Being Vegan in a Non-Vegan Household

Dear Teacher,

I have a question. I try to not contribute to the suffering of living beings. I’ve been vegan for 21 years. I live with my boyfriend who’s been vegan with me for 10 years. However, unfortunately, he started eating animals again. I’m trying hard to live like Thich Nhat Hanh. He is my teacher. He says, Love someone so they feel free, but also to not support any act of killing. I want my boyfriend to feel free, but I don’t want to support killing. I feel disturbed by the dead animals in the kitchen and hurt he’s choosing this path. What is the most loving, and compassionate way for me to move forward?

Thank you


Dear friend,

Thank you for your good question.

My husband is also a meat eater; I have been a vegetarian for almost 40 years. The Five Mindfulness Trainings helped us create a way for both of us to be happy: he only eats meat when we eat out and we look for interesting, creative ways to fix delicious vegetarian meals at home. There are other ways to compromise but that is how the Trainings helped us.

All the Five Mindfulness Trainings are guidelines; they are not commandments although we often try to turn them into that. They offer us concrete, practical ways to take care of ourselves and our sweethearts, as well as all beings.

Each of the Trainings tell us what to avoid and what to cultivate.

In the First Mindfulness Training we are asked to put an end to our aggression which includes avoiding killing living beings. We are asked to cultivate respect, even reverence, for all life. Some of us decide to become vegetarians or vegans as one way to protect the physical, emotional, and thinking lives of living beings.

If we feel like we are not measuring up to the First Mindfulness Training, we are really training ourselves in judgmental mind. It is also easy for us to get self-righteous about others who are taking lives, in which case we are training ourselves in cultivating pride.

Those, of course, are not the intentions of the First Mindfulness Training. Instead, the Training is designed to help us find ways to avoid letting our aggression and judgmental mind get out of hand and to help us cultivate True Love: kindness, compassion, joy, and equanimity.

Our teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, says that we need not be perfect in our practice of the Mindfulness Trainings. Thay says, “If we know that if every day we will make a little progress on the path of mindfulness training that is good enough.”


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