What Do Buddhists Eat?

What Do Buddhists Eat?

In the beginning, Buddhist monks lived off almsfood, or food given to them by benefactors. Anything placed in their provided bowls was to be gratefully accepted and devoured, no matter how terrible it might be.

As long as the animals weren't intentionally killed for the monks, this included fish and meat.

Various Buddhist sects today have different dietary regulations. Many people eat meat, even though the majority are nonviolent. Sects in China and Vietnam eat meat, fish, and eggs.

These same groups, however, disapprove of the Five Pungent Spices, which also include onion and garlic.

Buddhists in Tibet avoid eating fish and poultry but allow red meat.

Red meat is said to come from enormous creatures that can sacrifice themselves to feed a great number of people.

Buddhism And Eating Meat

Not all Buddhists are vegetarians, and eating meat is not always forbidden in Buddhist teachings.

But the Mahayana, the Great Vehicle, makes this point quite explicit in a number of sutras.

The Lankavatara Sutra is one such example, which states: "Bodhisattvas formed on benevolence should not eat food containing flesh in order to avoid being a cause of horror.

Meat is not meant to be consumed by humans; it is meant to feed wild animals.

People kill animals and exchange goods for meat in order to make money. If one person kills and the other purchases, both parties are at fault.

In the Great Parinirvana Sutra, the Buddha gives a similar instruction, telling his followers to refrain from eating meat "just as they would refrain from the flesh of their own children."

Many Tibetan teachers also disapprove of eating meat from animals.

Emperor Ashoka, who became a vegetarian and a Buddhist at the same time and perished fifty years after the Buddha, enjoined people to treat animals with care in a number of decrees.

Most notably, he had laws inscribed on a stone pillar ordering his subjects to treat animals kindly and forbidding animal sacrifices throughout his domain.

Vietnamese and Chinese Buddhists are strict vegetarians. Many Tibetans live on high plateaus, vast areas best suited to the herds of yaks, goats, or sheep.

In such cases, giving up meat would have entailed subsisting exclusively on butter, yogurt (in the summer), and tsampa, the typical Tibetan dish prepared from roasted barley flour.

Due of these factors, the inhabitants of these plains—the majority of whom are nomads—rely on their herds for a living. The majority of Tibetans also like to eat meat.

Despite this, they make an effort to make up for it by only killing animals that are absolutely necessary for their survival because they are completely aware of the awful nature of what they are doing.

The use of meat in the meals prepared in the kitchens of exiled Tibetan monasteries in India and Nepal is increasingly forbidden.

Being vegetarian or vegan is one method for a Buddhist to show their compassion for animals, especially in affluent countries.

Buddhists, unlike Hindu vegetarians, do not believe that meat is inherently impure. Theoretically, Buddhists would view eating an animal's meat that had died naturally as acceptable.

Many Buddhist followers have consistently purchased animals meant for slaughter, released them into their natural habitats, or donated them to shelters where they received humane treatment, going beyond simply becoming vegetarians.

Shabkar, a Tibetan monk, claimed in his autobiography that he rescued the lives of hundreds of thousands of animals during his lifetime (1781–1851).

These "redeemed" animals in Tibet die quietly alongside the rest of their herd. The committed Buddhists continue to practice this. Bhutan, where Buddhism is the state religion, forbids both hunting and fishing.

Buddha Sculpture FAQs

Can Buddhist Drink Alcohol?

Despite the wide range of Buddhist traditions practiced in various nations, alcohol consumption has typically been prohibited in Buddhism from its inception.

Long before the Buddha's time, alcohol manufacture and consumption were common in the areas where Buddhism first emerged.

Why Do Buddhists Not Eat?

Buddhism generally forbids the consumption of any kind of meat since it breaches both the Fifth Moral Precept and the First Moral Precept when animals are killed for food.

Why Do Buddhists Not Eat Garlic?

What about the Buddhists, though? They classify the five acidic, pungent vegetables—garlic, onions, shallots, and other members of the Allium genus—as being simply too potent.

And for this reason, garlic and onions are taboo for Buddhists.

Did Buddha Ever Drink?

Long before the Buddha's time, alcohol was widely produced and consumed.

He continued by saying that Buddha had understood the connection between drinking alcohol and losing heedfulness, a quality necessary for realizing enlightenment.

What Are Buddhist Not Allowed To Do?

The precepts are vows to refrain from doing things like committing murder, stealing, engaging in sexual misbehavior, lying, and getting drunk.

Early Buddhist texts demonstrate how the precepts gained in significance and eventually turned into a requirement for Buddhist adherence.

Why Are Buddhists Vegetarian?


Many people link vegetarianism with Buddhism. Buddhists hold that all life is precious and that it is wrong to murder living things.

Making the decision to become vegetarian is a method to live a more tranquil life for many religions and even for individuals.

Vegetarians refrain from inciting conflict by eating no meat.

Buddhists eat vegetarianism? The answer, though, is not all of them. Buddhism has several diverse schools.

The Mahayana is one of them, while Theravada is the other. Unlike the latter, the former thinks everyone should adhere to a rigorous vegetarian diet.

According to the Mahayanas, eating food that contains animal products causes sorrow in sentient beings.

Theravadists, on the other hand, hold that since Buddha himself consumed meat, it is acceptable for others to do so as well.

For them, immorality and evil are caused by impure thoughts, feelings, and spirits rather than by eating meat, according to the teachings in the Nipata Sutta.

Buddha also made reference to avoiding only particular kinds of meat. Thus, it implies that some meat is acceptable.

To Be A Vegetarian Or Not?

Many people decide to live a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle in an effort to improve their health or even character.

They contend that if we begin with ourselves, we may propagate a nonviolent way of life.

According to many vegetarians, eating meat results in agony and suffering and should be avoided at all costs.

Additionally, they claim that it is a healthier option because some meat might cause cancer.

However, those who eat meat, or omnivores, contend that doing so is a healthy decision.

They contend that meat offers us more protein than either plants or vegetables.

They contend that animals eat one another, similar to how a lion would consume a zebra.

This essentially backs up their allegation that they eat meat. As long as they were not the ones who actually killed the animal, Theravadists will eat meat. They contend that purchasing butchered meat and the harvesting of plants both involve pain.

Benefits Of Vegetarianism

Vegetarianism has a lot of advantages. Being a vegetarian can benefit you in a variety of ways aside from nonviolence.

Many people who are attempting to shed pounds and keep them off turn to vegetarianism.

Vegetables not only include a full complement of vitamins and minerals, but also protein.

According to studies, several plants, such as soy, broccoli, and cauliflower, may have more protein than meat.

Antioxidants found in fruits also help prevent aging.

Fiber in fruits, vegetables, and grains aids in healthy digestion and helps prevent cancer.

Additionally, it costs less to produce and is simpler to digest fruits and vegetables.

Benefits Of Eating Meat

Protein and zinc are abundant in meat. Zinc aids in the fight against illness and infection. Amino acids can also be found in meat.

The amino acids found in beef are substantially comparable to those required and present in human DNA.

Omega 3 fatty acids, which are excellent for the heart and brain, are also found in meat like fish.

Red meat, on the other hand, can lead to cancer if ingested in excess. Modesty is important.

Additionally not recommended is processed meat.

Buddhism And Peace

Gautama Buddha went out on the road of peace and love in search of enlightenment. His goal was to instill goodness in everyone.

Animals must be treated ethically if they are to have happy lives even though they will eventually die so that humans can eat them.

Meat consumption is a personal decision.

Buddhists are not all vegetarians. Vegetarianism has advantages and disadvantages, but if you believe that giving up meat would make you a better person, by all means, adopt this lifestyle.

On the other side, you can care for animals and still eat meat if you are a nice person. Peace originates in the heart.

Animals may teach both Buddhists and non-Buddhists how to take only what is necessary and nothing more.

Understanding Buddhist Patients Dietary Needs

It's critical for nurses to comprehend Buddhist patients' ideas about health, illness, and food because immigrants from Asian nations with sizable Buddhist populations are a fast expanding minority group.

To live a fully natural existence, one must love nature and take full advantage of everything that it has to offer.

Many Asian societies, including those of China, Japan, Taiwan, Korea, Tibet, Sri Lanka, Thailand, India, and the Philippines, hold this as their central concept.

Even while Christianity predominates in many of these nations, there are also sizeable populations of Buddhists, Muslims, Hindus, and Atheists.

Life is centered on nature and its two opposing energy systems, known in Chinese philosophy as yin and yang energy, in the Buddhist faith.

Examples of these opposing, cyclical energy forces include heat and cold, light and darkness, good and evil, and disease and health.

The greatest way to live a healthy life, according to many Buddhists (though not all), is to be a vegetarian, even when a straightforward disease like the common cold or flu may be regarded an imbalance of yin and yang energy.


Vegetarianism in the Buddhist tradition has become quite popular all over the world as a diet and way of life. There are around 20 million vegetarians in the US alone.

In addition, due to exposure to Islam and Christianity in several Asian societies, there has been a significant shift away from the traditional rigorous vegetarian diet.

Being careful not to generalize about patients from new cultures, such as assuming that if a patient is an immigrant from an Asian nation, he must be a Buddhist, is part of being a culturally competent health care provider.

Even when the patient's religion is known for certain, it does not follow that he or she adheres to all Buddhist religious rituals exactly.

It is crucial for nurses to open a line of communication with patients and their families in order to ascertain whether any cultural or religious needs or dietary restrictions need to be met in order to provide the patient with the best possible care.

Understanding Buddhist Beliefs

The Buddha was born in what is now Nepal, and in the sixth century B.C., he established Buddhism in India.

Following Buddha's passing, his devotees regarded him as a celestial being with the power to guide them to Heaven.

This is a supremely optimistic religion that emphasizes self-control as a means of finding ultimate happiness. Buddhists use yoga and meditation as a way to achieve ultimate liberation or spiritual emancipation.

Buddhists can maximize their potential for self-improvement in this life in order to obtain reincarnation, or rebirth after death, through developing self-control. A desired state of independence or purity from instinctive human desires and wishes is necessary for the rebirth process.

The Five Moral Precepts, which are the Buddhist code of ethics, are:

  • Do not kill or harm living things.
  • Do not steal.
  • Do not engage in sexual misconduct.
  • Do not lie.
  • Do not consume intoxicants such as alcohol, tobacco or mind-altering drugs.

The amount of light in one's body and the level of strength required to ascend the spiritual ladder, i.e., to attain the desired condition of relaxation and of being true to oneself and others, are said to be correlated with one's cautious eating choices, according to Buddhists.

One's soul achieves peace, the desired spiritual state, and/or the strength of virtue required to attain the reincarnation process by pursuing this path.

Buddhist Dietary Practices

The "Five Contemplations While Eating" are an example of how the Buddha's teachings on making the appropriate food choices for spiritual enlightenment work.

In essence, this indicates that those who practice Buddhism engage a specific force associated with "stopping and thinking" about their meal.

(Interesting fact: It's thought that the Buddha truly passed away from food poisoning.) A Buddhist asks these five fundamental yet important questions to himself:

  • What food is this? = The origin of the food and how it reached me.
  • Where does it come from? = The amount of work necessary to grow the food, prepare it, cook it and bring it to the table.
  • Why am I eating it? = Do I deserve this food or not? Am I worthy of it?
  • When should I eat and benefit from this food? = Food is a necessity and a healing agent because I am subjected to illness without food.
  • How should I eat it? = Food is only received and eaten for the purpose of realizing the proper way to reach enlightenment.

Buddhist Dictionary A vegetarian diet excludes meat from the menu. Eating a vegetarian diet is a logical and natural ramification of the moral commandment against taking human life in the Buddhist religion.

Veganism: A way of living that should be considered completely distinct from vegetarianism.

It is more concerned with a way of life as a whole than just a diet.

Veganism forbids the use of animal furs, leathers, skins, and other byproducts in addition to the consumption of animal products and their derivatives, such as milk, cheese, and honey.

Vegans contend that in order to achieve the liberty that makes enlightenment possible, these products—and even their byproducts—must be eschewed on both the physical and mental levels. Ahimsa:

the decision not to injure or kill. It alludes to the kind, non-violent treatment of living things and the recognition of each sentient being's inherent right to life and rebirth.

The Buddhist will stay on the proper spiritual path and ensure "a better life and better health" by practicing ahimsa.

Karma: A kind of spiritual bank account that develops as a result of one's daily deeds.

For people who uphold Buddhism's moral precepts, good karma arises; it will result in rebirth as a higher being, such as a god or prosperous person.

One may have bad karma, which results from transgressing moral boundaries by, for example, killing living things, which might result in reincarnation as a lesser being, such as an insect, animal, or demon. You can reincarnate as a human if you settle your karmic debts.

Buddhists who strictly follow their religion rely on both these Five Contemplations and the Five Moral Precepts to decide which foods are acceptable to eat and which are forbidden.

Buddhism generally forbids the consumption of any type of meat due to the First Moral Precept's prohibition against the killing of animals and the Fifth Moral Precept's prohibition against the intoxication of the body.

The Fifth Precept states that using intoxicants of any kind will have the following detrimental effects on a Buddhist's life and afterlife:

  • Effects on Self: It will cloud and distort samadhi, impairing judgment and reducing the appropriate focus required for meditation, the route to enlightenment.
  • Effects on Others: It makes one more likely to do wrong by others and conduct crimes, which results in a loss of the necessary self-control.
  • Effects on religion or the spirit: It may result in negative karma (see glossary), which hurts other sentient beings and later comes back to afflict the original being.

Buddhists contend that a person who simply pursues pleasure forfeits the harmony and virtuous force of their soul.

The "no killing" precept states that anyone who kills animals or consumes meat will lose their "purity of both body and mind," meaning they will become entangled with the flesh they consume and lose their purity, clarity, and ability to exercise self-control.

Buddhists concur that eating meat should not be justified on the grounds that it causes pain to other living things merely to appease our palates.

Buddhists believe that hunger is the least compassionate act one can commit, and that one must choose to be a vegetarian in order to avoid both eating and killing animals (out of compassion).

Buddhists think that consuming meat results in negative karma, which causes pain in addition to the physical suffering of animals. A sentient being that is killed is forced to start a difficult reincarnation process.

Buddhists believe that animals can become enlightened, so killing them takes away their opportunity. A vegetarian diet contributes to the purification of the karmic retribution cycle:

They won't eat you if you don't eat animal products. They won't murder you if you don't kill them.

"The Five Pungent Spices" and other items could be classified as "forbidden."

This includes garlic, chives, onions, scallions, and more. Buddhists have traditionally believed that consuming these foods will result in the following negative consequences:

The gods will reject his blood and flesh, and the sky will be far away from him.

Because of his consistently terrible breath, all gods and saints will disapprove of him.

These meals will provoke passion and an explosive temper if consumed prepared.

Raw consumption of them will make one more irritable and make them smell terrible, which won't please the gods but will attract curious "hungry ghosts" who will circle and kiss one's lips.

It's said that being among ghosts prevents one from being enlightened.

However, many vegetarians today, including some Buddhists, are free to consume the Five Pungent Spices without any repercussions.

For Buddhists, this is based on the individual's level of religious observance, whether they also practice other faiths, and their geographical region.


Buddhism places a strong emphasis on not harming any living thing. Animals, plants, and people are included in this.

Buddhists are therefore vegetarians for both ethical and health-related grounds.

Additionally, some Buddhist groups hold that eating meat harms one's karma because it depletes the life force energy of other creatures in order to sustain one's own existence (a subtle form of violence).

Although many Buddhists find this justification convincing enough to follow a vegetarian diet, many more do so for religious or health-related reasons.

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