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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.


-- Notebooks Category 5: The Body > Chapter 3: Diet > # 183






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