Will eating meat, fish or any non-vegetarian food hinder my spiritual growth? Finding Answer to this and many similar questions.
One of the most common questions asked by Yoga and meditation enthusiasts is : Can I eat Meat or Fish while practicing Yoga or Meditation?
I over heard one my Yoga practitioner friends ask the same question to his teacher or Yoga Guru. The answer of the Yoga Guru, encouraged me to research the topic a bit.
Yoga, Meditation and Non-vegetarianism
The above question is an open ended question. When asked, the person is actually seeking answers to two questions. The questions are :
1) Does eating Non-vegetarian food result in dark or negative or non-peaceful or Tamasic Thoughts in the yoga or meditation practitioner ?
2) Does Yoga and meditation linked to Hindu scriptures forbids consumption of non-veg (as non-vegetarianism is directly linked to taking life of another living being) ?
The Answer to these questions is not Easy. Lets try to find an answer which offers a meaningful answer to all these questions.
Linking Non vegetarianism to darker thoughts
Does eating non-veg result in darker thoughts! Thoughts which hinder the growth towards spirituality and Higher Consciousness ?
Foods of animal origin, are basically proteins, fats and minerals. They repair the body and its organs of the usual wear and tear. And hence for a robust body, they may be essential. The fact of the matter is, many famous Hatha Yoga (Yoga poses) experts, such as Neel Mani Dasha from Bengal, advises in his Yoga book to eat fish at least once a day. He recommends 16 meals a day.
But still, there’s a distinct tilt of Yoga towards vegetarianism. The tilt primarily comes from this basic thought:
To successfully processed in the Path Of yoga one should watch his/her food habits carefully. As the Wisdom says — We are what we eat. The purity of the mind has a great deal to do with the purity of the food.
Modern science’s approach towards diet is based on calculating the gross material content of the food, such as carbohydrate, protein, fat, vitamins & minerals.
In Yogic view of food, the various dimensions of human existence are taken into account. Beside atoms and molecules with which our gross physical body is made up of Yogic Sciences also takes into account prana, mind, intellect, emotion and spiritual dimensions. Hence, Yoga recommends such foods which nourishes and balances these dimensions or vitals of human existence. In Yoga, the focus is never on mere physical body.
From yogic view, food is classified into 3 groups based on food’s Gunas(qualities)
(A) Sattvic food
(B) Rajasic food
(C) Tamasic food.
Yoga recommends sattvic food as it’s believed to provide vitality, purity (purity of thoughts), stamina, health, happiness and cheerfulness.
Non-vegetarian food such as meat is considered Tamasic food. Food which results in heaviness, laziness etc. To start yoga practice it is not prerequisite to be a vegetarian but if someone wants to go deep into yoga, then vegetarian food (Sattvic food) is recommended.
This brings us to the question: Does eating non-veg result in negative thoughts?
Well it can, particularly when we start looking at food from the perspective of Yoga philosophy. Since it links vegetarian food with purity of thoughts, hence it automatically links non-vegetarian food to darker or negative thoughts.
But the above view becomes limited, the moment you see meditation and spiritual growth, beyond a particular kind of Hinduism and Yoga. Take for instance, the Buddhist monks. The Buddhists monks practice meditation for hours on end. Various researches have shown that they manage to achieve remarkable calmness and compassion though their meditation. But the surprising element of their spirituality and meditative growth is that it’s not linked to non-vegetarianism.
Non-vegetarianism not in line with higher consciousness
Now lets look at the notion that non-vegetarianism hinders a person’s progress on the path of spirituality and Higher Consciousness?
Don’t know of other religions, but a part of Hinduism seems to hold this belief. Why? As according to this Hinduism, non vegetarianism is linked to killing of another living being.
But killing of another giving entity for food does not look convincing.
Simply because: If killing a sheep or a fish or any other animal, is not good; then how can someone cut and eat spinach, or for that matter any other vegetable? As plants also have life.
To this, ISKCON (International Society for Krishna Consciousness) comes to rescue and offers a way out in the form of an explanation :
It’s all about higher consciousness. Compared to a plant, spinach, a sheep has a higher consciousness (the self realization). The day, a spinach, starts wailing and pleading by having a sight of the knife, many people will stop eating spinach as well.
To conclude, it’s difficult to conclusively establish a negative link between eating Meat or Fish or non vegetarian food and practicing Yoga or Meditation. It’s difficult to say that non-vegetarianism adversely affects person’s spiritual or religious growth. People in other cultures and religions within and outside India have also reached spiritual and meditative highs, while following a majorly or purely non-vegetarian diet. A common example are Buddhists. Apart from major religions, countless tribal scattered all over the world have shamanic traditions which are alright with non-vegetarian food.
In addition, if higher consciousness is another name for love, sensitiveness, empathy and compassion for others, then there’re countless people around the World who exhibit a much higher degree of consciousness towards a fellow living creature. Depending on their levels of consciousness, some even stop eating animal products. For instance, people who call themselves Vegans not only avoid meat but also any food product derived from animals such as milk, dairy product etc. On the other hand there are some who call themselves Eggitarians. They eat just eggs. Now, it will be wrong to assume that vegans will reach higher levels of consciousness than eggitarians, non-vegetarians etc.
To conclude, it’s up to you whether you want to meditate on a vegetarian diet or a non-vegetarian one; or if you want to take on the middle path. Looking at the World, every path seems to be just fine and effective.