SFYAD organized a vegetarian lifestyle forum for its August gathering on 8th August. We first watched an abridged version of the documentary, “The Game Changers,” through anthropological and medical evidence, detailed the misconceptions of vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet, and its impact on the economy, society, and the environment. After watching the documentary, we invited three panelists: Venerable Miao Zhong, Advising Venerable of SFYAD, as well as Winson Yang, and Benson Kwek, SFYAD officers, to share their circumstances and benefits of vegetarianism with 15 participants who joined the forum.
First, Winson Yang, who has been a vegetarian since his early childhood, shared that when he attended gatherings in the early days, restaurants often do not have vegetarian options, only dessert. He could only either go on an empty stomach or leave the gathering to find vegetarian food elsewhere. Upon returning, he would have missed talking to friends during the gathering on that day. Despite many inconveniences, he persisted in keeping the vegetarian diet over the twenty years.
Benson Kwek, who recently became a vegetarian for three years, highlighted that having the right and balanced diet as a vegetarian is crucial. Before, he was having an unproportionate amount of food and was quickly hungry all the time; but having adjusted his meals, he was able to find the right balance between types of food and nutrition. Also, he mentioned that finding alternative meat options for those who started on this journey is essential as sometimes we still crave the taste of meat. Having a similar taste may help us transition to this diet more comfortably.
Venerable Miao Zhong shared the vegetarian diet in Chinese Buddhism originated from Emperor Wu of Liang. The main idea was to cultivate compassion and equanimity for all beings in all Buddhist practitioners. She also summarized the five pungent roots that Buddhists do not consume, mainly leek, onion, garlic, chives, and green onions. She also encourages everyone to learn to maintain a balanced diet to maintain a healthy body.
Then, the film discussed the misconception that “humans always naturally crave meat.” Our panelists unanimously agreed that rather than having a natural craving for meat, our habits and desires formed these cravings. Winson mentioned from the neuroscientific perspective that “the brain records everything you do and takes that out to compare in the future, and enforces this information when we encounter similar experiences.” Ben shared from his personal experiences that we are conditioned to crave what we are used to eating and that craving comes from desire. Venerable Miao Zhong shared a story of a Buddha’s Light baby (a baby of a BLIA member) who was tempted by the teacher with meat when he was in preschool. Still, the child refused the meat and replied to the teacher, saying that he was allergic to meat.
For some participants who plan to become vegetarians, our panelists recommend everyone start with a short-term plan to develop habits. Benson mentioned that his original six-months diet plan was achieved within the first month because of his motivation and compassion for animals.