Vegetarian Diet, Going Green, and the World Religions
By James Bean
Copyright April 2008
All Rights Reserved
Climate Change, the Green Revolution, and Vegetarian Diet
The vegetarian diet is, quite literally, the Green diet. There is now a growing consensus that going vegetarian or, better still, vegan, is the most effective way to fight global warming. A 2006 United Nations report, said that raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. The meat industry is "one of the most significant contributors to today's most serious environmental problems." (Henning Steinfeld) Raising animals for food is one of the largest sources of carbon dioxide and the single largest source of both methane and nitrous oxide emissions. Producing one calorie of animal protein requires more than 10 times as much fossil fuel input --- releasing more than 10 times as much carbon dioxide --- than does a calorie of plant protein.
(See article titled, "It's Better to Green Your Diet Than Your Car," 17 Dec. 2005, www.NewScientist.com ).
The Diet of Ahimsa (an Eastern Term for Non-Violence)
The following passage, on the reason why many practitioners of various spiritual paths advocate following the vegetarian diet, is from the book, The Harmony of All Religions, published by Maharshi Mehi Ashram, Bihar, India:
"The saints have addressed violence with particular attention to the foods which are eaten. Foods which are produced by killing living beings, as well as foods which are not pure and fresh, are considered Tamsik. Consumption of these is prohibited by the teachings of the saints. This includes animal products such as meat, fish, and eggs. These foods inhibit the clarity of mind and the health of the body.
"Further, Kabir Sahab says: "The kind of food and drink which we consume directly influences how our mind will become. Even the quality of water which we drink will influence our speech." (Maharishi Santsevi Ji Paramahans Maharaj)
Many Masters of the East, Hindus, and various schools of yoga, divide foods into three basic categories: Satvik (pure), Rajsik (kingly), and Tamsik (impure). This last category of foods, which includes all flesh foods and eggs, is to be completely avoided. Satvik, the first category, consists of fresh, simple foods including: grains, beans, vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts, and dairy (minus eggs, fertile or infertile). Satvik foods promote mental clarity, relaxation, meditation, and spiritual experience including inner visions or Light mysticism. Rajsik represents very spicy, rich food, and Tamsik diet includes meat and liquor. These stimulate passions, promote mental agitation, and have an adverse effect upon concentration in meditation.
Kirpal Singh, New Delhi, India: "Those who take up the practices concerning the lower centers in the body, do take meat ........ but those who are anxious to rise above body consciousness and go into the Beyond have of necessity to eschew all that. This is the Path I have put before you. Liberation or salvation is something which starts only when you rise above body consciousness. For that reason, vegetarianism is the first essential." (The Night is a Jungle, published by Sant Bani Ashram of New Hampshire)
The harshest words that Guru Kabir, a great Master from Northern India (loved by Sufis, Sikhs, Jains, and Hindus alike), ever spoke were directed against the slaughter or consumption of innocent animals. Kabir says, "The man who eats meat is a demon in human form. Keep away from him -- his company will ruin your meditation."
According to many, the bad karma and other negative effects of flesh-eating apparently to some degree darkens one's inner vision, interfering with the quality of one's meditation, making it more difficult to reach the required deep levels of tranquility, clarity and concentration at the Third Eye Center (ajna chakra). It's interesting to notice that the Satvik diet of the Masters, of Hinduism and the Yoga Philosophy of India, is also: the life-extension diet, the anti-cancer diet, the low cholesterol diet, the diet to get the highest levels of antioxidants and most of the other plant-based nutrients, as well as the diet of the Light & Sound mystics, East and West.
East Meets West --- That's 'Meets', Not 'Meats'
The notion that vegetarianism is "cultural" and confined mostly to India is the inaccurate assumption of some. There are Christian denominations and organisations that encourage their members to adopt the vegetarian diet, including the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Also see the entry for the Christian Vegetarian Association (CVA) at www.Wikipedia.com Many early Christians were vegetarian, also Clement of Alexandria, Origen, John Chrysostom, and Basil the Great. In some early church writings, Matthew, Peter and James (Brother of Jesus and first leader of the Aramaic-speaking Jerusalem Church) were all vegetarian. According to the historian Eusebius, the Apostle "Matthew partook of seeds, nuts and vegetables, without flesh". Many monasteries in ancient times to the present practiced vegetarianism. Clement of Alexandria wrote, "It is far better to be happy than to have your bodies act as graveyards for animals."
Many conventional world religions here in the West condone flesh-eating, but if you do some comparative mysticism you'll soon discover that the esoteric traditions which have practiced Light mysticism, Sound mysticism, and Ascension mysticism through higher planes or heavens are quite consistent in their agreement about the need for contemplative mystics to abstain from the flesh. The list of Western vegetarian paths includes: the Pythagoreans, followers of the Hermetic philosophy of Egypt, the Sethians, Theraputae, Essenes (and other Light-mystics within Judaism), the original Jewish Christians called Ebionites (see The Gospel of Jesus -- In Search of His Original Teachings , John Davidson, published by Element Books, also Clear Press UK), the Gnostic religions, Manichaeans, some Catholic monasteries, some monasteries associated with the Orthodox Church -- including the great mystery school atop Mount Athos in Greece, and the Sufi mystics of Islam who practice Zikar of the Spirit, Light, and Sound. Most every path that advocates a present-tense spirituality, about re-entering Paradise or going Back to Eden during this life, adheres to a vegetarian diet!
The Vegetarian Prayer of Thanksgiving --- One of the "Lost Books" Unearthed at Nag Hammadi
This is a Hermetic prayer from one of the Gnostic gospels found in Egypt included in the Nag Hammadi Scriptures: www.Gnosis.org
This the prayer that they spoke:
"We give thanks to You!
Every soul and heart is lifted up to You,
undisturbed name, honored with the name 'God'
and praised with the name 'Father',
for to everyone and everything (comes) the fatherly kindness
and affection and love,
and any teaching there may be that is sweet and plain,
giving us mind, speech, (and) knowledge:
mind, so that we may understand You,
speech, so that we may expound You,
knowledge, so that we may know You.
We rejoice, having been illuminated by Your knowledge.
We rejoice because You have shown us Yourself.
We rejoice because while we are in (the) body,
You have made us divine through Your knowledge.
"The thanksgiving of the man who attains to You is one thing:
that we know You.
We have known You, intellectual Light.
Life of life, we have known You.
Womb of every creature, we have known You.
Womb pregnant with the nature of the Father,
we have known You.
Eternal permanence of the begetting Father,
thus have we worshiped Your goodness.
There is one petition that we ask:
we would be preserved in knowledge.
And there is one protection that we desire:
that we not stumble in this kind of life."
When they had said these things in the prayer, they embraced each other and they went to eat their holy food, which has no blood in it.*
* A vegetarian meal. This passage is also found in the Epilogue of Asclepius, in "HERMETICA," translated by Sir Walter Scott, published by Shambhala:
"Having prayed thus, let us betake ourselves to a meal unpolluted by flesh [animalia] of living things."
The G.R.S. Mead translation of the same passage in, Hermetica (Samuel Weiser Books, York Beach, Maine) says: "With this desire we now betake us to our pure and fleshless meal."
"With such hopes we turn to a pure meal that includes no living thing." (Asclepius, translated in "Hermetica", Brian Copenhaver, Cambridge University Press)
A Western Master of the Music of the Spheres by the name of Pythagoras once said, "Our Earth has abundance of such pure and harmless foods and there is no need for us to partake of meals for which blood has to be shed and innocent life sacrificed."