Critics Claim Supreme Master Ching Hai's Followers' Restaurants Featuring Tasty Vegan Fare Front For an Exploitive Movement.

Other than a simple slate-rock sign before it that reads "Quan Yin Family," there's little to distinguish the one-story house from any other in this rural patch of Buckeye, where horseback riders and children on motorized mini-bikes share the area's unpaved roads.

"Quan Yin" refers to the Quan Yin method of meditation taught by Supreme Master Ching Hai (also called "Suma Ching Hai"), the spiritual leader of tens of thousands worldwide who regard her as an enlightened being, along the lines of Jesus Christ or Buddha.

But Quan Yin can also refer to the Chinese goddess of mercy and compassion, often depicted swathed in flowing robes while standing atop a lotus flower.

Scott Anderson
Loving Hut's Mongolian beef dish makes brilliant use of soy-based "meat."
Jamie Peachey
Loving Hut's Mongolian beef dish makes brilliant use of soy-based "meat."

So it's probably no coincidence that Ching Hai, 61, born Hue Dang Trinh in Vietnam, often dons robes and headpieces mimicking the deity, for photos and videos purchased by her adherents.

Portraits of Ching Hai adorn the center's walls. Some followers wear medallions depicting the supreme master's visage. The rear of the property includes a garden and an outside meditation area beneath an awning with wooden pallets to sit on.

Inside a trailer on the property is an air-conditioned meditation room with a bare, wooden floor. The room is dominated by a shrine, with a large picture of Ching Hai in white, surrounded by sparkly Christmas decorations. Below the photo is a stuffed chair covered in a bright yellow cloth.

"It's kind of a reminder, like we're meditating with the master," said Supreme Master Ching Hai International Association member Dr. Elie Firzli, a Phoenix pediatrician.

Firzli, a Christian originally from Lebanon, explained that the Association is open to individuals of all faiths and that people do not have to abandon their beliefs to be initiated into the Quan Yin method

Sunday is the day local Association members gather for group meditation, a vegan meal, and fellowship. Members are supposed to meditate for 2 1/2 hours a day, but on Sunday, the meditation sessions can stretch to five hours or more.

Initiates are expected to follow a strict vegan diet, which means no dairy, as well as no eggs, meat, poultry, or fish.

There are also five precepts to follow: Do no harm to other living beings. No lying. No stealing. No sexual "misconduct." And no intoxicants, defined in Association literature as alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs.

Adherents exude a calm, friendly aura. Their community in Arizona is small and humble, with about 40 active members in the state. Tiny compared with much larger Ching Hai centers across the globe.

The house and the property have been donated for the group's use by Ngan Tran, owner of the Loving Hut vegan restaurant in Glendale. There's another Loving Hut on Indian School Road with different owners. Both are part of a franchise that boasts 219 locations worldwide.

Over a meal of Vietnamese pho (noodles in a broth with slices of faux beef, cashews, and ping-pong-ball-size dumplings made of mushrooms), Tran, an engineer at Honeywell originally from Vietnam, explained how Ching Hai's message inspired her to become first a vegetarian, then a vegan, and finally proprietor of the first Loving Hut in Arizona.

"When people suffer, everything's from the killing [of animals]," said Tran, a small, excitable woman with dark, flickering eyes. "When you stop the killing, the suffering stops. So easy!"

Tran had no experience in the restaurant business. But when Ching Hai created the concept of the Loving Hut franchise a few years ago, encouraging her followers to spread the gospel of veganism through tasty, meatless meals in a fast-casual setting, Tran opened the Glendale location in 2009 with the assistance of fellow initiates.

Now, future Loving Hut franchise owners come to her restaurant to learn how to prepare meals and run a business.

The success of her Glendale eatery mirrors the global proliferation of Loving Huts, which are riding a wave of interest in veganism by the health-conscious and those concerned with global warming. Some medical experts now believe veganism can reverse such maladies as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Scientists warn that meat eating and livestock farming are speeding the process of climate change.

All of which, along with the moral problem of slaughtering animals, is part of Ching Hai's message, which Loving Hut franchises soft-peddle through free literature, DVDs of Hai's lectures, and the presence of TV screens fixed to the Supreme Master TV satellite channel in every restaurant. The hook for that message is Loving Hut's menu, which offers a sumptuous array of dishes using fake meat, chicken, and seafood that can convert committed carnivores, if only some of the time.

Yet detractors depict the Loving Huts as a recruiting mechanism for a cult with a dictatorial leader who exploits her followers and has grown rich from selling them such merchandise as books, videos, and jewelry.

Hai's devotees counter that their goal is the greater good of changing people's minds about veganism, and if that's accomplished, where's the harm?


"If we want people to be vegan," Tran said, "then we have to have a sample, so we can say, 'Here's how delicious vegan food can be.'"

Indeed, there's little argument when it comes to Loving Hut's preparations or the concept itself, which have earned plaudits from restaurant writers, customers, and even competitors.

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62 comments
peacepossibility
peacepossibility

it would seems many have been moved to meditate by this article, and they are reflecting what they have found . . . within themselves

makepeacebevegan
makepeacebevegan

I know that master Ching Hai does some businesses to make money, but most of her money goes to the poor peoples and disasters.

igorgargiulo
igorgargiulo

VEGAN ARE,along with her  head chef :Ching Hai, JUST CHARLATANS !

Guest
Guest

Please I NEED some help! "Family members of Ching Hai adherents assert under online pseudonyms that the Association brainwashes its members through prolonged meditation and a diet that keeps them weak and compliant. They say Hai's followers end up devoting all their time to the cult and force their families into debt spending money on Hai merchandise"

My dear sister that I LOVE so much has been involved with this group for 10 years! She is so brain watch and has such an unhealthy and unbalanced life because of this movement! She dedicates 100% of her time without any remuneration to help with the group and she does not think about herself or her 2 beautiful young daughters. She is so exploited by this group and she believes absolutely everything they tell her. She is so depressed! We dont know how to help her anymore. How can we help her to go back to her healthy life? Does anyone know of anybody that can help us? We have tried to talk to her many times but she does not listen to us her family!

ExpertShot
ExpertShot

"Some medical experts now believe veganism can reverse such maladies as heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes. Scientists warn that meat eating and livestock farming are speeding the process of climate change."

Some experts? How about ALL experts on the subject of diet. There's no question - humans are screwing up their bodies and their minds eating meat. It is a completely insane industry that perpetuates itself with death, destruction and lies.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/V...

Martin Smith
Martin Smith

Did y'all know that Rick Ross has a high school education and was once a convicted felon? Try Googling him up online...

Koldin
Koldin

Have you REALLY done your research?

From: *** ***** <******@yahoo.com>To: ******@yahoo.comDate: Tue, 5 Aug 2008 00:51:48 -0700 (PDT)Subject: LA Center - Loving Hut Restaurant/Central Kitchen

Dear Saint Brothers/Sisters,

Just wanted to send a clarification about the LA Center - Loving Hut Restaurant/Central Kitchen Project.

At this time, as Master instructed, we are focusing on opening a Loving Hut Restaurantand Central Kitchen to be run by the LA Center. All contributions will be applied towardits opening. If there's any profit earned, it will also be used for the next Loving Hut Restaurant,as Master said we need to have a total of 10 Loving Hut Restaurant in our area.That's why all contributions made by the initiates will not be reimbursed to them as aprofit earned.

As far as the investment of the Loving Hut Restaurant, the initiates need to form their ownteam and to be run by themselves, such as funding, working staff, and etc...The LA Center - Loving Hut Restaurant/Central Kitchen will be their supplier in order forthem to be in the Loving Hut Restaurant system.

Hope this is clear to everyone.

Thank you so much for your loving support.

WML,

LA Center============================

J. P. Coldstar
J. P. Coldstar

Rather sensationalistic headlines for such a tame article. The biggest complaints are some dude whose wife spends too much money on jewelry (wow, THAT'S never happened before), and the bewildering incident when Ching Hai's followers built her a patio in the protected Florida swampland. (For those curious, her adjoining property was seized by the state to pay the costs of removing the structure.)

I investigated the Suma Ching Hai Association about a year ago (clearly using the same state-of-the-art Google search keywords that Mr. Lemons used), and found all the same info. As a skeptic, I was looking for anything bad about Ching Hai, but there's really nothing to be found. They promote meditation, eco-friendly living, and a vegan diet, which is rather benign. Members don't seem to be "exploited" any more so than individuals who volunteer at their local church or favorite charity organization.

Sometimes people donate their time to causes they believe in; not ALL of us are only in it for the money, Mr. Lemons!

Stephan Lemons
Stephan Lemons

To Newtimes Readers:

I'm sorry for being such a jerk by making up lies and stories about The Supreme Master Ching Hai. If you really want to know the Truth, truth may be found anywhere but here on my blog, least in my article.

Regretfully yours,

Stephan "Lame" Lemons

Broski Love
Broski Love

I used to watch Supreme Master Ching Hai on some cable public access channel on COX in the early 90's.

Neil
Neil

I've learned not to trust what we read but simply what we have experienced then we can be sure what's truthful or not. Regarding to "Breatharians", it's true that they exist now and throughout history all over the world. I know of one in current time. Last of all, it's easy to judge others by what we read but try to do our own research without bias then we will find out for ourselves. Good luck!!

Pauline45
Pauline45

Fr.David Ostler (alter boy abuser from Cornwall,Ont.ca.) now in sun city west,Az.

Marcy
Marcy

Regardless of whether or not the food is good, it is a fact that Ching Hai is an epic kook and anyone who hangs on her every word is a fool.

Marcy
Marcy

"There are also five precepts to follow: Do no harm to other living beings. No lying. No stealing. No sexual "misconduct." And no intoxicants, defined in Association literature as alcohol, tobacco, or illicit drugs."

Sounds like a fun loving cult of kooks.

Yilulu12
Yilulu12

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Hannah
Hannah

Well I have certainly visited many Loving Huts in my business travels and have not once been asked to join the group or so-called "cult." So this so-called "recruitment" that you suggest is lousy at best, Stephen. Are you writing this piece from an honest point of view or using Google and Wiki to fact check and add controversy to sell your piece?

If anything, the food at all Loving Huts I've been to is superb and the people are always kind and hospitable.

Take what you will from this article, but think critically with what the author and tabloid journalism has to say.

Whitney Fitzpatrick
Whitney Fitzpatrick

Did Scott Henderson illustrate a picture of David from the old Veg House? If so, he is AWESOME! David, with the fried rice as a close second, was the best thing about that place. IMHO.

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Mistalee
Mistalee

"Green's Damon Brasch concurs.

"What they're doing over there really isn't hurting anybody," he said. "You can look at the [National Football League], and it's somewhat of a cult, as well.""

I call bullshit.

Any time somebody presents themselves as a "spiritual teacher" or "guru" or evangelist or whatever and ropes a lot of psychologically vulnerable people into subordinating themselves and surrendering their autonomy, harm is done. Those who are roped in are inevitably led further down the road of self-alienation, further away from self-awareness. Doesn't matter whether the koolaid being peddled is old-school hellfire and damnation or new-age wheat-germ-and-granola woowoo shit, the results are similar.

When your time comes to die, you're the one who has to lie down and stop moving. So until then, don't waste your life doing anybody's thing but your own, even if they claim to be God's right-hand man.

Mistalee
Mistalee

New rule; if you actually call yourself "Supreme Master," you are too grandiose to be the real deal.

Are followers of the "Supreme Master" "ultimate toadies?" It would seem to follow.

 
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