Q027: Hi Master Lu, what should we be aware of as Buddhist vegetarians? Can we drink milk? Can we take fish oil as supplements?


  • There are five “non-vegetarian foods” within the vegetarian diet known as the five pungent spices, including shallot, onion, ginger, garlic and chives. You should not consume them if you are practising Buddhist vegetarianism.
  • Ginger, to a certain extent, can be consumed in small amounts. The amount of ginger that you put on a dish should be less than the main ingredients. They should be used for garnishing purposes only.
  • The five pungent spices can be considered as stimulants and they can affect our brain cells to trigger desires.
  • In addition, the five pungent spices can cause bad breath. It is best to avoid consuming them before you perform recitations, as these pungent spices would reduce the virtues of performing recitations to almost zero. They prevent you from reaching Buddhahood. Consumption of the five pungent spices is also one of the reasons why some individuals do not experience positive results from performing recitations.
  • If you have made a Great Vow to be vegetarian on certain days, then on these days you should not even consume any traces of onion, garlic or any of the pungent spices.
  • If you are a full vegetarian, you should not consume fish oil.
  • There are three “non-vegetarian foods” that can be consumed by vegetarians, including: milk, cheese and eggs.
  • Please also refer to Q&A 115 “Regarding eating vegetables in a meat dish”.


[Updated 2012.04.25]