Yoga teachers don’t eat meat. ~ Yogita Chaitanya

Via elephant journal
on Jul 14, 2010
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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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16 Responses to “Yoga teachers don’t eat meat. ~ Yogita Chaitanya”

  1. Loo says:

    I wholeheartedly agree. I am always shocked when I encounter a yoga teacher who eats meat. I used to hire a yoga teacher to stay with my dog when I went away — then one time I came home to a seriously dehydrated dog who had been taken to the beach for too long without water AND found that she had left a frozen steak in my otherwise vegan fridge. Coincidence? Maybe. But I never hired her again. Thank you for your strong words.

  2. shan says:

    Interesting article. I'm a vegan yoga student and had an exchange with a yoga teacher once that ended quite badly. After months of taking his classes and really enjoying his teaching style we all went out for a veggie meal after practice. I asked him about ahimsa, vegetarianism and why he was putting on a leather jacket and shoes. He could give me no answer other than vegan shoes were ugly. It totally messed with my head as to how can someone quote the sutras, talk about the 8 fold path (ahimsa being the first) and wear the skin of those you wouldn't eat. If you don't eat them, why wear them? Thank goodness, I found jivamukti yoga after that. One of the best yoga books ever (in my very small and humble opinion) is Yoga and Vegetarianism by Sharon Gannon. It marries ahimsa and yoga beautifully in a way that is totally seamless and a no-brainer.

  3. Padma Kadag says:

    "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."

    Your quote here I have pasted because I have some questions. We both can agree that insects are animals, a sentient being, as are fish. I do not believe that your moral stance only regards the eating of animals as immoral but the actual killing as immoral. It is the killing of sentient beings, knowingly, which we both can agree is an act which will create a very possible karmic "debt". "to see the divinity in the smallest expressions of nature so we can understand the immensity if life." How does one reconcile the killing of millions of animals daily due to farming inorganically or organically?

  4. Padma Kadag says:

    Ploughing exposes worms and insects to birds, the steel of the hoe blade, the steel of the tractor plough and harrow tearing apart the bodies of mother sentient beings in the form of insects, the turning of the soil over onto surface insects, the flooding of fields for corn and rice which drowns millions of insects and rodents, the drying of those same rice fields kills the amphibians and water bugs who have established themselves there. We are not talking about hundreds but possibly billions daily. Have you considered this? Are we not Knowingly killing while farming? How do you reconcile this mass slaughter? How do you reconcile this without comparing this to meat consumption and the butchering of animals for food? If you leave meat out of the equation…how do you reconcile this mass slaughter which in truth is larger than the slaughter of animals for meat daily?

  5. Lanoo says:

    Was that after you changed out of your $80 Lululemon pants?

  6. Padma Kadag says:

    Eric…Rather than comparing meat vs. veg in the "efficiency"of land use or dietary pros and cons I simply wanted to bring up points I feel are overlooked. In our enthusiasm to tell the world our political concerns and our enthusiasm to make a living by promoting our Yoga of Life which is fueled by a vegeterian diet, as if we are living gods/godesses and "do no harm" it simply is not true. Beyond any arguments against eating meat (i certainly would not ever argue to eat meat nor would i argue to not eat meat) I would like to hear from the author if she has considered my point regarding the killing of beings in farming. That to be a vegetarian or vegan is not without killing. As I said, leaving meat out of the equation and weighing which has less impact…the fact remains that there are billions of beings losing lives due to farming. It is not a neat little package which is how vegeterianism is often portrayed .

  7. Padma Kadag says:

    Falling into the economics of sustainability argument, maybe it would behoove the vegans and vegeterians to promote those crops which have a lower kill count on animals. Do without rice, corn, grains.etc. Also these are high water use crops. Does this make sense? Again, I only want to point out that vegetable and especially grain farming has high kill counts. The author's references to ahimsa are noble but not completely accurate.

  8. Yogita Chaitanya says:

    Namaste Padma Kadag and Eric M,
    Thank you for your comments and opinions regarding the article. I appreciate your views and am grateful for your input.

    I have to admit that I have not given as much thought to all the beings that die at the hand of the farming community and I´m not entirely sure how to respond to your questions, except to say that we live in a world where some beings don´t always have the same chance of survival that others do, simply because of their nature, size, ability etc. and maybe its the will of God that it is this way?

    Unfortunately we can´t stop killing all beings, because just as there is a natural cycle of birth and life, there is also the natural cycle of death, which is perhaps as you say bought on quicker by some forms of human interruption than by nature itself, although natures hand also plays an important role in the mass assassination of animals in the form of hurricanes, tornados, flash floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tsunamis etc.

    Swami Tilak, our Paramaguru said that if we could we would eat stones, but its just not possible as human beings to do this, so instead we choose as nutrition for our bodies the beings that have the lowest form of consciousness on the planet (plants, fruits, grains etc.) and in this way we inflict less harm and generate less karma, although we know we are never entirely exempt from causing harm to others.

    In this article I wanted to make the reader think about non-violence in its more subtle forms, which is what my Guruji has taught me. Where does violence originate? the answer is always the same……in the mind, in our thoughts, and words and then finally in our actions. Therefore the purity of the mind must be challenged and we must work hard at keeping it positive and pure. How is it possible to do this? By practicing Japa, mantra, by not involving yourself in idle gossip, by not speaking badly about someone even when others are. It is always harder being an individual and having an opinion that goes against the grain of many, but if your ideals are strong, then you are steadfast in your beliefs and most of the time are able to answer your own questions.

  9. Padma Kadag says:

    Yogita thanks for your sincere reply…keep up the good work

  10. Padma Kadag says:

    Actually I wanted to keep the subject of meat out of the discussion to emphasize the issue of innumerable beings dying at the hand of crop farming. I am not addressing the meat issue. the whole thing is so incredibly samsara.

  11. Kiwi Yogi says:

    >Vegetarianism … comes straight from the Yoga scriptures’ mouth: Ahimsa paramo dharmah. Non-violence is the highest virtue.

    I think it is a mistake to assume that ahimsa must mean vegetarianism. Patanjali does not explicitly advocate vegetarianism. Nor does Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita. I cannot think of any Vedic text that advocates vegetarianism. But there are Ayurvedic texts that prescribe meat.

    Vamadeva Shastri (Dr David Frawley) says in this interview says that the most healthy diet for most people includes some meat.

    >Yoga in the traditional sense of the word has always meant the propagation of non-violence toward other beings

    Yoga as defined by Patanjali (Yogas chitta vritti nirodha) has always meant union with consciousness and not a kind of social relationship with other individuals.

    Ahimsa is not about becoming a vegan pacifist or a social activist. I have heard ahimsa translated as “don’t hurt” which is a very good principle to live by, but it is not a written-in-stone commandment. It is a practical guideline that says that a non-violent approach to life is conducive to achieving samadhi – the purpose of the Yoga Sutras.

    Violence is a fact of life and we need to find our peace with it. The Vedic tradition recognizes this too and it is discussed at length in the Bhagavad Gita which is set on a battlefield. Also, the Vedas recognize the kshatriya class of warriors who were trained in Dhanur Veda – the art of war. So ahimsa is not about avoiding violence (which is impossible), but rather just not feeding the desire for violence within ourselves.

    Notice how Patanjali says non-violence rather than peacefulness. He is not advocating peacefulness. In the same way non-drunkenness doesn’t exclude drinking. It is more a prescription for balance.

    Anyway, ahimsa isn’t properly achieved until we see that there is no duality, but just the One in many forms. Then we see that there is no death, no sin, no injustice and no mistakes in life – just the perfect activity of the One-without-second. This is what Lord Krishna tells Arjuna when he is encouraging him to fight.

    Personally I am a vegetarian. I agree that the way animals are treated is terrible. But I don’t agree that a yoga teacher has to be vegetarian or that ahimsa equals vegetarianism.

  12. Dan says:

    There just is no talking rationally with a vegan Eric. Nice try though.

  13. Yogita Chaitanya says:

    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.

  14. Leigha Butler says:

    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.