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Lions Roar : May 2019
that Mahayana schools often recom- mend a vegetarian diet, the fact is that the majority of Buddhists do eat meat. The Buddha, however, did not turn a blind eye to the suffering of animals, as many would have us believe. The first precept he taught was “Abstain from tak- ing life.” Within this, the Buddha didn’t limit his teachings on compassion to only humans, but instead included all sentient beings—all those that can feel pain. In the Mahayana Sutras, such as the Lankavatara, the Buddha self-identified IF YOU STOPPED PEOPLE on the streets of Chicago or London and ask them if Buddhists are vegetarian, the most likely response you’d get is “yes.” The public perception, at least in the West, is that since Buddhism is based on reverence for life, followers of the path don’t eat animals. And while it is true as vegetarian and expected his students to follow his example: “If, Mahamati, meat is not eaten by anyone for any rea- son, there will be no destroyer of life.” In the Pali canon, which forms the doctrinal foundation of Theravada Bud- dhism, we find the Jivaka Sutta (Majj- hima Nikaya 55) discussing “the three purities.” There the Buddha, trying to accommodate both the interdependence of the monastic and lay communities and also protect the lives of sentient beings, instructed his monastics that, when on CULTURE • LIFE • PRACTICE BOB ISAACSON is the president and co- founder of Dharma Voices for Animals, an international Buddhist animal advocacy and rights organization. LASHAMUTUAL FROM WHERE I SIT Friends, Not Food When the Buddha taught us to abstain from taking life, he didn’t make an exception for animals we like to eat. While many Buddhists eat meat, BOB ISAACSON of Dharma Voices for Animals argues they shouldn’t. LION’S ROAR | MAY 2019 13