The Pali Canon is permeated with Suttas (Sutras) that espouse the virtues of not killing or causing to kill. Listed here are Anguttara Nikaya 3.16 and other discourse passages which suggest no killing or causing to kill.
“Monks, one possessed of three qualities is put into Purgatory according to his actions. What three? One is himself a taker of life, encourages another to do the same and approves thereof. Monks, one possessed of three qualities is put into heaven according to his actions. What three? He himself abstains from taking life, encourages another to so abstain, and approves of such abstention.” Anguttara Nikaya, 3.16
“All beings tremble before danger, all fear death. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill. All beings fear before danger, life is dear to all. When a man considers this, he does not kill or cause to kill.” Dhammapada, 129-130
“Whereas some ascetics and Brahmins, feeding on the food of the faithful, remain addicted to the enjoyment of stored-up goods such as food, drink, clothing, carriages, beds, perfumes and meat, the ascetic Gotama refrains from such enjoyment.” Brahmajala Sutra, Digha Nikaya
In the following verse, the Buddha describes the only thing that should be killed:
“What is the one thing, O Gotama, whose killing you approve? Having slain anger, one sleeps soundly; having slain anger, one does not sorrow; the killing of anger, with its poisoned root and honeyed tip: This is the killing the nobles ones praise, for having slain that, one does not sorrow.” Samyutta Nikaya, chapter 2
In the following verses, we find more direct causal connections to refrain from meat eating in the Theravada Pali Canon: ". . . he abstains from killing living beings, exhorts others to abstain from killing living beings, and speaks in praise of the abstention from killing living beings." Samyutta Nikaya 55.7
"He should not kill a living being, nor cause it to be killed, nor should he incite another to kill. Do not injure any being, either strong or weak, in the world.” Dhammika Sutta, Sutta Nipata, Khuddaka Nikaya
"Monks, possessing forty qualities one is cast into purgatory . . . he takes life himself, encourages another to do so, approves of taking life, and speaks in praise of thereof . . ." Anguttara Nikaya 10. 213
Four ways one can break the precept of killing living beings:
1. One kills living beings by one's own hand
2. One asks another to do it
3. One grants permission to another to do it or allows it or approves of it
4. One speaks in praise of killing
(Note that receiving alms food according to the 3 fold rule appears to allow for meat for those who are in the monastic Orders, but not for lay people who must make a request or order at the grocer, butcher, or restaurant. From Majjhima Nikaya, Anguttara Nikaya, book of tens V.305)
The above quotes show that is not just okay to not do the killing yourself, it is also unacceptable to encourage another, approve of another's killing, or speak in praise of it, such as defending the eating of meat.
In numerous places in the Pali Canon, the Buddha or one of his chief disciples reports about seeing ghostly type beings who are suffering as a “skeleton” or a “piece of flesh” or another woeful existence and being tormented by crows and other animals. The Buddha reports that these beings are suffering in these states because of a past life as a butcher of cattle or pigs or sheep (Samyutta Nikaya 19.1, Vinaya, Suttavibhanga 3.105). Although they were doing the actual killing, who would do the killing if everyone were Buddhist? Since there can be no slaughterhouses if everyone were Buddhist, at the very least, vegetarianism can be seen as an ideal to strive for.
In one (Pali Canon) discourse (snake similie sutta), the Buddha gives 10 analogies to describe how bad attachment to sense desires can be. He compares attachment to sense desires with ten really bad things. This includes things such as a skeleton, a burning torch that is about to burn our hands, and a poisonous snake. The final analogy the Buddha makes to describe something very bad, is that of a slaughterhouse. He used the description of a slaughterhouse as one of the analogies to describe something bad (Majjhima Nikaya 22).
The first precept in both the Mahayana and the Theravada is not to kill or cause to kill any living being. The above quote from the Sutta Nipata clearly states not causing the killing of any being, nor inciting another to do so.
- Vegetarianism and Buddhism
- Diet of Buddha
- 3 fold rule
- Edicts of Ashoka
- Food of enlightenment
- 8 points of the Lankavatara