“Veganism is about non-violence: non-violence towards other sentient beings; to yourself; to the earth.” ~Gary L. Francione
Today, I want to talk about how I see Veganism and Buddhism as being related. I plan to share a bit about my personal journey into SGI (Soka Gakki International) Buddhism as well. Having been born and raised in Denmark, I typically feel that beliefs and religion are private matters. In Denmark, you definitely wouldn’t discuss this and I can almost guarantee – 99.9% of the time – that you’d never get asked, “So, what do you believe in?” No, beliefs and religion are, for the most part private matters. Just like what type of toilet paper someone prefers! Well, I am going to go there anyway because this is a practice that’s extremely important to me and have had a significant impact on my life! Most significantly how I see Buddhism related to being a plant-based vegan. First, however, I will share the story of how I discovered SGI Buddhism. If you just want to skip that part – just scroll down to my main point about how I see Veganism and Buddhism as being related.
In the summer of 2009, my friend Tanya invited me to a Buddhist meeting. I had no idea what type of Buddhism she practiced, knowing there are many different kinds, but thought that it sounded interesting. I was bitten almost immediately! What I love about SGI buddhism is that it’s peace promoting. President Daisaku Ikeda is known all over the world for his humanitarian efforts and strong opposition of nuclear weapons. Further, this practice wishes for everyone to attain peace, happiness, and success in their personal lives, which will then positively impact the lives of others!
Further, there’s no church (although, I love the feel of churches, but not when it’s turned into a business) nor is there a priest involved. There’s no one above you, so to speak! Yes, we do have President Daisaku Ikeda in Japan. A fantastic human being who is like a mentor to all of us! (Links will be provided at the end for more information on the SGI & President Ikeda). The fact that most of the practice takes place in one’s own home really appealed to me! I enjoy the monthly meetings in someone’s home and my new “family”, plus being able to join with other members at the community center. Finally, chanting “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” deeply resonated with me.
About a month after getting into the practice, I flew to London, where I had been invited to share four short stories in a story telling event, which turned out to be an amazing experience! I flew in on Sunday for the rehearsal. The show was Monday evening and the following morning, on Tuesday, I flew on to Spain for a month long “siesta” so I could further practice my Spanish. I was going to rent an apartment, but then I came across an ad for a room for rent. One of my colleagues said to me, when I told her about the two options, “Oh, go for the rented room! Sounds like so much more of an adventure!” So that’s what I did.
On the flight, however, I realized that I knew the building number, but not the apartment number. I was a bit worried, so I ended up chanting “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” all the way from London to Barcelona (inside my head of course). Plus thoughts like, “What if these guys are not who they say they are?” My backup plan had failed the previous day, when my lawyer friend had texted me, saying that the man she had met in Madrid was not whom she had expected, so she was upset and heading back home. I had been looking forward to four days of “girl-friend-time” in Barcelona together, but she had to go home and mend her heart, which I understood.
Well, I arrived and was greeted by the sweet woman whom I had made all the arrangements through. She introduced me to my new room mates. (To respect the owner’s privacy, I’ll call him Art). Art and his partner, whom I would be sharing the apartment with, were very friendly. They spoke some English. After getting my things put in my room, I went into the living room and saw a wooden box standing with a lotus flower painted on the front. (Later learned that Art had created his own Butsudan out of a wooden wine box.) There was also a bell and a few other items. So I asked my Art if he was a buddhist. He said, “Yes, I’m an SGI member!” I couldn’t believe my ears! I said, “Hang on a second!” Ran back to my room and pulled out the “Buddha in Your Mirror” from my carry-on bag.
Art showed me the goosebumps on his arms when I told him I’d just been introduced to the practice. He said, “I know you have come to remind me to practice!” The next evening, Art picked me up on his scooter and we drove to the community center together. This was my first experience chanting for a full hour and also my first of many on the back of a scooter in Barcelona. Chanting at the SGI community center was an incredible experience! He and I did chant together a few mornings, when he and his partner were in town.
How does Buddhism relate to Veganism?
In SGI buddhism, we chant “gongyo” and recite the lotus sutra twice a day (morning and evening). Plus we also do “daimoku” – chanting – “Nam-myoho-renge-kyo” for a little or a long time. At the end there are three silent prayers. The very last prayer, “Fourth Silent Prayer”, says, “I pray for peace throughout the world and the happiness of all living beings”.
Here’s my point: If this is truly what we are praying for and believe, then we must recognize and acknowledge ALL living beings, especially the animals who are living tortured, miserable lives in Factory Farms or who are being used for entertainment in Circuses, at the Zoo, or who are being used for unnecessary lab experiments. Therefore, I ask you to at least consider the thought that although you may be creating great causes for yourself and others, you can have an even greater global and environmental impact by going plant-based vegan. The biggest and most significant spiritual impact, in my opinion, is to no longer participate in the unnecessary suffering and torture of these sentient living beings! Trust me, there are plenty of other, much healthier things to eat and ways to get your protein than through eating dead animal carcasses or drinking another species milk! They, in return, like “instant karma”, cause us unintended harm. Eating their bodies is not only unhealthy, but completely unnecessary!