‘In terms of vegetarianism, he is one of the most vocal on this issue after abandoning meat himself a few years ago. Tibetans have a cultural tradition of eating meat, which has continued even in exile, sometimes leading to tension with Hindus and western Buddhists. In January 2007, at the annual Kagyu Prayer Festival in Bodh Gaya, India, I was present when the Karmapa gave a strong teaching advocating vegetarianism and forbidding monks and nuns eating meat by banning consumption of it in his exile monasteries. Citing Buddhist scripture and logic, he argued that eating meat was contradictory to compassion and not killing. Many meat-eating Tibetans and westerners came away ‘shocked’ by the clarity and strength of his teaching on it.
Again at Harvard, this week, the Karmapa spoke of his horror as a child witnessing Tibetan nomads suffocating animals slowly to death. Going on to describe how mass technology and farming methods have led to a situation where many people have completely lost touch with what meat is and how it comes to be in its packaged form in the supermarkets; how that innate, ‘uneducated’ form of compassion we feel as children is often lost as adults.’