Asia Institute Tasmania

Public Lecture | Vegetarianism in Buddhist Sri Lanka


Dr James Stewart, Lecturer and Associate Researcher, School of Humanitites, University of Tasmania

Start Date

12th Dec 2016 5:30pm

It is often thought that Buddhists must be vegetarians. This view is understandable given the strong account of anti-violence present in early Buddhist writings.

The contemporary reality, however, is rather different. In this talk I will share some of the findings of my fieldwork conducted in Sri Lanka. I will argue that there is evidence of a pro-animal, pro-vegetarian movement amongst lay Buddhists in Sri Lanka. Nonetheless, the monastic population are much more hesitant to endorse ethical vegetarianism and some even consider it to be decidedly un-Buddhist. This may be surprising given that we might expect monks to be the most responsive to the Buddha’s pacifist message. Yet I will explain exactly why they are so reluctant to adopt vegetarianism.

This research illustrates how our common perceptions of Buddhism do not always match up with the reality.

James StewartDr James Stewart is a Lecturer and Associate Researcher at the University of Tasmania School of Philosophy. His work concerns animal welfare movements, food ethics and inter-ethnic conflict in post-colonial societies.