QUESTIONS AND ANSWERSSubject: Is BEEF forbidden for Theravada Buddhists to be included in their daily meals?
Date: Tue, 30 Jun 2026 17:48:26 +0800
From: Jeremy Pascal Neo
I would like to know if BEEF forbidden for Theravada Buddhists to be included in their daily meals?
Jeremy, firstly, above all, life is of the greatest value since everyone in their normal mentally wholesome state value life. Understandably, there are many teachings in Buddhism such as the Five Precepts, which advise followers to keep to the rule of respecting life.
Meat eating is not wrong in itself, but directly or indirectly, the meat comes from living beings. To invoke a theoretical case where a healthy dead animal (say a chicken or deer) is found, there is nothing wrong in taking this meat for food. However, for a renunciate (monk or nun), the meat of forest animals are prohibited, since there was a time when renunciates lived in the forest. Even today, Buddhists sometimes go to secluded areas and forests for meditation retreats. So it is good to respect wild animals.
Meat is pure for Therav‚da renunciates as long as they do not see, hear or suspect the killing has been done specially for them. In short, a monk or nun would only accept ďavailable meatĒ. They cannot choose their diet since they live on alms, but they can turn down an offering on moral grounds.
As regards BEEF, this is peculiar to Chinese Mah‚y‚na Buddhists. It is possible that there is an influence of Hinduism here, but it is more likely due to Chinese respect for a loyal and industrious animal that serves them to plough the field, to bear burden, as means of transport, and so on. So, out of respect they do not consume its meat. Moreover, it is a large animal that can show its suffering.
Diet is not measure of one's spirituality. Hitler (who caused millions to die in World War II) was a vegetarian. If taking vegetables makes one spiritual, then cows and goats would overpopulate heaven. (Conversely, if people could be baptized out of their sins then fishes and whales would overpopulate heaven.) Ultimately, we must respect life and living beings, that is, to say this begins by being kind to those near and dear to us, and the world of living beings (the environment).
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