In this paper I will examine the Buddhist diet - its restrictions, significance, symbolism, and the reasons behind these guidelines. Most of the world's great religious or spiritual faiths have some sort of guidelines, restrictions, recommendations, and/or symbolism involving diet, food and beverage.
During September and October this year, there has been a spate of claims in the press that drinking milk will reduce the risk of breast cancer. These claims were triggered by a prospective study of premenopausal women in Norway, published on September 15, 2001 in the International Journal of Cancer.
On a previous occasion when I gave a talk on Buddhism and vegetarianism there were some very strong reactions from some members of the audience. People who have strong reactions to talks are people who have very strong feelings about the topic, which means they have very strong views about the topic.
All beings--human or beast--
Love life and hate to die.
They fear most the butcher's knife
Which slices and chops them piece-by-piece.
Instead of being cruel and mean,
Why not stop killing and cherish life?
Background: Buddhism and the Dhammapada
What does Buddhism have to say about animal rights? Among the world's hundreds of millions of Buddhists, there is disagreement about this basic issue. I first became interested in Buddhism because two of my favourite restaurants (Buddha's Vegetarian Foods and the Lotus Garden, both on Dundas Street West in Toronto) are Buddhist, and are very careful to serve only vegetarian food with no eggs. In one restaurant I was told that this was necessary because Buddhist monks and nuns eat there.
The bone-thinning condition called osteoporosis can lead to small and not-so-small fractures. Although many people think of calcium in the diet as good protection for their bones, this is not at all the whole story. In fact, in a 12-year Harvard study of 78,000 women, those who drank milk three times a day actually broke more bones than women who rarely drank milk.1
A Vegetarian Menu is a powerful and pleasurable way to achieve good health. The vegetarian eating pattern is based on a wide variety of foods that are satisfying, delicious and healthful. Vegetarians avoid meat, fish, and poultry.
This article originally appeared in Vîma.msâ the Journal of the Buddhist Society of Queensland for October 1983. It was reprinted subsequently in the Young Buddhist (Singapore). It was later issued in the BSQ Tracts on Buddhism series, but has been out of print for some time. In view of the continuing interest in this subject the booklet is being reissued.