Are Buddhists Vegetarian or Vegan?

As a Buddhist, a question I often get asked is: Are Buddhists vegetarian? Given the Buddhist teachings focus on compassion and non-violence, it’s not a surprise that many people think all Buddhists must therefore be vegetarian or vegan.

In this video, I explore what the Buddha said about eating meat and how his teachings have affected the landscape of vegetarianism within different Buddhist traditions today. I also discuss healthy attitudes we can embody if we are vegetarian or vegan, and I look at ways we might incorporate the Buddhist teachings of compassion into our eating habits whether we are exclusively vegetarian or not.

Suggested Reading:
To Eat Or Not To Eat Meat is a comprehensive piece of writing by Venerable S.Dhammika that examines what the Buddha said about eating meat and how it relates to the wider framework of the Buddha’s teachings.

A nice blog post by Bhikkhu Sujato, Why Buddhists Should be Vegetarian, also examines the Buddha’s teachings and how they might be applied today.

I enjoyed reading Do We Have A Choice?, a little book put together by Chan Kah Yein. In her third chapter she presents some interesting comparisons between us and carnivores and considers whether humans have naturally evolved to become carnivores or omnivores.

In, Taking A Stand, Venerable Abhinaya tells us in less than six pages why we shouldn’t fall for the age-old excuses for eating meat which are often expounded by followers of the Theravada tradition in particular.

Another worthwhile read comes from Roshi Philip Kapleau, To Cherish All Life, where he talks about his own journey into vegetarianism after questioning the meat-eating habits of the Japanese Zen Buddhists. Of particular interest to some people may be page 92 onwards which explores the feared protein or other deficiencies we might experience on a vegetarian diet.

Also see Easy Vegetarian Meals for Aspiring Vegetarian Buddhists


Copyright notice: if you wish to reproduce the Buddha’s quote in this video please be aware of the copyright notice from the Access to Insight website.

©1985 Buddhist Publication Society. You may copy, reformat, reprint, republish, and redistribute this work in any medium whatsoever, provided that: (1) you only make such copies, etc. available free of chargeand, in the case of reprinting, only in quantities of no more than 50 copies; (2) you clearly indicate that any derivatives of this work (including translations) are derived from this source document; and (3) you include the full text of this license in any copies or derivatives of this work. Otherwise, all rights reserved. Documents linked from this page may be subject to other restrictions. From The Dhammapada: The Buddha’s Path of Wisdom, translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita, with an Introduction by Bhikkhu Bodhi (Kandy: Buddhist Publication Society, 1985). Transcribed from the print edition in 1996 by a volunteer under the auspices of the DharmaNet Transcription Project, with the kind permission of the BPS. Last revised for Access to Insight on 30 November 2013. How to cite this document (a suggested style): “Dandavagga: Violence” (Dhp X), translated from the Pali by Acharya Buddharakkhita. Access to Insight (Legacy Edition), 30 November 2013,


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