Does Eckhart Tolle eat meat?

Eckhart Tolle with the Dalai Lama

Yes he does, according to his partner Kim Eng.

It’s such a curious question isn’t it: “Are spiritual people, truly enlightened people, vegetarians?” And the answer is clearly “not necessarily.”

If you look at the great spiritual masters, there’s no common theme with regards to meat eating. Buddha wasn’t rigid about it and said it was okay if you were offered it, the Dalai Lama follows this path and is vegetarian at home but will eat meat if away.

Jesus fed the 5000 fish and loaves which he magically produced. Jesus said “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them.” Matthew 15:11. And “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; or about your body, what you will wear.” Luke 12:22

And enlightened master Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj, of “I AM THAT” fame, had no issue with meat eating or even smoking. Here’s an excerpt from I AM THAT…

Q: My body influences me deeply. In more than one way my body is my destiny. My character, my moods, the nature of my reactions, my desires and fears — inborn or acquired — they are all based on the body. A little alcohol, some drug or other and all changes. Until the drug wears off I become another man.

M: All this happens because you think yourself to be the body. realise your real self and even drugs will have no power over you.

Q: You smoke?

M: My body kept a few habits which may as well continue till it dies. There is no harm in them.

Q: You eat meat?

M: I was born among meat-eating people and my children are eating meat. I eat very little — and make no fuss.

Q: Meat-eating implies killing.

M: Obviously. I make no claims of consistency. You think absolute consistency is possible; prove it by example. Don’t preach what you do not practise.

Similarly, here’s what Ramana Maharshi had to say on the subject:

M: Habit is only adjustment to the environment. It is the mind that matters. The fact is that the mind has been trained to think certain foods tasty and good. The food material is to be had both in vegetarian and non-vegetarian diet equally well. But the mind desires such food as it is accustomed to and considers tasty.

D: Are there restrictions for the realised man in a similar manner?

M: No. He is steady and not influenced by the food he takes.

Eckhart Tolle sees life as one dynamic whole; an inter-connectedness, an inter-action, oneness. Life eats life, everywhere…

I saw on TV the other day, whales hunting. They pincered a shoal of fish and then came from underneath to catch thousands in one mouthful. Does that make a whale evil?

Orca hunting
Is a whale or a dolphin evil for eating fish?

Having had my head into nutrition for over 20 years, I’m uncomfortable from a health point of view with pure vegetarianism (and the dairy industry is crueler than the meat industry so I’m told by vegans).

Interestingly, I’ve seen Eckhart Tolle dodge this question many times in seminars and TV interviews. He just advises to…

Be present with whatever your food choices are and then the right food choice will happen for you… it needs to come from within rather than as something from without.

This view is perfectly echoed by non-physical beings Abraham, channeled by Esther Hicks…

Imagine if you could let being aligned be your first priority — a lot of vegans would be inspired to a lot of eating that their veganism would not allow, but the source within them would call them toward.

— Abraham-Hicks

Yet another echo of the same perspective from Adyashanti:

Safransky: Could killing animals to eat them come from wholeness?

Adyashanti: Sure. Life is killing. If we eat a vegetable, we’ve killed it. If we eat an animal, we’ve killed it. To be a living organism is to kill. There is no life without death. When we die, we’re going to be nutrients for something else.

I don’t see life as “anything goes,” but I have seen wholeness move through different people in different ways. That’s why I’m always talking about action that comes from wholeness, not from division, nor rejection, nor grasping, nor pushing away. What motivates us when we’re not pushing or grasping, not relying on conditioned concepts of right and wrong, good and bad? Is there something else that can move us? And what is that? Action that is an expression of a clear and undivided state of consciousness is what the Buddha meant by “right action.” To exercise right action we must be functioning from a place outside of all egoic self-interest. We must be awake within the dream and be able to express that perspective.

The take-home message…

…from these spiritual masters is clear: Be whole, then see what you do.

One life @djfoto87

People’s pre-judgement on the basis of this issue would be detrimental to their own enlightenment. Because if you saw as Eckhart does, life as oneness, then you would probably also not be overly concerned about any particular FORM, as all the forms are continuously morphing and changing. In fact, there is only life and it is ONE life, there is no death anywhere to be seen! And… life eats life, everywhere. My cat isn’t evil for eating mice.

What do you think? Do you think vegetarians are more spiritual? Please let us know by leaving a comment below.

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216 thoughts on “Does Eckhart Tolle eat meat?

  1. Question – Why don’t you allow non-vegetarian food in the commune?

    Osho – I don’t allow non-vegetarian food in the ashram has nothing to do with religion, it is just pure aesthetics. I am not one who thinks that if you take non-vegetarian food you will not become enlightened. Jesus became enlightened, Mohammed became enlightened, Ramakrishna became enlightened — there has been no problem about it. You can take non-vegetarian food and you can become enlightened, so there is no religious problem about it.

    To me the problem is that of aesthetics. Because Jesus continued to eat meat, I have a feeling that he did not have a great aesthetic sense. Not that he is not religious — he is perfectly religious, as religious as Buddha, but something is missing in him. Ramakrishna continued to eat fish; just nonaesthetic, it looks a little ugly.

    Enlightenment is not at stake, but your poetry is at stake, your sense of beauty is at stake. Your humanity is at stake, not your super-humanity. That’s why it is not allowed in my ashram — and it will not be allowed. It is a question of beauty.

    If you understand this many things will be clear to you. Alcohol can be allowed in this ashram but not meat, because alcohol is vegetarian — fruit juice…. fermented, but it is fruit juice. And sometimes to be a little drunk gives rise to great poetry. That is possible, that has to be allowed. In the new commune we are going to have a bar — Omar Khayyam. Omar Khayyam is a Sufi saint, one of the enlightened Sufis.

    But meat cannot be allowed, that is just ugly. Just to think that you are killing an animal to eat, just the very idea, is unaesthetic. I am not against it because the animal is killed… because that which is essential in the animal will live, it cannot be killed, and that which is nonessential, whether you kill it or not, is going to die. So that is irrelevant, that is not a point for me to consider.

    The question is not that you have killed the animal and killing is not good, no. The question is that you have killed the animal — you. Just to eat? While beautiful vegetarian food is available? If vegetarian food is not available, that’s one thing. But the food IS available. Then why? Then why destroy a body? And if you can kill an animal, then why not be a cannibal? What is wrong with killing a man? The meat derived from a human body will be more in tune with you. Why not start eating human beings? That too is a question of aesthetics.

    And the animals are brothers and sisters, because man has come from them. They are our family. To kill a man is only to kill an evolved animal, or to kill an animal is just to kill somebody who is not yet evolved but is on the way. It is the same. Whether you kill the child when he is in the first grade or whether you kill the young man when he has come to his last grade in the university, it does not make much difference. The animals are moving towards human beings, and human beings had once been animals. It is only a question of aesthetics. Why not kill your wife and eat her? She is so beautiful and so sweet….

    A friend came to a cannibal and the food was prepared and the friend had never tasted anything like it. He had never even dreamed that food could be so tasty, so delicious. When he was leaving he said to the cannibal, “I loved the food. I have never loved food so much. When I come next, prepare the same dishes.”
    And the cannibal said, “That is difficult, because I only had one mother.”

    Why can’t you eat your mother? Why can’t you eat your husband or your child? — so delicious. The question is not religious, I would like to remind you again, it is a question of aesthetics. An aesthetic man will see that life remains beautiful it does not become ugly and nightmarish.

    But the question has arisen in Chinmaya’s mind, that shows something. In India people who are vegetarian are not really vegetarian; it is just because they are born in a vegetarian family, so from the very beginning the vegetarianism has been imposed on them. And naturally they are curious, naturally they want to taste other things also, and naturally the idea arises, “The whole world is nonvegetarian; people must be enjoying.” The vegetarian feels that somehow he is missing much. That’s why the question has arisen.

    It has nothing to do with meditation. You can eat meat and you can meditate. You can eat meat and you can love. It has nothing to do with love either. But you will be showing one thing about yourself — that you are very crude, that you are very primitive, uncultured, uncivilized; that you don’t have any sense of how life should be. It was out of an aesthetic sense that vegetarianism was born. It became entangled in religion and got lost. It has been taken out from the religious context.

    People come to see me and they ask, a Jaina asked me, “How can you say that Jesus was enlightened? — because he was a meat-eater….” His question is relevant because he thinks that meat-eaters cannot become enlightened. Meat-eaters can become enlightened, just as people who are not poets can become enlightened. That is not a barrier. People who don’t have any sense of beauty, who will not see any beauty in a rose, can become enlightened… who will not see any beauty in the moon, can become enlightened… who will not have any taste for Beethoven’s music, can become enlightened. But Jesus shows something crude. Maybe it was not possible, maybe he lived amongst people who were all meat-eaters. It would have been difficult for him to be a vegetarian. It would have been almost impossible for him. But still, that trouble has to be taken.

    But remember that here my whole approach is an integrated approach. Meditation is needed, so is poetry, so is aesthetics, so is religion, so is music, so is art. Man should evolve in many dimensions in an integrated way. Then comes the ultimate flowering when all your petals have opened. And you will have greater joy and greater benediction in life.

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  2. Nobody eats hamburgers, hot dogs, bacon, or sausage for their health. Nearly everyone in America who eats meat eats quite a bit more of it than American nutritionists say is healthful and wholesome. The whole food plant-based way of eating is vegan, but in terms of benefiting human health goes far beyond veganism. Once a person has taken it to heart and experienced beneficial changes in blood pressure, cholesterol levels, and body fat, that person has dramatically reduced the likelihood of dying prematurely of heart disease, diabetes, or several kinds of cancer.

    If I ever develop a death wish, probably the first thing I’ll do is go back to eating large amounts of processed foods and foods containing animal fats and animal protein. I don’t know whether I’m vibrating at a higher frequency than I used to, but as an animal lover I do experience satisfaction at giving the critters a break. I get that one person’s choices are not even an asterisk in the big picture. But even if my part is only a drop in the bucket, it’s still a drop inside rather than outside that bucket, and mine is not the only drop.

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  3. Honestly I just do not believe you can be considered‘ enlightened’ whilst eating the corpses of creatures. It one of the reasons yoga espouses ‘ahimsa’ or non harm and why a vegan diet is the foundation of a yogic lifestyle.
    All of those mentioned in the article above (men by the way) are still fully controlled by their egos if they can rationalise eating meat (dead animals).

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    1. I think it’s not always vegan vs non vegan. Sometimes vegan foods /processes/ supply chains are more harmful than simple local ethically raised animal products. It’s not so clear. the “Super foods” shipped and mailed in plastic and clearing of forests for special vegan stuff happens. So, i think it’s a lot more than vegan vs non. Its consciousness And awareness. And for many peaceful loving wonderful people, meat is actually good for some health issues

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  4. Very interesting read. I appreciate all of the opinions and information. I was raised in a meat eating household, and for many years I thought I needed to eat an AIP diet (auto-immune paleo) to regain my health. I guess for me the thing that shifted was realizing it wasn’t just about me. That maybe animals aren’t here for our needs. That me eating them certainly isn’t what’s best for them. I looked up the definition of ‘humane’ and one of the answers I saw said “an easy way to decide if something is humane is to ask yourself if you’d want it done to you.” Well I wouldn’t want to live my whole life in a dark metal building, in fear. I wouldn’t want my babies ripped out of me or my milk to be painfully and incessantly pumped for someone else to use. I wouldn’t want my eggs to be stolen, or for my life be cut shamefully short. Maybe the question isn’t about how we can be the most spiritual, but simply the most consciences, the most kind, and to do the least harm. Also we know that animal agriculture simply isn’t sustainable for our one and only planet, that eating meat increases your chances of heart disease immensely, and it’s becoming increasingly expensive. I guess if all of life is one, and life eats life, I think I understand the point there, (maybe I don’t, Ekhart and everyone in this chat likely, is so far beyond me) But I still do believe in right and wrong. And I believe in doing as little harm as possible. I know everything comes at a cost, my existence included. And if you live in a climate where there is little vegetation, yes you’ll need to mainly live off of animals. But if you’re going to the grocery store, you have a choice don’t you? If it causes less harm to another being, and if it’s better for the planet, and is still relatively healthy, I guess I don’t see how that doesn’t make the most sense? Help me out. I’m honestly trying to learn.

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  5. Hello, Michael. I have a question. Is a female mantis evil because eating the male after mating? If no, why can’t humans do the same thing?

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    1. Hi Nikita, no, a female mantis isn’t evil for eating her mate because the behaviour evolved for the best outcomes for the species. It’s in the nature of a female mantis to eat her mate… probably in times of low food available this instinct becomes strong. Apparently males can sense when she’s hungry and avoid mating at these times. Humans didn’t evolve this behaviour but do have brutal instinctive patterns which come out in times of extreme stress.

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      1. It seems like you’ve missed my point. You can’t justify cruel behavior of humans by saying that some animals do that too. You can’t kill your spouse or your children and then say that it’s all natural, the cycle of life and death.

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      2. I’m not justifying human cruelty. I am saying it’s not inherently cruel to eat animal foods. The gazelle could not exist without the cheetah and you could not ponder the morality of eating animals if your ancestors had not eaten a lot of them. That’s ironic.

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      3. While it is true that you can get yourself iron-deficiency or other problems while not eating meat, it is also true that many people don’t eat meat for decades and don’t have any major health issues (for instance, monks in Mahayana Buddhism). Thich Nhat Hanh is one of the more popular monks who fully supports veganism and he’s turning 95 this year. Living in the 21st century, it shouldn’t be that hard to consult a nutrition specialist to design a balanced diet. You also might use supplements in case you lack some nutrients. Therefore, it’s just laziness and lack of care and understanding that keep people from going vegan or at least vegetarian. Even cutting down meat consumption to 2-3 meals per week is too hard for most people, that’s how much they cherish their desires.

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      4. Nothing is inherently cruel. However, humans avoid certain acts because we understand the suffering it causes. And you don’t need to think of your ancestors to recognize the suffering that is present right now. Do eating meat and the whole meat industry harm animals? Yes. Do you really have to eat meat to survive? No. Why do you keep eating meat then? The answer is obvious.

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      5. I eat meat for health. Veganism isn’t creating health and causes suffering to humans. Disease rates are crazy these days. We need a reliable model of health and that isn’t veganism. It doesn’t work.

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