DRIGUNG KAGYU VEGETARIANISM: ‘IF YOU EAT MEAT AND CALL IT DHARMA, YOU ARE NOT MY DISCIPLE’ AND ‘IT DISPARAGES GREAT BEINGS’: Phagmodrupa, Jigten Sumgon and the ‘white’ food’ vegetarian tradition of Drigung Kagyu, past and present

For Dakini Day today, I offer a new research and translation article on vegetarianism in the Drigung Kagyu lineage. Although there has been quite a bit spoken and written about vegetarianism in Karma Kagyu recently, such as Milarepa, 7th, 8th and 17th Karmapas, as well as other lineage masters, such as Dolpopa, Shakpa and Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro, especially in the work of Geoffrey Barstow (2017 and 2019), there is not so much written about the tradition of not eating slaughtered animals in the Drigung Kagyu.
 
Even though, not as much has been written about the Drigung Kagyu and vegetarianism, there is a history of it that can be traced right back to its founders, Milarepa and Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170, student of Milarepa and teacher of the founder of Drigung Kagyu, Jigten Sumgon). Milarepa himself was a vegetarian who sang to the Hunter and Rechungpa about the suffering of animals killed for food (see Sources below). Here I give a brief overview of Phagmodrupa’s stance on vegetarianism, before considering Jigten Sumgon’s actions and words on it, including a new translation of a short text by Lord Jigten Sumgon (Drigung Kagyu founder) in his Collected Works called ‘Gentle Words on Abandoning Meat and Alcohol’.
 
In addition, I stumbled upon a recent text composed by a contemporary Drigung Kagyu lineage teacher, Rasey Konchog Gyatso (1968- ), published in Tibet called ‘Benefits of the ‘White Food’ tradition’ (dkar zas ring lugs kyi phan yon/)[3].  For this post, I offer a translated outline of its contents and a short excerpt. 

May this research and translation lead to all humans refraining from killing animals to eat and protecting and saving lives whenever possible! Music? Stand by You, the Pretenders or I Don’t Eat Animals by Melanie Safka ‘I don’t eat animals, cos I love them you see.’ Be Healthy by Dead Prez, ‘True wealth comes from good health and wise ways.’

Written and compiled by Adele Tomlin, 29th December 2021.

Lord Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170) – non-consumption of meat or alcohol even at the risk of his life
Lord Phagmo Drupa (1110-1170)

In one of the main English-language works on vegetarianism in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition, Food of Sinful Demons (2017), Geoffrey Barstow says that evidence suggests that vegetarianism may have been common in the Tibetan community centered on the 12th Century master, Phagmo Drupa Dorje Gyelpo (phag mo gru pa rdo rje rgyal po):

“The sources for Pakmodrupa’s own vegetarianism are somewhat limited[1], but there is good evidence that two of his primary disciples, Jigten Sumgön[2] and Taklung Tangpa, adopted a meatless diet. Jigten Sumgön is widely recognized as the founder of the Drikung Kagyü school, and his vegetarianism seems to have set something of a precedent, so that for several centuries after his death vegetarianism was relatively common in his lineage…. These sources do not explicitly claim that vegetarianism was the norm in the communities, nor do they tell us how many of these masters’ students may have taken up the call. The repeated references to vegetarianism in these schools, however, does suggest that the diet may have been relatively common in some communities, even if it remained rare among Buddhists in Tibet more broadly.”

It is recounted in the short biography of Lord Phagmo Drupa that he cherished the three trainings and abstained entirely from all meat or animal products. He would not even eat soup seasoned with animal fat. Moreover, when he was poisoned and close to death, he was advised that if he were to drink a cup of beer that had been blessed with mantras he would be cured. But he would not take it and so risked his life.”

Lord Jigten Sumgon – strict vegetarian refused even meat broth when sick
Lord Jigten Sumgon (1143-1217)

Jigten Sumgon, founder of the Drigung Kagyu tradition, is one of the leading examples of vegetarianism in Tibet after Lord Atisa. However, it was mainly monastics who followed such a diet:

“Despite the permissions granted by the Vinaya, vegetarianism in Tibet was largely a monastic phenomenon. This association between vegetarianism and monasticism dates at least to the eleventh century. In a series of dialogues with his Tibetan disciple Dromtön, the Indian master Atiśa suggests that people should examine the Vinaya to see if meat is permitted, with the implication that it is not.20 This is only a passing remark, and Atiśa’s other critiques of meat do not specify a monastic audience. Still, whether or not Atiśa thought vegetarianism was only for monks, it is clear that this monk, renowned for his scholarship, felt that the Vinaya forbade meat.” (Barstow: 2017).

According to Barstow (2017 and 2019), a common pattern in biographical literature is individual is said to adopt vegetarianism at the same time they take their monastic vows:

 A good example of this pattern is found in the thirteenth century biography of the seminal Kagyü master Jigten Sumgön: “After receiving full ordination, he did not eat after noon, and his tongue was clean, unfamiliar with meat or alcohol” (shes rab ‘byung gnas 2002, p. 176)[4]. For Jigten Sumgön, vegetarianism seems to have been part and parcel of his monastic practice, and in this he was not alone: numerous other Tibetans also chose to adopt vegetarianism at the time they took their vows.

This view of meat-eating being incompatible with monastic vows can also be seen in the teachings of the 8th Karmapa, as recently explained by the 17th Karmapa in several days of teachings he gave on the topic of vegetarianism and the Karmapas, in particular the 8th Karmapa, for transcripts of those teachings, see here. The 8th Karmapa strongly criticized meat-eating and banned it within the Karma Kagyu encampment as being against monastic and other vows and wrote about in a text called Rules of Tsurphu Monastery (translated and published in Barstow (2019)[5].

There is also a very short text/advice by Jigten Sumgon in his Collected Works called Gentle Words of Advice on the Teaching of the Sage on Abandoning Meat[6] and Alcohol[7](thub pa’i bstan pa sha chang spong bar gdams pa’i ‘jam yig). I have reproduced the Tibetan and English translation below here[8]. Sumgon says it is ‘gentle advice’ but he states that anyone who wants to call themselves ‘a disciple’ cannot do so if they consume meat and alcohol at gatherings and offerings[9].

Jigten Sumgon also practiced what he preached. In a biography written by Sherab Jungné, a direct disciple of Sumgon, it states that when Sumgon grew older, he became very ill with a cough. At that point:

“a broth made of the dried and powdered lungs of a northern yak was prepared in order to help his cough, but he refused it.” (མགུལ་གློ་ལ་ཕན་ཟེར་བས་བྱང་གཡག་གི་གློ་བ་སྐམ་པོ་བརྡུངས་པའི་ཕྱེ་མ་སྐྱོ་ཚར་གཏོང་བར་ཞུས་པས་ཀྱང་མ་གནང་སྟེ།)

Jigten Sumgön died soon after.  Barstow (2017: 127) observes that the tone of the biography suggests that such strict adherence to a ‘pure diet’ may have led to resentment by his disciples who may have wished he had accepted the meat as medicine[10]. However, such individual choices by Tibetan Buddhist vegetarians were not all the same[11]:

“Despite the entreaties of his disciples, however, Jigten Sumgön refused even this minimal amount of meat, solely prepared as medicine. By contrast, when Sera Khandro, also a long-term vegetarian, became seriously ill, she followed the advice of her religious master and ate meat for a month. The circumstances differ, of course, but it is clear that each of these individuals tried to navigate competing ideals, balancing their commitment to vegetarianism with their understanding of the value of medicinal meat. The fact that they were able to come to opposite conclusions on the matter underscores the degree to which individuals had to make their own choices when it came to the question of meat.” (2017:127-8).

Gentle Words of Advice on the Teaching of the Sage on Abandoning Meat and Alcohol by Jigten Sumgon

“Om Swasti. Lama Rinpoche said: “Those who are my disciples in all directions, who might call themselves my disciples yet eat meat and drink alcohol and apply the ‘label’ Tshog and Feast Offerings destroy the teachings.  I have no relation with them. It wounds the precious teachings of Buddha. Since it is not in accordance with the 14th and 15th branch samayas and the samaya has degenerated. Jigten Sumgon [it is not clear if this refers to Jigten Sumgon the person, or the name ‘Protector of the Three Worlds’] Phagmo Drupa are deceived. Since it is contrary to their life-stories, it disparages these higher beings.

In brief, there is no greater enemy of the Sage’s teaching than this. Do not have desire for it in your own place and expel it somewhere else. Since I have many times, again and again, given gentle advice to all my students, again with these gentle words, students having heard them, please keep them close to your heart.

ཐུབ་པའི་བསྟན་པ་ཤ་ཆང་སྤོང་བར་གདམས་པའི་འཇམ་ཡིག།

ཨོཾ་སྭསྟི། བླ་མ་རིན་པོ་ཆེས། །ངའི་སློབ་མར་གྱུར་པ་ཕྱོགས་ཐམས་ཅད་ན་བཞུགས་པ་རྣམས་ལ་ཞུ་བ།

ངའི་སློབ་མ་ཡིན་ཟེར་ནས། ཤ་ཟ་ཆང་འཐུང་བ་ལ་ཚོགས་འཁོར་དུ་མིང་བཏགས་ནས་བསྟན་པ་འཇིག་པ་འདུག་ན། དེ་དང་འབྲེལ་བ་མེད་པ་ཡིན། སངས་རྒྱས་ཀྱི་བསྟན་པ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ལ་རྨ་ཕྱུང་བ་ཡིན།

གསང་སྔགས་ཀྱི་དམ་ཚིག་བཅུ་བཞི་པ་དང༌། བཅོ་ལྔ་པ་ཡན་ལག་དང་བཅས་པ་དང༌། མི་མཐུན་པས་དམ་ཉམས་སུ་སོང་བ་ཡིན། འཇིག་རྟེན་གསུམ་གྱི་མགོན་པོ་རིན་པོ་ཆེ་ཕག་མོ་གྲུ་པ་བསླུས་པ་ཡིན། དེ་ཉིད་ཀྱི་རྣམ་པར་ཐར་པ་དང་མི་མཐུན་པས། སྐྱེས་བུ་གོང་མ་དེ་རྣམས་སུན་ཕྱུང་བ་ཡིན། མདོར་ན་ཐུབ་པའི་བསྟན་པ་ལ་དགྲ་འདི་གཅིག་པུ་ལས་མེད་པས་ཁྱེད་རྣམས་ཀྱང་དུང་དུང་མཛད་པར་ཞུ། སོ་སོའི་ཡུལ་ཕྱོགས་སུ་མི་ཆགས་པར་གཞན་དུ་བསྐྲད་པར་ཞུ། སློབ་མ་ཐམས་ཅད་ཀྱི་འཇམ་ཡིག་དང་ད་རུང་གོང་དུ་ཡང་མང་དུ་བྱས་པ་ཡིན་པས། ད་རེས་ཀྱང་འདི་འཇམ་ཡིག་ཡིན་པས། བུ་སློབ་རྣམས་ཀྱིས་རྣ་བར་ཕྱིན་པ་ཐུགས་གཉེར་དུ་མཛད་པར་ཞུ།། །། 

[Update: In a 2013 blog post on this topic by Jan-Ulrich Sobisch (see Sources blow), which Sobisch sent me after I had published this post, he also writes that: 

And in another text (vol. 6, p. 132 f.) he [Jigten Sumgon] does teach the preparation of the five meats and five nectars, but he says that this is done placing oneself first in the sameness of mahamudra, where all good, bad, clean, and filthy things are of one taste, without any deviation from that. Jigten Gönpo’s main thrust in his teachings on these matters has always been to present a single intention (dgongs gcig), emphasising the unity of the teachings, for instance when he said (5.24):

That which is virtue in the vinaya is virtue also in the mantra, and that which is non-virtue [in the vinaya] is non-virtue [also in the mantra].

I have not checked this quote at source, but it seems reasonable and possible. Great, realised masters are even allowed to eat meat if they are able to transform the substance into nectar due to having realised emptiness and with great bodhicitta. However, this is not many people. The 17th Karmapa in recent teachings he gave on vegetarianism, said that people often told him he could eat meat because he could bless the meat or do phowa for the animal killed, but that he told such people that he could not even do Phowa for, or liberate himself, never mind other beings!].

‘Crazy Yogi’ Konchog Norbu Rinpoche – living beings are like our parents

Another recent example of a Drikung Kagyu master who spoke out about the importance of not eating meat, was Drupon Konchog Norbu Rinpoche (2007). Garchen Rinpoche recently spoke about how he met him when everyone called him a ‘crazy yogi’ and yet he recognized him as ‘special[12]. He is listed on the excellent vegetarian and Buddhism resource of Shabkar.org related to a teaching he gave on Om Mani Padme Hum:

“As practitioners of this precious Dharma, we need to eradicate all non-virtuous deeds in general, particularly the consumption of meat, as it has the heaviest negative karma. This is because all the livings beings that we eat are actually our own parents who have been very kind to us in many lifetimes. Eating meat is a non-virtuous act with such heavy misgivings that the Buddha Himself also mentioned that consuming the meat of other sentient beings who have been our parents one lifetime or another is the gravest and most heinous deed to commit.”

Rase Konchog Gyatso and his book: ‘The ‘White Food’ tradition: Benefits of Abandoning Meat and Alcohol’

According to an online biography[13]:

“Rase Konchog Gyatso was born in 1968 in the village below the monastery of Drikung Thil in Tibet. Dagpo (or Gampo) Chenga is the 8th reincarnation of the heart son of Gampopa  (1079-1153). From his young age Dagpo Chenga revealed a virtuous personality as well as a sharp mind. He studied at Drikung Buddhist College and at the Tibetan College in Lhasa. Dagpo Chenga also attended the Medical and Astrological College. He studied the Ten Aspects of Knowledge, as well as natural sciences, social sciences, and history and became very erudite in many fields of knowledge. Already as a young student he began writing papers on many subjects of Tibetan history and Tibetan Buddhism under his name Rase Konchog Gyatso. Among his books is also a seven-volume publication entitled A Faithful Speech that shows how to develop, improve and spread the Dharma tradition of the Drikung Kagyu in the future. Dagpo Chenga is considered one of the most learned lamas of the Drikung tradition.”

The ‘White Food’ (Karze) Tradition

The title of Konchog Gyatso’s text, includes the words ‘white food’, ‘kar-ze ringlug’. ‘Kar-ze’ in Tibetan, literally means ‘white food’ (vegetarian) which is the opposite of ‘red food’ (blood/meat). I am not sure of the origin of this phrase though and when Tibetans first started using it.  Barstow (2017:5) observes:

“As this color-coding suggests, karzé food is uncontaminated by blood, free from killing. In many ways, this is the fundamental distinction in discussions of vegetarianism. On the one hand you have food that is derived from killing— including all forms of flesh, whether derived from mammals, birds, or fish. On the other you have food that is free from such stains.

The term karzé, however, refers only to the food itself, not to any ongoing dietary choice. Thus, an individual who generally eats meat can order karsé food for any given meal just because they like the taste. It would be quite a stretch to think of such a person as a vegetarian. Tibetan literature, in fact, lacks a consistent term for someone who adopts such a diet, the equivalent of the English term “vegetarian.” In modern oral usage, both the term karsépa, “one who [eats] white food,” and sha masa ken, “one who does not eat meat,” are used in this way. In older textual material, however, these terms are rarely, if ever, attested.”

17th Karmapa, Ogyen Trinley Dorje. Photo by James Gritz.

There is also a tradition called ‘do-kar’ (white broth), which the 17th Karmapa referred to in his recent extensive teachings on vegetarianism in Tibetan Buddhism, in particular within the Karma Kagyu:

Also, if we think about the forefathers of Dagpo Gampopa and his student Je Pagmo Drupa and his disciples and so on, many of the Kagyu forefathers practiced vegetarianism. These students were called the students of the ‘vegetarian broth’ teachings (sdog dkar). This broth (sdog) here is a stock that you put in the broth, which was vegetarian instead of meat-based stock.  If we think about the Karma Kamtsang tradition, as I said before, from 4th Karmapa onwards until 10th Karmapa, there were strict rules against eating meat in the Great Encampment. Also, in the supplications of Kagyu, vegetarians were considered highly and praised.”

However, in his discussion of the term ‘dokar’[14], Barstow (2017: 6) states that:

Even the term dokar, however, is not common in Tibetan literature. Most frequently, it is found in texts relating to the Drigung branch of the Kagyü school and the Ngorpa sect of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism. As discussed later, both of these traditions had long and well- established traditions of vegetarianism. In these lineages, saying that someone practices dokar is a reasonably common way to refer to vegetarianism. Outside of texts belonging to these traditions, however, the term dokar is only rarely used.”

Benefits of Abandoning Meat and Alcohol by Konchog Gyatso

In the short text (which is in both Tibetan and Chinese), Gyatso goes into some detail about understanding and recognizing the nature of karma and the faults of meat-eating and benefits of giving/saving lives. The outline is here (in Tibetan with English translation) below. I hope to translate this in future, or perhaps this post will inspire someone else to do so:

CHAPTER ONE – TEACHINGS ON THE FAULTS OF KILLING

  1. Grasping the essence of karma
  2. Categories and divisions of teachings
  3. The actual faults of killing
  4. The Unsuitability of killing with compassion
  5. The ripening of the killer
  6. Eliminating secondary doubts

CHAPTER TWO – BENEFITS OF GIVING LIFE

  1. Benefits of abandoning killing
  2. Benefits of the ‘white food’ teachings

It would be beneficial for the book to be translated into English. Gyatso explains, for example how even the person who encouraged the killing of animals for food. or the eater of meat, commit negative karma because if they did not do that, then the animals would not be killed.

Further Reading/Sources

Barstow, Geoffrey. 2017. Food of Sinful Demons: Meat, Vegetarianism, and the Limits of Buddhism in Tibet. New York: Columbia University Press.

Barstow, Geoffrey. 2019. Faults of Meat: Tibetan Buddhist Writings on Vegetarianism. New York: Columbia University Press.

Karmapa, 17th, Orgyen Trinley Dorje (2021): Teachings on the Life-Stories of 8th Karmapa, (oral teachings from February to March 2021). See here: MEAT IS MURDER: ‘Tibetan Buddhist Vegetarianism: Ancient and Modern’ compiled teachings by 17th Karmapa.

Patrul Rinpoche. 1998. The Words of My Perfect Teacher. Translated by Padmakara Translation Group. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Ricard, Matthieu. 2016. A Plea for the Animals: The Moral, Philosophical, and Evolutionary Imperative to Treat All Beings with Compassion. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Shabkar [Tsogdruk Rangdrol]. 2004. Food of Bodhisattvas: Buddhist Teachings on Abstaining from Meat. Translated by Padmakara Translation Group. Boston: Shambhala Publications.

Sobisch, Jan-Ulrich (2013): Jigten Gonpo on Meat and Alcohol

Tomlin, Adele (2021):

Meat is Murder: Collected Transcripts of 17th Karmapa’s Teachings on Vegetarianism. Dakini Publications, 2021.

HUNTER’S MOON; TRANSLATION TREATS: MILAREPA’S SONGS TO ANIMALS AND THE HUNTER and SONG ON THE SUFFERING OF ANIMALS FOR THE EVIL MEAT-EATING ‘CUSTOM’

NEW PUBLICATION: Milarepa’s Songs to the Hunter and Animals and the Hunter (Khyira) Kagyu lineage

JE MILAREPA’S SONG ON THE SUFFERING OF ANIMALS AND THE EVIL CUSTOM OF MEAT-EATING

 

Tibetan Sources

8th Karmapa, Mikyo Dorje (mi bskyod rdo rje).

—  dga’ tshal karma gzhung lugs gling dang por sgar chen ‘dzam gling rgyan du bzhugs dus kyi ‘phral gyi bca’ yig. In dpal rgyal ba karma pa sku ‘phreng brgyad pa mi bskyod rdo rje’i gsung ‘bum, vol. 3 of 26: 700–715. Lha sa, 2004. BDRC: W8039.

—  ‘dul ba mdo rtsa ba’i rgya cher ‘grel spyi’i don mtha’ dpyad dang bsdus don sa bcad dang ‘bru yi don mthar chags su gnyer ba bcas ‘dzam bu’i gling gsal bar byed. In dpal rgyal ba karma pa sku ‘phreng brgyad pa mi bskyod rdo rje’i gsung ‘bum, vols. 7–9 of 26. Lha sa, 2004. BDRC: W8039.

— gangs ri’i khrod na gnas pa gtso bor gyur pa skyabs med ma rgan tshogs la sha zar mi rung ba’i springs yig sogs. Unpublished manuscript. NGMPP Reel No. E 2943/4.

Rase Konchog Gyatso (2004).The Excellent Path of Blissful Peace: Benefits of White Food Tradition (dkar zas ring lugs kyi phan yon/ mi ‘jigs skyabs kyi sbyin pa dkar zas ring lugs kyi phan yon bstan pa zhi bde’i lam bzang / 素食利益/su shi li yi/). Published by Bojong Mimang (bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang /). Lhasa, 2004. W1KG18533.


ENDNOTES

[1] Barstow notes that: “Shabkar, writing in the early nineteenth century, claims that Pakmodrupa was vegetarian, though I have found little evidence for this in older material. See zhabs dkar tshogs drug rang grol, rmad byung sprul pa’i glegs bam, 8:58 (Shabkar Tsokdruk Rangdrol, Food of Bodhisattvas, 82).” (2017: 222.n. 47).

[2] ‘jig rten mgon po, mkhan po chen po seng seng ba’i spyan snga spring ba sogs, 2:22.

[3] The full title is The Excellent Path of Blissful Peace: Benefits of White Food Tradition (dkar zas ring lugs kyi phan yon/ mi ‘jigs skyabs kyi sbyin pa dkar zas ring lugs kyi phan yon bstan pa zhi bde’i lam bzang / 素食利益/su shi li yi/). Published by Bojong Mimang (bod ljongs mi dmangs dpe skrun khang /). Lhasa, 2004. W1KG18533.

[4] In Tibetan it says: rab tu gshegs nas dro ‘phyis pa yang ma gsol zhing/ sha chang ljags la bstar ma myong ste . from  ‘jig rten gsum gyi mgon po’i rnam par thar pa rdo rje rin po che ‘bar ba. In khams gsum chos kyi rgyal po thub dbang rat+na shrI’i thugs sras spyan snga rgyal sras shes rab ‘byun gnas kyi gsung ‘bum, 1–186. Delhi: Drikung Kagyu Publications. BDRC: W23784.

[5] “Alongside regulations concerning proper dress and seating arrangements, some monastery rulebooks explicitly outlaw meat. In his mid-sixteenth century Rulebook for Tsurpu Monastery, Mikyö Dorjé, the eighth Karmapa, announces that “monks gathered here should, in particular, not eat meat or eggs.” (Barstow, 2017).

[6] Note the Tibetan word for ‘meat’ is ‘sha’ which is translated as meat but it actually means ‘flesh’. This is like the German word for meat, which is Fleisch, which also means flesh. The English word ‘meat’ loses that sense of it being the flesh of a being.

[7] I am grateful to Drupon Rinchen Dorje Rinpoche for pointing out the existence of this text to me. “thub pa’i bstan pa sha chang spong bar gdams pa’i ‘jam yig.” In gsung ‘bum/_’jig rten mgon po. TBRC W23743. 3: 391 – 393. Delhi: Drikung Kagyu Ratna Shri Sungrab Nyamso Khang, 2001.  

[8] I saw an English translation of this text but the translator was unnamed, anonymous so have done my own version.

[9] This is strikingly similar to the words the 8th Karmapa uses in his text on meat and I wonder if the Karmapa read or heard Jigten Sumgon’s Advice on it before composing his own text.

[10]  The Tibetan text reads:  mgul glo la phan zer bas byang g.yag gi glo ba skam po brdungs pa’i phye ma
skyo tshar gtong bar zhus pas kyang ma gnang ste“ (shes rab ‘byung gnas, ‘jig rten gsum gyi mgon po’i rnam par thar pa rdo rje rin po che ‘bar ba, 176.). And while it certainly holds up Jigten Sumgön’s vegetarianism as an ideal, the tone of the text also betrays a level of resentment, as if Sherab Yungné wishes that his master had prolonged his life by accepting the medicine.” (2017: 127). Barstow then goes on to explain how other renowned masters did accept meat only in situations of extreme sickness or very old age.

[11] Barstow (2017: 127) further explains the circumstances in which vegetarians, Sera Khandro and Shabkar accepted meat might be permissible in cases of extreme physical sickness or being close to death:

“Not everyone, of course, made the same choice as Jigten Sumgön or Tenzin’s father. In a brief but telling story in her Autobiography, Sera Khandro recalls that, in 1921, when she was twenty-nine years old, she fell seriously ill with an imbalance of the wind humor. Sera Khandro had been vegetarian for many years, but at that point her teacher insisted that she eat meat to build her strength, specifically blessing some for her use. Sera Khandro consented, “consuming a little of that food, with the thought that it was for the sake of her illness.”This blessed, medicinal meat helped Sera Khandro recover her strength, and she was eventually able to return to a vegetarian diet. For his part, Shabkar Tsokdrük rangdröl carved out a medical exception to his otherwise uncompromising vegetarianism. Shabkar was a deeply committed vegetarian, arguably the most adamant critic of meat in all Tibetan lit er a ture.54 And yet, in his mid- nineteenth- century Nectar of Immortality, he explicitly allows meat for those who are “ill, physically exhausted, and close to death, so that if they do not eat a little meat they will die.” For Shabkar, this applies not only to cases of acute illness, but also to advanced age. “

[12]  See Guru Stories oral teachings by Garchen Rinpoche (Day 5, December 2021). In part 5 of these teachings, Garchen Rinpoche spoke about how he first met Drupon Rinchen Dorje Rinpoche, and how many people thought he was just crazy bit how he immediately recognized him as a special practitioner and told people that. He says:

Also, during that time when I was performing the the ceremony, they  set up a very  high throne for me and then just  below that there was someone sitting there with  dreadlocks bound on the top of his head, He sat on the bare ground but he didn’t have any cushion or anything to sit on and I didn’t know who it was that at that time. That was the first time I met him.  He was sitting there meditating and when the monks were going around and pouring tea for him,  I told them you also have to give him some tea, because he is very precious and very special. Then they said ‘no ,no he’s just a crazy one.’  When I asked for his name, they said ‘oh they call him gillang’ and he also didn’t have a seat. I told them give him a seat something to sit on and so then they brought him a little  carpet to sit on. At that time, everyone just called him like the crazy Konchog Norbu. When he was sitting there he was just there meditating and he didn’t say a single word and so therefore at that time we didn’t really meet or talk, I just saw him sitting there and just thought that this is a very  special person. That was my first encounter with Drupon Rinpoche even though we didn’t really meet at that time.

Then I returned to Kham and at a later point, I traveled to Nepal and I was staying in a family’s home and they set up as a small throne next to me and I asked who is that for and they said Drupon Rinpoche is coming today and I asked who that was and they said that he’s a very  special master  and is recognized as very special by  HH, Chetsang Rinpoche. Then he came and the person who appeared was Konchog Norbu, the one I had seen in Tibet before and he sat down next to me. Again, he didn’t say a single word he was just meditating and I asked for his name and said that’s  Konchog Norbu and it was the same Konchog Norbu I have actually met before. I was really amazed then at whom he really was. So he was just sitting next to me he didn’t say single word, and I asked him ‘so how are you doing?’ and he replied ‘ugghh’ that’s all he said and I remember thinking ‘he’s kind of unusual’. He just sat there and drank a little bit of tea and ate a little bit of torma and then he left and so this is how I met Drupon Rinpoche again.”

[13] Biography on https://www.garchen.de/index.php/en/spiritual-guidance/visiting-teachers

[14] Barstow (2017:6) explains the origin and use of the term ‘dokar’:

“One term that is used in some older texts is dokar. This term incorporates the term kar, or “white,” suggesting a kinship with the term karsé. If the syllable kar in dokar clearly refers to “white,” however, the do is less straightforward. For one thing, the relevant texts do not agree on a standard spelling for do, most often using rdor, but sometimes using sdor. The Great Tibetan Chinese Dictionary defines rdor as “to grind, or sharpen,” a definition seemingly unrelated to vegetarianism. The same dictionary, on the other hand, defines sdor as a spice or condiment, such as one might use to flavor soup. Drawing on this latter spelling and definition, Hou Haoran has suggested that dokar should be defined as “white condiment,” an etymology that is as good as any I have come up with.  If the precise spelling and etymology of this term are unclear, in actual use the term consistently refers to individuals who have intentionally given up meat for a sustained period of time, usually their entire lives. It is often paired with the term denchik, or “single seat,” referring to the practice of eating only once a day, during a single sitting. Together, denchik dokar suggests a rigorously ethical and ascetic diet.”

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