Vegetarianism – A Path to World Peace?

Kat contemplating world peace (arguably)

Kat contemplating world peace

A while back, I blogged about vegetarianism and meat-eating which was a part of an interesting exchange I had with a certain spiritual teacher who is a staunch advocate for a vegetarian lifestyle.

Said spiritual teacher believes that vegetarianism is the answer to world peace. I understand that his premise comes from the belief that vegetarians are more peaceful, compassionate, non-violent people because of their diet and non-involvement in violence (the killing of animals for food).

Personally, I agree that vegetarianism can significantly contribute to world peace. However, it is not always the case that vegetarians are more peaceful and less inner-conflicted than meat-eaters.

I gave him two first-hand examples.

I have vegetarian friends who belong to a certain religious persuasion, and there was this incident I heard from some of them:

A group of them entered a restaurant and instructed the food servers that they do not want meat, oil from meat, and MSG in their food. The cook, in his total ignorance and lack of exposure about vegetarian people, put a little MSG on the vegetables as he worried that plain veggies would not satisfy the palate of the diners. Upon discovering that there is MSG in their food, the group of vegetarians stormed out of the restaurant, cursing the cook and the rest of the crew, upsetting other diners.

Where is the peace and the love, brothers?

Another story is the story of my friend who had been a vegetarian for more than a decade. For more than ten years, he did not join his family for meals. If it has meat in it, he refused to eat what his mother lovingly cooked as he was resolute about his vegetarian beliefs. And then, one day, he joined a volunteer group to do some projects in a very remote province. He observed that the indigenous people who welcomed them to their villages made all efforts to make them comfortable, despite that these people lived very simply and that they do not actually have much to offer in terms of tangible things. My friend observed that the little they have, they gave it all. If they have hunted meat, they served it to the guests first, and only after the guests have eaten their fill, the host family ate if there were leftovers. If there is no other ‘presentable’ food available, they catch their chicken (which they would not normally eat by themselves on ordinary days) to have something especial to feed the guests. They sacrifice their chicken so they can serve the best food they know of.

And the best food they know of happens to be meat!

Why is that?

For two reasons:

First, within the indigenous contextual framework, the meat of animals, specifically, wild animals, contain a special life-giving force. And the animal that allowed itself to be hunted down means it was willing to impart this life-giving force to its other relations – the human kind. Within the same contextual framework, the hunters reciprocate through the rituals and offerings they do before the hunt, and in the thanksgiving celebrations they perform after hunts and harvests.

Second, it has to be taken into account the fact that these remote villagers are mostly farmers, hunters and manual workers who work hard with the land and with raw nature. Hence, the best viand they know of is meat, for the reason that they feel it gives them more strength and energy which they specially require for their hard labor.

In addition, compared to people in towns and cities where commercial meat (with much less life-giving force) is readily available, these indigenous people do not have the luxury to eat meat any time they want. This adds to the special value they put on meat. This is also one reason why it is an absolute ‘paniyu’ (taboo) for them to waste animal meat.

Naturally, in a cultural context where hospitality means everything, people feel obliged to give their guests what they themselves consider is the best. And it so happens that for some, the best food to be offered to guests is animal meat.

With that peculiar experience and exposure, my vegetarian friend started eating meat again. He said he was deeply touched by the unsophisticated villagers’ nurturing quality, their authenticity and deep hospitality which he realized are values more important than rigidly adhering to a particular doctrine.

He learned that in a world of rich diversity, there is no absolute right or wrong. There is only what is appropriate at every given moment.

Is vegetarianism the key to world peace?

No, not entirely.

The first step to world peace is inner peace. And a crucial step to inner peace is to be at peace with the external things you cannot change. Again, this does not mean that you are condoning the wrong that you see in society. But maintaining a strong aura of peace is more influential and more transformative than any change that can ever come from militant and agitative action. How do I know? I’ve been there, done that.

A solution to world peace is certainly not found in arguing as to whether vegetarianism or not, is the answer or a path to world peace as this act is obviously not any different from the never-ending ideological and religious battles raging around.

Yes, compassion is definitely the key to world peace, and compassion includes understanding, tolerance, open-mindedness, and non-judgment.

4 thoughts on “Vegetarianism – A Path to World Peace?

  1. Saying that vegetarianism (or anything else one can think of) is the key to world peace is a totally unrealistic and naive statement to make. When one looks at all the reasons why peace does not exist in our world, one can conclude that it is a very complex situation which is dependent on many perspectives being resolved before the process could even start. As you correctly point out, vegetarians have a variety of perspectives on the world and as such cannot be considered the key to world peace. It could also be argued that spiritual leaders (of any faith) are not the key to world peace simply because some of them “stray” from their core teachings on a regular basis. So what is the key to world peace? I really have no idea because of the complexities involved however, it must surely start with us … the people. If we can clearly show that it is important to us, then politicians will be obligated to look at their particular “corner of the world” in that context. How do we get us, the people, motivated to stop thinking about ourselves/themselves and start thinking “worldly”? I have no answer to that either other than it will take a very long time considering how far we have (not) come in 2000 years! Sadly, it may be a nuclear confrontation which provides the impetus!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, saying that vegetarianism or Buddhism, or any other religion or political ideology is an answer to world peace is indeed naive and ungrounded. There was a time when I was convinced that communism/socialism is the answer to all social maladies so I became an avid communist. I’m past the stage of activism now.

      As you’ve pointed out, there are many moving elements to consider because of the complexity of the situation adding the complexity of people’s characters which is beyond anyone else’s control. This is why I always maintain that peace starts in the personal level first which is more feasible than dreaming of it to happen in a worldly level. It is possible that we can attain relative world peace at only a certain degree, but to think of high-level or total world peace is unlikely because even in a metaphysical and spiritual sense, a certain amount of conflict is necessary to stimulate evolution. In fact, a nuclear conflict and other such man-made or natural calamities do wake people up from their comfortable slumber.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Inner peace doesn’t depend on the food habits. Both non vegetarian and non vegetarians can get it. I am a vegetarian and my family and my ancestors have been vegetarians from last 2000 or more years I guess. People stopped eating meat as a sign of practising non violence. At those time they didn’t knew that even plants and life. Now we know that we are killing plants for our food. I think killing others for food was a step needed in evolution. But I guess in the future we can and will live without killing any plants or animals with the advancement of science and technology.

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    • Wow, that’s very good to know. It fascinates me to learn of someone who is vegetarian from birth and whose tradition goes long way back for many centuries and yet who is open-minded enough not to try to preach to others that it is the best or the only path :-). I value diversity as it makes the picture of our world colorful and complete.

      I once had a schoolmate from India and he said, before he left his country, he thought that beef is NOT eaten by anyone, anywhere in the world. Can you just imagine his shock when he saw that many other nationalities were eating it like nothing? I really felt sorry for him that he had to be exposed to a “cruel reality”, but I was glad that he soon caught up with “what is” and did not judge.

      Interestingly, from the shamanic culture I come from, there are things a shaman should not eat. These include beef and eel. These two animals are considered to have some kind of special something in them that they are too sacred, and thus are forbidden to be eaten by shamans. And I wonder if the prohibition of eating beef has a connection with the Vedic tradition.

      Yes, even plants have life and can feel pain too. Too bad that our reality is structured in a way that we have to take life in order to have life. And yes, with the fast advancement of science and technology, nothing can be impossible.

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