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Quiet! I am meditating!
By André Kalden

Dear visitor of this website,

As mentioned on the homepage Shabkar.Org is a non-sectarian website dedicated to vegetarianism as a way of life for Buddhists of all schools.The site takes its name from Shabkar Tsodruk Rangdrol (1781-1851), the great Tibetan yogi who espoused the ideals of vegetarianism from a Buddhist point of view.

Since its official launch in November 2006 Shabkar.Org has received quite a bit of feedback. There were many warm and encouraging comments from a wide range of Buddhist schools and sanghas expressing appreciation for the work and sending good wishes. In some cases there were critiques and helpful comments that I very much appreciated. However, some feedback indicated that shabkar.Org was being used by visitors of this website as a vehicle to criticize their non-vegetarian sangha members. Also a few Asian visitors regarded some content to be too upfront.
Based on this feedback, I would like to share some reflections.

Western visitors
Many (Western) vegan and vegetarian practitioners do not understand why their fellow (Asian) sangha members eat meat while having easy access to vegetarian food, especially when it is a Dharma teacher. However, I - being a strict vegetarian* myself for over twenty-five years - believe that saying that meat-eating sangha members are not "real Buddhists" is not in accord with the Buddhist teachings. Entering the Middle Way does not require being a vegan or vegetarian, whether somebody is happy with this fact or not.

Buddhism is about walking a spiritual path under the influence, the guidance, of the Three Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma and the Sangha. Being fundamentally an oral tradition - supported by scriptures - Buddhism is not a path of following written laws or commandments. Also it is not a path of acting according to a perfect role model without the inner realization behind the action.

Refraining from eating food containing fish, meat, eggs and dairy helps creating favorable conditions for spiritual practitioners and is an expression of loving-kindness towards our fellow sentient beings we call animals. Beside it really is best from an environmental point of view. There is no question about that. However, one does not become enlightened via diets. From a Buddhist point of view condemning others because they eat meat or fish, or egg, is like shouting 'Quiet! I am meditating!'; one misses the whole point in the same way as one does when using Buddhist scriptures to justify eating our fellow sentient beings.

Shabkar Tsodruk Rangdrol (1781-1851), the great Tibetan yogi who espoused the ideals of vegetarianism and from whom this websites takes its name, had meat-eating students. Additionally, strong advocates of vegetarianism in our century, like Chatral Rinpoche (1913-2015) was, have students who eat meat. But they do not raise the issue of refraining from eating meat in a personal way, other than in the one-to-one teacher-student relationship when they consider the time has come to do so, if at all. These great masters should be inspiring examples for us all. Not only in keeping a strict vegetarian diet under all circumstances, but also in the way they appreciate and respect others not keeping such a diet. That is how I feel about this subject.

Asian visitors
If you are a Buddhist visitor from Asia I want to ask for your kind understanding that this website is created by a guy from Holland, me, brought up in an environment where raising issues in a rather straightforward and upfront way is common and OK. This also counts for those who create videos and animations, some of which can be found on Shabkar.Org. By no means is there any aggression involved in the making of this website, but rather a desire for genuine engagement. If you feel it to be otherwise, please send me your feedback, because I consider it to be very important that the approach to raising awareness about the benefits of keeping a vegan or vegatarian diet should be free of aggression, indeed.

Kalama Sutra
Last but not least, as we can read in the Pali sutras, the Buddha repeatedly talked about the negative influence of sectarian tenets, the 'suffering of having opinions' on the path of Dharma, and the need of avoiding dogmatic views. In this context, please, let me quote the Kalama Sutra (Anguttara-Nikaya) where it is written that the Buddha says:

"Do not go by revelation; do not go by tradition; do not go by hearsay; do not go on the authority of sacred texts; do not go on the grounds of pure logic; do not go by a view that seems rational; do not go by reflecting on mere appearances; do not go along with a considered view because you agree with it; do not go along on the grounds that the person is competent; do not go along because [thinking] 'the recluse is our teacher'. Kalamas, when you yourselves know: 'These things are unwholesome, these things are blameworthy; these things are censured by the wise; and when undertaken and observed, these things lead to harm and ill, abandon them...Kalamas, when you know for yourselves: These are wholesome; these things are not blameworthy; these things are praised by the wise; undertaken and observed, these things lead to benefit and happiness, having undertaken them, abide in them."

By writing the above words I hope that Shabkar.Org will continue to serve the purpose of its creation as expressed on the homepage. And please, do not hesitate to send an e-mail with suggestions for improvement, sources on vegeterianism and Buddhism, quotes, or any other feedback or input you may have.

Kind regards,

André Kalden

PS For more response to feedback, see also "Buddha Was Not a Vegetarian", Wrong Dharma Data".

* In Asia, generally speaking, somebody called a vegetarian does not eat egg, meat or fish, or food containing these ingredients. So a vegetarian in the Tibetan Buddhist lineage within Nyingma I am connected to, does not to eat meat, fish or egg, or food containing these ingedients.

Since people mailed me about this:
The traditional Buddhist (and Hindu) motivation to refrain from eating egg is that eating egg involves killing a chicken embryo and egg -fertilized or not- pulls the attention of the mind to the lower chacras while spiritual practice aims pulling the attention upward. Modern Buddists in the West add the suffering of chickens to these arguments. The same counts for vegans who do not take any dairy products because the production involves the suffering of cows. Keeping what is called an 'Asian vegetarian diet' I compromise on milk products, so I am not a vegan but a lacto-vegetarian ('lacto 'means 'milk').

* *See also the review of Shabkar.Org in Tricycle Editor's Blog and LinksPolicy.