Recently there were in-depth discussions between our Teacher and some newer students via email that involved the intricacies of a vegetarian diet vs. veganism, as well as why it is so important to have at least, a vegetarian diet. All names have been removed or replaced for the privacy of the individuals. Of course, the responses by our teacher, Bodo Balsys remain labelled for your reference.
Email (from Student):
A most interesting presentation about being vegan from an academic and activist that can change the way one thinks. A great one to use as a resource, especially for people open:
Response from Bodo regarding a Vegetarian Diet:
Dear student, as you sent a video relating to the Vegan Vs Vegetarian debate, I thought it would be viable to present to you my view re this subject. I have decided to clarify this point somewhat, as many new students are not given the proper teachings, and most don’t read my book Ahimsa, which is a very hard hitting case for compassion to animals. This email can then also be sent to them. The teachings are given in my book Ahimsa, Buddhism and the Vegetarian ideal, which actually has a high thumbs up amongst Vegan organisations – as the internet shows, are quite forceful for the cause, maybe even seen to be somewhat extreme by some. There I state that Veganism presents a better moral argument than Vegetarianism, but I also point out the nature of the Buddha’s Noble Middle Way here, which favours vegetarianism. There is however no difference between the two with respect to healthy living, providing the nature of nutrition is properly understood, and all forms of fanaticism are eliminated. (Emotional force of any type is a major cause of sickness and disease.)
However, we also often have to accommodate normal people, who in their good heart want to offer us a meal, and find it difficult enough to offer vegetarian food. There are many opportunities to teach them the compassionate ideal in such situations, in ways that they will countenance conversion, or to drastically limit their meat intake…. To produce new converts from the meat eating world, it is best to offer them a Vegetarian diet option, which their minds can better countenance rather than a more drastic to them Vegan ideal. (They can choose the Vegan option later.) We therefore educate people to accept to be Vegetarians, and try to get them to seriously limit dairy options. This approach is in my view the best way to try to help animals, as many more people will convert under this option than to Veganism, and therefore far less animals will suffer slaughter. (Especially here in Europe, where I am distressed to see whole walls of supermarkets filled with rows of various types of meat on offer, to say nothing of all the meat products on the shelves, where Soya products hardly exist–and GMO’s are now a major pain to consider, as nearly all Soy is made this way.) A vegetarian diet is actually the true middle way between meat eating and fruitarianism, and thus is the preferred option to teach the world. (I consider two grades of meat eaters here, heavy users, and those who eat it sparsely, or only fish.) The conversion from meat eating for the human population must happen in stages via this option. Also, then all of the laws of healthy living can be properly provided relating to diet, fasting, herbal remedies, natural life style, etc. Our group therefore can eat dairy products, but minimally, preventing attitudes of “holier than thou”, eliminating fanaticism (allowing therefore a carefully controlled amount of ice cream and chocolate for children, etc) and making their interrelation with average society much better. It facilitates their conversion, with no adverse health effects as a consequence. (Cheese and milk are heavy congestion producers if taken in quantity, and there is also the case of “factory farming” methods of dairy cattle, where they must be constantly pregnant to produce the milk.)
The use of leather products is another case in hand. Leather is actually a by-product of the meat industry. They do not kill animals for this, rather for their meat, whilst substitutes for shoes do not wear well, break easily, etc. There also are adverse environmental consequences associated with their production–cotton, rubber, vinyl, etc., are all problematic, and objects of big Corporation mass marketing. I have grappled many years with this issue, and have decided that it is best actually to wear leather therefore for practical purposes, and out of respect for the animals that have suffered and was killed, so that their lives are remembered by us who are compassionately focussed upon them, producing silent prayers in consideration for their sacrifice, which the leather constantly brings to mind. This is another “middle path” approach. The leather products will begin to disappear when enough people become Vegetarians/Vegans. Natural death of animals is another thing….and the use of their skins in such cases can be considered.
I hope that this is useful to you, as both Vegans and Vegetarians abhor the mind-set of our societies that mass-murder the “innocents”– to use an imagery from Ahimsa, and are using the most appropriate methods we can think of to try to stop the slaughter.
Email (from Student):
Dear Bodo, thank you so much for your email. I agree with your views as stated largely though some research actually shows that the argument that diary is good source of calcium may be a mind control exercise of the dairy industry. It appears that animal protein may turn the blood more acidic, causing the body to leech calcium phosphate from the bones, using the phosphate to neutralise the acidity and excreting the calcium into the urine. Those countries with high rates of diary consumption are also the countries with high rates of osteoperosis which appears to show this. Thus, diary is potentially unhealthy, not to mention the cholesterol aspect.
Still, it is agreed that it is good for people to move in stages and personally in programs like mine they start with eliminating red meat, then chicken, then fish. Otherwise some people can become even quite faint when they reduce a large boost of yang energy from their diet quickly.
Still, videos like Yourofskys are shown to them so that they know the ultimate suffering, and that may create awareness and support their journey. The dairy industry means that cows are constantly kept pregnant (akin to forced ongoing rape), are kept in inhumane conditions, are forced to keep producing milk when it is required for the calf only and usually have the calf removed early, sometimes within days of birth. Imagine if that was done to a human in a hospital after birth. Coming from a dairy producing area and with a father running the southern hemispheres biggest abattoir in NSW, first-hand experience has been gained. Then the delusion of dairy being good for bones and calcium just adds more impetus to avoiding such products.
If one goes to someones house and is concerned about causing them distress, then a salad could easily be prepared and one could even fast. It is often because we as spiritual students lack discipline and willpower to consider even such basic options. It may only be a valid argument to eat out of ‘hospitality’ if one is forced to eat at another’s house nearly regularly. The Gary Yourofsky video sent through backs this up as well.
peace, love and gratitude.
Response From Bodo:
Yes, I agree, the Calcium in milk is a form of mineral calcium that cannot be properly assimilated in the human body, as you stated. Also, the composition of cow’s milk causes much mucous to form in the chest cavity, which predisposes people to many chest infections–colds, flues, etc. It is especially disastrous as a substitute for breast milk for infants–many later allergies and other problems are caused this way. Therefore I advise people to use dairy minimally. Unfortunately the use of GMO’s in food nowadays also makes the alternative Soya milk suspect, and one needs to be quite wealthy to be able to afford to exclusively organic foods, if one does not grow them. (This high cost of organics is another major victory of the DB in our societies.)
However, the proviso or note needs to be made is that most of our arguments for the non-eating of meat really concerns the nature of the mass-marketing, force-feeding, factory-farming, commercialisation of animals. (Others relate to the health issue.) This is especially grave with respect to chickens and pigs, and now also they are factory-farming fish, to say nothing about the industrial fishing methods in the world’s oceans. We have such things as the destruction of vast tracts of rain forests for cattle farms, etc. The vast extent of this industrialisation of animal suffering is truly horrendous. But, in the case of many third world farms, where the family cow is a much beloved and prized asset, a different perspective comes into play. In some rural areas in India, for instance, the animals live in the bottom floor of the house and the humans above them. Everything smells of strong urine and dung. Here the milk from the cow serves well both the humans and the calf. If occasionally cows are killed, it is done with much respect, prayers and mantras for the life of the animal. The karma then is abrogated, and becomes part of the natural life-death cycle of Nature. Lions, tigers, thus are needed in Nature’s balance, and humans serve a similar function. In all indigenous societies the humans are the carers of Nature, living in true symbiotic harmony. Animals are respectfully killed to provide sustenance for human life, and often humans are also killed by animals. Totems, and the entire religious life of the society, revolves around this process of natural life. One cannot say therefore in such cases, e.g., Eskimos or Amazon Indians, that the killing is wrong for them.
It is the advent of the callous indifference of our Western societies, where animal life and suffering is seen only in terms of monetary profit – that the karmic abuse lies, and the price must therefore be paid back to humans in kind, re sickness and suffering. People no longer live in harmonious balance with Nature, they have lost the respect for the sanctity of life, and cruelly kill; not just animals, but massively also their own kind, such as the wars of aggression of the US and NATO. People must learn to love and respect the animal/human brethren again in every way (and not selectively, where pets get treated royally, whilst other animals get cruelly butchered). For this reason Vegetarianism is the bottom line for the new forms of human society to arise, with Veganism a better option for others.
I have laboured a little on this subject because I wish to use our interchange as a short introduction to those we need to convert to a better karma-freeing lifestyle from their unthinking meat-eating, pill-popping medication sickness-producing times, to a much healthier lifestyle, as a basis of their spirituality and livelihoods. A true respect for the sanctity of all Life is what really concerns us here, where the food one consumes and the way one does so, lies at the heart of the matter. We could give many other arguments, as are in my book Ahimsa, and in many other publications, but this is a good start.
Email (from Student):
Thanks Bodo. All you say is definitely valid and I agree however might I ask you to consider the following:
Yes, a vegetarian diet is a good option for the masses to aim for, though perhaps for those more spiritually evolved it may be good to clearly educate more clearly the suffering caused by still having usually non organic dairy products which is often not realised by the vegetarian class.
I agree that in the primitive villages, animals may be killed to support the survival of a higher life form, i.e. humans. However, this is not the case in modern western society where an average Coles supermarket has approx. 13000 items to choose from including a large range of meat substitutes.
Most people who are vegetarian, i.e. don’t eat chicken, fish or other meat products, will eat non organic dairy and some will buy organic though as you say, it is quite expensive. It appears that many vegetarians have been deluded to think that simply vegetarianism means that their eating habits have resulted in stopping their contribution to animal unnecessary suffering. It is an illusion to think that because they are not actually eating meat that one can relax and that minimal harm is caused (to ourselves and the animal) by eating dairy products.
Non organic dairy means that the cows are continually inseminated to keep them pregnant (what we would call rape for humans) which can reduce their life span by 50% and when they stop producing milk sooner due to non-stop production are usually slaughtered, can live in limited confined space, due to being forced to produce milk unnaturally for so long die much younger, calves can be taken away on day 1 – causing huge trauma to mother and calf (as mentioned, imagine a woman having a child and having that child removed forcefully forever on day 1, never to be seen again), the cheese, milk and butter are actually leeching calcium away from bones and are full of toxic materials including antibiotics, steroids, fertilizers, pesticides etc. and are full of cholesterol.
If they are organic, they simply have the cows living in slightly bigger holding pens (3 m square required), the baby cow stays with mother for 3 mths and the cows have not been fed chemicals to satisfy organic criteria. However, as mentioned above, they still suffer the associated issues mentioned due to being kept ongoingly pregnant to produce milk
Organic standards such as the the organic standards of the National Association for Sustainable Agriculture Australia Limited (NASAA) are a super beginning but not the end of the journey in itself.
The purpose of a cow producing milk in a healthy organic way is to feed a calf. Not to be continually hooked up to a machine that basically sucks the life force out of them so that humans can enjoy their milk, cheese and butter.
It appears in our society that there has developed a sense of complacency amongst non-meat eating vegetarians that there are no ethical and limited health concerns with still eating dairy. This could be very much a mind control exercise of the powerful dairy industry.
It is thus put forward that for those vegetarians who think that they are comfortable with the position of not eating meat however eating dairy, let this position be a commendable stage of their evolution but not a position that they can commend themselves on for too long. To perhaps lift the veil and not to allow too much satisfaction with being vegetarian when those innocent vulnerable cows continue to suffer to satisfy the taste buds of many.
Much respect and lots of love dear Bodo.
Response From Bodo:
Though what you say concerning the treatment of the calves so that milk can be produced on an industrial scale is true, however, one must take great care not to confuse the nature of human suffering, involving the emotions and the mind, to “animal suffering”. (Too many alternatives do so, thus they produce fanaticism, which has both karmic and health consequences. About 95% of sickness is caused through the emotional foundation.) Animals do not have the emotional-mind. They suffer discomfiture and instinctual reactions, loss of natural life style, and the pain that is provided at death. (Who can truly gauge what this “discomfiture” means to them, especially in the “organic” way, without erroneously thinking in terms of the way humans “feel’?) With respect to the last, we see that all beings must die sometime. The question really concerns how? Natural death? Lions attacking an animal, a bunch of hyenas attacking the lower portion of an animal with their teeth–a horrible death from a human perspective, or from human agencies? All of these are inculcated by the Lords of Nature to be appropriate. What is not appropriate is the cruel, insensitive mass-farming and slaughter methods, the commercialising of suffering, for here there is much karma to pay. In the end it is a question of the type of karma one creates…and effectively the karmic consequence is my main theme always.
Now, if the objective is to prevent animal suffering then the effect of the proper Vegetarian ideal, of eliminating milk products to a large extent, especially the drinking of milk, but retaining a limited amount of milk products–yoghurt (the “healthiest” form), a small amount of cheese and chocolates/ice cream; is similar to the Vegan case–if enough people do so then it will mean a collapse of the commercial dairy industry. The very small amount of milk consumed has minimal karmic consequences (and some positive ones), and very little health consequences. (It reflects what would be fine in a society that properly cared for its animals, including cattle, e.g., the much beloved household cow in traditional farming societies mentioned earlier.) However, as before said, fanatical emotional attitudes do affect health, and can be counterproductive in changing the meat-eater’s views, because of perceived zealotry.
Next, there are the lifestyle questions. It is more expedient in this society to be more sociable with those that you have to interrelate, so that they are not put into too many paroxysms of mind to host you, by not presenting what they view as too an extreme a lifestyle, and will then countenance changing theirs one way or another positively if one’s argument is good, causing less animals to be killed in the long run. Also, the “suffering” of cows is only a small part of the equation of what needs to be discussed with people living in this modern world, where everything is poisoned–the air (pollution, chemtrails), water (fluoride, bleach), food–in numerous ways, plus the GMO’s. The deadly white products–white flour, white sugar, white rice, peeling skins off potatoes; the war against natural medicines so that only virulent poisons must be used to “heal”, arrogantly asserted by a totally bought off medical profession pushing pharmaceuticals. Then there are all of the political issues, wrong social moirés, xenophobia, prison reform, law reform, marihuana reform, logging, nuclear issues, the main stream media’s lies….the list goes on and on…. All of which need to be tackled by the conscientious…
With this lifestyle question, one must also look to the right education of one’s children. Now a serious problem arises here. If one’s child is being raised in a totally sane lifestyle, such as Veganism, but is viewed as very extreme by the outside society, then what happens to that child when they go to school and interrelate with peers that are the normal consumers that eat lollies, chocolates, all meat products, white bread, etc? The parents may have firm convictions and can insulate themselves from that world, but the child can’t–everyday they get bullied in that environment (such as my son was). And the bullying can get violent, terrorising the child not just in school, but outside as well. It produces numerous psychological problems in the child. (We partly solved the problem by bringing him to a Steiner school, where Vegetarianism is the norm, but this is at a cost of increased school fees–not easy for struggling parents.) Then also what happens when that child eats a chocolate because of peer pressure or being offered one from a loving friend? This undoubtedly will happen. Then you get the feeling of being deprived at home, even real inner resentment against parents building up over time. This was the case of another girl I knew when she was young, and ended up stealing money from her mother’s purse so she could buy the sweets she was deprived of, from a shop in secret, and egged on by her friends. Deprivation when young usually means addictions forming later.
Thus later, when an adolescent, the resentment of being deprived all of the early life boils over into an addiction, because now it’s the friends, boyfriends/girlfriends, strong emotions, that call the shots, not the parent’s wishes. The peer pressure becomes overwhelming, which I have seen happen every so often. (Almost universally so.) A very painful outcome for the parents. You see therefore, that the enormous pressure of all the sickness-producing factors and their educational prowess, mass advertisement, the lies provided on the mass media, the peer pressure of the masses that have been educated that way, and which the adolescent succumbs to, to “fit in”. Only the most determined child does not succumb. Much depends upon how well that child was educated, how much they felt deprived, producing an inner resentment, fixed up later in a negative way, and who they make as friends/lovers, (I can also add the esoteric factor, of the true spiritual age of the child to this list.)
Here again a “middle way” approach, coupled with proper education, helps to prevent this “blow-back” in children as they grow up, because they have been better able to “fit in” with their peers all through their life, causing no real psychological problems, and as a consequence they could also help educate those around them as they grew up. Thus taking all issues into account this “middle way” becomes the best way in this extremely materialistic and callous society we live in, to solve the problem of this mass animal-slaughter and related health, and a myriad other issues. Once you’ve been able to collapse the meat industry, then the problems of the deprived calf goes with it to a very large extent. In a later epoch when the present dairy industry has collapsed, then the “middle way” can be re-evaluated, and Veganism becomes the “middle way”, and fruitarianism becomes the “extreme” view.
Email (from a different Student):
Thank you a lot for sharing video and your discussion about Vegetarianism/Veganism. I watched the video first to understand the reasoning behind veganism, and indeed some documentaries speak better than any speeches said or words written. Cruelty happening every day on animal farms is truly shocking and disgusting. Unfortunately we don’t think much about it when eating nicely cooked dinner with tasty looking and smelling steak, for instance. All horror behind is not seen or known. This is the fact, but most people, including me until recent time preferred closed eyes on those facts and enjoyed the food, no matter where it came from or what it passed through.
The view of the video speaker is quite radical, but I really appreciate the fact he took initiative to face the truth and what is more important, actively fighting against the system and forces us to think about others rather than just about ourselves. I believe this idea of compassion should be highly promoted, and then it is up to people to decide to which extent they are ready to follow it.
After watching the video Best Speech You Will Ever Hear – Gary Yourofsky – YouTube, I read your discussion about a Vegan vs Vegetarian diet, and personally I support your point of view. I agree vegetarianism will be much easier to promote than veganism, and surely it will be easier to convert gradually. I believe modern society is not ready yet to live only on vegetables, fruits and cereals. What is more important, in some geographical locations people cannot afford it.
It is easy to talk about veganism when you are living in California. But I know the other side, as I was born and living many years in Siberian climate. Even vegetarianism there I cannot imagine, to be honest. Every single meal of CIS countries is based on meat and eggs, and milk products are highly consumed. The problem is that some time ago vegetables and fruits there were only available 3 months a year. Most part of it is being conserved (salted) for winter. Considering the amount of salt and sugar they contain, it can doubtfully be called healthy food. Nowadays some fruits and vegetables are available throughout the year, but they are highly expensive and full of chemicals, causing allergies and stomach deceases. Moreover, it is hard to imagine how people survive in extreme winter with average temperature of -20-40 C just by consuming vegetables and cereals.
Regarding leather consumption I agree with you as well and I was following the same logic by buying clothes and boots. Once again, in cold countries it is impossible to survive with synthetic clothes. So I also think animals’ leather and furs should be consumed rationally. If it is a by-product of meat production there is no shame to use it. Moreover if the animal is killed, I believe giving gratitude to the nature by utilizing most of it is better than wasting valuable parts of it. But there are animals that are killed specifically for their highly expensive furs and leather. That I consider as a crime against nature and never use these kind of products.
In this topic it is important to distinguish the natural process of survival (where people hunt and fish, or keep livestock to feed their families), and animal mass-murdering, which definitely has to be changed and eliminated.
Personally I know what veganism is, as Orthodox Christianity has a special fasting that involves total veganism for 1.5 months in March-April each year to purify the body from all animal toxins. I was fasting several years and it indeed has a very positive effect on the body. The only problem I faced is misunderstanding from other people, or when invited to someone’s home, I couldn’t eat most of the food, so it was a bit frustrating for hosts.
Generally I almost don’t eat meat for many years already, just because I don’t feel necessity in it. My stomach adapted to more or less vegetarian diet, so it is hard for it to digest heavy food now and I don’t feel comfortable after eating meat or fried food. Therefore I only eat meat/fish/chicken when invited for dinners/events, or inviting guests myself. Could you please tell me if this can be allowed, or it is necessary to eliminate any animal food at all and forever from my ratio?
Response From Bodo:
On our path you have to become totally vegetarian, only eating a minimal amount of dairy products, as outlined previous. This means that your kitchen will not contain any meat or meat products, nor will you cook meat for others, neither will you accept the same from others if you go to their place to eat. Instead you will inform everyone that you are strictly vegetarian, and why, if they are interested. Let those that want to defile their bodies with the results of animal toxins do it to themselves, you will not help them to cause suffering upon themselves and to others. We take our religion quite seriously, and need no meat toxins in our bodies to make us sick, or to lay the foundation for sickness, or to dull our nadi system with coarse lethargic energies (animal pranas). Neither are we interested in sharing in the karma of mass animal slaughter. There is already too much pain and suffering on this planet. We are therefore instead interested in helping our animal brethren to be saved from this ferocious one-sided human war against them. The temple of our bodies must become sanctified and become the house of the living presence of divinity, not of the carcasses of those whom we have caused to be slaughtered. (Only minimally, in the case of dairy, for the reasons already presented, and which we acknowledge we may have to pay a price for later.)
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