May 7, 2018 at 11:05 pm #2840Shoyo FernandesParticipant
I have been struggling with the vegetarian question ever since I took refuge four years ago. Through my research, both from the secular and Buddhist angle, and have not seen a definitive answer. Must I become a vegan or vegetarian in order to fully be a Buddhist (that is, is my choice to eat meat detrimental to my efforts as a Buddhist?)? Thank you in advance for your response!
May 8, 2018 at 9:44 am #2841Rev. Satya Robyn (temple host)Moderator
Hello Shoyo – ooh, great question!
I am vegan, and I see this as the only natural conclusion of my Buddhist intention to cause the least harm as possible. I won’t go into the details of the suffering involved in the dairy and egg industry – there is plenty of information online – but if I can be healthy and help the environment by eating a delicious plant-based diet, then for me it’s a no-brainer.
Having said that… for many years I ate meat, and I’ve only been vegan for five years. Diet tends to be a very personal and close-to-our-heart thing, and I don’t think it helps to beat ourselves up or force ourselves into eating in a way that doesn’t feel sustainable. As far as I’m concerned, if people who eat meat have a meat-free day a week, or if vegetarians start experimenting with plant milks, that makes me VERY happy.
Also, I still do many things that do harm – travelling, buying plastic… vegans can tend to start feeling superior, and I also fall into this at times – when I do, I just remember all the things I still choose to do that have negative consequences for the world. We’re all doing the best we can. And… we could all do a bit better!
You might want to have a look at this Buddhist charity who do lots of good work: https://dharmavoicesforanimals.org
Thank you for the question and I’d be interested in what others say. Namo Amida Bu.
May 8, 2018 at 12:54 pm #2846Johnathan RobertsonParticipant
I’m vegetarian that “leans” toward veganism. I still eat some foods containing dairy and eggs but I’ve been able to cut quite a bit of animal protein out of my diet.
As far as vegan/vegetarianism is concerned, I find it important to know that the vast majority of Buddhists have a diet that includes some amount of animal protein. In places like Tibet and Japan, animal protein can be necessary due to the geographical circumstances of these regions.
The Buddha defined a lay follower as one who has taken refuge in the Buddha, Dharma, and Sangha. Nothing else is required.
That being said, practices like keeping the precepts, meditation, and vegetarianism are beneficial conduct to whatever extent that they can be practiced. Every little bit helps.
In the Buddhist tradition there is a practice known as the Uposatha (Observance day). This is a day when a particularly devout lay follower would take on eight precepts instead of five. The Buddha recommended Uposatha practice because he observed that, even if a lay follower could only emulate a monastic for a day, the individual would benefit from the experience.
This is how vegetarianism and veganism can be observed. To whatever extent one can practice is beneficial but it doesn’t define a Buddhist. Furthermore, I try to stay aware that, though I observe such a diet, I still cause suffering in other ways.
I hope that I could provide some clarity and would also add that my perspective is not shared by all Buddhists.
Namo Amida Bu!
May 8, 2018 at 1:53 pm #2849
As Johnathon said – taking refuge is what defines a Buddha. As you will see from my answer the other thread, we take refuge as karmic beings, and the Buddha’s light shines upon us all.
Following the precepts is not a necessary precursor to taking refuge. However the more deeply we take refuge, the more easily and naturally we tend to keep the precepts, and noticing where we fall short can point to areas in our life where we are taking refuge in self, and in self-protective-strategies, rather than in the three jewels.
So I think we can say there are three different kinds of answer to your question. Satya hinted at one of them.
The first is that we are beings that cause harm, and deeply being with our ‘causing harm nature’ and taking refuge from that place is a powerful practice. Contrition is a gate to awakening.
The second is that it is good to do good, it is good to reduce suffering where we can, and as we follow the precepts more deeply, it tends to release energy that can go back into practice or into following the noble path etc.
The third is to say something like – don’t ask if it is good for your practice, ask if it is good for all sentient beings. The Buddha way is the Bodhisattva way – the more deeply we take refuge the less we do so for ourselves, and the more we do for the whole world.
- This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Acharya Kaspalita (temple host).
May 8, 2018 at 2:08 pm #2853
Oh I guess I didn’t explicitly mention diet in my post, but you can make the connections with what I’ve said. For myself I’ve been vegan for around five years, I guess, and veggie for twelve, and used to eat all sorts of things before then. I think it of it as reducing harm, as far as I can tell it’s impossible to eat without causing some harm and I try to choose the least harmful option. It’s also true that it seems fairly easy for me to keep a vegan diet, most of my friends are vegetarian or vegan, and there are more and more vegan options in shops and restaurants in the U.K. I do recognise that for people in other contexts it can be more difficult.
- This reply was modified 2 years, 5 months ago by Acharya Kaspalita (temple host).
May 8, 2018 at 6:08 pm #2856AnonymousInactive
If one was to go round the houses with a begging bowl on a Sunday afternoon in Great Britain you’d mostly receive vegetables as people would have most definitely ate the meat and that is what happened in Southeast Asia many years ago and gave the impression that Being vegetarian is part of being Buddhist and this in turn became to a degree institutionalised .Whilst I believe it is a personal choice and I in no way criticise people for choosing either way , myself I see the benefits of eating less meat due to the knock on effects in joints and arthritus (see China study book) but I do not feel it’s synonomous with Buddhism. A person could pride themselves on not eating meat and consider themselves virtuous but be deaf to the cry for help from say an elderly person who has fallen. Having said that I do believe it is a healthier way of life to eat less meat and there is no denying the knock on effect that global cattle farming has on this planet.
May 8, 2018 at 11:19 pm #2857Robert McCarthyParticipant
Is it ‘Buddhist’ to be doing anything simply to be ‘Buddhist’? I don’t think so. Our hearts seek out caring actions rather than any personal identity.
Why would a caring being cause extreme suffering and annihilation of another being simply to provide a moments taste pleasure? To me this is not the action of a caring being whether Buddhist or secular or whatever. It is very simple to stop.
Animals are slaughtered for other reasons. Mostly they are around the same reasons as taste pleasure. It is still about sensory delight whether we do so because we so adore the fabrics we can make from animals we domesticate for that reason or to feed some beloved animal we have domesticated.
Then comes notions of health. Generally I see our beliefs are skewered here by a culture that views humans as exceptional and deserving. A culture that has placed us outside nature where it simply becomes a resource. That old food pyramid with meat above all other foods is as big a lie as the belief that animals are incapable of suffering.
The Dalai Lama is told by his doctors he needs to eat meat to survive. I have heard similar stories from other people of their own health journey. Maybe that is so. Maybe because vegans eat so many foods containing lectins they have developed chronic conditions that are alleviated by a change of diet to meat. Regardless I expect I would eat meat if I faced actual starvation with that as the only food. But I have never met starvation personally though I have lived with folk who suffer from this from time to time.
Why choose cruelty in diet especially in the wealthy parts of the world with such an abundance and variety of cruelty free foods!
May 9, 2018 at 9:31 pm #2860Jan WizinowichParticipant
I agree that we are all doing the best we can in different ways and I guess for me, awareness is a good place to start.
May 10, 2018 at 10:00 am #2861Rev. Satya Robyn (temple host)Moderator
Hear hear, Jan. Very helpful to hear from everyone. Shoyo, any thoughts?
May 17, 2018 at 10:23 am #2872Fi CurnowParticipant
I didn’t feel I needed to choose veganism ‘because’ I chose to be a Buddhist – both flowed naturally from the same part of me that values compassion and wants to do the least harm in this world. I never saw the choice to adopt veganism as giving anything up, either (and actually the same applies to my choice to be teetotal) but instead saw it as a positive and liberating decision and one which makes me far more at peace with the person I am. No one should feel ‘forced’ to make that choice, though, as it may become something they resent and will not feel like the positive liberation that I felt blessed to experience. I certainly never criticise any vegetarian (which I was for over 30 years!), pescatarian, flexitarian etc but rather I would celebrate the fact that they have taken steps to reduce their harm in this world (which none of us can avoid!) But I am personally so very happy being vegan and always pleased to offer positive support (and quite often cake) to anyone considering it.
November 7, 2018 at 3:33 pm #3133AnonymousInactive
I was a vegetarian for four years when I was in high school. I did this because I wanted to uphold nonviolence and it to be an expression of my Buddhist faith. When I was hospitalized for manic depressive illness, I fell off my diet because there was hardly any vegetarian options at the hospital. I felt like a failure, and I abandoned vegetarianism for years. Recently, I have seen the value of a vegetarian diet, and I realize too much is at stake to give up completely. All animals deserve to have a peaceful and happy life. So I will apply more discipline to my vegetarian diet. I see it as a dynamic way to live out my Bodhisattva Vows.
It is difficult to be a vegetarian in Southwest Georgia, in the U.S. There aren’t any health food stores or vegetarian restaurants. The fast food options are limited. The thing that has been my Achilles’ heal, is cooking. The only way to be a healthy vegetarian is to buckle down and cook. In the past I didn’t cook and didn’t make much efforts to learn how. Now I know I have to stop my bellyaching, and cook in order to embrace a vegetarian lifestyle. Its not just about me, this is about saving animal lives.
While I don’t judge meat eating Buddhists for their personal choices, for me I felt I was being a hypocrite and not living the precepts when I ate meat. That intense level of guilt sucked. To make my life in harmony with my values, I’ve returned to lacto-ovo vegetarianism. This is not the end of the journey though. I believe I need to be a vegan. I just don’t know how to start. Does anyone have any advice on how to become a vegan? I would greatly appreciate it.
Namo Amida Bu
November 8, 2018 at 8:58 am #3134
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