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ingredients are forbidden?
Meat and fish are not eaten by many people
in the Theravada and Mahayana schools of Buddhism.
Some believers in both Theravada and Mahayana
are vegans, and some particularly from China and
Vietnam do not eat onion, garlic or leek either
- referring to these as the ‘five pungent
advised the monks to avoid eating ten kinds of
meat for their self-respect and protection: humans,
elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers,
boars and hyenas.
are the main laws or beliefs relating to food?
There are no set dietary laws in Buddhism.
Buddhist dietary restrictions are structured very
differently than those of the Abrahamic religions
such as Judaism and Islam. In those religions,
the dietary restrictions make a clear distinction
between permitted foods and forbidden foods. By
contrast, there is no such clear distinction between
permitted and forbidden foods in Buddhism. Therefore,
there is a great deal of diversity in Buddhist
the time of the Buddha, the monks were expected
to eat everything that was put in their begging
bowl without discrimination, including meat or
are some, particularly in the Mahayana school,
who eat meat, fish and eggs. Others, particularly
from China and Vietnam, refrain from eating the
Five Pungent Spices such as garlic, onion and
leek, because they are considered to increase
one’s sexual desire and anger.
will never eat fish, and usually stay away from
fowl. The reason is that different kinds of meat
supposedly give different kinds of obscurations.
Fish, the obscuration of aggression; foul the
obscuration of desire; and red meat the obscruration
of ignorance. It was generally better to eat red
meat because the animal killed was very large
and only one life had to be taken to feed many
people; with fish, you usually have to take many
more lives to fill the same number of stomachs.
there a link with vegetarianism?
The first Precept is often interpreted
as ‘do not harm,’ and many Buddhists
choose to be vegetarian as a result of this precept.
One basic tenet of Buddhism is that of reincarnation
and the belief that animals can be reincarnated
as humans and vice versa. As a result, Buddhists
do not kill animals, and many do not eat meat or
fish because this is considered to be bad for their
karma. Buddhism and Jainism are the main religions
who give utmost importance to Ahimsa (non- violence)
and so there is a relationship with vegetarian belief
to the Buddha’s instructions for the “Five
Contemplations While Eating,” one considers
if one deserves the food, if one’s own mind
is not greedy, if the food is a necessity and
a healing agent for the body, and if the food
is eaten for the purpose of a part of reaching
general, will people of this faith eat in a food
outlet that serves food or drink that does not
conform to their beliefs?
It is best to ask the individual because of the
diversity of beliefs and practises in Buddhism.
and why do people of this faith feast and fast?
In Mahayana Buddhism, the birth, enlightenment,
and death of Buddha are three common festivals
in which feasting takes place (dates differ by
regional calendar). In Theraveda Buddhism all
three days are unified into the single holiday
monks fast completely on the days of the new moon
and full moon each lunar month; they also avoid
eating any solid food after noon. This is done
as a means of purification. Theravadin and Tendai
Buddhist monks fast as a means of freeing the
mind. Some Tibetan Buddhist monks fast to aid
yogic feats, like generating inner heat.
to websites with further information:
If you have any question
about the dietary practises or beliefs in this
faith, you may contact
by Megumi Hirota
Rissho Kosei-kai of the UK International Association
for Religious Freedom
2 Market Street,
Megumi Hirota has been working for International
Association for Religious Freedom, one of the oldest
inter-religious organizations, since 1999. Meanwhile,
serving as a staff for a Japanese lay association,
Rissho Kosei-kai, she has been involved in several
inter faith activities, such as the World Conference
of Religions for Peace. Megumi has an MA on inter-religious
relations from Birmingham University.