Vegetarianism-Spirituality-Hindu

Every human soul craves for happiness in whichever stage of spirituality they are in. People may crave happiness in their jobs, their relationships, pursuing their hobbies or even in just eating their favorite food. Apart from these material desires, there are spiritual feats which people wish to achieve. Whether the end is material or spiritual,  the precondition to both is good health. If one is diseased, it is impossible to realize one’s highest potential in achieving life goals in one’s career, family or in the spiritual journey. Our scriptures prescribe sattvic food for enhancing one’s physical, mental and spiritual health. Meat, fish and eggs or an excess of sour or spicy food, which are desirable to the tongue are said to evoke the tamogunas which are perilous for the body and mind.

Some people argue that God has not asked us to be vegetarian so why renounce the food we like? What has the spiritual journey of our soul to do with our diet? Many people also reason out that giving up animal flesh will cause weakness in the human body due to a deficiency of the required proteins. These myths and many others, have been busted centuries ago by Vedic Sciences and in the present day, by scientific studies in the fields of Epidemiology and Medicine. Ayurveda and Medical Sciences subscribe to the fact that human beings must stay away from meat, fish and poultry, because of the simple reason that unlike carnivorous animals, a human body is naturally designed to be herbivorous. Studies have found that the agents of the body which aid in digestion, beginning with the teeth, and then the liver and pancreas and the intestines in the human body are adapted to eating fruits and nuts which require less acids to get digested. Animal bodies on the other hand secrete more acids and have shorter intestines which are suitable for digesting meat.

It is said that our body and mind constitute what we eat and shall respond according to our diet. If we eat food that goes against the physiological constitution of our body, we are sure to incur long term damages. It will adversely affect not only the body but the mind too. Scientific studies in recent times say that meat eating is the cause of many types of cancers, blood pressure, cardiovascular diseases,type-II  diabetes and many more. Dr. Neal Barnard, MD and Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, is a nutrition researcher and in his book,  The Power of Your Plate he observes that humans had from the beginning of their evolution, a largely plant-based diet like most other apes. Human consumption of meat had probably begun by eating the leftovers that carnivores had left behind. Barnard holds that human bodies have never adapted to meat-eating, as a result of which meat-eaters have a higher occurrence of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and other problems.

Moreover, meat eating can lead to irritability, anger and violence. There is a scientific justification for this statement. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter responsible for regulating aggression. It stabilizes our mood and makes us more sociable. Consuming  high protein diets like meat lowers the level of serotonin in our body and makes a person prone to aggression in the presence of external stimuli. Branches of Eastern medicine like Traditional Chinese Medicine have also identified foods that cause anger, anxiety and violence—vices one must avoid for a holistic spiritual growth. It is thus established that food has a direct impact not only on our gross bodies but on the subtle body as well. 

The National Cancer Institute, a cancer research wing of the National Institute of Health in America has carried out significant research in the field and its findings are that cooked meat may increase the risk of cancer in humans. Meat cooked at high temperatures results in the formation of the mutagenic compounds heterocyclic amines (HCA) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons(PAH) which accumulate on the surface of the meat. Consumption of it causes DNA mutations, eventually leading to a high risk of different types of cancer.

Vedic knowledge has thus been affirmed and reaffirmed by scientific discoveries and it is an ongoing process. Science is a form of ascending knowledge and thus more and more research will only establish the descending knowledge already available to us in the form of scriptures. This divine knowledge has existed since centuries and lifetimes for both believers and non-believers and the onus is upon the individual soul to use his intellect and implement that knowledge instead of engaging in uninformed arguments. The more one argues the more he is derailed from the spiritual goal. Faith pulls him back on track. It is very easy to sway the mind in the direction of our desires and give justifications for following them. However, that will lead to gratification and not happiness. Spiritual seekers must perceive the thin line of difference between gratification and happiness. While gratification is momentary, happiness is there to stay. Happiness is a product of the renunciation of toxic substances, thoughts and deeds which bring instant gratification. Happiness is about sacrificing our indulgences and passions, giving way to sattvic gunas to predominate our mind and intellect. For example, if an obese person overeats, it gratifies his hunger momentarily but later on it cause serious health conditions and his delusion of happiness disappears.  Moreover, happiness is about engaging in selfless deeds. When we do something to gratify our selfish desires, the desire is not quenched but magnified manifold. Happiness, on the other hand, involves offering everything we do, to God in yajna, and enjoying only the prasad, the remnants of the oblation. 

Gratification involves neither sacrifice nor offering. It is a selfish end which never ends! It is like an unending maze where the human body and soul are trapped forever! The objective of a true spiritual seeker is to liberate the soul from the shackles of bodily gratification and what better way to start the spiritual journey than to purify one’s body, mind and soul by embracing a sattvic lifestyle!

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