If he can shed the mummy wrappings of acquired notions, complacent bigotries, and superstitious customs, and look at the problem with fresh eyes, he is more likely to succeed in his quest of truth. If he can re-examine the whole meaning of it as though it were a newly discovered problem, he is more likely to move towards its correct solution. If he will refuse to be intimidated by dietary precedent, and begin to rethink the whole matter of eating's why and wherefore, he will reach astonishing results. For much nonsense about diet has come down to us by ignorant tradition and unthinking inheritance.
As one draws closer to the soul of things, he comes more into harmony with Nature. And if he is true to his instinct, he will eat his food more and more as Nature herself produces it.
Inferior and even harmful foods have been eaten for so long that most people have become addicted to them and, through habitual use, come to like them. It is true that several of these foods have been part of a civilized diet for generations, but the duration of an error does not make it less an error, and does not justify its continuance. It is a fact worth speculating upon that many groups of early Christians were both mystical and vegetarian. Had they not been ousted by the Emperor Constantine--whose imperialistic political purpose they did not serve--from the official Christianity which he (and not Jesus) established, we might today have seen half the Christian world holding a faith in mystical beliefs and eating fleshless foods. The France of Louis XII saw some remnants of those early sects, such as the Albigenses, Montanists, and Camisards--and no less than one-third of the total population of the country--living as vegetarians. Luigi Cornaro lived to a hundred in Italy on a strictly limited daily quantity of food. Dr. Josiah Oldfield was nearing his hundred when I last visited England and attributed the fact to avoiding eating too much, which he termed "the great evil." He is also an enthusiastic advocate of vegetarianism.
We are so much the victims of custom and usage, of habit and convention, that even where we at once perceive this weakness in other persons, we fail entirely to perceive it in ourselves. Emerson, the man who wrote the finest essay on the virtue of nonconformity, who proclaimed, "thus ossification is the fall of man," who became the outstanding American prophet of novel views in religion, was completely conformist and habitarian at home, was still the follower of old views in diet. Whenever he encountered dietetic reform visibly in practice before his eyes, he almost lost his serenity in the vehemence of the scorn which it provoked in him. His was still the compartmentally divided mind; he sought truth in the study room but not in the dining room! He admired reform in one field but despised it in another.
The greatest of all diet reforms is the change from meat-eating to a meatless diet. This is also the first step on the spiritual path, the first gesture that rightness, justice, compassion, purity are being set up as necessary to human and humane living, in contrast to animal living.
If there is any single cause for which I would go up and down the land on a twentieth-century crusade, it is that of the meatless diet. It may be a forlorn crusade, but all the same, it would be a heart-warming one.
We hear often of those who live to a ripe old age in health and in strength, but who eat whatever they fancy and drink what they like; they sin against the laws of health and live without any health regimes or disciplinary controls. This is used as an argument against the latter. But it is a poor argument. For anyone who follows their example takes risks and runs hazards with his health, since theirs is a way based on mere chance and complete uncertainty. They were lucky enough to be blessed by nature with bodies strong enough to resist the ill-treatment thus received or favoured by destiny with recuperative power to ward off its bad effect. If anyone could collect the statistics, they would unquestionably show that for each person who escaped infirmities and lived long in this way, a hundred failed to do so.
A meatless diet has practical advantages to offer nearly everyone. But to idealists who are concerned with higher purposes it has even more to offer. On the moral issue alone it tends to lessen callousness to the sufferings of others, men or animals, and to increase what Schweitzer called "reverence for life."
A meatless diet is advisable for aspirants, where circumstances permit, as the brain fed on it is less resistant to meditation.
The delusion that flesh food is essential to maintain strength dies hard. I do not know a stronger animal than an elephant. I have seen it in the East doing all the work that a powerful steam-crane will do in the West. Yet the elephant is a vegetarian. Moreover it outlives most other animals.
Why should we abstain from meat-eating? (a) Cultivated land if planted with vegetables, fruits, and nuts will yield much more food for an overpopulated world than it could yield if left under pasture for cattle and sheep. (b) The ghastly work of slaughtering these harmless innocent creatures can be done only by hardened men, whose qualities of compassion and sympathy must inevitably get feebler and and feebler. How many housewives could do their own butchering? (c) In terms of equal food value, the meatless diet costs less. (d) Animals which suffer from contagious diseases pass on the germs of these diseases to those who eat their flesh or parasites. (e) Meat contains excretory substances, purins, which may cause other, non-communicable diseases.
Those who would like to be vegetarians for compassionate reasons but feel the need of meat for maintaining strength can find proper substitutes in milk and cheese. These dairy products contain the same animal proteins as meat, and will serve as well to sustain vitality, while being free from the stain of slaughter.
Another point for vegetarians is that cruel, wild beasts such as tigers and treacherous, angry reptiles such as snakes live wholly on animal products. The connection between their nature and their food is not entirely coincidental.
Nature (God) has given us the grains and seeds, the fruits and plants to sustain our bodies; what we have used beyond this was got by theft. We robbed calves of their milk and bees of their own stored food.
Whatever man harms or hurts, he will have to live with for a time until he learns to refrain, until his reverence for life is as active here as anywhere else. This is why the horrors of vivisection will have to be expiated by the man who caused them.
Only a heroic and determined few can suddenly reverse the habits of a lifetime and adopt new ones with full benefit. For most people it is more prudent and beneficial to make the change by degrees. Thus, if convinced of the merits of a permanent meatless diet, they can cut down periodically the meats consumed, taking care to replace them by suitable substitutes. If convinced of the curative virtue of a temporary unfired diet, they can eat less cooked and add more vital foods to their meals.
Confronted by a totally new set of concepts of living, they irritably shake their heads at its supposed faddism or caustically jeer at its supposed quackery or derisively taunt its advocates with their supposed crankiness.
We are called to give others--animals as well as humans--the same treatment that we call on God to give us.
When the body has become accustomed through long years of dietary habit to a vegetarian menu, the sudden introduction of flesh foods may lead to nitrogenous poisoning. This is because the body can no longer tolerate a foreign protein. And from this we can understand why lifetime vegetarians, and especially lifelong ones like Indian Brahmins, become sick or suffer from nausea when accidentally or unconsciously, they let a piece of meat slip into their food.
The foods that suit him best, he alone can find out. But he should select them from the restricted list with which philosophy will gladly provide him.
It is not only that we ought to avoid the dead animals for our food, but also we ought to avoid the products of live animals for this purpose, too. By accepting them for bodily nourishment we accept the influence they contribute to the forming of our nature. Body and mind are intertwined. We can well sustain our lives without milk and its derivatives, just as we can without red flesh, white flesh, fish, and eggs.
Scientifically, milk is modified blood and eggs are interrupted chicks.
He should not be willing to absorb the psychic characteristics of an animal which come with meat, and more especially with the blood of meat.
By experiment he may discover what agrees with his stomach and what not. It he notices disagreeable symptoms mentally or physically, such as dull headaches or stomach heaviness, then he should drop this item of food and observe whether there is any difference in his condition. If not, then it is not the food but something else that lies behind the distress.
Our appetites have become perverted, our cravings for food have become morbid. We eat quantities for which the body has no actual need. The conventional dietary habits are false standards by which to live. We could quite well maintain ourselves by eating smaller amounts of rich, concentrated, and stimulating proteins, as well as of clogging starches.
Neither meat nor alcohol is indispensable to the body. Neither health nor palate will suffer without them. By slowly reducing their intake--or suddenly, if one prefers and is able to do so--the desire for them will completely vanish in time. But proper substitutes from the dairy or from the plant kingdoms should replace them if this transition is to be comfortable and satisfactory.
Nature's restorative power usually tries to heal the body or correct its functions but man's ingrained gluttony, error, ignorance, and self-indulgence usually throw too much obstruction in its way to let this desirable result happen.
It is not only the artificial heating of food which deprives it of nutritive, vitalizing, and healing qualities, but even the natural wilting of food does so to a lesser extent. Scientific methods of preserving, refrigerating, or keeping fresh food introduce new evils which destroy the value of their benefits.
There is no objection to gratifying the palate; indeed it is quite natural to do so. But when it happens at the expense of spiritual and physical well-being, then it reaches a point when it does become objectionable and unnatural. The cravings of the palate are not what they ought to be but what, hereditarily and artificially, they have been made to be.
The psychic effects of meat-eating are undesirable. If those who believe that they cannot sustain life without it could see these effects, and if they had to be their own butchers, how many would continue this habit?
The statement of physiology that tissues must be fed with protein to repair their waste is a greatly exaggerated dogma. They need but little--a couple of ounces are enough. What the average man eats is far too rich in protein, so the system must set itself to work getting rid of this surplus, thus increasing waste products and unnecessarily spending vitality.
When it comes to combining the technical knowledge of biology with spiritual insight, the change of viewpoints makes it necessary to modify and even correct the scientific knowledge. That milk provides a better way to get animal protein than meat is perfectly correct; but to accept what is taught by science, that we need animal protein, is wrong. This is not so, but the long continued habits of the human race have made it seem so.
Protein is protein, whether extracted from animals or plants. It does not alter its chemical composition if its source is transferred from one of these to the other.
The protein myth needs deflating. The cow eats no protein at all, only grass and fodder, yet it produces milk which is converted into high protein cheese. I have lived on a diet of fresh fruits and some rye crackers for more than a year at a time and maintained my normal weight throughout the period.
If he cares enough for the Quest and understands enough about the relation between it and diet, he will come sooner or later to choose his food with more resistance to habit.
There is some confusion here both in the arguments of advocates and the criticisms of objectors. It is not possible for any man completely to avoid taking the life of all other creatures in the animal kingdom, especially tiny creatures like microorganisms. But it is possible for him to avoid taking the lives of larger creatures which possess larger, more delicate nerve systems, and causing suffering to them unnecessarily.
Never before have there been so many deaths from diseases of the blood vessels including the largest of them all--the heart. Why? The introduction of larger quantities of meat into the diet has led to the introduction of larger quantities of other animals' blood into the body.
If you are to be a guest, it is no great trouble to either you or your host, to warn him in advance about the prohibited foods.
Although sodium chloride salt is unacceptable as an article of diet in its manufactured commercial form, it may be acceptable as a medicinal article when it appears as one of the ingredients of a natural spa spring water. It would then be taken for a short period only and for the therapeutic purpose of assisting in the removal of a bad bodily condition.
Pythagoras pointed out that the way a nation treated its animals, so far as they are at its mercy, is an indirect judgement of its character.
Early in human history, milk was disdained as an article of food because it was thought to be unnatural for adults to take what Nature supplied to infants.
Smoking is a falsification of the natural instinct of the body to preserve its own inner cleanliness as well as an insult to its sensibility to irritating odours. If smoking is actually enjoyed as a pleasure, that merely shows how false have become the habits imposed on the body's natural instinct. He who desires to rid himself of the smoking habit must therefore restore the operation of this instinct. Among the various techniques that he will have to adopt, one is that of fasting. Short but regular fasts will help to purify him and give back what he has lost--the true instinct of the body and the senses. When this instinct is restored, the desire for smoking will begin to fall away of itself, and indeed an aversion to it will replace it.
The intolerance of some aggressive and fanatical opponents of meat-eating, smoking, and alcohol-drinking is itself a vicious attitude which harms them in a different way as much as those bad habits harm their addicts.
There is an opportunity to strengthen his will, overcome a bad habit and show his determination to quicken progress by dropping smoking altogether from the first day.
Those who light one cigarette after another do not sin against morality; they sin against health.
The thirteenth Dalai Lama considered tobacco to be more pernicious and more polluting than alcohol and banned its use not only by the monks and priests but even by the laymen.
Alcoholic drink releases the sociability in man, but if taken further it then releases the animality in him.
It is not only the unnecessary killing of tamed animals for food that shows man's thoughtless lack of mercy, but also the unnecessary hunting and killing of wild animals. They are entitled to their mountain or forest home.
Alcohol is objectionable as a part of human diet particularly when it is used in high concentrations as in brandy, gin, rum, and cocktails. Then it is poisonous physically and morally. But as a medicine for emergencies it is acceptable.
During my Mexican experiments, I discovered that a cooked meal dulls the mind and produces a sleepy feeling, but not so with an uncooked one. Now that I live on a mixed diet, I prefer to have the cooked meal at night so that the sleepiness comes at the right time.
The more materialistic type of person needs heavier food, the more spiritually minded needs lighter more digestible food if he is not to dull his sensitivity.
Bodhidharma, the founder of Zen, was not the only person who nourished himself with dried tea leaves. A few years after the end of the American Civil War, John Muir--geologist and genius, nature lover and explorer--carried for food only bread and dried tea leaves while climbing the high Sierra Nevada Mountains overlooking the Yosemite valley. He did this quite often and kept a sturdy health, which shows that the legend about Bodhidharma's diet may not have been so mythical after all.
It is a task heavy enough to stimulate spiritual intuitions in our era without adding the extra burden involved in correcting false appetites at the table. That is a thankless task which incites the greatest impatience in others and the greatest reluctance in oneself. One instinctively shirks becoming a dietary iconoclast overturning the ancient and beloved idols of whole peoples. For no habits are so hard to uproot as eating habits, none so much a part of ingrained human nature.
There is no universal maximum of the amount of food and frequency of meals. That depends on the man's type and on his activity. Each must find out what keeps him most efficient.
The harmful effects of tea drinking upon the heart's action, the tissues of the stomach, the digestion of starch and protein cannot be denied. The accumulated effects of its poisoning of the body are serious.
Many students raise the question of excessive smoking and cocktail drinking. There was plenty of excuse for the former during the war. It is not serious psychically, although bad for health physically. Cocktail drinking is, however, inadvisable for the student who begins to make progress on the path. All strong spirits like whisky and gin, or liquors like brandy, are definitely harmful to him because he is bound to have become more sensitive than when he began the Quest. What was all right for him in the past is not so now for he has advanced since then. The further purification of the self must proceed to make possible the further illumination of the self. He may find it helpful to overcome these physical habits of smoking and drinking by taking short fasts of about one complete day in duration. During each fast he should drink water mixed with fruit juice. Two or three such days per month would help to strengthen the higher will and to weaken the undesirable habits. And of course he should pray daily for the strength to overcome them. Indeed, prayer for the Overself's Grace in this connection is most important.
One good way to serve others is by shopkeeping, and a still better way is to make one's shop a health food store. In the latter case, one is doing more than merely earning a living, since he will be rendering a specially needed service in his community. Health foods are, in many cases, a vast improvement over ordinary foods, and useful to supplement the meatless diet.
Animals live in the herd instinct. They do not possess self-consciousness as individualized human beings possess it, nor have they the capacity of aspiring to what is above their own level. But they are subject to evolution and will ultimately arrive at our level. Kindness to those nearest the human stage promotes their evolution into its best side. Cruelty to them launches them into its worst side and punishes us with a karma of criminal primitive classes of the lowest order.
The eating of meat is a remnant of primitive demon-worship, when animals were sacrificed on temple altars to these unseen and unholy creatures. The initiated among the early Christian Fathers knew this well. In The Spiritual Crisis of Man, I have already stated Saint John Chrysostom's opinion of meat-eating as being "unnatural" and "of demoniacal origin" while Origen wrote, "Do not flatter the demons by means of sacrifices."
There is far too much ignorance among educated people--so how much more among the others--of the heavy contribution made to the causes of sickness by faulty eating habits and by dietary deficiencies.
The wisdom of the World-Mind has put quick-lines into the animal mind--which you may call instincts if you wish--which show it how to keep alive by picking out the food needed. Man, being the possessor of an animal body, shares a proportion of these instincts; for the rest he must use his judgement.
Only good positive thoughts were allowed to enter his head and good meatless food his stomach.
It is a fact, which some clairvoyants have observed and which scientific researches by the late Sir J. Bose in Bengal and Cleve Backster using polygraph technique in New York have confirmed, that plants feel and that they have intelligent responses which on a human level would be emotional. This has in fact been advanced as a defense of meat-eating and against those practising meat avoidance. My reply is that the plant form is not so sensitive as the animal form, lacking so highly developed a nerve system. It suffers--but less.
It is necessary to eat living things as food in order to keep living ourselves. That is not a matter of our choosing but a necessity forced upon us by Nature or God. We have no freedom in the choice. But we are free to reduce the area of our destructiveness and to lessen the amount of pain we inflict. It is less destructive to uproot a vegetable or pluck a fruit than to slay an animal--and there is less suffering too. This is the answer to the argument that we still destroy life when we become vegetarians.
If we could examine the prehistoric period of man, and not merely his latest century, we would find that the duration of his life has since been shortened, while the condition of his body has deteriorated through new diseases. The cause in both cases lies in his changed feeding habits to some extent, and in his unrestricted sexual habits to a much larger extent.
Where man has given himself up to sexual excitement as a continuing and enduring feature of his life--as contrasted with the wild animals which experience it only at particular seasons--the cause exists not in the different nature with which he has been endowed but in the excess of strongly nutritive material which has absorbed into his body. To prove that this is so, one has only to take the case of his domestic animals which, when also getting superfluous nutriment, are excited more often than the wild ones.
Foods which stimulate sexual activity include eggs, oysters, chocolate, and meat.
The extractive substances of red fish like salmon and carp and red meats like beef and venison irritate the vital tissues and raise blood pressure. This in turn raises sexual desire. White meat and white fish are less liable to do this.
Diet alone will not be enough to bring sexual function under control, but only helps to do so. Otherwise, the rabbit would not be so unchaste. Climate is not less important, for the flesh-eating Eskimo living in Arctic regions is sexually lethargic whereas the vegetarian native of tropical regions is not.
Our definition of sin needs widening. It is also sinful to break the laws of hygiene, to indulge in habits that are either poisonous or devitalizing, to eat foods obtained by slaughter.
If the grains, fruits, cereals, and vegetables which we eat are themselves undernourished because the soil in which they grow is deficient in minerals or otherwise exhausted, then we in turn will not really receive from our food the proper nourishment we believe it is giving nor will the cattle pastured on such depleted soil. Nor is this all. If the foods derived from unbalanced soil are our mainstay for a lengthy period of years, the unbalance will be reflected in our body as some kind of sickness or malfunction.
Wherever and whenever meatless diet becomes the rule, and not the rarity that it is today, we may expect violence and crime to abate markedly.
The changeover from a meat diet to a vegetarian one creates in some cases a feeling of bodily weakness. This will be limited to the transition period only, which may be a matter of days or months, depending on the individual. Such persons should make the changeover gradually. Many others have made the change quite abruptly without any fatigue or any harm.
Some men who have shivered at the thought of inaugurating these reforms or conforming to these regimes came nevertheless to do so in later years. Why? Because they were given a strong enough incentive. Attacked by heart disease, they were warned by physicians to abandon salt; suffering from different sicknesses, they had to abandon meat; others who were gluttons were ordered to curb their meals to more modest proportions. Here the incentive of avoiding earlier death enabled them to accept an abhorred discipline.
The person who is afraid to alter his living habits, and especially his eating and drinking habits, because he is afraid that other persons may regard him as queer, eccentric, or fanatic forgets that the ownership of his body, the responsibility for its well-being, belongs to him, not them.
Emerson, with all his admirable wisdom, was yet not wise enough to attend to his diet. He regularly ate too much cold pie and suffered from indigestion. But what was worse, he ate beef and thus set a bad example to others. His mind was so well purified and so strongly concentrated within the Good, the True, and the Beautiful that it was not affected, whatever happened to his body. But the minds of others were muddier and weaker. A correct example would have been better for them.
After some weeks on an uncooked food diet, the intellectual type of person will find, as I found, that there is greater mental clarity and greater mental drive. In fact, there may even be a tendency to overwork intellectually in reading or writing. A century ago, John Linton, of England, reported the result of a long period on such a diet in these words: "I was able to write with an ease and perspicacity and satisfaction which I had never before known, or had any idea of."
Nobility of character will not save a man who eats meat from the dark karma which he thereby makes, although it may modify it. This bad habit puts his good health into peril.
The movement is a circular one. Bad eating habits can produce an excess of bile. This in turn produces depression, irritability, a critical view of people and events. On the other hand, the man who starts with such a view will finish with an excess of bile, too. This is why philosophic disciplines are directed toward both the body and the mind, not to one alone.
The established alimentary errors of the modern way of living--that is, the artificial way--may be partially corrected by eating more fresh fruits and vegetables. It is unfortunate, however, that the commercial definition of freshness does not coincide with Nature's. Therefore we must be more fastidious and selective when buying these foods. This correction is needed by all victims of civilization; it does not matter whether they come to it because of food chemistry's revelation of the need of dietary vitamins or because of mystical philosophy's revelation of the need of return to nature.
A glass of wine which might upset the mental balance of a beginner, and to that extent cause him to forget his quest or create inability to meditate, might leave no more mark on an advanced man than a wave hurling itself upon a rock.
The Bhagavad Gita, India's manual for yogis since the most ancient times, prescribes that the food for spiritual practitioners should be light and digestible. Why? Because the body's condition does throw its influence into the mind's condition. A body which is habitually constipated, whose bowels are tight and filthy with accumulations, receives and spreads morbid poisons. These affect, in time, not only the organs directly concerned but also the sexual organs, the blood, brain, and nerves. Lust is stimulated, negative ideas are intensified.
The follower of a fleshless diet who throws his principles to the four winds in a trying situation lest he be thought peculiar, eccentric, different is more eager to please other men than the Overself, more interested in what their opinion is of him than in the success of his quest. How easy it is to make concessions, to give in to the herd expectations! How hard to go all the way with one's convictions, to keep one's link with integrity unbroken. Yet faithfulness is the only attitude for the man who has felt this practical pity for dumb animals.
If he really believes in this teaching, he will seek to bring it into every area of his life. There is no area from which it can rightly be left out, not even from that of the kind of food he eats.
What really happens is that the body remembers having been fed at certain hours and with certain foods. These memories have been integrated into its subconsciousness and provide the real source of the urge to repeat the experience. The habit is really mental but appears physical.
Those who feel it necessary to include eggs in their otherwise vegetarian diet, should confine themselves to sterile eggs which can never be hatched.
Where rennet is used in the making of cheese, the final product is no longer purely vegetarian. Where eggs are part of a diet, the animal life they contain, even though it is only incipient, violates the vegetarian principle of living.
The sin of gluttony does not necessarily mean eating too much food. It may also mean eating too rich food even when the quantity is not excessive.
Mustard, pepper, and paprika stimulate sex organs.
It is proper to defend one's life when it is menaced by aggressive men or by wild beasts, but it is against philosophic ethics to take life without a just cause, as when one kills animals for food--still more when one kills them wantonly for sport. Every higher instinct urges us to substitute compassion for cruelty in our dealings with the lower kingdom.
The aspirant who fails to practise non-injury sets up an evil relationship which will have to be worked out later, a relationship which will block his entry into the state of lasting enlightenment until it is so worked out. The unnecessary taking of animal life for his food is one form, although a common one, of violation of this ethic.
Although he need not go out of his way to appear different from anyone else, although he must effect that compromise with society which will enable him to live in it as necessity dictates he must, he need not become so subservient to the social codes or subscribe so timidly to the social practices that he is willing to slaughter innocent animals for food just because everyone else is doing it. In this matter there can be no surrender, no frightened conformity with barbarous habits. In this respect he will see that the civilization in which he finds himself has not fully outgrown the savage elements. Its progress in social manners and technical efficiency is one-sided.
Diet depends on the type of person as well as the stage of development. The contemplative introvert intuitive type needs a fruitarian diet. The physical extrovert type needs a complete heavy protein diet. The best guide to the diet suited to each individual is the Gita rule, plus his own instinct, modified by such factors as climatic conditions around him, local availability of foods, and so on.
There is a tradition that live snails crawled all over and wholly covered the Buddha's head to prevent his getting sunstroke when he had fallen into deep inner absorption in a place where no tree branches gave their usual shelter. Whether this is true or not, it does convey the idea that the apostle of mercy and love for the whole animal kingdom received his own love reflected back to him by members of that kingdom.
The yogi who lives in contented isolation from the burdens and worries of family existence is not helpful to the poor fellow who has to till the field and produce the grain with which to feed him. For, from some source or other, he has to be fed whether he lives in cave or jungle. He cannot live on roots and barks and leaves; that is a pretty fiction for fables and fairy tales. He needs rice or wheat or milk and vegetables, and probably some fruits.
The beautiful coloured fruits which the trees and bushes offer him have been saturated with beneficent solar rays, not with innocent blood.
What is the answer to the question, Can we offer a meatless diet to pet animals? We can, provided hardboiled eggs and milk are included in the diet. The pet dog or cat will grow just as healthy and have all the strength it needs. But it is very difficult to succeed in limiting it to such a diet unless it is started from the time when it is a little puppy or kitten.
Exaggerated notions of the value of the vegetarian diet must be discounted. It will not of itself suffice to keep a man healthy or free from the lower passions.
If it be asked why abstention from meat-eating should be conducive to sexual self-control, the answer must include a few assertions to be complete. But the prime reason is because most of the animals which are killed and eaten by man owe their own existence to the sexual lust of their parents and this lust permeates their flesh in an invisible psychic-magnetic aura. Most fish of course are an exception to ordinary sexual birth, yet shellfish are a notoriously aphrodisiac article of food. The cause of this must be sought elsewhere than in their origin.
Salt is unnecessary in the diet. Most people have a large salt intake from sheer habit, which in turn makes it seem almost a necessity for their bodies. Spiritual aspirants are much better off without salt; it is an artificial irritant that erects additional barriers to progress. Science believes that salt intake is necessary in hot weather to replenish what is lost through the body's perspiration. The fact remains that the salt would not be lost if it were not consumed in the first place; this is the real cause of this vicious circle.
The custom which prevailed so widely on vanished Atlantis of offering animals and slaughtering prisoners during the periodical religious rituals, and which was carried over by the survivors into African, American, and Asiatic civilizations of historic times, has died out as purer and more rational concepts of religion have risen. But the custom of offering animals to please not a divine being but a human one, is just as prevalent today as the stupid Atlantean barbarity formerly was. Men still breed hapless four-legged creatures by the million only to slay them in the end and serve them at meals. Such destruction is carried out without feeling, without conscience, and without real necessity. And what right does any of these human beings have to destroy the existence of such a multitude of creatures who have their own place, function, and purpose in the divine World-Idea? In claiming for himself such a right, man arrogantly proclaims himself wiser than his Creator and in disturbing the creation itself by his bloody habits of eating, he violates sacred laws for which he is duly punished. His health suffers, his passions are never allayed, and his violence in war is never ended.
Those who believe that a meatless diet must be a flabby and tasteless one believe wrongly. It is quite possible for a vegetarian or a vegan or even a fruitarian to enjoy meals, to find them appetizing and satisfying.
If every slaughterhouse were razed to the ground and orchards, thickly planted with fruit-bearing trees, replaced them, all would benefit in the end--including those unfortunate men who earn their livelihood from such slaughter.
Food does not directly supply energy but its presence in the body during the process of metabolism acts as a channel for energy to be set free in the body. This is why those who fully undergo the purificatory processes of the Quest and thus regenerate their body, not only need less food than others do, but subsist on finer forms of food.
If too much protein is undesirable because it ends in toxic products and destructive acids, too little is also undesirable because it ends in insufficient weight and lessened strength.
He alone is entitled to ask for help or mercy--which is a form of help--who himself shows pity, spares life, eschews cruelty, and grants mercy to the helpless and oppressed, who does not, in Plutarch's phrase, "allow his lips to touch the flesh of a murdered being."
Mushrooms belong to that order in Nature to which parasites, fungus, and bacteria belong.
Grace before meals is like a blessing upon murder, when the meal is part of an animal which has been hunted down by a group of sportsmen helped by bloodthirsty hounds.
So long as their plant, grain, vegetable, and fruit food is mass-produced and grown with artificial chemical or animal manure fertilizers and later sprayed with poisons, so long will true health be impossible for city dwellers. For requisite vitamins and minerals will either be lost--destroyed by these wrong methods which serve commercial interests only--or else ill-balanced because too rich in some nourishing elements and too poor in others.
Because the flesh of dead animals and the eggs of living bodies have no true affinity with the bodies of human beings, who exist on a higher level, they are unfit for use as foods by those beings.
Foods which cause clogging of the intestines are either of a starchy character (white flour is used to make wallpaper hanger's paste) or composed of gristle and bones (carpenter's glue is made from them) or of fatty oily character (observe how they cling to the inside of a frying pan when cold). To reduce the use of such foods is very desirable.
The raw food cure is a form of mono-diet which offers most of the advantages of moderate fasting without its disadvantages. By careful choice during the first part of the cure there can be used only foods with eliminative properties, serving equivalently to a fast; while during the second part a different kind, having upbuilding properties, can be used.
It is an ancient knowledge although a neglected modern one, that many vegetables and fruits have strong medicinal properties.
He does not eat meat, not so much because he thinks it poisons the body, but more because he feels pity for slaughtered animals. He does not drink alcohol because he believes it would interfere with the efficiency of his work, and much more because of his spiritual effort at self-conquest. He does not smoke, first because he regards smoking as physically unhealthy, and second because his body becomes so refined as to feel a physiological reaction of strong nausea to it. Thus, these three renunciations are both preoccupations with bodily welfare and with ethical ideals; indeed, they are actually tokens of his balanced ideals.
What applies to the place of the body applies consequently to the foods eaten to maintain the body. Because they leave some effect upon the mind through the nerve system and the brain, foods are classified into three kinds by the yogis. Anyone can see the reason for this in the case of some foods and drinks like alcoholic liquors, which stimulate the passions. There are other foods which have a calming influence on the mind.
It is unfortunately largely true, this accusation that vegetarians are often drab creatures, that vegetarian restaurants are not seldom dreary places, and that vegetarian meals are often tasteless and unsustaining. But this need not be.
We may fast for a few days but we must eat for a whole lifetime.
Nature (God) has given men the plants whence to draw the food needed to keep them alive. But few seem to notice that these were given to them raw, not cooked. Men egotistically try to better the gift, to their own detriment and disease.
In the early stages of an unfired diet, unpleasant symptoms of elimination such as headaches may appear--just as in fasting. They are to be welcomed, not regretted.
To convert barley into beer and grapes into brandy is to destroy the gifts of Nature. Yet this is done every year to the extent of millions of tons. There is a penalty in human degradation and human misery for this.
Meat is a very putrefactive food: it decays quicker than vegetables or grains. If it is not digested and passed out of the body in a normal period, this putrefactive quality may lead to certain diseases. This is why vegetarians suffer less from these diseases than meat eaters.
The disciplined abstinence from prohibited or undesirable foods is not to be made into a source of self-torment.
Saint Paul on vegetarianism: "I will eat no flesh for evermore, that I make not my brother to stumble." (1 Cor. 8:13)
The difficulties of keeping to his own rigid mode of protective habit usually become too much in the end for a fastidious traveller. Sooner or later, he succumbs to them and has to give way to the polluting drinking vessels, contaminating eating plates, and meat-smelling restaurants of the non-Brahmin castes. An iron will and inflexible determination to hold to one's regime is needed.
It is a mistake to take a meal when mentally tired or emotionally disturbed. The benefit of food intake will be offset by the harm of upset digestion.
His experiments in dietary reform must come to this end: he will find that he returns to the philosophic admonition of expertly balanced feeding, but with some better understanding of what constitutes "balance." Formerly, the ingredients of his raw salads were limited to lettuce, cucumber, and cress. He will add other raw vegetables such as peas, red cabbage, squash, and even vegetable roots such as carrot, celeriac, parsnip, and beets--grated, of course, or he could not endure them, and rendered palatable with tasty dressings. Formerly he mixed indiscriminately fruit, raw and cooked vegetables together at the same meal. Now he will try to keep them apart and eat them at separate meals.
How free from hard toil in the fields would the wide adoption of a fruitarian diet render the life of man! How independent of farm equipment and tools, kitchen stoves, fuel, appliances, utensils, and all the other paraphernalia with which he burdens himself!
They will one day feel mercy for the animals and desist from the custom of slaughtering, cooking, and eating them. Of course, the slaughter is done indirectly, by others acting on their behalf. But some of the guilt remains.
Even water taken to excess may lead to death, even beneficial vitamins also. Thus science knows from tests with animals that almost any food item or product can be fatal if too much too quickly is eaten or drunk. This verifies my often used phrase that "a good overdone becomes the bad."
The vegetarian who refuses to turn his body into a graveyard for slaughtered animals is obeying not only a moral law but also a hygienic and an aesthetic one.
Appetite has really become an artificial and abnormal thing, having taken the place of true hunger, which alone is natural. The one is a sign of bondage but the other, of freedom.
It may be considered folly by common opinion but this refusal to destroy life unnecessarily, this reverence for it, must become a deeply implanted part of his ethical standard.
If the body is intolerant of particular treatments and allergic to particular foods, it should not be forced to accept them.
The time has come to arouse the conscience of all those who sincerely seek the Good and the Right to their duty in the matter of slaughtering innocent animals, a conscience which, if it could speak unperverted by racial habits, would emphatically repeat the Mosaic commandment, "Thou shalt not kill."
There are cruelties practised on animals to gain food for man, dress for women, entertainment and medicinal drugs for both. The human claim of necessity as a justification is a mistaken one.
There are two groups who go even farther than the vegetarians. One eats only the fruit of trees and so are called fruitarians. The other abstains from dairy produce but still eats vegetables and so are called vegans.
To put the body under a necessary discipline is not the same as putting it under an unnecessary tormenting asceticism. Those who cry out that the body is being maltreated when it is no longer fed with red meat, or gorged with excessive food, or poisoned with fiery liquor, cry a false alarm.
It is true that Gandhi drank milk but the fact always troubled his conscience.
The legumes are much favoured by vegetarians because they are rich in protein and palatable in taste. But they are also gas-producing and somewhat indigestible. If eaten at all, they should be taken in small quantities.
I have scooped up the inside of many an avocado--an excellent food--and spread much tahini on many slices of bread.
A Japanese guru told his disciple that he would have to wait twelve months for enough purification to prepare the way for his sanctification. During that time, his efforts should proceed strenuously, and they were not only to be concerned with the thoughts themselves but also with the physical intake, solid and liquid.
In this matter it is better to be fastidious, and to reject much that is offered.
As his mind becomes purer and his emotions come under control, his thoughts become clearer and his instincts truer. As he learns to live more and more in harmony with his higher Self, his body's natural intuition becomes active of itself. The result is that false desires and unnatural instincts which have been imposed upon it by others or by himself will become weaker and weaker and fall away entirely in time. This may happen without any attempt to undergo an elaborate system of self-discipline on his part: yet it will affect his way of living, his diet, his habits. False cravings like the craving for smoking tobacco will vanish of their own accord; false appetites like the appetite for alcoholic liquor or flesh food will likewise vanish; but the more deep-seated the desire, the longer it will take to uproot it--except in the case of some who will hear and answer a heroic call for an abrupt change.
The animal in a slaughterhouse or being hunted by a pack of hounds accompanying a sportsman is full of fear. This affects the adrenaline glands which pass toxic material into the body. Whoever eats the meat of that animal may be getting protein and strength, but he also gets undesirable material.
Have they no pity on the lambs torn away from their mothers' sides (as I have seen in New Zealand) to be slain and exported to satisfy the appetite of humans?
The killing instinct in men shows itself first in their diet and after this in their perpetual wars. Even when Rome became Christian the gladiatorial shows were continued as the cockfights were in Protestant England and bullfights in Catholic Spain.
The work of bringing the multitudes into adopting a non-flesh diet, and into abandoning harmful habits, ought to be freed from unwise presentation. It ought to be persuasive education, and not vehement propaganda. The case for it ought to be presented temperately and prudently, not aggressively and fanatically.
Those who sin against their body in order to keep the good opinion of others, or to appear sociable or convivial, commit the further sin of being weak, insincere, and fearful.
Several nuts, but not all, are excellent sources of protein to replace that which is lost through abandoning meat. Their indigestibility will disappear if they are finely ground in a mill or made raw into a butter.
How necessary it is to test theory by result in these matters of diet is exemplified in many cases like that of Metchnikoff, who propounded the yogurt-way of achieving abnormal longevity and followed it himself, only to die within three years from the diseased bowel condition which his unbalanced fanaticism produced.
Eating food of a special kind or sitting in an isolated cave cannot of itself make anyone spiritually minded. But it can lessen the number of obstacles in the way of anyone who seeks to become spiritually minded.
The sensitive and humane person who does not pause to consider his guilt in this matter has let himself take the easy conscience-drowning way, partly because it is the popular way and partly because he is duped by a science and religion which are blindly playing the ego's game.
Fresh fruits should be tree-ripened. Dried fruits should be naturally or sun-dried, but if a process must be used it should be the low-heat one. Grains, nuts, fruits, and vegetables provide a complete diet for man.
It is philosophically advantageous to preserve a comprehensive equanimity amid the vicissitudes of human fortune and to practise a reasonable indifference toward outer conditions. But it is inhuman and unreasonable to demand, as the price of spiritual peace, that we shall renounce all earthly satisfactions to the point of neither enjoying delicious food nor feeling aversion to repulsive food--a rule set down in the chief manual of yoga.
He must find out by personal experience what his stomach can easily digest, and strictly take nothing else. This is one rule. He must eat of such foods no more than his body really needs, which is always less than what custom and society have suggested he needs.
Whatever we eat beyond that which the body really needs, gives no strength and yields no benefit. Instead, it actually harms us. Instead of strengthening, it weakens us. Instead of benefiting, it poisons us.
How can the human race avoid the fate of being slaughtered in war when it itself slaughters so many innocent creatures in peace?
The exploitation of other living creatures to gain unnecessary human food, must be protested against. Forcing their enslavement to human service and slowly distorting their bodies into having unnatural exaggerated functions is a crime against them.
Those animals which have lived in the society of man can sense his intent enough to fear death when he takes them to the slaughterhouse.
Is the peaceable man to reduce or stop violent aggression against his fellow men but to continue it against other fellow creatures? What about the animals? We are not entitled to destroy animal life without an adequately necessary and morally justifiable purpose. Therefore it is well to enquire from the wise and good into the character of such purposes, and be guided by their counsel rather than by environmental custom. For the latter has led us, through its utter ignorance and total unawareness of the higher laws, into a situation where blow after blow falls heavily upon the human race. Why should we be so astonished that peace is so hard to obtain, that all too often flaming violence of war and death and mutilation is carried across the land despite our prayers to God and our plans to the contrary? So long as millions of innocent animals are bred only to be sent to the slaughterhouses for our unnecessary food, so long will Life pay us in like coin. The lower characteristics are taken into the body, the blood, the nerves, and the brain. They become a part of us. The mind's response to higher ideals is dulled. The passions which make for strife and thence for war meet with less opposition from conscience and reason. The fear, suspicion, fright, and desire for self-protection which contribute toward war, being impregnated into the blood of our meat during the moments preceding its slaughter, are little by little brought into us too through the glands, the nervous system, and the brain, as our own blood feeds them in turn. It would be desirable, although admittedly difficult, gradually to adopt a meatless diet as a help to secure both the individual's development and the world's peace.
Comments on customs
Everything is polarized, whether in the visible universe, or in the invisible forces of life itself. This is what the Hindus call the pairs of opposites and the Chinese call the Yin and Yang. All things are complementary and compensatory, yet at the same time antagonistic. If Yang gives us energy, Yin gives us calm. Both are necessary. The macrobiotic cult has also brought this principle into the diet, but they have done it in a fanatical way, with the consequence that they make the largest part of the daily diet a cereal, which leads to excess of starch and of acidity. Also, they use too much sea salt, which leads to a corrosive effect internally. Finally, like the Indians, they do most of their cooking with oil, which places too much strain upon the liver. We should seek balance in diet as in study.
Saint Anthony, founder of Christian monasticism and father of Christian anchoreticism, laid down a rule for himself to eat only once a day, and that after the sun had set. But the Buddhist rule for monks is to eat the last meal at midday when the sun is at its highest point! Can we not see here as in so many other spiritual matters, how much human opinion governs men--and not divine inspiration!
Peasants in Germany and Russia, in Bulgaria and China, know the worth of black bread. But with the pseudo-progress and the surrender to appearances rather than to honest values, its replacement by whiter and whiter bread is possible, perhaps probable.
Many spiritual aspirants who are practising yoga in India usually prepare their own food. The theory is that the magnetic influence of the person who prepares the food affects the latter, and the aspirant eating food permeated with bad magnetism suffers thereby.
The advanced yogis do not need to be too concerned about this, as they are more immune in some ways, although more sensitive in others. But where they have the choice they will be careful in this matter.
A saying of the Buddha: "It is not the eating of meat which renders one impure, but being brutal, hard, pitiless, miserly." This passage was directed against those Brahmins who boasted of their faithfulness to external rites.
Jesus' criticism of dietary concern was directed to those orthodox Hebrews who ostentatiously took every care to free their meat from blood as prescribed by their religion, but took little care to free their hearts and minds from selfish, materialistic, or unworthy thoughts and feelings.
Just as Buddha protested to the Hindu priests against the sacrifice of innocent goats on religious altars, so Jesus protested to the Israelite rabbis against the sacrifice of innocent lambs on religious altars. But where Buddha, in his opposition to all ritual, suggested no substitute, Jesus suggested the eating of bread in place of the lamb's flesh and the drinking of a little red wine in place of the lamb's blood.
It has been asked why the Pythagorean teaching interdicted the use of beans in a vegetable diet. Having sojourned and studied in India, Pythagoras was well acquainted with the Bhagavad Gita's rule that the yogi's food should be light and easily digestible. He gave exactly the same rule to his followers. Dried beans fell under the ban because they were then, as now--because of their tough skins--notoriously indigestible. A further reason was his belief, also picked up in India, that all large and medium size beans contain an ingredient which is harmful to the body. The very small bean called "gram" in India and "Mung bean" in China does not fall under the ban: it is harmless, nourishing, and palatable."
Perhaps it was dated thirty-five years ago that I went on a journey with V. Subrahmanya Iyer. We travelled for about ten days through jungles and mountain villages in the depths of Mysore state. On our trip, a yogi who was unknown to us joined the party and stayed with us for a day or two. Later in the first day, the yogi darted to the ground where some creepers were growing in a shady, damp place. He pulled up part of a plant and showed it to me and praised its medicinal merits. Iyer told me it was used by old people to become more youthful and to lengthen life; the yogi told me he used it to treat patients suffering from leprosy, to strengthen the heart and thus prevent attacks, and to purify the blood. He added that it was even useful in the kitchen where, mixed with curry and grated coconut, it improved the taste of food. I could not at the time identify the plant with anything I had seen in the West. In Sanskrit it is Soma Valli, in Tamil it is Vallarai, in Hindi it is Brahmi. Preparations from it are made by the ayurvedic native herbalists and medical practitioners.
In the warm climate of southern Italy it is possible to find that vegetables are softer, tenderer, and tastier than in our cold northern climate where they are often stiff and fibrous and even indigestible if eaten raw. Even the Italian peasants themselves in the south will eat them raw when out working in the field. This advantage, of course, is offset by the risks of disease associated with raw foods in the Mediterranean countries--especially the risk of dysentery. But to live anywhere in the Mediterranean is to be able to live much more on raw and therefore more vitaminous food than it is in the colder countries.
Strange impossible ideas enter my mind at times. Reason soon bids them take their exit, but now and then a few reappear to haunt me. One of them is this: The Japanese associate with their traditional tea-cult an entry into the atmosphere of spiritual tranquillity. May it not be that the modern British--from whom, and for this particular purpose, I must leave out the Celts of Wales and Cornwall, Scotland, and Ireland--being deficient in metaphysical faculty and mystical temperament, drink their tea in an unconscious and futile attempt to touch the divine stillness by a grossly physical act? For the figures show that they drink more tea per head than any other people in the world, outside Southeast Asia.
The eating of onions and garlic is forbidden to the Yellow Hat monks of Tibet--the celibate, stricter order. A monk who has partaken of them is regarded as unclean, and cannot take part in any religious ceremony. He is not even allowed to put out a fire.
Many of the monks and porters in Tibet make their lunch of tsampa--which is barley flour mixed with cold water, kneaded into raw dough-like paste, rolled into a ball, and eaten uncooked. The monks have only buttered tea, the porters beer, to complete their lunch. The porters can carry heavy loads on this diet, which is repeated at breakfast and at night. The point to be noted here is that although their work is exceptionally burdensome because of the steep and rocky nature of the mountainous ground over which they often have to travel, they carry it out quite successfully on such raw, uncooked food.
Even the two great religious lawgivers who laid down social rules for their followers which allowed a flesh diet, did not allow it absolutely. Muhammed and Moses prohibited pork from being included, while Moses went further and ordered a preliminary process that robs the meat of much of its harm. It is not so much the meat that is harmful and debasing, as its life-force carrier, the blood. Before a Jew eats meat, the blood is almost entirely withdrawn from it, being drained out by a soaking for some hours in salt water.
The monks belonging to the thousand-year-old Carthusian Order never eat meat. They model themselves largely on the early Christian monks of Egypt. The Trappist monks of today are also vegetarians.
A philosophical view of the matter must discount the value of certain injunctions given by eminent spiritual authorities, such as several traditional Hindu manuals which say "the yogi is to eat what is put before him" (as a sign of his freedom from aversion and attraction), or such as the Japanese Zen master Keizan's rule: "Food exists only to support life: do not cling to the taste of it."
The ancient Sanskrit texts give strict rules about eating. They forbid the preparation of food by a member of a caste lower than that of the man who eats it. Even today a Brahmin would rather carry his own food than go into a non-Brahmin restaurant when travelling. On these lines a Westerner should do the same if he cannot find vegetarian food.
England pays out an enormous amount of money for the doubtful privilege of buying dead bodies from abroad to feed living men. She could save all that money and thus help to strengthen her situation. And, if she used her arable land entirely for fruit, vegetables, and grain crops instead of cattle grazing or breeding, she would get five or six times as much food from the same ground.
During my Asiatic travels a group of Chinese Buddhists asked me to talk to them--an activity which in those days I was willing to do, unlike today. After the spoken address they invited me to dine with them. There were about twenty of us and when tea was served one laughingly remarked that, in contrast to the English, they put no milk in it. I enquired why milk was rejected. He answered that it was distasteful to many, if not most, Chinese because those who drank it were supposed to emit a cowlike odour, while it was repulsive to the Buddhists among them because its human use was a robbery of the calf.
Milk is an animal product but few Western vegetarians seem able to leave it out of their diet and yet remain satisfied. I am one of the few. Their difficulty lies principally in replacing the nutritive substances and calcium minerals which milk and cheese supply and which are necessary to the human body. I believe this difficulty could be met, as the Chinese meet it, by using soyabean milk and soyabean cheese, whose chemical composition is about the same as the animal product. Or a different and suitable replacement could be nut milk, which is easily made either from almond or coconuts. I do not even use this, preferring tahini, the thick fluid derived from sesame seeds.
It is a Japanese idea to serve each vegetable separately--and to eat it separately and not to mix all the vegetables together as in the Chinese chop suey (which is after all not a real Chinese dish, but an American invention). This brings out the best taste and flavour of each of the vegetables.
Indian widows are made by custom to live a very ascetic existence. Their food is sparse and basic: no spices are allowed in it because it is believed they strengthen sexual instincts.
Comte de Saint Germain ate oats for his breakfast. He drank a special herbal tea. He formed the habit in India while gathering knowledge from a certain teaching.
Even among the Indian teachers there is lack of agreement on this subject. Although this contradiction may not be known to enthusiastic recent converts, it is bewildering to some of their veteran followers. Swami Brahmananda, a direct disciple of Sri Ramakrishna and first president of the Ramakrishna Order of Monks, declared that it was nonsense not to eat meat. The late Swami Shivananda, second president of the same order and another direct disciple, often smoked tobacco. I remember an anecdote which was told me by His Highness the late Maharaja of Mysore. Swami Vivekananda came to Mysore in quest of financial help for his proposed journey to Chicago to address the 1893 World Parliament of Religions which was destined to bring him sudden fame. My friend's father, the previous Maharaja, immediately recognized the inner worth of the Swami and gladly granted help. He sent one of his palace officials with Vivekananda to the local bazaar with instructions to buy whatever things he wished to have. But despite the official's repeated cajoling, the Swami would not accept anything else than a large cigar which he lit at the shop and seemed to enjoy hugely. Vivekananda ate meat. He even advocated animal food to his fellow Hindus because it would give them more strength and more power as a nation in the fight for its own rights and place. But had the science of nutrition been as advanced in his day as it is now, it could have informed him that all the body building and energizing attributes of flesh food could be obtained from vegetable proteins and carbohydrates.
Sri Yashoda Mai, the female guru, and Sri Krishna Prem of Almora, her male disciple, both smoked. Her Holiness told a North Indian prince that it was not bad to smoke and offered him a cigarette herself. So naturally he smoked it, having received it from such holy hands. "I could not refuse it," the prince told me. This began a course which ended in chain-smoking. I knew him for many years and finally persuaded him to free himself from both smoking and gluttony.
Ramana Maharshi of South India, like most Brahmins of that region, considered meat as too low a form of food to be used by the spiritually minded.
In the West we know that Blavatsky, the Theosophical seer, too often kept her fingers busy rolling long Russian cigarettes. Gurdjieff, the Armenian occultist and one-time teacher of Ouspensky, usually produced packets of cigarettes for his disciples to smoke, whilst himself indulging in oversized cigarettes.
Ralph Waldo Emerson, following the common habit of his time and place, ate animal food. He even poked gentle fun at vegetarians.