The Dalai Lama Loves Him Some Veal

For non Lama-watchers, it may come as a surprise that His Holiness isn’t vegetarian, as many Buddhists are. Turns out he’s a big meat-lover. As the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports, at a recent luncheon the Dalai Lama “chowed down” on a locally raised veal roast prepared by Beard Award–winning Wisconsin chef Sandy D’Amato. He “lapped up” everything else as well—a five-course menu that included a cured fish appetizer, an asparagus soup with a chicken stock base, a stuffed pheasant breast, a mixed green salad, an eggplant-and-chickpea entrée, and three chocolate desserts. It’s unclear from the article whether all of those plates were actually served to the monk (three full-size chocolate desserts?!), but one thing is for sure: “He ate nine pieces of bread,” D’Amato says.

What gives with all the meat-eating? Turns out the Dalai Lama tried strict vegetarianism for a year and a half in the 1960s and developed hepatitis, at which point his doctors advised him to go back to his omnivorous ways. (He’s been criticized by some in the vegetarian community for having been an unhealthy vegetarian, possibly damaging his liver that way—he subsisted on a high-fat diet of mostly nuts and milk—and thus the medical necessity of his meat-eating has been questioned.)

But in addition to the unexpected carnivorous streak, Mr. Lama seems like more of a chowhound than your average ascetic monk; is it because his one-to-two-meal-a-day diet leaves him ravenous? Or perhaps he’s following an especially strict-seeming Buddhist law under which monks and nuns are prohibited from cultivating, storing, or cooking their own food:

[I]nstead, they must rely on ‘alms,’ which are donations from believers. This sometimes includes meats, as monks and nuns aren’t allowed to ask for specific foods.

I wonder if this aspect of the religion makes it attractive to freegans.