Yoga teachers don’t eat meat. ~ Yogita Chaitanya

Is the Dharma of animals to end up on our plate?

“Why do we call some “pets” and others ‘dinner?'”~ k.d. lang

“He who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” ~ Pythagoras

It has always made me feel somewhat uneasy whenever I hear serious studying Yogis, Yoginis and Yoga instructors alike speak about the culinary delights they whip up in the kitchen using their favourite meat, fish and egg dishes.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe everyone has the right to decide what they put in their bodies— except when you are an aspiring Yogi or Yoga teacher, then that option, if you have chosen the serious path to self-discovering—no longer exist for you.

So why exactly is being a vegetarian fundamental to a yogic lifestyle?

The answer is really quite simple and with no added conflict, it comes straight from the Yoga scriptures’ mouth:

Ahimsa paramo dharmah. Non-violence is the highest virtue.

Yoga in the traditional sense of the word has always meant the propagation of non-violence toward other beings—just as the Rishis, (the ancient wise men and seers) and the Vedic Scriptures have so eloquently stated; and that Patanjali Maharishi in the Yoga Sutras reinforces to us in the Yamas, (moral precepts) on the first of our 8-step journey towards Samadhi or Enlightenment.

In my opinion, non-violence is one if not the biggest and most important concept we as teachers need to promote among our students. When I speak of non-violence, I am not only conceiving this prospect in terms of refraining from the physical act of killing animals—but as a more subtle form of violence, the one that slips unwittingly into our minds firstly as seemingly innocent negative thoughts that are then somehow transformed into detrimental verbal words of expression…and before we know it, go a step further and manifest themselves as violent and aggressive actions.

Consequently, I am forced to rethink this chain of action and reaction, where it really begins, and the importance of maintaining our minds in a pure and wholesome state of consciousness. But how is this possible when we eat plates of violence stuffed with a delicious and tasty array of hormones, steroids, adrenaline and fear everyday for dinner?

If we teach our children and our students, through our example, that it is permissible to kill animals to satisfy our carnivorous cravings—mmmm, this is good—how are we supposed to teach them the sacred beauty of all living beings and the right of those beings to be able to live out their lives and their karma, just as we have the same right to do? How are we supposed to teach them about respect for others? And most importantly how are we supposed to communicate to them what Yoga really is?

So where does that leave all the Yoga teachers? How is it possible to teach Yoga without teaching Ahimsa? The first thing we must teach in Yoga is to be a vegetarian. Yoga frees our lives of suffering so that we may live in a better society not only for human beings, but for all beings (visible and not visible to us), so we may begin to act in Dharma (according to the universal laws, whatever our religion or spiritual practice), and this first step is to say no to consuming animals.

Anything that has a central nervous system—including fish, insects and animals—feels fear and this is why we should avoid eating them. And Dharma teaches us that we should be sensitive toward even the smallest particles and learn to see the divinity in the smallest expressions of nature so we can understand the immensity if life. If you are able to do this, then you are a true Yogi.

Surely Ahimsa includes refraining from eating animals that have been slaughtered, unfairly treated and slain on your behalf so you can enjoy a steak dripping in gravy and fill your eventually arthritic joints with uric acid?

Where is the dignity not only for the animals who have not been blessed like you with a voice to defend their lives…where is the dignity for we human beings looking for a way to fight against the glaringly unjust mistakes of a greedy, and consumerist world? Above all, where is our compassion, purity and your feeling of what is basically right and wrong? Have we lost our basic instinct to know this now? Or do we not really care anymore? As long as no one actually eats me, then there really is no problem. So it just basically comes down to the fact that our egos once again proudly reign.

You may think it doesn’t matter because you don’t actually kill anything directly, but if we are speaking about actions and reactions and the chain of karma, then you can consider yourself an accomplice to the crime, because by buying and consuming meat you support an inhumane industry that is hungry for victims.

A healthy body is a body filled with fresh foods, with prana (vital energy), food that nourishes, heals, regenerates and bestows happiness upon us. Foods that rot and fester within us (eggs, meat etc.) fill us with inertness and Tamas (low energy).

So you already know the healthy foods; fruits, vegetables, whole breads, pulses, rice, pasta, tofu etc. the list is endless and there is a veritable plethora of choice out there. Get reading, get wise, make your body work for you and not against you, find joy in a healthy diet that isn’t dependent on meat which we don’t actually need as a species to survive anyway.

So, do you still choose a plate of death over life? While you’re considering this prospect, I will leave you with some magnificent quotes by famous vegetarians to help inspire your change from living death to living life.

If slaughterhouses had glass walls, everyone would be a vegetarian. ~ Paul McCartney

We all love animals.  Why do we call some “pets” and others “dinner?”~ k.d. lang

I think if you want to eat more meat you should kill it yourself and eat it raw so that you are not blinded by the hypocrisy of having it processed for you. ~ Margi Clark

For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.” ~ Pythagoras

Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances of survival for life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet.
~ Albert Einstein

While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth? ~ George Bernard Shaw


Yogita Chaitanya (Ondine Savage) is a Yogini and Yoga instructor on the Art and Science of Living, Yogita expresses her gratitude to her Guruji, Swami Shankaratilakananda for being a beacon of inspiration, for his all encompassing knowledge, generosity, compassion, light and spirit which shines as her example. Contact: [email protected]

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Leigha Butler Jul 22, 2010 2:50am

If it's slaughter and cruelty we're protesting here, then I contend that it's worse to pay taxes than to eat a hamburger (if you're an American), given the size of the US military. Still, most of us could certainly incorporate more mindfulness into our diets. Thanks for the post.

Yogita Chaitanya Jul 19, 2010 4:33am

The Bhagavad Gita says:

rasyâh snigdhâh sthirâ hrdyâ
âhârâh sâttvikapriyâh

Foods which promote longevity, intelligence,
vigor, health, happiness and cheerfulness,
and which are juicy, succulent, substantial and
naturally agreeable, are liked by men of a sattvika nature

If on a spiritual quest, ones main aim or goal is to achieve a balanced and equanimous mind. If we eat animals however, and setting aside the moral precept of eating other beings, this balance is harder to obtain given that the animals we consume are pumped full of hormones, steroids and a plethora of other artificial products to make them grow bigger and better and produce more and moreover. Here we are not even considering the fear the animal feels at the hands of its own reality when it dies a normally brutal death at the hands of a butchers knife. Where does that adrenaline and fear go? Straight into its blood, and straight to the meat that you later consume. How is that not going to affect you in some way? You consume the fear of that animal, you swallow the angst and the tension of that frightened soul. Where is your balance, where is your inner peace?

Does the adage "do unto others as you would do unto yourself" still not ring true? Hands up all of us who want to be slayed at the hands of a butchers knife after having been injected with a large needle full of explosive chemicals?

If your answer is "yes", then you may have the right to preach about the value of being a vegetarianism or non-vegetarian with regards to walking a spiritual path.

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