#1 Are Buddhists Vegan?
No, not all Buddhists are vegan, but many do support a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle. There is not direct rule that cites that Buddhists must be vegan; however, Buddhists do aim to avoid harming living and sentient beings.
With different schools of thought regarding this issue, many Buddhists are passionate about their vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, significantly due to the fact that the Buddha recommended to ‘not eat the flesh,’ of conscious entities.
Generally, Buddhists will interpret this text from Buddha’s Sutras by following a lacto-vegetarian diet (the most common diet for Buddhists).
Lacto-vegetarian diets exclude eggs, fish, and meat but condone the use of dairy products, such as milk.
Contrarily, other Buddhists do not mind eating meat and consume animal products so long as they are slaughtered ethically. Some Buddhists would argue in return that there is no form of slaughter that can be labeled as ethical.
Conclusively, some Buddhist texts forbid meat, while others do not. There is no equivocal or unanimous answer, but you would not find a devoted Buddhist that would hunt recreationally or kill for sport because it goes against everything they stand for.
- “Meat-eating is condemned by the Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, and Sravakas; if one devours meat out of shamelessness he will always be devoid of sense.” “Therefore, do not eat meat which will cause terror among people, because it hinders the truth of emancipation; not to eat meat: this is the mark of the wise.” – Elated.co.za – Buddhist Quotes.
- Do You Need to be a Vegetarian to be a Buddhist? Dharma Gate Zen; February 21st, 2018.
#2 Are Buddhists Atheists?
There are numerous ways to identify Buddhism:
- Agnostic Buddhism
- Atheistic Buddhism
- Buddhist Secularism
- Pragmatic Buddhism
But ultimately – Buddhism is not a theistic faith, and therefore, cannot technically be atheistic.
One may argue that Buddhists are atheistic because they do not believe in a God, but fundamentally, Buddhism is not a religion. The Buddha himself rejected the speculation of metaphysical entities while still not denying the existence of possible Gods.
Being that Buddhism is more of a philosophy, culture, and way of life (rather than a religion), it is difficult to argue that Buddhists are atheistic. Because of this, a person could be an atheist and simultaneously be a Buddhist (as it does not follow theological principles). Surprisingly, it is more difficult to argue it the other way around.
- Is Buddhism Atheist? Doug’s Dharma; May 22nd, 2017 (Director at SecularBuddhism.org)
#3 Why Do Buddhists Meditate?
The Buddha said, “Inward calm cannot be maintained unless physical strength is constantly and intelligently replenished.” Because of this, many Buddhists will meditate daily, especially Buddhist monks.
The reasons why Buddhists meditate – include but are not limited to:
- To reach the state of nirvana, which means no more suffering
- In order to liberate the heart from anxiety or fear
- To release the past
- To secure themselves in the present moment, all that is real
- To practice self-discipline
- To clear the mind
- To filter impure thoughts outwards (feelings of hatred and ignorance)
- To immerse yourself in yourself
- To become one with the universe
- To train the mind to release earth-bound pains
- To watch their own minds
- To take control of their wandering thoughts
- To still the mind
- Why Do Buddhists Meditate – The Buddhists Society; December 20th, 2019.
#4 Why Do Buddhists Chant?
Similar to meditation, chanting is a repetitive practice of repeating the same word, phrase, or mantra to keep the mind focused. Instead of doing this in silence (as with meditation), a chant is a vocalized expression of this focus, utilizing patterns of speech to calm your mind and soul.
The reasons why Buddhists chant include but are not limited to the following reasons:
- To self-heal
- To calm the soul
- To decrease anxiety
- To minimize depressive symptoms in the body that get trapped in chakras/muscles/etc.
- To open up the chakras
- To bring one into the body, out of the head
- To pinpoint a particular beginning and end
- To improve listening skills
- To heighten their energy
- To unify a group of chanting Buddhists
- To increase one’s sensitivity to others
- To embody a divine energy
- To find the present moment, releasing the past or future
- To discover liberation
- To highlight that sound is more significant than meaning (meanings being of the mind)
- To reach nirvana, (inner-peace)
Timesofindia.indiatimes.com describes that:
“Chanting Om can also help you to improve your immunity system and self-healing power. A good and strong immune system can save you from many diseases. Chanting Om can give you relief from sinus problems. When you chant Om, a vibration sound felt through your vocal cord that clears and opens up the sinuses.”
- The Neurological Correlations of Religious Chanting states: ‘Using multi-modal electrophysiological and neuroimaging methods, we illustrate that during religious chanting, the posterior cingulate cortex shows the largest decrease in eigenvector centrality, potentially due to regional endogenous generation of delta oscillations. Our data show that these functional effects are not due to peripheral cardiac or respiratory activity, nor due to implicit language processing. Finally, we suggest that the neurophysiological correlates of religious chanting are likely different from those of meditation and prayer and would possibly induce distinctive psychotherapeutic effects.’
- Isha.sadhguru.org – Mantra Benefits; Sadhguru, July 21st, 2020.
#5 Why Do Buddhist Monks Shave Their Heads?
There are many reasons why Monks shave their heads, some of which include:
- Some argue that Buddha shaved his head after achieving enlightenment (this is difficult to prove since the Buddha’s existence predates the birth of Christ by six centuries).
- To renounce the five desires
- To eliminate the temptation of being sexualized or appearing attractive to others
- To save time (not grooming, trimming, or regarding their appearance)
- To eliminate vanity
- To renounce the ego
- To respect part of pabbajja (ordination into monkhood)
- To show support to the faith
- To release worldly customs or self-esteem
- “It is true, Lord.” The Awakened One, the Lord rebuked them, saying: “It is not fitting, monks, in these foolish men, it is not becoming, it is not proper, it is unworthy of a recluse, it is not allowable, it is not to be done. How, monks, can these foolish men wear their hair long? It is not, monks, for pleasing those who are not yet pleased, nor for increasing the number of those who are pleased, but it is, monks, for displeasing those who are not yet pleased as well as those who are pleased, and for causing wavering in some.” Having rebuked them, having given reasoned talk, he addressed the monks, saying: “Monks, long hair should not be worn. Whoever should wear it long, there is an offence of wrong-doing. I allow it to be of a two months’ growth or two finger-breadths in length.” Culla Vagga, 15.2.2 Suttacentral.net.
- Why Do Monks and Nuns Have to Shave Their Heads? Master Sheng Yen; February 21st, 2016.
#6 Why Buddhists Cannot Eat Garlic?
Many Buddhists reject the five most pungent vegetables from their diet:
- Green onions
The reasons why Buddhists avoid garlic are:
- The Buddha instructed them to
- The Buddha said these negatively affect the body
- When cooked, they can release and produce bodily hormones that impact the body
- When eaten raw, they may impact the liver, causing irritation
- Buddha said to avoid food that causes ‘excitement’
- Garlic makes one smell strongly and increases noticeable body odor
- It contains allicin, which can release CO2 in the bloodstream, expanding the blood vessels for arousal
- Garlic can result in enhanced libido, incites sexual temptation that chaste monks evade
Garlic is allowed in certain Buddhist cultures (such as the Theravāda culture), while others only avoid the pungent vegetables on observation days.
- “According to Vinaya Pitaka, a Buddhist scripture, one of the three parts that make up the Tripitaka, there are five plant families that are avoided in the meal offering to the triple jewels (* Buddha, Dharma – the teaching, Sangha – monks and nuns). Those five plants are garlic 大蒜, onion 革蔥, chives 蘭蔥, Chinese bellflower 慈蔥, Barnardia japonica 興蕖.In the scripture, the strong odor of those plants attract bad ghosts and increase sexual desire, anger energy and appetite.” – Chanmeditation.net.
- Why Onions, Garlics, and Leeks are Seen as Non-Vegetarian Foods (Master Sheng Yen); December 24th, 2012.
#7 Why Do Buddhists Cremate Their Dead?
Buddhists have unique approaches to the afterlife and funeral preparations.
Some of the reasons that Buddhists would seek to cremate their dead are:
- The Buddha himself was said to be cremated
- They view cremation as the ideal means for activating the next cycle of incarnation
- Buddhists believe that the fire releases the soul from physical form
- To scatter the remains freely instead of burying
- In some cases, it may be more affordable
- In some cases, there may not be land for a burial
- If the body is reincarnated (following Buddhist belief), one will receive a new body, not needing the old one anymore
- Buddhists do not believe in the resurrection as with some Christian denominations, so the body does not need to be in-tact for any resurgence or rebirth
- Prepaidfuneralreview.co.uk – The Buddhist View of Death; Yuttadhammo Bhikkhu; July 11th, 2013.
#8 Why Are Buddhists Vegetarian?
Not all Buddhists are vegetarian, but in the cases that they do follow a cruelty-free diet, the justifications for this decision are often due to the following reasons:
- The Buddha commands it in a Sutra to abstain from ‘eating the flesh of any sentient being.’
- To avoid harming living things
- To not murder
- To honor their history that dates back to 4th and 5th century B.C.
- To be spiritually awakened
Despite this, some Buddhists will consume meat if it is ethically sourced or killed for non-recreational purposes with good intention.
- The Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics tells: “Buddhists’ dietary practices are varied. While many Buddhists are vegetarian, it is inaccurate to assume all are. Whether a Buddhist is vegetarian depends on individual choice, the sect to which they belong, or the country they’re from. For example, vegetarianism is rare among Tibetan and Japanese Buddhists. Some may abstain from meat and eat only fish.”
- Enthusiasticbuddhist.com – Are Buddhists Vegetarian or Vegan?; August 3rd, 2014.
#9 Why Do Buddhists Not Believe in God?
Buddhists are on a spiritual journey that is very distinct from the Christian journey. While Christians are seeking salvation in the pearly gates of heaven, in the company of God (also referred to as Jesus Christ, who is sometimes called ‘the Son’ or ‘God’ himself), Buddhists are only seeking to reach a peaceful state of nirvana in this life.
Essentially, Christians are focused on the goals for their afterlife, while Buddhists are focused on their present life. On a quest for enlightenment, Buddhists do not have a God, and they are not considered a theistic religion.
With no omnipotent or all-powerful deity – it can be argued that Buddhism is less of a religion and more of a lifestyle. Rooted in the spirituality of all things, a Buddhist may argue that all things are God (the tree, the worm, the person), seeing the sacredness of all sentient beings.
The summarized reasons for why Buddhists don’t believe in God are:
- They find the notion unnecessary
- Some view it as a reflection of human ignorance, a weakness to rely on a divine overlord for moral direction
- They respect and honor the Buddha but do not view him as a God and do not worship him
- The Buddha allegedly said, “there is no God”
- Buddhist philosophers have argued that an eternal God is a distraction from enlightenment
Because of these rationales, there are those that consider themselves Buddhist while remaining atheistic.
- “This world, Kaccana, for the most part depends upon a duality—upon the notion of existence and the notion of nonexistence. But for one who sees the origin of the world as it really is with correct wisdom, there is no notion of nonexistence in regard to the world. And for one who sees the cessation of the world as it really is with correct wisdom, there is no notion of existence in regard to the world. “ SN 12.15
- Do Buddhists Believe in God?; Lama Jampa Thaye; June 22nd, 2019.
#10 Why Do Buddhists Not Eat Beef?
The principal rule of a serious Buddhist is to not harm any living, cognizant, or sentient being. For this reason alone, one may think ‘Buddhists cannot eat meat,’ however, not all Buddhists are vegetarian.
With the most popular diet of a Buddhist being Lacto-vegetarianism, this means that they can still consume certain dairy products. It is also common for Buddhists to be full-blown vegetarian or vegans.
The Lankavatara Sutra (scriptures from the Buddha) states:
“Since all sentient beings are equal to me as my only son, how can I approve my followers to eat the flesh of my son? Eating meat to me is out of the question. I have never approved, I am not, and I will never approve that – I have strictly condemned eating meat in every way.”
If a person does not eat beef, meat, or other animal-byproducts, the reasons would be:
- To save sentient life
- To not harm living things
- To live as the Buddha says in the Lankavatara Sutra
- To avoid suffering
- To keep the body pure
- To respect that all life is precious
- To create positive karma
- To reject normative cultural pursuits
- To practice the discipline of not indulging the senses
Outside of this, there are still Buddhists that do eat meat. It is not exceedingly-common, but nonetheless, you will find the occasional Buddhist that would consume beef under the following conditions:
- The animal is slaughtered ethically
- The animal does not suffer in death
- The death is justified and meaningful, for the nourishment of that Buddhist, taken with gratitude and honor for the living thing’s sacrifice
If a Buddhist witnessed the death of the animal, they are recommended to avoid consuming that meat.
- Universalcompassion.org – Do Buddhists Eat Meat?; “The Unfortunate Part of the Controversy Is: It’s hard to change your lifestyle, it’s hard to sacrifice temptation of the taste of meat, but the monks and nuns who are supposed to be renounced of worldly pursuits, rise above the ordinary lifestyle to practice what Buddha taught, but……The very unfortunate part in this whole controversy is the cheap excuses people make in eating them, such as we don’t butcher the animal; we just buy the meat.
People often misinterpret Buddha’s words in trying to justify their actions, one of which is this: Buddha said: Replying to a question, if you are really hungry and found a dead animal, you can eat that in order to survive, but even in there, he put three conditions to make sure the animal is not killed for consumption, and three conditions are: you have not seen that killing for consumption, not heard and have no doubt if it was killed for consumption. People often misinterpret this as approval of meat eating.
Some even misinterpret the precious alms tradition of the monks and nuns, in justifying meat eating, by saying you respectfully eat what is offered.”
- Universalcompassion.org – Do Buddhists Eat Meat?; February 15th, 2018.
#11 Why Do Buddhists Burn Incense?
Incense are frequently burned in Buddhist shrines, temples, and homes. As a spiritual conduit for personal intentions, these burning sticks are seen as highly spiritual and valuable.
One may view them as mere candle-like accessories, but they are much more significant to the Buddhists. The reasons why Buddhists use incense for meditation are due to the following reasons:
- To honor the Triratna (the triple gem and pillars of the faith, ‘The Buddha, The Dharma, and The Sangha)’
- To support one’s breath
- To clear the space of negative energy
- To enhance the ritualistic aspects of meditation
- To purify the room
- To create a tranquil ambiance and peaceful mood
Buddha weekly takes this a step further by describing the medical impacts of burning incense, writing:
“An international team of scientists, including researchers from Johns Hopkins University and the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, describe how burning frankincense (resin from the Boswellia plant) activates poorly understood ion channels in the brain to alleviate anxiety or depression. This suggests that an entirely new class of depression and anxiety drugs might be right under our noses.”
Scientifically-supported theories and studies on the benefits of incense and specific odors include:
- “Smells inhibit and excite cells in the olfactory area of the brain creating changes in the brain.” – The Health Benefits of Incense
- Lavender, sandalwood, cedar, and other essential oils are known for relieving stress and harboring anti-depressive effects
- It activates parts of the brain that alleviate anxiety – Source: Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
- Nstmyosenji.org – Use of Incense; Nichiren Shoshu Myosenji Buddhist Temple; May 19th, 2011.