Shih De-Yin and Yu-Mei Tsai  釋德慇  蔡裕美

lotus flower artFood is embedded with cultural meaning beyond the physical need of survival. The most significant historical factor to prompt vegetarian practice arises from the integrated essence of Confucius’ “curbing desires” and Buddhist’s “compassion for all sentient beings.”  





The Tzu Chi College of Technology launched an international exchange program to promote a vegetarian diet and Tzu Chi sign language musical performance in March 2011. Thanks to an invitation by the Ming Ai (London) Institute, the delegation presented lectures on a vegetarian diet, Buddhists food rituals, and sign language musicals to local audiences in London, including the University of College London, Hult International Business School, Westminister Academy, Wembley High College of Technology, and the Reading School, as well as the Islington Chinese Association. One Croatian graduate student at the Hult International Business School shared her comments on the lecture topic “Vegetarian Diet as Spiritual Sustainability,” stating that she was curious to learn why a vegetarian diet would give rise to spirituality.

Spirituality, if defined in simple words, refers to the mindfulness of reaching suffering beings. Recently, global warming effects have caused tremendous disasters around the world that we, as human beings with spirituality, feel empathy towards suffering to take action to help relieve suffering. In order to elevate or sustain higher spirituality, a vegetarian diet is considered an important nutrient.

A common expression for spirituality in Chinese carries the lexical essence of “mind,” “heart,” and “soul,” which echoes the wholesome view of spiritual intelligence, as indicated by the school of transpersonal psychology. The contents of spirituality vary from existential meaning, mission, feeling sacred, justice, compassion, service, goals, feeling interconnected, etc. A religious motif to practice vegetarian diet, as Buddhists address, highlights an empathy with the animals being slaughtered, and that no killing is the expression of compassion, a spirituality transcending dietary craving.

As more global disasters strike more frequently due to the greenhouse effect, the issue of livestock farming has become controversial as too much farming land and rain forest are used to raise cattle for the meat industry. Ironic scenes show starving people in developing countries, such as Haitian and African people, in sharp contrast to overweight people in developed countries, such as American and European people. In addition, warming gases, caused by water and electricity to process the excrement and meat of dead bodies, is a leading accomplice to irreversible global warming as meat demands continue to grow. Therefore, meat products and a meat-based diet encourage meat cravings, which denigrate the spiritual feeling of being connected to other forms of being, and consequently lead to more environmental disasters caused by warm gases of animal excrement and farming facilities.

Chinese and Western Vegetarian Cultures

Food is embedded with cultural meaning beyond the physical need of survival. The most significant historical factor to prompt vegetarian practice arises from the integrated essence of Confucius’ “curbing desires” and Buddhist’s “compassion for all sentient beings.” Emperor Wu of the Liang Dynasty (502-549 A.C.) wrote On Abstention from Wine and Meat that all monks and royal people must practice a vegetarian diet, while ordinary people mainly relied on grains and vegetables, whereas, the dignitaries had access to meat dishes. A common luncheon in traditional Chinese society serves eight different vegetables (called Ba Su in Chinese) and seven different stinky vegetables (called Chi Huen in Chinese). The Chinese character “Su” means “vegetables and fruits,” and the Chinese character “Huen” means “strong smelling vegetables.” Buddhist monastic practitioners not only shy away from meat, but also culinary cooking of onion and garlic. According to Buddhist scriptures, the five forbidden stinky vegetables refer to onion, garlic, leek, hotbed chives leek, and Chinese bulbous onion, which monastic practitioners should not consume in order to maintain a peaceful mind and pious disposition.

Ancient Greek philosophers, like Pythagoras of Samos (570–495 BC), practiced a vegetarian diet out of the reincarnation belief that a spirit after death might be reborn into the animals’ dead bodies. In modern Western societies, after the Industrial Revolution, people promoted a vegetarian diet from the different perspectives of economic interests, ethical motivations (animal welfare or environmental), and health concerns of nutrition. Three common vegetarian dietary behaviors are vegans (i.e. strict vegetarians who abide by religious doctrines and eat vegetables, fruits, and beans, but avoid all animal products), lacto-vegetarians (i.e. vegetarians who eat vegetables, fruits, beans, and dairy foods, such as cheese, but omit eggs), and lacto-ovo-vegetarians (i.e. vegetarians who eat vegetables, fruits, melons, grains, dairy foods, and unfertilized eggs).

New Healthy Vegetarian Lifestyle

During the time when Taiwan encountered the SARS epidemic (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) in 2003, the fact that the corona virus originally found in pigs and chickens were transferred to humans awakened the public to the bad karma caused by humans’ harming living beings, to the proliferation of epidemics. Tzu Chi volunteers followed Master Cheng Yen’s teaching and launched a fasting month in May 2003, which has been practiced in Taiwan and Malaysia ever since. Campaigns included encouraging the public to sign up for vegetarianism on the web site and a series of prayer gatherings. In the following year, Master Cheng Yen elevated the simple concept of a vegetarian diet to a comprehensive change in lifestyle intertwined with spirituality, health, environmentally friendly, and cultural significance. This so called “New Healthy Vegetarian Lifestyle” encompasses vegetarian eating focused on health concerns, spiritual cultivation, environmental responsibility, and the cultural heritage of art. Creative mnemonic chant rhymes were composed to promote the campaigns.

Pledge of the New Healthy Vegetarian Lifestyle
Broaden your mind and try something NEW
Eat more fruits and vegetables to stay HEALTHY
Respect Life and become a VEGETARIAN
Dine with etiquette to create a new LIFESTYLE

Pledge of the New Food Plan
Try eating foods that are less salty, less sugary, and less oily.
Do not smoke, drink, or do drugs, and do not eat meat or seafood.
Do not be picky, and do not waste food.

Pledge to Create New Habits
Say no to disposable utensils, and bring your own—it is more sanitary and environmentally friendly.
When eating with others, use serving utensils.
Using and cleaning your own dishes and utensils is not only hygienic, it can help keep infectious diseases at bay.

Pledge to Set New Goals
Be healthy, and eat more vegetables, fruit, and fiber.
Stay slim and fit, and eat foods with less sugar, less fat, and fewer calories.
Eat regularly and in smaller portions.
Speak softly and gracefully.
Remember to chew thoroughly and swallow slowly, because each morsel of food comes from the hard work of many individuals.

Food Rituals

What seemed to touch the audience watching Tzu Chi delegates performing sign language musical and food rituals was the atmosphere of feeling serene, attentive, and graceful, which bears a mirror image reflecting one’s mindfulness and goodness. The ultimate goal of a sign language musical performance is to extend the graceful performance experiences to the daily life practices of walking, sitting, standing, and lying, which showcases the cultural significances of etiquette and elegance attributable to spirituality through the pledge actions under the New Healthy Vegetarian Lifestyle. Where there is spirituality, there is etiquette. More specifically, spirituality is born with a controlled appetite of “less salt, less sugar, less oil, no alcohol, no beetle nuts, no meat, no seafood, no excessive eating, no picky eating, no greedy nature, and no wastefulness,” as claimed by the New Healthy Vegetarian Lifestyle. A controlled appetite means a humble attitude towards the collective efforts to produce food, such as planting, harvesting, manufacturing, and cooking. One of the pledges calls for abandoning the use of disposable utensils, which is a reminder of hygienic and resource concern that we carry our own bowel, cup, and chopsticks. A mindful reflection of nature and humans making a meal possible would help nurture feelings of gratitude and piety, which consequently acts out dignified movements, such as holding a bowel as a pearl in a dragon’s mouth, and holding chopsticks as a phoenix lowering the head to drink water. Accordingly the disciplines of a partly full stomach, or silent eating, or mindful chewing during the food ritual are also considered expressions of gratitude and piety, and direct the body to perform respectfully, and the people involved to use our own utensils.

Food Waste

As industry and manufacturing technologies thrive, food production is conveniently accessible and food consumption becomes impromptu. Yet the 2011 report from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization produced disturbing statistics of 1.3 billion tons of food wasted around the world every year, whereas, the starving population is approximately 10 billion. The alarming contrast of food waste and food demand between developed countries and developing countries demands urgent attention. If we can remind ourselves of starving people when about to throw food away, we would not so easily dispose of food, have leftovers, or buy more than we can eat. The disciplines emphasized in the food ritual reveal the moral to cherish food and the related chain of efforts of food production. Rituals are performed as salient expressions of morality and spirituality, that food is less material, and more spiritual energy to cultivate gratitude, respect, and love.

Meal Service as a Blessing

The popular mnemonic rhyme during the meal service chanted by Tzu Chi volunteers reads “a pearl in a dragon’s mouth, a phoenix’s lowering the head to drink water,” symbolizing the gesture of holding a bowl and chopsticks is very much like the nobility, as the dragon and the phoenix carry auspicious messages. Dharma Master Cheng Yen teaches Tzu Chi volunteers to practice a blessing during meal service; the middle finger of the left hand touches the end tips of chopsticks as back up to keep chopsticks from slipping, while the middle finger of the right hand lifts up the head tips of the chopsticks. At this time, the right hand is seen as the head of the phoenix and the chopsticks are seen as the peaks of the phoenix. To pick up the bowl, you may hold the chopsticks to lift up the bowl at the bottom, keeping the bowl from slipping. In the meantime, you use the four fingers, not the thumb, of the left hand to scoop the bowl. At this time, the left hand is seen as the dragon’s mouth and the bowl is seen as a pearl. The meal service presents a dignified act of eating, a cultural practice, as well as the art of eating. During Tzu Chi luncheon functions; serenity and table manners are the top principles to practice mindfulness and feel spiritual so that the food energy will be prompted to inspire good intentions and good deeds. Meal service is elevated into a higher level of spiritual blessing.

Food Contemplations

Dharma Master Cheng Yen also reminds the Tzu Chi volunteers to practice the Five Contemplations at meal time, following the Buddhist Meal Ritual. The purpose of chanting contemplations is to curb excessive eating and to cultivate spiritual mindfulness.

The first contemplation is to count merit and appraise the sources, meaning self examination, whether there are any contributions to help the world, as well as a grateful mind to the people preparing the meal and producing food.

The second contemplation is to assess personal virtues, whether perfect or deficient to deserve the bestowal, meaning self examination, whether there are more contributions than others involved in food production and meal preparation. Therefore, one should feel shameful because one does not work hard enough to help the world.

The third contemplation is to guard his/her mind against one’s own faults, greed in particular. It means one should self examine, whether one has accomplished virtues in that one must be mindful of disturbing thoughts of greed, anger, ignorance, arrogance, and suspicion.

The fourth contemplation is to have the right thing and good medicine for curing a weakening body. It means one sees each meal as medicine to provide treatment to the physical needs of the body.
The fifth contemplation is to receive this food in order to accomplish spiritual work, meaning the purpose of having the meal is to absorb the nutrients from the food to produce and sustain physical strength to accomplish work demands. Therefore, one needs to have each meal with a peaceful mindset.

Although the five contemplations reveal the Buddhist principles showing etiquette and humanity, the manner of holding a bowel and chopsticks reveal a disposition of grace and gentleness, and more importantly, the moral of compassion and an artistic temperament of group discipline, which showcases the impact of humanistic education, family harmony, and social etiquette.

In conclusion, the New Healthy Vegetarian Lifestyle promotes a cultural practice of education, hygiene, and group aesthetics, where health and spirituality are beautifully integrated. Vegetarianism and meal etiquette are closely related to spiritual cultivation, in that humanistic mindfulness is the core essence of etiquette in vegetarian practices.


杜莉(2008)從《齊民要術》看南北朝的素食。揚州大學烹飪學報,3,20-23 。
林伯謙 (1998) 北傳佛教與中國素食文化。東吳中文 學報,4,93-138。
張 明嫏(2009)先秦齋戒之飲食初探。中國文學研究,28,1-34。
環境資訊中心 (2011) 糧食危機?全球每年浪費13億噸糧食。http://e-info.org.tw/node/66929 環境資訊中心
釋證嚴 (2007) 禮儀之美。台北:時報出版。
Lea, E. J. (2001). Moving from meat: vegetarianism, beliefs and information sources. Thesis. Department of Public Health. The University of Adelaide. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2440/37912



    2011年3月因緣英國明愛學院推廣英國中餐文化,慈濟技術學院師生以素食和藝術展演的方式,向西方人士推介素食減碳和音樂手語劇。此次交流的對象有三所大學——University College London, Ming Ai  (London) Institute, Hult International Business School, 三所中學——Westminister Academy, Wembley High College of Technology, Reading School,以及一個華僑團體 Islington Chinese Association,安排了素食講座、食儀體驗和音樂手語劇展演。霍特國際商學院的一位俄國女研究生表示,她之所以來聽演講是被講題吸引——Vegetarian Diet as Spiritual Sustainability(素食是靈性的永續),因為她很好奇為什麼素食可以提升靈性。





    食物除了維生的需求,更有文化的意涵。中國素食發展最明顯的歷史因素就是傳統「克制慾望」的儒家思想和佛教「慈悲護生」的理念相結合,最有名的例子就是南北朝的梁武帝(西元502~549年間) 公開規定僧眾全面素食, 因為平民百姓食物多以穀物蔬菜為主,只有上層階級才能享用肉食。中國民間傳統飲食有八素七葷的規矩,素的含意是「蔬果」,葷則是「辛臭的菜」,像是蔥蒜等味道刺鼻的蔬菜。所以宗教修行者的素食不僅不吃肉,還要避免蔥蒜類的烹調,因為佛經上禁食五種臭菜:蔥、蒜、韮菜、韭黃、簥頭,才能保持心性清明虔敬。公元前西方素食的紀載有希臘哲學家畢達哥拉斯(西元前六世紀)和安培多克勒(西元前六世紀),因為他們相信轉世會造成靈魂投生到其他動物的屍體,而西方基督教也有一些教派是奉行素食主義。近代工業革命後,大眾開始從經濟效益、動物倫理和營養健康等面向來倡導素食,民間常見的素食種類有三:全素(只吃蔬菜、果仁及豆類,不吃含有動物性蛋白的食物,並遵守宗教戒律避免酒和五辛)、奶素(除了蔬菜、果仁和豆類外,還可吃奶及其製成品,如起士。但避免一切動物性蛋白質)、蛋奶素(除了吃蔬菜、瓜果及五穀外,也吃 "未受精的卵" 以及奶類)。
















杜莉(2008)。從《齊民要術》看南北朝的素食。揚州大學烹飪學報,3,20-23 。
林伯謙(1998)。北傳佛教與中國素食文化。東吳中文 學報,4,93-138。
環境資訊中心(2011)糧食危機? 全球每年浪費13億噸糧食。 http://e-info.org.tw/node/66929環境資訊中心
Lea, E. J. (2001). Moving from meat: vegetarianism, beliefs and information sources. Thesis. Department of Public Health. The University of Adelaide. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2440/37912



    2011年3月因缘英国明爱学院推广英国中餐文化,慈济技术学院师生以素食和艺术展演的方式,向西方人士推介素食减碳和音乐手语剧。此次交流的对象有三所大学——University College London, Ming Ai (London) Institute, Hult International Business School, 三所中学——Westminister Academy, Wembley High College of Technology, Reading School,以及一个华侨团体 Islington Chinese Association,安排了素食讲座、食仪体验和音乐手语剧展演。霍特国际商学院的一位俄国女研究生表示,她之所以来听演讲是被讲题吸引——Vegetarian Diet as Spiritual Sustainability(素食是灵性的永续),因为她很好奇为什么素食可以提升灵性。





    食物除了维生的需求,更有文化的意涵。中国素食发展最明显的历史因素就是传统「克制欲望」的儒家思想和佛教「慈悲护生」的理念相结合,最有名的例子就是南北朝的梁武帝(西元502~549年间) 公开规定僧众全面素食, 因为平民百姓食物多以谷物蔬菜为主,只有上层阶级才能享用肉食。中国民间传统饮食有八素七荤的规矩,素的含意是「蔬果」,荤则是「辛臭的菜」,像是葱蒜等味道刺鼻的蔬菜。所以宗教修行者的素食不仅不吃肉,还要避免葱蒜类的烹调,因为佛经上禁食五种臭菜:葱、蒜、韭菜、韭黄、簥头,才能保持心性清明虔敬。公元前西方素食的纪载有希腊哲学家毕达哥拉斯(西元前六世纪)和安培多克勒(西元前六世纪),因为他们相信转世会造成灵魂投生到其他动物的尸体,而西方基督教也有一些教派是奉行素食主义。近代工业革命后,大众开始从经济效益、动物伦理和营养健康等面向来倡导素食,民间常见的素食种类有三:全素(只吃蔬菜、果仁及豆类,不吃含有动物性蛋白的食物,并遵守宗教戒律避免酒和五辛)、奶素(除了蔬菜、果仁和豆类外,还可吃奶及其制成品,如起士。但避免一切动物性蛋白质)、蛋奶素(除了吃蔬菜、瓜果及五谷外,也吃 "未受精的卵" 以及奶类)。

















杜莉(2008)。从《齐民要术》看南北朝的素食。扬州大学烹饪学报,3,20-23 。
林伯谦 (1998)。北传佛教与中国素食文化。东吴中文 学报,4,93-138。
环境资讯中心 (2011) 粮食危机?全球每年浪费13亿吨粮食。 http://e-info.org.tw/node/66929 环境资讯中心
释证严 (2007)。礼仪之美。台北:时报出版。
Lea, E. J. (2001). Moving from meat: vegetarianism, beliefs and information sources. Thesis. Department of Public Health. The University of Adelaide. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2440/37912


Authors 作者

deyinMaster De-Yin received her Bachelors Degree in Music Performance at the Buddhist-based Musashino University in Tokyo, Japan.She has been teaching piano and Tzu Chi Humanities at Tzu Chi College of Technology for 16 years. Determined to practice Buddhism in action, Master De-Yin became a monastic practitioner at the Jing Si Abode led by Venerable Dharma Master Cheng Yen in 1995.  Master De-Yin is devoted to developing interdisciplinary curriculum activities of humanities, art, language, history, and geography. Master De-Yin is dedicated to promoting Tzu Chi canonized songs in her publication of chorus, piano books and chamber music books, as well as coordinating concert performances and the “Love Transcends the Skyline” sign-language opera performances. Master De-Yin has been in charge of the music productions of Tzu Chi Canonized Songs for Jing Si Publications since 2006. The children’s album “Happy Face” won the Best Children Album of the Golden Melody Awards of the Government Information Office in 2010, and the “Little Tree’s Wish” was nominated for the Best Children Album in 2011.



德慇師父畢業於日本武藏野音樂大學,任教慈濟技術學院鍵盤樂課程與慈濟人文課程已有16年。德慇師父於1995年追隨 證嚴上人出家,成為靜思精舍師父。除了全力推動以慈濟人文為主軸之跨領域課程教學,結合人文、音樂、語文、史地、和環境教育等跨領域教學活動外,德慇師父 更致力推廣慈濟音樂,出版合唱譜,鋼琴譜及室內樂譜,也舉辦巡迴音樂會,並導演「飛越地平線的愛」音樂手語劇。自2006年起,德慇師父負責靜思音樂製 作,所監製「幸福的臉」兒童音樂專輯榮獲2010年新聞局金曲獎最佳兒童音樂專輯獎;2011年「小樹的願望—兒童環保音樂專輯」再度入圍金曲獎最佳兒童 音樂專輯獎。



德殷师父毕业于日本武藏野音乐大学,任教慈济技术学院键盘乐课程与慈济人文课程已有16年。德殷师父于1995年追随 证严上人出家,成为静思精舍师父。除了全力推动以慈济人文为主轴之跨领域课程教学,结合人文、音乐、语文、史地、和环境教育等跨领域教学活动外,德殷师父 更致力推广慈济音乐,出版合唱谱,钢琴谱及室内乐谱,也举办巡回音乐会,并导演「飞越地平线的爱」音乐手语剧。自2006年起,德殷师父负责静思音乐制 作,所监制「幸福的脸」儿童音乐专辑荣获2010年新闻局金曲奖最佳儿童音乐专辑奖;2011年「小树的愿望—儿童环保音乐专辑」再度入围金曲奖最佳儿童 音乐专辑奖。


yumeitsaiDr Yu-Mei Tsai is a dedicated professional in the field of education. She received her Ph.D. in Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Texas, Austin. She is an assistant professor at Tzu Chi College of Technology, and had served as Director of the General Education Center from 1999 to 2011. Dr Yu-Mei Tsai is very much interested in action research of humanities education and in moral character education, and has spearheaded research in these areas.  Since 2002, she has coordinated several funding projects from Taiwan’s Ministry of Education in the areas of EFL teaching, humanities education, and cross-cultural exchange programs.



蔡裕美老師致力教育,於美國德州大學奧斯汀分校取得課程教學博士學位,任教慈濟技術學院,曾任通識教育中心主任。蔡老 師熱衷人文教育和道德品格教育行動研究,彰顯學校慈濟人文教育特色。自 2002年起陸續執行教育部專案計畫,推動英語學改善計畫,慈濟人文課程教學計畫和國際合作交流計畫,宣揚中華文化傳統倫理道德以及慈濟人文「利他付出」 的生命意義。



蔡裕美老师致力教育,于美国德州大学奥斯汀分校取得课程教学博士学位,任教慈济技术学院,曾任通识教育中心主任。蔡老 师热衷人文教育和道德品格教育行动研究,彰显学校慈济人文教育特色。自 2002年起陆续执行教育部专案计画,推动英语学改善计画,慈济人文课程教学计画和国际合作交流计画,宣扬中华文化传统伦理道德以及慈济人文「利他付出」 的生命意义。