齊 天 大 聖 Tian Shen Sect 天 神 派

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Why Kuan Yin devotees are forbidden to eat beef?

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Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Why Kuan Yin devotees are forbidden to eat beef?

Do you know that this abstinence is only practiced in South-East Asia, particularly Malaysia and Singapore? In China and Tibet, devotees of the Goddess of Mercy are not aware of such restriction. Tell this to a Bhutanese and he will think it is a joke as meat is a staple in their diet despite being a populace comprising of Buddhists mainly.

The Buddha himself is not a vegetarian and did not forbid his disciples from eating beef, or any meat in general. Remember what he preached was the Middle Way, not a practice of extremes. However, since it is part of the teaching to refrain from killing in any form, a vegetarian diet is recommended but this is not imposed. Mahayana Buddhists recognise the consumption of meat to be cruel and devoid of compassion, thus many Mahayana Buddhists are vegetarians. Numbers of Mahayana sutra record Buddha praising the virtue of avoiding meat. But nowhere in the Buddhist scriptures mentioned that beef has to be abstained from completely. So in terms of authentic Buddhist concepts, abstinence from beef is not part of it. There is only the differentiation of vegetarians and non-vegetarians.

The real root of the belief comes from the legend of Miao Shan 妙善, who was believed to be a reincarnation of Avalokitesvara. The extract from an online article explains this clearly:
“Many less educated Buddhists especially the elderly would cite a story where Guan Shi Yin was once the third princess Miao Shan in ancient China. In the story, she was a compassionate daughter who even gorged out her eyes to cure the illness of her evil father. In reward for her deed, Buddha gave her a thousand eyes and a thousand arms so that she could continue to help others. Later, she was canonized and worshiped by the common people. This story has many versions but among the illiterate majority this was the source of inspiration for the masses who could not read the scriptures.”
Due to her father’s evil deeds, he was reincarnated many times as a cow and thus, many devotees felt in respect of the Goddess, it is best to avoid consuming beef totally. This story is based on the writings of a Buddhist monk Chiang Chih-ch’i in 1100AD and said to be originated likely from Taoist folklore.

However, that is a legend and not the actual historical origin of Kwan Yin. First known as Avalokitesvara, the name first appeared at to be around 400 AD in India. The concept of Avalokitesvara was subsequently brought to China via Tibet and metamorphosised from a male form to that of a female to 1200 AD. Thus, true devotees of Avalokitesvara or Kwan Yin, do not need to abstain from beef. But as Buddhists, they are encouraged to adopt a vegetarian diet.

Regards
Alvin Chua

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Written by EDWIN TAN

July 11, 2014 at 9:36 PM

One Response

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  1. EVERYBODY should be vegetarian – blod
    shall not be spilled for the satisfaction of tongue, don’t you find? Animals are PERSONS, they express feelings, intelligens, gratefulness etc…
    “THY SHALL NOT KILL”…
    Is that really problem to understand?

    Tatjana Persson

    January 20, 2017 at 9:25 PM


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