17th Karmapa’s talk on meat-eating

Excerpts from 17th Karmapa Ogyen Trinlay Dorje’s Talk
on Meat-eating

Venue: The 24th Annual Great Kagyu Monlam, Bodhgaya,

Date: January 3rd, 2007 (Full moon day)

Translated simultaneously by Ringu Tulku Rinpoche


“There are many great masters and very great realized
beings in India and there have been many great
realized beings in Tibet also, but they are not
saying, ‘I am realized, therefore I can do anything; I
can eat meat and drink alcohol.’ It’s nothing like
that. It should not be like that. According to the
Kagyupa school, we have to see what the great masters
of the past, the past lamas of Kagyupas, did and said
about eating meat. The Drikung Shakpa [sp?] Rinpoche,
master of Drikungpa, said like this, ‘My students,
whomever are eating or using meat and calling it
tsokhor or tsok, then these people are completely
deserting me and going against the Dharma.’ I can’t
explain each of these things, but he said that anybody
that is using meat and saying it is something good,
this is completely against the dharma and against me
and they completely have nothing to do with dharma. He
said it very, very strongly.'”

“The [8th] Karmapa Mikyo Dorje also said, that if you
offer meat during the guktor and things like that, for
the Mahakala puja [if] you put some meat or you put
some alcohol or things like that–he very strictly
prohibited that. He said if you do that, I’m not your
lama. You are not my disciples, or my followers,
completely not. In all the monasteries, the Kamtsang,
the Karmapa said, you don’t have to make any offerings
of meat and alcohol. Maybe you can put some fruits.
I’ve heard that in Sikkim, during the guktor or
Mahakala puja, you must put some meat. If Mahakala
himself comes, maybe he will eat some meat; maybe
that’s okay. But if we do that for Mahakala, put [or
eat?] an offering of meat or alcohol, that’s
completely useless. That’s not good.”

“Again, Mikyo Dorje said, in Tuton Gyatsa [sp?], that
there are eight things to be given up by the monks,
like meat, alcohol, weapons and things like that—I
can’t remember all of them—because this is what has
been described in Do Palmo Che. Most important about
this is the meat, alcohol and weapons. These you can’t

even look at, he said. If you don’t give up these
eight things, then you don’t belong to Kagyupa, he
said. Then you [should] just go away, or sit somewhere
else, that’s how it is said. If you eat meat you
aren’t not included in Kagyupa. So we don’t know if we
are Kagyupas or not.”

“Another thing I’ve forgotten is that any monastery
that belongs to Kamtsang Kagyu, the monastery kitchen
cannot and should not make any food with meat. And if
you bring meat and cook it in the monastery kitchen
then that means that you are not taking me as your
teacher, you are not belonging to Karma Kagyu. And
there is nothing to discuss about that. That’s
finished. That is very important.”



Instructions on not eating meat from
His Holiness 17th Karmapa

Full moon day 3rd January 2007 was the last day of the
24th Kagyu Monlam. In the shade of the Bodhi Tree,
seat of Enlightenment of One Thousand Buddhas, Ogyen
Trinley Dorje the 17th Gyalwang Karmapa gave
this teaching on the benefits of not eating meat. Over
6,000 people were present. The teaching was heard by
Lineage Holders, Rinpoches, Lamas,
Ordained Sangha and lay practitioners who had
travelled from many countries including Tibet, Nepal,
India, Taiwan, Korea, Burma, USA,
Canada, Russia and all parts of Europe.

The teaching was translated into various languages
simultaneously and transmitted by FM radio. In this
way it was possible to hear the meaning
and at the same time to connect with the clarity and
passion of the Karmapa’s roaring voice. The English
translation was made available by Ringu Tulku.

I made no notes at the time and perhaps at a later
date the full transcription will be made available.
However, on a few occasions during the Monlam
teachings, His Holiness said that as the Kagyu family
we should not be over concerned with precise details
at the expense of the meaning of His message. For all
practical purposes I am confident that this is a true
account of what was said and offer it now with a sense
of urgency.

Towards the end of the teaching His Holiness
specifically asked those present to make it available
to others since he considers the subject to
be of such importance. He joked that the Tibetans
should translate it for those from Amdo in case they
claimed not to have understood His dialect.

Throughout the Kagyu Monlam, His Holiness spoke often
of his childhood as a poor nomad in Tibet. It was the
practice of nomads at a particular time of year to
gather together the animals that were to be
slaughtered. At these times He was completely
distraught with concern for the suffering of the
animals. Whatever his family tried they could not
contain his sorrow. Since then He said that He has
studied so much of the Dharma and practiced so
diligently and yet in all of the study and
practice He has never found anything that could be
created that was more precious than this naturally
arising kindness towards other beings.

He urged us all to connect with that innate goodness
in ourselves. On one occasion whilst living in Tibet
someone had interpreted the lines on the hands of His
Holiness and indicated that there are potential
obstacles to his life in his 23rd and 24th years.
Since leaving Tibet His Holiness himself had a dream
regarding the same issue. He said that
whilst he is not normally afraid of death, He woke
from the dream deeply concerned. It was in response to
this that He has concluded that the best remedy to the
obstacles to both His life and the life of the Dalai
Lama will be for his followers to preserve life and
specifically to have less involvement with the killing
of animals and the suffering that results from eating

It was very clear that the Karmapa was not making a
polite request.

As head of the Lineage, He was investigating faults,
making a diagnosis of obstacles and prescribing a
remedy that must be followed.

With immediate effect:

· No meat is to be prepared in the kitchen of any
Kagyu Monastery or Centre.

· No one is to be involved in the business of buying
and selling meat – for all of His followers this
practice must stop.

· There is to be no killing of animals on Kagyu
premises – the slaughterhouse at Turphu must be

· He is aware of monks in robes going to buy meat and
does not want to see this ever again.

His Holiness said that he knows that lamas and
practitioners have always justified eating meat by
saying that they make prayers for the beings
that they are eating.

This is not good enough.

He asked how many of them can truly liberate beings in
this way?

Now we really do have a Karmapa and He is starting to
make Himself heard.

The use of alcohol and meat for Tsok offerings is also
not acceptable.

His Holiness quoted spiritual masters from the past
who had condemned the practice of using Tsok as an
excuse for eating meat and drinking alcohol.

Leaving absolutely no room for interpretation, He said
that anyone who uses meat and alcohol as Tsok is not
part of Karmapa’s lineage.

If the practice is at the level where Mahakala really
comes and actually drinks the alcohol and eats the
meat then it may be justified but otherwise we should
use fruit!

Throughout the Kagyu Monlam, many people took the
Sojong vows at 6am each day. This took place beneath
the Bodhi tree, presided over by either His Holiness
or other masters. Early in the Monlam, His Holiness
had explained the meaning and purpose of the Sojong
precepts and at that point indicated that eating meat
was a big subject and would be dealt with later.

Apparently He had originally intended giving people a
week to consider before making their commitment. As
events worked out He gave us the time during tea break
to decide what we felt able to promise. He said that
sometimes it is better to be spontaneous.

Several options were made available and we were asked
to raise our hands to indicate our choice of
commitment and to witness each others’ decisions.

His wish for each of us to make an individual vow was
clear and decisive. It applied just as much to the
Tibetans who historically had little else available to
eat. His Holiness said that now “thanks to the
kindness of the Chinese” (this is an exact quote) the
Tibetans have vegetables and other food available. The
choices offered were:

· Eating no meat one day per week

· Eating no meat one day per month

· Eating no meat on special days such as moon days,
Guru Rinpoche and Tara days

· Eating meat for only one meal per day

· Give up eating meat for ever

· Give up eating meat for a specified period of time
such as one, two or three years.

· Reduce eating meat with a view to giving up

Throughout the speech it was obvious that His Holiness
wanted everyone connected with His Lineage to make
some commitment for two main reasons:

The teachings of Lord Buddha require that we act with
kindness and preserve all life.

Because of our connection to His Holiness, by
improving our conduct we can reduce obstacles to His

When we consider the unshakable Bodhisattva activity
of the Karmapas, how can we not be pleased that for
once we have been given a simple and practical
opportunity to help?


Vin Harris
9th January 2007
Eskdalemuir (Scotland)
[posted 9:10 AM Mon Feb 5, 2007]