The Dalai Lama and Veganism

A good friend who points out mistakes and imperfections and rebukes evil is to be respected as if he reveals the secret of some hidden treasure.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

We’re really excited that His Holiness the Dalai Lama will be in Louisville, Kentucky to speak and hold a teaching about “Engaging Compassion!” on May 19 and 20. We’re supporting His Holiness by participating in the Compassion Conference at Spalding University preceding the event, but our main purpose in traveling to Louisville is to highlight something that is habitually overlooked in the ongoing dialog on compassion.

When we first heard about the Dalai Lama event in Louisville, what struck us most was the venue where his teachings on “Engaging Compassion” would be held: the Kentucky Fried Chicken YUM! Center. We began brainstorming as to how His Holiness could reconcile his message of compassion with the decidedly uncompassionate corporate sponsorship of the venue where he’s delivering it.

We, the members of Operation Missing Link and Climate Healers, perceive that a critical component of HH the Dalai Lama’s message about compassion needs further expansion to discern its full meaning and to reconcile the above conundrum. It is based on a nuanced interpretation of one of his most powerful points:

“The rationale for universal compassion is based on the same principle of spiritual democracy. It is the recognition of the fact that every living being has an equal right to and desire for happiness. The true acceptance of the principle of democracy requires that we think and act in terms of the common good.” HH the Dalai Lama

“The rationale for universal compassion” and “the fact that every living being has an equal right to and desire for happiness” can be operationalized as the complete liberation of farm animals from their current state of enslaved suffering. We interpret “the common good” as what is safe, healthy, and joyful for all living beings and for planet earth.

To implement this interpretation of universal compassion, we envision a world where animals are freed from torture, enslavement, and untimely death. Such a world is possible through veganism, a path that abstains from all animal-derived products. We contend that a vegan lifestyle facilitates the very universal compassion that HH the Dalai Lama is teaching about. In fact, we believe that compassion extended towards all living beings will enhance compassion towards fellow humans and bring an end to most human problems. Dr. Paul Farmer, who said, “The idea that some lives matter less is the root of all that is wrong with the world,” articulated this belief succinctly.

Aside from truly realizing universal compassion, veganism has myriad other benefits. A well-planned vegan diet leads to excellent health and significantly lowered risks for many lifestyle diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and obesity. Vegans also effectively reduce their greenhouse gas (GHG) impact dramatically by opting out of the livestock industry that accounts for 51% of GHGs globally and 45% of global land use.

Thus veganism is “engaged compassion” that promotes an awareness of and connection to all of life and nature. It is an effective implementation of HH the Dalai Lama’s teachings on compassion, which call for not only action, but responsibility for our actions:

“Compassion and universal responsibility require a commitment to personal sacrifice and the neglect of egotistical desires. Today, more than ever before, life must be characterized by a sense of Universal responsibility, not only nation to nation and human to human, but also human to other forms of life.” HH the Dalai Lama

Please join us in creating awareness about the importance of implementing universal compassion in support of HH the Dalai Lama’s teachings by pledging to go vegan.


Sailesh Rao, Climate Healers

Marilyn Cornelius, Operation Missing Link

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