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Posts Tagged "vegetarianism"
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In early November, Lama Zopa Rinpoche and Tenzin Ösel Hita ate at a vegan restaurant in Santa Cruz, California, where they discussed the menu. According to Rinpoche’s assistant Ven. Roger, Rinpoche is creating his own cook book.
Rinpoche has been strongly encouraging students to become vegetarian. In a letter published in the FPMT Annual Review 2011, Rinpoche reflected:
When I was in the hospital [after manifesting a stroke in April 2011], I saw a program about animals that were sold to be killed in Indonesia and other countries for live export … It didn’t show how they were killed, but it showed one cow that was on the platform, with the head tied, being pulled down to be killed. The cow didn’t want to go and the man was pulling it. I thought, ‘I don’t have power to stop all this killing, but what I can do is to try to inspire people to become vegetarian.’
More information, photos and updates about FPMT spiritual director Lama Zopa Rinpoche can be found on Rinpoche’s homepage. If you’d like to receive news of Lama Zopa Rinpoche via email, sign up to Lama Zopa Rinpoche News.
ADVICE FROM A SPIRITUAL FRIEND
Over the years, Mandala has explored the issue of vegetarianism and the question of whether or not to eat meat. But with a growing awareness of issues of animal cruelty and environmental concerns connected to the production of dairy products and eggs, many FPMT students have taken up the practice of veganism, including Nicholas Ribush, director of the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive. In this issue’s online edition, Nick explains his motivations for his decision in “On Becoming a Vegan.”
At the 2009 CPMT meeting in France, Nick asked Rinpoche about veganism, to which Rinpoche gives an expansive and motivational response.
Nick Ribush: Rinpoche, how do you feel about FPMT promoting a policy of not only vegetarianism, but also veganism, because of the cruelty to animals inherent in the production of dairy products and so forth?
Lama Zopa Rinpoche: The reality is that we cannot live without harming others. There’s no way we can survive without others being harmed, killed. We can’t survive for even a day without causing suffering to others.
This is how life is in samsara and that’s why the ultimate answer is to get out of samsara, to be liberated from it. Only when you free yourself from samsara by actualizing the remedy, the true path, the wisdom directly perceiving emptiness, which directly terminates the delusions, the disturbing thought obscurations, and the negative imprints, the seeds of delusion, will you no longer have to reincarnate, no longer have to go through the cycle of death and rebirth, experiencing all the sufferings of the six realms, one after the other.
It’s only when you’re liberated from samsara that others don’t have to suffer for your happiness, only then that others don’t have to be harmed or killed in order for you to survive. Therefore, actualizing the path is of the utmost urgency; that’s the emergency.
Otherwise, even if you’re eating a plate of vegetables, it’s likely they were sprayed with insecticide when they were grown. And if you eat unsprayed ones, there may be many tiny green insects on them under the leaves and so forth that you don’t notice because the leaves are green too. So when you prepare food, you have to check each piece very carefully and put those with insects outside gently so that the insects can continue to live on them, not just throw them in the trash.
Many times I’ve seen vegetables brought in from the garden with many tiny insects on them. You really have to inspect them carefully inside and out, because if you’re unaware, if you haven’t seen them before, you wouldn’t think there were insects there since they blend in so well. Of course, if they didn’t have a mind, if they didn’t have feelings, it wouldn’t matter, but they do; so you have to be careful with unsprayed vegetables and put those with insects on them into a separate container and take them outside.
Also, of course, many insects die in the growing of food itself. When gardens are dug and fields are plowed, so many insects get killed. As I always say, think how many die for even one grain of rice. Paddies are dug, flooded and drained; many sentient beings die at each stage of growing one crop of rice. And that rice came from a previous crop, and that from the one before and so forth back to the time when rice began to be harvested, perhaps thousands of years ago. So how many beings have suffered and died during that incalculable period? And how many people have created negative karma harming others in that way? These are unimaginable numbers. For one grain of rice.
So now think of the whole plate of rice. How many sentient beings suffered and died for that? Think back to when rice began to be grown in this world. When you contemplate all this carefully there’s no way, no way, you can eat the rice without wanting to do something meaningful to benefit all those numberless sentient beings who died for each grain of it. You feel it’s impossible to eat just for your own happiness; eating for yourself, completely ignoring all those beings who died and who created negative karma for that rice, becomes the most difficult thing, most painful thing, to do.
This is just to give you an idea of how many sentient beings have to suffer and die for your happiness, for your life. They’re numberless. Wow!
Then there’s water. The water we use is full of sentient beings that can be seen only through a microscope and that have to die for us.
It’s the same with the clothing we wear. Whether it’s made of fiber that’s grown or derived from animals, it has a long evolution and there’s a huge amount of fear, suffering and killing for the many sentient beings involved. Think, for example, of the silkworms that are boiled alive so that we can make silk thread from their cocoons. Can you imagine the pain they experience?
Then there are the buildings we live and work in. Many beings get killed and many others create negative karma during their construction.
So you can see, there’s basically no pleasure or comfort we enjoy that does not involve numberless sentient beings’ suffering, death and negative karma. That’s why it’s so urgent that we practice Dharma. It’s the most important thing we can do, more important than anything else.
If you don’t attain liberation from the ocean of samsara or enlightenment in this life, then you need to get an upper rebirth in your next life, meet and practice Dharma, develop your mind, and in that way achieve liberation from samsara and eventually the full enlightenment of buddhahood.
So achieving liberation from samsara is the main answer, the most important thing for your own sake and that of other sentient beings, for them not to suffer or die. Freeing yourself from samsara is the solution to all that. And then, of course, on top of that, achieving enlightenment so that you can liberate numberless sentient beings from the ocean of samsara and bring them to full enlightenment too. This is your greatest purpose and the best way to benefit others: achieve enlightenment for the sake of all sentient beings.
Thus you can see how achieving enlightenment in order to liberate numberless sentient beings from the ocean of samsaric suffering and bring them to enlightenment is of the greatest urgency, the most important thing in daily life. Wow!
In order to do that you need to attain the path, which starts with the three higher trainings or the gradual path of the lower capable being, taking refuge and following karma. That means abandoning negative karma and practicing good karma, avoiding the ten nonvirtues and living in the five lay vows. That allows you to avoid a lower rebirth and get a higher rebirth so that you can continue developing your mind on the path to liberation and enlightenment by practicing bodhichitta and the six paramitas and then the tantric path.
The fact that we have met the teachings at this time shows that we are the luckiest, most fortunate people in the world. Not only have we been born human, which is extremely rare, but we have also received that rarest of human rebirths, the perfect human rebirth, with all the freedoms and opportunities that brings. However, such a life does not last long and can stop at any time. This incredible, wishfulfilling opportunity where we have met the entire Dharma – sutra and tantra – can finish at any moment.
Therefore, the most important thing we can do with our life is to learn and practice Dharma and actualize the path. That’s more important than anything else in life. Along with that we can engage in many other activities to give other sentient beings the opportunity to meet the Dharma, thereby bringing happiness to many others. We can give others the chance to study and practice Dharma so that they can learn to overcome suffering and escape the cycle of death and rebirth and not have to continuously go through the sufferings of the six realms, one after the other, and eventually achieve enlightenment.
Thus for both ourselves and others, attaining enlightenment is the ultimate thing. But of course, the basis of that, the basic practice of Buddhism, is not harming others, and on top of that we try to benefit others as much as possible. The more we reduce the harm we give others, the more we benefit them.
Excerpted from a question and answer session with Lama Zopa Rinpoche at CPMT 2009, Institut Vajra Yogini, France. Edited by Nicholas Ribush, Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive.
COOKING WITH BODHICHITTA
Inspired by Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s message to students in FPMT Annual Review 2011: Cherishing Life, FPMT International Office’s Carina Rumrill – former editor of Mandala and present editorial support for the office – and her partner, Nick Dickison, took their extensive experience in fine dining, combined it with Portland, Oregon’s increasingly popular food cart scene and created The Cheese Plate PDX. The high-end-style food cart has a carefully thought-out vegetarian menu, with many vegan choices, that reflects the importance Rinpoche places on a vegetarian diet.
In the letter, Rinpoche, who manifested a stroke in April 2011, reflected:
When I was in the hospital, I saw a program about animals that were sold to be killed in Indonesia and other countries for live export … It didn’t show how they were killed, but it showed one cow that was on the platform, with the head tied, being pulled down to be killed. The cow didn’t want to go and the man was pulling it. I thought, “I don’t have power to stop all this killing, but what I can do is to try to inspire people to become vegetarian.”
Over the past year, The Cheese Plate PDX, whose tagline is: “enjoy yourself. cherish others.” has received national acclaim, being featured in Food Network Magazine and Zagat’s Top Ten Restaurants in the Alberta Arts District. Their recipes have been featured in Trailer Food Diaries Portland Edition, a collection of recipes from Portland’s best food carts, and the cart has also received positive attention from local publications and bloggers throughout Portland.
In May 2013, they were thrilled by a special visit from their FPMT family which included Tenzin Ösel Hita, his partner Maï, members of the FPMT board of directors, Nick Ribush of Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, and other FPMT friends, International Office coworkers and Sangha.
Recently, The Cheese Plate PDX went up against five other well known food carts in a recipe contest featuring a local jelly called Kelly’s Habañero Pepper Jelly. They won first place.
Here they share a recipe for Mushroom and Kale Pâté:
This delicious, earthy spread can be made vegan (like we serve at the cart), or not, with regular cream cheese.
1/2 large yellow onion, cleaned and chopped
6 ounces (170 g) crimini mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1/4 pound (100 g) wild mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1/8 pound kale (55 g), washed and chopped
4 ounces (100 g) vegan or regular cream cheese
.5 ounce (15 g) sunflower seeds, toasted
.5 ounce (15 mL) dry sherry
pinch of chili flake (optional)
salt and pepper to taste
In a large sauté pan cook onions in a small amount of olive oil, about 1/4 tablespoon (4 mL), over medium heat until soft and starting to caramelize. Remove from the pan and set aside to cool. In the same pan cook the mushrooms, again over medium heat with a small amount of oil, until they’ve released all their liquid and are starting to take on some color. Add the sherry and cook out the alcohol, about 2 minutes, then remove from pan and set aside with the onions. Return the pan to high heat, add another small amount of olive oil and allow to heat for a minute. Put the kale in the pan, sauté for a couple minutes stirring often, then add a half ounce (15 mL) of water and continue stirring until the kale is tender and bright green in color. Remove from the pan and let cool.
Start with the sunflower seeds in a food processor, pulse a few times to chop them small but not too fine. Add mushrooms, onions, kale, cream cheese and chili flake, puree until smooth, adding a drizzle of olive oil if pâté is too thick. Remove from food processor into a mixing bowl and season with salt and pepper to taste. Yields about 1 pint (118 mL).
Serve with crackers, crostini or bagels. Also delicious with sliced vegetables like cucumber rounds.
Carina and Nick are working on a cookbook featuring a year’s worth of their vegetarian and vegan recipes. Look for it early 2014!
TEACHINGS AND ADVICE
Veganism is not just a diet. It is not just a “lifestyle.” It is a nonviolent act of defiance. It is a refusal to participate in the oppression of the innocent and the vulnerable. It is a rejection of the insidious idea that harming other sentient beings should be considered a “normal” part of life. It represents a paradigm shift toward a new default position that violence for pleasure, amusement, or convenience can never be justified. – Gary L. Francione
By Nicholas Ribush
After my first Kopan meditation course (October-November 1972), I decided to stay on at the monastery and became a vegetarian by default, since meat was not on the general menu. Lama Zopa Rinpoche was a vegetarian and didn’t even eat eggs (“the seed of desire”). Lama Yeshe sometimes ate meat to sustain his body.
In January 1974, most of Kopan went to Bodhgaya for the Kalachakra initiation and the ordination of 10 of us Westerners. Despite the bliss of it all, the physical conditions were far from ideal and I finished up with worms, ascaris lumbricoides, the giant roundworm. Yes. Giant.
I lost a lot of weight and was pretty grumpy, but as a new monk, I didn’t want to kill the worms. “Rubbish,” said Lama Yeshe. “Your life more benefit sentient beings than worms. Take medicine.” So I did. He also told me to eat meat to regain my health and ordered the Kopan cooks to prepare it for me.
Over the next two or three decades, I had an on-again-off-again relationship with vegetarianism, convincing myself with the usual arguments that eating meat was OK. The Buddha didn’t expressly forbid it; there were just three types of meat you should definitely not eat. Most Tibetan lamas ate meat; most of my many gurus did. You can bless and benefit the dead animal by reciting certain mantras over the meat. Even if you eat rice, dal and vegetables, many sentient beings die in the production of those foods. If you eat only large animals, where one can feed many people, it’s better than one person eating many small ones, like shrimp or poultry. In 2007, Mandala ran some articles on vegetarianism elaborating on several of these points and more [“Vegetarianism: A Healthy Debate” and “The Case for Not Eating our Friends”].
After my initial Kopan course, I did a short lam-rim retreat during which I became increasingly excited about the Dharma and wrote to my family and friends back in Australia, encouraging them to come to Kopan. Consequently, over 20 of them showed up at the fourth course, March 1973, including my mother. She became a Buddhist and immediately became a lifelong vegetarian, often chastising me for my meat eating, impervious to my arguments justifying it. But I was too attached to meat to give it up and too unaware of what went into its production to follow her lead.
In 2004, Kopan’s Khen Rinpoche Lama Lhundrup asked FPMT students to go vegetarian for as much of the year as they could and to dedicate the lives saved to the long life and health of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Lama Zopa Rinpoche. He said that His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Private Office was encouraging all Tibetans to go vegetarian and to dedicate the lives saved to the long lives of their gurus, and that all the monks and nuns at Kopan were going to comply. As a result, FPMT students pledged tens of thousands of vegetarian days and some 50 students became vegetarian for life. At first I committed to be vegetarian a few days a week, but then I did some online research into the way animals are raised and killed for food and immediately decided to become a fulltime vegetarian for life.
I wrote about this briefly in the December 2004 LYWA e-letter, saying that I didn’t know why it took me more than 30 years of Buddhism to come to this conclusion. As Rinpoche often says, the nature of attachment is such that it obscures the shortcomings of attachment. My attachment to meat prevented me from looking at the issue objectively. I hid behind my ignorance. But since the advent of YouTube, there’s really no excuse, nowhere to hide. Search for videos with the terms “meat cruelty,” “animal cruelty,” “beef cruelty,” “pig cruelty,” “chicken cruelty” and so forth and you’ll see.
The experience of watching these was what I imagine a realization must be like. Of course, I have no Dharma realizations; this was kind of a worldly one. A sudden, deep, life changing understanding that led me to declare to my wife, Wendy, “I’m never eating meat again. I want no part of this entire process.” I defy you to watch these videos and not be moved.
After a couple of years as a vegetarian, I went back to YouTube and looked at several dairy-cruelty and egg-cruelty videos. Another realization, not quite as strong as the first one, but definite nonetheless. And again, incredulity at how ignorant I was. Milk and eggs come from the female of the species. What happens to the males? They are brutally killed, of course; usually soon after birth.
You can’t have any dairy products – milk, cream, butter, cheese, yogurt, ice cream – without the deaths of billions of male calves. Often these are raised in tiny cages for the first few months of their lives before being slaughtered for veal. Look at the veal-cruelty videos. And look at how dairy cows are treated. The contented cow grazing in a lush green pasture story is a myth. A dairy industry lie, actually. Most are raised on factory farms standing in mud and excrement, milked by machine and forcibly impregnated on what some in the industry call a “rape rack.” At birth their babies are torn away from them, causing great suffering to both. The milk meant for the calves is then stolen for human consumption. Do we have here the three non-virtuous actions of body: killing, stealing and sexual misconduct?
Eggs are not much better. Nearly all the billions of male chicks born annually are killed almost immediately by being ground up alive or smothered or gassed in large plastic bags with thousands of others. I could not bear to be part of this any longer.
Finally, I looked at the cruelty of the wool and leather industries, the incredible exploitation of bees in the production of honey, the torture of animals in medical research and circuses and their misery in zoos and decided to become a vegan, to distance myself completely from the animal slavery business. I mean, the essence of Buddhism is “if you can’t help others, at least don’t harm them.” All this is just so contrary to the Dharma.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche once said how fortunate were those who truly felt compassion for others. For the first time, I felt that I might be one of those people. Becoming a vegetarian is a good start, but it’s nowhere near enough. There’s probably more suffering in a glass of milk than a pound of steak. And these days there’s no need to consume animal products to survive. In fact, there’s plenty of evidence that it’s far healthier for most people not to.
At the last CPMT meeting, France, 2009, in a question and answer session with Rinpoche, I suggested instituting an FPMT policy promoting veganism. I wasn’t surprised by his reply, fitting the issue into his vast perspective. Nevertheless, for me, his final paragraph, reminding us that the basic Buddhist practice is to not harm others, vindicated my decision to go vegan. As long as we use animal products of any kind, we’re far more involved in their enslavement, torture and suffering than if we don’t.
And I think the reason that the Buddha, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Rinpoche can’t just come out and tell their followers to be vegetarian, much less vegan, is that not everybody can do it from the start, and to do so would be to drive many potential students away. Like me, we have to be brought along gradually.
The reaction many people have when you tell them you’re a vegan is funny. Right away they become defensive, as if you’re judging them. Even Buddhists; perhaps especially Buddhists. You’re immediately labeled pious or militant or self-righteous or something like that. I would have thought that living in a way that clearly decreases animal suffering is the most Buddhist thing you can do. But people do seem threatened by it. It’s that attachment at play again.
And veganism is not only good for the animals; it’s also good for the planet and, as I said, good for one’s own health. Do some research; check it out. Vegans advocate for an end to animal slavery, an end to the selfish and callous exploitation of others, an end to speciesism. I wonder if people advocating for the end of human slavery were seen the same way. They probably were … and look how right they turned out to be!
There are more vegan websites than you could ever read. Some are better than others. The Abolitionist Approach is one of the best, but there are plenty of others. And there are loads of vegan food pages, such as Vegan Yum Yum. Google will take you there. Please, with an open mind, for the sake of mother sentient beings, for the sake of the planet and for the sake of yourself, investigate what I have said.
Dr. Nicholas Ribush arrived at Kopan 1972, the beginning of a four-decade career within FPMT. Since then, he has, on behalf of Lama Yeshe and Lama Zopa Rinpoche, founded and directed Wisdom Publications, Tushita Mahayana Meditation Centre, Kurukulla Center and the Lama Yeshe Wisdom Archive, which he has run for the past 16 years.
Two renowned teachers in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Ven. Sangye Khadro, author of the best-selling book How to Meditate, and Ven. Robina Courtin, founder of Liberation Prison Project and former editor of Mandala, offer their thoughts on vegetarianism within Buddhist circles …
“There is a lot of debate within Buddhism about this issue. There are some Buddhists who are vegetarian (no meat or fish), and some who are vegans (no animal products at all, including dairy products and eggs). And there are some Buddhists who eat meat.
What did the Buddha himself say about eating meat? Well, it seems that he said different things at different times. This may sound like he contradicted himself, but the Tibetans say that the Buddha was a very skillful teacher who understood the minds and needs of his listeners and would teach them accordingly. So to some, the Buddha said it was okay to eat meat, provided that they did not kill the animal themselves, or order it to be killed. But to others, the Buddha said that if you are a follower of the bodhisattva path, and truly compassionate, you should not eat meat, and spoke of the harmful consequences of doing so…”
From Mandala June-July 2007
COOKING WITH BODHICHITTA
Eating is such a common activity that we often forget that it also has the potential to be a powerful way to benefit ourselves and others. With a proper motivation, cooking and eating can transform food into spiritual fuel. Maarten de Vries, director of Maitreya Instituut Loenen, reflects on cooking and vegetarianism, and offers instructions for how to make “a better quiche.”
By Maarten de Vries
When I was five years old, I asked for a stove, pots and pans and a chef’s hat for my birthday. Strong imprints, I guess. While growing up, I kept a keen interest in food and cooking. After a few years studying graphic design, I decided to become a chef. Since then, my career has taken me from unpretentious diners to five-star hotels, Michelin star restaurants and Caribbean beach resorts.
When I started to become interested in Buddhism, I realized one day that the animals that I killed on a daily basis – lobsters, oysters, clams and so on – were living beings. Just like you and me, they do not want to die, and they too feel pain and fear. That was a true revelation for me and I instantly became a vegetarian.
After a period of experimentation with my new style, my philosophy of cooking came together. Eventually, people at Maitreya Instituut Emst [now, Maitreya Instituut Loenen] asked for a cooking class, so I decided to give it a try.
The class is first and foremost a traditional cooking course focusing on basic skills, techniques and best practices rather than on recipes. Good food depends on the quality of your ingredients and skills, not necessarily access to thousands of recipes. (For those looking for advice to improve their cooking, I recommend watching cooking videos online over reading cookbooks and learning to master one classic dish instead of filling your shelves with cookbooks.)
When the course was first offered, we expected mostly our regular Dharma students to show up, but discovered that the cooking course attracted many who were completely new to Buddhism and our center. They confessed it felt safer and easier to enroll in a Buddhist cooking class than to enroll in a Buddhist study course straight away. This fact made our groups tend to be very diverse with beginning and advanced students of both cooking and Buddhism.
During the course, I give a basic introduction to Buddhism by doing an extensive guided tour of our gompa’s statues, texts and thangkas. A large portion of my talk explores the complex relationship between Buddhism and vegetarianism. I describe how historically the decision whether or not to eat meat centered mainly on the question of directly collecting negative karma or not, but how these days, there are so many other factors to take into consideration that did not exist then: the devastating effects that meat consumption, especially in our culture of over-consumption, has on the environment and the climate, and on our health.
I also try to inspire the participants to incorporate Mahayana mindfulness while they’re cooking. The theory of Mahayana mindfulness is received enthusiastically, but most people find the recipes already quite challenging, and so most of the attention goes to chopping vegetables and not fingertips!
I always warn people that food, health and vegetarianism are topics that are easy to get fanatical and dogmatic about, and stress that it’s important to keep an open and flexible mind. I’ve noticed that for some a too strict health food regimen creates the opposite of the intended effect, making someone sickly instead of more healthy. I also address the issue of protein in a vegetarian diet and tell people to stop worrying about protein intake right now. Unless your body is still growing or if you’re a bodybuilder or on a strictly vegan diet, you are most likely getting all that you need. And I encourage students to please forget about trying to replace meat (who are we trying to fool?) and use tofu only where it belongs: in Asian dishes. After all your efforts to disguise it, a tofu burger still is never going to be really satisfying. Why not make a delicious falafel instead?
How to Bake a Better Quiche, Not the Sad and Soggy Slice You Know
First, we need to make the dough because frozen puff pastry is useless for quiche. Take 300 grams [approx. 10.5 ounces or 2-1/2 U.S. cups] of all-purpose flour, 90 grams [3.2 ounces or 3/4 cup] of cold butter, a pinch of salt and a little baking powder. Add some spices. Use your food processor to make fine crumbles. Add 1 egg and a little cold water and very briefly knead to form a supple dough. Put aside in the fridge.
Take about 600 grams [21 ounces or 3-5 cups] of your favorite vegetables and cut them in small strips or slices. Stir fry the vegetables in a little olive oil until tender and drain in a colander. Press to extract as much liquid out of the veggies as you can. Collect the veggie juice and use it in soups or salad dressings. Slightly grease a round baking tin and dust with flour. Roll out the dough to approximately 3 millimeters and line the pie dish. Try to have the dough hang over the edges of the dish. In a separate bowl and using a stick blender, make a lump free mix of 225 milliliters [1 cup] of heavy cream with 3 eggs and 15 grams [0.5 ounces or 2 tbsp.] of flour. Then add your vegetables, garlic, thyme, the cheese of your choice to this creamy mixture. Get creative. Don’t forget to add some salt and pepper. Fill the baking dish and finally trim the excess dough around the edge.
Decorate the top with some sliced vegetables and sprinkle with approximately 60 grams [2 ounces or 1/2 cup] of grated cheese. Bake at 180° C [350° F] for approximately 40 minutes or until an inserted knife comes out dry. Let the quiche cool for 10 minutes before trying to cut it. Enjoy with some leafy salad!
Mandala has more stories about vegetarianism: read about how Lama Zopa Rinpoche inspired Carina Rumrill, Mandala’s former managing editor, to open a new vegetarian food cart in Portland, Oregon, U.S.; and try out recipes from our favorite cooks, including Rinpoche’s recipe for momos and Tsültrim Davis’ vegan pumpkin “cheesecake.”
FPMT News Around the World
Lama Zopa Rinpoche’s message to students in FPMT Annual Review 2011: Cherishing Life inspired Carina Rumrill – former editor of Mandala and present editorial support for FPMT International Office – and her partner, Nick Dickison, to take their extensive experience in fine dining, combine it with Portland, Oregon’s increasingly popular food cart scene, and create The Cheese Plate PDX. The high-end-style food cart has a carefully thought out vegetarian menu that reflects the importance Rinpoche places on a vegetarian diet.
In the letter, Rinpoche, who manifested a stroke in April 2011, reflected:
When I was in the hospital, I saw a program about animals that were sold to be killed in Indonesia and other countries for live export … It didn’t show how they were killed, but it showed one cow that was on the platform, with the head tied, being pulled down to be killed. The cow didn’t want to go and the man was pulling it. I thought, “I don’t have power to stop all this killing, but what I can do is to try to inspire people to become vegetarian.”
“As is often the case with Rinpoche’s students reading Rinpoche’s advice,” Carina shares, “I immediately felt the letter in the annual review was written for me. Suddenly, I realized that what we could do was not merely just make a living for ourselves and our family, but that by offering a wonderful vegetarian menu, we could actually be helping to fulfill one of Rinpoche’s wishes and requests.”
Carina and Nick’s cart focuses on local cheese from creameries that can prove commitment to the humane care of their animals; any eggs used are organic and cage-free; and a large portion of the menu is vegan. The business is a family affair as well, employing the talents of Carina’s two oldest children.
The cart and its tagline (itself inspired by Rinpoche’s letter’s closing) – “enjoy yourself. cherish others.” – is already getting attention from popular food blogs like world-famous Zagat and local up-start Behind the Food Carts (check out their stunning photos!)
“It is wonderful to enjoy yourself,” Carina remarks. “Just make sure that your enjoyment benefits others. That’s what I learned from Rinpoche, and so far, it’s working out really well!”
You can find The Cheese Plate PDX on Facebook. See photos of their yummy food and chat with the owners directly.
Two other International Office staff members also initiated a vegetarian business recently: former office manager Ugyen Shola and former director of finance Sarah Pool. Their business, Pacific Northwest Kale Chips offers delicious vegan chips made from kale.
With 158 centers, projects and services around the globe, there is always news on FPMT activities, teachers and events. Mandala hopes to share as many of these timely stories as possible. If you have news you would like to share, please let us know.
By Ven. Thubten Dadak
It is commonly said that as the Buddhadharma is transmitted to the West from the Tibetan tradition, those aspects deriving directly and specifically from its culture do not necessarily need to be passed along. Indeed, they could even be a hindrance. Our lamas agree to this and we are aware of it. Nevertheless we also know that great caution is needed in distinguishing universal Dharma from the cultural features which are not relevant to use, and that this transmission will take time and skill.
Within this context, one thing to be considered is the habit of eating meat. Although at first it may seem to be of little importance, the purpose of this article is to show more of its implications, and hopefully make a small step forward for the happiness of all sentient beings.
Like many other people, I was strictly vegetarian in the early years of my spiritual seeking, moved by the message of Mother India. Later, I reverted to what I thought to be more of a middle way. I found it not so practical to be vegetarian in the West, especially in France. I came to eat meat whenever it was served. I recently have come back to my previous “hard line” position.
While living in then FPMT center in Hong Kong, Cham Tse Ling, a significant number of people of diverse backgrounds came and questioned me on this issue. They hadn’t necessarily studied the subtleties of karma but considered that abstention from eating meat was a sign of integrity for those following the Buddhadharma, especially the Mahayana.
I was asked systemically this same question by Chinese Mahayana practitioners, monks, and lay people. I felt uneasy in answering them, in trying to convey the idea that there is nothing “really” negative and reprehensible in eating meat and that by refusing it when invited for lunch, you may shock your hosts making them feel uncomfortable. I began to see it as a problem and started to become aware of its cultural implications.
A bit later, I read Diet for a New America, by John Robbins. It is a very thorough study of this question. This book offers the best lam-rim meditation on the sufferings of the animal realm. The descriptions of the suffering of all species of animals in stock farming is just terrifying. Even without considering the world economy and the related topics of starvation, heavy pollution, wasted resources, deforestation, health, mental health, and world peace, it is suffocating!
Later, I also read To Cherish All Life, by Roshi P. Kapleau. This book is addressed mainly to Buddhist people. Although its argumentation is controversial at some points, the meaning is clear: if you consider the essence of our Great Teacher’s presentation of the path to enlightenment, do you really think he said it is all right to feed on meat? NO WAY!
It appeared to me that I hadn’t probed my habits and responsibilities in a serious manner in relation to this question. My behavior and ideas were not founded on clear and sound reflection.
A meat diet was necessary in Tibet. However, Tibetan people living in countries well-supplied in vegetables and fruits still maintain a diet relying on meat, it seems mainly because of physiological and cultural factors. His Holiness the Dalai Lama has pointed out on many occasions that, since it is a precept issuing directly from Mahayana trainings, a follower of this tradition would do very well in opting for a complete vegetarian diet if it does not harm one’s health.
This is an aspect of the Buddhist way of life that is rarely discussed within our tradition. The same is true in the Theravada tradition. As a consequence, Westerners following these paths do not seem really concerned about meat eating. In contrast, in the Chinese Mahayana tradition to abstain from eating meat is a bodhisattva vow. This behavior is not solely a local invention, but rather is based on scriptures such as the Lankavatarasutra, the Mahameghasutra, the Angulimalikasutra, the Nirvanasutra, or the Shikshsmuccaya of Arya Shantideva.
Also we know that non-harmfulness, love and compassion are at the core of the Tathagata’s instructions, both of the individual and universal vehicles.
So, the manner of considering this practice is double-sided. On the one hand it appears to some people in our tradition that to abstain completely from eating meat is a natural, logical and coherent outcome of the teachings. Their reasoning being that, firstly, from the ethical point of view: didn’t we take the vow of not taking life? Putting aside cases of natural or accidental death, is there any meat eating unrelated to taking life?
Secondly, doesn’t eating meat contradict the unfolding of a good heart, and contradict love and compassion?
Thirdly, from the point of view of universal responsibility, does it fit with a harmonious life uniting all sentient beings in one big family, each one endowed with buddha-nature and said to have been our mothers in previous lives, if we eat them?
On the other hand people from our tradition who eat meat might answer that to do so is not to kill or to inflict suffering, the animal being already dead. However some level of responsibility is not denied as a degree of negative karma is acknowledged. They say for example, that they do not have the motivation to kill, but only the motivation to eat meat. There are many other arguments like that. Basically, as long as one didn’t see, hear or suspect that one’s meal has been prepared with the flesh of some animal specially killed for that occasion, there is not the actual fault of killing because there is no direct cause and effect.
Yet, it is also clear that if nobody were to eat meat on this planet, lives of billions and billions of animals wouldn’t be sacrificed, and the atrocities involved in stock farming would be stopped.
Now, we may ask which are the reasons for eating meat? Briefly stated, there are two: 1) Sustaining the body to avoid malnutrition. 2) Satisfying one’s craving for that kind of food and taste.
In regard to the first point, there is a flood of books on the market in this “new age” that prove scientifically and rationally that meat is not necessary for specific health-promoting proteins and also is harmful to health in general. On a more subtle level, the energy coming from dead flesh is poisonous, even more so when one trains in a spiritual discipline. This is made clear by the dietary precepts of Buddhist Kriya Yoga and of Hindu and Taoist Yoga. As for the specific requirements of Mahaannuttara Yoga, because the actual number of completion stage practitioners is quite small, there seems no reason to bring that up in a general discussion.
In regard to the second point, from a Buddhist point of view, craving, especially if it involves the intense suffering of others brings very heavy results, such as rebirth in the lower realms or in rough situations such as among cannibal tribes or hunting and fishing families. It also brings about all kinds of suffering and obstacles, a tendency to compulsively repeat this behavior, and other and inner hindrances to spiritual practices. All these are described in detail in the chapter concerned with meat eating from the Lankavatarasutra. It is made very clear in the Lankavatarasutra that we should stop this “vulgar habit” in order to show a good example and not to generate disdain for the Dharma in people who understandably see it as bad.
I used to think it was unkind to refuse meat when offered some for lunch, especially as a monk, and was using that as a kind of justification. Now that the tremendous amount of suffering of animals reared in industrial farming is more vivid in my heart, I see in declining to eat meat the opportunity to bring this discussion to people’s consideration.
I hope people reading this don’t feel any finger pointed at them from the outside. My only wish is to induce introspection on this topic, a finger pointed from the inside.
To conclude let Bernard Shaw have the last word: “Animals are my friends; and I don’t eat my friends.”
MAY ALL BEINGS BE HAPPY
Reprinted from Nalanda Monastery Newsletter
Diet for a New America by John Robbins.
To Cherish All Life: A Buddhist Case for Becoming Vegetarian by Roshi P. Kapleau.
TAKING CARE OF THE SELF
This question and answer series about vegetarianism with Geshe Thubten Soepa is a continuation from “Maintaining a Healthy Lifestyle through Vegetarianism” by Diana Gorbea, from the January-March 2011 issue of Mandala located on page 53.
1: In the monasteries of Tibet people eat meat, which contradicts a bit with the rest of the Buddhist monasteries of other traditions such as those in Sri Lanka, Thailand, Burma, Taiwan and China. Could you explain the reason for this?
In the early Buddhist monasteries of the 9th century, seven new monks and their teachers, Shantarakshita and Guru Padmasambhava, taught new Buddhists not to eat meat. However, the Tibetans ate meat anyway because it was the ancient tradition – a habit from when offerings were made of flesh and blood. Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava said that if they kept eating meat and making offerings of blood, they would not teach and would return to India. The Tibetan king Chisong Dusenge apologized to Shantarakshita and Padmasambhava and promised a new law. He then made a pillar on which he wrote a law so that monks and nuns would not eat negative, or “black,” foods such as meat or alcohol. Monks and nuns that remained in the monasteries could not eat meat. The next king, Lang Tarma, destroyed Buddhism. For 80 years there were no Buddhist monks or nuns. When Buddhism was restored, the old habit prevailed and many people ate meat. Then in the 12th century, Lama Atisha came and suggested that people should not eat meat. His warning was not strongly worded, so not all Buddhists stopped eating meat.
In the Hinayana teachings, eating meat is generally not allowed. However, if a person has health problems and needs to eat meat, then their assistants can find food from an animal that died of natural causes. The meat is then cooked with turmeric and the monk or nun covers his eyes so as not to see the meat when eating it.
This is what I read in the texts and scriptures of the Kangyur. If it is done without attachment or desire; only for health reasons; and if nobody kills with the intention of feeding humans, then eating this meat is permitted according to Hinayana ethics.
2: How can one reconcile the fundamental Mahayana motivation of bodhichitta with eating meat?
In the Mahayana teachings the Buddha forbade eating meat altogether. In many different sutras (the Lankarawatara Sutra, the Great Sutra of Nirvana in the Angulimala Sutra, the Sutra on the Ability of the Elephant, the Sutra of the Great Cloud), it is taught that if one is trying to live with great compassion, then eating meat is not allowed. This is because one has to see all sentient beings as our mother, brother, son, etc. Also in the Angulimala Sutra, Manjushri asked the Buddha, ‘‘Why do you not eat meat?’’ He replied that he saw all beings as having buddha-nature and that was his reason for not eating meat. Therefore, if you practice Mahayana and eat meat, it is a contradiction.
In the High Mahayana Yoga Tantra, they used five types of meat and five types of nectar. The five types of meat are human, elephant, cow, dog and horse. The five types of nectar are feces, urine, menstrual blood, semen and marrow. People with high realizations transform these five dirty things into good nectar, ultimately seeing that dirty and pure things are the same. They used these types of meat (getting them from animals that die of natural causes) for tsog practice. It is not allowed for ordinary tantric practitioners without high realizations to offer the actual five meats and five nectars in tsog practice. Instead, they should offer fruit, juice, biscuits, or other foods without meat and egg. But if you have high realization, and can transform everything, you can even offer kaka for tsog!
3: The Buddhist texts that say you should not eat meat from an animal that has been specially sacrificed for this purpose? Are there no more mentions in the scriptures in favor of not eating meat?
Yes, all traditions agree. Hinayana, Mahayana and Vajrayana texts all are against eating meat. If you believe in karma, of course, you are not allowed to kill any being, including yourself, and you are not allowed to kill or have someone else, like a butcher, kill with the intention of eating meat.
Another reason is that if you take refuge in the Dharma, there is a commitment not to damage any living being directly or indirectly. Most particularly, the Mahayana tradition emphasizes great compassion and bodhichitta. Therefore, one is not allowed to eat meat. The main reason is that if you believe all beings have buddha-nature, then you must necessarily believe that all beings want to be happy and don’t want suffering because these are characteristics of buddha-nature.
4: There were exceptions to this rule to eat meat in Tibet. Do you know of great teachers that were vegetarians?
The first teachers of the 9th and 10th centuries: Shantarakshita, Guru Rinpoche and Master Kamalashila. Lama Atisha in the 12th century led the monks and nuns to stop eating meat. Today, in the Sera Monastery, which is home to more than 6,000 monks and nuns, none are allowed to eat meat by monastery law. If some monastery security monk sees that they are eating or buying meat, then they are immediately given a fine of 1,000 rupees. Gyudmed Tantric College has over 500 monks who are vegetarians. Also, Drepung and Gaden Monasteris. Also, monasteries in Ladakh, Nepal and Butan have laws against eating meat. Also Gampopa, of the Kagyu lineage, and Pagmo Drugpa, Digun Chopa, Digan Chengawa, Taklung Tangpa and Togme Sangpo are great vegetarian teachers. There are many others of the Sakya, Nyingma and Gelug lineages.
5: Can you, as a strong proponent of vegetarianism, tell us how you were led to it?
When I was young, yes, I ate meat, as my mother gave it to me. Then, when I was a teenager, I saw some butchers killing a yak. I saw how they opened it. I also saw other butchers killing sheep. It was then I changed my mind and I realized that killing animals was negative and I stopped wanting to eat meat. Later, when I was in the 13th class of Buddhist philosophy, we had many debates with classmates and had access to authentic, original texts and scriptures. I understood quite well what the Buddha was thinking and saying. I wrote my first book and I gave a copy to the Dalai Lama. His Holiness asked me to speak with him for about 40 minutes and said he enjoyed the book and congratulated me. He said my book was very necessary and useful and that I was to write more necessary and useful books.
Another reason is that I wear monk’s robes signifying that I’m a spiritual practitioner. Being part of the Sangha means being a good example. Therefore, I do not eat meat.
6: Can you quote the names of current Tibetan teachers who advocate not eating meat?
The teacher Nyingmapa Chatel Sange Dorje Rinpoche, who is 96 or 97 years old, does not eat meat or eggs and advised his Nyingmapa monks not to eat meat.
Lama Zopa Rinpoche does not eat meat and has many animal liberation projects.
The 17th Karmapa Urgyen Trinley Rinpoche emphasizes vegetarianism and instructs students to not eat meat.
There are other Tibetan masters who do not eat meat, such as the Sakya lama Pemaomgda of New York, the Nyingma lama Pema Ongyel and the French monk Matthieu Ricard.
7: His Holiness the Dalai Lama admits that he has tried to stop eating meat, but that his doctors have advised him to keep eating it. How is this possible? This is a bit shocking because in India millions of people are vegetarian throughout their life. Could you tell us your opinion?
His Holiness the Dalai Lama eats meat once a week for his health.
He gives a perfect explanation. He says you should not eat meat, but if you must, you can eat a little, not tons. Anyway, he says it’s best not to eat meat. And he also says that if you do not eat any meat, you’re the best.
When the 14th Dalai Lama became the leader of Tibet at 16, ministers gave a party with a lot of meat in the food. When he saw it, he decided that henceforth, the parties would be vegetarian. Since then, no meat is allowed at parties, which I think is fantastic. Also, when he gives some Dharma teachings, everyone attending them is asked to become vegetarians for the duration. He also asks this of the area restaurants for the duration of teachings; otherwise, they would be killing many animals and selling meat.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama says that humans are the worst murderers of the earth. If there were no humans, then fish, chickens and all other animals would be free.
In my opinion, the case of the Dalai Lama and that of the ordinary people are completely different. Normal people want to eat meat through desire or bad habit. He is certainly a person with great realizations, and he eats meat not because of desire or bad habit. People with high realization can eat meat for different reasons. For example, according to his biography, Mahasiddha Tilopa was all day fishing and eating meat. He was a person of great realizations. That’s my opinion, but please don’t just believe my opinion. I don’t know the real reason why he did so.
8: Can you briefly explain the benefits of vegetarianism from a spiritual or health point of view?
Reasons from a spiritual point of view are found the Lankavatara Sutra. There, the Buddha says to stop eating meat because otherwise complete results will not be achieved with the mantra practice. Furthermore, if you eat meat, gods will renounce you and will not come when you invite them. Therefore, the Lankavatara Sutra says, yogis don’t eat meat. Moreover, if you eat meat, you cannot develop great compassion and wisdom. Pandit Kamalashila said that if you eat meat you cannot realize shamata.
From the point of view of health, many doctors and scientists have researched vegetarianism, and have found that people in poor countries who cannot eat meat and are vegetarians become less sick, less likely to have lung cancer and other illnesses. Rich people who eat meat are more likely to get sick. Vegetarians have fewer blood pressure problems and heart problems, while meat eaters ingest many oils in the meat that go into their bodies and cause their blood to thicken! If you eat meat, your digestion is very heavy and the liver is damaged. Also, eating meat is an obstacle in developing your mind and you feel angrier and less intelligent. Also, vegetarians age more slowly and live longer.
9: What advice would you give to a Western practitioner who eats meat regularly?
If you’re a monk or nun of the Sangha, and you continually eat meat, finding it difficult to contol your habit, then it is better to do it in private and not show it to anyone, because you are an example. If you cannot stop eating meat completely, then try to eat less meat, as little as possible. Do not eat only for desire or taste. See meat as a medicine, not as a daily meal. If you wear robes and follow Buddha’s example of compassion, then eating meat is a contradiction. Moreover, in Western countries you can find many things to eat to replace meat, so there is no need to eat it. You should control your desire to eat meat.
In this video, Geshe Thubten Soepa continues his arguments in support of vegetarianism.
Geshe Thubten Soepa is an FPMT-registered touring teacher dedicated to the promotion of vegetarianism.
Madison, WI, USA — August 30, 2010
From Ven. Roger:
Rinpoche decided to accept to give an initiation to someone who requested it. The initiation was scheduled to happen Sunday. We were scheduled to leave Madison early Monday (from Deer Park, Geshe Sopa-la’s center) after an 8 am appointment with the doctor (Rinpoche’s sugar levels and blood pressure are better) and to start driving to Milarepa Center in Vermont. The initiation was changed to 4 am Monday in the “busy-ness” of things! Now it is Monday afternoon and Rinpoche is somewhere in the middle of preparing … and we haven’t left. Still not finished with the preparation, Rinpoche decides to make dessert while we are running around packing and trying to figure out what is going on!
The dessert: mash potato, more butter than one would want to even dream about, non-fat half and half, honey, and Greek yogurt poured on the top. Rinpoche passes it around to the attendants who are running around … not bad actually – Rinpoche doesn’t eat any.
When will we leave Madison, we are six hours late and the initiation hasn’t started.
Its Tuesday, August 31, 10:30 am – I think we are going soon? Only 26 hours late. The initiation finished at 3:30 am this morning. There have been some pujas here and there for people seriously sick and some deaths. Sometimes these things are complicated and take time. All sorts of things have to be managed!
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