The First Tibetan Vegetarian and Vegan Society with HH
Dalai Lama as its Patron-In-Chief.


Promoting Vegetaranism: an Interview

Phayul [Sunday, December 19, 2004 11:51]

"Where Tibetans go, butchers flourish," they say. But
this is soon to end if efforts of a lone Tibetan youth
is to bear fruit. Tenzin Kunga Luding, a Tibetan youth
is on a mission to bring about vegetarianism in the
Tibetan society. He agrees it is a gradual process
though. But he believes every Tibetan will one day
embrace vegetarianism. Phayul reporter Nilza Angmo
caught up with him recently, excerpts...

Q: Could you tell us a bit about yourself first?

A: I was born at the Sakya Tibetan Settlement in H.P.,
India, where my father, then Member of Parliament of
the Tibetan government-in-exile, was also serving as
the General Secretary of this settlement. He was one
of the pioneers who introduced the Tibetan Green Book.
Since my childhood I had always been very interested
in helping the helpless and the needy like collecting
funds for the Somalians affected by famine, raising
funds for the Tibetans in Manali who were affected by
the mob violence, etc. I have served as a General
Secretary of Sakyapa Ngorgon Charitable Society and
Samyeling GRS Welfare Association in Majnu-Ka-Tilla. I
am happy to say that during our tenure with the
Welfare association, we were able to obtain licenses
for shops and restaurants in our colony, sponsor needy
children, build gates for the colony, improve
relations with police and concerned authorities, etc.
For our hard work we received community service award
from the Local Assembly and Welfare Office which was
presented by Kungo Tashi Wangdi la, Representative of
His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Delhi.

Q: What prompted you to start this society?

A: As a child I was extremely fond of meat unlike my
sister who rejected meat or its soup right from her
infancy. I relished meat not knowing how it came
about, till I was about 10-11 years old when someone
narrated me for the first time how cattles were packed
in trucks, unloaded, and mercilessly slaughtered. The
suffering of these animals that were forced to be our
food touched my heart right through. Since then I gave
up meat. To make up for it, I used to consume lots of
milk and eggs, as school books, movies, health
magazines and everyone around my world believed these
two things were healthy and necessary and I felt the
same too. Then one day I read Maneka Gandhi¡¦s book
"Heads and Tails". This book was the turning point of
my life and it enlightened me about lots of ugly
things that I knew for the first time. I realized that
these foods (eggs, meat, and animal dairy products)
were not only causing so much of unnecessary
sufferings to animals but were harmful to our precious
health and environment as well. I then chose to be a
Vegan. At that time hardly anyone had heard of this
term and almost everybody opposed or was skeptical of
it. But I had the full support of my family, even
though they were concerned of my health. I knew what I
was doing and I stuck firm to my belief. I knew that
compassion and loving-kindness form the core teachings
of our ¡¥Buddha Dharma¡¦ and so propagation of
vegetarianism was even more important in our
community. I waited long time for a related group to
come up in our community, but nothing surfaced.
Finally, I took it upon myself to get things started
and thus how we have the first Tibetan vegetarian and
vegan group called "Tibetans For Vegetarian Society
(T4VS). It is a registered non-profit charitable
trust. I consider it as our community¡¦s share of
contribution for the development of a globally
healthy, happy and humane environment. Everybody is
welcome to join us whether vegetarian or
non-vegetarian, Buddhist or non Buddhist.

Q: This society was founded in 1997, and it was
registered in 2004, why?

A: The following were the chief reasons for the delay:
In the initial stages, I was basically working all by
myself and had very few people who could understand

It was a daunting task and there were many skepticism,
pressure, and economic problems. Everywhere I turned
to, there were people who ate meat and thought it was
just a fad on my part. Some thought I had gone crazy
or fighting a loosing battle.

Since it was a new thing for our community I neither
got any financial nor moral support. I literary had to
dig into my own pockets or borrow money from my family
to carry out activities such as to rescue animals,
compile a magazine for free distribution, give an
appeal in the Tibetan Review, etc.

It was a gradual progress. Slowly my hard work seemed
to pay off and I began to receive genuine appreciation
or sympathy from people. Since this year our
government was celebrating Tibetan Vegetarian Year I
felt it was the perfect occasion to strengthen our
group and seek legitimate registration. I invited a
few like-minded people to discuss the matter and they
expressed their desire to join the organization. So,
on the 6th August, 2004 we got ourselves registered as
a non-profit Trust.

Q: What is your opinion present dietary habit of the
Tibetan community?

A: I can only comment on what I have seen in the
Tibetan community in India specially the ones I have
been to. I am happy to observe that our food variety
has improved and people are getting more health
conscious. Most Tibetans have now included legumes in
their regular diet which is very important. More
people are turning to vegetarianism, specially the
younger generation, which is wonderful. We have now
started to gift fruits and juices in place of eggs and
butter which was in the past a regular feature when
visiting a guest. In fact I feel we must introduce
fruits on a daily basis. I would love to see Soya bean
dairy products replace animal dairy products. It is
not only healthier, and ethical, but also an
environment friendly option. On the whole I think
there is some awareness to remain healthy seeped in
the minds of our people and we must continue to follow
in the same direction.

Q: What kind of activities do you organize to create
awareness of the benefits of a vegetarianism?

A: We wish to explore every possible means to reach
people. So far we have shown documentaries to public
and students, put up posters, given appeals in Tibetan
Review, distributed pamphlets and stickers, sent video
CD¡¦s to every settlement and few big monastic
institutions in India. We ran a signature campaign
persuading all the Tibetan restaurants and meat
sellers in Majnu-Ka Tilla and Budh Vihar colony to
observe a meatless day on full moon¡¦s day during the
Saga Dawa month. Recently we organized a very
successful concert in Majnu-Ka-Tilla as a part of
celebration of the Tibetan Vegetarian Year (2004-2005)
with the well-known Shambala Band, Pa-Tsering, Dhondup
Tashi, etc. Phuntsok Topden, a youngster of our board
member, has also started a "Green Friday" movement in
his settlement. On this day many people of his
settlement abstain from eating meat. As we have
already registered our domain i.e. we are
now on the phase of developing a web site for it.
Alongside this, we are working to make a new video
documentary to be shown in year 2005. We also hope to
organize the first Vegetarian congress in our Tibetan
society in the nearby future.

Q: Recently you had the honour of having an audience
with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, tell us about that.

A: Despite His Holiness¡¦tight schedule, he was kind
enough to grant us an audience for about half an hour.
We all felt so blessed and privileged. We were
actually there to seek his blessings and capture his
message on vegetarianism in video to show to people.
His Holiness enquired what let me to start this group
and was very pleased to know the ethical reasons
behind it. During the conversation one significant
thing he sadly noted was that in Tibet these days
there are many meat sellers outside the Potala Palace
which were never there before. His Holiness advised us
to continue the efforts undeterred and felt it would
be more helpful to expand the work to various parts of
the world including Tibet. And just before we were
departing I mustered all my courage and requested His
Holiness to be our Patron-In-Chief which he has
happily obliged. This is a land mark in the Tibetan
history to have a Dalai Lama as Patron-In-Chief of a
registered vegetarian and vegan organization. We will
be showing the video recording of this message as
planned in 2005 but now one can view it in Bod
Gyalo¡¦s monthly video news too. In all, the audience
has motivated me and the board members to work harder
and consolidated our belief.
(We wish to inform that majority of the financial
assistance has been from the Private office of His
Holiness the Dalai Lama.)

Q: A few words to the Tibetan community?

A: I would like our people to read the book, "The Food
Revolution" by John Robbins, which will give an
insight into the need for plant based diet and my
belief. One can also visit some good websites like,,, and What
I am doing is nothing new; it has always been there in
our Buddhist scriptures. I am only trying to follow
these teachings by propagating love and compassion
with respect for nature. His Holiness the Dalai Lama,
also stresses often the need to cultivate a good human
heart for the benefit of all living beings. Therefore
it would be nice to see people trying to give up or
reduce meat for a week, month, or for whatever limit
of time they could. Meat is no more a matter of
survival for us. With exposure to large varieties of
nutritious vegetarian food, improved technology,
better transportation system, and advancements of
knowledge in various fields it is so much easier for
us to give up meat than our predecessors.
Lastly, I conclude with the favorite lines of His
Holiness written by Shanti Deva which has always
motivated me. I hope it does the same to you all.

As long as space remains,
As long as sentient beings remain
Until then, may I too remain
And dispel the miseries of the world.