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An Open Letter to the Dalai Lama
Comments by Brian - 30 Nov 2009

Comments about: An Open Letter from Norm Phelps to the Dalai Lama

Hi Frank and Mary,

Well I'd like to believe that. It's just not in agreement with what I've seen personally happen with people. I agree that eating a whole food, plant based diet is ideal. I do so myself, and have been doing so for many years now. But I simply disagree that this is doable for everyone. The ideal can certainly be approached by most, but reality does not seem to be conducive to it for all people, whether it's genetic issues or medical problems that interfere, pre-existing or otherwise. I agree that it would be ideal if the Dalai Lama were a vegetarian. But it's apparent to me that he simply cannot be a vegetarian.

With regards to the Buddhist sutra concerning monks and their diet, I too wouldn't touch meat in any situation personally, it disgusts me too much, and I would only feel guilty in that I'm supporting the killing in some way. I was just explaining the position of Buddhist monks and nuns, because many people misunderstand them and think that all Buddhist monks and nuns are all vegans when in fact the sutras, while supporting compassion for all beings, do not strictly prohibit meat eating in all situations for monks and nuns; allowances are in fact made in situations where the meat is not prepared especially for monks and nuns. They are, after all, essentially at the mercy of others who work for a living for their daily meals, and who have no obligation to follow the no-harm precept. And within Buddhist cultures with monasteries, it's not their place to dictate to laypeople that they need to honor the precept of no-harm, which is optional for laypeople.

The Buddha was not trying to make excuses for monks and nuns to eat meat. He was in fact aiming to eliminate all avoidable suffering for all sentient beings, including animals. But he encouraged "the middle path" in all things, not as a cop out, but simply because when full awareness and the elimination of all forms of avoidable suffering are your main goal, you take into account a larger perspective, and do not get caught in angry attachments, even attachments based on noble ideals. You actually do more harm to your cause if you rigidly insist on everyone doing things your own way, since rigid insistence can only lead to rigid resistance and a consequential increase in needless suffering. Not to mention the fact that being rigid with others leads to needless suffering within yourself by choosing anger over peace within.

I want to see a vegan humanity as well. And I certainly get angry myself with the way things are for animals (among other things). But we won't get there by berating others for not being compassionate enough; we will get there far more quickly if people are gently encouraged to become more aware, such as through meditation and other awareness practices. The best way imo to encourage others to approach veganism is by making an example of yourself not only as a vegan but as a peaceful and accepting person. Rather than attacking others for not being likewise, simply accept others as they are... they will not resist your ideas this way, and will of their own accord come to you in time if and when they are ready to change... and that is the best we can realistically hope for.

Peace,
Brian