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Volume 5 no 4


Five Clean Sources of Meat

Many people firmly recognise that the Buddha's teachings are full, subtle, comprehensive and profound. They recognise and revere the truth of the Buddha-dharma as soon as they encounter it. However, they face a common dilemma: they hesitate to take refuge in the Three Treasures because they do not wish to be vegetarians. For this reason, some ponder at the gate of Buddhism for a long time and are afraid to take that step forward. Others arrive at the crossroad of religion, some took the wrong turn and ended up with some cults or unorthodox ways. They do not realise that it is not easy to be born a human, and it is even harder to have the opportunity to encounter the Buddha-dharma. Having been born a human, it is indeed a waste of opportunity not to embrace Buddhism as it knocks at our door.

The Buddha-dharma is infinite and there are in reality more than 84,000 Dharma doors, or methods by which we can embark to learn and practise Buddhism. Vegetarianism is just one of the many methods. To refrain from killing is merely a means of assisting us to progress in our cultivation. As a medicine, meat is permitted in the Buddhist precepts if it is required to cure a particular sickness. Buddhism cherishes compassion. However, killing and causing harm to life have their retributions. The world has no peace as victims and villains engage in a vicious cycle of vengeance and revenge, culminating in calamities and disasters, and inflicting suffering and misery across the world.

Buddha understands the ignorance and habits of sentient beings that have accumulated from aeons of their many past lives. In order to provide sentient beings with an expedient means of embracing Buddhism, those who are not able to convert to a vegetarian diet on a long term basis are permitted to consume meat provided:

(1) That he did not slaughter the animal personally
(2) That he did not instruct others to slaughter
(3) That the slaughter was not committed for his sake
(4) That he did not witness the slaughter
(5) That he did not hear the cries associated with the slaughter

To refrain from killing is fundamental to Buddhism. Regardless of life forms, we must not kill, we must not instruct others to kill, and it must not be killed for our sake, for example, to celebrate our birthday or because we were coming to dinner. These are three sources of clean meat.

In Confucianism, benevolence also means to refrain from killing. It is said that heaven has the virtue of loving life. It cannot bear to witness the loss of life, let alone eat the flesh of those whose cries in death we have heard. Buddhism advocates compassion and loving-kindness to all sentient beings, regardless of their relation to you. It is only appropriate that we do not kill for our livelihood or for the purpose of celebrating occasions, such as births, birthdays, funerals or weddings. Meats are no different from the other foodstuffs purchased from the market if people do not witness the killing or hear the cries of the animal that is being slaughtered. If a differentiation between the two kinds of purchases and the taste of the meat do not exist in the mind, then the guilt is lighter. Together with the three mentioned earlier, these constitute the five sources of clean meat.

Meat eating however is a pre-condition to killing. If people refrain from eating meat, there will be no killing of animals for meat. Sadly, the human race has committed killings for aeons and is engaged in an endless cycle of vengeance and revenge over their past lives. For one who is slaughtered for meat in this life, it is probably because he had done the same to others in the past. The score is even, no more and no less.

People who eat meat from the five clean sources are advised to learn to chant the Buddha's name and the Buddhist mantras, so as to transfer the merits to those whose meat they are eating. They should also wish them an early rebirth in the human realm, to eliminate any thoughts of vengeance, to nurture their virtuous roots to benefit all sentient beings and together build a peaceful, caring and blissful pure land in this world. Only when this is promoted across the entire world, will we be able to eliminate hatred and vengeance, and enhance a mind of compassion and loving kindness. In this way we will be able to transform this Saha world into a pure land.


Copyright 2002.Jen Chen Buddhism Centre