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Unveiling the Truth: Myths, Facts, and Reality of Vegetarianism Vs Non-Vegetarianism"

My friends, today i am going to talk about the most discussed, the most debated, the most mythical topic of them all. Is vegetarianism good for us or is Non vegetarianism good? What are the facts, myths and reality, what exactly is told in the great epics and scriptures of sanatana dharma about this, and are there any commandments given to Hindus in these ancient scriptures. This is one of the most vital facts and myths which i want to debunk to the benefit of many, who have wrong notions about facts. This is a topic which elicits a multiplicity of views based on Health, environment, ethics and religious beliefs. Lets dive into the ancient texts and their references on vegetarianism.

Vedas , Bhagavad-Gita and Manusmriti

Vegetarianism has always been widespread in India, this is evident from the earliest Vedic texts, which unambiguously support the meatless way of life. The Mahabharata says "the foolish person who eats the meat of animals must be considered the vilest of human beings." The Manusmriti declares " should ‘refrain from eating all kinds of meat, for such eating involves killing and leads to karmic bondage [Manusmriti, 5.49]".

Also, The Bhagavad-gita explains as below,

The Bhagavad Gita classifies food into three categories

1) Sattvic

2) Rajasic (energizing) and

3) Tamasic (dull)

Sattva or sattvic means pure in Sanskrit. Adopting a Sattvic diet calms, purifies and energizes the mind and body by flushing out toxins and ensures longevity and health. The principle of Sattvic diet is to avoid consuming food before sunrise and after sunset.

Sattvic diet lays emphasis on consuming freshly cooked, light and easy-to-digest food items preferably at room temperature. Ayurvedic principles always stress on eating well cooked food instead of raw food items. Cooking the food removes germs or infections and also makes it easy for digestion.

A Sattvic food list includes products such as moong, legumes, green beans, fresh coriander, turmeric/haldi, rice, barley, pomegranates, grapes, apples, oranges, guavas, Indian spices such as cinnamon, Hing/Asafoetida, roasted nuts and seeds, fresh fruit, curd and buttermilk, homemade ghee/clarified butter, honey, coconut oil, sesame oil etc. Regular consumption of a Sattvic diet helps develop and re-build strong body tissues.

Rajasic foods are foods which create passion or inflames desire for material things.

A Rajasic food list includes chilies, black peppers, radish, tomatoes, capsicum, cauliflower, dates, guava, lemon, apple, bananas, peanuts, rajma/kidney beans, red lentils, sunflower seeds, corn, millet, oats, cheese, paneer, sunflower oil, garlic, olives, fermented foods like idli, salt, coffee, tea etc.

Tamasic comes from the Sanskrit word ‘tamas’ meaning dark or unpalatable. A diet that is harmful to the health of our mind, body and soul, as it drains the vital energy from the body, increases stress and anxiety levels, is considered tamasic. Tamsic food items are heavy to digest, dull the senses, cause sleepiness, incite anger and cause a lot of aggressive and violent tendencies in the individual

A Tamasic food list includes almost all non vegetarian diet starting from Egg, vegetable oil, urad dal, black dal, white sugar, chicken, fish, goat, lamb, beef etc.

In Bhagavad-Gita, Krishna explains Arjuna about these three kinds of foods, but he only tells about the consequence that a man faces by taking these foods, he never insisted a human to eat only certain type of food. However, such great wisdom that Krishna has given us , has been taken as a grant or a boon by people and we keep continuing our violence against animals.

Similarly another text, Manu smriti says as below,

"Manu Smriti (5.49) asserts that the act of consuming meat involves killing and consequent karmic bondage (Jha, 1999)." The Atharva Veda, in line with this, denounces the consumption of meat and eggs due to the inherent violence in procuring such food.

Another great science of ancient India known as Ayurveda clearly highlights as below"

According to Ayurveda, in order to experience swasthya or best health, the human body needs to have the right mental, physical and emotional balance. Ayurveda states that dashavidha pariksa or proper functioning of ten factors including genetic constitution (prakriti), age (vaya), geographical location (desa), body tissues (dhatus/dusya), five senses (panchindriyas), strength (bala), metabolic or digestive system (agni), seasons (ritus/kaal), disposition (sattva), acclimatization (satmya) and food (ahara) determines the health and wellbeing of an individual.

The Law of Ahimsa

Hindu or Sanatana philosophy recognises the sanctity of all life forms. It acknowledges the unavoidable acts of 'essential violence', such as killing microorganisms while breathing. However, it draws a distinct line between such violence and the 'nonessential violence' of killing animals for food, which involves a greater degree of suffering and pain.

The Law of non-injury (Ahimsa) equally applicable to humans and animals is the Hindu’s first duty in fulfilment of his religious obligations to God and God’s creation as defined by the Vedic scripture.

The Law of Karma

Since Hinduism believes that all our actions including our choice of food have “karmic” consequences; one must in the future experience the same amount of suffering inflicted on the creatures, even indirectly by eating their meat.

The Law of Spiritual Progress

What we ingest affects our consciousness, emotions and experiential patterns. By ingesting animal meat, one introduces into the body and mind anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, suspicion and terrible fear of death, all of which are locked into the flesh of butchered creatures.

The Law of Ecological Balance

Many of the world’s massive ecological problems e.g. global warming, loss of soil, loss of rainforests and species extinctions have been traced to the single fact of meat in the human diet.

Raising livestock for their meat is a very inefficient way of generating food. Pound for pound, far more resources must be expanded to produce meat than to produce grains, fruits and vegetables. The short-term gain ignores the long-term irreplaceable harm to the earth’s ecosystem. want more proof, check the image below, which clearly shows that primary source of deforestation in the world is due to producing more and more meat.

Health Implications

Here, i will cite Various studies that have suggested that meat consumption is linked with a higher risk of certain diseases like cancer (Larsson and Wolk, 2006).

Furthermore, the digestion time of meat is considerably longer in the human body, i.e; Meat putrifies rapidly so it has to be expelled rapidly, that’s why animals have small intestines. It comes in and goes out. Human intestines are 10 times the body length. When meat remains in the intestine for so long , it causes disease.. Vedas say, it’s a choice that you make based on what our goals and aspirations are (Goraya and Bajwa, 2015). Our dental structure also seems more suited to a plant-based diet, with grinding molars as opposed to carnivorous canines, indicating our evolutionary preference for a herbivorous diet (Curnoe, 2012).

Vegetarianism and the World Religion

Steven Rosen, in his famous book ‘Vegetarianism and the World Religion’ says: “Despite popular knowledge of meat-eating’s adverse effects, the non-vegetarian diet became increasingly widespread among Hindus after two major invasions by foreign powers, first the Muslim and later the British. Those actually trained in Vedic knowledge, however, never adopted a meat-oriented diet, and the pious Hindu still observes vegetarian principles as a matter of religious duty.”

Modern Context and Debate

I remember since i was a kid, there always used to be a debate between my friends who ate meat and me (a vegetarian) as to which is right and why, as years progressed and more knowledge is gained, i try to decode the reasons for why we should not consume animal meat and why we can consume plants as our dietary choice. If you see the picture below it clearly derives the perception of pain in ekendriya jiva ( means living things which have only 1 sense) similarly, dwindriya jiva, (having 2 senses) treindriya jiva ( meaning living being having 3 senses) and so on. So when we eat an animal, it has 5 sense perceptions which is equal to what a human being feels while he has pain and Plants, which have less perception of pain can be eaten (which has a factor of 1 in the picture below) and animals shouldnt be eaten since they have high perception of pain and they are entangled in all 5 senses just like a human being. Plants do not have nervous system. So they do not have sensations like how animals have.

Today, a significant number of Hindus consume meat, a shift largely attributed to the influence of foreign invasions (Rosen, 1997). However, Hinduism, unlike many other religions, doesn't impose rigid commandments. It offers wisdom and leaves the choice to individuals, with the notable exception of a firm prohibition on beef consumption.

Globally, the trend towards vegetarianism and veganism is on the rise due to ethical, environmental, and health concerns. Even in India, where vegetarian traditions are deeply entrenched, the number of vegetarians, particularly among the younger generation, is increasing (Statista, 2021).

In essence, the vegetarianism versus non-vegetarianism debate is complex and multifaceted. From a Hindu spiritual standpoint, vegetarianism is seen as superior due to principles like Ahimsa, Karma, and wisdom derived from ancient texts. However, the choice ultimately hinges on individual understanding, beliefs, and values

Thanks for reading :)

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Sep 03, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Great insights even referring to Manu Smriti and Jiva concept. Loved reading it.


Sep 03, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

Beautiful insights, nice explanation !! keep writing more often


Navanish Eshwar
Navanish Eshwar
Sep 02, 2023
Rated 5 out of 5 stars.

thanks for such a wonderful article, explains how simple it is to understand things… beautifully written.

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