DiscussionsAn Open Letter to the Dalai Lama - Comments by Brian - 30 Nov 2009
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Just wanted to mention that I agree with Katy's comments.

I am a vegan and have been for eleven years. It is a noble ideal to approach the vegan lifestyle as much as possible, and it is something I feel obligated to do as a moral imperative.

But we must also acknowledge the simple fact that not everyone can be vegan or even vegetarian. Veganism is an ideal that reflects a higher compassion, but it remains an ideal that is not always possible. I know someone who was a vegan and lost the ability to digest all grains from a certain disease that took out much of her digestive tract, leaving her to choose meat eating or a painful death. She chose to eat meat again. Someone else I know lost his hair when he tried going vegetarian two times: he stopped losing hair when he started eating meat again both times. I myself struggled healthwise when I started with it (I lost too much weight and became very light headed and feint-prone), but I obstinately pushed through and my metabolism adjusted in a few years; I had to literally consume 12 ounces of nut butters a day for years, just to maintain a barely adequate weight. Now I'm starting to weigh a little too much, lol.

The Buddha himself did not exactly espouse a vegan or vegetarian diet, actually. This is a common misunderstanding. Though he acknowledged the intrinsic value of all sentient beings (which includes animals), and of causing no harm to others, he also instructed monks in the sutras to accept whatever food has been offered to them, including meat, so long as animals have not been specifically killed and their meat prepared especially for them. If the animal is already dead and the meat already prepared, then what's done is done, and they should accept the food according to the sutras. The animal was not caused harm by the monk, directly or indirectly, when it's already dead. Monks were essentially beggars, too, and it would be improper for them to complain to those who are offering them what food they have available to offer out of generosity. If meat is prepared specifically for someone, this means the animal is to be killed, butchered and prepared specifically for them, so it is unacceptable for a monk to encourage this harm that is to come for an animal.

You could argue that it does promote harm to animals by supporting those who kill and eat animals. I reject all meat myself for this reason, and the fact that I detest it. But I guess the Buddha was being practical with regards to the reality that most of the world is not vegan, nor wishes to be, and monks are beggars and cannot be choosy, so it's considered okay for them to eat meat so long as animals were not harmed directly or indirectly by the monk. It's also not a monk's place to insist that a layman abide by a monk's precepts... especially when he's at the layman's mercy for his food.

I want to see a vegan world too. But it is simply not possible, even if every person in the world wanted to be vegan. Maybe one day we will have the ability to improve our genetics to fulfill this ideal, that is my hope.



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