I have been vegetarian for about 9 plus years and I don’t regret it. In fact it is probably one of the most positive things I’ve done in this life and I owe it all to my Guru, H.E. Tsem Rinpoche for this. If it wasn’t for Rinpoche’s influence, care, education, and making me see the truth and realities of how animals suffer, feel pain and the torture they go through in the meat industry, I would probably not have given up eating meat.
As everyone knows Rinpoche is a huge animal lover and would do anything to help animals. One of Rinpoche’s great wish is to one day, have an animal sanctuary to save the abused, abandoned and injured animals. Wherever Rinpoche goes, he would always look out for stray doggies to feed and if they are injured, Rinpoche would rescue them even at 3am. It’s not uncommon for Rinpoche to go in to a pet store and come out rescuing a pup or three, or a bird, especially when Rinpoche sees them reached a certain age where most customers will not want to buy them. By rescuing animals, freeing them, feeding them, all these acts of compassion would create the causes for an animal sanctuary to manifest. Rinpoche mentioned, if we say we want an animal sanctuary and that we love animals, we want to save and help them, then how can we say all that but still eat them? Obviously that was contradicting to the cause of saving animals and having an animal sanctuary. Hence, Rinpoche felt it was only logical to become full vegetarian and dedicate it to this cause (this was about 9 or 10 years ago). The Ladrang staffs, who works directly with Rinpoche naturally also adopted cutting down eating meat and slowly made the transition to stop eating meat completely.
It wasn’t easy at first; one of the reasons is because it wasn’t very convenient to obtain vegetarian food back then where vegetarian restaurants were limited. That made the switch a bit more challenging. So we started with once a week, and then followed by 6 days a week. Soon enough it became a house rule that no meat was allowed in the Ladrang which lead to all other departments in Kechara following suit. I was still not 100% vegetarian yet but would try to abstain from ordering meat dishes when I’m eating outside as much as I could.
Then one day Rinpoche shared with us the movie “Earthlings” which He blogged about. All students and departments were encouraged to watch it and later to give our comments in the blog post. Most of us were quite shocked as we were ignorant on how animals in the meat industry were being treated. It was painful but an eye opener to see the amount of suffering and pain these animals have to endure all their lives even before they are finally killed. It also showed how we’ve exhausted our ocean, damaged, polluted, and created global warming on our own planet. The video showed us reality and like it or not, we are definitely part of the cause for these animals to suffer and be killed each time we choose to eat meat. That was the turning point that convinced me to stop eating meat or seafood.
So yes in a way, I’m a vegetarian today is because of Rinpoche, who led by example, stopped eating meat. Rinpoche used to say something like this…“if we can’t even be compassionate at the very gross level and stop eating meat, then how can we say we’re practising compassion?” It is because of Rinpoche’s great compassion for animals and consistent efforts in educating us on the truth, today we have so many people come forth to take on lifetime vegetarian vows. Most recently there were 19 people from Malaysia, Canada, India, and Sweden who took on the vegetarian vows. Being vegetarian is not just something spiritual, in fact for most people it is for their health. When I was working in an organic shop many years back, I was amazed how many cancer survivors there are out there who have turn completely vegetarian because of their health. We shouldn’t need to wait to get cancer to change our lifestyle, should we?
So I’m really thankful and glad that Rinpoche cared enough to show us the truth about eating meat. I don’t think I would have become a vegetarian on my own and would probably still be ignorant of what those animals had to go through before ending up on my plate. Thank you Rinpoche for showing what compassion is at the very basic gross level and with that I dedicate whatever little merits I may have acquired from not eating meat to the long life and good health of my dearest Lama.