Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

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Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby PsychedelicSunSet » Fri Dec 06, 2013 1:31 am

What are the rules regarding a Vegan/Vegetarian diet in the Sangha? I wish to ordain in the near future, however I've been a vegan for 7 or 8 years. How would this be handled? If I were to eat animal products I'd become very sick. Would I be able to retain a Vegan or possibly Vegetarian diet? If not, is this something I'd have to ween myself off of prior to going to a monastery, or would I be able to do so at the monastery? Any input would be much appreciated.



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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby boris » Fri Dec 06, 2013 12:15 pm

In Thailand it may be a problem. I was layman, living in temple. I could manage to keep vegeterian diet by eating only fruits and rise. :smile: But it was big temple, so they have plenty of fruits, I do not know how is the situation in other wats. In Sri Lanka, as far as I know, there are quite a few vegeterian monks, and they have no problem with it. Sri Lanka is in range of Indian culture where vegetarian diet is obvious thing, while Thailand is rather more under China influence, and there vegerarian diet is something unusual.
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby Dhammanando » Fri Dec 06, 2013 4:53 pm

PsychedelicSunSet wrote:What are the rules regarding a Vegan/Vegetarian diet in the Sangha?


Don't give directions or even drop hints to laypeople about your dietary preference, but just accept what you're offered and don't eat the meat.

An exception is Wat Pa Baan Taad and its branch monasteries, where even practising vegetarianism this way is prohibited (Ajahn Maha Bua condemned it as "Devadatta dhamma") and any monk discovered to be doing so will be immediately expelled.

Would I be able to retain a Vegan or possibly Vegetarian diet?


It depends how strict you are about it. If you're very strict then it's out of the question because most Thai dishes have at least a dash of fish sauce added to them while being cooked, so in rural Thailand you'd be reduced to living on rice and bananas. But the kind of vegetarianism where you just refrain from eating what is manifestly meat or fish is perfectly doable. For example, there is a vegetarian nun residing in my monastery and although we're supported by very poor mountain folk, on a typical day she'll get rice, forest leaf curry, mushroom curry, boiled bamboo shoots, an egg, noodles, bananas (and sometimes some other fruit according to the season), and sometimes a carton of soy milk.
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby Sokehi » Fri Dec 06, 2013 7:04 pm

In western monasteries it seemed to me a bit easier to follow a vegan diet. I have never encountered a non-vegetarian dish in the forest sangha associated monasteries in europe. But if - as it is you going down the foodline - you don't need to pick that certain dish that comes with cheese for example. But asking lay people what is in here what is in there should never been done. So I guess carefully that most of the time you might be able to live on a vegan diet, but still you should not cause any trouble around this.
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby Bhikkhu Pesala » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:12 pm

PsychedelicSunSet wrote:If I were to eat animal products I'd become very sick.

How do you know that if you have been a Vegan for eight years? Perhaps you wouldn't be sick as long as you ate only a little.

I do know that Burmese monks cannot digest dairy products as well as we can, and they may have health problems when eating Western food, just as I did in Burma when eating Burmese food.

I soon learnt to avoid certain foods that were guaranteed to make me very ill (a common dish was a sour soup that the Burmese love), and some compassionate supporters made an effort to provide more suitable (less oily) food for me.

It is allowable not to eat everything offered. In most monasteries and meditation centres I have stayed at, a whole selection of dishes are offered. In Mahāsi Yeikthā they arranged separate tables for vegetarian monks — there were often monks from Taiwan practising there.
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby nekete » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:50 pm

In all the monasteries where I have been all the monks can choose their the food. When you go to the dining room there is always a lot of food to choose, so you only have to eat the one is OK for you. The problem will be if you have to go to the village and ask for the food. And there are also monasteries where vegetarianism is the only option, as for example the Doi Suthep in Chiang Mai (Thailand).
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby David N. Snyder » Fri Dec 06, 2013 8:52 pm

Good responses from the venerables in this thread who have direct experience with this. I have not been a monk, but from what I have seen at monasteries, it would be difficult, if not impossible to be completely vegan. It looks like being lacto-ovo is definitely doable as the food dana is brought back to the temple and served buffet style where you could choose the vegetarian dishes. But starting to ask about where the broth came from, if there is cheese in the pasta sauce, etc. would not be good. You could avoid the pieces of animal flesh but still eat by-products such as broth, lard and then the lacto-ovo dishes, but hard-core 100% vegan I imagine would be impossible (as a monk).
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby pulga » Fri Dec 06, 2013 10:03 pm

Wouldn't we also have to consider that in some cases --in fact many cases -- the dáyiká in preparing the dána and in offering it is making merit for a lost loved one who might be suffering in the afterlife? A lot hangs in the balance: for a monk to brush aside her offering, even by leaving it uneaten in his bowl, might be very worrisome and painful to her.
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby daverupa » Fri Dec 06, 2013 10:10 pm

pulga wrote:Wouldn't we also have to consider that in some cases --in fact many cases -- the dáyiká in preparing the dána and in offering it is making merit for a lost loved one who might be suffering in the afterlife? A lot hangs in the balance: for a monk to brush aside her offering, even by leaving it uneaten in his bowl, might be very worrisome and painful to her.


This isn't mentioned at all at MN 3, where the Buddha discusses how food left over after having eaten his fill could either be eaten by another monk, or thrown away. The monk who would throw it away and not eat it is praised, which tells me that the dana argument doesn't really hold water here (but merit transfers aren't really attested there either).

The concern about the excess food seems to have been over ensuring that the food wasn't going to smother the life out of something by being thrown somewhere.
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby pulga » Fri Dec 06, 2013 10:32 pm

daverupa wrote:This isn't mentioned at all at MN 3, where the Buddha discusses how food left over after having eaten his fill could either be eaten by another monk, or thrown away. The monk who would throw it away and not eat it is praised, which tells me that the dana argument doesn't really hold water here (but merit transfers aren't really attested there either).

The concern about the excess food seems to have been over ensuring that the food wasn't going to smother the life out of something by being thrown somewhere.


Irrespective of what the Suttas say I've seen dánas carried out in Sri Lanka. Often times they're scheduled around the anniversary of the death of a close family member. I'm a vegetarian but if an elderly widow were to get up in the wee hours of the morning and were to prepare a meal with fish in it to offer to the Sangha out of deep concern for her departed husband whom she believed to be in desperate need of her help, were she to offer it to me I'd eat it.
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby nekete » Fri Dec 06, 2013 10:40 pm

pulga wrote:
daverupa wrote:This isn't mentioned at all at MN 3, where the Buddha discusses how food left over after having eaten his fill could either be eaten by another monk, or thrown away. The monk who would throw it away and not eat it is praised, which tells me that the dana argument doesn't really hold water here (but merit transfers aren't really attested there either).

The concern about the excess food seems to have been over ensuring that the food wasn't going to smother the life out of something by being thrown somewhere.


Irrespective of what the Suttas say I've seen dánas carried out in Sri Lanka. Often times they're scheduled around the anniversary of the death of a close family member. I'm a vegetarian but if an elderly widow were to get up in the wee hours of the morning and were to prepare a meal with fish in it to offer to the Sangha out of deep concern for her departed husband whom she believed to be in desperate need of her help, were she to offer it to me I'd eat it.


The Sangha it's not only you. A omnivore can eat it. By the way, what's the problem teaching everybody not to collaborate killing animals? You get bad karma when you are involved in killing animals, so you are not doing a favor telling that old woman that it's OK killing fishes.
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Re: Monks and Veganism/Vegeterianism

Postby pulga » Fri Dec 06, 2013 11:12 pm

nekete wrote:The Sangha it's not only you. A omnivore can eat it. By the way, what's the problem teaching everybody not to collaborate killing animals? You get bad karma when you are involved in killing animals, so you are not doing a favor telling that old woman that it's OK killing fishes.


Unfortunately Western monks are given an importance -- at least in Sri Lanka -- that they don't deserve. I'm just offering a realistic scenario based upon what I've seen.
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