On Meat Eating
Chatral Rinpoche

Meat, the sinful food, is not permitted according to the three vows: the vows of individual
liberation, the Bodhisattva vows and the tantric vows. Thus Buddha stated: “I have never
approved, do not approve, and will never approve of a meat diet.” He declared: “my
followers must never eat meat.”i
In general, both the butcher and the buyer of meat will suffer in such realms as the burning
and boiling hells.ii As Buddha said, “Killing animals for profit and buying meat are both evil
deeds; these kinds of actions will result in a rebirth in the horrifying realms of hell.”iii
Intentionally eating meat is a violation of Buddhist principals.iv The Buddha said [in the
No meat can be regarded as pure if it was premeditated, asked for or desired; therefore
refrain from eating meat. Both myself and other Buddhas forbid adepts from eating
meat. Those sentient beings who feed on one another will be reborn as carnivorous
animals. The meat-eater is ill-smelling, contemptuous and born deprived of intelligence.
He belongs to the lowest class of men. Since the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas and sravakas
have all condemned meat-eating, one who still eats meat without shame will always be
devoid of sense. Those who give up eating meat will be reborn as wise and wealthy
Brahmans. Meat that one has seen, heard, or suspected to have come from an animal
slaughtered for meat is to be condemned. Theorizers who are born as meat-eaters will
not understand this. These people will make foolish remarks about meat-eating, saying,
“Meat is proper to eat, unobjectionable and permitted by the Buddha.” An adept enjoys
vegetarian food in appropriate quantity and views meat as unfit to eat as the flesh of
one’s own son. For those who are abiding in compassion, I forbid meat at all times and
in all circumstances. Eating meat is a horrifying site and prevents progress towards
Nirvana. Refraining from eating meat is the mark of the wise.v
Chapter 3 of Compassionate Action: The Teachings of Chatral Rinpoche by Zach Larson (ed.)
Shechen Publications, New Delhi, 2005. Published in PDF with permission of the author by Shabkar.Org – Amsterdam, 2006.
In the Parinirvana Sutra, Buddha spoke to Kasyapa, saying,
Blessed son, those who have the mindfulness of the sravakas are not allowed to eat meat
from now on. Even if one is offered meat with genuine faith, one should see it as the
flesh of one’s own son.
Bodhisattva Kasyapa asked Buddha, “Lord, why do you not allow the eating of meat?”
Buddha replied,
Blessed son, eating meat hinders the development of compassion; therefore, all who
follow the way of the Buddha should not eat meat from now on. Kasyapa, wherever a
meat eater lies, sits, or walks other sentient beings become fearful upon smelling him.
Blessed son, just as when a man eats garlic others will keep away because of his bad
smell, likewise, when animals smell the meat eater, they fear death…
Kasyapa asked Buddha, “Lord, as monks, nuns and novice monks are dependent on other
people for their food, what should they do when they are offered food with meat?” Buddha
replied to Kasyapa,
Separate the food and meat, wash the food, and then eat. You may use your begging
bowl if it does not have the smell or taste of meat; otherwise you should wash the bowl.
If the food has too much meat, one should not accept it. Do not eat food if you see that
there is meat in it; if you do you will accumulate demerit. There will be no end if I speak
thoroughly about the reasons I do not allow meat eating. I have given a brief reply
because the time has come for my parinirvana.vi
Buddha has further elucidated the faults of meat eating in the Angulimala Sutra as well as in
the Siksasammucaya Compendium of Precepts. Furthermore, the terma teaching of
Padmasambhava called Rinchin Dronme clearly condemns the eating of meat for both lay
and ordained people: “All the followers of Buddha—monks or nuns, novice or lay—have
seven main principals to follow. These are ‘the four root principles’vii and abstinence from
alcohol, meat and evening food.”
Those who argue that Buddha’s condemnation of meat applies only to the seven classes of
Theravadayana vowsviii and is not related to the Mahayana and Vajrayana are clearly
indicating their lack of proper knowledge. They have not seen the following Mahayana
sutra passage:
Meat-eating is a diet that convolutes the three realms [of Samara]. It is a sword that
severs the potential for liberation. It is a fire that burns the seed of Buddhahood. It is a
shaft of lightning that ends rebirth in the higher realms or a precious human rebirth.
Since meat eating is not approved for anyone—not for monks, nuns or lay people—those
who are committed Buddhist practitioners should never eat meat. One who has taken the
Bodhisattva Vow will incur great sin in eating the flesh of sentient beings who were one’s
parents in past lives. Even in Vajrayana meat is forbidden until one attains the ultimate
view of pure perception.ix
Trulshig Pema Dudul, speaking of a pure vision, said:
Chapter 3 of Compassionate Action: The Teachings of Chatral Rinpoche by Zach Larson (ed.)
Shechen Publications, New Delhi, 2005. Published in PDF with permission of the author by Shabkar.Org – Amsterdam, 2006.
The Great Compassionate One [Avalokiteshvara] appeared in the sky ? in front of me and
spoke, “You have made some progress on the path and acquired some knowledge, yet
you are lacking in love and compassion. Compassion is the root of the Dharma and
with compassion it is impossible to eat meat. A person who eats meat will experience
much suffering and illness. Look at the miserable ones! Every one is experiencing
suffering according to their deeds…One who gives up meat will not experience this
suffering. Instead, the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas, the guru, deities and dakinis will
rejoice and protect you.”
Having heard this, he gave up meat forever.
Many more renowned adepts have condemned meat as a poisonous food. Machig Labdrön,
a legendary female practitioner of chöd,x said, "For me eating meat is out of the question. I
feel great compassion when I see helpless animals looking up with fearful eyes."
Rigzin Jigme Lingpa, a great yogi of the Nyingma tradition stated,
Just as in the story of Arya Katayana going to beg for food,xi I see that the animal that
this meat came from was our mother in previous lives. If so, can we eat the flesh of our
own mother who was slaughtered by butchers? Imagine how much concern would
arise! Therefore, if we reflect honestly, there is no way we won't feel compassion for the
Some people who claim to be practitioners say, "at least some meat and alcohol is necessary
to keep healthy, otherwise weakness or death might come about." This is not true. However,
even if death should follow from engaging in the Dharma practice of abstaining from meat
and alcohol, then it is worth it. As the great adept Tsele Rigzinxii said,
From the bottom of my heart I pray
Never to be with carnivores and drinkers.
In this and lives coming
May an ordained never be born where meat
And alcohol are used without morality.
Even if I should die
Due to the absence of meat and alcohol,
I will be living in accordance with the Buddha’s precepts.
Thus I will be a genuine practitioner!
Bodhisattva Jigme Chökyi Wangpo [Patrul Rinpoche] said,
As Buddhists we have taken the triple refuge [the Buddha, the Dharma and the
Sangha]. To take refuge in the Dharma, one must practice non-violence to sentient
beings. Thus, if we continue to eat meat—which has come from the slaughtering of
innocent animals—then is this not a contradiction of our Buddhist commitments?
Knowing all of the faults of meat and alcohol, I have made a commitment to give them up
in front of the great Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya with the Buddhas and Bodhisattvas of the ten
directions as my witnesses. I have also declared this moral to all my monasteries. Therefore,
anyone who listens to me is requested not to transgress this crucial aspect of Buddhist
ethical conduct.
(Revised from the translation of Geshe Thupten Phelgye and Aaron Gross.)
Chapter 3 of Compassionate Action: The Teachings of Chatral Rinpoche by Zach Larson (ed.)
Shechen Publications, New Delhi, 2005. Published in PDF with permission of the author by Shabkar.Org – Amsterdam, 2006.
i Lankavatara-sutra (Tib. lang kar gshegs pa'i mdo), Tohuku 107.
ii In Buddhist cosmology, there are six realms of samsaric existence, all marked by their own types of suffering. The god
realm is marked by laziness and subsequent lack of accumulated merit, which leads to the dread of descending into
lower realms at the end of their long and luxurious lives. The jealous gods (asuras) have a lush life, but are always
fighting out of envy. The human realm is marked by the suffering of birth, old age, sickness and death, the suffering
experienced when things change, suffering that compounds previous suffering and suffering resultant from prior
negative action. The animal realm is marked by ignorance; animals can’t speak to other species and so are easily
exploited by humans and are often in helpless or fearful situations. Hungry ghosts (pretas) have insatiable desire and
attachment and are described as having tiny mouths and huge bellies, causing them to be perpetually hungry and
thirsty. The sixth realm represents anger and hatred and includes eight types of hot hells, eight types of cold hells and
two additional types of hells. Chatral Rinpoche is referring to two types of hot hells—the boiling and burning hells.
iii Lankavatara Sutra.
iv Based on the line from the Lankavatara Sutra that says, “One who eats meat against the words of the Buddha is evilminded
[and is the] destroyer of the welfare of the two worlds.”
v Lankavatara Sutra.
vi Parinirvana refers to the Buddha’s physical passing from the human realm into the state of perfect Enlightenment.
vii “The four root principles” are refraining from sexual misconduct, killing, stealing, and lying.
viii The seven classes of vinaya vows are monk vows, nun vows, novice monk vows, novice nun vows, intermediate nun
vows, lay male vows and lay female vows.
ix An advanced yogi like Tilopa can liberate animals like fish by consuming their dead body parts. Another advanced
yogic practice is to eat that which is normally taboo, viewing it as pure nectar in its essence. Included in this are the “five
meats” of elephant, dog, cow, human and horsemeat and the “five nectars” of urine, feces, brains, blood and semen.
x Chöd means “cut” and is the practice for lessening ego and helping other beings by visualizing offering your body, cut
into various pieces and converted into pure nectar, as sustenance for the enlightened ones, the hungry ghosts, demons
and other sentient beings. It is historically practiced at a cemetery.
xi The lama Arya Katayana once visited a family on his begging rounds in which he could see through his
clairvoyance that the father of the husband living in the house—who had died a few years earlier—had been
reborn as a fish the family was now having for dinner. The dog of the house had been the husband’s mother
and their enemy had been reborn as their son. The husband’s step-mother was also at the table. Arya
Katayana was quoted as saying, “He eats his father’s flesh; he kicks his mother away. He dandles on his lap
the enemy that he killed. The wife is gnawing at her husband’s bones. I laugh to see what happens in
samsara’s show!” [Words of My Perfect Teacher (1994) p. 50]
xii Tsele Natsok Rangdrol (rTse le sNga tshogs Rang grol, 1608-?)