Interesting essay I came across about meat eating and Mayahana! Courtesy of Alan Gregory Wonderwheel
I think he is the one who wrote it anyway.
Eating meat is a question of karma, which by its nature entails the question of identity.
The position of the Buddha Dharma has always been that killing animals for food is productive of karma that leads to rebirth in the lower realms, that is, rebirth as an animal, hungry ghost, or hell being. This is "Buddhism 101" and can not be denied. But eating meat, is not karma producing unless there is a direct connection between the act of eating and the killing. Therefore, the rules of mendicancy are that (1) a follower of the Buddha can not kill an animal, including for a meal (e.g. even if out in the forest or while traveling), (2) one can not accept meat that has been killed "for" oneself as it is by the intention of the killer that the meat is for the mendicant that the mendicant thereby shares the karma of killing (this is why all Buddhist feasts, banquets, or meals prepared especially for the sangha have to be vegetarian meals), but (3) if the mendicant is begging and the donor puts meat in the bowl that is leftovers from the donor’s meal, and therefore the meat was not killed with the mendicant in mind, then the mendicant must eat what is in the bowl and there is no karma of the killing attached to it. This is the pre-Mahayana view of meat eating.
Now in what I call "Buddhism 201", the nuanced questions can be teased out some, and the Mahayana view of meat-eating is developed. Karma doesn’t appear to be so linear. Additionally, the modern world needs to be taken into account. In the modern world we have to ask what is the karmic connection between eating meat bought at a supermarket and the eater? Though the animal is not killed with the intent of being for any particular person, supermarket meat is killed with the intent of being for the buyer, so anyone who buys the meat is participating in the karma of the intentional killing and additionally if the meat is bought specifically for another to eat then the eater still shares in the karma of the killing through the purchase.
However, if dropped into the arctic circle and there was no way to survive except to hunt or fish until being able to return to the agricultural realm, the person has to deal with a pre-agricultural karmic relationship, and so killing the animal to survive may be done without karmic detriment if the killing is done with the appropriate reverence in knowing that the being that is killed is one’s own intimate relation so that the eating is done with full recognition that it is the flesh of a relative and necessary for survival. The karmic result is then entirely dependent on the truth of the matter of necessity and sincerity, so that the animal’s death becomes a bodhisattva sacrifice rather than a victimization of a lesser being.
On the other hand, in our modern world, since we do not live in the arctic or where the fruits of agriculture are not available, there is virtually no practical way to eat meat without direct karmic consequence from the killing of it being connected to the eating of it. In other words, the slaughterhouse is present and manifest on the plate.
This Mahayana level of understanding--that meat-eating is to be avoided altogether--is presented in the precepts of the Brahma Net Sutra and in the meat-eating chapter of the Lankavatara Sutra.
In the Brahma Net Sutra, the third of the 48 secondary precepts is a prohibition of eating meat. Here the question of karma is not connected to whether the meat was deliberately killed for the eater, but whether the eater is deliberately eating the meat.
3. On Eating Meat
A disciple of the Buddha must not deliberately eat meat. He should not eat the flesh of any sentient being. The meat-eater forfeits the seed of Great Compassion, severs the seed of the Buddha Nature, and causes [animals and transcendental] beings to avoid him. Those who do so are guilty of countless offenses. Therefore, Bodhisattvas should not eat the flesh of any sentient beings whatsoever. If instead, he deliberately eats meat, he commits a secondary offense.
Likewise the Lankavatara Sutra presents the question with greater emphasis.
DT Suzuki translation wrote: The Blessed One said this to him: For innumerable reasons, Mahamati, the Bodhisattva, whose nature is compassion, is not to eat any meat; I will explain them: Mahamati, in this long course of transmigration here, there is not one living being that, having assumed the form of a living being, has not been your mother, or father, or brother, or sister, or son, or daughter, or the one or the other, in various degrees of kinship; and when acquiring another form of life may live as a beast, as a domestic animal, as a bird, or as a womb-born, or as something standing in some relationship to you; [this being so] how can the Bodhisattva-Mahasattva who desires to approach all living beings as if they were himself and to practise the Buddha-truths, eat the flesh of any living being that is of the same nature as himself? Even, Mahamati, the Rakshasa, listening to the Tathagata's discourse on the highest essence of the Dharma, attained the notion of protecting [Buddhism], and, feeling pity, refrains from eating flesh; how much more those who love the Dharma! Thus, Mahamati, wherever there is the evolution of living beings, let people cherish the thought of kinship with them, and, thinking that all beings are [to be loved as if they were] an only child, let them refrain from eating meat. So with Bodhisattvas whose nature is compassion, [the eating of] meat is to be avoided by him. Even in exceptional cases, it is not [compassionate] of a Bodhisattva of good standing to eat meat. The flesh of a dog, an ass, a buffalo, a horse, a bull, or man, or any other [being], Mahamati, that is not generally eaten by people, is sold on the roadside as mutton for the sake of money; and therefore, Mahamati, the Bodhisattva should not eat meat.
For the sake of love of purity, Mahamati, the Bodhisattva should refrain from eating flesh which is born of semen, blood, etc. For fear of causing terror to living beings, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva who is disciplining himself to attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh. To illustrate, Mahamati: When a dog sees, even from a distance, a hunter, a pariah, a fisherman, etc., whose desires are for meat-eating, he is terrified with fear, thinking, "They are death-dealers, they will even kill me." In the same way, Mahamati, even those minute animals that are living in the air, on earth, and in water, seeing meat-eaters at a distance, will perceive in them, by their keen sense of smell, the odour of the Rakshasa and will run away from such people as quickly as possible; for they are to them the threat of death. For this reason, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva, who is disciplining himself, to abide in great compassion, because of its terrifying living beings, refrain from eating meat. Mahamati, meat which is liked by unwise people is full of bad smell and its eating gives one a bad reputation which turns wise people away; let the Bodhisattva refrain from eating meat. The food of the wise, Mahamati, is what is eaten by the Rishis; it does not consist of meat and blood. Therefore, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva refrain from eating meat.
In order to guard the minds of all people, Mahamati, let the Bodhisattva whose nature is holy and who is desirous of avoiding censure on the teaching of the Buddha, refrain from eating meat. For instance, Mahamati, there are some in the world who speak ill of the teaching of the Buddha; [they would say,] "Why are those who are living the life of a Sramana or a Brahmin reject such food as was enjoyed by the ancient Rishis, and like the carnivorous animals, living in the air, on earth, or in the water? Why do they go wandering about in the world thoroughly terrifying living beings, disregarding the life of a Sramana and destroying the vow of a Brahmin? There is no Dharma, no discipline in them." There are many such adverse-minded people who thus speak ill of the teaching of the Buddha. For this reason, Mahamati, in order to guard the minds of all people, let the Bodhisattva whose nature is full of pity and who is desirous of avoiding censure on the teaching of the Buddha, refrain from eating meat.