The Biggest Buddhist Myth You’ve Heard

Buddha Belly

Since the beginning of the Buddhist monastic order, the rules of food were strict.
Monks and nuns alike were not allowed to grow or store their own food.
Instead, they could only eat if they were given alms.
It didn’t matter if the food was good or not, or even if it was rotten or not, it didn’t matter; it was to accepted with gratitude.
Buddha even forbade them to ask for anything that they preferred to eat.
They were to eat only what commoners ate- which turns out, also included meat.

The Buddhist Hollywood Myth
Surprised?
I know I was when I first found out!
I had thought that all Buddhists were vegetarian- but that is a myth created by Hollywood. After all, when’s the last time you saw or heard of any Buddhist eating meat in pop culture?
Buddha was a realist; he understood that not everyone was going to be making vegetarian food, and the principle of accepting charity was more important.
He laid down a very specific rule in this regard:
“Monks, I allow you fish and meat that are quite pure in three respects: if they are not seen, heard or suspected to have been killed on purpose for a monk. But, you should not knowingly make use of meat killed on purpose for you.”
That is, if a monk or nun receives meat in alms, they should accept it provided that animal was not specifically killed for them.

Did the Buddha Eat Meat?

Buddha lived under the same rules that all the other monastics did.
He owned nothing, including food.
Living in a culture that valued meat and prized it as an important part of honoring guests, Buddha would have most definitely eaten meat.
And while there are not specific stories that relate Buddha eating meat, we can infer that he did.

So while Buddha may have preferred to be a vegetarian, and so did his monastics, they put the principle of acceptance and humility before their own desires.

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