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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Savoring the Bounty of Summer

This has been an interesting summer here on the Pocono Plateau of northeastern Pennsylvania. The first few weekends were washouts, dashing hopes for long awaited tennis events and swimming plans. The woods became more dense with lush leafy growth of shrubs and trees. I have read this is due to higher levels of carbon dioxide produced by warmer climate. In previous summers one could see through the trees in the back yard to streetlights beyond but not so this year.

Our garden Buddha sits atop the remains of an old stone foundation wall, and it has been necessary to cut back the berry canes and other shrubs around it several times this year.

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We also have seen no fireflies here or in New York this summer. I haven’t seen any news stories to address this in 2015, but apparently light pollution is a major factor. When the night is bright, fireflies fail to see one another in their usual mating courtship and therefore produce no offspring the following year.

In addition to the lush vegetation we see all around us, our small plot in the community garden is a tangle of tomato abundance and exuberant Italian parsley and fragrant basil. The parsley is an essential for summer green smoothies, offset nicely by ginger root, fruit and other healthy additions, depending on one’s tastes and what is available. We’ve made piña colada mojito smoothies, minus the spirits but tangy and delicious all the same.

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These Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are ready to pick when the bottom is purply-red and the top still green, and frequently cracked as well.

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Sliced, these Cherokee Purple heirloom tomatoes are dark red with a purple tinge. They are delicious!

Savoring summer’s bounty has been a very happy experience this year, as has casting our meditative eyes on our lovely Buddha, surrounded by the lush woodsy growth, ferns, clover and the potted begonia that has flourished without any care as it celebrates its honored place.

A lotus for you,

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The Postie and the Pig

In New Zealand it appears that the advertising business gets that not everyone sees pigs as edible commodities. At least the Vodafone people get it! Watch this cute video, maybe more than once as I did, to savor the full message.

Needless to say, pigs make great pets but they don’t stay small, even the so called “teacup” variety. Best Friends Sanctuary shares their insights here. There are a myriad of deceptions breeders employ to sell buyers on the belief the piglet they buy will be “tiny”, “teacup” or “micro”.

Pigs are big creatures in maturity, and loving, intelligent and playful non-human animals. Visit the Woodstock Farm Animal Sanctuary, as we have, to get up close and personal with wonderful adult pigs. By the way, WFAS has moved to better, bigger digs closer to New York City, in High Falls, New York, and will have their Grand Opening Labor Day Weekend! They could use your help, both hands on and monetary. Maybe this will be the year you get to celebrate Thanksliving with the animals, including sharing pumpkin pie with the turkeys! Learn more here: http://woodstocksanctuary.org/news-events/events/

Remember our nonhuman brothers and sisters today, every bit as deserving of compassion and caring as the human family. The world is changing, and in this case, in a good way!

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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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My Obsession

 

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Asked what occupies my head a great deal of the time , I have to admit it isn’t the dharma or my commitment to my vegan lifestyle, as much as I wish it were. No, it’s more often my physical being and what’s wrong with it. It’s health concerns and the aging process and weighing more vs. looking youthful, slim and enviable. Yes, thank goodness for my practice which gets me onto the meditation cushion two or three times a day, and I do contemplate the Buddha and the Noble Eightfold Path, and I practice Metta (loving kindness meditation) sincerely. But preparing for a vacation, I have been trying on colorful new clothing, as well as the summer things I’ve packed away since last fall, and feeling lumpy and uncomfortable trying to wear the size number I can accept. The reality is that I don’t look good in that number anymore. Acceptance of reality is optional, but denial and delusion are not okay with me.

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So what I have been obsessing over of late is how to look my best in two weeks despite midsection weight creep. Happily, having finished a session of meditation, I believe I know now how to handle this. The numbers, whether on the scale, on a tape measure, or on the tag of a garment, have no meaning other than to compare oneself to one’s former self, to one’s fellows, or to one’s ideal. I aspire daily in my Metta practice, “May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love.”  And also, “May I learn to identify and see the sources of anger, craving and delusion in myself.” So the delusion that I must be thin–approximating an ideal, in order to be acceptable and worthy of my own understanding and love, once I see, can be shed. This is a sexist ideal, an ageist ideal, a socially promoted ideal, and for today I let it go.

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What also informed me were experiments where children were shown dolls or cards with images of children of varying complexion from pale to very dark. Whenever shown a pair where one child was light and another dark and asked which child or doll was smarter, nicer, more honest, etc., the child, regardless of his or her race, nearly always chose the lighter-complexioned one.

This got me thinking; if I were shown images of women, thin, slightly overweight and very overweight, and if asked who was smarter, nicer, richer, or more honest, I would probably select the thinner one. How sad. But knowledge is power, and as we learn to know ourselves, we become freed from prejudice, self-denigration, low self-esteem and delusion. May I learn to look at myself with the eyes of understanding and love. And may we all learn to look at all our fellow beings with the eyes of understanding and love. May it be so.

And today, this is my practice.

Namaste

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Being the Change We Wish to See in the World

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As Mahatma Gandhi said to us, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” What does this mean? Figure out what you feel needs to change in your world and change yourself and your life with its thoughts, intentions and actions accordingly. For example, if we abhor the degrading of our environment, wreaking havoc with our climate, we do what we can to change it. We advocate for sustainable energy and recycle or reuse metal, glass, paper and plastic objects to avoid consigning them to the rising refuse piles on the planet, and we minmize buying products that waste our precious resources. Here in New York City many residents can now compost much of what once ended up in landfills. If we grieve the suffering of farmed animals in the factory production of meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy products, we buy only humanely raised foods, or as some would deem to be even better, switch to vegan or vegetarian eating, easier to do today than ever. I know, because I have been a fat and sassy vegan for years with no harmful health effects. If we aim to live in a peaceful and conflict-free world, and to be free from anger in the Metta sense, we practice compassionate listening, and we resist the seductive lure of defensiveness and even of playing devil’s advocate, as well as avoiding blatant arguing, righteous indignation and ego-driven defiance. Of course, we may fall short repeatedly, but we can try again and learn over time to eliminate our knee-jerk and hair-trigger reactions to bombast, offensiveness, false accusations and rage, stepping aside to avoid engagement with the fire of that anger lest our own be ignited as well. Fiery anger spreads rapidly through the tinder-dry undergrowth of mindless existence, running along the ground, up tree trunks, onto roofs, and into untended hearts and minds.

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What is the path we are walking in our lives today? Are we part of the solution, or are we by our advocacy, silent assent or apathy being a part of the very problem we seek to change for the better? When we decide to no longer be a part of angry interactions, inflamed rhetoric, and the need to be right above all else, or the abuse of our fellow sentient beings and the world we share with them, we step onto the path of peace.

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Let us find and keep on the beautiful path of peace with every step. Naturally we will stray in our steps, especially at first, but we can with each moment of awareness step back where the peace is, where the love is, where the healing is.

Namaste

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