Have you ever wondered why more spiritual teachers don’t completely give up animal products? These are compassionate people, right? "Enlightened souls" who've seen through the illusion of separateness of form and into the oneness that connects all life, right? Well yes, they are, but this (unfortunately) doesn't always translate back living a vegan lifestyle. Read on to find out why.
Asking a spiritual guru - be they a Buddhist monk, a Japanese Zen master or any number of more relatable western teachers - going to these people for dietary or ethical advice is almost like going to a veterinarian for tips on your yoga practice... As learned in the Vedic scriptures or the teachings of the Buddha as these spiritual teachers may be, none of this makes them qualified to have an informed opinion on ethical living, nor environmental preservation nor the specifics of optimal human nutrition. These are the reasons people turn vegan, not because they are entirely present to the moment or have properly grasped the separateness of body, mind and spirit.
These gurus are of course entitled to their opinion, but is this their field of expertise? Definitely not. Eckhart Tolle is an incredible spiritual teacher who has helped countless people lead happier, more deeply fulfilling lives - including my own and many people I know personally - but you have to remember that any answer he or any other spiritual teacher gives to a question about eating animals is going to come from the point of view of that learned spiritual teacher, and nowhere else. As you can see from the wishy-washy answer Eckhart gives in the video below, it is definitely not his field of expertise, nor does he appear to have thought too deeply (or just doesn't care too much?) about the consequences of his lifestyle.
But this is okay, because it is not his field of expertise. And because of this, I don't think people should go looking to him, or anyone else like him, for advice on veganism, for the same reason you wouldn't ask your accountant about your broken hot water system.
There are exceptions to this, of course, such as the Vietnamese Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, who has voiced his opinion on this matter beautifully in his famous quote about the meals at his temple, " Being vegetarian here also means that we do not consume dairy and egg products, because they are products of the meat industry. If we stop consuming, they will stop producing. Only collective awakening can create enough determination for action."
In the short video below he briefly explains why everyone should go vegan.
But of course, this is the exception to the rule.
We look to established spiritual guru’s for advice on meditation, peace of mind, and other things beyond the physical. We look to medical doctors and nutritionists for advice on human health, philosophers for their thoughts on ethical living, and other (non-biased, non-industry funded) scientists for their findings on the environmental concerns of animal agriculture. These are the people who have done their homework in this department, so these are the people who are qualified to talk most authoritatively about the reasons we should stop eating animals and the things that come out of their bodies.
These people (doctors, scientists, philosophers/ethicists) know the benefits of veganism because it directly relates to their field. Will eating more fruit and veg help to quiet the incessant internal dialogue that is responsible for so many of the reasons we go to spiritual teachers for guidance? Not really. Nor will it help us to understand the true nature of ourselves and what happens after we die... So don't expect people who's field of expertise is these spiritual concepts to advocate for veganism like some other professionals do.
Remember that currently less than 5% of the population is vegan - and this includes medical doctors, environmental scientists and philosophers - so I wouldn't expect more than 5% of spiritual teachers to be vegan either.
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