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Buddha: One Must Cut Off Killing

The following is an excerpt from the Shurangama Sutra, a discourse given by Buddha. It may be noted that Buddha is known as the Compassionate One; the Lord of Compassion and other titles that use the term “Compassion”.

Here in this Sutra, Ananda, Buddha’s favored disciple, asks how one can distinct from false teachings (false prophets) which may crop up in future times after the Buddha has transcended. He asks the Buddha what commandments may be recognized as certain to liberate one from the cyclic wheel of transmigration — true liberation/salvation.


Ananda, if living beings in the six worlds of existence cease to kill they will not be subject to the continual round of births and deaths. Your practice of samadhi should free you from defilements, but if you do not renounce your murderous thoughts, your defilements cannot be eliminated.

You may acquire some wisdom but if you fail to stop killing, when dhyàna manifests, you will fall into the way of spirits. At best, a person will become a mighty ghost; on the average, one will become a flying yaksha, a ghost leader, or the like; at the lowest level, one will become an earth-bound rakshasa.

These ghosts and spirits have their groups of disciples. Each boasts of himself that he has accomplished the Unsurpassed Way.

After my nirvana, in the Dharma-ending Age, these hordes of ghosts and spirits will abound, spreading like wildfire as they argue that eating meat will bring one to the Bodhi Way.

Ananda, I permit the bhikshus [beginners] to eat only the five kinds of pure flesh which are the product of my transcendental power of transformation and not of animal slaughter. It basically has no life-force. You Brahmans live in a country where vegetables do not grow because it is too damp and hot and because of all the gravel and rock.
buddha-156x208Therefore, I have had to assist you with spiritual powers and compassion. Because of the magnitude of this kindness and compassion, what you eat that tastes like meat is merely said to be meat; in fact, however, it is not. How then, after my nirvàna, can you eat the flesh of living beings and so pretend to be my disciple?

You should know that those who eat meat, though their minds may open and realize a semblance of samadhi, are but great rakshasas who, after this life, will sink back into the bitter ocean of of birth and death. They are not disciples of the Buddha. Such people as these kill and eat one another in a never-ending cycle. How can such people transcend the Triple Realm?

When you teach people in the world to cultivate samadhi, they must also cut off killing. This is the second clear and unalterable instruction on purity given by the Thus Come Ones and the Buddhas of the past, World Honored Ones.

Therefore, Ananda, if killing is not stopped, the practice of dhyana-samadhi is like shutting one’s ears while crying in the hope that people will not hear one’s voice, or like trying to hide something that is already exposed to full view.

All bhikshus [monks and nuns] who live purely and all Bodhisattvas always refrain even from walking on the grass; how can they agree to uproot it? How then can those who practise great compassion feed on the flesh and blood of living beings and proceed to eat his fill?

If bhikshus do not wear garments made of (Chinese) silk, boots of local leather and furs, or down from this country and refrain from consuming milk, cream and butter, they can truly be liberated and transcend this worldly. After paying their former debts [karma], they will no longer have to transmigrate in the three realms of existence.

Why? Because by using animal products, one creates causes (which are always followed by effects), just like a man who eats cereals grown in the soil and whose feet cannot leave the ground. If a man can (control) his body and mind and thereby refrains from eating animal flesh and wearing animal products, I say that such people have true liberation.

What I have said here is the Buddha’s teaching. Any explanation counter to it is the teaching of Papiyan [the demon king – devil].


Note: It says here that milk and milk products should not be ingested, but in the precepts of the greater and lesser vehicles it does not state that one must certainly refrain from these things. They do not use anything that has any connection with living creatures. They don’t wear silk because a lot of silkworms’ lives must be spent in the process of obtaining the silk. They don’t eat honey, because it is made from bees.

This passage of Sutra text is describing those who hold precepts with a maximum of purity. The Sutra thoroughly upholds the precept against killing. One must completely refrain from killing. But in the Vinaya proper such things as milk and honey; products from which the creatures are not killed is an open question. There is room for flexibility. The precepts do not specifically forbid such things. For one to avoid using them is to be extremely pure.

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