Veganism and Shaolin


I like watching kung fu movies. As a kid I particularly loved watching the Jet Li movies from around the late 80’s and 90s. The fighting was so inventive, the action intense and visuals themselves were spectacularly stylish.

After learning of RZA’s favorite kung fu flicks I decided to go revisit the awesomeness that is kung fu.

Fun Fact : RZA has been vegan for decades.

Being older now I started noticing other aspects of the movies that had alluded me as a kid.

I was pleasantly surprised to see the philosophy in the movies has a lot in common with Veganism.

Ten minutes into “The Shaolin Temple” Jet Li is contemplating the ethics of killing a worm to feed it to an injured sick bird. His master sets him right by reaffirming a central tenet of Buddhism – do not kill.

I was left pondering quite a bit over that scene.

Now after watching more Kung Fu movies, I notice this theme of refraining from taking life to be quite prominent. As a result, I came away noticing the commonalities between Veganism and Shaolin.


Buddha as well as Confucius were vegetarian, so it follows that disciples of their teachings would be vegetarian too.

In fact, Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Confucianism and many other Asian philosophies all incorporated vegetarianism and even veganism – and these are teachings that are thousands of years old.

Shaolin flowed from the teaching of Buddha so it makes sense that Shaolin monks would be vegetarian too.

Now mind you, you do get Buddhists monks who eat meat, mainly because they accept any food given to them by the public, but for the most part Buddhist monks are vegetarian and many are vegan.

Vegans might have different motivations for adopting Veganism. I for one am Vegan to stop climate change. But both Vegans and Shaolin monks believe in refraining from harming life.


If you’ve ever seen a Shaolin monk demonstration, will no doubt will have been impressed by their incredible physical feats of power and flexibility.

I’ve seen a monk punch through 20 concrete slabs – and I’m sure no one ever asked him where he got his protein from.

But clearly their simple plant based whole foods diet has given them incredible physical capability.

Today we see more and more world class athletes becoming vegan and adopting a plant based whole foods diet to give them that physical edge that will make them winners.


There can be many reasons as to why you go Vegan – it could for your health, for climate change, animal welfare or even to address social inequality.

However, without a doubt at some point in your Vegan journey you’re going to notice that you feel less stressed, more calm and more at ease with things. Automatically you’ll gravitate towards meditation, yoga, and you’ll feel more spiritual.

For Shaolin monks meditation and chanting is practiced daily which leads to heightened spirituality. As a Vegan your choice to do no harm and refrain from consuming animal products naturally nudges you towards a spirituality as well.


I recall watching this video of the monk Dandapani and being in awe that he gave up practically all his physical worldly possessions upon becoming a monk.

That seems so scary, but then I realized as Vegan you also tend to become less and less materialistic. You realize having a lot of physical possessions doesn’t really make you happier. In fact, it’s a hindrance from allowing you to experience life.


After reflecting on all the interesting commonalities between Veganism and Shaolin, I wondered what it would be like to live the life of a shaolin monk. Certainly it would be hard, but I reckon it would also be extremely rewarding.

It’s so nice to see that Vegans share common beliefs with different disciplines and philosophies.

As much as Veganism is still a young movement, it is harmonizing to realize that we share commonality with other philosophies that are thousands of years old.

Photo by Vince Gx on Unsplash


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