Buddhism, like other religions, has dietary constraints and food customs. Buddhists adhere to certain dietary restrictions and observe the teachings of Buddha (the awakened one). If you are new to Buddhism and wish to observe only particular aspects of the faith, you may be curious about their eating habits.
Dietary Practices In Buddhism
Many foods are banned in Buddhism because they are seen to be harmful to the spirit and body. Onions and garlic are an example of banned foods. However, compared to other religions, Buddhism is not emphatic; these ideals are not rigidly adhered to or universal in daily life.
The only universal thing is a strong desire for Vegetarianism, Lacto- Vegetarianism, and veganism. Even though Buddhists have a strong desire for veganism, it is not rigidly enforced as the prohibition of eating pork in Judaism and Islam.
As an illustration, Christians should avoid eating lobster and bacon according to the teachings of Leviticus, but this is simply not happening because of centuries of cultural adjustments. Likewise, all culinary beliefs in Buddhism are related to local traditions and the specific region, not the religion as a whole.
Why Don’t Buddhists Eat Garlic?
Herbs such as garlic, onions, radish, leeks, and asafoetida are aphrodisiacs – substances that boost libido when taken. If eaten raw, these herbs cause rage and conflict. However, if eaten cooked, garlic, onions, and other herbs boost your sexual desires.
Buddhists avoid these herbs since they tend to impair mental tranquility. Three types of onions, leek, and garlic are examples of five pungent roots in Buddhism. According to Buddhist sutras and written scriptures of their belief systems, the eater’s pungent breath would oust good spirits.
Also written in the sutras: all beings survive if they eat nutritious foods and perish if they consume poison. Therefore, in Buddhists’ quest for samadhi, a state of beatitude and joyful calm, they should avoid consuming the five types of pungent foods; when cooked, they act as aphrodisiacs, but when eaten raw, they cause irritation.
In a different light, did you know that farmers aren’t permitted to use chemical pesticides on organic food? So instead, farmers would use onions and garlic as a natural insecticide to keep insects and animals away from their crops.
Onions and garlic are some of the most effective organic insecticides, which is why no pest would eat any onion or garlic. When we chop onions, they secrete a liquid or gas that would lead us to cry.
The five pungent roots are toxic; it’s only that we aren’t aware of it. In reality, eating onion or garlic can lead to food poisoning in people, resulting in increased heart rate, vomiting, diarrhea, and other symptoms.
Why should we eat garlic if animals can not handle or detest it? We are what we consume, and we reek of what we eat. Why would you want to be the person that insects and animals avoid?
If the above argument isn’t convincing enough to keep you from pleasing your palate, consider why my perspiration smells so bad after consuming garlic? Why is no foul odor associated with the ingestion of vegetables or fruits? The solution is straightforward. Our bodies do not require or enjoy garlic, and our bodies will eliminate these pungent foods as soon as they are discovered.
Sweating is one way to detoxify. Another method of detoxifying is to expel garlic through your mouth. Essentially, our bodies do not want this material to linger in them. Furthermore, scientific studies reveal that garlic might desynchronize a person’s brain waves!
Garlic contains sulphone hydroxyl ions that breach your blood-brain barrier leading to the deterioration of your brain cells. It also disrupts the synchronization of your brain.
Garlic was reported to reduce response time when taken by pilots conducting flying exams as early as the 1950s. As a result, pilots were not authorized to eat garlic three days before any flight since garlic has toxic effects that disrupt brain function.
As a result, every Buddhist should avoid garlic because it harms our bodies and impedes practicing Buddhism.
Effects of Garlic When Eaten Raw
Even though raw garlic has many health benefits, Buddhists avoid it mainly because of its strong flavor and aroma, which is unpleasant. Garlic also inhibits blood clot formation. Additionally, patients with GERD, gastroesophageal reflux disease, are frequently recommended to reduce their garlic consumption in order to avoid heartburn.
Raw garlic also has several chemicals that irritate the digestive system, resulting in a burning feeling in the stomach or chest
Effects of Garlic When Eaten Cooked
Apart from being a powerful aphrodisiac, cooked garlic has several side effects on your body.
Some of them include:
- It can lead to liver damage- garlic has toxins that may affect your livers when consumed in large quantities
- It can lead to diarrhea- garlic can cause constipation triggering diarrhea
- It can lead to a bad odor- eating garlic leaves you with a foul smell.
Other Foods that are banned in Buddhism
Buddhists who follow a rigorous diet exclude poultry, meat, and fish, with dairy and eggs being debatable depending on the region and beliefs. Many Buddhists prefer a Lacto-vegetarian diet. Dairy is deemed kosher since it does not include any type of animal cruelty or slaughter. Cow milk also has spiritual and cultural significance because Buddhism is linked to and influenced by eastern religions such as Hinduism.
In Buddhism, cows are not worshiped as gods; rather, they are respected and cherished for being life-givers(their milk is an essential source of sustenance) and their function in agriculture. However, eggs are problematic since they are in the life cycle of a chicken. Therefore, even if the eggs consumed are not fertilized and thus can’t hatch, Buddhists consider them to be close to sentience.
Intoxicants and opiates are also forbidden. They violate Buddhism’s Fifth Precept, which forbids all forms of drunkenness. Alcohol falls under this category; however, in some regions, Buddhists forbid coffee because it is a powerful stimulant.
Why Do Buddhists Prefer Vegetarian Food
Aren’t all Buddhists vegetarians? Well, no. Only a fraction of Buddhists practices Vegetarianism, while others do not. Vegetarianism is seen differently by different sects and by different people. Buddha was most likely not a vegetarian. In the Tripitaka, Buddha’s earliest recorded teaching, he did not categorically restrict his students from eating meat. If monks were offered meat and it was placed in their alms bowl, they were expected to eat it. Monks were expected to accept and devour every food, even meat, with gratitude.
There were exemptions in the alms rule. If monks knew or believed that an animal was slaughtered to feed them, they would refuse to eat the meat. However, leftover meat from animals used to feed lay families was permitted. The Buddha also prohibited the consumption of some sorts of meat. A dog, tiger, snake, horse, bear, elephant, and leopard were among them. We can deduce that eating meat from other animals was acceptable because only certain meat was banned.
The First Precept and Veganism
Buddha’s first precept is: do not kill. The Buddha taught his disciples not to engage in killing animals. Some claim that eating meat is a form of killing by proxy.
However, the Buddha and his followers were destitute wanderers who survived on alms they were given. Therefore, Buddhists did not start constructing permanent settlements and monasteries until after the death of Buddha.
Buddhists who live in monasteries eat food purchased, donated to, or farmed by monks in addition to alms. Therefore, it is difficult to argue that an animal was not slain specifically to feed the entire monastery.
As a result, several Mahayana Buddhist sects began to promote Vegetarianism. Some Mahayana sutras, i.e., the Lankavatara, have vegetarian teachings.
Buddhism and Veganism Today
Today, Vegetarianism is seen differently by different groups of people and even by different individuals in a sect. Overall, Theravada Buddhists don’t kill animals and see veganism as a personal decision. The Vajrayana schools of Buddhism, which include Japanese Shingon and Tibetan Buddhism, support vegetarianism but don’t consider it essential to Buddhist practice.
Buddhist schools in Mahayana are commonly vegetarian. However, vegetarian practices vary in different sects. Many Buddhists follow the original rules, some may not buy meat or choose a live crab from the tank in a hotel, but they may consume a meat dish given to them at a party.
Benefits of a Vegetarian Diet
The Buddhist diet is predominantly plant-based.
Some of the benefits of a plant-based diet are:
It’s Good For Your Heart
A plant-based diet minimizes the risk of heart diseases. However, your dietary choices are important whether you are vegan or not. Buddhists eat whole grains rich in fiber, vegetables, and fruits that have numerous heart-protective benefits. A vegetarian diet helps to stabilize blood sugar levels, lowering your cholesterol and the risk of heart attacks.
Plant-based diets also help in the treatment and prevention of diabetes. It all comes down to eating low-glycemic foods like nuts, whole grains, and legumes to stabilize your blood sugar levels.
Lowers Blood Pressure
Because many Buddhists don’t eat meat, they have a low risk of developing high blood pressure. Plant-based foods have a low-fat content, cholesterol, and sodium, which helps to lower your blood pressure. Vegetables and fruits are also rich in potassium, a mineral that lowers blood pressure.
Downsides of a Vegetarian Diet.
Vegetarian diets that limit meat intake might be lacking in some nutrients if not properly planned, even if they allow dairy and eggs.
Some of the disadvantages of a vegetarian diet include:
The Risk of Nutrient Deficiency
You raise your risk of nutritional deficiencies when you do not consume some of the major food groups. For example, eliminating meat products increases the need for vegetarians to find other sources of key minerals and vitamins.
Plant-based foods are not rich in iron, vitamin B12, iodine, zinc, and other essential minerals. So one of the biggest drawbacks of being a vegetarian is nutrient deficiency. However, many of these essential nutrient requirements can be obtained from a well-planned plant-based diet.
Do Buddhist Follow All These Rules?
Some Buddhists ignore these rules. There are several reasons why some ignore, but the two main ones are their religious stance on sin and the fact that this is an aesthetic faith with no grand Judgment Day looming. Unlike in other religions.
Moreover, Buddha isn’t a god. He is simply an enlightened individual; if you do the work, you can also become enlightened.
Unless you aim to become a Buddha, there is no reason for you to become perfect; you just need to be a better person or version of yourself. This relates to the concept of sin, as Buddhism has no sins.
In Buddhism, it is not about not having any vices and being flawless but about dealing with your vices and evolving as a person. Concerning food, Buddha’s teaching is simple; adhere to traditional cuisine during religious ceremonies and festivals.
Buddhists are urged to adhere to strict dietary rules. These vary according to individual preferences and the Buddhist sect. Most Buddhists eat Lacto-vegetarian diets, avoid alcohol and some vegetables, and fast from midday till sunrise the next day.
Because of their beliefs, eating garlic, the five forbidden pungent roots, and onions is a big no-no for most Buddhists. However, due to their aphrodisiac properties, it is in good faith since none of them wants to hinder meditation while searching for enlightenment.
However, the diet is adaptable, regardless of whether you are a lay Buddhist or prefer to practice only specific components of the faith.