Aug 21, 2018

Posted by in BUDDHISM IN OTHER LANGUAGES | 16 Comments

“THREE KINDS OF PURE MEAT” (Đôi điều tự bạch về “Tam tịnh nhục”)


Reverend Guru,

I bow to the lotus feet of the Guru for your compassion with the article on “Mundane Party with Dharma Taste”. After recent Dharma trip, once again you have reasoned more profoundly on the issue of vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets of Buddhist practitioners. Relying on the Guru’s wisdom, I would like to express some viewpoints on this issue.

 In the past, I used to be wonder about vegetarianism mentioned in  Shurangama Sutra, Mahaparnivarna Sutra,… for whether or not it contradicts the conception on “be simple with food” (i.e eat whatever is given without preference and choice) in other practices that were also taught by the Buddha?

But if we look a little closer, there seems exist “contradiction” among Buddhist texts. At his first sermon, the Buddha taught about Four Noble Truths which include Dukkha (the truth of suffering), Samudaya (the truth of the origin of suffering), Nirodha (the truth of the end of suffering), and Magga (the truth of the path that frees us from suffering). But at the Assembly of Prajna, he said: “… there is no truth of suffering, of the cause of suffering, of the end of suffering, nor of the path. There is no wisdom, no attainment because there is nothing to be attained.” So what does that mean? Is there any contradiction or inconsistency?

For thousand years, the Buddha’s teachings have been examined, just like a gem that shows off its brightness through many times of being polished. Questions on such “inconsistency” in Buddhist canons will gradually become clear along with    the spiritual development of the practitioner or with conception of each school. For instance, a Chan practitioner will highlight “self-help practice” and deny the conception of “divinity support” of Pure Land school and vice versa. Nonetheless, there is no contradiction in the Buddha’s teachings but rather a harmony and consistency. Only one-sided standpoint that falls in this discrimination.

During the cultivation, the Buddha taught that a practitioner should not wish to be free from obstacles because without obstacles, he will have no opportunity to excel his mind. However, if he takes those obstacles as an excuse in discussion with others with win-lose attitude, he might face the “hindrance to enlightenment due to his own knowledge” for having no sincere wish to learn Dharma, given a teaching of the Buddha in the “Eight Great Causes of Enlightenment” Sutra that “a Bodhisattva should study and learn extensively to increase their wisdom and perfect their eloquence”. From this point on, vegetarian and non-vegetarian no more contradict between Buddhist schools or practitioners, provided that one should not intentionally be involved in direct killing or indirect killing through the door of body, speech and mind!
In chapter “Ten Unvirtuous Actions” of the Dakini Teachings, Guru Rinpoche defined the action of killing as: “The nature of killing action is to interrupt the continuity of life. There exist three forms of killing that are done by three poisons:

1/ Killing because of greed, which means slaughtering animals for their meat, skin, …

2/ Killing for anger, such as taking life from a person with cruel intention.

3/ Killing for delusion, which means unintentionally killing, just like a child killing a bird or an ant being crushed by human feet.

The action of killing is completed by four following factors:

1/ Initiating a thought that “I will do this evil action!”

 2/ Forming and putting efforts in committing this act

3/ Bringing efforts into real action and having experience from it.

4/ Ending the action with exciting attitude and without regret.”

The above teaching of Padmasambhava is similar to that of the Buddha who had advised bhikkhus to use “three kinds of pure meats”. The Buddha mentioned nothing about veganism or vegetarianism. Accordingly, those who eat “three kinds of pure meat” are neither considered to be lack of compassion nor committing “killing” precept as they are usually criticized under one-sided conception of Mahayana Buddhism in China, Vietnam, North Korea, Japan… . Buddhism should be perceived as a path of mind cultivation or transformation, not the cultivation of eating habit (food and drink). Furthermore, the Buddha taught on “how to eat” but not on “what to eat”, which he explained as “be simple with food”.

A practitioner can keep many precepts depending on the level of his spiritual development on the path of liberation, not just the precept of killing. Buddhism in the “Stage of Firm Liberation” and “Stage of Firm Meditation”, most of the bhikkhus kept “precepts on phenomenon or marks”; but in the stage of Bodhisattvayana, “precepts on nature or essence” were majorly observed in taking the way of the Bodhisattva. In this way, the selection of precepts for observation depends on the specific path of cultivation as long as practitioners do not intentionally break the precept which is seen as the core matter. So what is the core of Buddhism on the path of liberation? They are: PRECEPT-CONCENTRATION-WISDOM, RENUNCIATION, BODHICITTA AND EMPTINESS (SUNYATA).

Just a small illustration: if there is no vegetarian food around, we just sit there looking at those who eat meat with envious or scornful attitude, then we are far from being blessed but rather fall in the trap of arrogance for thinking we are more noble-minded or compassionate than them. On the contrary, we do not want to eat just because of lacking meat or fish in the meal, then our indulgence in five desires becomes a hindrance on the path of cultivation. This is the reason why the Buddha showed us the “middle path”. Guru has helped us to look straight into the essential nature of mind: “… it is clear that it is not what to eat but rather how to eat is the matter of liberation and this is one of four supreme virtues of a Buddhist practitioner that is taught by the Buddha, including (1) Be simple with food, (2) Be simple with the seat, (3) Be simple with medicines, and 94) Be simple with resting place. “Be simple” means equanimity and impartiality. This is the unique simplicity of Buddhism.”

On the other hand, Tu Phuc Hoa thinks that the “virtue” of a practitioner is the one that can help him practice “exorcism”, it is not the core of Buddhism. So what should this “virtue” be perceived? I would like to quote the teaching of Avalokiteshvara in a text written in 1949 after the return of Chagdud Tulku’s mother from the Pure Land:

 “Use three factors – RIGHT MINDFULNESS, DISCERNMENT AND CONCENTRATON – as water and fertilizer for virtue

Reflection on impermanence will increase virtue

Start to cultivate your virtue with limitless devotion

Faith and refuge in Dharma are the root of virtue

Infinite benevolence is the trunk of virtue

Aspiration and Action in Bodhicitta are heartwood of virtue

Six paramitas are branches and twigs of virtue

Rejoicing good deeds of others is the leaf of virtue

Four means of conversion to subdue the beings’ mind are flowers of virtue

And Emptiness bound with unequalled compassion is the fruit of virtue” (Great Vows of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva)

What we see in the vows of Avalokiteshvara is that he did not highlight “vegetarianism” as the stones that build “the house of virtue”!

Furthermore, if one says vegetarianism means compassion for not involving in killing, look that the job of a farmer or a gardener. They have to cultivate the land and spray chemicals to gain a bumper crop which means a countless number of insects would die! Never ever think that these insects are useless, thus must be killed. This is the natural law of strength and power because the earth is the common house of every sentient beings, not of anyone’s own! Then a bowl of rice (vegetarian food) will be made from farmer’s labor and the death of countless number of insects. On the other hand, followers that give donations pagodas and monasteries are not only farmers but also traders (even fraudsters), butchers, etc. In fact, many slaughterhouse owners use money gained from slaughtering animals to offer pagodas and monasteries with a hope to “transform” them into vegetarian meals for monks or for other purposes. In this case, the blood and fleshes of sentient beings have already been contained in each bowl of rice!

This is an inevitable reality in this Saha world that only not to be born in this world, can one “avoid” it. As the result, highlighting the “purity” of a vegetarian while belittling the “impurity” of a non-vegetarian is just the way of “looking at the tip of the iceberg”. It’s not by chance the Buddha rejected Devadatta’s request to incorporate vegetarianism into the Vianaya, forest-dwelling, wearing only rags… (Here, may the Buddha contradict himself on what he had taught in Shurangama sutra, Lankavatara sutra, Mahaparinirvana sutra…? The answer is as clear as crystal: it’s definitely not a contradiction but this is the “middle path”). Nevertheless, it doesn’t matter if one has vegetarian diet for hobby or health.

Eating meat but not attach to it, “do not kill nor ask to kill” (Dharmapada sutra), is the spirit of “middle path” in the cause of cultivation. It is also the spirit in “taking the life of the Bodhisattva” followed by Mahayana practitioners in general and by Tantrayana ones in particular. Of course they should avoid ten kinds of meat that the Buddha warned not to have such as tiger, dog, snake, turtle, elephant, horse, etc. It is unacceptable if a Bodhisattva is on the way of practicing Four Elements of Popularity (Generosity, Kind Speech, Beneficial Action, Engaging Others in the Same Work) but he cannot associate with sentient beings merely through food, let alone doing other important affairs? I am afraid this discriminatory attitude will be a big obstacle in the path of cultivation. A Buddhist practitioner should overcome this obstacle to gain equanimity in Dharma practice as well as to benefit himself and others.

May all sentient beings attain happiness of the Buddha’s nature.

Om Ah Hum

April 11, 2014

Disciple Mat Kien – Thinley Nguyen Thanh

Translated by Mat Hue Phap

Vietnamese version: “DÙNG TAM TỊNH NHỤC”: đôi điều tự bạch

  1. Tantra amishuta says:
    This was an excellent article thank you for sharing om mami padme hum
  2. tantra mahavita says:
    Dear Holy Guru : I incline at the feet of the Lotus of the Guru for your compassion and inmensurable kindness. Many thanks for sharing this excellent article so enlighteming regarding the consumption of food. May our Guru have hapiness and long life for the benefit of all sentient beings .May all find the happiness of Budhha Nature …OM MANI PADME HUM
    • Kính bạch Thầy!

      Con xin phép được dịch comment của đạo hữu Tantra Mahavita sang tiếng Việt như sau:

      “Kính bạch Thầy tâm linh tôn quý!

      Con xin cúi đầu đảnh lễ dưới chân sen của Thầy vì bồ đề tâm của Thầy.

      Con cảm tạ ơn Thầy vì Thầy đã cho con được đọc bài viết tuyệt vời này, giúp con hiểu rõ về việc thọ dụng thực phẩm, dùng tam tịnh nhục.

      Con cầu nguyện Thầy thân tâm an tịnh, trụ thế lâu dài vì sự lợi lạc của tất cả chúng sanh.

      Cầu nguyện tất cả chúng sanh thành tựu hạnh phúc của Phật tánh.

      Om Mani Padme Hum.”

  3. Kính Bạch Thầy.

    Con hoan hỷ tán thán thiện hạnh của đạo huynh Mật Huệ Pháp đã chuyển ngữ bài viết của Thầy sang tiếng Anh, nhằm giúp cho chúng sanh hữu tình ở nước ngoài được tiếp cận với ánh sáng chánh pháp của Đức Phật ngang qua những bài viết trên tại Mật gia song Nguyễn và được cơ hội làm học trò của vị Thầy Mật giáo trên con đường giải thoát.

    Con cầu nguyện cho sức khỏe và sự trường thọ của Thầy Cô vì hạnh phúc của chúng sanh.

    Cầu mong cho tất cả chúng sanh uống được tinh túy cam lồ.

    Om Mani Padme Hum .

  4. Salvatore Antonio Fois says:

    Venerebol Guru.

    My name is tantra siramitra.

    I read the article, and i did like it.

    But out of my ignorance i don’t see the contradiction in the four Noble truths

    Taking the teachings by the letter, or comparing to the prajana teachings.

    May Avery one be happy.


    • Kính bạch Thầy!

      Con xin phép được dịch comment của đạo hữu Tantra Siramitra (Salvatore Antonio Fois) sang tiếng Việt như sau:

      “Kính bạch Thầy tâm linh tôn quý!

      Con là Tantra Siramitra.

      Con đã đọc bài viết này rồi. Con rất hoan hỷ với bài viết này.

      Con thấy rằng việc dùng tam tịnh nhục không hềđi trái với lời dạy của đức Phật trong Tứ Diệu Đế, không hề đi trái với lời dạy lấy trí tuệ làm đầu.

      Cầu nguyện tất cả chúng sanh được hạnh phúc.

      Om Mani Padme Hum.”


    • Nguyên Thành says:

      Your comment is good. 

      Buddhist practitioners should take solely wisdom as career.

  5. Salvatore Antonio Fois says:

    Venerebol Guru.

    My name is tantra siramitra.

    Thank you for your response, it is very much appreciated Venerebol.

    May Avery one be happy.


  6. Mật Nhất Nguyên (Lê Duy Trí) says:

    Dear holy Guru,

    I would like to express my gratitude to the Guru and Dharma brother Mat Kien for this wonderful article, “Three kinds of pure meat.” To my understanding after reading this article, it is clear that (1) non-vegetarian is not a violation of Buddhist precept or implying “impurity” and (2) vegetarian is not a practice to build our virtue.

    (1) Non-vegetarian is not a violation of Buddhist precept or implying “impurity” because the Buddha has never taught “what to eat” but “how to eat” – “Be simple with food” instead. “Being simple” also carries the spirit of the “middle path” (not falling into any extreme, completely abstain or desire to eat meat). On the other hand, there is no contradiction between Buddhist schools regarding this issue because the practitioners of different Buddhist traditions can always keep the precept of “killing” following these conditions:

    “The nature of killing action is to interrupt the continuity of life. There exist three forms of killing that are done by three poisons:
    1/ Killing because of greed, which means slaughtering animals for their meat, skin, …
    2/ Killing for anger, such as taking life from a person with cruel intention.
    3/ Killing for delusion, which means unintentionally killing, just like a child killing a bird or an ant being crushed by human feet.

    The action of killing is completed by four following factors:
    1/ Initiating a thought that “I will do this evil action!”
    2/ Forming and putting efforts in committing this act
    3/ Bringing efforts into real action and having experience from it.
    4/ Ending the action with exciting attitude and without regret.”

    (2) Vegetarian is not a practice to build our virtue because in the “Great Vows of Avalokiteshvara Bodhisattva”, our virtues are built on other factors such as “right mindfulness, discernment and concentration”, “refection on impermanence”, etc. but not the food we eat. Vegetarianism is also not helping other beings from being killed in the process of making our food because nowadays, vegetables are grown on pesticides with the death of billions of insects. This is cause by a simple fact that this world is full of sufferings.

    I delight by these understandings about vegetarianism in Buddhism thanks to the Guru and Dharma brother Mat Kien. I delight for not having to worry about my diet being an obstacle to my practice since I am not cooking for myself and a majority of my relatives do not want a complete vegetarian diet. Now every time eating , I think about it as away for me to practice the spirit of “taking the life of the Bodhisattva” and the spirit of “middle path” which will bring me closer to liberation for me, the animals that are dying everyday, as well as all sentient beings. Thank you for this wonderful article. May the Guru and his consort have a good health and live long for the benefit of all sentient beings.

    I also rejoice the good deeds of Dharma brother Mat Hue Phap for this wonderful translation. May dharma brother Mat Kien and Mat Hue Phap achieve all rightful wishes.

    May all sentient beings tighten the root of goodness.

    Om Mani Padme Hum.



  7. Elana Dower says:

    Thank you Guru for sharing this.

    It is such an interesting article. Do I understand correctly that it is the intention with which an animal is slaughtered and eaten that defines whether or not it is acceptable?

    For example a farmer slaughters one goat to feed her family that is acceptable but if she slaughters 3 to show off and make her neighbors jealous is it not acceptable?

    If the slaughtering of an animal is not in vain then it is ok?

    Om Mani Padme Hum

  8. Ahmed Khan says:

    Dear Guru,

    Thank you for sharing this excellent article.

    In this article you explain the Buddhist view of eating non-vegetarian food.

    May all sentient beings become enlightened.

    Om Mani Padme Hum

  9. Mô Phật.

    Mật Diễm hoan hỷ với thiện hạnh dịch bài của đạo huynh Mật Huệ Pháp đã dịch bài viết Thầy sang tiếng Anh . Ngõ hầu giúp cho các bạn đọc nước ngoài hữu duyên  với ngôn ngữ này có cơ hội tiếp cận với bộ môn yoga Thanh Trí thông qua kênh vận chuyển vị Thầy giúp cho bản thân nâng cao được sức khoẻ tin thần, thể chất tâm linh và có được cuộc sống an lạc đời này cực lạc đời sau.

    Cầu nguyện cho ước nguyện chính đáng của huynh sớm được viên thành.

    Con cầu nguyện sức khỏe và sự trường thọ Thầy Cô vì lợi lạc chúng sanh.

    Cầu nguyện cho ng đuốc trí huệ được thắp sáng muôn nơi thông qua kênh vận chuyển vị Thầy.


  10. Tantra Upatissa says:

    Dear Guru thanks for sharing this article.

    I understand eating habits should not become an obstacle for one’s liberation.

    Whatever food we get to eat, should be eaten with right mindfulness.

    I think the main cause of vegetarian food is to cause minimum harm to other beings indirectly.

    May Guru and his consort live long and protected and get enlightened.

    May all disciples of Guru and other beings in all the directions of world be free from suffering and get enlightened.

    Om Mani Padme Hum..

  11. mô Phật !

    Mật thúy rất hoan hỉ với thiện hạnh dịch bài viết của vị Thầy sang tiếng Anh của huynh Mật Huệ Pháp cầu nguyện cho huynh luôn tin tấn thực hành pháp để được tha lực hộ trì cầu mông tất cả chúng sanh luôn có duyên lành biết đến chánh pháp OM ah hum.


  12. Tantra Mikaya says:
    The conscious use of food is for us Buddhists of central importance for a well-run Buddhist life. As with other religions, our food and drink are aimed at more than mere food intake and the preservation of physical existence. Food and drink are rather spiritual and social aspects. In many cases, the common consumption of food and drink symbolizes the togetherness of the Sangha and ensures the continuity and exchange of the Dharma as a social institution. Also, we should give our food, comprehensive mindfulness and train ourselves in our everyday behavior to transform the religious exercise. We should only eat when we are hungry and not wasteful with food. I read that even the Buddha ate meat and back as we should not eat meat except 10 varieties such as dog, horse, human, elephant, leopard, snake, lion, tiger, hyena and bear. If this is correct I do not know holy guru myself. I can only emphasize that I have read this. I ate myself earlier without being aware of it. Today as a Buddhist I avoid eating meat with the awareness of the suffering of the animals and I feel very well. Thanks to your wise article holy guru, I have acquired more knowledge and live more attentively. I bow to you and hope that you too are in good health. May all beings achieve the happiness of Buddha’s nature. OM MANI PADME HUM
  13. Aman prakash says:
    Dear guru

    Budha used to say” no work is bad unless what your intention are ” .

    I think eating veg is best option to avoid more harm to other beings.

    Hank you

    Om Mani padme hum.


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