When people come to Lu Mountain Temple to learn meditation, pure vegetrian meal is offered for lunch to everyone. People often ask what pure vegetarianism is so I decided to write a short article from what I know and understand.
Pure Vegetarianism in Buddhism refers to vegetarinism with no eggs (eggs are considered to be a life form) and five plant families which include garlic and onion.
According to Vinaya Pitaka, a Buddhist scripture, one of the three parts that make up the Tripitaka, there are five plant families that are avoided in the meal offering to the triple jewels (* Buddha, Dharma - the teaching, Sangha - monks and nuns). Those five plants are garlic 大蒜, onion 革蔥, chives 蘭蔥, Chinese bellflower 慈蔥, Barnardia japonica 興蕖. In the scripture, the strong odor of those plants attract bad ghosts and increase sexual desire, anger energy and appetite.
To share my personal experience, I used to eat lots of meat. I was taught that it's healthy to eat lots of meat, veggies and avoid carbs. Since practicing Chan Meditation, I naturally lost my appetite to eat meat so I stopped to eat any meat since a few years ago. For a layperson like myself, this life style of pure vegetarianism is not mandatory. However, I usually eat the same food which is offered to the Sangha (monks/nuns) during Chan meditation retreats and feel the difference.
Surprisingly, many people comment that the food at the temple is so delicious and they didn't realize that there was no meat. I also learned various recipes and ingredients at the temple which has helped me stay to be a vegetarian (although I still eat fish and seafood from time to time).
I often offer similar style meals to my co-workers during lunch and people have told me that they felt more energetic, less sleepy and depressed.
Meal offering is just another part of Chan practice for cultivators. It is your personal choice but we don't know unless we try!