I am meditating!
By André Kalden
of this website,
on the homepage Shabkar.Org is a non-sectarian website dedicated
to vegetarianism as a way of life for Buddhists of all schools.The
site takes its name from Shabkar Tsodruk Rangdrol (1781-1851), the
great Tibetan yogi who espoused the ideals of vegetarianism from a Buddhist point of view.
Since its official launch in November 2006 Shabkar.Org has received
quite a bit of feedback. There were many warm and encouraging comments
from a wide range of Buddhist schools and sanghas expressing appreciation
for the work and sending good wishes. In some cases there were critiques
and helpful comments that I very much appreciated. However, some
feedback indicated that shabkar.Org was being used by visitors of
this website as a vehicle to criticize their non-vegetarian sangha
members. Also a few Asian visitors regarded some content to be too
Based on this feedback, I would like to share some reflections.
Many (Western) vegan and vegetarian practitioners do not understand
why their fellow (Asian) sangha members eat meat while having easy
access to vegetarian food, especially when it is a Dharma teacher.
However, I - being a strict vegetarian* myself for over twenty years
- believe that saying that meat-eating sangha members are not "real
Buddhists" is not in accord with the Buddhist teachings. Entering
the Middle Way does not require being a vegan or vegetarian, whether
somebody is happy with this fact or not.
Buddhism is about walking a spiritual path under the influence,
the guidance, of the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the
Sangha. Being fundamentally an oral tradition - supported by scriptures
- Buddhism is not a path of following written laws or commandments.
Also it is not a path of acting according to a perfect role model
without the inner realization behind the action.
Refraining from eating food containing fish, meat, eggs and dairy
helps creating favorable conditions for spiritual practitioners
and is an expression of loving-kindness towards our fellow sentient
beings we call animals. Beside it really is best from an environmental
point of view. There is no question about that. However, one does
not become enlightened via diets. From a Buddhist point of view
condemning others because they eat meat or fish, or egg, is like
shouting 'Quiet! I am meditating!'; one misses the whole point in
the same way as one does when using Buddhist scriptures to justify
eating our fellow sentient beings.
Shabkar Tsodruk Rangdrol (1781-1851), the great Tibetan yogi who
espoused the ideals of vegetarianism and from whom this websites
takes its name, had meat-eating students. Additionally, strong advocates
of vegetarianism in our century, like Chatral Rinpoche (1913- ),
have students who eat meat. But they do not raise the issue of refraining
from eating meat in a personal way, other than in the one-to-one
teacher-student relationship when they consider the time has come
to do so, if at all. These great masters should be inspiring examples
for us all. Not only in keeping a strict vegetarian diet under all
circumstances, but also in the way they appreciate and respect others
not keeping such a diet. That is how I feel about this subject.
If you are a Buddhist visitor from Asia I want to ask for your kind
understanding that this website is created by a guy from Holland,
me, brought up in an environment where raising issues in a rather
straightforward and upfront way is common and OK. This also counts
for those who create videos and animations, some of which can be
found on Shabkar.Org. By no means is there any aggression involved
in the making of this website, but rather a desire for genuine engagement.
If you feel it to be otherwise, please send me your
feedback, because I consider it to be very important that the
approach to raising awareness about the benefits of keeping a vegan
or vegatarian diet should be free of aggression, indeed.
Last but not least, as we can read in
the Pali sutras, the Buddha repeatedly talked about the negative
influence of sectarian tenets, the 'suffering of having opinions'
on the path of Dharma, and the need of avoiding dogmatic views.
In this context, please, let me quote the Kalama Sutra (Anguttara-Nikaya)
where it is written that the Buddha says:
"Do not go by revelation; do not go by tradition; do not
go by hearsay; do not go on the authority of sacred texts; do not
go on the grounds of pure logic; do not go by a view that seems
rational; do not go by reflecting on mere appearances; do not go
along with a considered view because you agree with it; do not go
along on the grounds that the person is competent; do not go along
because [thinking] 'the recluse is our teacher'. Kalamas, when you
yourselves know: 'These things are unwholesome, these things are
blameworthy; these things are censured by the wise; and when undertaken
and observed, these things lead to harm and ill, abandon them...Kalamas,
when you know for yourselves: These are wholesome; these things
are not blameworthy; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken
and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness, having
undertaken them, abide in them."
By writing the above words I hope that Shabkar.Org will continue
to serve the purpose of its creation as expressed on the homepage.
And please, do not hesitate to send
an e-mail with suggestions for improvement, sources on vegeterianism
and Buddhism, quotes, or any other feedback or input you may have.
PS For more response to feedback, see also "Buddha
Was Not a Vegetarian", Wrong Dharma Data".
In Asia, generally speaking, somebody
called a vegetarian does not eat egg, meat or fish, or food containing
these ingredients. So a vegetarian in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage
within Nyingma I am connected to, does not to eat meat, fish or
egg, or food containing these ingedients.
Since people mailed me about this: The
traditional Buddhist (and Hindu) motivation to refrain from eating
egg is that eating egg involves killing a chicken embryo and egg
-fertilized or not- pulls the attention of the mind to the lower
chacras while spiritual practice aims pulling the attention upward.
Modern Buddists in the West add the suffering
of chickens to these arguments. The same counts for vegans who
do not take any dairy products because the production involves the
of cows. Keeping what is called an 'Asian vegetarian diet' I
compromise on milk products, so I am not a vegan but a lacto-vegetarian
('lacto 'means 'milk').
*See also the review
of Shabkar.Org in Tricycle Editor's Blog and LinksPolicy.