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Why Are We Vegetarian?

Path to Siva Commentary, Lesson 49

Vegetarianism: Man's natural and noble diet with a minimum of hurt to other beings. The object of nutrition for meditation and for help on the spiritual path is to practice mitahara--eating a moderate quantity of quality clean fresh vegetarian food. Four types of food: fresh, dead, clean and dirty. "Siva's devotees know that a good diet is the best medicine. They drink two liters of water daily, minimize fried foods and avoid junk foods, white rice, white flour, processed sugar and degraded oils."

Path to Siva, Lesson 49.

Tirukural, Chapter 26.

Unedited Transcript:

Good morning everyone.

This morning we're reading from Path to Siva, Lesson 49:

"Why Are We Vegetarian?

"People adopt vegetarianism for five main reasons: dharma, karma, consciousness, health and environment. First, dharma declares that we should not kill other creatures to feed ourselves. Second, those who eat meat are participating indirectly in violent acts against the animal kingdom. This creates negative karma, bringing to us suffering in the future. A third reason is the impact of eating meat on our consciousness. At the moment of death, the terror and torture of the animal is biochemically locked into the flesh. When we consume the meat, we take the animal's fear into our own body and it negatively affects our consciousness. The fourth reason is health. Eating meat has been linked to a variety of illnesses, including cancer. There is no nutritional reason humans have to eat meat. Modern research confirms that a vegetarian diet is a fundamentally healthy diet. Reason five, the huge industry that raises meat for human consumption is bad for the environment. It contributes to climate change, destruction of rain forests, loss of topsoil and the extinction of species. If the resources currently spent on raising beef, pigs and chickens were instead used to produce vegetarian food, hunger could be reduced worldwide and global warming largely allayed. Today vegetarianism is a global movement. There are vegetarians among all the religions as well as those who have no religion. Three percent of Americans are vegetarians, with eight percent among teens. In the UK, 15 percent of teens declare themselves vegetarians. India has the largest number of vegetarians in the world, more than 500 million, 30 percent of the population. Our saints proclaimed vegetarianism to be man's natural and noble diet. The very name of our religion in Tamil, Saivam, also means vegetarianism!"

Then we have the quote from Gurudeva:

"Vegetarianism is a natural and obvious way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings...In my fifty years of ministry, it has become quite evident that vegetarian families have far fewer problems than those who are not vegetarian."

Interesting if you use Google translate. You can set it up so you have Tamil on the left and English on the right so it's taking whatever you type in in Tamil; saying what it means in English. So I checked it out again this morning just to see if it was still the same. Came up with a subtlety. If you type in Saiva, you have to type it in in Tamil script. If you type in Saiva on the Tamil side, says vegetarian on the English side. And it you type in Saivam with an 'm' it says vegan. So why it thinks Saivam is vegan I don't know. Who programmed Google translate to say that? Probably a vegan. It doesn't say anything about religion. You know Saivism isn't there. It's all about vegetarianism.

Oh, in terms of other thoughts on vegetarianism. We have a whole chapter in "The Tirukural, Chapter 26: Abstaining from Eating Meat." And it's important to understand what it's preceded and followed by. It's preceded by Chapter 25 which is on compassion and followed by Chapter 27 on austerity. Sometimes the message of one chapter impacts what is said in the next chapter; that's the point. So, in this case the chapter on abstaining from eating meat starts off with two verses that relate to compassion, which makes sense cause that's the previous chapter. So it's saying part of fulfilling compassion is abstaining from eating meat.

I'll just read two verses on compassion here:

"How can he practice true compassion who easts the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh?"

"Riches cannot be found in the hands of the thriftless, nor can compassion be found in the hearts of those who eat meat."

He's pretty strong isn't he? Sounds like Gurudeva; speaks right out.

Gurudeva ties three points together when it comes to diet. The first one is vegetarian verses non-vegetarian. But then he brings in quantity. So we want to eat a moderate amount of food. Mitahara-- moderate eating. So we don't want to eat too much. And then he brings in quality. We want to eat the right kinds of food. It's not enough just to be vegetarian. Not eat too much. We also have to eat the right foods.

So, here's some thoughts on that:

Course: Yama 9. Mitahara:

"Moderate appetite. Do not eat too much (That's quantity). Do not eat meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs (Being vegetarian). Enjoy fresh wholesome vegetarian foods that vitalize the body. Avoid junk and processed foods, such as white sugar, white rice and white flour (Well that's quality, avoiding certain foods and focusing on the quality foods). Eat at regular times and only when hungry. Do not eat in a disturbed atmosphere or when upset."

That helps us fully, both of those points, regular time, only when hungry, no, not disturbed, upset, helps us digest the food properly. We need to digest the food properly in order for it to go into the body and do the right thing.

I thought of it after I pulled these quotes out so it's not here but the last, I think it's the last chapter in the Tirukural, 108 is on medicine right? Maruntu. So it's official title is medicine. It's about how to be healthy and what's it focused on? Eating. It doesn't talk about herbs at all. It talks about eating. And one of the main points it makes is: Don't eat when you're not hungry. Some people eat just because it's 9AM, 12 Noon, 6PM. You know, even if they're not hungry. It's time to eat. But if you're not hungry you won't digest it properly. And that's also that the challenge of eating significant amount between meals is it can cause the meal itself which is the large amount of food which comes after it not to digest.

Then we have Sutra 190:

"Siva's devotees know that a good diet is the best medicine (According the Tirukural). They drink two liters of water daily, minimize fried foods and avoid junk foods, white rice, white flour, processed sugar and degraded oils. Aum Nama Sivaya."

So that's on quality. Quality of food.

One last one. "Four Kinds of Food."

See if you remember. I'll give you one minute to think what are the four kinds of food prescribed by Gurudeva?

"A vegetarian diet is a big help on the spiritual path. Of course, it's only one of the helpers on the path. I've worked out a very simple look at food. I look at food in four ways. You have four types of food: fresh food, dead food, clean food and dirty food. (Four kinds: fresh, dead, clean and dirty.) Not necessarily all fresh food is clean food. Much fresh food that we get now-a-days is dirty food, because food is like a sponge. It will sponge up in to itself chemicals, smog and inorganic substances. These are harmful to the physical body, because the physical body is organic. So, the object of nutrition for meditation is to eat clean, fresh, organically grown food and to avoid eating dead, chemically grown, dirty food. Every time you have a delicious dinner in front of you, ask yourself the question, 'Is this clean fresh food or dead dirty food? Or, is this clean dead food or is it fresh dirty food?' After that, have a wonderful dinner, if you can!..."

So dead food means, of course, fresh food that's sat around to long but also refers to canning food and frozen food. In other words, it's preferable to have fresh food over canned food or frozen food when you can. It's not that we can never have canned food or frozen food, but shouldn't be the majority of one's diet cause then you're eating dead food, you're missing the prana.

Then he changes to another idea:

"...Basically, we eat one-third fruits, nuts and seeds and two-thirds fresh vegetables, salads, grains and dairy products. Such a diet keeps the physical and emotional forces subtle and refined, which therefore makes meditation subtle and refined, too."

One of the common responses when someone is challenging me on vegetarianism, I present some of this type of information when they say: "Well, what happens to a vegetable when you pick it? Aren't you killing it? This is the argument, right? You're killing the vegetable when you pick it. With, I think that the good response is: Well you watch what happens to a vegetable when you pick it and you watch what happens to an animal when you slaughter it, right? I think the answer will be self evident that it's not the same process at all. Vegetable doesn't mind being picked. Animal certainly minds being slaughtered. So it's kind of a silly argument but it's made. You know it is, I've had a number of people say that to me that when you're killing the vegetable. But just watch the process.

So in summary, when we talk about food we have the vegetarian, non-vegetarian side, but then also important is quantity, we don't want to eat too much or too often. And then quality. We want to eat good quality food. Quality comes in two aspects. We want to avoid certain foods of low quality which are junk foods: white rice, white flour, white sugar, fried food and degraded oils and focus on eating fresh, clean food as much as possible.

So, have a wonderful day.

Photo of  Gurudeva
A clean personal environment, wearing clean clothes, bathing often, keeping the room spotless where you meditate, breathing clean air, letting fresh air pass through your house, is all very important in the fulfillment of purity.