I know this topic has been discussed a few times in other connections, but Geoffrey Barstow has just published this article:
While acknowledging that premodern Tibet was largely a meat-eating society, Barstow questions the assumption that the contemporary trend towards vegetarianism among some lamas is without precedent or must be ascribed solely to outside influences (i.e. Chinese & Western Buddhists). He points out that there had long been a minority current of compassionate vegetarianism in pre-1950 Tibet.
Among other things, the article addresses the view of Tibetan Medicine that meat is important to health, and points out that some lamas and yogis persisted anyway as an expression of bodhicitta.
Addressing the teachings on threefold purity of meat, Barstow cites Sakya Pandita's Distinguishing the Three Vows:
Also addressed is the tantric perspective. I was struck by this citation from Jigme Lingpa's Engaging the Path to Enlightenment:Sakya Pandita wrote:Shravakas may eat meat that has threefold purity. . . . In the Mahayana, meat is forbidden. Eating meat, it is taught, causes rebirth in the lower realms.
While not all vegetarian lamas required their own disciples to practice strict vegetarianism, their example might give us pause if we are tempted to dismiss the issue out of hand as irrelevant to us. Vegetarianism has always been a legitimate and recognized option, and the past concerns about health or hardship have been effectively dispelled by capitalist globalization. It's shouldn't be surprising that some well-known lamas are working with circumstances and becoming vegetarian.Jigme Lingpa wrote:You should think like this: In a tantric context, it’s great if someone has given rise to the power of concentration, so that he is not tainted by obscurations and is able to benefit beings through a connection with their meat and blood. But I do not have this confidence.
Here is Barstow's booklength treatment, currently in hardback and available in paperback early next year: