Why Do Buddhists Not Eat Meat?

Why Do Buddhists Not Eat Meat?

Dietary restrictions and food rituals are important parts of Buddhism, just as they are for many other religions.

Buddhists, also known as individuals who practise Buddhism, are required to adhere to certain dietary regulations and follow the teachings of the Buddha, also known as the "awakened one."

Whether you are new to Buddhism or merely want to embrace particular components of the faith, you may be curious about the food habits that are associated with it.

This article will provide you with all the information you require regarding the Buddhist diet.

Buddhism Dietary Practices

Buddhism was established in the eastern region of India between the 5th and 4th centuries B.C. by Siddhartha Gautama, also known as the Buddha.

There are numerous schools of Buddhism practised across the world, the most well-known of which being Mahayana, Theravada, and Vajrayana.

The teachings of the Buddha are interpreted slightly differently by each kind of Buddhism, notably with regard to the various eating habits.


It is forbidden to take the life of any living thing, whether it be a person or an animal, according to one of the teachings. According to the understanding of many Buddhists, this should not be taken to suggest that one should not consume animals because doing so requires them to be killed.

Lacto-vegetarianism is the typical diet that adherents to this interpretation of Buddhism follow.

This indicates that eggs, poultry, fish, and meat are not a part of their diet, although they do consume dairy products.

On the other hand, some Buddhists do eat meat and other animal products so long as the animals weren't killed expressly for them. These Buddhists are known as "meat eaters."

Nevertheless, vegetarianism is associated with the majority of Buddhist meals, despite the fact that not all Buddhist traditions require lay Buddhists to adhere to a vegetarian diet.

Alcohol And Other Restrictions

Because alcohol consumption impairs mental clarity and makes it more likely that a person will violate other aspects of their faith, one of the ethical teachings of Buddhism forbids being drunk.

Despite this, lay adherents of the church frequently ignore this precept, as many traditional ceremonies involve the consumption of alcoholic beverages.

Some Buddhists abstain from consuming strong-smelling plants in addition to alcohol. These plants include garlic, onion, chives, leeks, and shallots, which are believed to promote sexual desire when consumed cooked and wrath when eaten raw.

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What Does Buddhism Say About Eating Meat?

Instead, the Buddha is seen there issuing a judgement that states monks and nuns are only permitted to consume meat from animals that were not killed explicitly for the purpose of feeding them.

Some Buddhists hold the belief that the only time it is acceptable to consume meat is for therapeutic purposes, and even then, only after the animal has died of natural causes.

Does Buddhism Forbid Eating Meat?

Vegetarianism. Buddhists are guided in their daily lives by five different ethical teachings. It is forbidden to take the life of any living thing, whether it be a person or an animal, according to one of the teachings.

On the other hand, some Buddhists do eat meat and other animal products so long as the animals aren't killed expressly for them. These Buddhists are known as "meat eaters."

Was The Buddha A Vegetarian?

Buddha was a saint from India who was also a spiritual master and a fully realised human. He was a vegetarian. The founder of Buddhism was a spiritual teacher who lived in ancient India.

The impact of the Buddha's teachings can be felt not only in Asia but all around the world.

What Is Forbidden In Buddhism?

They make up the foundation of the ethical code that lay Buddhists are expected to uphold in their daily lives.

The precepts are promises to refrain from engaging in activities like as theft, sexual misbehaviour, lying, murdering living beings, and being drunk.

Do Buddhists Drink Alcohol?

Even though there is a wide diversity of Buddhist traditions practised in different nations, the basic rule throughout Buddhism is that drinking alcohol is forbidden from the beginning of the religion.

Long before the time of the Buddha, people in the areas where Buddhism first emerged had experience with both the manufacturing and consumption of alcoholic beverages.


The practise of refraining from taking in any and all calories, be they in the form of food or liquids, is known as fasting.

The method, more precisely fasting at intervals rather than continuously throughout the day, is gaining popularity as a means of weight loss, but it is also frequently done for religious reasons.

As a means of cultivating self-control, Buddhists are required to fast from noon till the daybreak of the day after in order to fulfil their religious obligations.

However, much like how not all Buddhists or lay followers of the religion abstain from eating meat and drinking alcohol, not all Buddhists or lay followers of the religion fast.

Buddhism, like other religions, includes certain dietary traditions that adherents may or may not choose to embrace in their daily lives. Some Buddhists choose to abstain from eating animals, alcohol, and even specific types of vegetables and may even fast.

Diet Pros And Cons

There are positives and negatives associated with every diet, including the Buddhist diet.


A Buddhist diet is one that focuses mostly on eating plant-based foods.

A diet that is mostly composed of plant foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes, and beans, may on occasion also contain small amounts of meat and other animal products.

This diet provides key substances, such as antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals, and fibre, which have been related with a decreased risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and some forms of cancer. This diet has been shown to reduce the risk of these diseases.

In addition to these positive effects on health, switching to a plant-based or vegetarian diet may also have a positive effect on your waistline.

One study found that Buddhists who followed a vegetarian diet for 11–34 years had less body fat than those who followed the diet for 5–10 years, and even less body fat than those who followed it for 3–4 years. This was demonstrated by the participants in the study having lower percentages of body fat.


Even if they allow for the use of eggs and dairy products, vegetarian diets that exclude the consumption of meat run the risk of being insufficient in certain nutrients if they are not properly planned.

According to a number of studies, Buddhist lacto-vegetarians have calorie intakes that are comparable to those of Catholics who do not practise vegetarianism.

On the other hand, their intakes of folate, fibre, and vitamin A were much greater, although their intakes of protein and iron were significantly lower.

Because of this, their levels of iron and vitamin B12 were significantly reduced.

Anemia, a disorder that is defined by a deficiency of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, can be brought on by insufficient amounts of essential nutrients.

Vegetarians and vegans run the risk of deficiency in a number of nutrients, including vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, and zinc, in addition to iron and vitamin B12.

However, it is feasible to consume a vegetarian diet that is appropriate in terms of nutrition if one makes careful plans and takes nutritional supplements to make up for any deficiencies.

Pros And Cons Of Fasting


Buddhism places a significant emphasis on the practice of fasting. In general, the Buddhist fast lasts from midday till the beginning of the following day.

It is possible that adhering to the Buddhist diet, which requires daily fasting for around 18 hours, will either be a benefit or a drawback for you, depending on your personal preferences and the way your calendar is structured.

Not only may it be physically challenging, but it can also interfere with your ability to function normally in your personal and professional life if you consume all of your daily calories before noon.

On the other hand, if your objective is to reduce your body fat, you might find that fasting is not only doable but also beneficial to your efforts in this area.

During a 4-day study involving 11 obese adults, those who fasted for 18 hours had better control of their blood sugar and increased expression of genes involved in autophagy, which is a process that replaces damaged cells with healthy ones. In comparison, those who fasted for 12 hours experienced less of an increase in the expression of genes involved in autophagy.

Although these findings are encouraging, additional research over a longer period of time is required before definitive conclusions can be drawn regarding whether or not this method is preferable to the traditional low-calorie diet in terms of weight loss and other health benefits.

As a result of the Buddhist diet's emphasis on plant-based foods, it is possible that some vitamins and minerals, in particular iron and vitamin B12, are underrepresented.
Even while fasting is an essential part of the Buddhist religion, not everyone is required to participate in this practise.

Foods To Eat And Avoid

Many Buddhists prefer to pursue a vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian diet, despite the fact that not all Buddhists are vegetarians.

The following is a list of foods that are permissible to consume while adhering to a lactovegetarian diet:

Foods To Eat

  • Dairy: yogurt, cottage cheese, and milk
  • Grains: bread, oatmeal, quinoa, and rice
  • Fruits: apples, bananas, berries, grapes, oranges, and peaches
  • Vegetables: broccoli, tomatoes, green beans, cucumber, zucchini, asparagus, and peppers
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, corn, peas, and cassava
  • Legumes: chickpeas, kidney beans, pinto beans, black beans, and lentils
  • Nuts: almonds, walnuts, pecans, and pistachios
  • Oils: olive oil, flaxseed oil, and canola oil

Foods To Avoid

  • Meats: beef, veal, pork, and lamb
  • Fish: salmon, herring, cod, tilapia, trout, and tuna
  • Eggs and poultry: eggs, chicken, turkey, duck, quail, and pheasant
  • Pungent vegetables and spices: onions, garlic, scallions, chives, and leeks
  • Alcohol: beer, wine, and spirits

Even though it's not required to practise Buddhism, many people choose to adhere to a vegetarian or lacto-vegetarian diet, which also abstains from consuming alcoholic beverages as well as pungent vegetables and spices.

Health Benefits Of The Buddhist Diet

The following are some examples of foods that are permissible in the traditional Buddhist diet and are considered to be mainstays in the diet of many Asian cultures:

  • Noodles that have been spiced with aromatic spices and either boiled or stir-fried. Vegetables, either raw or cooked, seaweed, and dry food products created at home are also acceptable additions.
  • Rice, which can be prepared and seasoned in a wide variety of different ways, such as savoury, sweet, neutral, sticky, colourful, or blended with vegetables, is a very versatile grain.
  • In much the same way as Americans season a great deal of their food with butter and/or salt, soy sauce is an essential flavorful ingredient that is added to practically every dish. This is analogous to how Europeans flavour a great deal of their food with vinegar.
  • In addition, a substantial amount of cooking calls for the use of sesame oil. In contrast to soy sauce, it does not have any sodium in it.
  • Those practitioners of Buddhism who do not adhere to the vegetarian precepts to the letter will consume fish on an almost daily basis and/or will incorporate it into many of their meals.
  • Drinking herbal tea is said to improve health and is becoming increasingly popular. Herbal tea can be made from a variety of plants, including tea plants.For centuries Buddhists have believed that when meat is eaten it accumulates in the body, turning into harmful toxins.

It would appear that they were correct, given what we know about how modern medicine works today.

Recent scientific research has shown that populations that consume significant amounts of meat have a higher rate of cancer than those that do not.

Eating meat has also been related to an increased risk of developing arterial sclerosis, heart disease, high blood pressure, encephalitis, stroke, gallstones, and cirrhosis of the liver. These are only some of the other bad health repercussions.

Consuming foods high in fat and cholesterol is directly linked to each of these health concerns.

According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, meat does in fact include wastes and toxins such uric acid that are known to have a harmful impact on the blood and the tissues of the body.

In contrast, vegetable proteins, such as those found in nuts, beans, and legumes, are significantly better for one's health and pose fewer risks.

In addition, meat, meat products, poultry, and seafood can all go bad in a matter of a few hours, but the majority of vegetables can maintain their freshness for several days.

While it is possible for beans to go bad in a short amount of time, the process of going bad is far simpler to spot and identify in beans than it is in meat, which might sometimes lose its flavour or fragrance before it is obvious that it has gone bad.

Do Buddhists Eat Meat?


Within the Buddhist tradition, one is expected to adhere to a set of predetermined guidelines and standards. It is necessary for Buddhists to be aware of the kinds of actions that are commended, as well as the kinds of things that should either be done in moderation or altogether avoided.

Within the Buddhist religion, there are a number of guidelines and customs that can differ from one Buddhist tradition to another. This is the case with the vegetarianism practised in Buddhist traditions.

The history of Buddhist rituals and practises will be covered in detail throughout this guide.

We briefly discuss the perspectives held by several schools of Buddhist thought regarding the consumption of meat. We are going to take a quick look at the various practises that exist in relation to the consumption of meat in the various belief systems.

Buddhist Ethics

The study and practise of ethics aims to determine the best and most moral way to behave in every given situation. It is both a discipline of thinking and activity.

The Buddhist tradition adheres to its own unique code of ethics, which serves to guide both the teachings and the practises that are carried out within the tradition. The Buddhist code of ethics consists of a set of precepts that are generally accepted and practised by those of us who are on the spiritual path leading to enlightenment.

When it comes to Buddhism, ethics and morality play a significant part in laying the groundwork for the entire belief system.

All schools of Buddhism adhere to the same fundamental teachings, or tenets, regarding how a good and righteous life should be led.

When a follower accepts the teachings of a Buddhist teacher, he or she is expected to abide by a set of principles that can, in some respects, be compared to a code of conduct.

The Buddhist ethical philosophy places a strong emphasis on avoiding causing harm to others, as well as maintaining harmony, compassion, and self-control.

This is not limited to interactions with other individuals in any way. When the Buddha taught that one should not cause harm to others, he did not limit this concept to harming other people.

He had no intention of endangering anyone's life in any way.

This broadens the scope of the ethical system to include other forms of life. The Buddhist principle of causing no harm extends beyond human beings to include other living things such as plants and animals.

Main Principles Of Buddhist Ethical Systems

The Buddhist ethical system is predicated on the principle of nonviolence from its very foundation. This is consistent across the various schools of Buddhism.

According to Buddhist teachings, the decision to lead a just, ethical, and moral life is one that must be made consciously.

This indicates that adhering to the teachings of the Buddha and other significant teachers requires a deliberate and concerted effort on one's part in order to be successful.

Not only do Buddhists consider it just to live their lives according to the principle "do no harm," but they also believe that doing so is the path that leads to enlightenment.

If a Buddhist wants to reach enlightenment, they must first embrace not only the teachings, but also the spirit that is underlying the ethical framework. When it comes to deciding what the appropriate or moral decision is to make in a given circumstance, they rely on this to guide them.

How Ethical Systems Relate To Daily Choices

Beyond their thoughts and relationships, Buddhists are obligated to uphold a set of ethical tenets known as the precepts.

These tenets assist explain what one ought to do or ought not to do in order to make a living for themselves. They will shape the manner in which one interacts with other people in the business world.

In addition, it has an impact on the way adherents feel about particular traditions, such as whether or not they should consume meat.

There is a widespread misconception that Buddhists are required to forgo the consumption of all forms of meat. It is not easy to see how consuming meat can "cause no harm" to the animal that is being used in the process, thus it is easy to comprehend why this is the case.

Even the historical Buddha adhered to a vegetarian diet. He abstained from eating any meat of any kind, including that of animals. Because of this, a significant number of adherents practise a strictly vegetarian diet.

Vegetarianism In Buddhism

As was mentioned earlier, the Buddha makes it quite clear in a number of the sutras that he authored that his disciples are not to consume the flesh of any sentient being.

It can be deduced from this that you do not consume the flesh or meat of any animal, including fish, under any circumstances.

The Mahayana school continues to carefully adhere to the Buddhist teachings and does not permit the consumption of any form of animal flesh.

This is true for monks and for those who follow the Buddhist religion. If I don't take anyone's life, it follows that I shouldn't eat any flesh of any kind.

In all schools of Buddhism, the consumption of meat is frowned upon but not strictly prohibited. However, there are restrictions associated with the consumption of pork, poultry, and fish according to the prevalent Theravada tradition.

As long as the monk is aware that the animal was not murdered particularly for his sustenance, he is allowed to consume meat; nevertheless, there are certain kinds of meat that he will not consume if the food is not specifically prepared for him but rather just provided to him.

Mahayana Buddhism

This adherent to Buddhism adheres to a more stringent form of the religion, which aligns their practises even more closely with the Buddha's original teachings.

According to this interpretation, one of the final teachings of the original Buddha dealt to the consumption of sentient beings.

In conjunction with the admonition to "do no harm," these teachings urge followers to adopt a fairly strict vegetarian diet. Even further, adherents of this school consider it improper for them to consume any food that has been prepared using ingredients that have been in contact with meat.

It is not acceptable for a Mahayana Buddhist to pick around the edges of the meat in a dish. The entire meal, including the preparation, has to adhere to the vegetarian diet in its entirety.

In order to explain why followers of this religion abstain from eating meat, they refer to Buddhist teachings and the bodhisattva.

Consuming meat is incompatible with values such as compassion, nonviolence, and the avoidance of damage.

It's possible that monks won't eat gathered flesh (meat that was scavenged).

Even though many monks rely on donations from their followers for support, they are not permitted to consume any meat that is offered to them as an offering.

Theravada Buddhism

This is one of the most common ways to put Buddhist teachings into practise, and followers of this school are permitted to consume a limited amount of meat. The Buddha is said to have graciously welcomed any and all food gifts that were presented to him during his lifetime.

This included meat, which he consumed when it was presented to him. If monks are offered food donations, they will accept and consume whatever they are given, regardless of whether or not the food is vegetarian.

The Theravada school of Buddhism emphasises the importance of his early luxury while explaining his decision to become a vegetarian.

In one of the Sutras, Buddha depicts his family as being wealthy enough to maintain a vegetarian diet for all members of the household, including the servants.

He was aware that some people do not have this choice and that it was a pleasure to be able to live in this manner.

Vajrayana Buddhism

Some devotees to this school of Buddhism are permitted to consume meat and alcohol, despite the fact that this being a less prevalent school of Buddhism.

In the majority of Buddhist schools, it is required that you do not drink alcohol. The monks who reside in the temple are the only people who can participate in many of the rituals.

Even monks within this religion do not partake in the consumption of meat or alcoholic beverages.

Lay Buddhism

A good number of the regulations and customs that were discussed before are unique to monks who live in Buddhist monasteries.

The rigors dietary rules do not necessarily apply to those who follow the religion as a layperson.

There are many Buddhists who do not adhere to the vegetarian lifestyle. Some people are vegetarian or largely vegetarian.

There are several religious groups that prohibit the consumption of red meat but permit the consumption of fish and chicken.

There are a significant number of Buddhists who adhere to a vegetarian diet, even if only on a seasonal or intermittent basis.

Other Food Exclusions

Pure vegetarianism, as practised by Buddhists, entails abstaining from eating a number of plant-based foods, including several herbs and vegetables, which may appear peculiar to non-Buddhists.

You should also stay away from veggies that have a strong odour or taste, such as onions, garlic, shallots, and coriander.

There are religious traditions that demand complete abstinence from all forms of meat, as well as eggs and dairy products.


Dietary recommendations are something that Buddhists are strongly advised to adhere to. These vary according to the type of Buddhism practised and the interests of the individual.

Many Buddhists adhere to a lacto-vegetarian diet, abstain from alcohol and some vegetables, and fast from noon till sunrise the next day as part of their spiritual practise.

However, whether you are a lay follower of Buddhism or choose to practise only specific components of the religion, the diet is adaptable to your needs and preferences.

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