Contention of the non-vegitarians for living on animal flesh is that a person become brave after eating flesh, – in fact is flaw. For bravery has nothing to do with physical strength. It is rather co-related with the strong Will, which is acquired by concentrating on the Divine Power through recitation of the Divine Name. Such power takes a man beyond the fear of death, placing his faith in God, the moral courage to face up to both the enemies within, i.e. craving for the sensual pleasures, which includes flesh eating and the enemy without —the foe on the battlefield. Guru affirms that he, whose heart is filled with Divine Name, becomes as powerful as an army tens of millions strong men.
For Sikhs, the phrase ‘Char(h)di Kalaa’ i.e indomitable power refers to the inner holy strength of man and not to the might of his physical body.
The Sikh heroes of olden times had immense physical strength, fortitude, willingness to make sacrifices for the divine cause and the spiritual strength to embrace death through martyrdom —all these to a prodigious degree, solely because they strictly avoided meat, alcohol and other substances held taboo. Strong both in body and mind, they were upstanding individuals who always would keep their words. Pre-eminent among the honoured ranks of martyrs in the cause of Truth, Guru Arjun expounds he alone can be held valiant, in whose heart has bloomed love of God by shedding five vices. By the grace of the Divine Master (Guru), the ‘seeker after truth’ after eradication of his ego completely gains dominion over the whole world:
ਜਾ ਕਉ ਹਰਿ ਰੰਗੁ ਲਾਗੋ ਇਸੁ ਜੁਗ ਮਹਿ ਸੋ ਕਹੀਅਤ ਹੈ ਸੂਰਾ ॥
ਆਤਮ ਜਿਣੈ ਸਗਲ ਵਸਿ ਤਾ ਕੈ ਜਾ ਕਾ ਸਤਿਗੁਰੁ ਪੂਰਾ ॥੧॥
Jā ka▫o har rang lāgo is jug mėh so kahī▫aṯ hai sūrā.
Āṯam jiṇai sagal vas ṯā kai jā kā saṯgur pūrā. ||1|| (SGGS – 679)
“He alone is called a divine courageous one, who is completely immersed in the Divine wisdom in this age. With the blessings of his Divine Master (Guru), he realizes the Divine within and thus conquers the world in spiritual way through which everything comes under his control because of his Master who is completely Divine and as such is the controller of the whole Universe”
In addition to the above quality, Sikhs of olden times were imbued with divine power by the grace of Almighty and about whom it was widely believed that they measured up to Guru Gobind Singh’s proud assertion:
ਸਵਾ ਲਾਖ ਸੇ ਏਕ ਲੜਾਉਂ।
Savaa laakh s-ai aik larhaaoo(n).
“A legion of a hundred thousand and a quarter strong shall I make a lone warrior of mine to take on”
Sikh history records many instances when small bands of fearless Sikhs fought and routed the huge mighty Mughal forces whose diet was almost completely meat.
Eating meat feeds sensual desires and progressively weakens a man, in both mind and body. Not only is he then unable to wrestle with the five evils within —lust, anger, greed, attachment and arrogance (pride); but the fear of death also grips him that he lacks the tenacity to battle it out with the enemy. An individual, family group, community or nation that gives in to evil temptations and allows themselves to be enslaved by the pleasures of the flesh and become indolent, eventually go down on the road to ruin with the passage of times. As a result, sooner or later, they are overpowered by the conqueror.
Baba Banda Singh Bahadur was renowned among his enemies for his bravery. Having won resounding victories in battles over a short span of seven years, his name struck terror in the hearts of his adversaries. Needless to say, Babaji and his entire band of fearless warriors were vegetarians. Over the entire span of Sikh history, all spiritual masters bearing various titles —Atamdarshi (Divine person),Mahapurash (revered souls), Gurmukh (divinely realised one). GurSikh (devout Sikh i.e. ‘seeker after truth’) eschewed meat and forbade others too from eating it. To name just a few: Bhai Nand Lal, the five beloved ones, Bhai Kanneyia, Baba Deep Singh, Bhai Mani Singh, Bhai Taru Singh, Bhai Sukha Singh and Mehtab Singh, Baba Bir Singh of Aurangabad, Baba Maharaj Singh, Baba Khuda Singh, Baba Sham Singh of Amritsar, Baba Karam Singh of Hoti Mardan (now in Pakistan), Sant Attar Singh of Mastuana, Sant Attar Singh of Reru Sahib, Baba Nand Singh of Kaleran, Baba Gurmukh Singh (Kar Sewa wale), Bhai Randhir Singh (founder of the Akhand Kirtani Jatha), Baba Jawala Singh of Harkhowal, Baba Jhanda Singh, Baba Harnam Singh of Naushera, Baba Harnam Singh of Rampur Khera, Baba Isher Singh Rare Wale, Baba Sundar Singh and Baba Gurbachan Singh of the Damdami Taksal, none of these revered souls as well as their associates and followers ever ate meat. This tradition continues even today. Neither Baba Sri Chand (son of Guru Nanak) nor Baba Gurditta (son of Guru Hargobind) ate meat nor do their Udasi followers do so, even today, take meat. Nirmala Sikhs too, who are adherents of the Nirmala denomination founded by Guru Gobind Singh, eat no meat.
Meat is Not Essential for a Strong Physique
God has created a vide variety of nutritious vegetarian food for man. And so, eating meat goes against what Nature intended. There are only two exceptions for including meat in the diet.
Firstly, if vegetarian food is not available, which is the case in many snowbound areas in the world and secondly for the sensual pleasure. The simple truth is that a vegetarian diet easily meets our daily nutritional requirements. There is no compelling reason for anyone, including children and the elderly to eat meat. Meat-eaters constitute just one-sixth of all mankind. Meat is not at all essential to maintain a strong physique. Indeed, on reflection, certain interesting facts come to light:
1) Men who eat meat are unable to digest it well and succumb to many physical and mental ailments. Generally cancer, arthritis (joint diseases), osteoporosis, high blood pressure, inflammation of the intestine and disorders of the kidney and lungs are the diseases non-vegetarian men readily fall prey to.
2) Eating meat weakens the digestive system and leads to a chronic deficiency of calcium.
3) Animal fat is rich in cholesterol which plays a large role in the causation of heart disease. Research has established thatvegetarian diet can reduce the clogging of arteries by up to 97%.
4) From earliest times when man first appeared on Earth — flowers, fruits and vegetables formed his staple diet. Walker an anthropologist, who has worked extensively on the dentition of early man, has proven that humanoids four million years ago lived on fruit and vegetables.
5) Charles Darwin, the renowned biologist and investigator too, believed that earliest man survived on green berries and wild fruit etc. What applied to early man applies equally to modern man.
Modern research has shown that vegetarian food is easy to digest, which is why vegetarians are less disease prone. Vegetarians enjoy healthy lives, live long, have strong teeth and need to visit a doctor less often. And, of course, they spend much less on their medical bills compared to non-vegetarians. The body of a vegetarian is pure and perfect, blessed and sacred. A large part of our national income is spent on the prevention of disease, while this prevention can easily be achieved by fostering the vegetarian way of life. It is recorded that the seven longest-lived humans in the history were vegetarians; and they have testified that the secret of the longevity was a vegetariandiet:
Their names and ages are as follows:- Kamele Toza from America – 187 years old – Peters Jortan from Hungary, 185 years old – Henry Jonkin from Parkshier, 161 years old, Joeseph Rington from Italy, 160 years old- Thomaspar from England, 152 years old – Lady Catherine Countess Desmans,136 years old, and Joanathan Harport,136 years old.
If we survey the old history of India intensively, we can find that many persons having only vegetarian diet have crossed more than 150 years of age especially in the villages and Himalayan region. There is a legend that Sidhas (Ascetics) increased the age withvegetarian diet and breath control to over thousand years. The Bharthari who was a King, renounced the world in search of God and became the disciple of Gorakhnath, a renowned Sidha (ascetic) of the then era.
Since, Bharthari was having deep craving to realize the Divine within, he could not do so through these ascetic ways. When he had the company of Guru Nanak at Achal Batala, he realized that Divine truth is much beyond the occult powers, which the Sidhas (ascetics) used to perform to allure the common population to become their devotees. Thus, Bharthari an ascetic, who was having urge to realise the Divine within, became the follower of Guru Nanak at Achal Batala, Punjab. History narrates that he was 1400 years old at that time. It proves, that for longevity and good health, vegetarian diet is enough and meat eating is only like inviting diseases and it is considered that the persons who indulged in flesh food heavily, their ages are much more reduced according to the recent studies conducted in Canada.
View Point of the Guru on Meat Eating
More than three centuries back, while creating a new order of humanity to tread on the divine path which was known as, theKhalsa, Guru Gobind Singh pronounced that besides keeping hair of the body intact, the baptized disciple (Khalsa) should not take any kind of flesh food and should not have illicit relations with any woman other than his wife and vice versa as they are the greatest hurdles to tread on divine path. As such, for the Khalsa i.e. holy disciple, it is a great hurdle to tread on the divine path. Whosoever consumes flesh food is considered as an apostate, who does not obey the instruction of the Divine Master for his spiritual upliftment.
Now, it has been established on the spiritual and scientific basis that meat-eating distracts the mind from treading on the divine path and arouses passion while invoking various kind of diseases i.e. blood pressure, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, stroke, H5N1 Avian Flu, Mad Cow disease etc. Along with the eastern countries, in western society of materialism also, the enlightened people also follow thevegetarian diet in huge numbers, renouncing meat eating as it is injurious to health. Having illicit relation with other’s spouse creates awful diseases. Due to the spread of this deadly disease, doctors and scientists have estimated that within 20-25 years up to 25 crores of population will face death due to this disease in India alone. More than 300 years ago, Guru Gobind Singh told the humanity not to indulge in smoking and other deadly drugs. Now countries across the world including India have banned smoking in all the public places. Similarly all the governments of the world are striving hard to check the indulgence of deadly drugs.
Now, throughout the world many vegetarian societies have been established which propagate among the masses; the harms in the form of various diseases, caused by taking flesh food. Most of the Indian population is vegetarian, but now the westerners are also becoming vegetarians on a large scale due to various diseases caused by taking flesh food. But Guru Gobind Singh told the masses, especially to his followers, not to take flesh food (Kutha). Now the edict of Guru Gobind Singh is being followed by quite large numbers of the world’s population. If this population (vegetarian) would read the interpretation of meat by so-called scholars of Sikhs today, they would not only be surprised but would become dumbfounded on this interpretation.
The days are not far away, when the wise governments of the world would ban the consumption of flesh food, which creates many diseases on the same basis of banning smoking on all the public places.
Thus, the four cardinal sins, as expounded by Guru Gobind Singh more than 300 years ago, are being followed by almost all the governments of the world. All the vegetarian societies of the world are spreading the message of Guru Gobind Singh not to take flesh food, which might be accepted by all the governments of the world with the passage of time.
Are we by nature vegetarian or non-vegetarian
Evolution of Man and Vegetarianism
Human ancestors evolved over a period of about 24 million years. The archeological findings indicate that human beings wereoriginated from East Africa. The most recent finding is that of Lucy’s skeleton in Ethiopia dated 3.2 million years.
The microscopic wear tear and pattern of the teeth of many skeletons of prehistoric man found in Africa, indicates that humanbeings mostly ate fruits, seeds, grains, nuts and grasses. The traditional interpretation that “the humankind’s evolution reflects its needs as a hunting carnivore” is disapproved. In fact, over the entire period of human evolution of 24 million years, the humans have been vegetarianfor more than 22.5 million years. There is no doubt that humanity came into being, sustained on a diet that was almost wholly vegetarian.
Killing is not natural to human beings and it does not fit either with their physical or dietary nature. The ways and means of hunting and killing were devised, simply through necessity and the urge to survive. Meat became part of the human diet, when he discovered fire and learned to cook. As the human population grew, some of the human tribes migrated to cold temperate regions with less vegetation aroundthem, thus forcing them to consume meat.
With the settlement of human society, agriculture was developed, which encouraged human beings to become more and morevegetarian. In Israel, about 33,000 years ago, humans used to gather and roast wild cereals. In Egypt, stone pestle and mortars used to grind wild tubers and roots have been found dated as early as 20,000 years. The first sign of agriculture found in northern Israel, dates back 13,000 years. Flint sickle blades have been unearthed, which used to cut wild barley and emmer wheat.
Controlling others’ lives, environment, hunting and killing other creatures seemed to be a symbolic gesture of power. As human society evolved, the sensation of this God like dominance and power encouraged humans to eat meat. The ruling elite began eating meat, as celebration meal of offering animals sacrifice to Gods. Meat consumption was conspicuous and a token of dominant power. The more, the cattle slaughtered, cooked and eaten the greater the man becomes lusty.
The consumption of meat coincides with the offering to Gods of a domesticated animal whose flesh was reserved for men, leaving to divinity the smoke of the calcined bones and the scent of spices burned for the occasion. Men received the meat because they wanted to eat meat and the Gods had the privilege of smells, perfumes and other incorruptible substances. Under the garb of taking meat the animal sacrifices assumed spiritual significance.
Rulers and chiefs of Greece used to take flesh food regularly whereas the workers, laborers and peasants were to eat meat only on public festivals. There were sacrifices to the Gods officiated by the priests. The first animal ever sacrificed was a pig. In that system, the Gods were honored, the community expressed its solidarity and a rare chance to eat meat became visibly prevalent.
In spite of infiltration of religious rituals leading to meat eating practice, there were many sects worldwide that which maintained thevegetarian way of life. The advent of agriculture and abundant supply of vegetarian food made killing of animals for food unnecessary. Some of the priests began to abstain from meat. Thus began the practice of smelling the aroma of sacrifice ritual rather then eating meat. The vegetarian sect of priests in Egypt existed around 3200 BC.
Pythagoras and Vegetarianism
Pythagoras was a renowned Philosopher of science and mathematics and was also a pioneer in preaching on the vegetarian way of life. He was born in 580 BC in Samos in Turkey. Pythagoras first became the student of Pherekydes, who was one of the seven wise men. Pherekydes explained the world in natural terms and said that all life came from sea. He believed that everything is full of Gods and the soul is mingled with everything in the whole universe. He is credited with the doctrine of metempsychosis, which holds the human soul to be immortal passing on to another body, either human or animal after death.
Pythagoras developed mathematical skills, which he put to work in solving practical problems – the height of a pyramid or the distance of a ship as seen from the shore. Pythagoras was the first musical numerologist who laid down the foundations of acoustics, discovering the connection between the pitch of a note and the length of a string.
Pythagoras pursued the philosophy of soul, life and death, which was inherently bound by the Pythagorean diet. Pythagoras was the first one to promulgate a dogma of existence of soul. Pythagoras saw the soul as an abstract concept beyond all material metaphors. He believed that the soul was immortal and could be transformed into other living creatures. All life form therefore, should be treated as kindred. To kill and eat any living creature, whether they be birds, reptile of fish, was to murder one’s cousins and eat their flesh, for all people are reborn in the time flow, illusion caused by lost memory. Such rebirth could recur any number of times unless a person should succeed in breaking the vicious circle by strenuous ascetic performances.
Egyptians were the first to claim the idea of the transmigration of souls into living creatures, whether bird, mammal, fish or reptile, and all the priestly sects abstained from eating meat. Vegetarianism was visibly practiced in Egyptian and Roman times. Pythagoreanvegetarianism had its roots deep in Ancient Egypt itself.
Pythagoras was never seen to weep or laugh, he was neither relaxed and gleeful or depressed and glum. His was a man of inner serenity, of great strength, of intellect and character and was secure and rigorous in his own belief. He claimed knowledge of his own pre-existence and believed that through complete abstention from meat, all of us could recall previous lives. Pythagoras was slim, energetic through out his life and died at the age of 104.
Pythagoras abstained from meat and believed that more insubstantial the foods, the more the body was purified and closer it could come to Gods. Mallow and Asphodel were an important part of Pythagorean diet. Both these plants were primitive foods grown in Europe. They were thought to be miracle food, which could suppress hunger and thirst. Another Persian priest, Cretanseer Epimenides, each day took a pill of Mallow and Asphodel and lived for 299 years. The Pythagorean diet is ultimate and healthiest one. In order for the humans to escape the imprisonment of their bodies, the soul had to go through a cycle of incarnations. In the interval between incarnations the soul resides in Hades. To reach a final destiny from this endless cycle of incarnations, humans had to live an ascetic life full of restrictions including ceremonies of purifications, complete abstinence from meat and other rules similar to Pythagorean teachings.
Other Religions Also Practice Vegetarianism
Scriptures of religions all over the world have taught us to see a reflection of the Heavenly Father in every living being and have considered non-violence as the best religion. Most religions have detailed the harm done by eating meat and called it an enemy of the longevity and a cause of degradation. All the religions have prohibited the killing of any harmless and innocent living being. Some people who consider the satisfaction of their appetites the prime objective of their lives try to show, in pursuance of their self-interest and contrary to the teachings of their religious founders, that their religion does not prohibit meat-eating, but that is untrue.
Hinduism: Gabriel Cousens in Conscious Eating and Steve Rosen in Food For The Spirit, have precisely concluded that Hinduism is the oldest of all Asian religions, which has strongly maintained its vegetarian perspective, perhaps from the beginning of written history.
The wisdom of the vedas underlies a wide variety of spiritual paths, related to the practice of Hinduism. Also involved is the practice of avegetarian diet is the science of yoga and the science of Ayurvedic medicine that itself originates from the Vedas.
While other major world religions are traceable to one particular founder, Hinduism has its begning in such remote antiquity that it cannot be traced to any one individual. Its roots, however, are firmly planted in the ancient Vedic scriptues. The word “Hindu” is not actually found anywhere in the Vedic scriptures. The term was introduced by Muslims from neighboring Afghanistan, Baluchistan and Persia and referred to people living across the River Sindhu, a mountain range, which borders as India’s northwest province.
Jainism: Ahimsa is the most important principles of the Jain faith established by Lord Mahavira. The Jain scriptures list 108 forms of violence. Violence in thought and actions, indulging in violence one-self or getting others to use violence or abetting violence by others, are all forbidden. Even to contemplate violence is a sin. Violence is manifested in thought, word and deed. Even the utterances of words, which hurt another person is considered as a sin. In a religion where tying up of animals, causing hurt to them, overloading them or even keeping them in cages is considered sinful, the question of eating meat just does not arise.
Budhism: Gautam Budha who was sometimes also called Sidhartha started Budh Dharma. After attaining enlightenment he categorically prohibited his disciples from eating meat.
In the Lanka Avatar (a bodhi scripture), it is quoted that Budha said – “For the sake of love of purity, the bodhisattva should refrain from eating flesh. For fear of causing terror to living beings, let the bodhisattva, who is disciplining himself to attain compassion, refrain from eating flesh”.
Further he clarified “that even if the animal is not killed by a person who is eating meat, it is still inappropriate to eat meat”. Again, there may be some people in the future who, under the influence of the taste of meat, will put forward many sophisticated arguments to defend meat-eating, but meat-eating in any form, in any manner, and in any place is unconditionally, and once and for all, prohibited.
Budha propounded that “meat-eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, and will not permit”.
In the Surangama Sutra, a Bodhi scripture, it is written that Budha said: “After my parinirvana (supreme enlightenment) in the final kalpa (time era), different kinds of ghosts were encountered everywhere deceiving people and teaching them that they can eat meat and still attain enlightenment. How can a bhikshu (seeker) who hopes to become a deliverer of others, himself be living on the flesh of other sentient beings”?
The following quote from Mahaparinirvana Sutra, a bodhi scripture, sums up the importance of vegetarianism for Buddhism and perhaps all spiritual paths.