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'Animal Matters' (May 2012):

WE ARE WHAT WE EAT.

Last time, we looked at one good reason why Sai Baba asks us to become vegetarian;   that of the suffering inflicted upon the animals in the food chain. This time, we will consider another important reason why a vegetarian diet is desirable.

“We cannot feed ourselves by killing another being.  This is not good for us.  This body which is made up of flesh, should not be fed with flesh.  Your body must be fed with nectar and not with flesh.  Eating of flesh will induce in you animal feelings.  You should eat only vegetarian food which God has provided for us”. (Sathya Sai Speaks, vol 32, p 281).

And:

“...meat eating promotes only animal qualities.  It has been well said that the food one consumes determines one’s thoughts.  By eating the flesh of various animals, the qualities of these animals are imbibed.  How sinful to feed on animals which are sustained by the same five elements as human beings!  This leads to demonic tendencies, besides the sin of inflicting cruelty on animals.  Hence, those who seek to become devotees of God have to give up non-vegetarian food...”. (Sathya Sai Baba, Divine Discourse, 23 November 1994)

Clearly then, we are what we eat, and not just in a physical sense. The food we eat has subtle and far-reaching effects on our emotional and mental bodies too.  Having said that, why should it matter if we imbibe animal qualities and what exactly does Sai Baba mean by animal qualities?  Although he tells us that we can learn a lot from our animal brothers and sisters and has spoken about their many good qualities and the love existent in all creatures, in this case, he means qualities that are not appropriate to what he calls a true or ideal human being. Oddly enough, these are the same qualities that we normally associate with the human state!   We often say when someone demonstrates them, “Oh well, that’s only human!”. Among them are jealousy, envy, selfishness, pride, anger, greed, lust and other qualities that as ideal humans, according to Sai Baba, we are supposed to have transcended. As we know, most of us have not! For that very reason, we should take on board the fact that the food we eat can help or hinder our spiritual progress and that these same qualities can be eliminated by the correct diet.

“Food conditions the nature of the mind.  The mind guides the thinking.  Thinking results in action.  Actions lead to corresponding results and effects.  This chain of action between the food we eat and the results of our actions highlights the fact that meat eating leads to beastly actions and evil effects”.  (Sathya Sai Avatar of Love)

One of the subtle and invisible effects of food on our mental and emotional bodies relates to the fear, stress and resentment that the animal felt at the time of death.  This  releases adrenalin into its body and leaves toxic chemicals in the cells... there is scientific evidence to suggest these chemicals are not killed even by cooking so that when people eat meat, they imbibe this fear and resentment as well as the ‘animal’ qualities appropriate to that stage. Clearly then a diet based on the flesh of other living beings -  which is also a diet  begotten by violence and not love, makes it  more difficult for us to transcend our lower nature and rise higher spiritually. Not only are we are imbibing unknowingly those qualities which block us from doing this, but we are also consuming food violently come by... so how can we not, in some subtle way, be imbibing that violence as well? As Sai Baba points out,  the kind of diet that is appropriate to someone not consciously on a spiritual path differs from the kind of diet that is appropriate to one who consciously is.  Eating the right kind of food helps to purify us on all levels, sensitising us to higher levels of spiritual awareness.

“With meat, the body will get proteins, but mental proteins will not be there.  If you are keen on spiritual life, eating meat is not worthwhile……..”  and
“It (meat) is not good for spiritual life, which needs mental proteins, and also because it means making an animal suffer and be killed.”  (“Conversations with Sathya Sai Baba”  by John Hislop)

Not only the food we eat but also the preparer of the food subtly influences the food and so, the consumer of the food…

“In one of the jails in this State, there was once a very pure soul devoted to spiritual ideals, carefully practising sadhana (spiritual discipline);  he had advanced very far in dhyana (meditation) and dharana (holding on to it).   One day, however, when he sat for dhyana, he felt very savage emotions surging up in him and found that he could not, inspite of a tremendous struggle, suppress the hateful and murderous thoughts that took hold of him.  He was rocked in agony and his Guru too was upset at the turn of events. The Guru probed into the history of the disciple rather deeply but could not find any valid reason for the tragedy.  At last he found that a certain fanatic murderer had acted as the cook in the jail kitchen the day previous to the calamity and his hateful homicidal thoughts had pervaded the food cooked by him which the sadhaka had consumed. There are subtle invisible thought forms that can pass from one person to another by such means.  Here, one has to be very careful about food, especially where one is proceeding Godward, through the steep path of yoga” (Sathya Sai Speaks, Vol. 2)

Another story demonstrates the same principle: There was a boy who knifed another boy for no good reason at all.  He just suddenly felt nasty but everyone said it was so unlike him. After investigation, it was found that this boy had just eaten food that had been prepared (in a restaurant) by a cook who was really angry with his brother.  He had had a fight and a ferocious argument with him before leaving home to work in this restaurant. His last words to him had been full of violence and hate and he carried that vibration to his job and impregnated the food with it. So after eating that food, the young boy had picked up those same feelings and acted accordingly.

For this reason, especially when eating out, it is important to remember to say a food prayer before eating to help deal with bad vibrations that may be in the food.

Sri Swami Satchidananda, in his tract on “Why be a Vegetarian?, has this to say:

“Even if you offer nice food... wholesome, clean and healthy food to somebody with hatred in the mind, that food becomes poison to that person. Whatever we eat goes to make up the body and mind.  When a mother is in an angry mood and nurses the baby with her milk, the baby will fall sick. Why? The anger goes through the milk”.

The matter of adopting a vegetarian diet is a more complex subject than it seems at first.  No matter how conditioned many of us are to eating meat-based products from childhood onwards, it is vital at some point for a spiritual aspirant to reflect deeply on this subject and through considering it deeply as it deserves, he or she will also grow in spiritual awareness. Ghandi’s words below could not be more pertinent here:

I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants”.

One of the rewards for adhering to a vegetarian diet is that because it enables a certain purification to take place, one starts to understand certain truths more and more deeply.  As a reward for what appears to be a sacrifice on one level, as it were, spiritual vision, the ability to see more clearly through the veil of Maya, starts to grow in one and one has access to higher spiritual truths.  We can begin to feel more and more strongly the deep interconnectedness between all living forms and understand what the Russian writer,  Tolstoy, meant when he said:

“As long as there are slaughterhouses, there will be battle fields”. 

 Next time, I will explore some more surprising and thought-provoking reasons as to why meat-eating is detrimental not only to the animal kingdom but to the human kingdom as well.

As a parting shot, why not ponder on what the vegetarian, Leonardo da Vinci,  managed to do on a few lettuce leaves and maybe some beans!  He, who achieved so much, did it all on a meat-free diet.  He himself predicted that:

“A time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they now do upon the murder of men”.

I wonder how long we will have to wait for that to happen...?

(Article written by Mercini Sherratt for Vedanta Empire's charity incentive)

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