Did the Buddha Allow Eating of Meat?

I say that there are three instances in which meat may be eaten: when it is not seen, not heard, and not suspected [that the living being has been slaughtered for oneself]. I say that meat may be eaten in these three instances (MN 55 Bodhi).
It seems clear, on first reading, that the Buddha allowed the eating of meat. However, the interpretation hinges on the addition of what is not in the original. The phrase "that the living being has been slaughtered for oneself" was added by the translator. The Buddha never said that.

A possible alternative translation would be:
In three cases I say that meat may be eaten [without fault]: when [the meat] is not seen, heard, or suspected [to have been put in your bowl]. These are three cases in which meat may be eaten [without fault] (MN 55 Sujato).

This interpretation, though it goes against the traditional interpretation, is more consistent with the other passages about how it is wrong to "encourage others to kill living creatures" (AN 4.264 Sujato). Buying meat is clearly a financial encouragement for the butcher to continue "to kill living creatures."

The context indicates that the issue is "knowingly" eating meat. A monk is not accountable if he does not know that meat is in his begging bowl. If he doesn't see any meat, he was not told that there is meat in it, and he has no reason to suspect that meat was added, then he eats without fault.

One last thing to note. It is interesting that there are no parallels of this text in the Chinese Agamas. This may indicate a sectarian text, one that does not originate with the historical Buddha. We know that the Sarvāstivadin school of early Buddhism was against meat eating. Maybe they were following the original teaching.

Anagārika Jay

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