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New Contemplations Before Eating

climate change heal preserve planet
We can eat in such a way that “stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet”

Dear Spiritual Family,

Thay has just announced a new version of the Five Contemplations before Eating, after receiving a letter from scientists recommending replacing “global warming” with the more appropriate term “climate change.”

As a spiritual family and a human family, we can all help avert climate change with the practice of mindful eating. Going vegetarian may be the most effective way to stop climate change.

Being vegetarian is already enough to save the world. 

from Thich Nhat Hanh’s 2007 “Blue Cliff Letter”

This change is a chance for us all to reflect deeply on what we buy and what we eat. What we buy and eat can contribute to climate change, or it can help stop it. Eating is a chance to nourish our own body with the wonders of the cosmos, knowing that we are not destroying the earth by doing so.

In Plum Village communities around the world, we practice not only to be mindful of the food, but also of our spiritual friends sitting with us. Sharing a meal together is not just to sustain our bodies and celebrate life’s wonders, but also to experience freedom, joy, and the happiness of brotherhood and sisterhood, during the whole time of eating.

New Contemplations before eating:
This food is a gift of the earth, the sky, numerous living beings, and much hard and loving work.
May we eat with mindfulness and gratitude so as to be worthy to receive this food.
May we recognize and transform unwholesome mental formations, especially our greed and learn to eat with moderation.
May we keep our compassion alive by eating in such a way that reduces the suffering of living beings, stops contributing to climate change, and heals and preserves our precious planet.
We accept this food so that we may nurture our brotherhood and sisterhood, build our Sangha, and nourish our ideal of serving all living beings.
Polar bear on receding ice (2013)

Plum Village practice centers and retreats have always been vegetarian, and since 2007, they have also been vegan. In October 2007, Thay wrote his famous “Blue Cliff Letter“, where he explained why the community was turning vegan to nourish compassion and help save the planet.

“Dairy and egg products… are products of the meat industry,” he wrote. “If we stop consuming, they will stop producing… According to the University of Chicago, a vegan causes approximately 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year than a meat-eater does.”

Thay recommended that “lay communities should be courageous and give rise to the commitment to be vegetarian, at least 15 days each month. If we can do that, we will feel a sense of well-being. We will have peace, joy, and happiness right from the moment we make this vow and commitment.”

Since Thay wrote that letter six years ago, the UN has again called for a global shift to a meat-free and diary-free diet.

Join the conversation

  • Regarding the Consumption of Meat: To be or not to be a vegetarian. To me the answer also lies with where the person is living, what he or she does and how they treat the meat they eat.

    I live in Northern Canada. We eat meat from the forest, raise chickens for meat and have laying hens, too, we eat fish from the rivers, lakes or ocean. A vegetarian diet in the forest would not be natural or in our case easy. When it is minus 40 celcius, meat provides the fuel to be warm.

    Yes, I think people should be respectful of what they eat and not waste any food.

    I wonder what the Buddha would have eaten if he had lived in the North where there is meat, but no beans and where it’s cold many months of the year?

    And yes, we also eat vegetarian and like it. I cook many bean dishes in lieu of meat.

    If I was living in a equatorial, or warmer climate my diet would reflect that was well.

  • I really love this article! Have been a vegetarian for 13 years, and I mostly eat vegan food. Mindfulness and nonviolence are important, and these thoughts in this article are worth being contemplated.

    Yes, I understand your view Liesel, I see that under extremely cold circumstances – or out in the wilderness – it would be very-very difficult to maintain a veg*an diet. But if and when we can choose – and, I assume, many of us have the opportunity to choose -, it is much better to opt for the less violent choices.

    On the idea of eating meat for keeping us warm – I do understand what you mean, but let me add my thoughts and experiences – and I hope my words do not sound offensive!
    I live in Middle-Norway. Although -40 grades are not very usual, -15…-20 grades are totally common at wintertime; and now as I am writing this comment, there is +14 grades in the appartment. Yet I never get a cold or a flu.
    It is a question of technic and the use of the right ingredients to make “warming” types of food – which might make it unnecessary to use meat for keeping us warm.
    I really hope that you do not feel offended, as I did not mean it an arrogant or “preaching” way!

  • It seems that anytime someone speaks of alimentation there are “weeping and gnashing of teeth”. To my mind the question need a story context. (See more on my blog #yogainviaggio ).
    Is the nowadays world out of mind (is it like to be in hell)? Is vegetarian community really enough to save the world (paradise)? Or Does one need the other?
    As far as I know as The introduction of meat, dairy products (even sugar ecc) into the diet is very recent (e.g. 1950, less than 3 generations of human beings), it will last unless 60 years to go back. In the meanwhile freedom to those who want to show the way, and I ask for compassion towards who is not eating like I wish for him, for his family and for his society. Personally I feel lucky to be the child of a open minded vegan father who has given me the possibility to choose. I am so grateful to my husband who is leting me understand what is compassion and mindfulness applicated to alimentation. When I think to all the children who have no choice, I feel to say to you and to tnh:
    1- concentrate your forces in giving a chance to our children, eating vegetarian and sugarfree (the diet of the future) during the prenatal period (mother and father).
    2- Then fight not to let cinese children (and others children demographic strenght) not to adopt modern diet.
    3- Lastly for those people meditating but not eating vegetarian, I would say With great love all is possible.

  • I agree with being mindful of what we eat and where it comes from. I don’t agree that vegetarianism is going to save the planet, or that it will make much of a difference in the long run. I majored in environmental science and engineering, and have decades in the field. I can tell you that just changing how we live now will not be enough. Simply stopping more damage from being done is not going to be enough. We must take a more proactive approach. What people eat is not as much of a threat as our dependance on fossil fuels and their byproducts. Clean and renewable energy is the first step to making a change. We must start focusing on how to clean up the pollution, on ACTIVELY reversing the damage. Lessening our dependence on plastics, fossil fuels, corporate farming, and household chemicals is a great place for the average person to start. We can refuse to give our business to those industrial corporations that destroy our planet. For those of us who can, we can start developing ways to reverse the damages, on environmental cleanup. I’ve been working on several projects with little funding, if I can do it, anyone can.
    While I applaud every effort to make a change that will positively impact our environment, I can tell you that it is far too late to just make simple changes. It is time for the world to take responsibility for the damage that has been done, and work to fix it.
    I hope that all who read this will be willing to step forward and make these changes.

  • I have decades in the field of environmental science and engineering. While I applaud every effort made to make positive changes for our environment, I can tell you that going vegetarian or vegan will not make any significant impact on the state of our environment as it stands. A more proactive approach is needed, we must actively work to reverse the damage that has been done. Simply stopping more damage from being done will not be enough. We must clean up the mess that has been made. A great place for the average person to start is to lessen their dependence on fossil fuels and their byproducts, plastics, corporate farming, household chemicals, and industrial products whose companies pollute the environment. Lessen the demand for these products, lessen their production. For those of us who can, we should use for clean and renewable energy. I realize it is not economical in most parts of the world, but every dime we take away from the corporations that are destroying our planet, the better off we will be. For those of us who can, we should develop ways to reverse the damage that has been done, the most important at this time is a way to clean up our oceans, which sustain and regulate much of our planet’s atmosphere, and ecological balance. We must stop deforestation, which also regulates our planet’s balance. These things will make MUCH more difference than going vegetarian.

    • What you are saying is not true at all. The meat industry is by far the most destructive industry on the planet. Polluting water ways, creating oceanic dead zones, responsible for 75 percent of world wide deforestation and 90% of Amazonian deforestation since 1970, etc….
      I could go on and on. While I do agree fossil fuels are destructive and unneeded, they create a fraction of climate change and the destruction that the meat industry does. Not even getting into the bad karma for killing and causing terrible suffering. The myth that fossil fuels are the real problem on earth needs to be erased from the consciousness of the earth because then it is not entirely in our hands to resolve the problem. We have to wait on large corporations to change their ways, and it also gives us someone to blame rather than look at ourselves and make the changes we need to make to end our own and nature’s suffering.

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    What is Mindfulness

    Thich Nhat Hanh January 15, 2020

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