Q & A on Vegetarianism

by Venerable Master Hua

Q: Can we become enlightened though we eat meat?
A: Anyone with a mouth so large as to be able to swallow a whole pig, lamb, or cow in one gulp can become enlightened. Except for those with such a big mouth, no one is guaranteed enlightenment.

Q: What are the advantages to being a vegetarian? What are the disadvantages to being a non-vegetarian?
A: You lose out by being a vegetarian while alive. By being a non-vegetarian, you will lose out after death.

Q: Why does Buddhism encourage vegetarianism?
A: Those who eat meat have strong desires while vegetarians have less. Jesus did not necessarily teach people to be vegetarians. Some religions allege that all creatures are made for the human race, so it is reasonable for people to eat meat. However, Buddhism believes in compassion and treating all living beings as if everyone were the same. Buddhism maintains that we should avoid killing and protect life because we see all living beings as having the Buddha nature and all can become Buddhas.

Q: Vegetables have life too. Are we killing plants by eating them?
A: I avoid eating meat to avoid killing. If eating vegetables is another form of killing, I would not eat them. What else is there to eat? Many people have asked me this question for a long time. Even though vegetables have life, they don't have much wisdom and don't run away when you try to eat them. They have life to them but they have nowhere to run and they aren't scared either. Look at the mosquito that's sucking your blood: it will escape as soon as you move. When you kill it, you are committing the offense of killing.

Q: I can't keep a vegetarian diet, but can I still recite the Great Compassion Mantra? The Theravadan monks sustain themselves by going on alms rounds and eat whatever they receive. Why must we be vegetarians?
A: When you eat meat, you should ask yourself, "How would I feel if other people were to eat my flesh?" "Do not do onto others what we do not want done to us." You should also ask yourself, "Why can't I be a vegetarian when many people are? Why do I have to give in to meat?" The Sutras do not give any detailed explanation as to whether one may be a non-vegetarian and still recite the Great Compassion Mantra.

Q: Can Buddhist disciples eat eggs?
A: Why bother asking me this question when you know you simply have a yen for rich foods?

Q: Why can't vegetarians eat eggs?
A: Eggs hatch without a rooster or a hen. Not knowing about this before and without any proof, people used to say that eggs do not hatch without chickens to roost them. Why do people who eat eggs have this theory? It is because they want to eat eggs. Chickens lay eggs with or without the rooster. The Shurangama Sutra tells us that "eggs are created by thought alone."

Q: We will become pigs, sheep, or cows if we eat pork, lamb, or beef, respectively. Will we become vegetables if we eat vegetables?
A: We are what we eat because pigs, cows, and sheep have legs. When you try to kill them, they will try to run away. Even though you may succeed in killing them, they will hate you and want to drag you down to their level. Vegetables, in contrast, will not scream, cry, or jump when you eat them. They don't have legs to run away. So you won't become the vegetables you eat.

Q: Why do some non-vegetarians refuse to eat beef?
A: Cows help to till the field, so some people can't bear eating their meat. "Everyone is sympathetic."

Q: What are the advantages to being vegetarians? Are we cheating ourselves by being vegetarians?
A: If you feel cheated as a vegetarian, you should know that you're only cheated while alive, but not after you die. You may not feel cheated as a non-vegetarian while alive, but you will be cheated after you die. When you settle the accounts, you need to pay what you owe and in the form that you had borrowed it.

Q: Most people think that meat is more nutritious and better for the body. What does the Venerable Master think?
A: Actually, meat is no more nutritious or better for one's health. There are lots of people who eat meat and develop cancer.

Q: What kind of expedient practices can we use to influence people who kill chickens and ducks for a living?
A: They should change any mistakes that they've committed in the past once they realize that they have been wrong. As it is said, "Changing the errors of our ways, those errors vanish."

Q: Do we have to be lifelong vegetarians after we receive the precepts? If it's inconvenient for the time being, is it okay to eat the vegetables cooked with meat?
A: If you are as sincere as the Sixth Patriarch, you may eat the vegetables in dishes that contain meat. If you haven't reached the level of the Sixth Patriarch, it's better to eat less meat.

Q: If someone eats human flesh, will he become a human being?
A: You go ahead and try it. I've never been a cannibal. Neither have you. How would I know the answer to this question? I can only say that you can try it out.

Q: Although vegetables have no blood or breath, they are unhappy when we pickle them. They resist. Isn't that a form of killing? Is it true that we're committing murder when we eat meat, but it's considered less severe when we eat vegetables?
A: If you really think that you're committing murder when you kill and eat vegetables, then you won't do anything. Wouldn't that be better? Of course, as you breathe, you're drinking in air that contains microorganisms too, which have their lives. There are even more organisms in water. There is life in dirt too, if you were to eat dirt. So you're only left with eating fire. There's life in fire too. You tell me what you should do at that point.

Q: I received the Bodhisattva Precepts. But two years ago, in a situation where it couldn't be helped, I cooked liver. I was really sad. What should I do? May I receive the precepts again?
A: That's okay as long as you don't cook it again! Will you violate the Bodhisattva Precepts again once you receive them?

Q: Due to cancer my mother recently had a surgery that amputated sections of her intestines. She has been released from the hospital. Will she recover fully? I'm so worried.
A: She ate too much meat!

Q: The disciple has a child who is five years old. Having witnessed a butcher kill the chickens that he sold last year, he cried bitterly and promised to never eat living beings' meat. He hasn't broke that promise yet. Master, how should I help him increase his roots of wisdom? Amitofo. Thank you for the Venerable Master's compassionate instructions.
A: He will not become a living being if he doesn't eat living beings' meat!

Q: Is okay to eat the vegetables in dishes containing meat while attending social engagements outside?
A: No one can force you to not take poison.

Q: Most people have the habit of eating meat, how can we eliminate this kind of habit?
Two "people" are in the Chinese character "meat":
One person overlaps the other.
Living beings eat one another's flesh,
Thinking it over carefully, people eat people.

Q: Is it okay for us to drink milk? Is it okay to eat cheese?
A: It's better to eat these things than to eat meat. They will not stimulate people's desires and disturb them. It's better to be a vegetarian so that we can be clear of mind and lessen our desires.

Q: On the market now are vegetarian fishballs, vegetarian shrimp balls, vegetarian chicken, vegetarian chicken drums, vegetarian pork, vegetarian beef, vegetarian mutton, vegetarian ham and the like. Although they're vegetarian, they taste exactly like seafood or meat, leaving an unforgettable impression with vegetarians. . Are we really vegetarians when we eat these things?
A: You've got to have some backbone as vegetarians! We must improve upon these trends in Buddhism. If we don't change these trends, there will eventually be no more vegetarian monks and nuns. I believe vegetarian dishes shouldn't contain names such as chicken, duck, etc. I hope every Buddhist has the ability to be selective with dharmas and recognize the law of cause and effect so as avoid errors.

Q: Should we use things that are derivatives of slaughter, such as leather jackets, leather shoes, and leather purses?
A: What if they feel the same way as some people who have died and then decided that they did not want to donate their organs? They claim that they were just confused at the time they made the decision.