the truth in that, he is practicing simply out of sympathy and compassion for living beings” (emphasis added).

Thus, compassion and sympathy for beings should be the primary reason why one abstains from meat-fish-eggs and this should be practiced without any conceit, without any concept related to purity, without any wrong view that purity of food is the liberation, and so forth.

As Lord Buddha advised his own son Rāhula Thera:

MLDB 62 Mahārāhulovāda Sutta:

18. “Rāhula, develop meditation on loving-kindness; for when you develop meditation on loving-kindness, any ill-will will be abandoned.

19. “Rāhula, develop meditation on compassion; for when you develop meditation on compassion, any cruelty will be abandoned.

20. “Rāhula, develop meditation on altruistic joy; for when you develop meditation on altruistic joy, any discontent will be abandoned.

21. “Rāhula, develop meditation on equanimity; for when you develop meditation on equanimity, any aversion will be abandoned” (emphasis added).

In “§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth – CDB 42.8 The Conch-Blower Sutta” we saw that to mitigate the effects of past evil kammā, one must develop the Brahma-Vihārā of loving-friendliness, compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity.

NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta:

“Here, a noble disciple, having abandoned the destruction of life, abstains from the destruction of life.  By abstaining from the destruction of life, the noble disciple gives to an immeasurable number of beings freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction.  He himself in turn enjoys immeasurable freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction.  This is the first gift, a great gift, primal, of long standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated and never before adulterated, which is not being adulterated and will not be adulterated, not repudiated by wise ascetics and brahmins.  This is the fourth stream of merit, stream of the wholesome, nutriment of happiness – heavenly, ripening in happiness, conducive to heaven – that leads to what is wished for, desired, and agreeable, to one’s welfare and happiness” (emphasis added).

When one abstains from meat-fish-eggs, one gives the highest gift of non-enmity and non-fear to all the beings one may have eaten in the course of this life.  Not only that, as one constantly practices this, again and again one is reborn in circumstances that allow one to practice compassionate lifestyle that includes vegetarianism with ease and peace of mind.  A major cause of remorse and restlessness is eliminated and one understands that because of the past merits (pārāmi), one is born in situations where one consciously gives beings freedom from fear.  And in return, she herself enjoys immeasurable freedom from fear and enmity.  Whenever due to past kammā, she is reborn in the animal realm as cow, hen, buffalo, pig, emu, crocodile, and what have you – she lives out her life without fear that she will be eaten and her life will be cut short.  And to boot, when born in fortunate circumstances, she will progress confidently, quickly, and smoothly on the Noble Eightfold Path.

In “Appendix One: Types of Giving and Brahma-Vihārā”, we compare NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta with NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta to identify what is an altruistic approach and how to perfect the divine dwelling of altruistic joy.  The reader is strongly urged to review Appendix One at this point and return back.

Here’s the next sutta in this connection:

NDB 10.92 Enmity Sutta: [43]

Then the householder Anāthapiṇḍika approached the Blessed One, paid homage to him, and sat down to one side.  The Blessed One then said to him:

“Householder, when a noble disciple has eliminated five perils and enmities, possesses the four factors of stream-entry, and has clearly seen and thoroughly penetrated with wisdom the noble method, he might, if he so wished, declare of himself: ‘I am one finished with hell, the animal realm, and the sphere of afflicted spirits; finished with the plane of misery, the bad destination, the lower world; I am a stream-enterer, no longer subject to [rebirth in] the lower world, fixed in destiny, heading for enlightenment.’

“What are the five perils and enmities that have been eliminated?

(1-5) Householder, one who destroys life, with the destruction of life as condition, ... takes what is not given ... engages in sexual misconduct ... speaks falsely ... indulges in liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness, with indulgence in liquor, wine, and intoxicants as condition, creates peril and enmity pertaining to the present life and peril and enmity pertaining to future lives, and he also experiences mental pain and dejection.  One who abstains from the destruction of life ... what is not given ... sexual misconduct ... speaking falsely ... liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness, does not create such peril and enmity pertaining to the present life or such peril and enmity pertaining to future lives, nor does he experience mental pain and dejection.  For one who abstains from the destruction of life ... what is not given ... sexual misconduct ... speaking falsely ... liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness, that peril and enmity has thus been eliminated.

“These are the five perils and enmities that have been eliminated. ...

(6-8) Here, householder, a noble disciple possesses unwavering confidence in the Buddha, in the Dhamma, in the Saṅgha.  (9) He possesses the virtuous behavior loved by the noble ones, unbroken, flawless, unblemished, unblotched, freeing, praised by the wise, ungrasped, leading to concentration.  These are the four factors of stream-entry that he possesses. ...

(10) Here, householder, the noble disciple reflects thus: ‘When this exists, that comes to be; with the arising of this, that arises.  When this does not exist, that does not come to be; with the cessation of this, that ceases’. ...

“This is the noble method that he has clearly seen and thoroughly penetrated with wisdom” (emphasis added, edited for length).

What this sutta clearly states is that (1) only when five fears and enmities are stilled, (2) only when one possesses the four factors of stream-entry, and (3) only when one has seen the dependent origination can one state to be a stream-enterer. [44]  These three are inter-related and inter-dependent and go together.  In NDB 5.174 Enmities Sutta, stilling the five fears and animosities is equated with being virtuous and going to heaven but not equated with being a stream-enterer.  What this means is one must first eliminate these five fears and enmities and become virtuous – only then one is capable of entering the stream and seeing the dependent origination.  And to become virtuous, one must stop engaging in destruction of life – whether directly or indirectly.  So, we can say:

Not stilling the five fears & enmities --> Not virtuous --> Not a stream-enterer

Now let us review Lord Buddha’s message related to non-violence and compassion.  This is a very important sutta for us.

MLDB 8 Sallekha Sutta:

2. Then, when it was evening, the venerable Mahā Cunda rose from meditation and went to the Blessed One.  After paying homage to the Blessed One he sat down at one side and said to him:

3. “Venerable sir, various views arise in the world associated either with doctrines of a self or with doctrines about the world.  How does the abandoning and relinquishing of those views come about in a bhikkhu who is attending only to the beginning [of his meditative training]?”

“Cunda, as to those various views that arise in the world associated either with doctrines of a self or with doctrines about the world: if [the object] in relation to which those views arise, which they underlie, and which they are exercised upon is seen as it actually is with proper wisdom thus: ‘This is not mine, this I am not, this is not my self,’ then the abandoning and relinquishing of those views comes about”. …

[Lord Buddha then reviews eight jhānā and asserts that these jhānā are called “peaceful abidings” and not “effacements” in the noble one’s discipline.  The sutta then continues:]

12. “Now, Cunda, here effacement should be practiced by you:

(1) ‘Others will be cruel; we shall not be cruel here’: effacement should be practiced thus.

(2) ‘Others will kill living beings; we shall abstain from killing living beings here’: effacement should be practiced thus” … (emphasis added).

[Lord Buddha advises a total of forty-four effacements.  The sutta then continues with Lord Buddha calling the same set of forty-four successively as “inclination of mind”, “avoidance”, “way leading upwards”, and “way of extinguishing”].

The commentary on this sutta (Endnote 108 in MLDB) states:

“Non-cruelty (avihiṃsā), which is a synonym for compassion, is mentioned at the beginning because it is the root of all virtues, especially the root-cause of morality” (emphasis added).

We saw the same at the beginning of this section in the NDB 4.185 Brahmin Truths – the first Brahmin truth is that of non-cruelty.

Without practicing this root of non-cruelty and compassion, virtues can’t be purified; one with impure virtues can’t get right view; and for one without right view, Nibbāna is a pipe-dream.

Not practicing non-cruelty --> Not virtuous --> No right view --> Far from Nibbāna

Also note that this sutta is preached with particular emphasis on a “bhikkhu who is attending only to the beginning [of his meditative training]” – the message is same as the one portrayed in §2.14 Conclusion – LDB 1 Brahmajāla Sutta” where elemental moralities are identified including non-killing.  Without perfecting these elemental moralities, Sīla division is not perfected and without that, one cannot progress further.  We saw this very same message in “§2.2 Right View – CDB 47.3 A Bhikkhu Sutta” as well where it was stated that virtue that is purified and view that is straight [right] are the starting point of wholesome states.

In the following two suttā, the same message is reinforced: no killing anything and an unrestrained layman should approach the ideal of muni by abstaining from killing anything and protecting all living beings – directly or indirectly, whether beings are once-born or twice-born.

Sn-B 1.7 Vasala Sutta: [45]

117. “One here who injures a living being,

whether once-born or twice-born,

who has no kindness toward living beings:

you should know him as an outcast” (emphasis added).

Sn-B 1.12 Muni Sutta:

220. “The two are dissimilar, their dwelling and conduct far apart:

the layman supporting a wife and the ascetic owning nothing.

The layman is unrestrained in harming other beings,

while the muni, ever restrained, protects living beings” (emphasis added).

In the above sutta, the muni not only protects beings by carefully avoiding any harm to them, but he also, like the brahmins of the yore, avoids any food that comes about as a result of killing living beings.  This is how he protects living beings.

Again, we contend that since most killing was at the local and family level, the layman is described as “unrestrained in harming other beings” – not because the entire society consisted exclusively of butchers and hunters, fowlers and trappers.

Here is another sutta, substantially identical to the NDB 4.201 Training Rules Sutta we saw earlier in the “§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing” section – but with a twist:

NDB 4.99 Training Rules Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of persons found existing in the world.  What four?  (1) One who is practicing for his own welfare but not for the welfare of others; (2) one who is practicing for the welfare of others but not for his own welfare; (3) one who is practicing neither for his own welfare nor for the welfare of others; and (4) one who is practicing both for his own welfare and for the welfare of others.

And how, bhikkhus, is a person practicing for his own welfare but not for the welfare of others?  Here, some person himself abstains from the destruction of life but does not encourage others to abstain from the destruction of life.  He himself abstains from taking what is not given ...  sexual misconduct ... false speech ... liquor, wine, and intoxicants, the basis for heedlessness, but does not encourage others to abstain from it.  It is in this way that a person is practicing for his own welfare but not for the welfare of others” (emphasis added, edited for length).

            [The other three kinds of persons are described in the similar way].

The twist is that now the comparison has shifted from good person versus bad person (see “§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing NDB 4.201 Training Rules Sutta”) to self-welfare versus welfare of others.  This changes the attitude from self-centered to other-centered and brings in the opportunity to practice the Brahma-vihāra of altruistic joy.  And of course, the goal for us should be to become a person that is interested in the welfare of all: self as well as others.

This sutta can be summarized as in the Table 2.5.  I have assigned a score of one for each þ and a score of zero for each ý.  If we do negative scoring (by assigning -1 for each ý), as many exams nowadays do, the result becomes even more stark.

 

Table 2.5: Self-Welfare vs. Welfare of Others (Altruistic)

 

Self-Welfare

(abstains from destruction of life)

Welfare of Others = Altruism

(encourages others to abstain from destruction of life)

Score

(without negative scoring)

Score

(with negative scoring)

Person 1

þ

ý

+1

0

Person 2

ý

þ

+1

0

Person 3

ý

ý

0

-2

Person 4

þ

þ

+2

+2

 

On this sutta and the divine dwelling of altruistic joy, see “Appendix One: Types of Giving and Brahma-Vihārā” where we compare NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta with NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta to identify an approach that allows us to get merits as well as perfect the divine dwelling of altruistic joy.  The reader is strongly urged to review Appendix One at this point and return back.

Finally, let us review a few suttā on loving-friendliness before we move to the next section.  The development of loving-friendliness is so critical and important that in NDB 9.18 Loving-Kindness Sutta it is declared as the ninth factor of Uposatha, in addition to the eight precepts – and this is the only time something is made a factor of Uposatha, so far as I can tell.  The best example of a practitioner of loving-friendliness is this:

MLDB 21 Kakacūpamā Sutta:

20. “Bhikkhus, even if bandits were to sever you savagely limb by limb with a two-handled saw, he who gave rise to a mind of hate towards them would not be carrying out my teaching” (emphasis added).

How much less so one should generate a mind of hate to a being by seeing it as something to be devoured and in doing so, depriving it of life and freedom.  And again, this doesn’t mean one argues: “Oh, the chicken I purchased was raised by a farmer in Illinois, killed and frozen by Chix-R-US, spiced-fried-served by Wing Masters on High Street – I am just the eater”.  In that case, do re-read the story of Venerables Mahākassapa and Bhaddā Kāpilānī from the “§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood” section.

NDB 11.15 Loving-Kindness Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, when the liberation of the mind by loving-kindness has been pursued, developed, and cultivated, made a vehicle and basis, carried out, consolidated, and properly undertaken, eleven benefits are to be expected.  What eleven?  (1) “One sleeps well; (2) one awakens happily; (3) one does not have bad dreams; (4) one is pleasing to human beings; (5) one is pleasing to spirits; (6) deities protect one; (7) fire, poison, and weapons do not injure one; (8) one’s mind quickly becomes concentrated; (9) one’s facial complexion is serene; (10) one dies unconfused; and (11) if one does not penetrate further, one fares on to the brahmā world”.

NDB 8.1 Loving-Kindness Sutta:

“One who does not kill or enjoin killing,

who does not conquer or enjoin conquest,

one who has loving-kindness toward all beings,

harbors no enmity toward anyone” (emphasis added).

Sn-B 1.8 Loving-Kindness Sutta:

149. “Just as a mother would protect her son,

her only son, with her own life,

so one should develop toward all beings

a state of mind without boundaries.

150. “And toward the whole world

one should develop loving-kindness,

a state of mind without boundaries –

above, below, and across –

unconfined, without enmity, without adversaries” (emphasis added).

And the most important, last but not the least, reason to practice Compassion comes from one of the epithets employed to describe Lord Buddha.  In THAG V722, Adhimutta Thera (THAG V705-V725) describes Lord Buddha as Mahākāruṇiko.  The word here, Mahākāruṇiko (the Great Compassionate One), occurs only one time in the entire Sutta and Vinaya Piṭaka (excepting Apadāna where it occurs additional 17 times in derivative forms).  This word is full of high significance because none of the other Divine Dwellings (Brahma-Vihārā) are used to describe Lord Buddha.  Moreover, it is one of the major epithet of Lord Buddha and used widely, especially in the commentarial tradition.  According to the commentaries, karuṇā or compassion is not only the basis of all pārāmis (except paññā), but also the basis of a special meditative attainment available only to a Buddha, called mahākaruṇāsamāpattiṃ.  Commentaries explain that Lord Buddha would enter this attainment in the beginning of the day and survey the world to see who was ready to attain to higher stages, and then he would set in motion steps leading to that person’s liberation.  To put it simply, karuṇā or compassion is the root, the bedrock, the foundation on which the rest of the path is built.

§2.9 Comparison with Meat

In this and the next section, we will discuss how Lord Buddha skillfully compared delight and lust to various items.  We are interested only in the food items so we will focus only on that – in this section on comparison with meat and in the next section on comparison with vegetarian items.

MLDB 54 Potaliya Sutta: [46]

15. “Householder, suppose a dog, overcome by hunger and weakness, was waiting by a butcher’s shop.  Then a skilled butcher or his apprentice would toss the dog a well hacked, clean hacked skeleton of meatless bones smeared with blood.  What do you think, householder?  Would that dog get rid of his hunger and weakness by gnawing such a well hacked, clean hacked skeleton of meatless bones smeared with blood?”

“No, venerable sir. ...

“So too, householder, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures have been compared to a skeleton by the Blessed One; they provide much suffering and much despair, while the danger in them is great.’ ...

16. “Householder, suppose a vulture, a heron, or a hawk seized a piece of meat and flew away, and then vultures, herons, and hawks pursued it and pecked and clawed it.  What do you think, householder?  If that vulture, heron, or hawk does not quickly let go of that piece of meat, wouldn’t it incur death or deadly suffering because of that?”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“So too, householder, a noble disciple considers thus: ‘Sensual pleasures have been compared to a piece of meat by the Blessed One; they provide much suffering and much despair, while the danger in them is great.’ “ ... (emphasis added).

MLDB 23 Vammika Sutta:

The piece of meat is a symbol for delight and lust.  ‘Throw out the piece of meat: abandon delight and lust.  Delve with the knife, thou wise one.’  This is the meaning” (emphasis added).

MLDB 37 Mahātaṇhāsankhaya Sutta:

27. “The mother then carries the embryo in her womb for nine or ten months with much anxiety, as a heavy burden.  Then, at the end of nine or ten months, the mother gives birth with much anxiety, as a heavy burden.  Then, when the child is born, she nourishes it with her own blood; for the mother’s breast-milk is called blood in the Noble One’s Discipline” (emphasis added).

MLDB 96 Esukārī Sutta:

4. “Well, brahmin, has all the world authorized the brahmins to prescribe these four levels of service?” – “No, Master Gotama.” – “Suppose, brahmin, they were to force a cut of meat upon a poor, penniless, destitute man and tell him: ‘Good man, you must eat this meat and pay for it’; so too, without the consent of those [other] recluses and brahmins, the brahmins nevertheless prescribe those four levels of service” (emphasis added).

In the quote above (and also in 96.11 of the same sutta), a piece of meat is explained as an expensive item since it’s being forced upon a poor, penniless, destitute man; who probably doesn’t have money to buy even a simple vegetarian meal, let alone an expensive non-vegetarian meal.

Now, we come to a very important sutta that does a comparison of meat with various evil, bad, low qualities.  This sutta, Sn-B 2.2 Āmagandha Sutta, like the MLDB 55 Jīvaka Sutta, has been construed by the Buddhist laity as unfettered permission to consume meat-fish-eggs.  But does it really give permission, let alone unfettered permission, to consume meat-fish-eggs?  Let us see what we can learn from it.

The Sn-B 2.2 Āmagandha Sutta reports the conversation between Brahmin Tissa and Lord Kassapa Buddha. [47]  Brahmin Tissa, a life-long vegetarian, defines “carrion” as meat-fish and that is countered by Lord Kassapa Buddha stating that all the base, low, vulgar, self-centered, violent, and terrible qualities are carrion, not meat-fish.  Thus, Brahmin Tissa starts the conversation with the wrong view that purity is achieved by being a vegetarian while Lord Kassapa Buddha sets him right by stating that purity is achieved by removing bad qualities, not just by purifying the food.  We saw such a wrong view about purification by food in the “§2.2 Right View MLDB 12 Mahāsīhanāda Sutta”.  Thus, I believe that to teach Brahmin Tissa using skillful means, Lord Kassapa Buddha ate meat both in the village and when Brahmin Tissa came to see him, so that the noble conversation that leads onwards and upwards to Nibbāna can begin.  Furthermore, in V249 of the same sutta, being a vegetarian and being a shaven-head are equated – that doesn’t mean a Buddhist Monk shouldn’t be a shaven-head but should know that being a shaven-head is not a sufficient condition to get liberated.  Similarly, this doesn’t mean one shouldn’t be a vegetarian but one should know that just being a vegetarian is not a sufficient condition to get liberated.

Sn-B 2.2 Āmagandha Sutta:

249. “Neither [avoiding] fish and meat nor fasting,

nor nakedness, a shaven head, matted locks, dirt, or rough antelope hides,

nor tending the sacrificial fire,

or the many austerities in the world aimed at immortality,

sacred hymns, oblations, sacrifices, and seasonal penances,

purify a mortal who has not overcome doubt” (emphasis added).

However, one must understand that this conversation, comparison, and the refrain repeated at the end of each verse “this is carrion, but not the eating of meat” is not an endorsement and an unfettered license to consume meat and fish as long as one has not repealed and eliminated all of the listed base, low, vulgar, self-centered, violent, and terrible qualities.  If one subscribes to Sn-B 2.2 Āmagandha Sutta to justify eating meat-fish-eggs, then there isn’t much difference, if any, between that view and the view held by naked ascetic Kaḷāramuṭṭhaka (which we reviewed in the “§2.2 Right View – LDB 24 Pāṭika Sutta”) who “subsisted on strong drink and meat, abstaining from boiled rice and sour milk and enjoyed greatest gains and fame”.

Here is a point to ponder and this point is certainly in the realm of unknown so we can only mention it but not speculate any further about it: if naked ascetic Kaḷāramuṭṭhaka had ever confronted Lord Kassapa Buddha with his wrong view of “subsisting on strong drink and meat, abstaining from boiled rice and sour milk”, would Lord Kassapa Buddha have been eating only vegetarian food so that the noble conversation that leads onwards to Nibbāna can begin?

One can subscribe to the Sn-B 2.2 Āmagandha Sutta only if one has reached the stage where the base, low, vulgar, self-centered, violent, and terrible qualities are eliminated.  Until then, purification of virtue and purification of view is what one must focus on and try to perfect the Brahma-Vihārā of loving-friendliness, compassion, and altruistic joy.  We reviewed the seven purifications, including purification of virtue and purification of view, in the “§2.2 Right View – MLDB 24 Rathavinīta Sutta”.

For Lord Buddha, arahants, or a monk who gets meat-fish-eggs without intention and eats it without craving for tastes, that food is pure because their livelihood, intention, and action are purified but is that the case for the lay people offering it and/or eating it?  Some may offer it with delusion, some with greed, some with lust, some with expectations of rewards, and some with a self-centered attitude.  Certainly they will get rewards for what they offered to the extent of their action, intention, and the type of the recipient; but after that, the kammā will also kick-in and give results that might take one down.  The responsibility for the kammā, including for the kammā of giving, rests with the individual, not with Lord Buddha or the recipient of the food.  And here it is in the words of Lord Buddha himself:

MLDB 35 Cūḷasaccaka Sutta:

30. Then, it being morning, the Blessed One dressed, and taking his bowl and outer robe, he went with the Sangha of bhikkhus to the park of Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha’s son and sat down on the seat made ready.  Then, with his own hands, Saccaka the Nigaṇṭhas son served and satisfied the Sangha of bhikkhus headed by the Buddha with the various kinds of good food.  When the Blessed One had eaten and had put his bowl aside, Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha’s son took a low seat, sat down at one side, and said to the Blessed One: “Master Gotama, may the merit and the great meritorious fruits of this act of giving be for the happiness of the givers.”

Aggivessana, whatever comes about from giving to a recipient such as yourself one who is not free from lust, not free from hate, not free from delusion that will be for the givers.  And whatever comes about from giving to a recipient such as myself one who is free from lust, free from hate, free from delusion that will be for you” (emphasis added).

When a person is done away with all the bad qualities, then the attachment to meat-fish-eggs will also drop away and becoming a non-returner or an arahant, she will consume food only to maintain life, not for decoration, adornment, taste, and strength.  Such food is consumed like it was the meat of the only son – we will discuss this in detail in the “§2.13 Food as Nutriment” section.

§2.10 Comparison with Vegetarian Items

Many suttā talk about body as being “built up out of rice and gruel” (e.g. NDB 9.15 Boil Sutta, CDB 35.103, CDB 41.5, CDB 55.21); “built up out of boiled rice and porridge” (e.g. MLDB 23.4 Vammika Sutta, MLDB 74.9 Dīghanakha Sutta, MLDB 77.29 Mahāsakuludāyi Sutta); or “fed on rice and gruel” (LDB 2.83 Sāmaññaphala Sutta). [48]  Thus, body is always described as built up of vegetarian items and not by meat-fish-eggs.  The only exception to this is when mother’s milk is described as blood in the dispensation of the noble ones in “§2.9 Comparison with Meat – MLDB 37 Mahātaṇhāsankhaya Sutta”.

In the same vein, LDB 27 Aggañña Sutta, describing the evolution of the world, states following foods in the order they appeared in the world: delight, savory earth crust, fungus, creepers, non-husked rice, and husked rice.  After this, things go downhill – there appear differentiation of gender, indulgence in lust and passion, thievery, appointment of a king, taxes to support law enforcement, and finally the four classes arise – that’s when trades appear where people can barter or buy and sell.  And that is the lowest level.  Note that none of the foods mentioned here are meat-fish-eggs.  And until foods remain vegetarian, things are not really terrible. [49]

And now we will study a sutta that has great ramifications for us:

NDB 7.67 Simile of the Fortress Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, when a king’s frontier fortress is well provided with seven appurtenances of a fortress and readily gains, without trouble or difficulty, four kinds of food, it can be called a king’s frontier fortress that cannot be assailed by external foes and enemies.

[Then the seven appurtenances of a fortress are described and the sutta continues:]

And what are the four kinds of food that it readily gains, without trouble or difficulty?

(1) “Here, bhikkhus, in the king’s frontier fortress much grass, firewood, and water are stored up for the delight, relief, and ease of its inhabitants and for warding off outsiders.

(2) “Again, in the king’s frontier fortress much rice and barley are stored ...

(3) “Again, in the king’s frontier fortress many foodstuffs – sesame, green gram, and beans – are stored ...

(4) “Again, in the king’s frontier fortress many medicaments – ghee, butter, oil, honey, molasses, and salt – are stored ...

“So too, bhikkhus, when a noble disciple possesses seven good qualities, and when he gains at will, without trouble or difficulty, the four jhānas that constitute the higher mind and are pleasant dwellings in this very life, he is then called a noble disciple who cannot be assailed by Māra, who cannot be assailed by the Evil One” (edited for length).

Three very important points emerge from this reading:

(1)   All the foods stored in the fortress are vegetarian – nothing non-vegetarian is stored.  As a counterpoint, in the olden times, live animals used to be kept inside the fort to be slaughtered in the case of a siege – but not so in our case.  The “grass” mentioned in Food #1 is not for animals but rather goes with the firewood and water to round out the requisites for “cooking and cleaning”.

(2)   The foods – all vegetarian – are then compared to the four jhānā, a very high comparison indeed for vegetarian items, as contrasted to what we saw earlier where meat was compared to sensual pleasures, to delight and lust, to much suffering, and so forth.

(3)   Here, the foods for noble disciples are called jhānā – four of the eleven doors to the deathless. [50]

On these two sections: “§2.9 Comparison with Meat” and “§2.10 Comparison with Vegetarian Items”, also see “§A3.1 Āmisa & Sāmisa versus Nirāmisa” where we compare the usage of terms Āmisa & Sāmisa to Nirāmisa to bring out an extremely deep meaning.  The reader is strongly urged to review it now and return back.

§2.11 Offerings to the Saṅgha

First, a teaching from DHP: [51]

CST DHP V6:

“Pare ca na vijānanti, mayamettha yamāmase;

Ye ca tattha vijānanti, tato sammanti medhagā”.

“Others don’t see, we are subject to death here;

Those who see thus, thereupon end the quarrels”.

This verse was spoken in relation to the Quarrel at Kosambī (see MLDB 48 Kosambiya Sutta).  The commentary on Dhammapadapāḷi narrates a very illuminating episode which I paraphrase:

While Lord Buddha had retired to the Pārileyyaka Forest because of the quarrelsome monks at Kosambī, he was cared for, served, and protected by an elephant.  A monkey saw the elephant taking care of Lord Buddha and wishing to do something good as well, he brought fresh honey on comb and offered it to Lord Buddha.  Lord Buddha accepted it but didn’t partake of the honey so monkey minutely examined the honeycomb and noticed some insect eggs therein.  He carefully removed the insect eggs and offered it again to Lord Buddha and he ate it after accepting it. [52]

If Lord Buddha wouldn’t accept eggs and that too insect eggs which many of us wouldn’t even see or notice – and most people nowadays would argue that “eggs are not fertilized so they are vegetarian” (in USA and Europe, vegetarianism includes eating eggs, presumably of all kinds and all origins) – then how much less would he say that the meat-fish-eggs produced by the factory-farming of the current world is in accordance with the Jīvaka three-prong test.

Now, let us see what the then-contemporary lay devotees thought was suitable for Lord Buddha and the Saṅgha.  In the sutta below, the Licchavis, when invited to bring a suitable food item for Lord Buddha and the Saṅgha, brought a vegetarian item for Lord Buddha.

MLDB 35 Cūḷasaccaka Sutta:

28. Then, knowing that the Blessed One had consented, Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha’s son addressed the Licchavis: “Hear me, Licchavis.  The recluse Gotama together with the Sangha of good bhikkhus has been invited by me for tomorrow’s meal.  You may bring to me whatever you think would be suitable for him.”

29. Then, when the night had ended, the Licchavis brought five hundred ceremonial dishes of milk rice as gifts of food.  Then Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha’s son had good food of various kinds prepared in his own park and had the time announced to the Blessed One: “It is time, Master Gotama, the meal is ready” (emphasis added).

Someone here may think that Saccaka the Nigaṇṭha’s son, being a Jain, would be super-strict vegetarian and therefore Licchavis brought a vegetarian item but if one sees the invitation to bring the suitable item, clearly it is for Lord Buddha, not for Saccaka.  And surely, Licchavis were very wealthy and could have brought meat items in abundance and variety – but didn’t.  In the sutta below, in terms of wealth, power, splendor, appearance, and beauty, Licchavis are compared to the devā of the Heaven of Thirty-Three by Lord Buddha himself:

LDB 16 Mahāparinibbāna Sutta:

2.17. And the Lord, having seen the Licchavis from afar, said: ‘Monks, any of you who have not seen the Thirty-Three Gods, just look at this troop of Licchavis!  Take a good look at them, and you will get an idea of the Thirty-Three Gods!’

Meals Offered to Lord Buddha:

Here is an excerpt from the LDB 16 Mahāparinibbāna Sutta identifying the two most fruitful and profitable meals one can offer to Lord Buddha, and by extension to any Buddha, Pacceka Buddha, and arahants:

LDB 16 Mahāparinibbāna Sutta:

4.42. Then the Lord said to the Venerable Ananda: ‘It might happen, Ananda, that Cunda the smith should feel remorse, thinking: “It is your fault, friend Cunda, it is by your misdeed that the Tathāgata gained final Nibbāna after taking his last meal from you!”  But Cunda’s remorse should be expelled in this way: “That is your merit, Cunda, that is your good deed, that the Tathāgata gained final Nibbāna after taking his last meal from you!  For, friend Cunda, I have heard and understood from the Lord’s own lips that these two alms-givings are of very great fruit, of very great result, more fruitful and advantageous than any other.  Which two?  The one is the alms-giving after eating which the Tathāgata attains supreme enlightenment, the other that after which he attains the Nibbana-element without remainder at his final passing.  These two alms-givings are more fruitful and profitable than all others.  Cunda’s deed is conducive to long life, to good looks, to happiness, to fame, to heaven and to lordship.”  In this way, Ananda, Cunda’s remorse is to be expelled’ (emphasis added).

Among these, the first auspicious meal after which Lord Buddha attained enlightenment was given by Sujātā the daughter of Seniyā.  While no sutta has come down stating that she was the one who gave the last meal to the Bodhisatta, we have the commentarial tradition stating this unequivocally and then we have NDB 1.258 that praises Sujātā as “the first to go for refuge” by Lord Buddha himself.  And she offered milk-rice (“some boiled rice and porridge” according to MLDB 36.33 Mahāsaccaka Sutta) to Lord Buddha – a vegetarian item.

Eating this vegetarian food, the Bodhisatta attained the change of lineage and became a Buddha, a Bhagavā, an Arahant, a Sugata, a Lokvidū, a Satthā, a Tathāgata.

On the other hand, the second auspicious meal, after eating which Lord Buddha attained supreme parinibbāna, contained something called “sūkaramaddavaṃ”.  The opinion is very divided on what exactly this item was, with commentary giving three explanations: (1) tender parts of a young pig, (2) rice cooked with five products of cow, or (3) an elixir of life (as reported in LDB endnote 417) while modern translators have translated it as truffles, pig’s delight, etc.  While the meaning of the term “sūkaramaddavaṃ” is not clear, what is clear is that there is a very high-degree of confusion about its meaning.  Now, here’s something very interesting:

LDB 16 Mahāparinibbāna Sutta:

4.17. And as the night was ending Cunda had a fine meal of hard and soft food prepared with an abundance of ‘pig’s delight ’, and when it was ready he reported to the Lord: ‘Lord, the meal is ready.’

4.18. Then the Lord, having dressed in the morning, took his robe and bowl and went with his order of monks to Cunda’s dwelling, where he sat down on the prepared seat and said: ‘Serve the “pig’s delight” that has been prepared to me, and serve the remaining hard and soft food to the order of monks.’  ‘Very good, Lord’, said Cunda, and did so.

4.19. Then the Lord said to Cunda: ‘Whatever is left over of the “pig’s delight” you should bury in a pit, because, Cunda, I can see none in this world with its devas, māras and Brahmās, in this generation with its ascetics and Brahmins, its princes and people who, if they were to eat it, could thoroughly digest it except the Tathāgata.’  ‘Very good, Lord’, said Cunda and, having buried the remains of the ‘pig’s delight’ in a pit, he came to the Lord, saluted him and sat down to one side.  Then the Lord, having instructed, inspired, fired and delighted him with a talk on Dhamma, rose from his seat and departed (emphasis added).

What’s interesting is that twice Lord Buddha expressly prohibited serving “sūkaramaddavaṃ” to the bhikkhus or anyone else and bhikkhus were served only the remaining food which would have been all vegetarian food.  In various suttā, at several places, hard and soft food or eatables and chewables are served to the Saṅgha and since nothing is mentioned, they are always vegetarian foods.  When meat is served, it is expressly mentioned as in above sutta, in the agreeables served by Ugga, in the food served by the minister in the Vinaya story (see “§A2.4 Meat as Food”), and in the story of general Sīha we will review below. 

Coming back to the discussion at hand, the only reason Lord Buddha would have prohibited “sūkaramaddavaṃ” from being served to anyone else is because that item was poisonous and was meant as a quick-acting poison for Lord Buddha since he was to attain final Nibbāna in less than 24 hours.  From what is described in the LDB 16 Mahāparinibbāna Sutta, bloody diarrhea and sharp pains attacked Lord Buddha the same day, in fact probably in a few hours, and within less than 24 hours of this last meal, he attained parinibbāna.  While tainted meat can kill, it will not be so quick and so deadly as it is with poisonous mushrooms, so in all likelihood “sūkaramaddavaṃ” was some sort of deadly poisonous mushrooms.

Furthermore, in India, pigs are fed refuse and excreta – true now and true in Lord Buddha’s lifetime.  We saw this in the story on “§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth CST DHP V15” where Cunda the pork-butcher was feeding excreta to his pigs.  The same is also reported in the LDB 23.25 Pāyāsi Sutta where a swineherd sees discarded dried dung which he uses his upper robe to tie into a bundle and with the thought “this discarded dried dung would be food for my pigs” takes it away. [53]

Nowadays, in major Indian cities, the city government spends money on raising a small army of pigs who are then unleashed on the rivers, lakes, hills, and hillocks of sewage and trash, like a living recycling plant.  Those who see what the pigs eat, then and now, would be positively disgusted at the thought of eating pig-meat and ever more so offer it to Lord Buddha.  We saw this in the story on “§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth CST DHP V15” too where Cunda the pork-butcher never honored Lord Buddha by offering a handful of flowers or a spoonful of rice.  Cunda the pork-butcher could have offered freshly roasted pork, basted in blood, to Lord Buddha but by not even mentioning that choice, the commentary implies that such pork, and by extension any such meat-fish-eggs, would not have been acceptable to Lord Buddha, because of the bloody kammā it was born of.

The very first meal after enlightenment to the newly become Lord Buddha – given by merchants Tapussa and Bhalluka – was rice-cakes and honey, as advised by a deity. [54]

Now we review the non-vegetarian meals offered to Lord Buddha, as reported in certain suttā.

NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta:

“Bhante, in the presence of the Blessed One I heard and learned this: ‘The giver of what is agreeable gains what is agreeable.’  Bhante, my sal flower porridge ... pork embellished with jujubes ... fried vegetable stalks ... boiled hill rice ... clothes from Kāsi ... sandalwood canopied bed is agreeable.  Let the Blessed One accept it from me, out of compassion.”  The Blessed One accepted, out of compassion (emphasis added, edited for length).

[Sometime later, Ugga of Vesālī died and re-appeared in a certain pure abode heaven.  Then he paid a visit to Lord Buddha and confirmed that he had gained what was agreeable for having given what was agreeable].

The only thing at issue here is what has been identified in NDB endnote 1034: this sutta is in the chapter of fives but has six items listed.  The conjecture could be that a sixth item was added later on?  And was that item “pork embellished with jujubes”?  Or was the sutta misclassified in the wrong chapter to being with?  We would never know for sure, either way.

On this sutta and the concept of “agreeable”, see “Appendix One: Types of Giving and Brahma-Vihārā” where we compare NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta with NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta to identify an approach that allows the Buddhist laity to get merits as well as perfect the divine dwelling of altruistic joy.  The reader is strongly urged to review Appendix One at this point and return back.

NDB 8.12 Sīha Sutta:

“Bhante, please let the Blessed One together with the Saṅgha of bhikkhus accept tomorrow’s meal from me.”

The Blessed One consented by silence.  Having understood that the Blessed One had consented, Sīha rose from his seat, paid homage to the Blessed One, circumambulated him keeping the right side toward him, and departed.  Then Sīha addressed a man: “Go, good man, find some meat ready for sale.”

Then, when the night had passed, Sīha the general had various kinds of excellent foods prepared in his own residence, after which he had the time announced to the Blessed One: “It is time, Bhante, the meal is ready.”

Then, in the morning, the Blessed One dressed, took his bowl and robe, went to Sīha’s residence along with the Saṅgha of bhikkhus, and sat down on the seat prepared for him.  Now on that occasion a number of Nigaṇṭhas [went] from street to street and from square to square in Vesālī, thrashing their arms about and crying out: “Today Sīha the general has slain a plump animal to prepare a meal for the ascetic Gotama!  The ascetic Gotama knowingly uses meat [obtained from an animal killed] especially for his sake, the act being done on his account.”

Then a man approached Sīha the general and whispered into his ear: “Sir, you should know that a number of Nigaṇṭhas [are going] from street to street and from square to square in Vesālī, thrashing their arms about and crying out: ‘Today Sīha the general has slain a plump animal to prepare a meal for the ascetic Gotama!  The ascetic Gotama knowingly uses meat [obtained from an animal killed] especially for his sake, a deed done on his account.’ ”

“Enough, good man.  For a long time those venerable ones have wanted to discredit the Buddha, the Dhamma, and the Saṅgha.  They will never stop misrepresenting the Blessed One with what is untrue, baseless, false, and contrary to fact, and we would never intentionally deprive a living being of life, even for the sake of our life” (emphasis added).

In this sutta, the thing of importance for us is this: General Sīha asks the person to look for meat ready for sale – not to request to make meat, not to kill anything.  Another important point that all commentators seem to have missed is that General Sīha as a warrior (khattiya) class would have been used to eating meat.  He is a General and is a rich person who can afford expensive meat.  He was a supporter of the Jains for a long time so he may have turned vegetarian but I think that highly unlikely, seeing the ease with which he asks meat to be obtained.  The only thing that would have changed in General Sīha between the twin events of (1) meeting Lord Buddha and (2) inviting him for offering is that his view was purified, he entered the stream, and he became independent in the dispensation.  However, we don’t know when he learned the Jīvaka three-prong test and how to obtain allowable meat so there are questions here that are unanswered.

Entering the stream or any of the noble states does not mean that one suddenly plugs into unlimited knowledge and vision and a “database of stream-entry including rules of eating meat” is downloaded. [55]  What really happens is a transformation takes place, as if every molecule changes from iron to gold, and one understands something has happened but to understand what it is that has happened, one must study, practice, observe, and understand for oneself – especially in absence of teachers who have reached those stages.  For example, reader is referred to the footnote on the NDB 10.92 Enmity Sutta in the “§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings)” section where we identify a substantially similar sutta discoursed multiple times to Anāthapiṇḍika, the chief patron of Lord Buddha.  I believe this was done to dispel the doubt Anāthapiṇḍika may have had about his own attainment of stream-entry.  In another sutta, CDB 55.21 Mahānāma Sutta, Mahānāma approaches Lord Buddha stating his mindfulness regarding Lord Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha becomes muddled when he comes across a dangerous situation and he starts doubting his future bourn.  Lord Buddha then assures him of his destiny as a stream-enterer.  So, such doubts and questions are normal and they do arise, especially as and when one enters the stream.

When Ugga of Vesālī gave pork embellished with jujubes (NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta), General Sīha served meat (NDB 8.12 Sīha Sutta), or Cunda served “sūkaramaddavaṃ” (LDB 16 Mahāparinibbāna Sutta); they were probably acting out of their irrepressible bubbly confidence, their newfound sense of extreme happiness at having been able to serve the Blessed One, and in the case of Ugga and Sīha, their profound sense of gratitude to Lord Buddha for their attainment of the state of stream-entry.  Now, at that point, Cunda was a lay devotee, Ugga was a stream-enterer or a once-returner still holding on to the concept of agreeables, and Sīha had just entered the stream.

With due respect to them all for their irrepressible bubbly confidence and incomparable achievements, and with no ill-intention or offense; I think that at that stage they were more like a four-five year old daughter playing “having the tea” game with her father.  Father would happily accept the tea made by the child (perhaps a biscuit crushed in cold water) and drink it joyfully!  Father will not reproach the daughter, no matter what she serves.

Hence, Lord Buddha accepted all those offerings and didn’t deny the donors the pleasure of serving Lord Buddha and accruing immeasurable merits.

One more clarification.  We have only three cases (one of which is doubtful) in the Sutta Piṭaka of lay disciples offering meat to Lord Buddha and Saṅgha: Ugga of Vesālī, Sīha, and Cunda.  Therefore, someone here can argue that Lord Buddha allowed lay disciples to buy and offer meat to the Saṅgha.  In the absence of the exact chronology of every sutta, it is equally likely that after seeing these cases of lay disciples offering meat to the Saṅgha, the NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta was preached to make those lay disciples aware of the kamma they were creating by offering meat.  And it’s also possible that in the absence of quick global communications like nowadays; the message of NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta hadn’t yet reached Cunda so he still offered “sūkaramaddavaṃ” to Lord Buddha.

Back to the topic at hand: we have another sutta where Lord Buddha described his father’s household before he renounced.  This is yet another proof for us that being a royal, aristocratic, warrior (khattiya) class family, Lord Buddha’s father could afford meat even for the workers and servants and that would have been a matter of prestige for all parties involved – while the vast majority of other people and their slaves, workers, and servants ate vegetarian food.

NDB 3.39 Delicate Sutta:

“While in other people’s homes slaves, workers, and servants are given broken rice together with sour gruel for their meals, in my father’s residence they were given choice hill rice, meat, and boiled rice (emphasis added).

In another sutta (LDB 26.19 Cakkavatti-Sīhanāda Sutta), Lord Buddha stated that currently the foremost meal (i.e. most prestigious meal) is considered to be “choice hill rice, meat, and boiled rice” (using the terminology of the NDB 3.39 Delicate Sutta from above). [56]

In LDB 3.2.10 Ambaṭṭha Sutta, Lord Buddha again mentioned “[rice] topped with meat gravy” as a food indulged in by the corrupt brahmins of Lord Buddha’s time but not something indulged in by the Brahmin teachers of the yore (see “§2.6 Sacrifice and Giving –NDB 7.52 Giving Sutta and the footnote thereon). [57]

Similarly, Arahant Kāḷigodhāputtabhaddiya Thera (THAG V842-V865) states that before renouncing, he used to indulge in luxury, tastes and meat – a domain of lay-people.

THAG Vīsatinipāto Kāḷigodhāputtabhaddiyattheragāthā:

V842. “Yātaṃ me hatthigīvāya, sukhumā vatthā padhāritā;

Sālīnaṃ odano bhutto, sucimaṃsūpasecano”.

“Habitually I rode elephant, [and] wore delicate clothes;

I ate hill-rice and [common] rice, topped with pure meat gravy”.

There are a few more Suttā we must address at this juncture.

CST Apadānapāḷi-1 7 Sakacintaniyavaggo-6 Sucintitattheraapadānaṃ V36-V44:

This sutta reports that when Sucintita Thera was a high-born lion over 1,500 eons ago, he gave the best parts of an antelope kill to the Lord Atthadassi Buddha.  After giving that gift, he was never reborn in the lower realms and became an Arahant in the end. [58]

CST Apadānapāḷi-1 23 Ālambaṇadāyakavaggo-3 Dverataniyattheraapadānaṃ V12-V18:

The verses report that in a past life Dverataniya Thera was a deer hunter and upon seeing Lord Vipassī Buddha, gave him a piece of meat as donation.  Because of that, he was sovereign in the world for a long time as well as endowed with two jewels in the present life: a soft body and a sharp discernment. [59]

CST Apadānapāḷi-1 27 Padumukkhipavaggo-6 Macchadāyakattherassāpadānaṃ V23-V25:

This sutta describes how, giving a very large fish to Lord Siddhattha Buddha, when he was born as an Osprey bird, resulted in Macchadāyaka Thera getting liberated in this eon. [60]

CST Apadānapāḷi-1 42 Bhaddālivaggo-4 Madhumaṃsadāyakattherassāpadānaṃ V106-V117:

Here in this sutta, Madhumaṃsadāyaka Thera, a pork-seller, gave donation of pork drizzled with ghee and honey to the Saṅgha and as a result became an Arahant.

Out of the four Suttā above, two report donations as an animal or bird and two as humans.  We can safely disregard the two animal or fish suttā since as animal or fish, they don’t have the skills or facility to make some fresh milk-rice, sprinkle it with fresh ghee, and offer to the Buddha.

Of the remaining two suttā, the givers are a deer-hunter and a pork-seller.  It is perhaps very likely that they had no understanding of kammā and it’s results at that point but seeing the Buddha and the Saṅgha, they became confident and gave the donation of what they had available.

The two key facts to note here are this: (1) in accordance with the CDB 3.24 Archery Sutta (see Appendix One, footnote 98), Venerable Dverataniya Thera gave the donation to the best of the bipeds – a Buddha no less, and Madhumaṃsadāyaka Thera gave to the Saṅgha.  As we mention in Appendix One, any and all giving is fruitful so how can a giving to a Buddha or Saṅgha be of no value?  (2) It appears that the Venerable Ones gave meat that was readily available, didn’t kill anything – thus following the rules laid-down in the “§2.12 Standard for Offering Meat – MLDB 55 Jīvaka Sutta“.

What’s even more striking is this: both Venerables gave the donation 91 eons ago.  An eon, an unimaginable period of time, is defined by Lord Buddha as:

CDB 15.5 The Mountain Sutta:

“Suppose, bhikkhu, there was a great stone mountain a yojana long, a yojana wide, and a yojana high, without holes or crevices, one solid mass of rock.  At the end of every hundred years a man would stroke it once with a piece of Kāsian cloth.  That great stone mountain might by this effort be worn away and eliminated but the aeon would still not have come to an end.  So long is an aeon, bhikkhu. …”

Thus, they had to wait a super-long time to reap the rewards of their donations.  On the other hand, there are several examples of people reaping the rewards of their giving in the same or next life and in some cases, even on the same day! [61]

The natural question that would arise is why did Dverataniya Thera and Madhumaṃsadāyaka Thera had to wait such a long-time and why did they not become a Great Disciple or Foremost in a quality?  Not knowing the implications of kammā like Lord Buddha would know, all we can do is speculate, perhaps in futility: was it because of the inferior quality of the item that was donated meat?

One very important thing to keep in mind is this.  Almost all food in India at that time, and in rural India even today, was prepared in the evening/night.  In the morning and lunch time, no elaborate meals were prepared and what was, and is, usually eaten at breakfast and lunch in rural households was roti bread or lumpy rice with onion, chilies, garlic chutney, and curd or buttermilk – of course this would differ from area to area (e.g. the type of grain used in making the roti bread or the type of rice) but the basics remain same.  Once everyone has returned home from the farm in the evening, that’s when the more sumptuous of the meals is prepared.  This is true today – and this was true in Lord Buddha’s time too:

MLDB 66 Laṭukikopama Sutta:

6. ... “Then we ate only in the evening and in the morning.  Then there was an occasion when the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus thus: ‘Bhikkhus, please abandon that night meal, which is outside the proper time.’  Venerable sir, I was upset and sad, thinking: ‘The Blessed One tells us to abandon the more sumptuous of our two meals, the Sublime One tells us to relinquish it.’  Once, venerable sir, a certain man had obtained some soup during the day and he said: ‘Put that aside and we will all eat it together in the evening.’  [Nearly] all dishes are prepared at night, few by day.  Out of our love and respect for the Blessed One, and out of shame and fear of wrongdoing, we abandoned that night meal, which was outside the proper time” (emphasis added).

Let us understand the implications of what we just read:

(1)   Nearly all dishes were prepared at night, few by day.

(2)   The night meal was more sumptuous than the morning meal.

(3)   So, in those times when bhikkhus went on the alms-round in the morning, they would only be getting leftovers from the previous night and/or the very basic peasant food prepared that morning.

(4)   The leftovers would likely contain no meat-fish-eggs because it would get spoiled + being “more sumptuous”, the family would have gone after such items with gusto and “wiped the bowl clean” in the evening itself.

(5)   The basic peasant food offered in the morning would not be elaborate since no one had time to cook and everyone had to go to farm to work.

(6)   If there was an invitation to meal from a rich person, meat would likely be provided as a sign of respect, wealth, and “I have arrived and can afford” (see the story of minister in “§A2.4 Meat as Food”).

(7)   If the inviter wasn’t rich, the food provided would be simple vegetarian fare with one or two items.  In some cases, we even see the inviter inviting Lord Buddha and then telling the community to bring food for Lord Buddha and the Saṅgha.  We saw this in the MLDB 35 Cūḷasaccaka Sutta earlier in this section.

A natural question and corollary would be: were these non-availability, scant availability, and the lean pickings the reason there was a rise in the establishment of monasteries in large cities so that monks don’t have to wander to get food and rich patrons can provide food in the monastery?

Leaving such discussion to historians and others interested in the development of Buddhist establishments, we have now come full circle to what many in the know would have wondered reading this study guide: “where is the Jīvaka sutta”?  Well, here it is.

§2.12 Standard for Offering Meat

The MLDB 55 Jīvaka Sutta is considered the Gold standard by everyone – Buddhist monastics and laity alike – as to when and how meat-fish-eggs can be eaten.  Let us review this sutta to understand the rules and the qualification criteria it lays down:

MLDB 55 Jīvaka Sutta:

5. “Jīvaka, I say that there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard, or suspected [that the living being has been slaughtered for oneself].  I say that meat should not be eaten in these three instances.  I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected [that the living being has been slaughtered for oneself].  I say that meat may be eaten in these three instances.

6. “Here, Jīvaka, some bhikkhu lives in dependence upon a certain village or town.  He abides pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below, around, and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he abides pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility and without ill will.  Then a householder or a householder’s son comes to him and invites him for the next day’s meal.  The bhikkhu accepts, if he likes.  When the night is ended, in the morning he dresses, and taking his bowl and outer robe, goes to the house of that householder or householder’s son and sits down on a seat made ready.  Then the householder or householder’s son serves him with good almsfood.  He does not think: ‘How good that the householder or householder’s son serves me with good almsfood!  If only a householder or householder’s son might serve me with such good almsfood in the future!’  He does not think thus.  He eats that almsfood without being tied to it, infatuated with it, and utterly committed to it, seeing the danger in it and understanding the escape from it.  What do you think, Jīvaka?  Would that bhikkhu on such an occasion choose for his own affliction, or for anothers affliction, or for the affliction of both?No, venerable sir.Does not that bhikkhu sustain himself with blameless food on that occasion”? ...

[The same is then repeated for the Brahma-Vihārā of compassion, altruistic joy, and equanimity] ...

12. “If anyone slaughters a living being for the Tathāgata or his disciple, he lays up much demerit in five instances.  When he says: ‘Go and fetch that living being,’ this is the first instance in which he lays up much demerit.  When that living being experiences pain and grief on being led along with a neck-halter, this is the second instance in which he lays up much demerit.  When he says: ‘Go and slaughter that living being,’ this is the third instance in which he lays up much demerit.  When that living being experiences pain and grief on being slaughtered, this is the fourth instance in which he lays up much demerit.  When he provides the Tathāgata or his disciple with food that is not permissible, this is the fifth instance in which he lays up much demerit.  Anyone who slaughters a living being for the Tathāgata or his disciple lays up much demerit in these five instances(emphasis added).

(1)   In my opinion, paragraph 5 which lays down the three conditions, what I call Jīvaka three-prong test, is applicable to both the donor and the receiver.

(2)   Second, the recipient of the offering must always be practicing the Brahma-Vihārā.  If he isn’t practicing them, then the offering is not earned as an heir of Lord Buddha.

(3)   Third, in paragraphs following #6 (not reproduced here), only good almsfood is mentioned, not specifically meat.  This means that when various suttā talk about good foods of various kinds, hard and soft foods, and eatables and chewables, those foods are always vegetarian – if meat was served as part of these food, it was specified separately and distinctly.

(4)   Fourth, in paragraph 12, five instances of much demerit are described: all of them have to do with the lay people and not with the Saṅgha.  Thus, the responsibility for the kammā is largely of the Buddhist laity and not so much of the Saṅgha.

The first and the third instances, namely “Go and fetch that living being” and “Go and slaughter that living being”, respectively, support what we have been contending throughout this guide.  In those times in the Indian society, most slaughter was done locally at the household level and in India this is true even today.  The same is true for Nepal and Sri Lanka as well.  In these countries, you can still see today devotees taking chicken to the Hindu Temple for sacrifice on certain festivals.  This is also true in most Moslem societies where on Eid, Moslems go buy a goat or sheep for sacrifice.  I hazard to guess this is true in most developing societies where people raise their own animals and then slaughter them.  I have seen this in the Ethiopian Society where the killing must be done according to the sacrificial rules laid down.  The implication is that the consumer was directly involved in visiting the butcher shop which also doubled as an animal display shop, selecting the animal, getting it slaughtered, and taking back meat that was prepared and well-hacked.  The emphasis on non-killing is because of this reason: stop all slaughter at your local level and move away from trading in meat.  The same implications apply for our current world: first stop eating live oysters, buying live lobsters to boil at home, catching fish off the wharf, and so on.  Once you are settled in that, stop buying fresh or frozen meat-fish-eggs to be cooked at home.  And finally, stop buying ready-to-eat meat-fish-eggs – whether rotisserie chicken or tuna sandwich or what have you.

 

Table 2.6: Analysis of Jīvaka three-prong Test

Question

Donor

Recipient

Three-prong test apply?

Yes

Yes

Make Inquiry whether killed on purpose?

Yes

Yes

Can eat meat at an invitation meal?

No

No T1

Should develop four Brahma-Vihārā?

Optional

Yes

Eat without attachment and infatuation?

Yes

Yes

Table Notes:

T1  Everything (1) provided on invitation and (2) anything brought by the donor or the kappiyakāraka to the monastery should be considered suspect food.  The Buddhist laity should use the approach outlined in “Appendix One: Types of Giving and Brahma-Vihārā” where we compare NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta with NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta to identify how to get merits as well as perfect the divine dwelling of altruistic joy.

 

It is worth repeating what we said earlier while discussing §2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood – NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta“:

The most misunderstood word common across all five injunctions is “trade” (vaṇijjā).  In the standard Theravāda understanding, most people assume that “trade” means these injunctions apply to the seller and not to the buyer.  What they fail to take in account is the fact that the term trade, by very definition, implies two parties: a seller and a buyer.  Trade is NOT an activity undertaken by one party (e.g. seller) in a vacuum.  Trade does NOT mean selling only.  If the intention was to only prohibit selling but allow buying, as some Theravādans contend, Lord Buddha would have used the term vikkiṇāti (= selling) instead of vaṇijjā (= trading, buying and selling)NDB 6.18 The Fish Dealer Sutta uses the term vikkiṇāti which is correctly translated there as selling.

In the Government of India, there is the वाणिज्य एवं उद्योग मंत्रालय (Vāṇijya evaṃ Udyog Mantrālaya) which is translated by the Government of India as “Ministry of Commerce and Industry”.  According to the mistaken Theravādan understanding stated above, it should be translated as “Ministry of Selling and Industry” – and since there is no separate ministry for buying, natural implication would be that only selling needs a ministry, buying doesn’t need one!

Further, in the olden times, bartering was far more prevalent, as reported in several jātakā, and only in very large cities were there merchants and guilds that operated on money concept.

In fact, it would be hypocritical, farcical, and non-sensical to say that as Buddhist laity, we cannot sell gun, cow, beef, whisky, and poison; but as Buddhist laity, we can buy the same five things.  In this case, buying gun and poison will be against the first precept, and buying whisky or any other intoxicants will be against the fifth precept.

One more clarification.  As we saw in “§2.11 Offerings to the Saṅgha” section, we have only three cases (one of which is doubtful) in the Sutta Piṭaka of lay disciples offering meat to Lord Buddha and Saṅgha: Ugga of Vesālī, Sīha, and Cunda.  Therefore, someone here can argue that Lord Buddha allowed lay disciples to buy and offer meat to the Saṅgha.  In the absence of the exact chronology of every sutta, it is equally likely that after seeing these cases of lay disciples offering meat to the Saṅgha, the NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta was preached to make those lay disciples aware of the kamma they were creating by offering meat.  And it’s also possible that in the absence of quick global communications like nowadays; the message of NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta hadn’t yet reached Cunda so he still offered “sūkaramaddavaṃ” to Lord Buddha.

To summarize, Buddhist laity should not engage in these five trades – no matter which side of the counter they are on.

Thus, this begs the question: if there is no cattle seller, no butcher, no meat seller, and no meat buyer in a village – pray tell where does the question of getting meat arise?  And how can one serve meat if there is no meat-trade anywhere?  This is the basic tenet that is largely missing in most discussions of this topic.  Instead of looking at Lord Buddha’s teachings like a lawyer to identify loopholes to support various cravings, we must look at the teachings like a true seeker of our own welfare.  For, who else can help oneself but one herself?

This brings us to the last topic in this chapter: how should food be seen and consumed?

§2.13 Food as Nutriment

In this final topical section, we will focus on food as nutriment and understand how it should be used – without any attachment to tastes, without any craving.  The first sutta tells us how the enlightened ones eat and experience food:

MLDB 91 Brahmāyu Sutta:

14. ... [Lord Buddha] “takes his food experiencing the taste, though not experiencing greed for the taste.  The food he takes has eight factors: it is neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the endurance and continuance of his body, for the ending of discomfort, and for assisting the holy life; he considers: ‘Thus I shall terminate old feelings without arousing new feelings and I shall be healthy and blameless and shall live in comfort’ (emphasis added). [62]

Four nutriments and their origination have been elaborated by Lord Buddha in:

CDB 12.11 Nutriment Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, there are these four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be.  What four?  The nutriment edible food, gross or subtle; second, contact; third, mental volition; fourth, consciousness.  These are the four kinds of nutriment for the maintenance of beings that have already come to be and for the assistance of those about to come to be.

Bhikkhus, these four kinds of nutriment have what as their source, what as their origin, from what are they born and produced?  These four kinds of nutriment have craving as their source, craving as their origin; they are born and produced from craving (emphasis added).

And how nutriment edible food should be seen and used is detailed here:

CDB 12.63 Son’s Flesh Sutta:

“And how, bhikkhus, should the nutriment edible food be seen?  Suppose a couple, husband and wife, had taken limited provisions and were travelling through a desert.  They have with them their only son, dear and beloved.  Then, in the middle of the desert, their limited provisions would be used up and exhausted, while the rest of the desert remains to be crossed.  The husband and wife would think: ‘Our limited provisions have been used up and exhausted, while the rest of this desert remains to be crossed.  Let us kill our only son, dear and beloved, and prepare dried and spiced meat.  By eating our son’s flesh we can cross the rest of this desert.  Let not all three of us perish!’

“Then, bhikkhus, the husband and wife would kill their only son, dear and beloved, prepare dried and spiced meat, and by eating their son’s flesh they would cross the rest of the desert.  While they are eating their son’s flesh, they would beat their breasts and cry: ‘Where are you, our only son?  Where are you, our only son?’

“What do you think, bhikkhus?  Would they eat that food for amusement or for enjoyment or for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness?”

“No, venerable sir.”

“Wouldn’t they eat that food only for the sake of crossing the desert?”

“Yes, venerable sir.”

“It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment edible food should be seen.  When the nutriment edible food is fully understood, lust for the five cords of sensual pleasure is fully understood.  When lust for the five cords of sensual pleasure is fully understood, there is no fetter bound by which a noble disciple might come back again to this world” (emphasis added). [63]

This is a super-important sutta for multiple reasons.

(1)   First, the example given is of killing the only son, dear and beloved, and preparing his meat to cross the desert.  This saṃsāra is the desert, the flood, the great ocean that we have to cross-over.  Meat is used here because it’s the strongest flavor, the strongest craving for nutriment there can be.  Son is used in lieu of all the relatives of the past we have consumed over countless lives, and continue to consume [if we are a meat-fish-eggs eater]. [64]

(2)   Second, nutriment food is to be used only to cross-over the desert of saṃsāra – not for enjoyment, not for taste, not for making a bigger-better-stronger body, not for physical adornment – just for maintaining enough energy to practice and cross-over.

(3)   Third, understanding nutriment food in all its aspects – it’s origination, it’s cessation, the gratification in it, the danger in it, and the escape from it – leads one to becoming a non-returner at the minimum, one who doesn’t return back to this world and attains arahanthood in the pure abodes.

(4)   Fourth, here Lord Buddha shows us how to use perception skillfully.  While the parents think about the only beloved son and cry while eating his flesh, it’s impossible that they can get attached to eating his flesh.  What are the possible implications for us worldly people?  Simply this: while eating any flesh, think about the animal it came from, think that animal is no longer alive, and now that animal is lying there on the plate.  Thinking in this way would help enormously in reducing the craving and lust for such food.  And this wouldn’t be a perversion of perception, for those inclined to think so we are simply following what Lord Buddha has prescribed.

On the same theme, here is an excerpt from the verses of the celebrated arahant and great disciple Venerable Mahākassapa (THAG V1054-V1093) whose story we discussed in the “§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood” section:

THAG Cattālīsanipāto Mahākassapattheragāthā:

V1057. “Senāsanamhā oruyha, nagaraṃ piṇḍāya pāvisiṃ;

Bhuñjantaṃ purisaṃ kuṭṭhiṃ, sakkaccaṃ taṃ upaṭṭhahiṃ.

V1058. “So me [taṃ (sī. ka.)] pakkena hatthena, ālopaṃ upanāmayi;

Ālopaṃ pakkhipantassa, aṅguli cettha [pettha (sī. ka.)] chijjatha.

V1059. “Kuṭṭamūlañca [kuḍḍamūlañca (sī. syā.)] nissāya, ālopaṃ taṃ abhuñjisaṃ;

Bhuñjamāne vā bhutte vā, jegucchaṃ me na vijjati.

“Descending from the dwelling, I entered the city for alms-round;

A leper was eating, attentively I stood next to that man.

“With his leprous and diseased hand, he offered me a morsel;

While dropping the morsel, his finger fell off too.

“Sitting down at the base of the wall, I ate that morsel;

While eating or having eaten, I don’t see any disgust [arising] in me”.

Reader should note that in the above verses, Venerable Mahākassapa no longer has any disgust (read: wrong view) towards meat – either human or others.  Compare that to the story of the Venerable in the §2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood” section where he renounced because of birds eating the worms from the ploughed land.  When he and Venerable Bhaddā Kāpilānī renounced, they probably adhered to some extent to the extremist vegetarian wrong view but as they practiced, their virtue, livelihood, and view were purified, leading to the attainment of arahanthood.

And here is how a Bodhisatta feeds his friends and dependents:

CST-Jātakapāḷi-73 Saccaṃkirajātakaṃ (BP page 31):

To feed his friends, the Bodhisatta, in a past life, provided food as follows: “for the snake and the parrot to eat, he caused every day sweet parched grain to be given in a vessel of gold purified with fire; for the rat, grains of perfumed rice (sappassa ca suvassa ca bhojanatthāya devasikaṃ kañcanataṭṭake madhulāje, undūrassa gandhasālitaṇḍule dāpesi).

In this case, because of associating with the Bodhisatta, even his animal friends stopped engaging in violence.  For those interested, Bodhisatta was of course our Lord Gotama Buddha while the snake was Venerable Sāriputta, rat was Venerable Mahāmoggallāna, and parrot was Venerable Ānanda.

And finally an important but much ignored sutta on how to abandon nutriment food:

NDB 4.159 The Bhikkhunī Sutta:

[This sutta begins with identifying the four causes of origination of body and how to abandon it: nutriment, craving, conceit, and sexual intercourse.  The sutta then continues:]

(1) “When it was said: ‘This body, sister, has originated from nutriment; in dependence on nutriment, nutriment is to be abandoned,’ for what reason was this said?  Here, sister, reflecting carefully, a bhikkhu consumes food neither for amusement nor for intoxication nor for the sake of physical beauty and attractiveness, but only for the support and maintenance of this body, for avoiding harm, and for assisting the spiritual life, considering: ‘Thus I shall terminate the old feeling and not arouse a new feeling, and I shall be healthy and blameless and dwell at ease.’  Sometime later, in dependence upon nutriment, he abandons nutriment.  When it was said: ‘This body, sister, has originated from nutriment; in dependence on nutriment, nutriment is to be abandoned,’ it is because of this that this was said” (emphasis added).

§2.14 Conclusion

Earlier, at the end of “§2.1 Introduction” section, we had stated:

What this means – in simple terms – is when one follows the Noble Eightfold Path and perfects right speech, right action, and right livelihood; one hasn’t perfected the entire Sīla or Morality division because that division encompasses the three factors of Sīla (right speech, right action, right livelihood) and there is still more that needs to be done.  And what is that more that remains to be done?  We will try to answer that as we progress through this book.

Now it’s time to answer this, at least partly, full answer will be forthcoming later.

LDB 1 Brahmajāla Sutta:

1.7. “It is, monks, for elementary, inferior matters of moral practice that the worldling would praise the Tathāgata.  And what are these elementary, inferior matters for which the worldling would praise him?

1.8. “Abandoning the taking of life, the ascetic Gotama dwells refraining from taking life, without stick or sword, scrupulous, compassionate, trembling for the welfare of all living beings.” ...

1.10. “The ascetic Gotama is a refrainer from damaging seeds and crops.  ...

1.11. “Whereas, gentlemen, some ascetics and Brahmins, feeding on the food of the faithful, are addicted to the destruction of such seeds as are propagated from roots, from stems, from joints, from cuttings, from seeds, the ascetic Gotama refrains from such destruction.” ...

1.12. “Whereas some ascetics and Brahmins, feeding on the food of the faithful, remain addicted to the enjoyment of stored-up goods such as food, drink, clothing, carriages, beds, perfumes, meat, the ascetic Gotama refrains from such enjoyment(emphasis added). [65]

(1)   One, note that in 1.12 above meat is classified specifically as an addiction, in addition to and separate from foodThis re-confirms that when various suttā talk about good foods of various kinds, hard and soft foods, and eatables and chewables, those foods are always vegetarian, as we stressed in “§2.11 Offerings to the Saṅgha” section – if meat was served as part of the food, it was specified separately and distinctly.

(2)   Two, these are called elemental matters of morality – meaning these are the elements, the foundations, the pillars, on which the rest of the morality, the Noble Eightfold Path including right view, and the attainment of Nibbāna is built.

(3)   Three, if the Indian society was largely meat-eating at that time, matters listed above in the sutta would NOT have been matters of praise but rather that of ridicule.  Some wise people here understand by examples – personal ones at that.

I still distinctly remember the first time I walked in a McDonald’s in Jersey City, NJ in 1988.  I had just returned from school on a dreary, cold, and windy winter day and was hungry.  I had never eaten a burger in my life until then and was curious as to what it must taste like so decided to give it a try, skipping my favorite: pizza by the slice.  McDonald’s at that time was completely unaware of a group of population called “vegetarians”.  I asked them to make me a “burger” but without the meat-fish-chicken-eggs and only with Lettuce and Tomato.  The counter-person looked at me as if I was from Mars, called another one over and both looked at me, then the cook came over and he also looked at me, then finally manager came out and he too looked at me – I wasn’t praised by any of them, rather ridiculed and made fun of.

And as a counter-point, a second experience.

In the Indian grocery store I used to visit since 1996, the store-owner would always call me “pandit” meaning a holy-man because he knew I was a life-long vegetarian (for the record, I am far from being a holy-man).  For him, this was the higher ideal, which he himself had not been able to approach and attain, being an owner of multiple Indian restaurants serving non-veg food as well as he himself eating non-veg food.  For him, the situation I was in was worthy of praise.

This is the difference in the societal outlook I am trying to point out in terms of what people consider worthy of praise, based on the common social understanding and social contract about vegetarianism.

The fact that most writers overlook is that the Indian society had started becoming vegetarian in droves because of many factors:

(1)   Cattle, especially cows, were considered wealth and people didn’t want to slaughter cattle and thus “lose” the wealth.

(2)   Cows were beginning to be considered sacred in certain sections of the society and under the combined influence of the various Samaṇa traditions, people were moving away from violence.

(3)   This was also the time of revolt against costly “sacrificial ceremonies”, arising of the Upanishadic philosophies, and the Yoga system – all of which helped the Indian society to re-assess, re-orient, and re-invent itself.

As a clarification, lest there be unanswered questions, while these elemental moralities are called “inferior matters” by Lord Buddha in the sutta above, that is so from the lofty perspective of Lord Buddha, who had reached the pinnacle and was as far away from our level as is the Andromeda galaxy from the Milky Way galaxy.  For us the neophytes, the novices, the infants crawling and collecting shells on the shores of the vast ocean of Dhamma, these elemental matters of morality are not “inferior matters” but the first baby steps on the noble path that leads to, inclines to, and culminates in Nibbāna.


Chapter Three – What Emperor Ashoka Wrote

 

§3.1 Introduction

Having reviewed What Lord Buddha Taught, we will now review how people very close to him in time understood his message.  And for this, we can choose no person better than Ashoka – considered to be the first of the four Great Cakkavattis in Buddhism, [66] an emperor who ruled a vast empire in the Indian sub-continent – comprising almost all of present-day India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Afghanistan – in the third century BCE.  This makes him only about 200 years removed from Lord Buddha.

As with all things historical in India, nothing much is written down in the form of a biography of Emperor Ashoka.  His is a story well-known to all in the Buddhist countries of the south-east Asia but for our purposes, we will ignore most of the Buddhist sources such as Mahāvaṃsa and Dipavaṃsa [67] and instead focus on something that is clear, convincing, irrefutable, and datable – his own edicts engraved on stone that have withstood the ravages of time and still proudly proclaim his message of non-violence, compassion, and welfare of all.  Ashoka was the son of Bindusāra and grandson of Chandragupta.  His grandfather is well-known to history for standing tall against Seleucus, a general of Alexander of Macedonia and inheritor of all of Alexander’s Central Asian dominions upon Alexander’s death.  A man with such grand heritage – of course, Ashoka wanted to prove himself and add to the dominions he had inherited so as to be known as one who increases, not one who decreases.  With this grand ambition, he first fought the war for succession and after defeating his brothers – the number is immaterial for our purposes – became the emperor.  Then he turned his attention to the areas yet unconquered and attacked the kingdom of Kaliṅga.  That war changed him from one of this-worldly nature to that of the other-worldly nature – iron went in the furnace and gold came out – and that’s where what interests us began.

In the Kaliṅga war, in his own words: [68]

“The Kaliṅga country was conquered by King Priyadarshi, Beloved of the Gods, in the eighth year of his reign.  One hundred and fifty thousand persons were carried away captive, one hundred thousand were slain, and many times that number died.

Immediately after the Kaliṅgas had been conquered, King Priyadarshi became intensely devoted to the study of Dharma, to the love of Dharma, and to the inculcation of Dharma.

The Beloved of the Gods, the conqueror of the Kaliṅgas, is moved to remorse now.  For he has felt profound sorrow and regret because the conquest of a people previously unconquered involves slaughter, death, and deportation” (EA-NM, Rock Edict XIII, page 27-30).

The edict continues with his desire to conduct conquests by Dhamma.  In the aftermath of the Kaliṅga war he became a lay Buddhist devotee and studied Lord Buddha’s teachings, meditated, and absorbed the teachings.  What came out of this life-transformation is what we find reflected in the Edicts of Ashoka.  And that is what we shall study next.

An important point to keep in mind is that the Ashokan Edicts themselves are a deep area of study that many people have dedicated their professional lives to.  In this book, our focus is limited to the edicts that directly bear on the subject under consideration, viz: non-killing, non-violence, and compassion.

§3.2 Reading

In the table below, there are two columns: first column has translations from “The Edicts of Ashoka by Nikam and McKeon – EA-NM” and second column has translations from “Edicts of Ashoka by Meena Talim – EA-TM”.  There is a difference between these two versions in terms of how the English translations are arrived at.

Ashokan Edicts were written down in the Prākrit language, using the Brāhmi alphabet.  Prākrit was the most widely used language in the Ashokan Empire and as Lord Buddha has stated, Dhamma instruction should always be in the local language. [69]  Hence, all Ashokan edicts are always in the Prākrit or the local (e.g. Aramaic or Greek) language.  The historical approach taken by almost all translators has been to first convert the Prākrit inscriptions to Sanskrit and then translate them to English.  However, Meena Talim has followed a more natural alternative approach of first converting the Prākrit inscriptions to Pāḷi and then translating them to English.  This makes better sense since Prākrit is closely allied with Pāḷi.  While the renderings are not poles apart, it does bring out some important differences.  As we study the edicts in question, we will discuss this in greater depth.  The text in square brackets [] in the second column is the conversion of Prākrit text to Pāḷi, as reported by Meena Talim and used by her for English translations.

Table 3.1: Non-Killing, Non-Violence, and Compassion in Ashokan Edicts T1

Edict

Nigam and McKeon (EA-NM)

Prākrit --> Sanskrit --> English

Meena Talim (EA-TM)

Prākrit--> Pāḷi --> English

Rock Edict I

“...  No living creature shall be slaughtered here [at Pataliputra, Asoka’s capital city] ... Many hundreds of thousand living creatures were formerly slaughtered every day for curries in the kitchens of His Majesty.  At present, when this edict on Dharma is inscribed, only three living creatures are killed daily, two peacocks and a deer, and the deer is not slaughtered daily.  In the future, not even these three animals shall be slaughtered” (page 55).

“...  Here no living beings should be killed, even for sacrifice [jivitā voropayatu pi juhanāya].  ... Formerly in the kitchen of King Devānaṃppiya Piyatissa [sic] many hundreds-thousands of animals were killed daily for the sake of curry [bahūni pāṇasatasahassāni voropiṃsu supatthāya].  But now, today, when this scripture is being written, only two peacocks and one deer are being killed.  But even this way (of killing) is not permanent.  These three creatures will not be killed in future [ete api tiṇi pāṇāni pacchā na voropissanti]” (page 5). T2

Rock Edict II

“... Everywhere provision has been made for two kinds of medical treatment, treatment for men and for animals. ...” (page 64).

“... Devānaṃppiya Piyadassi has established two kinds of medical treatments.  One is medical treatment for men and the other is a medical treatment for animals. ...” (page 8).

Brahmagiri Rock Edict II

“... One should obey one’s father and mother.  One should respect the supreme value and sacredness of lifeOne should speak the truth.  One should practice these virtues of Dharma. ...” (page 43). T3

“... Obey mother and father; similarly your teacher (Guru) and be kind to all living creatures [evameva gurūssaṃ pāṇesu dayāpanno].  Speak truth.  These are the qualities of Dhamma, which should be established. ...” (page 159). T4

Rock Edict III

“... Everywhere in my dominions local, provincial, and state officials shall make a tour of their districts every five year to proclaim the following precepts of Dharma as well as to transact other business:

Obedience to mother and father, liberality to friends, acquaintances, relatives, priests, and ascetics; abstention from killing living creatures; and moderation in spending money and acquiring possessions are all meritorious. ...” (page 58).

“... Meritorious is an obedience to the mother and father, be good to friends, acquaintances, and relatives, charity to brāhmaṇas and shramaṇas.  Meritorious is to abstain from killing animals [pāṇānaṃ sādhu anārabho]; to be moderate in expenditure and possessions. ...” (page 12). T5

Rock Edict IV

“For many hundreds of years in the past, slaughter of animals, cruelty to living creatures, discourtesy to relatives, and disrespect for priests and ascetics have been increasing.

...

King Priyadarshi’s inculcation of Dharma has increased, beyond anything observed in many hundreds of years, abstention from killing animals and from cruelty to living beings, kindliness in human and family relations, respect for priests and ascetics, and obedience to mother and father and elders.

...

For instruction in the Dharma is the best of actions.  The practice of Dharma is impossible for the immoral man.  To increase this practice, even to forestall its diminution, is laudable. ...” (page 31-32).

“In times past, for many hundreds of years, there had been increase in the acts of killing animals [pāṇārabho], hurting living beings [hiṃsā ca bhūtānaṃ] and not looking after relatives, brāhmaṇas and shramaṇas.

...

King Devānaṃppiya Piyadassi gives instructions according to Dhamma, namely, abstain from killing animals [anārabheti pāṇaṃ], hurting living beings [avihiṃsā bhūtānaṃ] and to look after your relatives, brāhmaṇas and shramaṇas, obedience to mother and father and obedience to the elders.

...

That act is the best act, which follows the instructions of Dhamma (in this world).  Practice of Dhamma will not make one devoid of morals. ...” (page 17).

Rock Edict VIII

“In the past, kings used to go on pleasure tours.  On these tours, they hunted and indulged in other pastimes. ...” (page 37)

but now he does Dhamma-tours.

“In the past, the king used to set out on pleasure tours.  On these tours, hunting and other similar (such as this) pleasures were enjoyed. ...”

but now he does Dhamma-tours.

Rock Edict IX

“... The ceremony of Dharma, on the contrary, is very fruitful.  It consists in proper treatment of slaves and servants, reverence to teachers, restraint of violence toward living creatures, and liberality to priests and ascetics.  These and like actions are called the ceremonies of Dharma. ...” (pages 46-47).

“... Now, these are ceremonies which bear great fruit such as Dhamma-ceremonies; such (ceremonies) are good treatment to slaves and servants, reverence to teachers, good to restrain killing (creatures) [pāṇesu sayamamo sādhu], to give charity to brāhmaṇas and shramaṇas and such other things are called Dhamma-ceremonies. ...” (page 40). T6

Rock Edict XI

“... There is no gift that can equal the gift of Dharma, the establishment of human relations on Dharma, the distribution of wealth through Dharma, or kinship in Dharma.  That gift consists in proper treatment of slaves and servants; obedience to mother and father; liberality to friends, acquaintances, relatives, priests and ascetics; and abstention from the slaughter of animals. ... If one acts in this way, one achieves by the gift of Dharma happiness in this world and infinite merit in the world to come.” (pp. 44-45).

“... There is nothing like charity of Dhamma or related to Dhamma. Here the followings are comprised of (such as) proper courtesy to slaves and servants, good service to mother and father and gifts to friends, acquaintances, relatives, brāhmaṇas, and shramaṇas.  Abstain from killing animals is good [pāṇānaṃ anārabho sādhu]. ...  If one who does this he will acquire happiness in this world and by performing such an act of Dhamma-dāna he shall cultivate immense merit.” (page 47). T7

Pillar Edict II

“... Dharma is good.  But what does Dharma consist of?  It consists of few sins and many good deeds, of kindness, liberality, truthfulness, and purity.

I have bestowed even the gift of sight (i.e. spiritual insight) on men in various ways.  I have decreed many kindnesses, including even the grant of life, to living creatures, two-footed and four-footed as well as birds and aquatic animals. ...” (page 41).

“... Dhamma is good.  What is this Dhamma?  I have fasted many a times.

 

Compassion, charity, truth, purity, insight and also in many ways I have given (to).

 

I have done favors to biped, quadruped, birds, and those who live in water. ...” (page 234).

Pillar Edict III

“... A man notices only his worthy actions, thinking to himself, ‘This is a good deed that I have done’.  He does not notice his sins, thinking ‘This is an evil deed that I have done; this is what is called a sin’.  Such self-scrutiny and insight are difficult.

Nonetheless, a man must say to himself, ‘Ferocity, cruelty, anger, arrogance, and jealousy lead to sin; I must not let myself be ruined by these passions’.  He should make a clear distinction among actions, saying ‘This action is directed to my good in this world and that other to my good in the world to come.’ ” (page 48).

“Men only see merit.  I have performed merit.  We do not see the sin.  This sin I have done.  All these are (culmination of) desires (wishes).

It is very difficult to realize (consider).  This indeed should be observed.

These desires are like a headman of a village, lead us to; such as cruelty, harshness, anger, pride, and jealousy [caṇḍo, niṭṭhuro, kodho, māno, issā] – this is the reason.

These I see as hindrances; let me not see them grown.  This is to me (what I feel) for this world and the next world.” (page 238).

Pillar Edict V

“King Priyadarshi says: Twenty-six years after my coronation, I declared that the following animals were not to be killed: [here follows a long list]

Husks which contain living creatures must not be burned.

Forests must not be burned without reason or in order to kill living creatures.

Living animals must not be fed to other animals.

Fish must not be killed or sold on the day of the full moon which begins each of the three seasons, on the Tisya [Sirius] full moon, on the three days which end a fortnight and begin a new one, or on fast days [a total of 56 days during each year].

On those same days, animals which live in the elephant forests and the fishermen’s preserves must not be killed.

On the eighth day of the fortnight, on the fourteenth and fifteenth, on Tisya and Punarvasu [probably one of the Pleiades] days, on the full moon day beginning each season, and on festival days, bulls, he-goats, rams, boars, and other animals which are usually castrated must not be castrated.

On Tisya and Punarvasu days and during the fortnight of each seasonal full moon, horses and bullocks must not be branded.  

During the twenty-six years since my coronation, I have ordered the release of prisoners twenty-five times.” (pp. 55-57).

Most of the translation here is identical except for identification of creatures from time to time but for our purposes, it really doesn’t matter.

 

The most important thing that matters is the following sentence:

 

“One’s life should not be nourished on the other’s life [Jīvena jīvo na poseyyuṃ]” (page 251-252).

Pillar Edict VII

“... I have promulgated ... rules making certain animals inviolable ...  abstention from injuring and from killing living creatures ...” (page 40).

“... These and those living beings should not be killed [imāni jātāni avadhituṃ] ...

Be there a no-violence towards living beings and killing of animals should be prohibited [avihiṃsāya bhūtānaṃ anārabheyyuṃ pānānaṃ].” (page 267).

Taxilā-Aramaic Rock Edict

-

“Non-injury to all living beings, to living being and relatives [Pāṇanaṃ avihiṃasa, bhūtānaṃ ñātinaṃ] ...” (page 311).

Kandahar-Greek & Aramaic Rock Edict

-

GREEK:

“... King has discarded killing.  All men including hunters and fishermen have given up killing living beings.  King has given up killing of living creatures [Rañño ca pāṇārabho paritajjito.  Sabbe hi ca manussehi luddako ca sabbe hi kevaṭo ca.  Rañño paritajjitā vihiṃasāya bhūtānaṃ].  ...” (page 323).

ARAMAIC:

“... King has well undertaken (vow of) as not to kill a big or small one.  Taking him as an ideal (following his views) all men do not kill.  Similarly, those who are fishermen they have restrainfully followed this rule, regularly [Supaṭhāyo ca rañño na sāmikaṃ lahukaṃ ārabhati.  Tassa ca dassano sabbe manussā na ārabhanti.  Evaṃ ca ye kevaṭā te pi niyamena saṃyatā]. ...” (page 326).

Table Notes:

T1     The EA-NM translations are not uniformly from one site.  Compared to this, EA-TM translations for Rock Edicts are from Girnār and Pillar Edicts are from Delhi-Toprā.  Both spelling of the name – Ashoka and Asoka – are used throughout this book.

Girnār is a mountain in the state of Gujarat in the Western India.  It has several peaks and each peak has temples – many of them Jain.  At the bottom of this mountain, there is a large rock which has been inscribed with the Edicts of Ashoka.  The Old Fort, named Uparkot, on this mountain in the city of Junagadh has Buddhist Caves at multiple locations.  For the record, I am from Mangrol, a city in the district of Junagadh.

T2     This EA-TM translation is problematic.  One, “jivitā voropayatu pi juhanāya” (Pāḷi) has been substituted for “jivaṃ ārabhitpā prajuhitavyaṃ” (Prākrit).  Second, ‘mago’ has been inconsistently translated once as deer and once as way or path.  This is not apparent from “Conversion into Pāḷi: Roman Transcript” (page 4) and can only be seen on page 3 bottom where once ‘mago’ is converted to ‘migo’ (deer) and then next line to ‘maggo’ (way/path).  Finally, what is “Piyadassi” has been translated as “Piyatissa”.  Still, this translation brings out the fact that even for sacrifice or offering (to monks or others), no living beings should be killed.

T3     EA-NM may have gone wayward here, thinking gurūssaṃ means supreme and that it applies to pāṇesu dayāpanno thus giving the translation as “One should respect the supreme value and sacredness of life”.  Not having access to the source text they used, it’s hard to state this definitively.

T4     This EA-TM translation is confirmed by the Errāguḍi RE II (page 168) as well as Rājula Mandāgiri RE II (page 207).

T5     Here EA-TM translation has gone astray: “be good to friends, acquaintances, and relatives, charity to brāhmaṇas and shramaṇas“ should be “charity to friends, acquaintances, relatives, brāhmaṇas, and shramaṇas” like in EA-TM RE XI (page 47).

T6     Literally, instead of “good to restrain killing (creatures)”, it is “good it is to restrain (from killing) creatures”.

T7     Here in the first sentence, EA-TM translation has gone astray.  I would read Pāḷi text as “Natthi etādisaṃ dānaṃ yādisaṃ dhammadānaṃ, dhammassathavo vā, dhammasaṃvibhāgo vā, dhammasaṃbaddho vā” and instead of translating it as “There is nothing like charity of Dhamma or related to Dhamma”, I would translate it as “There is no donation like Dhamma-donation, or Dhamma-praise, or Dhamma-sharing, or Dhamma-relationship” – see ITI 100 Brāhmaṇa Dhamma Sacrifice Sutta.

 

§3.3 Discussion

A review of the Table 3.1 in terms of the twin topics of non-killing & non-violence and compassion is now in order.

Rock Edict I tells us that (1) Ashoka banned all sacrificial ceremonies – whether public or private – and no living creatures were allowed to be sacrificed.  Equating sacrifice to giving, we can safely deduce that even for all dānā to Saṅgha, no living beings were killed.  (2) For his own royal kitchen, instead of all the myriad animals that were killed for food in the past, now only three creatures (two peacocks and one deer) were killed and that too deer not every day.  Most importantly, he says that killing these three creatures will stop in future.  What this means is that he doesn’t want to kill any beings anymore – whether for himself, for his dependents, or for the Saṅgha – to whom there must have been a daily donation from the royal kitchen.  So, then onwards, all his offerings would have been vegetarian.

Rock Edict II informs us that on a compassionate basis, humans and animals were both treated on par and medical facilities and medicines were provided for both.

Brahmagiri Rock Edict II places kindness to living beings on par with obeying one’s parents and Guru.

Rock Edict III states that the following Dhamma precepts should be proclaimed by local, provincial, and state officials: “Obedience to mother and father; liberality to friends, acquaintances, relatives, priests, and ascetics; abstention from killing living creatures; and moderation in spending money and acquiring possessions are all meritorious”.

In Rock Edict IV Ashoka laments that “For many hundreds of years in the past, slaughter of animals, cruelty to living creatures, discourtesy to relatives, and disrespect for priests and ascetics have been increasing”.  This brings up the topic that at that time, India was going through a rapid period of urbanization, industrialization, and prosperity because of two factors: one, a stable empire for over a hundred years and two, booming international trade.  This necessarily brought about a change in the people’s outlook of life and they perhaps went with YOLO (You Only Live Once) view so enjoy, make merry, and eat what’s expensive (read: meat-fish-eggs).  This same concern also comes across in “§A3.1 Āmisa & Sāmisa versus Nirāmisa” section where Arahant Thera Venerable Pārāsariya castigated false monks as “Frauds, deceitful, false witnesses, cunning; Using various strategies, [they] enjoy flesh [meat]” and mused that “While master of the world [Lord Buddha] was around, best of the men; The conduct of the bhikkhus, was seen to be otherwise”.

However, Ashoka now instructs according to the Dhamma: “Abstain from killing animals; abstain from hurting living beings; look after your relatives, brāhmaṇas and shramaṇas; [and] obedience to mother and father and elders”.

Rock Edict VIII informs us that instead of doing hunting and pleasure tours, Ashoka now does Dhamma tours where he gives donations and admonishes people in dhamma.

Rock Edict IX tells us what Dhamma-ceremonies mean to Ashoka: “Proper treatment of slaves and servants, reverence to teachers, restraint of violence toward living creatures, and donations to priests and ascetics”.

Rock Edict XI states “There is no donation like Dhamma-donation, or Dhamma-praise, or Dhamma-sharing, or Dhamma-relationship”.  This distinctly echoes what “§A2.2 Lord Buddha As The Role Model ITI 112 World Sutta” says as well as several other suttā.  Then, contrary to what is generally believed that Dhamma-dāna consists of preaching the Dhamma, distributing Dhamma books (such as the one you are reading right now), he goes on to state that the Dhamma-dāna consists of “Proper treatment of slaves and servants; obedience to mother and father; liberality to friends, acquaintances, relatives, priests and ascetics; and abstention from the slaughter of animals”.  Thus, for Ashoka, Dhamma-dāna is not only given by Dhamma-preachers and monks but also by anyone who is virtuous and follows the precepts.  This is in line with giving fear from enmity as enumerated below:

NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta:

“Here, a noble disciple, having abandoned the destruction of life, abstains from the destruction of life.  By abstaining from the destruction of life, the noble disciple gives to an immeasurable number of beings freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction.  He himself in turn enjoys immeasurable freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction.  This is the first gift, a great gift, primal, of long standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated and never before adulterated, which is not being adulterated and will not be adulterated, not repudiated by wise ascetics and brahmins.  This is the fourth stream of merit, stream of the wholesome, nutriment of happiness – heavenly, ripening in happiness, conducive to heaven – that leads to what is wished for, desired, and agreeable, to one’s welfare and happiness” (emphasis added).

Pillar Edict II further discusses Dhamma and asks “What is Dhamma”?  For Ashoka, Dhamma consists of “Compassion, charity, truth, purity, insight, and grant of life to living creatures, two-footed and four-footed as well as birds and aquatic animals”.

Pillar Edict III admonishes people to look at both sides of the coin and not only gloat about the merits and good things they have done but also at what bad things they have done – a self-scrutiny to arrive at insight about what is wholesome and what is not. [70]  According to Ashoka, desires lead to evil qualities of cruelty, harshness, anger, pride, and jealousy [caṇḍo, niṭṭhuro, kodho, māno, issā] and one must not let oneself be ruined by these evil qualities.

Pillar Edict V provides a long list of beings that Emperor Ashoka declared inviolable and should not be killed, castrated, sold, or branded – the injunctions were either absolute (for all time) or in some cases for certain days/months/seasons.  This reminds one of the Vinaya injunctions about the types of meat monks cannot eat.

One of the most important Ashokan ideas that comes across brightly from this edict is the injunction that “One’s life should not be nourished on the other’s life [Jīvena jīvo na poseyyuṃ]”.

Pillar Edict VII repeats the fact that Ashoka has promulgated rules making certain animals inviolable and there should be “Abstention from injuring and from killing living creatures”.

Taxilā-Aramaic Rock Edict states “Non-injury to all living beings, to living being and relatives”.

Kandahar-Greek & Aramaic Rock Edicts state:

Greek: “King has discarded killing.  All men including hunters and fishermen have given up killing living beings.  King has given up killing of living creatures”.

Aramaic: King has well undertaken (vow of) as not to kill a big or small one.  Taking him as an ideal (following his views) all men do not kill.  Similarly, those who are fishermen they have restrainfully followed this rule, regularly”.

 

Table 3.2: Non-Killing & Non-Violence, and Compassion in Ashokan Edicts

Edict

Non-Killing & Non-Violence

Compassion

Rock Edict I

þ

þ

Rock Edict II

NA

þ

Brahmagiri Rock Edict II

NA

þ

Rock Edict III

þ

þ

Rock Edict IV

þ

þ

Rock Edict VIII

þ

þ

Rock Edict IX

þ

þ

Rock Edict XI

þ

þ

Pillar Edict II

þ

þ

Pillar Edict III

NA

þ

Pillar Edict V

þ

þ

Pillar Edict VII

þ

þ

Taxilā-Aramaic Rock Edict

þ

þ

Kandahar-Greek & Aramaic Rock Edict

þ

þ

 

§3.4 Conclusion

Thus, a few things become very clear from these edicts as far as what Emperor Ashoka understood of Lord Buddha’s teachings:

(1)   Compassion is the root of wholesome kammā.

(2)   The first precept is on par with obeying one’s parents and gurus (which would also include Lord Buddha) and listening to them.

(3)   When Ashoka declared certain animals inviolable and non-slaughter days, he was only doing what his predecessors had already done – probably from time immemorial.  See “§4.2 Reading (Banyan Deer Birth-Story)” section where the King completely prohibits the killing of creatures dwelling on land, in air, and in water.  In the story of Suppiyā (see “§A2.1 Meat as Medicine” section) we find that there were no-slaughter days during Lord Buddha’s time in Bārāṇasi (and presumably in all sixteen janapadā).  And here is a sutta that states that a Dhamma emperor “provides righteous protection, shelter, and guard for the animals and birds”.  And again, that would mean all living beings.

NDB 5.133 The King Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, even a wheel-turning monarch, a righteous king who rules by the Dhamma, does not turn the wheel without a king above him.”

When this was said, a certain bhikkhu said to the Blessed One: “But, Bhante, who could be the king above a wheel-turning monarch, a righteous king who rules by the Dhamma?”

“It is the Dhamma, bhikkhu,” the Blessed One said.  “Here, a wheel-turning monarch, a righteous king who rules by the Dhamma, relying just on the Dhamma, honoring, respecting, and venerating the Dhamma, taking the Dhamma as his standard, banner, and authority, provides righteous protection, shelter, and guard for the people in his court; for his khattiya vassals; for his army; for brahmins and householders; for the people of town and countryside; for ascetics and brahmins; for the animals and birds.

Having provided such righteous protection, shelter, and guard, that wheel-turning monarch, a righteous king who rules by the Dhamma, turns the wheel solely through the Dhamma, a wheel that cannot be turned back by any hostile creature in human form” (emphasis added).

(4)   Consequently, when there is much killing and cruelty to animals in the society, it is called a non-dhammic period and much must be done to bring people back to the path of Dhamma – the path of morality, as Emperor Ashoka did by exhibiting aerial mansions, fireworks, elephant shows, etc.  For, as Ashoka states, Dhamma practice is impossible for an immoral person – and one who indulges in killing and cruelty to animals is certainly not following morality.

(5)   One of the most important points comes across from Pillar Edict V which states: “One’s life should not be nourished on the other’s life [Jīvena jīvo na poseyyuṃ]”.  This is a very critical point that comes across correctly when edicts are converted to Pāḷi rather than to Sanskrit.  What it states is that no life should be nourished at the cost of another life.  The greatest support for this comes from:

MLDB 37 Mahātaṇhāsankhaya Sutta:

27. “The mother then carries the embryo in her womb for nine or ten months with much anxiety, as a heavy burden.  Then, at the end of nine or ten months, the mother gives birth with much anxiety, as a heavy burden.  Then, when the child is born, she nourishes it with her own blood; for the mother’s breast-milk is called blood in the Noble One’s Discipline” (emphasis added).

If even mother’s breast-milk is called blood in the Noble One’s Discipline, how much more so real blood and meat, fish and filet, eggs and omelet one should avoid, shun, deplore, resist, and desist from!

The text below, from here onwards until the end of bulleted list is reproduced from “§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth” section and it’s worth reading and reviewing it again:

In the sutta below, once upon a time thirty bhikkhus from Pāvā visited Lord Buddha.  All of them were forest dwellers, almsfood eaters, rag-robe wearers, triple-robe users, and yet none were arahants.  Lord Buddha preached this sutta to free them from their fetters and make them arahants.

CDB 15.13 Thirty Bhikkhus Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning.  A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.  What do you think, bhikkhus, which is more: the stream of blood that you have shed when you were beheaded as you roamed and wandered on through this long course – this or the water in the four great oceans?”

“As we understand the Dhamma taught by the Blessed One, venerable sir, the stream of blood that we have shed when we were beheaded as we roamed and wandered on through this long course – this alone is more than the water in the four great oceans.”

“Good, good, bhikkhus!  It is good that you understand the Dhamma taught by me in such a way.  The stream of blood that you have shed when you were beheaded as you roamed and wandered on through this long course this alone is more than the water in the four great oceans.  For a long time, bhikkhus, you have been cows, and when as cows you were beheaded, the stream of blood that you shed is greater than the waters in the four great oceans.  For a long time you have been buffalo, sheep, goats, deer, chickens, and pigs.  ...  For a long time you have been arrested as burglars, highwaymen, and adulterers, and when you were beheaded, the stream of blood that you shed is greater than the water in the four great oceans.  For what reason?  Because, bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning.  ...  It is enough to be liberated from them.

This is what the Blessed One said.  Elated, those bhikkhus delighted in the Blessed One’s statement.  And while this exposition was being spoken, the minds of the thirty bhikkhus from Pāvā were liberated from the taints by nonclinging” (emphasis added).

What a miraculous sutta – not the worldly miracle but the miracle of instruction – we may assume that perhaps some of the bhikkhus were clinging to almsfood and tastes and some were clinging to existence so they were probably at different levels of attainment and still had varying degrees of fetters.  All those fetters were removed with one stroke of the sword of wisdom – namely this sutta.

Do note that all examples given are of animals that are sources of meat – no examples are given of how many times we have been tigers or hyenas or sharks.

CDB 15.14-19 Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter Suttā:

At Sāvatthī.  Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. ...  It is not easy, bhikkhus, to find a being who in this long course has not previously been your mother ... your father ... your brother ... your sister ... your son ... your daughter.  For what reason?  Because, bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. ...  It is enough to be liberated from them” (emphasis added).

Now, if we combine these two suttā a few facts become very clear:

(1)   The saṃsāra we dwell in is without a discoverable beginning.

(2)   A first point is not discerned of beings roaming and wandering on hindered by ignorance and fettered by craving.

a.      What the ignorance?  Ignorance of the four Noble Truths, and of the kammā and its results.

b.      What the craving?  Craving for (i) sensuality including tastes, (ii) desire for existence, and (iii) desire for non-existence.

(3)   Depending on our past kammā, from time to time we have become various types of “source of food” animals and have been slaughtered again and again and again – so much so that when we were slaughtered even as just one type of “source of food” animal, the blood we shed is more than the water in the four oceans.

(4)   Since this saṃsāra is such a long one without a discoverable beginning, every creature we encounter is related to us in one way or another.  Every time we partake of fried chicken or pork loins or steak, we are invariably eating a being that was our mother, father, brother, sister, son, or daughter in some past existence.  This reflection alone should make us full of disgust and despise the meat-fish-eggs the moment we think about it, let alone see it or eat it.

(5)   Therefore, when various suttā talk about no killing and when we take the first precept of no killing, we are not just taking the restraint to abstain from killing mosquitoes, flies, and bedbugs.  Far more so, the precept applies to not being responsible for the death of any creature – directly or indirectly – whether as egg, as young, as adult, or as old – in any form and in any stage of life, ours or theirs.

In fact, as we saw in the “§2.13 Food as Nutriment” section, the aptly titled CDB 12.63 Son’s Flesh Sutta compares the edible nutriment food to the simile of the flesh of the only and beloved son, to be used only to cross the desert without generating any lust, delight, and craving for it.  What is significant is how Lord Buddha has used the simile.  It is used such that it represents flesh of the son – meaning that flesh (any kind of flesh) is more prone to generate craving and clinging compared to vegetarian foods.  And I can personally vouch for it.  During my travels, I have come across people who were on gastronomic tours to taste various meats and their textures – be it camel, horse, donkey, emu, crocodile, ostrich, and so on.  However, I have never come across a person trying to taste tomatoes of Russia versus those from Cambodia (though there might be some who do this professionally to source raw ingredients for their food processing companies).  Vegetarians (and non-vegetarians too) will of course, look for pasta made in Italian way versus Indian way – so craving and attachment would still exist in vegetarians as well, perhaps weaker and less diversified.

Here is an explanation for the nutriment edible food:

CDB 12.64 If There Is Lust Sutta:

“If, bhikkhus, there is lust for the nutriment edible food, if there is delight, if there is craving, consciousness becomes established there and comes to growth.  Wherever consciousness becomes established and comes to growth, there is a descent of name-and-form.  Where there is a descent of name-and-form, there is the growth of volitional formations.  Where there is the growth of volitional formations, there is the production of future renewed existence.  Where there is the production of future renewed existence, there is future birth, aging, and death.  Where there is future birth, aging, and death, I say that is accompanied by sorrow, anguish, and despair”.

While vegetarianism, grasped wrongly, is an extreme viewpoint, it can be contrasted to the other extreme viewpoint of “jivah jivasya jivanam”.  This second extreme states (1) that there is a food-chain and every being is food for the being higher up the chain, and (2) this fact is then used by people to justify eating beings even when there is plenty of other food to have.

In the first point about a food-chain, when a tiger eats a deer or a whale eats plankton, they are just working out the results of their previous kammā and really have no choice, skills, tools, and intention to plant fields of wheat and bake bread or have an underwater garden of kelp and sea-weeds.  They are simply, without any intention of hurting living beings, working out their kammā.

Here, the most important key operative word is intention, volition, will – cetanā.  As Lord Buddha states in:

CST AN 6.63 Nibbedhikasuttaṃ: [71]

Cetanāhaṃ, bhikkhave, kammaṃ vadāmi.  Cetayitvā kammaṃ karoti – kāyena vācāya manasā”.

“Bhikkhus, it is intention that I call kamma.  Having intended, one does the kamma – bodily, verbally, mentally” (emphasis added).

Thus in the second point about justification, when one intends to eat a chicken sandwich, one has already started doing the mental kamma, then orders a chicken sandwich and does the verbal kamma, and finally eats the chicken sandwich, completing the kammā triad.

 


Chapter Four – What the Bharhut Sculptor Thought

 

§4.1 Introduction

The cover of this book illustrates the Nigrodha Miga Jātaka (Banyan Deer Birth-Story) that is depicted on a railing of the Bharhut Stupa displayed in the Indian Museum, Kolkata, India.  Bharhut Stupa is in general acknowledged to contain one of the earliest and most well-developed masterly depictions of aniconic Buddhist art in the world.

“The Bharhut sculptures represent some of the earliest examples of Indian and Buddhist art, later than the monumental art of Ashoka (circa 260 BCE), and slightly later than the early Sunga reliefs on railings at Sanchi Stupa No. 2 (starting circa 115 BCE).  Recent authors date the reliefs of the railings of Bharhut circa 125-100 BCE, and clearly after Sanchi Stupa No. 2, compared to which Bharhut has a much more developed iconography.  The torana gateway was made slightly later than the railings, and is dated to 100-75 BCE” (BHA1).

The Nigrodha Miga Jātaka (Banyan Deer Birth-Story) is #12 in the CST Jātakapāḷi book.  There is an inscription around the medallion which simply states “Miga Jātaka” (Deer Birth-story, not shown in the cover image).  The trees and the deers suggest the name of the jātaka.  The medallion represents 3 scenes:

(1)   The four deers running away and one of them looking back at the far left and the man with bow at the far right represent the first scene: that of the hunt.

(2)   The doe lying down at the bottom left looking at the antlered deer represents the second scene: that of the pregnant doe lying down at the sacrificial post but Banyan deer relieving her and taking her place.  Cook/Butcher standing behind the Banyan deer watches this [and runs to inform the King, who comes with his entourage].

(3)   The antlered deer (Banyan deer) sitting in the middle and preaching to the King [who is listening respectfully with folded hands] and his entourage is the third scene: that one should associate with wise/superior people and renounce violence.

Now, as far as this jātaka goes, the description in the canonical CST Jātakapāḷi is exactly one verse of 2 lines – neither the meaning nor the story is clear unless we read it with the commentary from CST Jātaka-Aṭṭhakathā-1, which we will now proceed to.

§4.2 Reading

CST Jātakapāḷi: [72]

12        Nigrodhamigajātakaṃ – Banyan Deer Birth-Story

12        Nigrodhameva seveyya, na sākhamupasaṃvase;

Nigrodhasmiṃ mataṃ seyyo, yañce sākhasmi [sākhasmiṃ (sī. pī.)] jīvitanti.

Nigrodhamigajātakaṃ dutiyaṃ

12        Resort only to the Banyan [deer], don’t reside with the Branch [deer];

Better to die with the Banyan [deer], than to live with the Branch [deer].

Banyan Deer Birth-Story Second.

CST Jātaka-Aṭṭhakathā:

[12]      Nigrodhamigajātakavaṇṇanā – Banyan Deer Birth-Story Description

Nigrodhameva seveyyāti idaṃ satthā jetavane viharanto kumārakassapattherassa mātaraṃ ārabbha kathesi. Sā kira rājagahanagare mahāvibhavassa seṭṭhino dhītā ahosi ussannakusalamūlā parimadditasaṅkhārā pacchimabhavikā, antoghaṭe padīpo viya tassā hadaye arahattūpanissayo jalati. Sā attānaṃ jānanakālato paṭṭhāya gehe anabhiratā pabbajitukāmā hutvā mātāpitaro āha – “ammatātā, mayhaṃ gharāvāse cittaṃ nābhiramati, ahaṃ niyyānike buddhasāsane pabbajitukāmā, pabbājetha ma”nti. Amma, kiṃ vadesi, idaṃ kulaṃ bahuvibhavaṃ, tvañca amhākaṃ ekadhītā, na labbhā tayā pabbajitunti. Sā punappunaṃ yācitvāpi mātāpitūnaṃ santikā pabbajjaṃ alabhamānā cintesi “hotu, patikulaṃ gatā sāmikaṃ ārādhetvā pabbajissāmī”ti. Sā vayappattā patikulaṃ gantvā patidevatā hutvā sīlavatī kalyāṇadhammā agāraṃ ajjhāvasi.

Athassā saṃvāsamanvāya kucchiyaṃ gabbho patiṭṭhahi. Sā gabbhassa patiṭṭhitabhāvaṃ na aññāsi. Atha tasmiṃ nagare nakkhattaṃ ghosayiṃsu, sakalanagaravāsino nakkhattaṃ kīḷiṃsu, nagaraṃ devanagaraṃ viya alaṅkatapaṭiyattaṃ ahosi. Sā pana tāva uḷārāyapi nakkhattakīḷāya vattamānāya attano sarīraṃ na vilimpati nālaṅkaroti, pakativeseneva vicarati.

Atha naṃ sāmiko āha – “bhadde, sakalanagaraṃ nakkhattanissitaṃ, tvaṃ pana sarīraṃ nappaṭijaggasī”ti. Ayyaputta, dvattiṃsāya me kuṇapehi pūritaṃ sarīraṃ, kiṃ iminā alaṅkatena, ayañhi kāyo neva devanimmito, na brahmanimmito, na suvaṇṇamayo, na maṇimayo, na haricandanamayo, na puṇḍarīkakumuduppalagabbhasambhūto, na amatosadhapūrito, atha kho kuṇape jāto, mātāpettikasambhavo, aniccucchādanaparimaddanabhedanaviddhaṃsanadhammo, kaṭasivaḍḍhano, taṇhūpādinno, sokānaṃ nidānaṃ, paridevānaṃ vatthu, sabbarogānaṃ ālayo, kammakaraṇānaṃ paṭiggaho, antopūti, bahi niccapaggharaṇo, kimikulānaṃ āvāso, sivathikapayāto, maraṇapariyosāno, sabbalokassa cakkhupathe vattamānopi –

“Aṭṭhinahārusaṃyutto, tacamaṃsāvalepano;

Chaviyā kāyo paṭicchanno, yathābhūtaṃ na dissati.

“Antapūro udarapūro, yakanapeḷassa vatthino;

Hadayassa papphāsassa, vakkassa pihakassa ca.

“Siṅghāṇikāya kheḷassa, sedassa ca medassa ca;

Lohitassa lasikāya, pittassa ca vasāya ca.

“Athassa navahi sotehi, asucī savati sabbadā;

Akkhimhā akkhigūthako, kaṇṇamhā kaṇṇagūthako.

“Siṅghāṇikā ca nāsato, mukhena vamatekadā;

Pittaṃ semhañca vamati, kāyamhā sedajallikā.

“Athassa susiraṃ sīsaṃ, matthaluṅgassa pūritaṃ;

Subhato naṃ maññati bālo, avijjāya purakkhato. [CST Suttanipātapāḷi 196-201]

“Anantādīnavo kāyo, visarukkhasamūpamo;

Āvāso sabbarogānaṃ, puñjo dukkhassa kevalo. [CST Apadānapāḷi-2 54.55]

“Sace imassa kāyassa, anto bāhirako siyā;

Daṇḍaṃ nūna gahetvāna, kāke soṇe ca vāraye.

“Duggandho asuci kāyo, kuṇapo ukkarūpamo;

Nindito cakkhubhūtehi, kāyo bālābhinandito.

“Allacammapaṭicchanno, navadvāro mahāvaṇo;

Samantato paggharati, asucī pūtigandhiyo”ti. [visuddhi. 1.122]

Ayyaputta, imaṃ kāyaṃ alaṅkaritvā kiṃ karissāmi? Nanu imassa alaṅkatakaraṇaṃ gūthapuṇṇaghaṭassa bahi cittakammakaraṇaṃ viya hotīti? Seṭṭhiputto tassā vacanaṃ sutvā āha “bhadde, tvaṃ imassa sarīrassa ime dose passamānā kasmā na pabbajasī”ti? “Ayyaputta, ahaṃ pabbajjaṃ labhamānā ajjeva pabbajeyya”nti. Seṭṭhiputto “sādhu, ahaṃ taṃ pabbājessāmī”ti vatvā mahādānaṃ pavattetvā mahāsakkāraṃ katvā mahantena parivārena bhikkhunupassayaṃ netvā taṃ pabbājento devadattapakkhiyānaṃ bhikkhunīnaṃ santike pabbājesi. Sā pabbajjaṃ labhitvā paripuṇṇasaṅkappā attamanā ahosi.

Athassā gabbhe paripākaṃ gacchante indriyānaṃ aññathattaṃ hatthapādapiṭṭhīnaṃ bahalattaṃ udarapaṭalassa ca mahantataṃ disvā bhikkhuniyo taṃ pucchiṃsu “ayye, tvaṃ gabbhinī viya paññāyasi, kiṃ eta”nti? Ayye, “idaṃ nāma kāraṇa”nti na jānāmi, sīlaṃ pana me paripuṇṇanti. Atha naṃ tā bhikkhuniyo devadattassa santikaṃ netvā devadattaṃ pucchiṃsu “ayya, ayaṃ kuladhītā kicchena sāmikaṃ ārādhetvā pabbajjaṃ labhi, idāni panassā gabbho paññāyati, mayaṃ imassa gabbhassa gihikāle vā pabbajitakāle vā laddhabhāvaṃ na jānāma, kiṃdāni karomā”ti? Devadatto attano abuddhabhāvena ca khantimettānuddayānañca natthitāya evaṃ cintesi “devadattapakkhikā bhikkhunī kucchinā gabbhaṃ pariharati, devadatto ca taṃ ajjhupekkhatiyevāti mayhaṃ garahā uppajjissati, mayā imaṃ uppabbājetuṃ vaṭṭatī”ti. So avīmaṃsitvāva selaguḷaṃ pavaṭṭayamāno viya pakkhanditvā “gacchatha, imaṃ uppabbājethā”ti āha. Tā tassa vacanaṃ sutvā uṭṭhāya vanditvā upassayaṃ gatā.

Atha sā daharā tā bhikkhuniyo āha – “ayye, na devadattatthero buddho, nāpi mayhaṃ tassa santike pabbajjā, loke pana aggapuggalassa sammāsambuddhassa santike mayhaṃ pabbajjā, sā ca pana me dukkhena laddhā, mā naṃ antaradhāpetha, etha maṃ gahetvā satthu santikaṃ jetavanaṃ gacchathā”ti. Tā taṃ ādāya rājagahā pañcacattālīsayojanikaṃ maggaṃ atikkamma anupubbena jetavanaṃ patvā satthāraṃ vanditvā tamatthaṃ ārocesuṃ. Satthā cintesi – “kiñcāpi gihikāle etissā gabbho patiṭṭhito, evaṃ santepi ‘samaṇo gotamo devadattena jahitaṃ ādāya caratī’ti titthiyānaṃ okāso bhavissati. Tasmā imaṃ kathaṃ pacchindituṃ sarājikāya parisāya majjhe imaṃ adhikaraṇaṃ vinicchituṃ vaṭṭatī”ti. Punadivase rājānaṃ pasenadikosalaṃ mahāanāthapiṇḍikaṃ cūḷaanāthapiṇḍikaṃ visākhaṃ mahāupāsikaṃ aññāni ca abhiññātāni mahākulāni pakkosāpetvā sāyanhasamaye catūsu parisāsu sannipatitāsu upālittheraṃ āmantesi “gaccha, tvaṃ catuparisamajjhe imissā daharabhikkhuniyā kammaṃ sodhehī”ti. “Sādhu, bhante”ti thero parisamajjhaṃ gantvā attano paññattāsane nisīditvā rañño purato visākhaṃ upāsikaṃ pakkosāpetvā imaṃ adhikaraṇaṃ paṭicchāpesi “gaccha visākhe, ‘ayaṃ daharā asukamāse asukadivase pabbajitā’ti tathato ñatvā imassa gabbhassa pure vā pacchā vā laddhabhāvaṃ jānāhī”ti. Upāsikā “sādhū”ti sampaṭicchitvā sāṇiṃ parikkhipāpetvā antosāṇiyaṃ daharabhikkhuniyā hatthapādanābhiudarapariyosānādīni oloketvā māsadivase samānetvā gihibhāve gabbhassa laddhabhāvaṃ tathato ñatvā therassa santikaṃ gantvā tamatthaṃ ārocesi. Thero catuparisamajjhe taṃ bhikkhuniṃ suddhaṃ akāsi. Sā suddhā hutvā bhikkhusaṅghañca satthārañca vanditvā bhikkhunīhi saddhiṃ upassayameva gatā. Sā gabbhaparipākamanvāya padumuttarapādamūle patthitapatthanaṃ mahānubhāvaṃ puttaṃ vijāyi.

Athekadivasaṃ rājā bhikkhunupassayasamīpena gacchanto dārakasaddaṃ sutvā amacce pucchi. Amaccā taṃ kāraṇaṃ ñatvā “deva, daharabhikkhunī puttaṃ vijātā, tasseso saddo”ti āhaṃsu. “Bhikkhunīnaṃ, bhaṇe, dārakapaṭijagganaṃ nāma palibodho, mayaṃ naṃ paṭijaggissāmā”ti rājā taṃ dārakaṃ nāṭakitthīnaṃ dāpetvā kumāraparihārena vaḍḍhāpesi. Nāmaggahaṇadivase cassa “kassapo”ti nāmaṃ akaṃsu. Atha naṃ kumāraparihārena vaḍḍhitattā “kumārakassapo”ti sañjāniṃsu. So sattavassikakāle satthu santike pabbajitvā paripuṇṇavasso upasampadaṃ labhitvā gacchante gacchante kāle dhammakathikesu citrakathī ahosi. Atha naṃ satthā “etadaggaṃ, bhikkhave, mama sāvakānaṃ bhikkhūnaṃ cittakathikānaṃ yadidaṃ kumārakassapo”ti [a. ni. 1.209, 217] etadagge ṭhapesi. So pacchā vammikasutte [ma. ni. 1.249] arahattaṃ pāpuṇi. Mātāpissa bhikkhunī vipassanaṃ vaḍḍhetvā aggaphalaṃ pattā. Kumārakassapatthero buddhasāsane gaganamajjhe puṇṇacando viya pākaṭo jāto.

Athekadivasaṃ tathāgato pacchābhattaṃ piṇḍapātapaṭikkanto bhikkhūnaṃ ovādaṃ datvā gandhakuṭiṃ pāvisi. Bhikkhū ovādaṃ gahetvā attano attano rattiṭṭhānadivāṭṭhānesu divasabhāgaṃ khepetvā sāyanhasamaye dhammasabhāyaṃ sannipatitvā “āvuso, devadattena attano abuddhabhāvena ceva khantimettādīnañca abhāvena kumārakassapatthero ca therī ca ubho nāsitā, sammāsambuddho pana attano dhammarājatāya ceva khantimettānuddayasampattiyā ca ubhinnampi tesaṃ paccayo jāto”ti buddhaguṇe vaṇṇayamānā nisīdiṃsu. Satthā buddhalīlāya dhammasabhaṃ āgantvā paññattāsane nisīditvā “kāya nuttha, bhikkhave, etarahi kathāya sannisinnā”ti pucchi. “Bhante, tumhākameva guṇakathāyā”ti sabbaṃ ārocayiṃsu. Na, bhikkhave, tathāgato idāneva imesaṃ ubhinnaṃ paccayo ca patiṭṭhā ca jāto, pubbepi ahosiyevāti. Bhikkhū tassatthassāvibhāvatthāya bhagavantaṃ yāciṃsu. Bhagavā bhavantarena paṭicchannaṃ kāraṇaṃ pākaṭaṃ akāsi.

Atīte bārāṇasiyaṃ brahmadatte rajjaṃ kārayamāne bodhisatto migayoniyaṃ paṭisandhiṃ gaṇhi. So mātukucchito nikkhanto suvaṇṇavaṇṇo ahosi, akkhīni panassa maṇiguḷasadisāni ahesuṃ, siṅgāni rajatavaṇṇāni, mukhaṃ rattakambalapuñjavaṇṇaṃ, hatthapādapariyantā lākhārasaparikammakatā viya, vāladhi camarassa viya ahosi, sarīraṃ panassa mahantaṃ assapotakappamāṇaṃ ahosi. So pañcasatamigaparivāro araññe vāsaṃ kappesi nāmena nigrodhamigarājā nāma. Avidūre panassa aññopi pañcasatamigaparivāro sākhamigo nāma vasati, sopi suvaṇṇavaṇṇova ahosi.

Tena samayena bārāṇasirājā migavadhappasuto hoti, vinā maṃsena na bhuñjati, manussānaṃ kammacchedaṃ katvā sabbe negamajānapade sannipātetvā devasikaṃ migavaṃ gacchati. Manussā cintesuṃ – “ayaṃ rājā amhākaṃ kammacchedaṃ karoti, yaṃnūna mayaṃ uyyāne migānaṃ nivāpaṃ vapitvā pānīyaṃ sampādetvā bahū mige uyyānaṃ pavesetvā dvāraṃ bandhitvā rañño niyyādeyyāmā”ti. Te sabbe uyyāne migānaṃ nivāpatiṇāni ropetvā udakaṃ sampādetvā dvāraṃ yojetvā vāgurāni ādāya muggarādinānāvudhahatthā araññaṃ pavisitvā mige pariyesamānā “majjhe ṭhite mige gaṇhissāmā”ti yojanamattaṃ ṭhānaṃ parikkhipitvā saṅkhipamānā nigrodhamigasākhamigānaṃ vasanaṭṭhānaṃ majjhe katvā parikkhipiṃsu. Atha naṃ migagaṇaṃ disvā rukkhagumbādayo ca bhūmiñca muggarehi paharantā migagaṇaṃ gahanaṭṭhānato nīharitvā asisattidhanuādīni āvudhāni uggiritvā mahānādaṃ nadantā taṃ migagaṇaṃ uyyānaṃ pavesetvā dvāraṃ pidhāya rājānaṃ upasaṅkamitvā “deva, nibaddhaṃ migavaṃ gacchantā amhākaṃ kammaṃ nāsetha, amhehi araññato mige ānetvā tumhākaṃ uyyānaṃ pūritaṃ, ito paṭṭhāya tesaṃ maṃsāni khādathā”ti rājānaṃ āpucchitvā pakkamiṃsu.

Rājā tesaṃ vacanaṃ sutvā uyyānaṃ gantvā mige olokento dve suvaṇṇamige disvā tesaṃ abhayaṃ adāsi. Tato paṭṭhāya pana kadāci sayaṃ gantvā ekaṃ migaṃ vijjhitvā āneti, kadācissa bhattakārako gantvā vijjhitvā āharati. Migā dhanuṃ disvāva maraṇabhayena tajjitā palāyanti, dve tayo pahāre labhitvā kilamantipi, gilānāpi honti, maraṇampi pāpuṇanti. Migagaṇo taṃ pavattiṃ bodhisattassa ārocesi. So sākhaṃ pakkosāpetvā āha – “samma, bahū migā nassanti, ekaṃsena maritabbe sati ito paṭṭhāya mā kaṇḍena mige vijjhantu, dhammagaṇḍikaṭṭhāne migānaṃ vāro hotu. Ekadivasaṃ mama parisāya vāro pāpuṇātu, ekadivasaṃ tava parisāya, vārappatto migo gantvā dhammagaṇḍikāya gīvaṃ ṭhapetvā nipajjatu, evaṃ sante migā kilantā na bhavissantī”ti. So “sādhū”ti sampaṭicchi. Tato paṭṭhāya vārappattova migo gantvā dhammagaṇḍikāya gīvaṃ ṭhapetvā nipajjati, bhattakārako āgantvā tattha nipannakameva gahetvā gacchati.

Athekadivasaṃ sākhamigassa parisāya ekissā gabbhinimigiyā vāro pāpuṇi. Sā sākhaṃ upasaṅkamitvā “sāmi, ahaṃ gabbhinī, puttaṃ vijāyitvā dve janā vāraṃ gamissāma, mayhaṃ vāraṃ atikkāmehī”ti āha. So “na sakkā tava vāraṃ aññesaṃ pāpetuṃ, tvameva tuyhaṃ vāraṃ jānissasi, gacchāhī”ti āha. Sā tassa santikā anuggahaṃ alabhamānā bodhisattaṃ upasaṅkamitvā tamatthaṃ ārocesi. So tassā vacanaṃ sutvā “hotu gaccha tvaṃ, ahaṃ te vāraṃ atikkāmessāmī”ti sayaṃ gantvā dhammagaṇḍikāya sīsaṃ katvā nipajji. Bhattakārako taṃ disvā “laddhābhayo migarājā dhammagaṇḍikāya nipanno, kiṃ nu kho kāraṇa”nti vegena gantvā rañño ārocesi.

Rājā tāvadeva rathaṃ āruyha mahantena parivārena āgantvā bodhisattaṃ disvā āha “samma migarāja, nanu mayā tuyhaṃ abhayaṃ dinnaṃ, kasmā tvaṃ idha nipanno”ti. Mahārāja, gabbhinī migī āgantvā “mama vāraṃ aññassa pāpehī”ti āha, na sakkā kho pana mayā ekassa maraṇadukkhaṃ aññassa upari nikkhipituṃ, svāhaṃ attano jīvitaṃ tassā datvā tassā santakaṃ maraṇaṃ gahetvā idha nipanno, mā aññaṃ kiñci āsaṅkittha, mahārājāti. Rājā āha – “sāmi, suvaṇṇavaṇṇamigarāja, mayā na tādiso khantimettānuddayasampanno manussesupi diṭṭhapubbo, tena te pasannosmi, uṭṭhehi, tuyhañca tassā ca abhayaṃ dammī”ti. “Dvīhi abhaye laddhe avasesā kiṃ karissanti, narindā”ti? “Avasesānampi abhayaṃ dammi, sāmī”ti. “Mahārāja, evampi uyyāneyeva migā abhayaṃ labhissanti, sesā kiṃ karissantī”ti? “Etesampi abhayaṃ dammi, sāmī”ti. “Mahārāja, migā tāva abhayaṃ labhantu, sesā catuppadā kiṃ karissantī”ti? “Etesampi abhayaṃ dammi, sāmī”ti. “Mahārāja, catuppadā tāva abhayaṃ labhantu, dijagaṇā kiṃ karissantī”ti? “Etesampi abhayaṃ dammi, sāmī”ti. “Mahārāja, dijagaṇā tāva abhayaṃ labhantu, udake vasantā macchā kiṃ karissantī”ti? “Etesampi abhayaṃ dammi, sāmī”ti. Evaṃ mahāsatto rājānaṃ sabbasattānaṃ abhayaṃ yācitvā uṭṭhāya rājānaṃ pañcasu sīlesu patiṭṭhāpetvā “dhammaṃ cara, mahārāja, mātāpitūsu puttadhītāsu brāhmaṇagahapatikesu negamajānapadesu dhammaṃ caranto samaṃ caranto kāyassa bhedā paraṃ maraṇā sugatiṃ saggaṃ lokaṃ gamissasī”ti rañño buddhalīlāya dhammaṃ desetvā katipāhaṃ uyyāne vasitvā rañño ovādaṃ datvā migagaṇaparivuto araññaṃ pāvisi. Sāpi kho migadhenu pupphakaṇṇikasadisaṃ puttaṃ vijāyi. So kīḷamāno sākhamigassa santikaṃ gacchati. Atha naṃ mātā tassa santikaṃ gacchantaṃ disvā “putta, ito paṭṭhāya mā etassa santikaṃ gaccha, nigrodhasseva santikaṃ gaccheyyāsī”ti ovadantī imaṃ gāthamāha –

12        Nigrodhameva seveyya, na sākhamupasaṃvase;

Nigrodhasmiṃ mataṃ seyyo, yañce sākhasmi jīvita”nti.

Tattha nigrodhameva seveyyāti tāta tvaṃ vā añño vā attano hitakāmo nigrodhameva seveyya bhajeyya upasaṅkameyya, na sākhamupasaṃvaseti sākhamigaṃ pana na upasaṃvase upagamma na saṃvaseyya, etaṃ nissāya jīvikaṃ na kappeyya. Nigrodhasmiṃ mataṃ seyyoti nigrodharañño pādamūle maraṇampi seyyo varaṃ uttamaṃ. Yañce sākhasmi jīvitanti yaṃ pana sākhassa santike jīvitaṃ, taṃ neva seyyo na varaṃ na uttamanti attho.

Tato paṭṭhāya ca pana abhayaladdhakā migā manussānaṃ sassāni khādanti, manussā “laddhābhayā ime migā”ti mige paharituṃ vā palāpetuṃ vā na visahanti, te rājaṅgaṇe sannipatitvā rañño tamatthaṃ ārocesuṃ. Rājā “mayā pasannena nigrodhamigarājassa varo dinno, ahaṃ rajjaṃ jaheyyaṃ, na ca taṃ paṭiññaṃ bhindāmi, gacchatha na koci mama vijite mige paharituṃ labhatī”ti āha. Nigrodhamigo taṃ pavattiṃ sutvā migagaṇaṃ sannipātāpetvā “ito paṭṭhāya paresaṃ sassaṃ khādituṃ na labhissathā”ti mige ovaditvā manussānaṃ ārocāpesi “ito paṭṭhāya sassakārakā manussā sassarakkhaṇatthaṃ vatiṃ mā karontu, khettaṃ pana āvijjhitvā paṇṇasaññaṃ bandhantū”ti. Tato paṭṭhāya kira khettesu paṇṇabandhanasaññā udapādi. Tato paṭṭhāya paṇṇasaññaṃ atikkamanamigo nāma natthi. Ayaṃ kira nesaṃ bodhisattato laddhaovādo. Evaṃ migagaṇaṃ ovaditvā bodhisatto yāvatāyukaṃ ṭhatvā saddhiṃ migehi yathākammaṃ gato, rājāpi bodhisattassa ovāde ṭhatvā puññāni katvā yathākammaṃ gato.

Satthā “na, bhikkhave, idānevāhaṃ theriyā ca kumārakassapassa ca avassayo, pubbepi avassayo evā”ti imaṃ dhammadesanaṃ āharitvā catusaccadhammadesanaṃ vinivaṭṭetvā dve vatthūni kathetvā anusandhiṃ ghaṭetvā jātakaṃ samodhānesi “tadā sākhamigo devadatto ahosi, parisāpissa devadattaparisāva, migadhenu therī ahosi, putto kumārakassapo, rājā ānando, nigrodhamigarājā pana ahameva ahosi”nti.

Nigrodhamigajātakavaṇṇanā dutiyā.

Story of the Present [73]

Resort only to the Banyan [deer] – this the Teacher told while dwelling at Jetavana in connection with the mother of Kumārakassapa Thera (THAG V201-V202).  She, it is said, was the daughter of a business tycoon who had great splendor in the Rājagaha City.  She had an intense root of wholesome, formations completely trampled, in her last existence, with the tendency to become an arahant burning in her heart like a lamp [burning] in a pot.  When she came to senses and knew her mind, not delighting in the household life, desirous of ordaining, spoke to mother-father – “Mother-father, my mind does not delight in household life, I am desirous of ordaining in the Buddha’s Teaching that leads to salvation, please get me ordained”. [74]  What are you saying, daughter, this family has much splendor, and you are our only daughter, we will not let you ordain.  She, having asked again and again but not having obtained [permission for] ordination from mother-father, thought “Let it be, having gone to the husband-family, propitiating husband, I will ordain”.  When she became of age she went to the husband-family, having a husband she settled down [with him] to a life of virtues and [became] a good-doer in the home.

Living together, she conceived.  She didn’t know about the conception. [75]  Then in that city a festival was announced, all residents were sporting, and the city was decorated like a city of devā.  Even at the height of the festival, she neither anointed nor decorated herself and walked about in normal clothes.

Then her husband spoke – “Noble lady, entire city is celebrating the festival, but you are not looking after yourself”.  Master, filled with thirty-two loathsome things is this body, what to decorate of it, this body is not made by devā or Brahmā; neither is it made of gold or jewels or yellow sandalwood; nor is it born from white lotus, red lotus, or blue lotus; nor is it filled with medicine of deathless [immortality]; it is born from loathsome, come into existence because of mother-father; is of the nature of impermanent, destructible, completely trampled, subject to breakup, crushed; increaser of cemetery, grasped with craving, cause of sorrows, matter for lamentation, home of all diseases, receiver of the kammā results, foul inside, always oozing outside, residence for worms, bound for the charnel ground, ending at death.  Seen in the world to be: [76]

“Held together by bones and muscles, plastered by skin and meat;

Body covered by skin, is not seen as it is.

“Filled with intestines, filled with stomach, lump of liver, bladder;

With heart, lungs, kidneys, and spleen too.

“With mucus and saliva, and sweat and fat too;

With blood and fluid of joints, with bile and skin oil too.

“Thus from the nine streams, impurities always flow;

Eye-secretion from eye, ear-wax from ear.

“Mucus from nose, sometimes vomit from mouth;

Bile and phlegm are vomited too, sweat and dirt from body.

“Then the well-perforated head, filled with brains;

Fool believes it to be beautiful, led on by ignorance. [77]

“Body is of endless danger, similar to a poison-tree;

Home of all diseases, a complete heap of suffering. [78]

“If of this body, what is inside was on the outside;

Having grabbed a stick, we would be stopping crows and dogs.

“Stinking impure body, a corpse, like excrement;

Criticized by ones with eyes, body pleases the fools.

“Wet and hide-covered, nine-doored, greatly reproachable;

Everywhere oozing, impure and foul-smelling too”. [79]

Master, what will I do decorating this body?  Isn’t decorating it the same as painting the outside of an excrement-filled chamber-pot?  Son of the business tycoon, having heard her words, spoke – “Noble lady, seeing such faults in this body, why don’t you ordain”?  “Master, if available I will ordain today itself”.  Son of the business tycoon having said “good, I will get you ordained”, having given greatly and showing great hospitality, and having led [her] to the bhikkhu residence with a large family retinue, ordained her with the bhikkhunis belonging to the faction of Devadatta.  Having gained the ordination, she was rapturous with completely fulfilled intention.

When she was full-term, having seen her faculties changing, hands-feet yellowing, and belly getting larger, bhikkhunis asked her – “Noble lady, you appear to be pregnant, what’s up”? – “Noble ladies, I can’t name it; I know I have led a virtuous life”.  Then those bhikkhunis having brought her near Devadatta, asked Devadatta – “Noble sir, this daughter of a good family gained ordination with difficulty having propitiated husband, here she appears to be with child, we don’t know if she became pregnant while living as a householder or while ordained, now what shall we do”?  Devadatta, with an unenlightened attitude [not being a Buddha] and not having patience, loving-friendliness, and sympathy thought thus: “A bhikkhuni of the Devadatta faction is bearing a child in her belly, Devadatta is indifferent to that, this will become a blamable matter for me, let me un-ordain her”.  He, without having inquired, as if [a sportsman in a hammer-throw or a discus-throw competition] [80] whirling around to throw a round stone, rushed forward and spoke: “Go away, you are un-ordained”.  She, having heard his word, rose and having paid homage, went to the dwelling.

Then that young one spoke to bhikkhunis – “Noble ladies, neither is Devadatta Thera the Buddha, nor did I ordain under him.  I ordained under the rightly self-enlightened one, the foremost person in the world.  What has been gained by me with suffering, please don’t cause me to lose it.  Come, having taken me, please go to Jetavana, near the Teacher”.  They, taking her from Rājagaha and gradually covering a path of forty-five yojana, reached Jetavana and having paid homage to the Teacher, informed him the reason.  Teacher thought – “Although she became with child while living as a householder, that being so heretics will get an opportunity to say ‘Renunciate Gotama dwells taking-in [a bhikkhuni] given-up by Devadatta’.  Therefore this talk must be ended in an assembly including the king where this matter should be judged”.  Next day, having sent for Pasenadi the king of Kosala, Elder Anāthapiṇḍika, Younger Anāthapiṇḍika, great lay female devotee Visākhā, and other well-known people from great families, at the evening time, having gathered the four assemblies, [81] [Lord Buddha] addressed [Venerable] Upāli Thera: “Go and in the midst of the four assemblies, investigate the kamma of this young bhikkhuni”.  Saying “Good Venerable Sir” the [Venerable] Thera went in the middle of the four assemblies and having sat down on his seat, sent for the lay devotee Visākhā in front of the king and entrusted her with this matter: “Go Visākhā, knowing that ‘this young lady ordained on certain month, certain day’, find out if she conceived before or after [that date]”.  The great female lay devotee agreed saying “Good” and having made a makeshift shelter of jute, inside the jute [shelter], having looked at the hands, feet, navel, stomach boundary, etc. of the young bhikkhuni and having compared the month-day, and knowing that the child was conceived while living as a householder, having gone near the [Venerable] Thera informed [him] thus.  [Venerable] Thera informed the four assemblies of the purity of the bhikkhuni.  She having been purified [of the doubt], having paid homage to the Bhikkhu Saṅgha and the Teacher, went to the dwelling with the bhikkhunis.  She, when the time had come, gave birth to a genius son, the desire and aspiration for which was established at the feet of Lord Padumuttara Buddha. [82]

Then one day, while the king was passing by the bhikkhuni dwelling, having heard the sounds of a young one, asked the minister.  Knowing the cause, minister spoke: “Deva, young bhikkhuni has given birth to a son, these are his sounds”.  “Friend, looking after a young one is called an impediment for the bhikkhunis, I will look after [the young one]”, king having given that young one to his women relatives, he looked after kumāra’s growth.  On the name-giving day he was called “Kassapa”.  When he was growing up he came to be known as “Kumārakassapa”.  At the time when he was seven years old, he ordained near the Teacher and fulfilling the year-requirements gained the higher ordination; as time went by he had an appealing speech amongst the Dhamma speakers.  Therefore he was established as the foremost by the Teacher as “This is the foremost, bhikkhus, among my bhikkhu disciples with appealing speech, namely Kumārakassapa” [NDB 1.217].  He later reached arahanthood by Vammika Sutta [MLDB 23 Ant Hill Sutta].  His mother the bhikkhuni too, when the vipassana had increased, reached the foremost fruit.  Kumārakassapa Thera manifested in the Teaching of the Buddha like a full moon in the middle of the sky.

Then one day, after returning from the alms-round and having eaten, having given an exhortation to the bhikkhus, Tathāgata entered the fragrant cabin.  Bhikkhus, having been exhorted, having passed day-time in their own night-day dwellings, at evening time gathered in the Dhamma assembly, and while sitting described the qualities of Lord Buddha: “Friend, Devadatta, with an unenlightened attitude [not being a Buddha] and not having patience, loving-friendliness, etc. destroyed Kumārakassapa Thera and Therī both, while the Rightly self-enlightened one, being King of Dhamma and endowed with patience, loving-friendliness, and sympathy has proven to be their support”.  Teacher, having entered the Dhamma assembly with the grace of a Buddha and having sat down on his seat, asked “For what talk were you sitting here together, bhikkhus”?  “Venerable sir, your qualities itself” informed everyone.  Bhikkhus, Tathāgata has not only proven to be their support and helper here but he was same in the past too.  Bhikkhus asked the Blessed One to explain the meaning of that [statement].  The Blessed One then made visible the cause that was covered due to the previous existence.

Story of the Past

In the past when Brahmadatta [83] reigned in Bārāṇasi, Bodhisatta was reborn as a deer.  When he was born, he was golden-colored, his eyes were like round jewels, horns were silver-colored, mouth was like a heap of red blanket, hooves were like lacquer-painted, tail was like a yak ox, [and] body too was big like the size of a foal.  He lived in the jungle with a retinue of five-hundred deers, named the Banyan deer-king.  Not too far [from him] lived another one named Branch deer with a retinue of five hundred deers.  He too was golden-colored.

At that time, the king of Bārāṇasi was intent on hunting deer, wouldn’t eat without [deer] meat – having stopped the daily work of people, having gathered everyone from township and country, would go on deer hunt daily.  People thought – “This king stops our work, what if we having spread food for deer in the garden, having provided water, having gathered a large herd of deer in the garden and having closed the doors, hand-over to the king”.  They all, having planted grass for deer-food, having provided water, having made doors, taking snare nets and club etc. various weapons in hand entered the jungle looking for deers, [thinking] “We will grab the deer in the middle” having encircled about a yojana [84] area and closed the distance keeping the residence of Banyan deer and Branch deer in the middle.  Then having seen the deer-herd; beating trees, bushes, and ground with clubs; having driven out the deer-herd from the impenetrable jungle; rattling swords-spears-bows etc. weapons; making very loud sounds; made that deer-herd enter the garden and closing the doors; having approached the king [said]; “Deva, always going on deer hunt destroys our work [livelihood], we have brought deer from jungle and filled your garden [with them], henceforth please eat their meat”; [and] taking leave of the king they went.

The king having heard their word, having gone to the garden and seeing the deer, saw two golden deers to whom he granted the boon of fearlessness from slaughter.  Thenceforth, sometimes he went and having shot [a deer] brought it [home], sometimes his chef went and having shot [a deer] fetched it.  On seeing the bow, frightened by fear of dying, deer took flight, two-three would get hit and become wounded, become sick, even die.  The deer-herd informed Bodhisatta of this news.  He having sent for Branch said – “Good sir, many deer are being destroyed, in all probability they will die, henceforth let not deer die of opportunistic shooting, let there be turn of deer at the dhamma wood block place.  One day it will be the turn of my assembly, one day your assembly, the deer whose turn it is, having gone to the dhamma wood block, putting her neck on it, will lie down, this way deer will not be wounded”.  Saying “Good” he agreed.  Thenceforth the deer whose turn it was would go to the dhamma wood block and putting her neck on it lay down, the chef would come and having grabbed the one lying down there, go.

Then one day, it was the turn of a pregnant doe in the Branch deer’s assembly.  She, having approached Branch said “Master, I am pregnant, once the child is born, there will be two to take the turn, let my turn pass”.  He said “Not possible to give your turn to another, you yourself should take your turn, go away”.  Not having gained any assistance from him, she approached the Bodhisatta and informed him.  He having heard her words [said] “Let it be, you go, I will pass your turn” and having gone himself, laid down with his head on the dhamma wood block.  The chef seeing him quickly went to the king and informed him “the deer-king who was given the boon of fearlessness is lying down at the dhamma wood block, indeed what shall we do”?

King right away climbing the chariot with a great assembly arrived and having seen the Bodhisatta said “Good sir deer-king, didn’t I give you the boon of fearlessness, why are you lying here”?

Great king, a pregnant doe came and said “Make my turn pass to someone else”, not being able to put-down one’s death-pain on another, I myself giving my life to her and taking her death-pain I laid down here, don’t be doubtful about anything else, O Great king.

King said – “Lord, golden-colored deer-king, I have not seen one endowed with patience-loving friendliness-sympathy like you even among humans, therefore I am glad with you, rise, I give boon of fearlessness to you and her”.

“Only two getting the boon of fearlessness, what will the rest do, O Inda among men”?

“I give the boon of fearlessness to rest too, Lord”.

“Great king, the deer in this garden will gain the boon of fearlessness, what will the rest do”?

“I give the boon of fearlessness to them too, Lord”.

“Great king, the deer gain the boon of fearlessness from you, what will the rest four-legged do”?

“I give the boon of fearlessness to them too, Lord”.

“Great king, the four-legged gain the boon of fearlessness from you, what will the flocks of birds do”?

“I give the boon of fearlessness to them too, Lord”.

“Great king, the flocks of birds gain the boon of fearlessness from you, what will the fishes living in water do”?

“I give the boon of fearlessness to them too, Lord”.

Thus the Mahāsatta having asked the boon of fearlessness for all beings from the king stood up and having established the king in the five precepts [said] “Fare the Dhamma, great king, to mother-father, sons-daughters, brāhmaṇa-householders, townships-republics, faring the Dhamma, faring the peace, after the breakup of body and death, you will go to good destination, heaven world” – thus preaching Dhamma to the king with the grace of a Buddha, having stayed in the garden for a few days, having exhorted the king, [he] entered the jungle accompanied by the deer-herd.  Then indeed that doe gave birth to a son like a lotus flower.  He [the son] desirous of playing went close to the Branch deer.  Then his mother having seen him going closer to him [Branch deer] [said] “Son, from henceforth don’t go near him, go near only the Banyan [deer]” and exhorted him with this verse

12        Resort only to the Banyan [deer], don’t reside with the Branch [deer];

Better to die with the Banyan [deer], than to live with the Branch [deer].

There: Resort only to the Banyan [deer] dear you or others desirous of welfare should resort, associate, and approach only the Banyan [deer].  Don’t reside with the Branch [deer] don’t approach Branch [deer] for residing or living with, you can’t establish [your] life on his dependence.  Better to die with the Banyan [deer] death at the feet of Banyan King is better, highest, best.  Than to live with the Branch [deer] living with Branch [deer] is neither better, nor highest, nor of the best meaning.

Thenceforth, the deer having the boon of fearlessness were eating the crops of people; people [saying or thinking] “These deer have the boon of fearlessness” could not hit them or drive them away; they having gathered in the palace courtyard informed the king.  King said “I gladly gave a boon to the Banyan deer-king, I can give up the kingdom but will not break my vow, go away, no one may hit the deer in my realm”.  Banyan deer, having heard that news, having gathered the deer-herd exhorted them “Henceforth you may not eat the crops of others” and informed people “Henceforth farmers should not make fence to protect the crops, let them indicate the field by tying leaves encircling it”.  Thenceforth, it is said, the sign of leaves tied around fields was seen.  Thenceforth no deer trespassed the tied leaves sign [to eat the crops].  Because, it is said, they were exhorted thus by the Bodhisatta.  Thus exhorting the deer-herd, having stayed [lived] as long as life lasts, Bodhisatta passed on with deer according to his kamma, king too having stayed in the exhortation, having done merits, passed on according to his kamma.

Back to the Present

Teacher [said] “Bhikkhus, not only did I look after the therī and Kumārakassapa here itself, [but] also looked after them in the past” thus having given this Dhamma preaching, having rolled the Dhamma preaching of the four truths, having told two stories/matters, linked them and connected the births: “At that time Devadatta was the Branch deer, his assembly was his herd, therī was the pregnant doe, Kumārakassapa was the son, Ānanda was the king, and I myself was the Banyan deer-king”.

Banyan Deer Birth-Story Description Second.

§4.3 Discussion

Based on the jātaka and the medallion on the Bharhut Stupa, we see that the medallion faithfully represents and supports the jātaka story as has been handed down to us.  Now, while the Bharhut Stupa railing carvings are tentatively dated to c 100-125 BCE, the story itself and the moral to be derived from it are certainly contemporaneous with Lord Buddha and in my opinion, likely much, much older than that.  The reason is that while a Buddha’s teachings are lost in the inter-sāsanaṃ when no Buddha dispensation exists, some stories and sayings do survive – albeit in abridged form and mostly misunderstood. [85]  Thus, the jātaka and the message it sends out is at least as old as Lord Buddha.  Consider that there are 547 jātaka stories in the CST, comprising a total of 2809 verses; out of these many stories, only certain stories with an immediate moral for the people at large were chosen to be illustrated on the railings of the Bharhut Stupa.  This in itself speaks volumes in terms of how much importance must have been attached to the Banyan Deer Jātaka and the message it conveys.  So, what’s the message it conveys?

(1)   First and foremost, this is a story that links “associating with wise/superior/people of integrity” to being non-violent to all beings – directly or indirectly – the first precept.  “Associating with the wise/superior/people of integrity” (Sappurisasaṃsevo) is the first factor for stream entry. [86]  It was also recognized that the “wise/superior/people of integrity” always delighted in non-violence.  So the primary message was to generate the conditions for the preparatory path for stream-entry, the first stage of the four-stage enlightenment process.  Thus, the story tells us that in addition to “associating with the wise/superior/people of integrity”, one needed to have good virtues such as non-violence.  This accords with the Noble Eightfold Path where the first division is that of Sīla, virtues.

We also saw the definition of the bad person, the person inferior to the bad person, the good person, and the person superior to the good person in “§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing NDB 4.201 Training Rules Sutta”:

Good person abstains from the destruction of life, and the person superior to the good person not only himself abstains from the destruction of life but also encourages others to abstain from the destruction of life.

(2)   Second, to fully accomplish non-violence, one must be kind and compassionate for the welfare of all beings, including ones which are customarily used as food to sustain life.  In fact, we can put kindness and compassion on a scale:

a.      It’s easier being kind to beings which repulse one such as earthworms or cockroaches.

b.      It’s a little less easy to be kind to beings that bite such as leeches, snakes, scorpions, mosquitoes, etc.  For this, one needs to develop a high level of loving-friendliness as well as an understanding that these beings are just reaping their past kammā and may they be freed from this cycle at the earliest.

c.       The hardest is being kind to beings that one sees as within the domain of eatables, agreeables, tasty, and “things” that can help sustain and nourish life.  As an example, when one is devoted and dedicated to eating chicken and eats chicken on a regular basis prepared in various ways; than when one sees a chicken in the backyard, it’s but natural that one will not really look upon that chicken as “may that chicken be happy and peaceful” but rather, one will have thoughts of how will that chicken taste, is it thin or plump, young or old, dry or succulent, and so on.  This is the nature of beings and no one is exempt from that.

Therefore, in tune with these thoughts, King Brahmadatta gave boon of fearlessness to all animals, birds, and fishes (read: all water-dwelling creatures).

(3)   Third, to dwell kind and compassionate to all living beings, one cannot pass on the buck to someone else such as “my chef will kill the animal, not me.  I will just eat what he cooks”.  When the cook knows that the king loves deer-meat and cannot live a single day without deer-meat, he will most definitely, in the interest of his own well-being, go kill a deer and cook for the king.  If he doesn’t, at the minimum he may not receive rewards and get fired from his job, and at the worst, he may get fired from this saṃsāra! [87]  One must take responsibility for one’s own action and not have anything done – directly or indirectly – to any living beings to satisfy one’s own or someone else’s greed for food.  Keeping this in mind, by blanket banning of killing the creatures, king also freed his cook – nay, all the butchers, trappers, hunters, fishermen, and such others engaged in bloody occupations – from having to butcher, hunt, trap, and fish.  In doing so, the king acted in the true interest of not only his own but also of everyone dependent on him for livelihood.  This is true compassion and kalyāṇamittatā in action.

a.      In this regard, it would be instructive to observe the situation in most of the South East Asian Buddhist countries where a majority of the butchers are non-Buddhists.  By relegating the task of butchering to non-Buddhists, a new “caste” gets created.  Instead, wouldn’t it be better to give the freedom from fear to both the animals and the people who might have to fare very badly because of their profession?

b.      We saw in the last chapter that Emperor Ashoka had also declared that “certain beings are inviolable and should not be killed, castrated, sold, or branded” – the injunctions were either absolute (for all time) or in some cases for certain days/months/seasons.  When he declared these rules, he was simply doing what he, as the Dhamma emperor, can and should do for his people and animals and birds.

So we see that declaring animals inviolable and non-slaughter days was a moral duty of every Dhamma emperor – be it Brahmadatta, be it in the time of King Pasenadi (see the story of Suppiyā in “§A2.1 Meat as Medicine” section), or be it Emperor Ashoka.  Emulating the example of Emperor Ashoka was the right thing to do, as pointed out by Richard Gombrich:

“Asoka has been the model for rulers all over the Buddhist world.  Within the next thousand years at least five kings of Sri Lanka prohibited the killing of animals”. [88]

§4.4 Conclusion

We see from this jātaka how people understood the enlightened one’s message in the 2nd-1st century BCE.  They understood non-violence to include all violence against any living being, including those beings subject to be considered food.  Furthermore, the ban on slaughter was total and there was no shifting the blame from one to another and make another one do the deed to satisfy one’s own greed and lust for tastes.

There are implications of this for our current world where factory-farms produce meat which is then transported to the super-markets and sometime lay there frozen for an extended period waiting for a specific holiday (e.g. Thanksgiving) before it’s brought to store shelves.  In such cases, saying that the being was already dead before I purchased it and I didn’t hear it, see it, or suspected it was killed for me – that is tantamount to ignoring the first principle – compassion is all the time, not only some time.  The moment a dead being is sold off the shelf, somewhere another being would be killed to refill the store-shelf.  One just farmed out the dirty work to someone.  This is not what Lord Buddha would have had in mind when he laid down the rules.  We just cheated to run circle around him and his ennobling Dhamma.


Chapter Five – What We Nought and What We Ought

 

So, we have now reached the final chapter of this short review and study guide.  However, it’s short only in the sense of number of words and pages.  In terms of the depth of the concepts, it is unfathomable but with our limited understanding, we have tried to understand it and to connect the various interspersed teachings in a coherent whole.  And what have we learned so far?  Specifically, using the ancient Indian terminology – what have we learned not to do (Yamā) and what have we learned to do (Niyamā)?

Before we get to Yamā and Niyamā, let us begin with the Criteria for Judgment – how to judge what isn’t worth doing and what is, what isn’t helpful and what is.  Then we will make a list of Yamā and that will lead us to Niyamā.  We are simply following the path shown by the Well-gone One.

§5.1 Criteria For Judgment

LDB 25 Udumbarika-Sīhanāda Sutta:

16. ‘Well then, Lord, how does austerity attain its peak, penetrating to the pith?  It would be good if the Blessed Lord were to cause my austerity to attain its peak, to penetrate to the pith.’

‘Nigrodha, take the case of a self-mortifier who observes the fourfold restraint.  And what is this?  Here, a self-mortifier does not harm a living being, does not cause a living being to be harmed, does not approve of such harming; he does not take what is not given, or cause it to be taken, or approve of such taking; he does not tell a lie, or cause a lie to be told, or approve of such lying; he does not crave for sense-pleasures, cause others to do so, or approve of such craving.  In this way, a self-mortifier observes the fourfold restraint.  And through this restraint, through making this his austerity, he takes an upward course and does not fall back into lower things. ...’ (emphasis added).

We have already come across a little more detailed [four-pronged] message in the “§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing – NDB 4.264 Destruction of Life Sutta”:

(1)   He himself abstains from the destruction of life;

(2)   he encourages others to abstain from the destruction of life;

(3)   he approves of abstaining from the destruction of life; and

(4)   he speaks in praise of abstaining from the destruction of life.

But there is a difference.  In the LDB 25 Udumbarika-Sīhanāda Sutta, the second condition is: does not cause a living being to be harmed.  That is different than the second condition above.  What is the implication?  Just this:

An ascetic must not give hints – directly or indirectly; by body, speech, or mind – that can result in the death or destruction of a being, or violence to a being.  This means that to be a true ascetic, no hints about meat-broth or any such foods should be given to anyone – directly or indirectly.  As an example, if an ascetic is devoted to eating chicken and eats it whenever available and devotees see this, they will certainly bring more chicken – this would be called causes a living being to be harmed.

NDB 10.94 Vajjiyamāhita Sutta:

... “Is it true, householder, as it is said, that the ascetic Gotama criticizes all austerities and that he unreservedly condemns and reproves all who live a harsh and austere life?”

“No, Bhante, the Blessed One does not criticize all austerities and he does not unreservedly condemn and reprove all who live a harsh and austere life.  The Blessed One criticizes what deserves criticism and praises what is praiseworthy.  By criticizing what deserves criticism and praising what is praiseworthy, the Blessed One speaks on the basis of distinctions; he does not speak about such matters one-sidedly.” ...

[Householder Vajjiyamāhita then approached Lord Buddha and reported the conversation he had with the wanderers.  Lord Buddha approved of the conversation and said:]

(1)–(2) “If, householder, when one practices a particular austerity, unwholesome qualities increase and wholesome qualities decline, then, I say, one should not practice such austerity.  But if, when one practices a particular austerity, unwholesome qualities decline and wholesome qualities increase, then, I say, one should practice such austerity”.

[The same is then repeated for observance, striving, relinquishment, and liberation] (emphasis added, edited for length).

MLDB 114 Sevitabbāsevitabba Sutta: [89]

42. “ ‘Sāriputta, Almsfood is of two kinds, I say: to be cultivated and not to be cultivated.  So it was said by the Blessed One.  And with reference to what was this said?

Venerable sir, such almsfood as causes unwholesome states to increase and wholesome states to diminish in one who cultivates them should not be cultivated.  But such almsfood as causes unwholesome states to diminish and wholesome states to increase in one who cultivates them should be cultivated“ (emphasis added, a composite of 41 and 42 with minor edits).

So, here we have the threefold GOLD STANDARD given by the best of men himself.

(1)   Any austerity, leading onward to Nibbāna, must contain at the minimum following four factors of restraint: no harm to living beings directly or indirectly, no stealing, no lying, and no craving for sensual pleasures.  If seeing you eating chicken, others serve more chicken to you resulting in the death of a chicken somewhere, that is similar to “causes a living being to be harmed” – a big NO-NO.

(2)   Any austerity, observance, striving, relinquishment, or attainment of liberation should be practiced only if unwholesome qualities decline and wholesome qualities increase.  For example, if the austerity of “living on kola-fruits, eating kola-fruits, eating kola-fruit powder, drinking kola-fruit water, and making many kinds of kola-fruit concoctions” (see “§2.2 Right View – MLDB 12 Mahāsīhanāda Sutta”) leads to a rise in unwholesome states, one must not practice such austerities.  A tongue-in-cheek quick note for the soda aficionados: this kola-fruit has nothing to do with Coca-Cola or Pepsi-Cola.

(3)   Any almsfood that causes unwholesome states to diminish and wholesome states to increase in one who cultivates them should be cultivated.  Conversely, any almsfood that causes unwholesome states to increase and wholesome states to diminish in one who cultivates them should NOT be cultivated.  In simple words, if by eating meat-fish-eggs, unwholesome states of craving, lust, desire, cruelty, ill-will, etc. increase than one must abandon eating such food.

§5.2 What We Nought

1.      We should not kill, hurt, maim, or cause violence of any sort to any being – directly or indirectly (§2.2 Right view MLDB 98 Vāseṭṭha Sutta”).

2.      We should not hold the wrong view of “There is nothing given, nothing offered, nothing sacrificed; no fruit or result of good and bad actions; no this world, no other world; no mother, no father; no beings who are reborn spontaneously; no good and virtuous recluses and brahmins in the world who have realized for themselves by direct knowledge and declare this world and the other world” (§2.2 Right view MLDB 117 Mahācattārīsaka Sutta”).

3.      We must abandon both extremist vegetarianism wrong view of “purification comes about through food” or careless omnitarianism wrong view of “I will survive on meat only” to progress on the Noble Eightfold Path (§2.2 Right view MLDB 12 Mahāsīhanāda Sutta and §2.2 Right view LDB 24 Pāṭika Sutta”).

4.      We must not partake of any food that causes unwholesome states such as craving, lust, hate, and intentions of cruelty to arise (§2.2 Right Intention MLDB 114 Sevitabbāsevitabba Sutta”).

5.      We must not engage in any professions that include “trading in living beings” and “trading in meat”.  Here, trading includes bartering, buying, selling, storage, transportation, preparation for selling, and final delivery to the buyers (“§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta” and “§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood NDB 6.18 The Fish Dealer Sutta”).

6.      One should neither destroy life nor encourage others to destroy life (“§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing NDB 4.201 Training Rules Sutta“) – this is the way to become a good person and a person superior to good person; and it is also conducive to heaven.

7.      Since “one who himself destroys life; encourages others to destroy life; approves of the destruction of life; and speaks in praise of the destruction of life” is hell-bound, we must not undertake any of these actions (“§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing NDB 4.264 Destruction of Life Sutta”).

8.      We must not engage in killing of living beings – directly or indirectly – because it is a fetter due to the bloody kammā involved and a hindrance due to the remorse and restlessness it generates.  All of this binds one strongly to the cycle of existences and doesn’t calm the heart within (“§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing MLDB 54 Potaliya Sutta” and “§2.6 Sacrifice and Giving LDB 5 Kūṭadanta Sutta”).

9.      None of the giving or sacrifice we engage in should have any of the three knives employed and the sacrifice and giving must be done with the correct intention of non-greed, non-hate, and non-killing (“§2.6 Sacrifice and Giving – NDB 7.47 Sacrifice Sutta”).

10.  In this saṃsāra without a discoverable beginning, every creature we encounter is related to us in one way or another – when we eat any meat-fish-eggs, it’s as if we are eating our parents, siblings, offspring, spouse, teachers, relatives, clans, and so on.  In a way then, we are engaging in cannibalism (“§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth CDB 15.13 Thirty Bhikkhus Sutta” and “§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth CDB 15.14-19 Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter Suttā”).

11.  We must uplift ourselves from being an outcast by not injuring any being and by being kind to them – directly or indirectly (“§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) Sn-B 1.7 Vasala Sutta” and “§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) Sn-B 1.12 Muni Sutta”).

12.  We must avoid using legalistic arguments to support our consumption of meat-fish-eggs, because such legalism is not conducive to heaven, to “effacements”, to “inclination of mind”, to “avoidance”, to “way leading upwards”, and to “way of extinguishing” (“§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) MLDB 8 Sallekha Sutta”).

13.  The “§2.9 Comparison with Meat – Sn-B 2.2 Āmagandha Sutta” cannot be used to justify eating meat-fish-eggs until all the low qualities to which meat-fish-eggs are compared in that sutta are eliminated in toto by the consumer of the meat-fish-eggs.  In simple term, this means that only arahants can use this sutta to support their consumption of meat-fish-eggs and since, by definition, arahants are beyond likes and dislikes, they would not stoop to any such justifications.

14.  We learn from “§2.12 Standard for Offering Meat MLDB 55 Jīvaka Sutta that in a society that follows the Buddhist ideal of Right Livelihood (“§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta”), the rules laid down in the Jīvaka sutta would have no applicability because under the §2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood – NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta“, all trade and bartering in meat is prohibited.

§5.3 What We Ought

1.      We should cultivate virtue that is well-purified and a view that is straight (“§2.2 Right view CDB 47.3 A Bhikkhu Sutta).

Well-purified virtue includes; in addition to the three limbs of the right speech, right action, and right livelihood; the cultivation of non-cruelty, loving-friendliness, compassion, altruistic joy, and what is wholesome and what is not.  All of this requires abstaining from products that result in harm, suffering, or death of another being (§2.1 Introduction MLDB 44 Cūḷavedalla Sutta” and “§2.14 Conclusion LDB 1 Brahmajāla Sutta).

We should purify our view so that it becomes the right view related to kammā (§2.2 Right view MLDB 117 Mahācattārīsaka Sutta”).

2.      One should not become vegetarian with a wrong view that this is a sufficient condition to liberate them or with a wrong view about purity (§2.2 Right view MLDB 12 Mahāsīhanāda Sutta”).  Instead, we should practice vegetarianism as a practice to lead us onwards to successively nobler states.

3.      Purification of virtue should be practiced with the right view and for right reason.  This requires practicing vegetarianism and eliminating addiction to meat-fish-eggs (§2.2 Right view MLDB 24 Rathavinīta Sutta” and §2.14 Conclusion LDB 1 Brahmajāla Sutta).

4.      We must always practice the first brahmin truth: all living beings are to be spared; without any misconceptions or conceit; and only out of compassion and sympathy (§2.2 Right view NDB 4.185 Brahmin Truths Sutta”).

5.      We must practice non-cruelty (avihiṃsā), a synonym for compassion, because it is the root of all virtues, especially the root-cause of morality (“§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) MLDB 8 Sallekha Sutta” and Endnote 108 therein).

Without practicing this root of non-cruelty and compassion, virtues can’t be purified; one with impure virtues can’t attain right view; and for one without right view, Nibbāna is a pipe-dream.

6.      We must chart a middle path of consciously choosing to grant boon of fearlessness to as many creatures as possible while taking care not to fall down in the ditches on the either side: over-zealous vegetarianism or creature-unconscious omnitarianism (“§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood Story of Venerables Mahākassapa and Bhaddā Kāpilānī”).

7.      Since one who “himself abstains from the destruction of life; he encourages others to abstain from the destruction of life; he approves of abstaining from the destruction of life; and he speaks in praise of abstaining from the destruction of life” is heaven-bound, we must engage whole-heartedly in all of these actions (“§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing – NDB 4.264 Destruction of Life Sutta”).

8.      The great principle we should use in evaluating all our actions – whether related to food or not – must be this: “What is displeasing and disagreeable to me is displeasing and disagreeable to the other too.  How can I inflict upon another what is displeasing and disagreeable to me”? (“§2.5 First Precept of Non-Killing – CDB 55.7 The People of Bamboo Gate Sutta”).

9.      We should engage in any giving or sacrifice with the proper understanding of the fruits they yield (“§2.6 Sacrifice and Giving LDB 5 Kūṭadanta Sutta”).

10.  All giving and sacrifice we engage in should be free from violence and where nothing is slain – directly or indirectly, by us or by others, in our country or in another country (“§2.6 Sacrifice and Giving NDB 4.39 Ujjaya Sutta”).

11.  In all our actions, we must follow the following principle and dwell compassionate to all beings, laying aside the rod (“§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth Sn-B 3.11 Nālaka Sutta”):

“ ‘As I am, so are they; as they are, so am I’;

Having taken oneself as the criterion,

one should not kill or cause others to kill”.

12.  For one wishing a long-life and good health, killing beings and being violent to them is a big NO-NO (“§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth MLDB 135 Cūḷakammavibhanga Sutta”).

13.  Vegetarianism and attendant non-killing and non-harm – both directly and indirectly – should be practiced because “By abstaining from the destruction of life, the noble disciple gives to an immeasurable number of beings freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction.  He himself in turn enjoys immeasurable freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction” (“§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta”).  Doing this is conducive to going to heaven and leading to what is wished for, desired, and agreeable.

14.  Everyone who aspires for Nibbāna can practice vegetarianism as a quick and easy way to remove enmity and peril generated as a result of killing (“§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) – NDB 10.92 Enmity Sutta“).

15.  One must engage in non-cruelty and non-killing because they are the top twoeffacements”, “inclination of mind”, “avoidance”, “way leading upwards”, and “way of extinguishing” (“§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) MLDB 8 Sallekha Sutta”).

16.  Every lay person should approach the ideal of a person who is practicing for the welfare of both oneself and others.  This allows lay people to perfect the practice of Brahma-vihāra of altruistic joy (“§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) NDB 4.99 Training Rules Sutta”).

17.  We should desist from any kind of violence to all beings and generate boundless loving-friendliness, called the ninth factor of Uposatha, for all beings (“§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings) NDB 8.1 Loving-Kindness Sutta”).

18.  We should engage in a vegetarian lifestyle as much as possible by emulating Lord Buddha (in “§2.11 Offerings to the Saṅgha”, we saw that he didn’t accept honey that had insect eggs; contemporary Licchavis thought that milk rice was the most suitable food for Lord Buddha and the Saṅgha; and most offerings to the Saṅgha would have been predominantly vegetarian).

§5.4 Tying the Loose Ends

Earlier, at the end of “§2.1 Introduction” section, we had stated:

What this means – in simple terms – is when one follows the Noble Eightfold Path and perfects right speech, right action, and right livelihood; one hasn’t perfected the entire Sīla or Morality division because that division encompasses the three factors of Sīla (right speech, right action, right livelihood) and there is still more that needs to be done.  And what is that more that remains to be done?  We will try to answer that as we progress through this book.

Part of the answer was provided in the “§2.14 Conclusion” section and now we can complete the answer.

What remains to be done to perfect the Morality division is to treat all living beings – whether “source of food” or not, whether lovable or not – with loving-friendliness, compassion, and altruistic joy; and not indulge in any actions that lead to their harm, oppression, or death.  Our actions should be the ones that give them freedom from fear, enmity, and animosity.  One should stop looking at beings as food – whether they were already dead or not.  If dead beings are not purchased, there will be no shelf-space for newly dead beings and no further beings will die.  This purifies both one’s morality and one’s view.  This is the culmination of the austerity as related to non-cruelty and compassion.

§5.5 Exhortation

CST SN Second One-Holed Yoke Sutta: [90]

“Seyyathāpi, bhikkhave, ayaṃ mahāpathavī ekodakā assa. Tatra puriso ekacchiggaḷaṃ yugaṃ pakkhipeyya. Tamenaṃ puratthimo vāto pacchimena saṃhareyya, pacchimo vāto puratthimena saṃhareyya, uttaro vāto dakkhiṇena saṃhareyya, dakkhiṇo vāto uttarena saṃhareyya. Tatrassa kāṇo kacchapo. So vassasatassa vassasatassa accayena sakiṃ sakiṃ ummujjeyya. Taṃ kiṃ maññatha, bhikkhave, api nu kho kāṇo kacchapo vassasatassa vassasatassa accayena sakiṃ sakiṃ ummujjanto amusmiṃ ekacchiggaḷe yuge gīvaṃ paveseyyā”ti? “Adhiccamidaṃ, bhante, yaṃ so kāṇo kacchapo vassasatassa vassasatassa accayena sakiṃ sakiṃ ummujjanto amusmiṃ ekacchiggaḷe yuge gīvaṃ paveseyyā”ti.

“Evaṃ adhiccamidaṃ, bhikkhave, yaṃ manussattaṃ labhati. Evaṃ adhiccamidaṃ, bhikkhave, yaṃ tathāgato loke uppajjati arahaṃ sammāsambuddho. Evaṃ adhiccamidaṃ, bhikkhave, yaṃ tathāgatappavedito dhammavinayo loke dibbati. Tassidaṃ [tayidaṃ (?)], bhikkhave, manussattaṃ laddhaṃ, tathāgato loke uppanno arahaṃ sammāsambuddho, tathāgatappavedito ca dhammavinayo loke dibbati.

“Tasmātiha, bhikkhave, ‘idaṃ dukkha’nti yogo karaṇīyo ... pe ... [‘ayaṃ dukkhasamudayo’ti yogo karaṇīyo, ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodho’ti yogo karaṇīyo,] ‘ayaṃ dukkhanirodhagāminī paṭipadā’ti yogo karaṇīyo”ti. Aṭṭhamaṃ.

“Bhikkhus, just as if this great earth was one mass of water.  There a person would throw a one-holed yoke [in the water].  Then the eastern wind will take it in the western direction, western wind will take it in the eastern direction, northern wind will take it in the southern direction, southern wind will take it in the northern direction.  There was a one-eyed tortoise, coming up [to the surface] once every hundred years.  What do you think, bhikkhus, will that one-eyed tortoise, coming up once every hundred years, put his head through this single-holed yoke”?

“Venerable Sir, if that one-eyed tortoise, coming up once every hundred years, puts his head through this singled-holed yoke, it will be by chance [only]”.

“By such chance, bhikkhus, human-form is gained.  By such chance, bhikkhus, the Tathāgata, Arahant, Rightly self-enlightened one arises in the world.  By such chance, bhikkhus, the Dhamma-Vinaya spoken by the Tathāgata lights up the world.  Bhikkhus, here you have gained the human-form; the Tathāgata, Arahant, Rightly self-enlightened one has arisen in the world; the Dhamma-Vinaya spoken by the Tathāgata is lighting up the world.

Therefore, Bhikkhus, an effort should be made to understand ‘this is suffering’; [an effort should be made to understand ‘this is the origin of suffering’; an effort should be made to understand ‘this is the cessation of suffering’;] an effort should be made to understand ‘this is the practice leading to the cessation of suffering’ “.  Eighth (emphasis added).  [91]

NDB 10.176 Cunda Sutta:

“Purity by body, Cunda, is threefold.  Purity by speech is fourfold.  Purity by mind is threefold. ...

“And how, Cunda, is purity by body threefold?

(1) “Here, someone, having abandoned the destruction of life, abstains from the destruction of life.  With the rod and weapon laid aside, conscientious and kindly, he dwells compassionate toward all living beings. ... “And how, Cunda, is purity by mind threefold?

(9) “He is of good will and his intentions are free of hate thus: ‘May these beings live happily, free from enmity, affliction, and anxiety!’ ... ” (emphasis added)

CST MN 22 Alagaddūpamasuttaṃ (#240):

“Evameva kho, bhikkhave, kullūpamo mayā dhammo desito nittharaṇatthāya, no gahaṇatthāya. Kullūpamaṃ vo, bhikkhave, dhammaṃ desitaṃ, ājānantehi dhammāpi vo pahātabbā pageva adhammā”.

“Just so, bhikkhus, the Dhamma preached by us being similar to a raft, is for refuge [crossing over], not for holding on to.  Bhikkhus, knowing that the Dhamma is said to be similar to a raft, you should abandon even the Dhamma, what to say of non-Dhamma”! (emphasis added).

 


Appendix One: Types of Giving and Brahma-Vihārā

In this appendix, our focus of exploration is two-fold:

1.       First we will discuss and compare the types of giving described in the NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta to that in the NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta in terms of the gains to the donor.

2.       Next we will analyze which giving, amongst these two, is more beneficial to the donor.

Let us say a lay devotee or a kappiyakāraka goes out and buys meat-fish-eggs. [92]  The moment this is done with the intention of using it for the monastery or offering to the monastics, it is no longer wholesome for the Saṅgha under the “suspected” prong of the Jīvaka three-prong test (see “§2.12 Standard for Offering Meat” section).  Furthermore, the lay devotee or the kappiyakāraka isn’t supposed to engage in trading or bartering meat-fish-eggs, according to the “§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta”.

But let us say that somehow our thinking is flawed and it is allowable for the Saṅgha under the Jīvaka three-prong test and that the lay devotee or the kappiyakāraka isn’t constrained by the “§2.4 Right Action and Right Livelihood NDB 5.177 Trades Sutta” and trading in meat-fish-eggs is allowed.

If that be the case, let us now analyze the giving solely in terms of the merits and benefits accruing to the donor.

(A)          The lay devotee or the kappiyakāraka quotes us the following teaching in support of serving meat-fish-eggs to the Saṅgha:

NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta:

“Bhante, in the presence of the Blessed One I heard and learned this: ‘The giver of what is agreeable gains what is agreeable.’  Bhante, my sal flower porridge ... pork embellished with jujubes ... fried vegetable stalks ... boiled hill rice ... clothes from Kāsi ... sandalwood canopied bed is agreeable.  Let the Blessed One accept it from me, out of compassion.”  The Blessed One accepted, out of compassion (emphasis added, edited for length).

[Sometime later, Ugga of Vesālī died and re-appeared in a certain pure abode heaven.  Then he paid a visit to Lord Buddha and confirmed that he had gained what was agreeable for having given what was agreeable].

What needs to be understood here is the concept of agreeable.  In general, what is agreeable is decided by the giver, not by the receiver.  Lord Buddha and arahants are beyond the concept of agreeable and disagreeable, tasty and tasteless, good and bad, and so on.  They are always in the middle.  At the same time, it is also true that when they are sick, hot water might be more agreeable and not so much the cold water.  But in general, the concept of agreeable is driven by the donor, not by the receiver.  So everything mentioned above, including pork embellished with jujubes, would be agreeable to Ugga of Vesālī, not to Lord Buddha.

Now, according to another sutta, NDB 8.21 Ugga Sutta, Ugga was a non-returner and being a non-returner, he would have overcome the sensual lust, including lust for food, and therefore he would no longer be interested in “giving agreeables for getting agreeables” principle:

CDB 12.63 Son’s Flesh Sutta:

“It is in such a way, bhikkhus, that I say the nutriment edible food should be seen.  When the nutriment edible food is fully understood, lust for the five cords of sensual pleasure is fully understood.  When lust for the five cords of sensual pleasure is fully understood, there is no fetter bound by which a noble disciple might come back again to this world”.

Thus, when Ugga gave the agreeables to Lord Buddha as reported in NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta, he was most likely a stream-enterer or a once-returner and not yet a non-returner (even-though he had abandoned sexual lust at that point, according to NDB 8.21 Ugga Sutta) and therefore, was hoping to get agreeables in return.  Afterwards, he became a non-returner and the NDB 8.21 Ugga Sutta took place.  As a non-returner, he was born in a pure abode. [93]

Thus, when Ugga of Vesālī gave the “agreeables”, he was most likely in the earlier stages and not yet a non-returner, which he became later.

(B)          Now, as a counterpoint to the argument of the lay devotee or the kappiyakāraka, we can quote the following teaching to them:

NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta:

“Here, a noble disciple, having abandoned the destruction of life, abstains from the destruction of life.  By abstaining from the destruction of life, the noble disciple gives to an immeasurable number of beings freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction.  He himself in turn enjoys immeasurable freedom from fear, enmity, and affliction.  This is the first gift, a great gift, primal, of long standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated and never before adulterated, which is not being adulterated and will not be adulterated, not repudiated by wise ascetics and brahmins.  This is the fourth stream of merit, stream of the wholesome, nutriment of happiness – heavenly, ripening in happiness, conducive to heaven – that leads to what is wished for, desired, and agreeable, to one’s welfare and happiness” (emphasis added).

This teaching, just like other teachings we have reviewed throughout this book, tells us not to kill, destroy, or hurt any being which means we must not offer a meal that comes about as a result of violence to beings – even if it is agreeable.

(C)          At this point, the lay devotee or kappiyakāraka can argue that both teachings lead to heaven so why not, but why not, give what is agreeable?  A very good come-back but there is a difference between these two teachings and these two types of givings.  In fact, there are two differences to be precise:

(1)    The first teaching on giving agreeables [to get agreeables] focuses on self and is thus self-centered while the second teaching of giving freedom from fear focuses on others and is thus altruistic.  We saw this in the “§2.8 Brahma-Vihārā (Divine Dwellings)” section.  Cultivating altruism is the brahma-vihāra of muditā – one of the eleven doors to the deathless. [94]  On the other hand, giving agreeables neither opens any doors to the deathless nor does it change one’s destiny in a permanent way.  For sure, all giving leads one upwards to better rebirths and greater glory; but the ultimate aim is Nibbāna – freedom from suffering and freedom from the cycle of becoming.

(2)    The second teaching on giving freedom from fear is said to be the “first gift, a great gift, primal, of long standing, traditional, ancient, unadulterated and never before adulterated, which is not being adulterated and will not be adulterated, not repudiated by wise ascetics and brahmins”.  Compared to the second teaching on giving freedom from fear, the first teaching on giving agreeables could be censured and repudiated by wise ascetics and brahmins for ignoring the well-being of others and giving gifts with a focus on self rather than a focus on the well-being of others.  In fact, it is censured indirectly in the teaching we are about to review next – the sutta that elaborates the gold-standard on giving.  And do note the parties asking and answering the questions here: none other than the Chief Disciple and Lord Buddha himself.

NDB 7.52 Giving Sutta:

Could it be the case, Bhante, that a gift given by someone here is not of great fruit and benefit?  And could it be the case that a gift given by someone here is of great fruit and benefit?

“It could be the case, Sāriputta, that a gift given by someone here is not of great fruit and benefit.  And it could be the case that a gift given by someone here is of great fruit and benefit.”

“Bhante, why is it that one gift is not of great fruit and benefit while the other is?”

(1). “Here, Sāriputta, someone gives a gift with expectations, with a bound mind, looking for rewards; he gives a gift, [thinking]: ‘Having passed away, I will make use of this.’  He gives that gift to an ascetic or a brahmin: food and drink; clothing and vehicles; garlands, scents, and unguents; bedding, dwellings, and lighting.  What do you think, Sāriputta?  Might someone give such a gift?”

“Yes, Bhante.”

In that case, Sāriputta, he gives a gift with expectations, with a bound mind, looking for rewards; he gives a gift, [thinking]: ‘Having passed away, I will make use of this.’  Having given such a gift, with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in companionship with the devas [ruled by] the four great kings.  Having exhausted that kamma, psychic potency, glory, and authority, he comes back and returns to this state of being.  Rather, he gives a gift, [thinking]:

(2). “ ‘Giving is good.’ ...

(3). “ ‘Giving was practiced before by my father and forefathers; I should not abandon this ancient family custom.’ ...

(4). “ ‘I cook; these people do not cook.  It isn’t right that I who cook should not give to those who do not cook.’ ...

(5). “ ‘Just as the seers of old – that is, Aṭṭhaka, Vāmaka, Vāmadeva, Vessāmitta, Yamataggi, Aṅgīrasa, Bhāradvāja, Vāseṭṭha, Kassapa, and Bhagu– held those great sacrifices, so I will share a gift.’ ... [95]

(6). “ ‘When I am giving a gift my mind becomes placid, and elation and joy arise.’ ...

(7). “ ‘It’s an ornament of the mind, an accessory of the mind.’ ...

“... Having given such a gift, with the breakup of the body, after death, he is reborn in companionship with the devas of Brahmā’s company.  Having exhausted that kamma, psychic potency, glory, and authority, he does not come back and return to this state of being.

This, Sāriputta, is the reason why a gift given by someone here is not of great fruit and benefit.  And this is the reason why a gift given by someone here is of great fruit and benefit” (emphasis added, edited for length). [96]

Thus, we see that giving with no expectations and no ulterior motives, thinking ‘It’s an ornament of the mind, an accessory of the mind’ is the highest kind of giving.  Note that with this kind of giving, one does not return to this state of being which means that she becomes a non-returner [97] – and that’s exactly what NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta advocates.  In contrast to this, the NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta advocates the giving with the thought Having passed away, I will make use of this’.   Note that with this kind of giving, one goes to the lowest heaven and when that kamma is exhausted, she comes back and returns to this state of being.

To reiterate, giving described in both suttā is fruitful.  In fact, any and all giving is fruitful [98] – even:

NDB 3.57 Vaccha Sutta:

“But, Vaccha, I say that one acquires merit even if one throws away dishwashing water in a refuse dump or cesspit with the thought: ‘May the living beings here sustain themselves with this!’  How much more, then, [does one acquire merit] when one gives to human beings!  However, I say that what is given to one of virtuous behavior is more fruitful than [what is given] to an immoral person”.

Thus, in essence NDB 5.44 The Giver of the Agreeable Sutta teaching is for re-becoming (with the attendant fears and traps of falling down to bad destinations) while NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta teaching is to end all becomings, all existences, and to cross over the desert, the flood, the saṃsāra.

One last point to keep in mind: the clear direction we have from the best of men himself is not to cling to becoming, to existence – even for a mere finger-snap.  And again, that teaching also favors the giving described in NDB 8.39 Streams Sutta as well:

NDB 1.328-1.332:

Bhikkhus, just as even a trifling amount of feces ... urine ... saliva ... pus ... blood is foul smelling, so too I do not praise even a trifling amount of existence, even for a mere finger snap” (emphasis added, suttā combined).

 

 

 

 


Appendix Two: Vinaya and Meat

§A2.1 Meat As Medicine

In the olden times, meat was used many a time as medicine.  I paraphrase a Vinaya rule-making story below. [99]

Once upon a time, while the Blessed One was dwelling in the deer park at Isipatana near the city of Bārāṇasi, the devout lay-woman Suppiyā went around the monastic residence asking monks if they had any needs. [100]  One sick monk asked for meat-broth [paṭicchādanīyaṃ].  Suppiyā sent her servant to look for meat in the market but the man returned and informed her that being a no-slaughter day, no meat was available that day.  Suppiyā, out of utter compassion and concern about the well-being of the monk and for keeping her word, cut a piece of meat from her thigh, had the broth made of it, and sent it to the monk.  Then she took to the sick-bed, being in terrible pain.  Her husband found out why she was sick and, overjoyed at her devotion, went to Lord Buddha, and invited him with the Saṅgha for the meal the next day.  When Lord Buddha inquired about Suppiyā, he was told she was sick but he asked for her to be brought out and when they brought Suppiyā to Lord Buddha, her wound was healed as if it never happened.  Upon return to the Saṅgha-residence, Lord Buddha had the bhikkhus assembled and the following dialog took place:

“ ‘Who was it, O Bhikkhus, who asked Suppiyā, the lay-devotee, for meat’?

When he had spoken thus, that Bhikkhu said to the Blessed One: ‘It is I, Lord, who asked Suppiyā the lay-devotee, for meat’.

‘Has it been brought to you, O Bhikkhu’?

‘It has been brought, Lord’.

‘Have you eaten it, O Bhikkhu’?

I have eaten it, Lord’.

‘And did you enquire, O Bhikkhu, (what) meat it was’?

‘Lord!  I did not enquire about that’.

Then Lord Buddha rebuked the Bhikkhu and made it a grave offense to eat human-flesh and an offense of wrong doing for eating meat without asking what meat it is”.

Thus, we see from this story that meat was not consumed on a regular basis – even in the rich households – and there were days when slaughter was prohibited.  In fact, there are prohibitions in the Vinaya on what kinds of meats are not allowable to the Saṅgha, e.g. elephant, horse, dog, lion, tiger, panther, bear, hyena, and snake. [101]  Obtaining meat was hard and meat was expensive, so it would not have been offered on a regular basis.

In addition to above, at one other place in the Vinaya meat-broth [paṭicchādanīyaṃ] is allowed as medicine. [102]

§A2.2 Lord Buddha As The Role Model

One very important thing to keep in mind is that while Lord Buddha allowed meat-broth, he neither praised it as medicine nor gave an exposition on merits attached to giving meat-broth – whether as medicine or food.  In fact, while monks were allowed to request meat-broth as medicine, Lord Buddha, even during his own grave illnesses, never requested meat-broth for himself.  One must emulate Lord Buddha in his actions too, not just follow his words.  He is called Tathāgata for a reason.  In his own words, in the sutta that closes Itivuttakapāḷi:

ITI 112 World Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, from the night when Tathāgata fully awakens to unsurpassed right self-enlightenment, and whatever night he finally passes away in the Nibbāna element without residue of possessions, in between that whatever he speaks, talks, points out, all of that is like so, not otherwise, therefore he is called Tathāgata.

Tathāgata, bhikkhus, as he says so he does, as he does so he says that is as he says so he does-as he does so he says, therefore he is called Tathāgata” (emphasis added).

So, not only should we listen to the words of the Teacher but also pay attention to his actions and mimic him as closely as possible because there are many things he would show by actions, not necessarily by talking.

§A2.3 The Best Medicine

While the Well-Gone One neither praised meat-broth as medicine nor attached any merits to the donor of the meat-broth, he explicitly praised rice-milk as medicine and attached ten-fold merits to the donor of rice-milk.  We don’t find such praise for any other food, medicine, or offerings either.  I paraphrase the relevant incident from SBE17 here. [103]

Once upon a time when Lord Buddha was on a walking tour with 1250 Bhikkhus, many lay people followed the Saṅgha, taking along carts loaded with provisions, hoping to give donations and make merits.  However, even after following like this for two months, one of the brāhmaṇa didn’t get a chance to offer anything so he thought: let me check the pantry and whatever isn’t there, I will offer to the Saṅgha.  He checked the pantry and noticed that there was no rice-milk [rice-gruel] and no sweet balls [laddus].  He then went and told Venerable Ānanda his thoughts.  Venerable Ānanda asked Lord Buddha and the brāhmaṇa was allowed to present rice-milk [rice-gruel] and sweet balls [laddus] to the Saṅgha.  After having served the Saṅgha headed by Lord Buddha with abundant rice-milk [rice-gruel] and sweet balls [laddus] with his own hands and after Lord Buddha had eaten and washed his bowl, brāhmaṇa sat down near Lord Buddha.  When he was seated near him, the Blessed One said to that brāhmaṇa:

Tenfold, O Brāhmaṇa, is the merit attached to rice-milk.  In what way is it tenfold?  He who gives rice-milk, gives life; he gives color; he gives joy; he gives strength; he gives readiness of mind; rice-milk when it is drunk removes hunger; dispels thirst; sets right the humors of the body; purifies the bladder; and promotes the digestion.  This tenfold merit, O Brāhmaṇa, is attached to rice-milk. [104]

“He who attentively at the right time gives rice-milk to the self-possessed,

Who live on what others give to them;

Will benefit them in ten ways:

Life and color, joy and strength (he gives to them).

“Readiness of mind arises from it,

It dispels hunger and thirst, and sets the humors right;

It purifies the bladder, and brings the food to digestion,

As medicine the Perfect One has praised it.

“Therefore should rice-milk be continually given,

By a man who is longing for joy;

Who is desirous of heavenly joy,

Or who aspires to human prosperity” (emphasis added).

This is a rare endorsement of what food and medicine should be given to the Saṅgha by Lord Buddha himself.

§A2.4 Meat As Food

What SBE17 has translated as “respecting meats” on page 19 is an incorrect translation of annakathaṃ so we won’t dwell on it. [105]

In another one of the rule-making incidents of Vinaya, a newly converted great minister of the Licchavis invited the Saṅgha headed by Lord Buddha for a meal and thought “why don’t I offer one dish of meat to each bhikkhu”.  And so he had excellent food, both hard and soft, made and offered it with a dish of meat to each bhikkhu, but the bhikkhus had already eaten beforehand and couldn’t eat more, thus disrespecting the hospitality they were offered, resulting in a rule.  What comes out of this is (1) this is a great minister (likely chief minister) so he is obviously rich, (2) he wants to offer meat as a sign of respect but also as a sign that he can afford it.  In the story as reported in SBE17, it is clear that the minister repeatedly tells that there is enough meat so take as much as you want and when the bhikkhus don’t take it, he gets really upset.  Thus, again, we contend that offering meat was not frequent because it was expensive as well as not easy to come by. [106]

Beyond this, there is a reference to the cutting and pounding of meat. [107]  There are also other references to meat (e.g., an instance when meat left on the tree could be taken) but mostly they are not relevant to the discussion at hand.

§A2.5 Devadatta’s Demands [108]

From the Vinaya account, it is amply clear that Devadatta wanted to create a schism in the Saṅgha.  Why did he want to create a schism in the Saṅgha?  Because that was his last remaining option among the four famous strategies of that time – sāma (discussions and negotiations), dāma (money and gifts), daṇḍa (punishment and war), and bheda (dissensions and schisms).

Devadatta had already tried sāma by asking Lord Buddha to appoint him as the Head of the Saṅgha and retire as Head Emeritus.  That didn’t pan out.  Devadatta knew that dāma (money and gifts) wouldn’t work because Lord Buddha had given up life in an aristocratic royal household and didn’t want any gains even though he had loyal royal supporters like King Bimbisāra of Magadha and King Pasenadi of Kosala.

So then he tried the third option of daṇḍa: killing Lord Buddha by means of sending hired assassins, rolling a boulder to kill him, and finally letting loose killer elephant Nāḷāgiri on him.  None of these worked either so he was left with the final option: create a schism in the Saṅgha by asking for impossible demands.  What were these impossible demands?

(1)    monks should dwell all their lives in the forest

(2)    monks should live on alms obtained by begging

(3)    monks should wear only robes made of discarded rags

(4)    monks should dwell at the foot of a tree

(5)    monks should abstain from fish and flesh

When we look at the list, the first four are among the thirteen ascetic practices or austerities monks can follow but are NOT required to follow. [109]  As we saw earlier in “§2.7 Kammā and Rebirth – CDB 15.13 Thirty Bhikkhus Sutta”, the first three practices were also undertaken by the thirty bhikkhus from Pāvā.  The last one (being a vegetarian) is not part of the thirteen ascetic practices or austerities.  Let us analyze this further to understand the reason Lord Buddha refused what Devadatta asked, even though at first glance, the demands appear innocuous, and in fact even helpful.

The first four were already allowed by Lord Buddha but it was left as a goal, as a practice, as an austerity, to be chosen by the monks themselves and not as a blanket requirement for everyone.  This is because different people have different propensities and inclinations.  While such austerities might be gladdening and helpful for some, for some others it might give rise to unwholesome states of mind and eventual departure from this Dhammā-Vinayā.  So, the first four austerities, which are certainly a helpful aid to a monk, were left as aids and not made into a requirement.  See “§5.1 Criteria For Judgment” section to understand the standard for which austerities to do and which ones not to do.

Now, what about the fifth demand – not accepting meat and fish and thus always being a vegetarian?  Is it not helpful to one following this Dhammā-Vinayā?  Or is it in fact a hindrance?  The crux of analyzing this lies in the way Lord Buddha answered this.  He said “I have allowed meat-fish that is pure in three ways: not seen, not heard, and not suspected”.  This is the same rule that we saw earlier in the “§2.12 Standard For Offering Meat MLDB 55 Jīvaka Sutta”.

(1)    One, Lord Buddha allowed meat/fish to be eaten, but didn't make it a requirement either way.  So this inclined towards the possibility of practicing a compassionate lifestyle whenever possible.

(2)    Two, Lord Buddha left the determination, and hence the responsibility for the resulting kammā, on the individuals themselves.  If one (in this case a monk) didn’t carefully make inquiry about the meat-fish-eggs, then the responsibility for the resulting kammā was his, not someone else’s.

The important concept here is that of responsibility for the resulting kammā.  For the first four demands, no kammā is created by doing or not doing – they are simply austerities. [110]  However, with choosing to eat/serve or not eat/not serve meat-fish-eggs, a possibility of kammā arises.  How so?  Some wise people here understand by an example.

Let us say a lay person is devoted to a monk.  One time the lay person offers fish curry to the monk.  The lay person observes that the monk finishes all of the fish curry he had brought and appears to be contented.  In the future, he continues to bring more fish curry more frequently – and also diverse kinds of seafood prepared in diverse ways – and observes that the monk finishes it all.  The lay person also advises others what the monk likes and doesn’t like.  Here, the monk hasn’t broken any Vinaya precept but there has been a collective kammā of the death of many creatures because of what is agreeable and likable. [111]  What the monk liked and what the lay person did to support that, that is the kammā here. [112]  Who is responsible for what portion of the kammā and who will reap what results and such questions are one of the four imponderables or inconceivables [113] so we will not get entangled in that discussion here but this is something that each must decide on his own and act accordingly.  For, so it is said:

MLDB 130.4 Devaduta Sutta:

“Then King Yama says: ‘Good man, did it never occur to you – an intelligent and mature man – “I too am subject to birth, I am not exempt from birth: surely I had better do good by body, speech, and mind”?’  He says: ‘I was unable, venerable sir, I was negligent.’  Then King Yama says: ‘Good man, through negligence you have failed to do good by body, speech, and mind.  Certainly they will deal with you according to your negligence.  But this evil action of yours was not done by your mother or your father, or by your brother or your sister, or by your friends and companions, or by your kinsmen and relatives, or by recluses and brahmins, or by gods: this evil action was done by you yourself, and you yourself will experience its result’ “ (emphasis added).

(3)    Three, Lord Buddha refused to make rules about compulsory vegetarianism because vegetarianism in itself is a viewpoint – a very strong one, needless to say – and we saw an example of it in “§2.2 Right View – MLDB 12 Mahāsīhanāda Sutta”.  Vegetarianism as a view stretches from near to far depending on who you talk to.  Some are vegan, some are vegetarian, some are eggetarian, and some are gravytarian!  Here is a list of the various labels (some tongue-in-cheek) that can be used to describe the universe of vegetarian practices.  The table below does not claim to be either complete or exhaustive.

 

Table A2.1: The Wild West of Vegetarianism

Eastern Perspective

Pure Vegetarian

no meat, fish, chicken, eggs, onion, garlic, or cheese with animal rennet

Vegetarian

no meat, fish, chicken, eggs, or cheese with animal rennet; can eat honey

Cakeytarian

can eat cake that has eggs but not eggs by themselves

Eggetarian

can eat egg products in any form but no meat or fish

Gravytarian

can eat meat gravy but not pieces (!)

Restrictarian

can eat meat-fish-eggs outside but not at home – wife/mother wouldn’t cook it or allow it to be cooked at home (!!)

Boozytarian

can eat meat-fish-eggs only while drinking with friends (!!!)

Forcitarian

can eat meat-fish-eggs when no other option is available (!!!!)

Calendartarian

cannot eat meat-fish-eggs on certain days of the week, festivals, seasons

Western Perspective

Vegan

no animal products including honey

Veggan

no animal products including honey but eggs OK (!)

Vegetarian

no meat, fish, or chicken.  In USA and Europe, vegetarians can eat eggs

Lacto Vegetarian

can eat milk products but not egg products

Ovo Vegetarian

can eat egg products but not milk products

Lacto-Ovo Vegetarian

can eat milk products and egg products

Pollotarian Vegetarian

can eat chicken and poultry, but not mammals

Pescaterian Vegetarian

can eat seafood, but not chicken or mammals

Pollo-Pescaterian Vegetarian

can eat chicken, poultry, and seafood, but not mammals

Religious Perspective

Jain Vegetarian

pure vegetarian with no root/tuber vegetables such as potatoes, carrots, etc.

Vaishnava Vegetarian

same as pure vegetarian

Mahāyāna Vegetarian

vegetarian with no onion and garlic

Taoism (Daoism)

largely vegetarian with variations and less restrictions (tofu was invented by a Taoist)

Seventh Day Adventist

many follow a vegetarian/vegan diet

 

If the Blessed One had made rules about whether or not to be a vegetarian, that would have been an imposed wrong view.  No possibility exists that the Blessed One can chart a course to a wrong view – that job is reserved for Māra!  By not imposing a rule, Lord Buddha forced each of us, whether a monastic or a lay person, to understand and decide for ourselves what is compassionate and what is not, what is blameless and what is not, what is wholesome and what is not, what is beneficial and what is not.  If a rule had been imposed, then there would not have been any thinking and any introspection.  And that’s exactly what Lord Buddha wanted us to do and cross over by ourselves, without depending on anything.

Thus, whenever a lay person refrains from providing non-vegetarian food to the Saṅgha, not only does she herself abstain from unwholesome action, but she also helps the Saṅgha not generate strong craving for strong flavors and not get entangled in addiction to meat-fish-eggs.

In “Chapter One – Introduction”, we had stated:

A few major questions always come up in these kind of discussions such as “why did Lord Buddha allow eating of meat”? and “why did he not outright prescribe vegetarianism and proscribe meat-eating”?  These are good questions and as we go along, some of the answers will manifest themselves.

Hopefully, the discussion here has provided a clear answer to both of these questions.


Appendix Three: More on Meat

§A3.1 Āmisa & Sāmisa versus Nirāmisa

As can be seen from the table below, which reports the translations of these terms from various suttā, Āmisa & Sāmisa represent the near-shore of meat, material, and carnal desires whereas Nirāmisa represents the far-shore of non-meat, spiritual (Dhammic), and non-sensual desires.  Let us understand how.

 

Table A3.1: Comparing Āmisa & Sāmisa to Nirāmisa

Āmisa & Sāmisa

Nirāmisa

material T1

spiritual (as in Dhamma)

sensual, worldly, carnal T2

non-sensual, non-worldly, non-carnal

meat

non-meat (by opposition to meat)

bait (meat, not artificial) T3

non-bait (by opposition to bait)

Table Notes:

T1  See MLDB 3 Dhammadāyāda Sutta; MLDB 140 Dakkhiṇāvibhaṅga Sutta last verse where āmisa is translated as worldly.  Also see THAG V32 (has different recensions) and THAG V85.  ITI 98 Donation Sutta, ITI 100 Brāhmaṇa Dhamma Sacrifice Sutta, NDB 2.68, and NDB 2.141 to 2.162 provide material versus spiritual comparisons.

T2  LDB 22 Mahāsatipaṭṭhāna Sutta (Contemplation of Feelings section) describes feelings as sensual (sāmisa) or non-sensual (nirāmisa).  MLDB 10 Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (Contemplation of Feelings section) describes them as worldly or non-worldly.  MLDB 102.19-20 Pañcattaya Sutta translates nirāmisa as unworldly.  CDB 36.31 categorizes rapture, happiness, equanimity, and deliverance in three categories: see Table A3.2.

T3  See e.g. (1) CST SN Sagāthāvaggapāḷi-Devaputtasaṃyuttaṃ-Nānātitthiavaggo-Nānātitthiyasāvakasuttaṃ #111 (CDB 2.30, v371); (2) CST SN Nidānavaggapāḷi-Lābhasakkārasaṃyuttaṃ-Paṭhamavaggo-Bāḷisasuttaṃ #158 (CDB 6.2); (3) CST SN Saḷāyatanavaggapāḷi-Saḷāyatanasaṃyuttaṃ-Samuddavaggo-Bāḷisikopamasuttaṃ #230 (CDB 35.230); (4) UD 17 Ekaputtaka (Only Son) Sutta.

 

Material versus Spiritual:

An entire set of suttā (see note T1 in Table A3.1) compare material vs. spiritual (or Dhammic) giving, sharing, happiness, munificence, and many other qualities.  In each case, Lord Buddha declares the spiritual (or Dhammic) one to be the better, the superior among the two being compared.

One of the most poignant uses of these terms happens to be in MLDB 3 Dhammadāyāda Sutta where Lord Buddha advises and admonishes bhikkhus to be his heir in Dhamma, not in material things.  When Lord Buddha says “heir in Dhamma” that means practicing the Dhamma and reaching the end of training i.e. becoming an arahant.  An arahant is a true heir, born of Lord Buddha’s mouth, his true son or daughter, one who eats the alms-food of the country free of debt.

Worldly versus Non-Worldly:

Feelings are described as worldly versus non-worldly in MLDB 10 Satipaṭṭhāna Sutta (Contemplation of Feelings) while MLDB 102.19-20 Pañcattaya Sutta discusses unworldly pleasure.  CDB 36.31 Spiritual [Nirāmisa] Sutta categorizes rapture, happiness, equanimity, and deliverance in three categories (see Table A3.2 below).

Meat versus Non-Meat:

LDB 1 1.12 Brahmajāla Sutta states “meat” while THAG Pārāsariyattheragāthā V940 describes false monks as “Frauds, deceitful, false witnesses, cunning; Using various strategies, [they] enjoy flesh [meat]”.  It is very interesting to note that Arahant Thera Pārāsariya, before uttering this verse, uttered another verse (THAG Pārāsariyattheragāthā V921) where he muses that “While master of the world [Lord Buddha] was around, best of the men; The conduct of the bhikkhus, was seen to be otherwise”.  This tells us that from Venerable Pārāsariya’s perspective, Dhamma was already in decline at that point.

Bait versus Non-Bait:

Note T3 on Bait in Table A3.1 provides a number of references where āmisa & sāmisa are described as bait.

Now, let us review the sutta itself:

CDB 36.31 Spiritual [Nirāmisa] Sutta:

“Bhikkhus, there is carnal rapture, there is spiritual rapture, there is rapture more spiritual than the spiritual.  There is carnal happiness, there is spiritual happiness, there is happiness more spiritual than the spiritual.  There is carnal equanimity, there is spiritual equanimity, there is equanimity more spiritual than the spiritual.  There is carnal deliverance, there is spiritual deliverance, there is deliverance more spiritual than the spiritual.

“And what, bhikkhus, is carnal rapture?  There are, bhikkhus, these five cords of sensual pleasure.  What five?  Forms cognizable by the eye ... tactile objects cognizable by the body that are desirable, lovely, agreeable, pleasing, sensually enticing, tantalizing.  These are the five cords of sensual pleasure.  The rapture that arises in dependence on these five cords of sensual pleasure: this is called carnal rapture.

“And what, bhikkhus, is spiritual rapture?  Here, secluded from sensual pleasures, secluded from unwholesome states, a bhikkhu enters and dwells in the first jhāna, which is accompanied by thought and examination, with rapture and happiness born of seclusion.  With the subsiding of thought and examination, he enters and dwells in the second jhāna, which has internal confidence and unification of mind, is without thought and examination, and has rapture and happiness born of concentration.  This is called spiritual rapture.

“And what, bhikkhus, is rapture more spiritual than the spiritual?  When a bhikkhu whose taints are destroyed reviews his mind liberated from lust, liberated from hatred, liberated from delusion, there arises rapture.  This is called rapture more spiritual than the spiritual”.

[The sutta then describes happiness, equanimity, and deliverance in the similar terms, with appropriate additions and modifications as listed in the table below].

 

Table A3.2: Āmisa & Sāmisa versus Nirāmisa Progression T1

 

Carnal

No Taints Destroyed

Spiritual

Some Taints Destroyed

Beyond Spiritual

All Taints Destroyed

Rapture

Based on the five cords of sensual pleasures

Based on the first and second jhānā

An arahant reviewing his mind

Happiness

Based on the five cords of sensual pleasures

Based on the third jhāna

An arahant reviewing his mind

Equanimity

Based on the five cords of sensual pleasures

Based on the fourth jhāna

An arahant reviewing his mind

Deliverance

Connected with the Form sphere

Connected with the Formless sphere

An arahant reviewing his mind = Nibbāna sphere

Type of Person T2

puthujjano

(worldly)

1.      Dhamma-follower

2.      faith-follower

ariyo sekho

(noble trainee)

3.       body-witness

4.       attained-to-view

5.       liberated-by-faith

ariyo asekho

(noble beyond training)

1.       liberated-in-both ways

2.       liberated-by-wisdom

Table Notes:

T1  CST SN Saḷāyatanavaggapāḷi-Vedanāsaṃyuttaṃ-Aṭṭhasatapariyāyavaggo-Nirāmisasuttaṃ #279, CDB 36.31.  I have added Italic headings regarding the taints below the Carnal, Spiritual, and Beyond Spiritual column headings.

T2  The seven types of individuals are described in MLDB 70.14 Kīṭāgiri Sutta.  I have added the Italic headings to the columns in this row related to the type of person.  Strictly speaking, one attained-to-view and one liberated-by-faith should belong to an in-between column between Carnal and Spiritual columns because they don’t have liberations connected with the formless sphere and may not have the jhānā either (but in that case, they are NOT puthujjano since some fetters are destroyed for them).  In the same vein, dhamma-follower and faith-follower may have the jhānā and can belong to an in-between column between Carnal and Spiritual columns but since they haven’t destroyed any fetters, they are placed in this column.  Similarly, some sectarians who have jhānā can belong to the column of Spiritual but for our purposes, I have chosen to exclude them since we are considering only “ariyo sekho” people in this column.

 

Lord Buddha himself has given us a hierarchy of path and progression that we can follow to find an escape, a refuge, and a deliverance from the saṃsāra.  What is this hierarchy of path and progression?

To see this hierarchy of path and progression, we have to bring in the typology of the seven types of individuals from the MLDB 70 Kīṭāgiri Sutta.  In fact, the central thesis, the topic, the theme around which MLDB 70 Kīṭāgiri Sutta runs is that of abandoning the evening/night meal.  Lord Buddha advises abstention from the evening meal as a way of pleasant abiding but there is a group of bhikkhus who, in a truly obstinate and confounding way, answer back saying we are in a pleasant abiding eating as much as we want and when we want, why should we abandon a benefit of the present for a future benefit?  Lord Buddha then expounds the Kīṭāgiri Sutta and brings in the seven types of individuals classification.  This classification is listed in the last row of Table A3.2, divided among the three columns of Carnal, Spiritual, and Beyond Spiritual.

When we review Table A3.2, we see that the leftmost column, going from top to bottom, represents the four qualities [rapture, happiness, equanimity, and deliverance] that are increasingly inclined to, and culminating in, Nibbāna.  On the top row, going left to right, we see the Carnal to Spiritual to Beyond Spiritual progression.  Carnal represents the Form sphere, Spiritual represents the Formless sphere, and of course, Beyond Spiritual represents the Nibbāna sphere.  What this tells us is that as we move rightward and downward, we get into progressively better states, abandon fetters, and get closer to Nibbāna.  And all of this requires moving away from meat/carnal/worldly to non-meat/non-carnal/non-worldly – both symbolically and in reality.  This is the message of the CDB 36.31 Spiritual [Nirāmisa] Sutta which, to my knowledge, has never been explored so far.

§A3.2 Meaning of Māṃsa

The word Māṃsa is said to be made of two syllables: māṃ + sa = mine + he.  This means “just as I am eating you now, you will eat me in future” OR the meat is saying “what is my fate, will be yours”.  It is also said “māṁ saḥ khadati iti māṁsaḥ” meaning "I am now eating the flesh of an animal.  Some day in the future an animal will be eating my flesh" (https://vaniquotes.org/wiki/Mamsa_means).


Appendix Four: FAQs

§A4.1 Meat, Merits, & Monks

The popular argument goes that Lord Buddha allowed monks to accept meat so that everyone can make merits.  While the argument is clever, it really holds no water, for a number of reasons:

First, then as now, all households would have been making at least a few vegetarian items all the time.  Even today in India, no meal anywhere is 100% non-vegetarian.  And the concept of vegetarianism in India is different than anywhere else – the boundaries between vegetarian, eggetarian, and non-vegetarian foods are drawn quite clearly, there are no crossovers, and everyone is conversant with the social understanding and the social contract that underlies it.  Some examples should help clear this up.  In Indian Vegetarianism:

(1)          No eggs are added to the ice cream to make it richer and smoother (Haagen-Dazs in USA or dulce de leche in Argentina), thus making it an eggetarian item.

(2)          No meat is added to tomato sauce to make pizza tastier (Pizza Hut), thus making it a non-vegetarian item.

(3)          No animal rennet is allowed in any kind of cheese, thus making it a non-vegetarian item.

This is by Indian national law where all imported dairy products must be certified as having been (a) produced from animals that were not fed dead animals and/or (b) do not have dead animal products in it (e.g. rennet sourced from animals).  By this time, bells should be ringing about what we read in “§3.2 Reading: Table 3.1 Non-Killing, Non-Violence, and Compassion in Ashokan Edicts“, specifically in Pillar Edict V: “Living animals must not be fed to other animals” = “One’s life should not be nourished on the other’s life”.

(4)          No chicken or beef base is used across all soups – whether vegetarian or meat, thus making it a non-vegetarian item.

In fact I remember the time when Campbell’s Vegetables Soup used to be with beef or chicken base but since it had vegetables, it was called vegetables soup!

(5)          No seasoning containing beef powder is sprinkled on french fries to make it tastier (McDonald’s), thus making it a non-vegetarian item.

(6)          No lard is used as the cooking medium (all Mexican and Spanish food), thus making it a non-vegetarian item.

(7)          No fish sauce is used across all preparations – whether vegetarian or meat (Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, etc.) nor are dried fish added/sprinkled on food (Sri Lanka), thus making it a non-vegetarian item.

(8)          No Mayonnaise (which contains eggs) is used in potato salad or in sandwiches (USA and Europe), thus making it an eggetarian item.

(9)          Cows are not artificially inseminated and their newborn calves taken away so they keep giving milk all the time like a biological machine (USA).

(10)      Both veg and non-veg items are NOT fried in the same oil (worldwide, all major food franchises), thus making it a non-vegetarian item.

(11)      Vegetarianism does not include eating eggs (USA and Europe).

In fact, in India there is a color coding scheme for food products: a green dot in a green square means lacto-vegetarian, while a brown dot in a brown square means non-vegetarian including eggetarian (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vegetarian_and_non-vegetarian_marks).  There are NO overlaps between these categories – a food item can belong to one, and only one, category.

(12)      Even in the world-famous Indian hotel chains like Taj Hotels, when you get the menu, vegetarians can clearly see items with green dot in a green square and order it.  Not only that, one can order an eggless cake as well – no matter where that Taj Hotel is located in the world.

Such things as listed above are simply not allowed in the Indian vegetarianism.  Always there are items that are 100% vegetarian and those could have been given by the non-vegetarian households to make merits.  There is NO rule for the households that they MUST offer everything or nothing.

However, do take what I have stated above with a caveat: while such things are simply not done in India, Indian restaurants outside of India do adapt to the local culture and competition, to the detriment of people with vegetarian intent.  For example, an Indian restaurant in Hobart, Tasmania does add eggs to the Naan bread.  I was told by the Indian server that as a vegetarian I should not order it and order roti instead.  Here, his definition of vegetarianism is the same as mine without either of us discussing it to death, because we both come from the same social understanding and the social contract about what vegetarianism means, even though we didn’t know each other before and would probably never meet again.

Getting back to the original discussion, then as now, in most cases the same household would have been offering food to multiple different sects.  A classic case of this is reported in the MLDB 56 Upāli Sutta.  Householder Upāli, the main character in this sutta, was a follower of the Nigaṇṭha Nātaputta (i.e. he was a Jain) and then he became a stream-enterer and a follower of Lord Buddha.  He was advised by Lord Buddha to continue giving alms to the Nigaṇṭhas and when Nigaṇṭhas approached his household, they were told by the doorman to wait there and alms will be brought out for them.  This doesn’t mean that now Upāli had two kitchens: a super-strict vegetarian kitchen for Nigaṇṭhas and a not-so-strict kitchen for Buddhists.  What this means is that the food not-allowable to Nigaṇṭhas will not be given to them.  Also see CDB 7.8 Aggika Sutta where Lord Buddha approaches a sectarian brahmin for alms; CDB 7.9 Sundarika Sutta where Sundarika approaches Lord Buddha to give alms and then hesitates seeing he is a shaven-head (i.e. a munḍaka or a bhikkhu) but continues approaching thinking even some brahmins here are shaven-heads; and CDB 7.11 Kasi Bhāradvāja Sutta where Lord Buddha approaches a sectarian brahmin for alms.

Second, meat was and is quite expensive and available in very limited quantities since there wasn’t, and in rural India even today there isn’t, any refrigeration – even natural one in the winters, like in the northern climes – so meat could NEVER be stored beyond a day or two, before it got spoiled.  There was of course no commercial transportation either.

Third, there were many non-slaughter days and seasons, necessitating a completely vegetarian lifestyle during such periods.  For example, in the Ethiopian Coptic Orthodox Church, out of the 365 days of the year, the Copts often fast between 180 to 210 days.  Compared to that, in the Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahedo Church, there are 180 mandatory fasting days for laymen and up to 252 fasting days for clergy and the particularly observant.  In Ethiopia, the emphasis on the vegetarian food is so high that they have a special name for the vegetarian fare: it’s called Beyanitu.  In other words, vegetarianism is placed on the same altar as Kosher, Halal, and so on.

§A4.2 Refrigeration, Transportation, & Storage of Meat

In the olden times, there was neither artificial refrigeration nor natural refrigeration like in the northern climes.  So, whatever meat was available, it had to be fresh on a daily basis.  What this means is that there was only so much meat available daily and no more.  People did not store meat in their refrigerators and cook it up.  There had to be a butcher in every town and fresh butchering every day.  So, (1) the intention to butcher and make meat available and, (2) the intention to buy and eat meat had to be made anew every day.  On top of that, both trading in meat and trading in living beings are prohibited livelihood, occupations, and trades for a Buddhist lay person.

In contrast, nowadays meat is processed and stored months in advance to be made available at a certain time, e.g. turkey in USA for the Thanksgiving celebrations.  At least as far as my understanding goes, we have no teaching telling us that dried beef jerky or fried pork rinds were offered to the Saṅgha.

Also, nowadays butchers or fishermen are not in each town and sometimes not even in the same country.  Here, the moment you buy meat-fish-eggs, a factory will replace it right away and thus, buying meat-fish-eggs becomes an intentional activity.  Once you have it stored, it’s not hard to cook it up and offer it on the weekend to the monastery, thus turning it into an intentional act as well.

§A4.3 Donating Meat to A Monastic

The acceptance of meat-fish-eggs as a donation can be unintentional and allowable to a monastic when the monk goes on the alms-round and obtains such food without him having any intention.  While for the monk it is pure under the Jīvaka three-prong test, for the donor household that prepares food and special dishes knowing monks frequent their street and their house, preparing such food will fail the same test, likely on the intention prong of the Jīvaka three-prong test and most definitely on the trading (both selling and buying) in meat proscription.

Moreover, in a society of Buddhist lay persons, the monk isn’t likely to get any meat-fish-eggs since those trades (both selling and buying) and livelihoods are prohibited for the Buddhist laity.

no meat-making = no meat-selling = no meat-buying = no meat-offering

§A4.4 Food Fights

In the India undergoing transformation between the middle BCE and early CE because of Lord Buddha’s teachings of non-violence, what Jainism was advocating in terms of non-violence, and the corresponding stance taken by Hinduism as well, society was becoming more and more vegetarian.  Jains were already super-strict vegetarians and in direct competition with Buddhism in terms of acquiring disciples and having common elements in some teachings, behavior, and Saṅgha organization.  Hinduism was in the process of turning more Vaishnavite with the Bhakti movement and hence becoming more vegetarian and turning away from costly and bloody sacrifices.  Mahāyāna Buddhism adopted this and adapted to the changing society and became exclusively vegetarian – almost the same as Vaishnavism.  In the meantime, Theravāda most likely continued its insistence on requesting and eating meat as medicine, having monastery attendants cook meat, accepting meat-fish-eggs on the alms-rounds, taking meat left on the tree, requesting meat-broth as medicine, etc.  This may have been a direct or indirect contributing factor to internal dissensions and eventual schisms resulting in the eighteen early schools and Mahāyāna versus Hinayāna dichotomy.

The Theravādan insistence on consuming meat-fish-eggs would have been a cause of grave concern for the conservative and traditional Indian society, in the process of being highly influenced by Bhakti movement, Jainism, and Mahāyāna.  As a result, the society may have turned away from Theravāda and set a process of decline in place that would result in Theravāda monks getting confined to monasteries and universities and losing touch with the people, thus violating the basic tenet of mutual interdependence between Buddhist monastics and laity – monastics to depend on the laity for requisites and laity to depend on monastics for teachings and as field of merits.  When Theravāda monastics and institutions were no longer in touch with the laity and no longer objects of respect and faith or considered role-models, their disappearance from the Indian spiritual scene would have been barely noticed – to the great detriment and misfortune of all the seekers of the early teachings.

The strongest argument in favor of this thesis is the fact that Jainism survived in India despite facing the identical circumstances but Theravāda didn’t.  In terms of reach, influence, state sponsorships, and numbers of followers; Jainism was always [114] much smaller than Buddhism and it faced the same upheavals and it still survived.  Mahāyāna also survived when it wasn’t in the path of invaders and in the isolated mountain states of Kashmir, Ladakh, Nepal, Bhutan, Sikkim, etc.  And, this fact is well-attested in the musing of Venerable Pārāsariya, who castigated false monks as “Frauds, deceitful, false witnesses, cunning; Using various strategies, [they] enjoy flesh [meat]”  and had concerns that “While master of the world [Lord Buddha] was around, best of the men; The conduct of the bhikkhus, was seen to be otherwise” (“§A3.1 Āmisa & Sāmisa versus Nirāmisa” section).

While this topic may not have been investigated thoroughly so far, it does deserve closer inspection to learn the lessons from the past so we can maintain the Dhamma in purity and propagate it forward for the generations to come – without having further schisms and divisions.


Appendix Five: Emperor Ashoka

DPPN: King of Magadha.  He was the son of Bindusāra. Bindusāra had sixteen wives who bore him 101 sons. The Pāḷi Chronicles (Dīpavaṃsa and Mahāvaṃsa) mention only three of the sons, viz. Sumana (Susīma according to the northern legends) the eldest, Asoka, and Tissa (uterine brother of Asoka) the youngest.  The Mahāvaṃsa Ṭīka gives the name of his mother as Dhammā and calls her Aggamahesī (Bindusāra’s chief queen); she belonged to the Moriyavaṃsa.  The preceptor of Dhammā’s family was an Ājīvaka called Janasāna.

In his youth Asoka was appointed Governor of Avanti with his capital at Ujjeni.  When Bindusāra lay on his death-bed, Asoka left Ujjeni and came to Pāṭalīputta where he made himself master of the city and possessor of the throne.  He is stated in the Mahāvaṃsa to have killed all his brothers except Tissa that he might accomplish his purpose, and to have been called Caṇḍāsoka on account of this outrage.  It is impossible to say how much truth there is in this account of the accession.  Asoka’s Rock Edicts seem to indicate that he had numerous brothers, sisters and relations alive at the time they were written in Pāṭaliputta and other towns.  His brother Tissa he appointed as his uparāja, but Tissa became a religious devotee attaining Arahantship.  The Theragāthā Commentary refers to another younger brother of Asoka, Vītasoka Thera (THAG V169-V170), who also became an Arahant.

Asoka had several wives. His first wife was the daughter of a merchant of Vedisagiri, whom he met when stopping at the merchant’s house on his way to Ujjeni.  Her name was Devī, also called Vedisa-Mahādevī, and she was a Sakyan, descended from a Sakyan family who migrated to Vedisa to escape from Viḍūḍabha.  Of Devī were born a son Mahinda, and a daughter Saṅghamittā, who became the wife of Aggibrahmā and mother of Sumana.  Devī evidently did not follow Asoka to Pāṭaliputta, for his chief queen (aggamahesī) there was Asandhamittā.  Asandhamittā died in the thirtieth year of Asoka’s reign, and four years later he raised Tissarakkhā to the rank of queen.

According to the Mahāvaṃsa, Asoka’s accession was 218 years after the Buddha’s death and his coronation was four years later.  The chronicles contain various stories of his miraculous powers.  His command spread a league into the air and a league under the earth.  The devas supplied him daily with water from the Anotatta Lake and with other luxuries from elsewhere.  Yakkhas, Nāgā, and even mice and karavīka birds ministered to his comfort, and thoughtful animals came and died outside his kitchen in order to provide him with food.

At first Asoka maintained the alms instituted by his father, but soon, being disappointed in the recipients, he began looking out for holy men.  It was then that he saw from his window, his nephew, the young novice Nigrodha.  Owing to their friendship in a past birth, Asoka was at once drawn to him and invited him into the palace.  Nigrodha taught him the Appamādavagga and the king was greatly pleased.  He ceased his benefactions to other religious orders and transferred his patronage to Nigrodha and members of the Buddhist Order.  His wealth, which, according to the Samantapāsādikā, amounted to 500,000 pieces daily, he now spent in doing acts of piety giving 100,000 to Nigrodha to be used in any manner he wished, a like sum for the offering of perfumes and flowers at the Buddha’s shrines, 100,000 for the teaching of the Dhamma, 100,000 for the provision of comforts for members of the Order, and the remainder for medicines for the sick.  To Nigrodha, in addition to other gifts, he sent sets of robes three times each day, placing them on the back of an elephant, adorned by festoons of flowers.  Nigrodha gave these robes to other monks.

Having learnt from Moggaliputta-Tissa that there were 84,000 sections of the Dhamma, he built in various towns an equal number of vihāras, and in Pāṭaliputta he erected the Asokārāma.  With the aid of the Nāga king Mahākāla, he created a life-size figure of the Buddha, to which he made great offerings.

His two children, Mahinda and Saṅghamittā, aged respectively twenty and eighteen, he ordained under Moggaliputta-Tissa and Dhammapāla, in the sixth year of his reign.  This raised him from a supporter of material things (paccadāyaka) to an heir of the religion (sāsanadāyādin).

In order to purge the Order of undesirable monks and heretical doctrines, Moggaliputta-Tissa held the Third Council under the king’s patronage.  It is said that the pious monks refused to hold the uposatha with those they considered unworthy.  The king, desirous of bringing about unity in the Saṅgha, sent a minister to restore amity, but the minister, misunderstanding his orders, beheaded many holy monks, being at last stopped by the king’s brother Tissa, who was then a monk.

At the conclusion of the Council, held in the seventeenth year of his reign, Asoka sent forth therā to propagate the Buddha’s religion:

(1)     Majjhantika to Kasmīra and Gandhāra

(2)     Mahādeva to Mahisamandala

(3)     Rakkhita to Vanavāsa

(4)     Yona Dhammarakkhita to Aparantaka

(5)     Mahārakkhita to Yona

(6)     Majjhima to the Himālaya country

(7)     Sona and Uttara to Suvaṇṇabhūmi

(8)     Mahinda with Itthiya, Uttiya, Sambala and Bhaddasāla to Lankā; followed by his grandson Sumana In the eighteenth year of his reign (with some relics of the Buddha and the Buddha’s alms-bowl to be deposited in the thūpas of Lankā); and then Saṅghamittā (with a branch of the great Bodhi Tree at Buddhagayā)

Asoka reigned for thirty-seven years.  In his later life he came to be called Dhammāsoka on account of his pious deeds.  The Dīpavaṃsa gives his name in several places as Piyadassī.

The Chronicles state that Asoka and Devānampiyatissa of Sri Lanka had been friends though they had never seen each other even before Mahinda’s mission to Sri Lanka.  Tissa had sent him, as a friendly gesture, various gifts, and Asoka had returned the courtesy.  He sent an embassy of his chosen ministers, bearing gifts marvelous in splendor, that Tissa might go through a second coronation ceremony, and the messengers were directed to give this special message to the king: “I have taken refuge in the Buddha, Dhamma, and Saṅgha and declared myself a follower of the religion of the Sākyaputta.  Seek then, even thou, oh best of men, converting thy mind with believing heart, refuge in these best of gems.”

The Milindapañha mentions an encounter of Asoka with a courtesan of Pāṭaliputta, Bindumatī, who, in order to show the king the power of an Act of Truth, made the waters of the Gaṅgā to flow back.  According to the Petavatthu Aṭṭhakathā there was a king of Suraṭṭha, called Piṅgala, who used to visit Asoka in order to give him counsel.  Perhaps he was an old friend or tutor of the king.

Asoka is called an “Emperor” (dīpacakkavatti) as opposed to other “regional kings” (padesarājā) like Bimbisāra and Pasenadi.


Appendix Six: Notable Teachings and Quotes

§A6.1 Venerable Ledi Sayadaw

Venerable Ledi Sayadaw is the first named Dhamma teacher in the Goenka-ji tradition, who helped maintain the technique of vipassana.  Here’s what we learn from his activities and life:

“Around this time Sayadaw started preaching not to eat oxen and cattle.  He preached that oxen correspond to fathers, who plow the land and give food to the whole family.  Cows resemble mothers, who feed milk to children.  Human beings should not eat the meat of oxen and cows, so similar are they to parents.  Sayadaw wrote many open letters at that time urging people to abstain from eating beef (“The Letter of Fervent Love For Cattle”, or Gomettasa [in Burmese], an admonitory letter for the abstention from eating beef)” [LS, “Retreat to Ledi Forest” section, emphasis added].

Not only did the Venerable Ledi Sayadaw admonish people from eating beef, he actively helped establish “The Association for Refraining From Eating Beef” [LS, “The Ledi Legacy” section].

When the Venerable refers to oxen as fathers and cows as mothers, doesn’t it sound similar to what we reviewed in §2.7 Kammā and Rebirth” section:

CDB 15.14-19 Mother, Father, Brother, Sister, Son, Daughter Suttā:

At Sāvatthī.  Bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. ...  It is not easy, bhikkhus, to find a being who in this long course has not previously been your mother ... your father ... your brother ... your sister ... your son ... your daughter.  For what reason?  Because, bhikkhus, this saṃsāra is without discoverable beginning. ...  It is enough to be liberated from them” (emphasis added).

§A6.2 Venerable Mun Bhuridatta

“The end of the rains retreat saw an increasing number of senior disciples begin arriving from their own retreat locations to pay him their respects and help look after his needs.  By that time his condition was critical, and becoming more and more unstable by the day.  Eventually, he called all his disciples together one day to remind them of the proper way to handle his impending death.

“My ill