As is the case in many religions, the diet of a Buddhist is somewhat governed by his or her beliefs. Buddhism food facts are NOT like other religions, however, in that there is no set of written rules regarding exactly what one may eat. Instead, there are general guidelines with a lot of room for interpretation. Also, the general beliefs of Buddhists, such as those concerning suffering and rebirth, also come into play in the diets of many Buddhists.
Buddhism Food: Forbidden Foods
There are certain foods that many Buddhists will not eat. These include:
You may be surprised to see some forms of meat listed, because many think that all Buddhists are vegetarians. This is not the case, as is discussed in the next section.
Buddhism Food: Vegetarianism
Many are very surprised to learn that some Buddhists do eat meat. That being said, most do practice a vegetarian diet. Followers of Theraveda and Mahayana Buddhism, two of the largest sects, shun meat and fish. Many Buddhists are vegans. This means that they do not eat meat, fish or any animal products, such as milk or cheese.
There are a number of reasons that the majority of Buddhists choose vegetarianism.
- Karma: Because many Buddhists feel that eating meat contributes to the suffering of the animals, they feel that eating the animals will bring bad karma into their lives.
- Suffering: In addition to the penalty of bad karma, many Buddhists simply to not want to contribute to the suffering of another living thing.
- Rebirth: Because an animal can be reborn as a human and a human can be reborn as an animal, many Buddhists find it quite unappealing to eat any type of meat.
Those Buddhists who do eat some meat or fish often prefer red meat. The reason is that if a cow is slaughtered, it will feed many people. On the other hand, it would take the sacrifice of the lives of many, many fish to feed the same number of people.
Buddhism Food: Five Contemplations While Eating
In Buddha’s teachings, he advised his followers to remember these Five Contemplations While Eating.
- Where the Food Came From: Consider where the food came from including the work required by those who grew it and the suffering, in the case of meat, of the animal.
- Do You Deserve the Food: Have you been virtuous to deserve the blessing of this meal?
- Guard Against Greed: Be aware of the natural tendency to want to be gluttonous and guard against that temptation.
- Food as Medicine: Contemplate the way that food can be used to heal various physical ailments, even ailments you were not aware that you had.
- Food to Aid Enlightment: The reason for eating is simply to provide the needed energy and nutrition to be able to continue on the path towards enlightenment.