Why Buddhists Should be Vegetarian

As a Buddhist and imperfect vegan who more accurately fits the definition of vegetarian, this post offers much food for thought, if you’ll pardon the unfortunate cliché, and the comments that follow are every bit as thought provoking and helpful in their way as the author’s most excellent writing on the subject. Let us all reason together, explore, discuss, evolve and change for the better. May we try each day to live Metta, or loving kindness, to the very best of our imperfect ability. Namasté, Sonnische/Shielagh

Sujato’s Blog

The Buddha ate meat. This is a fairly well attested fact. The issue of vegetarianism is addressed a few times in the Suttas, notably the Jivaka Sutta of the Majjhima Nikaya. The Buddha consistently affirmed that monastics were permitted to eat meat, as long as it was not killed intentionally for them. There are numerous passages in the Vinaya that refer to the Buddha or the monastics eating meat, and meat is regularly mentioned as one of the standard foods.

For these reasons, the standard position in Theravada Buddhism is that there is no ethical problem with eating meat. If you want to be vegetarian, that is a purely optional choice. Most Theravadins, whether lay or monastic, eat meat, and claim to be acting within the ethical guidelines of the Buddha’s teachings.

This position sits squarely within a straightforward application of the law of kamma, understood as intention. Eating meat…

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Many Changes, Most Good, Some Hard

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We are relocating, sort of. We are transitioning from Brooklyn, New York part time to northeastern Pennsylvania full time. To say this is a challenge, a monumental adjustment, would be an understatement. This moving is a huge challenge, even though the apartment has been sold furnished, as we strain every muscle, mental as well as physical. Living nearly 25 years in one small city apartment, it would seem a cinch for us to pack up our gear and go. Not so. Stuff hides behind every closet and cupboard door, cubbyhole and forgotten cache spot. We probably put this off too long, but ever since we went into contract we’ve boxed, stuffed, toted, schlepped, donated, discarded and given away a ton of stuff. Nearly all of it carried down three flights of stairs ourselves. Maybe our “never” was we thought we’d never move. Or we thought it would never be this hard, or we never considered the result of bringing new stuff home.

It is really freeing to get rid of excess belongings. The issue was having double of almost everything to make shuttling back and forth the 100 miles or so every week less daunting. So we’ve made at least one and often more trips to the Salvation Army with shoes, clothing, dishes and kitchenware, and other assorted stuff we don’t need. Then there is the quandry of whether or not to keep any winter things. We both elected to keep some winter boots and outerwear, just in case we get surprised by an early snowstorm before heading to our winter snowbird nest, or a late one after we return.

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Earlier this year–or was it late last year?–I ordered an assortment of heirloom seeds from the Grommet, produced by the Hudson Valley Seed Library, a small business devoted to preserving and proliferating the wonderful, flavorful heirloom plants as they were before hybridization and genetic modification “improved” them for us. They are awesome seeds, and I can’t wait to see what they yield for me, a gardener who has relied on garden store seedlings for years. I bought seeds for Cherokee Purple Heirloom Tomato, Swiss Chard, Italian Parsley, Basil and Scallions. I planted them last weekend in my 4′ x 8′ raised bed plot in our community garden. I also planted a couple of big tomato plants from the nursery near us to get a start on this process. There’s nothing tastier than homegrown tomatoes!

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

Made with Repix (http://repix.it)

I am opening a new, spacious psychotherapy office next month in the college town of East Stroudsburg, with Pocono Psychiatric Associates. I plan to offer groups once I get settled. This is awesome and very exciting for me,  especially as one who has paid an arm and a leg and another arm for a very small, high-floor Manhattan office that could barely fit me, a client and one other person. The people there are wonderful and I welcome this new phase of my career. Challenges are terminating with clients I will sorely miss, getting my Medicare provider credentials set up for Pennsylvania, changing my address with a myriad of business and personal correspondence entities, and dealing with people who don’t handle change very well. Even if it is wonderful and exciting.Talking to myself here, too.

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On a brighter note, our local seasonal local ice cream stand has dairy-free vanilla soft-serve this year! How cool is that? I had my first dipped vanilla cone in over 5 years last weekend. I’ve been vegan at least that long, imperfect but sincere. And they offer some 24 different flavors that can be added to it. I can see have some tasty work ahead of me!

So out goes the old, mingled with the newer, in with the fresh, and learning new things every single day! Today it was figuring out how to send a fax from home, not an intuitive effort when the phone line is part of the cable package. It’s raining like cats and dogs, as per usual at this time of year. For the second year in a row, the opening events of the tennis season here have been postponed, leaving game-hungry tennis bums thoroughly bummed.

So just one more challenging change. Blue highlights!

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Namasté

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Spring in the Time of Climate Change

Summer Garden Bounty

Summer Garden Bounty

 

I’ve planted a small raised bed garden annually for the last 5 or 6 years in our rural northeastern Pennsylvania community where we spend half our week. The soil is organic and freshened every spring, and no herbicides or pesticides are allowed. The whole big garden is fenced and features a rainbird-type sprinkler system that waters it once a day, so dry spells aren’t a factor. We also have a hose for watering our plots ourselves as needed. The garden seems to be divided pretty equally between veggies and gorgeous flowers, mostly enormous Dinnerplate Dahlias climbing high with help from poles and trellises. We also have a community herb plot we can all use, and last summer it included curry, basil, oregano, spearmint, peppermint, and rosemary. I love heirloom tomatoes for their tangy flavor and great texture, so I go for Mortgage Lifter. As a pretty strict (but not perfect) vegan, I love my tomatoes! Sometime I put ripe tomato slices with coconut bacon in a BLT with Just Mayo vegan mayonnaise for an amazing treat.

Mortgage Lifter heirloom, courtesy of Bonnie Plants, So named because a radiator salesman in the 1940s started selling the seeds and made enough in 6 yrs to pay off his mortgage!

Mortgage Lifter heirloom, courtesy of Bonnie Plants.
So named because a radiator salesman in the 1940s started selling the seedlings and made enough in 6 yrs to pay off his mortgage

Dinnerplate Dahlia, getting the name from the size of the blooms, and the plants can grow to over 6′ tall.

I usually throw in a Big Boy or Big Girl tomato plant to get a nice variety. I usually have four tomato plants in my 4×4′ raised bed plot. I also plant Italian flat leaf parsley and enjoy it in my green smoothies all summer. It’s the last of my plants to get killed by frost in the fall. My plot is rounded out with basil, and marigolds are interspersed to discourage pests. Two years ago some critters got in and kept biting the ripening tomatoes on the vine, so I bought wildlife netting, but I didn’t need it last year.

So here we are at Memorial Day weekend, and I was planning to buy my seedlings and get the garden in the ground tomorrow. We are in the 5b hardiness zone, which means that the average minimum winter temperature is -15 to -10 F. Our garden chief told us that the garden plots were ready to plant a month ago but urged us to wait until Memorial Day to plant, because it’s not uncommon for us to get a killing frost in May. Last year I tempted fate and planted in mid-May, and thanks to a late frost, everything but the parsley died and I had to buy all new tomato and basil plants and try again.

So I thought this weekend would be safe. Wrong! Thank goodness I haven’t bought the plants yet because last night it went down into the 30s F and some blossoms on our deck took a hit. That’s two years running with later frosts than we had been having up here. Then there were the past two winters which really pummeled the northeastern US. We had more snow than we knew what to do with. Add to these the tornados and droughts and flooding rains in various places not accustomed to them, and it seems we are in for a bumpy ride in the years ahead.

But a few weeks ago, before the foliage of the shrubs, including blackberry canes, and trees began to fill in, the daffodil bulbs bloomed. We planted them years ago when my aunt brought them to me from Tennessee. Here’s a photo I took with my iPhone, as all my originals are these days!

Early spring ruffled daffodils, from Roane County Tennessee bulbs

Early spring ruffled daffodils, from Roane County Tennessee bulbs.

Happy Memorial Day weekend to everyone in the US, as we remember our loved ones who have gone beyond, and all those who died serving our country. And May All Beings Be At Ease, everywhere.

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Kevita!

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As as a vegan I have long wished for a non-dairy kefir, and now we have one, sweetened with stevia, non-GMO, organic, made with coconut water and much lower in calories than regular dairy kefir.  Visit the website to find a store near you. I checked, and I can find it in a number of stores within an easy walk from my office, and even in markets near my rural home. How cool is that? 

If you’d like to know why probiotics are so important to our health, I recommend this blog http://allergiesandyourgut.com/2014/11/18/prebiotics-probiotics/.

I bought a bottle today, and it’s very good. It’s slightly fizzy, refreshing, and has a light, fruity taste. The flavor I bought is Blueberry Cherry and does not contain coconut water, but does have organic apple cider vinegar, something I love. Although the bottle says it may contain traces of alcohol, it isn’t detectable to me, either in flavor or effect. This product isn’t cheap, costing me $3.49 plus tax at my Manhattan Whole Foods. It isn’t really kefir, but it has four strains of live probiotics.

If you try it, let me know what you think.

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Jane Goodall’s 2015 Earth Day Message | the Jane Goodall Institute

Jane Goodall’s 2015 Earth Day Message | the Jane Goodall Institute.

Nancee Lewis Photography

Dr. Jane Goodall expresses great urgency over the state of our planet and the effects our human behaviors are having on its wellbeing. She urges vegetarian or vegan eating, or at the very least limiting the amount of meat we consume. The vast amounts of arable land and water with which to irrigate crops on the land that end up being fed to animal livestock, and the huge ponds of excrement and blood which their lives of suffering leave on the land, are all unsustainable.

Dr. Goodall brings us such wisdom. Let us follow her very sound advice!

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Thanksgiving Thoughts

 

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Thanksgiving is one of those conduits through this life I’ve been living since 1951. No, I don’t remember each and every one of them, but I do remember many. Here are some of those:

  • The turkey dinners ordered from Zucky’s kosher deli with all the trimmings
  • Mom learning from Gracie how to stuff and truss a turkey, with needle and button thread
  • The lentil loaf we had one year instead of turkey when Mom was a vegetarian
  • Thanksgiving dinner with Granny at the Santa Ynez Inn
  • The year when Lucille put her turkey on the counter and our cat and hers dragged it onto the floor and gnawed on it
  • Making my first pumpkin pie in high school from canned pie filling and a store-bought crust
  • Learning to make pumpkin pie from canned pumpkin and scratch crust
  • Jumping up on down on a scratch crust that refused to turn out, and starting all over again
  • Finally making pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin and a frozen crust
  • Getting the Betty Crocker Cookbook and making the turkey and everything for the family
  • Discovering the ubiquitous green bean casserole with French fried onions on top
  • Spending Thanksgivings during boarding school with my aunt and uncle in New Jersey
  • Discovering the ease of the disposable foil roasting pan, learning to put a cookie sheet under it
  • Adding a roasting bag and making the whole thing so much easier
  • Wanting to go to Dysart’s (inspired by Tim Sample) but new friends insisted we join them
  • Spending more than one Thanksgiving serving turkey at a church covered dish supper
  • Realizing there are many different Jell-o salads and Ambrosias, all with lots of whipped topping
  • Becoming a vegetarian briefly and actually making a lentil loaf for our Thanksgiving one year
  • Going on Atkins and eating way more turkey than anyone else at the table, and not much else
  • Watching a Mercy for Animals video on factory farm cruelty to turkeys, cows and other beings
  • Becoming a vegetarian again and eventually going vegan and remaining so
  • Making my first vegan Tofurky Feast, lots of work but good, especially the stuffing and gravy
  • Enjoying the Gardein Holiday Roast, a tasty turkey substitute

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And that brings me to this Thanksgiving. It was supposed to snow all over the northeast but in New York it only rained yesterday, and Wednesday is a very bad day to try to drive from New York to Pennsylvania, a Gridlock Alert Day, because everyone wants to get out of town at once. So this morning we drove to PA and once we hit New Jersey it snowed the rest of the way. There was about a foot of snow on the back deck, and although our driveway had been plowed this morning, there was another inch or two of fresh snow on our walk and driveway. The house warmed up fast with the fireplace and heat pump working beautifully. I put on my apron and started cooking. I roasted a turkey leg for my husband according to a recipe with rave reviews (it was disappointing), and I made stuffing in the crockpot, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green beans, and a wonderful Field Roast Celebration Roast as my vegan main dish. We had a lovely loaf of cranberry bread, cranberry sauce and olives. I turned to Mary McDougall and the Happy Herbivore for my recipes. Last week I had made butternut squash soup in advance for today. Dessert was a three-berry crumb pie from Fairway, with decaf. Delish!

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The food was fine, but I am so thankful for my family, our health, my recovery from back pain, our cat, our friends, my Buddhist practice, our material blessings, my work, and so very much more. And this year, as my teacher Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh lies in a hospital in France recovering from a severe brain hemorrhage, I am so thankful to have learned so many valuable lessons for my life from him. I hope and pray for his full recovery. I also understand that at 88 he may transition from this life before long.

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Namaste

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A Vegan’s Guilty Pleasures

Is being vegan boring? No way!

We who become vegan each do so for our own reasons. Some for health, as I did initially, some for ahimsa,  the principle of non-harming, and some for the environment. It takes way more water, land and feed to raise a pound of meat than an equivalently nutritious portion of vegetables, grains or fruits to be eating directly by the consumer, rather than inefficiently processed through the mastication and digestion of a animal confined for the purpose. The waste materials from factory farmed animals alone account for more water pollution than many other contaminants on the planet. The methane gases produced by ruminants raised for their meat is the single largest contributor of carbon dioxide to global climate change. So the reasons are many but all are compelling to each of us vegans at some point and we change ourselves. I am not proselytizing for veganism here, but if you want to know more, feel free to comment and ask!

That said, let’s examine the vegan lifestyle. Some people think that when someone becomes a vegan they eat nothing but tasteless leaves and twigs. Couldn’t be further from the truth! I have some criteria for vegan snacking such as no high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS), and naturally no eggs or dairy or any ingredients containing them or their derivatives. This is not always easy. Oreos are vegan but have HFCS so I don’t buy them anymore, but Newman’s Os are vegan. But I always read the labels because some versions of familiar products have unwanted ingredients somewhere down the list. For example, certain chili-lime flavored tortilla chips get their tanginess from a milk derivative. Who would think?

I’m not saying they are healthy, but one of my favorite snack treats are Snyder’s Buffalo Wing Pretzel Bites. Chunks of broken up pretzel pieces flavored with a zesty, spicy vegan buffalo-sauce-flavored coating. Vegan! Yummy! They are in every store around, so I won’t link to the company, but you can if you want to know the ingredients.

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I love the various meat analogs (meat substitutes) such as these (and there are many more):

  • Tofurky cold cuts, sausages and franks, and roasts with all the trimmings for special occasions p_holiday_feast195
  • Field Roast frankfurters, sausages, cold cuts, and meat loaf  sausages3-670x523
  • Gardein Beefless Burgers, Crispy Tenders (chicken-free), and everything else they make gardein_CrspyTndrsgardein_frz_BflsBrgr_US_Sm-225x238
  • Lightlife’s Fakin’ Bacon which is delicious with a tofu scramble or on a vegan Reuben sandwich tempeh_smoky_201210

I don’t miss mayonnaise when there are delicious egg-free versions such as Vegenaise, Nayonaise and more.

Who misses butter when one can use avocado, hummus, extra-virgin olive oil or Earth Balance margarine?

Cream cheese? There are several delicious vegan versions.

Hard cheese? No problem! Several great ones exist with more being introduced all the time. I love Daiya shreds and slices. There are amazing artisanal vegan cheeses, cultured and aged just as dairy cheeses are, but made with cashews instead of milk or cream, such as Kite Hill and Heido Ho and others.

Ice cream? Don’t get me started. There are several amazing soy and coconut-milk based variations that rival that pint you used to devour with a spoon at one sitting. You know what I’m talking about! I’ll leave it to you to research this one.

Where do I find all these amazing foods? Some at Whole Foods, Fairway, Wegmans and Giant. I have also found many of these products in the South at Kroger and Publix. You can order many of these products, even the perishable ones (with cold packs), at Vegan Essentials and Pangea, the Vegan Store. These and several other great online vegan resources are detailed here. Some products can be ordered directly from the producers, such as Meatless Select’s Fishless Tuna that is so good, I ordered a case. Check it out!  Product-Page_Tuna2

So why are all these yummy foods that make transitioning to a plant-based, animal-free diet so easy listed among my guilty pleasures? Because if one relies too much on them, the sodium and calories can add up and keep one heavier than one would expect a vegan to be. Ahem. I’m just sayin’ So eat more veggies and whole foods. Whole, as in big green salad, or a whole potato or bowl of brown rice, or a massaged kale salad, or a luscious mango, or a slice of whole grain bread with a little nut butter spread lightly. The possibilities are endless. If you want to know more, check out The Happy Herbivore whose bestselling cookbooks are available on Amazon and in bookstores everywhere.

But unquestionably, these foods are much healthier for you than their non-vegan counterparts. Just go easy and don’t have them at every meal. Even though I often do. I am a work in progress. So copping to my ways and sharing them here is one way I may get better with it all!

Bon appetit!

Namaste

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