Table of Contents
Note to readers: Please study Sattva, Raja and Tama, the three subtle components of the universe to fully understand this article.
There is a wide debate as to whether it is better to be a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian. People in either camp have pretty much dug their heels in swearing by the benefits of being a vegetarian or a non-vegetarian respectively. There is, however, a worldwide trend of more and more people crossing over and becoming vegetarians. In this article we explore the issue from a spiritual perspective.
In our article on Sattva, Raja and Tama, the three subtle components of the universe, we explained how everything in the universe at a subtle level is made up of these three subtle components.
Food is no exception and at a subtle level, it too is made up of the Sattva, Raja and Tama subtle components. The proportions of these subtle components vary depending on the type of food. Sattva stands for purity and knowledge while tama denotes ignorance and inertia. Anything that has a higher Sattva component assists our spiritual journey and anything that is Tama predominant has a tendency to diminish or obstruct our spiritual practice.
Through spiritual research we obtained the subtle component readings for vegetarian and non-vegetarian food.
Please note: These readings are an average across each food category. Fish is included in non-vegetarian food and has marginally less Tamacomponent than white and red meat. The food within a category differs marginally from each other. For example mutton and chicken in the non-vegetarian category differ marginally from each other in terms of their Sattva, Raja and Tama components.
The reason for the increased Tama in meat after the animal dies is because of the extent of suffering when it is being killed. Also the thoughts of anger and revenge in the animal are far more pronounced as compared to a plant which has a rudimentary mind and intellect. This is the main reason for the increased Tama component.
As you can see from the above table a vegetarian diet would have a higher proportion of the subtle Sattva component. As a result of the Tamapredominance in meat, the act of eating non-vegetarian food is a taamasik activity.
The picture below shows what a seemingly healthy piece of meat looks like when seen through sixth sense vision. The picture has been drawn by
Mrs.Yoya Vallee (Paris, France).
The picture below shows what a saattvik fruit like a banana looks like when seen through sixth sense vision. The picture has been drawn by
Mrs. Yoya Vallee (Paris, France).
Due to the higher sattvikta in fruit, it is offered to God in ritualistic worship.
In factory farms around the world, animals are very often treated as commodities just to be exploited for profit. In animal agriculture, this attitude has led to institutionalised animal cruelty, massive environmental destruction and resource depletion, and animal and human health risks. The following is a video from Farm Sanctuary which shows abuse of animals.
From a spiritual perspective it is a sin to ill-treat and slaughter animals. Refer to section 3.3.
Some customs and religions in the world require that an animal be slaughtered in a particular way else it is not permitted to be eaten by that community. In slaughter houses it is common practice to stun animals with an electric shock or by use of a captive bolt pistol. This renders the animal unconscious prior to the body being hauled down a processing line where the carotid artery and jugular vein are severed with a knife. This action causes the blood to drain out and the animal dies through exsanguination.
In some communities however one of the requirements while slaughtering animals is that the arterial vein be cut without stunning the animal so that the animal bleeds to death. Only then is the meat permitted to be eaten. This bleeding to death can last for upto two minutes. Animal rights groups protest against this method as they say it is cruel and the animal feels a lot of pain. Spokespeople for these communities argue otherwise saying that there is no difference in the level of pain. They maintain that cutting the main arterial vein results in a sudden and quick hemorrhage. Due to a quick loss of blood pressure the brain is instantaneously starved of blood and there is no time to start feeling any pain. (Ref: BBC.com 2003)
When we did spiritual research into this issue we found that:
- When an animal dies it feels as much pain as humans do when killed. There may however be a difference in the comprehension of that pain depending on the evolvement of the mind and intellect of the animal. An animal’s life is mostly limited to food and sex, however a human being has many more aspects in life to which they have attachment, and hence human pain is much more.
- When slaughtered in the way that is required for the above-mentioned communities, the suffering of the animal has a significant increase. On a scale of 1 to 100, if 100 units is the pain experienced by an animal when it is killed slowly by cutting off parts of its' body, then,
- 30 units is the pain experienced by the animal when slaughtered by the normal method in slaughter houses.
- 50 units of pain is felt by animals slaughtered in accordance with the customs of the above-mentioned communities.
- As a result of the increase in pain, the subtle Tama component goes up in the meat. This is also partly caused by the animal having increased thoughts of anger towards the people killing it in a manner that is required by these communities.
The paradox is that while these communities slaughter animals in this method so that it is permissible as per their faiths, the spiritual impurity of the meat infact goes up and they ingest higher Tama predominant meat. The following subtle readings obtained through spiritual research indicate the same.
From the above readings we can see the increase in the tama component with a concomitant decrease in the Sattva component.
Yes, plants too experience pain when killed or when parts of it are severed. The comprehension of pain however is less than for animals. This is because the mind and intellect of a plant is rudimentary as compared to that of an animal. However, if a fruit or vegetable is plucked when it is fully ripe or has fallen from a tree, there is relatively no pain to the plant.
When grilling meat there are 3 generic ways of cooking it, i.e. rare, medium or well done. Rare is close to raw meat. It has a reddish centre and is cooked on the outside. On the other end is meat that is ‘well done’ that is charred on the outside, thoroughly brown and chewy on the inside.
People who like their steaks rare are more likely to be taken advantage of or possessed by ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies, etc.). This is because meat that is raw is the meat of preference by the demon type of negative energies. Steaks that are well done have less of theTama subtle component in it as compared to steaks that are cooked ‘rare’ to ‘medium’.
When Tama predominant food is ingested on a regular basis the body is burdened with an excess of the Tama component. A rise in Tamacomponent in a person has many negative side effects. This Tama component can only disintegrate if one is doing spiritual practice that is aligned to the six basic principles of spiritual practice. However, since most people do not do spiritual practice, this Tama component accumulates in a person’s body, mind and intellect.
If a person of an average spiritual level were to give up meat eating and become a vegetarian, it would take him approximately 30 years to overcome the effects of the higher subtle Tama component due to ingesting a Tama predominant non-vegetarian diet.
Even if a person is doing spiritual practice that is aligned with the six basic principles of spiritual practice, it would on average take him 5 years to overcome the ill-effects created by ingesting a Tama-predominant diet. This is if he gave up a non-vegetarian diet immediately and did spiritual practice (as per the six basic principles) of 4-5 hours a day. If he were to gradually give up a non-vegetarian diet it would take him 10 years to overcome the ill-effects of ingesting the higher Tama-predominant meat diet.
The function of canine teeth for human beings is to tear food. Proponents of a non-vegetarian diet maintain that God has given us canine teeth for a meat-based diet. This is no argument. It is like saying just that because we have nails we should scratch others as animals do. Just because humans have canines it doesn’t mean that they should eat meat.
From a spiritual perspective the purpose of a human birth is to attain God Realisation. The key difference between human beings and animals is that only human beings have developed minds and intellects that can be channeled towards saattvik activities to propel themselves towards God-realisation. Accordingly, it is spiritually recommended that people do not copy what carnivorous animals do and eat.
Some communities refrain from having onions and garlic. What is the spiritual perspective on this? Onions and garlic have a higher proportion of the subtle Rajacomponent. It is for this reason, as per the science of Ayurveda, that a diet with garlic and onions is recommended to improve a person’s appetite. The increased Rajacomponent from eating onion and garlic in moderation is very quickly overcome by the increase in Sattva component of a person doing medium (4-5 hours) to intense spiritual practice (10-12 hours).
- Cow’s milk, when consumed, helps to increase a person's Sattva component. Out of all types of milk, the milk from a cow is the mostsaattvik.
- Curd and butter milk are less saattvik than milk
- When other items are prepared from milk (especially through the process of spoiling milk such as in the making of cottage cheese) it starts reducing the Sattva component and increasing the subtle Tama component.
By eating a non-vegetarian diet, since there is an increase in Tama component, it is more likely to cause various diseases.
The increase in the Tama component from a non-vegetarian diet leads to an increase in thoughts relating to various desires and other taamasikthoughts such as sexual thoughts, greed, anger, etc.
- The higher proportion of Sattva component in a vegetarian diet is conducive for spiritual practice.Example: Matthew is at the 30% spiritual level. He begins to do 4-5 hours of spiritual practice on a daily basis as per the 6 basic principles. All factors being equal, if he were to choose to be vegetarian, he would reach the spiritual level of 40% 20 years faster than if he consumed a non-vegetarian diet.For God Realisation, we need to transcend the 3 subtle components. Therefore through spiritual practice we have to go beyond our likes and dislikes, as they are made up of the 3 subtle components. This happens for all practical purposes beyond the 90% spiritual level. After this level what one ingests makes no difference to the proportion of the 3 subtle components in us.
- By having a higher Tama predominant non-vegetarian diet, a person is more prone to attacks by ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies, etc.). All things being equal, a person who eats meat is 20% more likely to be possessed by ghosts than a vegetarian. The reason is that meat is a food group that is liked by demonic forces. Seekers who, as their spiritual practice, serve to spread Spirituality in society, are even more prone to being affected when ingesting non-vegetarian food. This is because higher-level ghosts take advantage of the increase in the Tama subtle component to trouble them.
- Do we incur a sin by eating non-vegetarian food?The answer is yes, we incur a sin when we kill anything be it animals or plants. Also, we inadvertently become party to the sin of any ill-treatment of animals in factory farms and slaughterhouses by eating their meat. People who eat the meat become party to that sin, albeit not as much as the person doing the ill-treating and the killing. People who work in factory farms incur 70% of the sin while the people who eat the meat incur 30% of the sin. In many cases people who work in slaughterhouses are possessed by ghosts and this is one of the reasons for their callous attitude towards animals. The workers get possessed by ghosts because their jobs are in alignment with the preferences of ghosts (demons, devils, negative energies, etc.).The sin in killing plants is much less than in killing animals, as the plants' comprehension of pain is far less due to their rudimentary mind and intellect.However, if we are doing medium to intense spiritual practice (as per the six basic principles of spiritual practice) we nullify this sin by our daily spiritual practice. Since almost all people do not do spiritual practice in the true sense of the word, these sins do not get nullified. The sin incurred in killing plants and animals is however much less than killing human beings. The reason is that humans have the potential to realise God, and by killing them we take away that opportunity. Among all animals the cow is the most sattvik and the sin incurred when killing animals is maximum when killing a cow.
- When a person grows to the spiritual level of 60%, whether his diet is non-vegetarian or vegetarian makes much less of a difference. This is because, from a spiritual growth perspective, the value of his ability to chant with spiritual emotion far outweighs what his diet is. As per spiritual science, when we compare the two factors on a relative scale, for a person at the 60% spiritual level:
- The subtle Sattva component of a person eating vegetarian food increases by 0.0001 %.
- However, if one chants with spiritual emotion then the subtle Sattva component increases by 5%.
However what happens is that as a person’s spiritual level grows they become more Sattva predominant. Concurrently they are more sensitive and averse to the tama component in non-vegetarian food. As a result, people at higher spiritual levels are generally vegetarian as they feel distress when eating non-vegetarian food.
- If one is unable to give up meat it is recommended that at least during the following times one must abstain from it. The various times are sunrise, sunset, during an eclipse, at night, two days before and after and during full moon and new moon days. At all these times ghosts are more active and can take advantage of the heightened Raja-Tama in the environment. (We have included sunrise even though it is considered a saattvik time as there is still some influence of the darkness which is Tama predominant.)
- If one is serious about one’s spiritual practice, it is recommended that one only have a vegetarian diet.