Does Going Vegan Increase Craving?

flat lay photography of vegetable salad on plate
Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

Question: I support the promotion of vegetarianism/ veganism as a practice of compassion and wisdom for the welfare of animals, humans and the environment, but what if having gatherings with Buddhist friends at vegetarian restaurants lead to craving? Isn’t that against the teaching of Right Thought (motivation) in the Noble Eightfold Path?

Answer: We should realise that as long as far from enlightenment, we will have craving, and if so, when it comes to food, it is better that this craving, be it subtle or strong, be based on kinder, wiser and healthier choices, than more cruel (due to sustained demand for supply of breeding, slavery, exploitation and slaughter of sentient beings), less wise and healthy ones. This is creating a more wholesome habit, versus supporting the ongoing habit of going for animal produce based on craving for mere taste for most cases. Thus, what we ought to ask is if not going vege sustains or increases craving for meat. We have the power of choice, which affects sentient lives.

Of course, we should reduce craving even for vegan food, but introducing good vegan food through gatherings is a skilful means to show one another how can we eat kinder. This is based on the Right Thought of compassion on the Noble Eightfold Path, with no intention to create craving at all. (The practice of vegetarianism/ veganism is a powerful practice of compassion and wisdom because of these reasons: http://www.moonpointer.com/vege/10.htm)

Related Article:
Why Veganism Is Not An Extreme Way Of Life


  • If there were a person who was a very strict vegetarian but who was selfish, dishonest and mean, and another person who was not vegetarian but who was thoughtful to others, honest, generous and kind, which of these two people would be the better Buddhist?
    In the Buddha’s teachings, the important thing is the quality of your heart, not the contents of your diet. Many people take great care never to eat meat but they may not be too concerned about being selfish, dishonest, cruel or jealous. They change their diet which is easy to do while neglecting to change their hearts which is a difficult thing to do. So whether you are a vegetarian or not, remember that the purification of the mind is the most important thing in Buddhism.
    Therefore to be a better Buddhist is important we can keep a compassion hearts and be a vegan if possible.

  • By being a vegetarian, you showed compassion to living things and all the unseen beings will respect you.

  • Agree with Asd. Here is another take to add on…

    If there were a person who was a very selfish, dishonest and mean NON-vegetarian, and another person who is VEGETARIAN, who was ALSO very selfish, dishonest and mean, the second person is doing BETTER than the first – because that person is at least kind to all animals, while the first is unkind to everyone.

    It is a BIG mistake to imagine there is the self-created dualism that one is either vegetarian and unkind, or non-vegetarian but kind.

    It is POSSIBLE, as many vegetarians and vegans show, by their example, that they can be both kind to humans and animals.

    Veganism is essential for expansion and perfection of compassion. If change of diet is very easy, as claimed, everyone should do so – change to a kinder and wiser diet now, for the welfare of animals, humans and the environment. The truth is, to WANT to change diet and way of life, it DOES require change of heart, to cut down greed for meat. Thus, please don’t mistaken vegetarianism to have no links with spirituality at all. There are strong links. We either feed ourselves in kinder and wiser ways, or we don’t. But there is a sliding scale. It IS good to reduce meat-intake. It’s not all or nothing.

  • Goh TS’s comment is copied from a Theravada monk’s book. He wasn’t vegetarian when he wrote the 1st edition. He has turned vegetarian. In its 5th edition, he added this section:


    But from the Buddhist point of view, would the person who had a good heart and was vegetarian be better than the person who had a good heart but was a meat eater?


    If a good-hearted vegetarian’s motive in avoiding meat was concern for animals and not wanting to be involved in the cruelty of modern industrial farming, then he or she would definitely have developed their compassion and their concern for others to a higher degree than the meat eater would have. Many people find that as they develop in the Dhamma that they have a natural tendency to move towards vegetarianism.

  • Bro nemo
    Do you have the link to the 5th edition, I will like to read for my dhamma knowledge.
    I personnally like this phases – In the Buddha’s teachings, the important thing is the quality of your heart, not the contents of your diet.
    I find it meaningful and logical, the most important morality behaviours come from a person’s body, speech and mind and if you are able to be a vegan with compassion heart will be so much better.

  • I find this more meaningful and logical…

    What you eat cannot purify your mind – but is there greed behind your choice of eating? If yes, the mind that eats is not pure – be your choice vegetarian or involving dead animals. That said, most who eat animals have greed for meat, which is why they either refuse to renounce or reduce meat-intake.

    The contents of one’s heart (e.g. greed for animal flesh or compassion for animals) decides the choice of contents of diet that we get to choose on a daily basis.

    Being vegetarian is part of elevated moral behaviour involving body, speech and mind. Body – not using it to devour animals that must come from killing. Speech – not communicating in terms as asking for more and more dead animals. Mind – not having greed for animal flesh; having compassion instead, to reduce demand for killing done by others to satisfy one’s tastebuds.

    Note that the Buddha ruled butchery as a wrong livelihood. It’s good to support it less, if at all, by paying less, directly or indirectly, for butchery through purchasing of meat.

  • Does Meat-Eating Break the First Precept?

    Humans do not need
    to eat animals to live.
    Animals need humans
    to not eat them to live.

    — Stonepeace

    Get ‘The Stonepeace Book’ Vol 1 & 2 for 200 sayings not featured here
    @ https://thedailyenlightenment.com/tdepress/Stonepeace-Books-c4381322

    22 Reviews: https://thedailyenlightenment.com/2013/03/reviews-of-the-stonepeace-books

    Get Stonepeace Postcard Set
    @ https://thedailyenlightenment.com/tdepress/The-Stonepeace-Postcards-Black-&-White-Set-1-p19885334

  • Personally, I find it disheartening that we are even trying to compare the “betterness” or “goodness” of a Buddhist.

    To ask the question “Who is the better Buddhist?” implies that the path to enlightenment is a multi-step road with certain qualifications that make one Buddhist “better” than another. If one Buddhist meditates, and another one doesn’t, then “Who is the better Buddhist?” If one Buddhist swears, and another one doesn’t, then “Who is the better Buddhist?” If one Buddhist eats only organic, and another one doesn’t, then “Who is the better Buddhist?” Each of us has one fault or another that make us a “lesser Buddhist” than another, and we can not judge a meat-eating Buddhist, but none of us are perfect, and I’m sure there are things that each of us practice that make us a “lesser Buddhist” in another’s Buddhist’s eyes.

    For me, it’s drinking wine. I enjoy a couple of glasses every few weeks, but try to lead a vegan, organic, local lifestyle as much as possible with minimal impact on the world. I try to avoid swearing too often, I meditate daily and I love being a thoughtful, compassionate, and loving individual. What’s most important to me is sharing my love with nature, and other living beings. I would feel very defeated if another Buddhist were to berate me for drinking wine, because I try to make as many good choices as possible. Even though I’m conscious that drinking can often time cause suffering for ourselves, and for others, I don’t consider myself a “Bad Buddhist.”

    Yes, I believe that eating meat as a Buddhist is hypocrisy. Nonetheless, the bottom line is that we should be careful not to point fingers or compare each other. It doesn’t matter “Who is the better Buddhist.” What matters is that we make the right choices for ourselves, and leave others to make their own choices, despite being Buddhists.

  • The path to enlightenment is indeed a multi-step road with certain qualifications that make one a better and better Buddhist. E.g. the Avatamsaka Sutra states 52 stages of Bodhisattvahood, and it is a Bodhisattva precept to refrain from eating animals.

    On meditation, it is essential for Buddhahood too, through meditative practices have many forms – e.g. seated, chanting, walking, in everyday activity… (Some methods are easier for training the mind vs others.) In this sense, all other things considered equal, it is true that a Buddhist who meditates is the better one in terms of being more diligent on the path to Buddhahood.

    On swearing, harsh speech is one of the ten unwholesome actions taught by the Buddha, that arises from hatred and thus creates negative karma – as it harms one’s mind and hurts the listeners. In this sense, all other things considered equal, it is true that a Buddhist who refrains from swearing is the better one in terms of being more diligent on the path to Buddhahood.

    On eating organic, as it involves less killing of sentient beings and poisoning of the earth, it is a practice with greater compassion and wisdom for one and all. In this sense, all other things considered equal, it is true that a Buddhist who goes organic more is the better one in terms of being more diligent on the path to Buddhahood.

    There is absolutely no judgement of anyone above. However, all other things considered equal, it is true that a Buddhist who does not eat animals is the better one in terms of being more diligent on the path to Buddhahood – since Buddhahood is the perfection of compassion and wisdom for all beings. It’s not all or nothing. Reduction helps too, as in this video: http://www.ted.com/talks/graham_hill_weekday_vegetarian.html

    On drinking wine, abstinence from intoxicants is the fifth basic precept for these classic reasons: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/zeph/message/785 (Loss of mnindfulness can lead to all other precepts being lost, thus harming oneself and others. Eg. Fatal drink-driving based on assumption that one is sufficiently sober.)

    Practice makes perfect, when it come to better observation of the precepts. No one is pointing fingers here, while we should point ourselves to the precepts to deeply reflect on the compassion and wisdom embedded in them. The point is, so long as we are not Buddhas, we have room to be better Buddhists. As the Buddha said in his last words, we should ‘Take the precepts as our master’ and should ‘Strive on with diligence.’ (He didn’t say, ‘Whatever goes for you, just do your best’). The integrity of the Buddha’s teachings start deteriorating the moment we neglect ‘basic’ teachings like the precepts.

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.