Buddha in the Anguttara Nikaya 3.38 Sukhamala Sutta, describes his family being wealthy enough to provide non-vegetarian meals even to his servants. After becoming Buddha, he accepted any food offered with respect as alms, including meat, but there is no reference of him eating meat during his seven years as an ascetic.
On one occasion, according to the scriptures, a general sent a servant to purchase meat specifically to feed the Buddha. The Buddha declared that... meat should not be eaten under three circumstances: when it is seen or heard or suspected (that a living being has been purposely slaughtered for the eater); these, Jivaka, are the three circumstances in which meat should not be eaten, Jivaka! I declare there are three circumstances in which meat can be eaten: when it is not seen or heard or suspected (that a living being has not been purposely slaughtered for the eater); Jivaka, I say these are the three circumstances in which meat can be eaten. —Jivaka Sutta, MN 55
Also in the Jivaka Sutta, Buddha instructs a monk or nun to accept, without any discrimination, whatever food is offered in receiving alms offered with good will, including meat, whereas the Buddha declares the meat trade to be wrong livelihood in the Vanijja Sutta, AN 5:177Monks, a lay follower should not engage in five types of business. Which five? Business in weapons, business in human beings, business in meat, business in intoxicants, and business in poison. These are the five types of business that a lay follower should not engage in.
But this is not, strictly speaking, a dietary rule. The Buddha, on one particular occasion, specifically refused suggestions by Devadatta to institute vegetarianism in the Sangha.
In the Amagandha Sutta in the Sutta Nipata, a vegetarian Brahmin confronts Kassapa Buddha (a previous Buddha before Gautama Buddha) in regard to the evil of eating meat. The Buddha countered the argument by listing acts which cause real moral defilement and then at the end of the verse, he emphasized that the consumption of meat is not equivalent to those acts. ("... this is the stench giving defilement, not the consumption of meat").
- "aking life, beating, wounding, binding, stealing, lying, deceiving, worthless knowledge, adultery; this is stench. Not the eating of meat." (Amagandha Sutta).
There were monastic guidelines prohibiting consumption of 10 types of meat: that of humans, elephants, horses, dogs, snakes, lions, tigers, leopards, bears and hyenas. This is because these animals can be provoked by the smell of the flesh of their own kind, or because eating of such flesh would generate a bad reputation for the Sangha.
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