Thus have I heard. On one occasion the Blessed One was living at Rajagaha in the Mango Grove of Jivaka Komarabhacca.
Then Jivaka Komarabhacca went to the Blessed One, and after paying homage to him, he sat down at one side and said to the Blessed One:
“Venerable sir, I have heard this: ‘They slaughter living beings for the recluse Gotama; the recluse Gotama knowingly eats meat prepared for him from animals killed for his sake.’ Venerable sir, do those who speak thus say what has been said by the Blessed One, and not misrepresent him with what is contrary to fact? Do they explain in accordance with the Dhamma in such a way that nothing which provides a ground for censure can be legitimately deduced from their assertions?”
“Jivaka, those who speak thus do not say what has been said by me, but misrepresent me with what is untrue and contrary to fact.
“Jivaka, I say that there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard, or suspected [that the living being has been slaughtered for the bhikkhu]. I say that meat should not be eaten in these three instances. 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 the bhikkhu]. I say that meat may be eaten in these three instances.
“Here, Jivaka, some bhikkhu lives in dependence upon a certain village or town. He abides pervading one quarter with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, likewise the second, likewise the third, likewise the fourth; so above, below, around, and everywhere, and to all as to himself, he abides pervading the all-encompassing world with a mind imbued with loving-kindness, abundant, exalted, immeasurable, without hostility, and without ill will. Then a householder or a householder’s son comes to him and invites him for the next day’s meal. The bhikkhu accepts, if he likes. When the night is ended, in the morning he dresses, and taking his bowl and outer robe, goes to the house of that householder or householder’s son and sits down on a seat made ready. Then the householder or householder’s son serves him with good almsfood. He does not think: ‘How good that the householder or householder’s son serves me with good almsfood! If only a householder or householder’s son might serve me with such good almsfood in the future!’ He does not think thus. He eats that almsfood without being tied to it, infatuated with it, and utterly committed to it, seeing the danger in it and understanding the escape from it.”
—from the Jivaka Sutta
Find other perspectives on food and practice in our special section: Meat: To Eat It or Not.
From The Middle Length Discourses of the Buddha, forthcoming from Wisdom Publications. Drawing by Greg Hull.
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