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Methods and Purpose: Vegetarian Meals at Eiheiji

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Part of our series on Kaoru Nonomura’s account of his year-long stay at at Eiheiji, the premier Zen training center in Japan (Eat Sleep Sit: p. 158-159):

… I should mention here that even though the main ingredients are all vegetables, such dishes are not strictly vegan. At Eiheiji, curries and stews are made using standard commercial roux, which does contain meat products. Even so, this does not violate any Buddhist precept.

In Thailand and other countries practicing Hinayana Buddhism, which emphasize adherence to ancient precepts, monks go begging for their food. They eat whatever is placed in their begging bowl, be it meat or vegetable, without penalty. The Discipline of the Ten Chants stipulates three conditions under which it is permissible to eat meat: if you did not see the animal being killed for your consumption; if you did not hear the animal being killed for your consumption; if it is certain the animal was not killed for your consumption. As long as these three conditions are satisfied, the meat placed in Thai monks’ begging bowls may be eaten with impunity.

What really matters is the determination not to take life. In fact society is full of people who spend so much energy pursuing the means of doing something that they all lose sight of purpose. Rather than thinking about purpose, people are more attracted by, and more proficient at having various methods at their disposal. But methods that are devoid of purpose or detached from ultimate meaning will often — like war, and like development in the name of progress — lead only to disaster.


Written by virtualsatsang

January 14, 2011 at 7:23 am

Posted in Ahimsa, Meditation, Quotes, Sadhana

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  • Buddhists in the US Military: Heart and Soul on how the US Military struggles to accomodate minority religions. Some Buddhist countries (e.g., Thailand) have robust militaries, so military service among Buddhist practitioners is “possible”. The challenge faced by non-Christians in the US Military is the large and vocal contingent of Evangelical Christians.

  • Healthy Alternative to China Gel: China Gel is popular among yoga practitioners, I myself have come to appreciate it.

    After a cardio-sculpt class involving repeated lunges with hand-weights or when I’ve had one asana too many, the last thing I want to slather on my aching body is China Gel.

    I realize that sounds kind of sacrilege, since China Gel’s considered the muscle remedy of choice at many New York City gyms and yoga studios. I can see why it’s popular: The topical pain reliever has a handful of ingredients that make sense—like menthol and ginseng. But it has way too many ingredients that don’t, like Triethanolamine (a skin, immune system, and respiratory toxin), DMDM Hydantoin (a formaldehyde releaser), and dyes like Blue 1 (CI 42090) and Yellow 5.

  • Mimi Silbert on Delancey Street’s rehabilitation model: As Jerry Brown starts his term as Governor of California, I’m hoping he listens to experts like Mimi Silbert. A SF success story, Delancey Street is now found in five other US cities.

    We take applications from people who have hit bottom, from prison, jail or walk-ins. Residents who have been at Delancey Street awhile interview all applicants. The minimum stay is 2 years; the average stay is 4 years. We have 3 rules: no drugs or alcohol, no physical violence, and no threats of violence. The goal is to learn to lead a productive crime-free, drug-free life of purpose and integrity. Everyone learns a marketable skill (the goal is 3 skills), and earns at least a high school equivalency degree. Advanced education is available.

    Silbert on Options for Dealing with Criminal Offenders:
    “I am going to describe two options. One option: you get put somewhere where you don’t have to work, where you don’t learn anything, where the government – the taxpayer – pays $40,000 to $50,000 dollars. Here’s the second option: the government pays nothing, you have to wake up at 7:00 am, you have to work eight hours a day, you must get educated, you must volunteer in the community… Which would you rather see?”

  • Thought-full Meditation: I’ve written about the scandal which engulfed Sally Kempton’s guru in the past, and I still haven’t found any indication that she’s distanced herself from some quotes attributed to her in the midst of it. Nevertheless, I look forward to reading her columns in the Yoga Journal! From the Feb/2011 issue:

    From the Yoga Vasishta text of high Vedanta: “Consciousness plus thoughts is the mind, Consciousness minus thoughts is God.”

Written by virtualsatsang

January 3, 2011 at 6:27 am

Vegan no more

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I realize that Thanksgiving day is a sensitive time to be highlighting the small but growing tension within the Yoga world, between those who are vegans/vegetarians and those who aren’t. But a recent post by an ex-vegan inspired me to pull together some recent posts on this topic.

  • A Vegan no more:

    … The doctor, who was kind and very understanding, was surprisingly knowledgeable about vegan diets and had a career long specialization in nutrition. After ruling out any other possible medical condition, she patiently spoke over my tears and my hitching sobs and explained that yes, humans are healthiest when eating a large amount of varied plant foods, but that we would be wrong to ignore the small amounts of animal products that many of us so essentially need. “Most human bodies run optimally on the occasional animal product. Eggs and bits of meat every so often are small but very important parts of a healthy diet.” she said, a look of sorrow on her face. She could see how hard this was for me.

    She told me that while there are people who can be quite healthy on a vegan, or predominantly vegan, diet, there were many people who simply could not.

    … Many more vegans just rolled their eyes, blatantly skeptical that I was feeling ill in the first place. The realization that people I had previously considered friends were now flat our refusing to believe in the veracity of my health problems was shocking. Could they honestly think that I would give up on veganism right away?

    … For 3 years I built my entire life on the premise of veganism. It was my life’s passion, my guiding light. Being a vegan was everything to me. I believed my actions made me an animal rights crusader; I was saving lives, and changing the world Now, I know otherwise, but it took a very long time to realize that. For months I was consumed with my self-induced illness, but I still couldn’t abandon veganism; I couldn’t stop fighting for what I believed in. Even if it was hurting me.

    … Every day for the past 2 months I have eaten fish or a piece of meat or eggs. To my never ending shock I have found that I digest a meat and veggie meal far, far better than I ever digested a whole grain/nut/veggie meal. I know that the lipid hypothesis is completely fallacious, these animal foods won’t hurt me or cause me ill health in anyway, in fact, the vitamins and minerals they provide, along with the nutritious cholesterol and wholesome saturated fat, will restore my health. And they have. There are few things as healthy and nutritious as grass fed, organic animal products. So, for these past months, I ate animals and animal products every single day. And, I say with a huge, grateful smile on my face: I’m back!

  • Take up yoga, give up meat?:

    … Ours is admittedly a laid-back studio. But in some yoga circles, being vegetarian or vegan is practically a requirement. As I write in this week’s “Eat, Drink and Be Healthy” column, many yogis believe that the principal of “ahimsa,” which means “noninjury” or doing no harm, dictates that true yogis refrain from eating meat because producing meat harms animals.

    Others argue that true yogis, who through committed practice become acutely attuned to their bodies’ workings, determine on their own what is best for them to eat rather than eat what someone else tells them they should. It is possible, this contingent believes, to be a non-harming person and still enjoy some (humanely farmed) meat.

    To me, it’s a complete non-issue. You eat what you want, and I’ll eat what I want. I can hardly think of anything less yogic than expecting another person to follow your principles instead of their own. There are plenty of good reasons to follow a vegetarian diet (including, if you wish, the desire to practice ahimsa). There are no good reasons to expect anyone else to choose as you do.

  • Sadie Nardini comes out of the meat-eating closet:

    I’ve done yoga for 15 years, taught it for 10. I train teachers, travel across the globe doing high-level workshops, conferences and retreats. My days are spent gladly, and often, for free, helping hundreds of thousands of people worldwide to find their best selves ever.

    I consider myself a pretty good example of a spiritual practitioner set firmly on her dharma, or path of personal transformation. It’s what I was born to do, and who I am.

    Yet what I’m about to say will most likely cause some yoga practitioners to rise up against me; a war on our Om turf, if you will. They will discount all my work and message of personal empowerment to so many. They will have you believe I’m a fake, a wolf in yogi’s clothing. And that makes me sad, because it’s not the reality of my teachers, students and clients.

    … Because after all, most yogis learn in Karma 101 class that to eat meat is to swerve sharply from the yogic path. Many top teachers actually think that unless you live according to a vegetarian and therefore, more “cruelty-free” existence, the gates of yogi heaven here on earth remain firmly closed to you.

    I disagree.

    I get angry — yes — actually, absolutely indignant, when I see students being frowned upon by some self-righteous teacher or fellow student as they even think of raising that forkful of shrimp scampi to their lips.

    It may seem that the yoga community is all-accepting, and benignly just trying to offer you some easy stretches and simple meditations you can do at home, whoever you are, but I can assure you, as someone who has seen behind the scenes of two of the country’s biggest yoga communities, New York and LA, for 15 years, that is not always the case. Many of the most famous teachers are not only vegetarian, but think you should be too, or you’re not “as yogic” as they are. I know…they’ve told me so in person. To me, that’s not spiritual…that’s judgment, pure and simple.

    … There is a strong “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy in the yoga community that is keeping students, and even many teachers, locked firmly inside the meat-eating closet. If they do tell, they run the risk of being placed somewhere along the imaginary, self-created spectrum of yoginess, usually more towards the bottom than the vegans among us.

    … Full disclosure: I used to be one of the Yoga Fundamentalists, kind of.

    I was a vegetarian for 6 years, and a nutrition specialist, so I knew full well what to eat for optimal health. I believed my teachers when they said vegetarianism creates a clean mind, which creates a clean spirit. As if your spirit could have high cholesterol. I was a diligent vegetarian and dedicated yoga student, and later, teacher. Yet, I physically, never felt worse, had lower energy or caught more illnesses. Yet there was one major difference between me and many of the yogis I hear talking their yogi smack today. I never thought I was better, or more spiritual than anyone else based on my food choices. I always maintained that my choice was mine alone, and I accepted people for theirs.

    The first time I ate meat again, it was a Kielbasa sausage with sauerkraut at Veselka’s Deli on 2nd Avenue. I felt vitality surge back into my body. For me, the highest self-healing and best energy is achieved through a conscious, healthy diet containing mindfully-sourced meat. And though delicious, that Kielbasa wasn’t it. I moved on from there to procure compassionately raised, small farm, local when possible, sources of my protein, as well as my other foods.

Written by virtualsatsang

November 25, 2010 at 8:30 am

Posted in Ahimsa, Sadhana, Yoga

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