Why choose a Vegetarian Diet?
Many yogis are vegetarians but have you ever stopped to think why? Yogis choose the most natural way to eat. The sun, air, water and earth all combine to produce the fruits of the earth - vegetables, fruits, seeds, legumes and nuts and the goodness that we gain from these foods is second to none. By contrast, the goodness we obtain from eating meat, fish or poultry comes at the expense of something else, we consume the flesh of another living creature. As yogis we are taught the practice of "Ahimsa" wherein we do not cause harm, or even wish harm on another living creature. This is one of the highest laws in yogic philosophy and is the basis of spiritual growth. All life is sacred and once we become more aware of where our food comes from we naturally become more open to the idea that all creatures are as divine as ourselves.
Having said all that, for me it is still a practice I aspire to, I have not cut out all meat, fish and poultry from my diet, but I have certainly cut down. And I try to not be too hard on myself, or have feelings of guilt for not being a vegetarian yet, I believe that it takes time for things to change.
I do however try to stick to a pure diet, I mentioned in my earlier blog about eating sattvic or pure foods and will touch a little more on the meaning of that now. Every energy has 3 qualities known as Gunas that exist together in equilibrium, Sattva - purity, Rajas - activity, passion, the process of change and Tamas - darkness, inertia. Once energy takes form one quality of the 3 will dominate. For example, on an apple tree, some of the fruit is ripe - sattvic, some of it is ripening - rajasic and some of it is overripe - tamasic. Another example of this, again using apples - ripe apples are sattvic, apple chutney is rajasic and apple cider is tamasic.
So to give myself the best chance at leading a spiritual, enlightened, yogic lifestyle I try to eat sattivc foods and avoid rajasic and tamasic ones. Sattvic foods nourish the body and leave it in a peaceful state, they calm and purify the mind and allow it to function at its maximum potential. These foods include, cereals, wholemeal breads, fresh fruit and vegetables, pure fruit juice, milk, butter, cheese, legumes, nuts, seeds, honey and herbal teas.
Rajasic foods are very hot, bitter, sour, dry or salty and they destroy the balance between the body and mind, and feed the body at the expense of the mind, overstimulating the body, exciting passions and making the mind restless and uncontrollable. They include sharp spices, strong herbs, stimulants such as coffee and tea, fish, eggs, salt and chocolate. Eating too quickly is also considered rajasic.
And finally I try to avoid tamasic foods, this kind of diet benefits neither the mind or the body, it saps all our energy, our life force, powers of reasoning become clouded and inertia sets in.
Our fire for life goes out. We destroy resistance to disease, and our minds get filled with dark emotions such as anger and greed. Tamasic foods include meats, alcohol, tobacco, onions, garlic, vinegar and stale overripe substances. Overeating is also seen as tamasic. Tamasic foods breed unhappiness and often addictions arise with these types of foods.
With this in mind, let us try to eat a sattvic diet knowing that it will benefit us more, not just by helping to fight off diseases and stay healthy but also to keep our minds pure and ultimately happy, because aren't we all searching for that ultimate happiness? And maybe the key to that lies in our minds.....