Sri Swami Sivananda

This article is a chapter from the book “Bliss Divine”.
Three Kinds of Diet
Stress on Moral and Spiritual Values
Meat Diet Generates Diseases
Flesh-eating Involves Cruelty
Abolish Slaughter-houses


Sage Uddalaka instructs his son Svetaketu: “Food when consumed, becomes threefold. The gross particles become the excrement, the middling ones flesh, and the fine ones the mind. My child, when curd is churned, its fine particles which rise upwards form butter. Thus, my child, when food is consumed, the fine particles which rise upwards form the mind. Hence, verily, the mind is food”.

Three Kinds of Diet

Diet is of three kinds, viz., Sattvic diet, Rajasic diet, and Tamasic diet. In the Bhagavad-Gita, Lord Krishna says to Arjuna: “The food which is dear to each is threefold. The food which increases vitality, energy, vigour, health, and joy and which are delicious, bland, substantial, and agreeable are dear to the pure. The passionate persons desire foods that are bitter, sour, saline, excessively hot, pungent, dry, and burning, and which produce pain, grief, and disease. The food which is stale, tasteless, putrid, rotten, and impure, is dear to the Tamasic”.

Milk, barley, wheat, cereals, butter, cheese, tomatoes, honey, dates, fruits, almonds, and sugar-candy are all Sattvic food-stuffs. They render the mind pure and calm and play a very important part in the practices of spiritual aspirants, in the mental development of the student, and in the personality- power of the leaders of mankind. Fish, eggs, meat, salt, chillies, and asafoetida are Rajasic food-stuffs; they excite passion and make the mind restless, unsteady, and uncontrollable. Beef, wine, garlic, onions, and tobacco are Tamasic food-stuffs. They exercise a very unwholesome influence on the human mind and fill it with emotions of anger, darkness, and inertia.

Stress on Moral and Spiritual Values

No doubt, animal diet may produce a strong Sandow, or a dauntless soldier, or a keen, brainy scientist. But, in the Hindu view of life, the real value is placed upon the moral and spiritual worth of the man.

Man is more than just body and mind; he is essentially an ever-perfect, ever- pure, and ever-free spirit in his true inner nature. Human birth is given as an opportunity and a means to attain this sublime knowledge of his inner spiritual nature and to regain his divinity. In this process, all grossness and animalistic tendencies have to be totally eliminated from the human personality. Non-vegetarian diet, which is gross and animal by its very nature, is a great hindrance to this process. Whereas, pure Sattvic diet is a great help to the refinement of the human nature.

The chemical components of different foods vibrate at varying rate. Each particle of food is a mass of energy. The intake of certain food-stuffs sets up discordant vibrations in the physical body which throw the mind into a state of oscillation and disequilibrium. Concentration of mind is rendered difficult and high thinking is disturbed, because elevating thoughts imply fine vibrations.

Meat Diet Generates Diseases

Meat generates diseases, excites passions, and produces restlessness of mind. Scientists are coming to the conclusion that there are, in meat, certain things which are absolutely poisonous. A very large number of medical men who have studied the subject of diet in relation to health are forbidding their patients to eat animal flesh, not only as a means of cure for such diseases as gout, rheumatism, etc., but also as a preventive against uric- acid ailments and diseases of many kinds, including consumption, cancer, and appendicitis.

Meat is not at all necessary for the keeping up of perfect health, vigour, and vitality. On the contrary, it is highly deleterious to health; it brings in its train a host of ailments such as tapeworm, albuminuria, and other diseases of the kidneys. In large meat-eating countries, cancer mortality is admittedly very high.

Flesh-Eating Involves Cruelty

Moreover, flesh-eating involves the exercise of cruelty which is not an elevating virtue. It is a bestial quality which degrades man. Cruelty is condemned by all great men. Pythagoras condemned meat diet an sinful food. The cruel slaughter of animals and the taking of innocent lives which flesh- eating entails makes it abhorrent to all right thinking men and women all over the world.

Butchery and blood-shed is a great disgrace to civilisation and culture. Killing of animals for food is a great blunder; and the mentality it engenders is fraught with potential dangers for the life of humanity, a recognition of which made George Bernard Shaw say that as long as men torture and slay animals and eat their flesh, we shall have war.

Abolish Slaughter-Houses

If you want to stop taking mutton, fish, etc., just see with your own eyes the pitiable, struggling condition of the animals at the time of killing. Now mercy and sympathy will arise in your heart. You will determine to give up flesh-eating. If you fail in this attempt, just change your environment and live in a vegetarian hotel where you cannot get mutton and fish, and move in that society where there is only vegetable diet. Always think of the evils of flesh-eating and the benefits of a vegetarian diet. If this also cannot give you sufficient strength to stop this habit, go to the slaughter- house and the butcher’s shop and personally see the disgusting, rotten muscles, intestines, kidneys and other nasty parts of the animals which emits bad smell. This will induce Vairagya (dispassion) in you and a strong disgust and hatred for meat-eating. (Click here if you feel you need to see scenes from a slaughter-house to induce dispassion for meat. If you can’t stomach pictures, you can read about one person’s visit to a slaughter-house.)

All slaughter-houses should be abolished, and the use of animal flesh as food should be absolutely given up. Flesh-eating is unnecessary, unnatural, and unwholesome. The countless instances of reputed philosophers, authors, scholars, athletes, saints, Yogins, Rishis who lived on vegetable diet conclusively prove that vegetarian diet produces supreme powers both of mind and body, and is highly conducive for divine contemplation and practice of Yoga.

Man is created a frugivorous or fruit-eating creature. This scientific fact is evident on a comparison with the carnivorous animals from whom he differs completely in respect of his internal organs, teeth, and external appearances, whereas, anatomically, he is most intimately allied to the anthropoid apes whose diet consists of fruits, cereals, and nuts.

When man abandons flesh foods and takes his nutrient direct from nature’s hand, of well-ripe and healthy fruits and grains, nuts and vegetables with addition of honey, cheese and milk, we shall find a large number of diseases disappearing. People will have more power of endurance and attain longevity.

What is needed is a well-balanced diet, not a rich diet. A rich diet produces diseases of the liver, kidneys, and pancreas. A well-balanced diet helps a man to grow, to turn out more work, increases his body-weight, and keeps up efficiency, stamina, and a high standard of vim and vigour.

People who are slaves to the flesh-eating habit cannot give up animal diet, because they have become confirmed and inveterate meat-eaters, and hence they try to justify their habit by various arguments and statistics. One cannot change their ways merely by argumentation and disputation. Ultimately, it is only the force of personal example that has a strong effect upon the people around you.

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