– Shri N.V.Raghuram
The next common discussion is the spirituality of vegetarianism. Eating vegetarian food is considered highly spiritual not only in India, but in various cultures and religions throughout the world.
One concept often overlooked or ignored, is that of energy. This is the one facet that can logically explain vegetarianism. We need food for the sake of energy and it is the only thing that can give us energy, for almost everyone.
Everyone has only one source of energy: the sun. We absorb the sun’s energy in various forms. Human beings absorb the sun energy in the form of pigmentation called melanin in the body. We cannot absorb and store the sun’s energy in any other form. Plants, on the other hand, absorb the sun’s energy in the process of photosynthesis. The plants are our next source of energy since they absorb the sun’s energy directly. Insects and animals consume these plants and process this energy and store it in their body. This is the food cycle said in the Bhagavad-Gita. The Gita says food can only be food for the food, i.e. the insects consume their food which is the plant and they themselves become food for other animals or birds and the bird’s die and their body will be consumed by other animals and when they die, they become soil which is the support of plants. This is how the food cycle is maintained. So if we want the most energy, we have to consume it from the closest level to direct absorption from the sun, which are plants.
The source of energy is sun and if we cannot take energy from the source directly then the primary source is plants. It is easy to digest the simple cells of plants and release the energy from these cells. We do not have to wait for long for this energy to be released in our body. Animals and birds are the secondary and tertiary sources of energy. So, they have a complex cell structure in which they store this energy, so they need more time to release this energy. They sit in the stomach and our bodies need to work extremely hard to obtain the energy. This phenomenon can be observed in the amount of time it takes us to cook non-vegetarian food versus vegetarian food.
In addition, statistics also show that when one is vegetarian, the resources needed for sustenance is minimal. The amount of land that is required to sow the seeds and grow the seeds and life can be managed is a well maintained 1 acre area! In this one acre one can produce all the varieties of food items when he is vegetarian. Whereas if somebody is non-vegetarian, then he will have the cattle (goat or cows or poultry) which will have to feed on the produce of this land and then process it. So such a person needs at least 15 acres of land first to feed the animals which in turn feed one in a day. So being a non-vegetarian, we use up the resources of the earth. In the Gita, Lord Krishna says it is the Lord who is dwelling in all living organisms and he is the one who is digesting the food through four ways: munching, licking, drinking, and sucking. When he describes these four methods, he is not only mentioning the ability of a human being but of all living beings. Plants make food from the soil, but it is the God in them. The plants are in turn eaten by animals or human beings. In other words, the life in animals and human beings is the divinity which is consumed by plants. When we or animals die, the bacteria will eat our physical beings. This cycle is the divinity in human beings. In this, ‘the life’s existence’ is the description in this divinity which is called ‘Sat.’ This cycle keeps going on at all times. Often some of the translators mention that God lives in the human being and the whole world is provided as food for the human being, so s/he is to eat whatever comes in his path to maintain her/his life. In this thought process the arrogance of man is hidden. Man feels that God has special care for man and he created the whole world for man to consume. But this is man’s imagination.
Yet another interesting aspect of food and eating, we notice that the eating habits of humans and other animals are extremely different. In the case of all other beings, they are programmed as to what to eat and what not to eat. For example, the birds eat grains and insects. A cow eats grass and does not go to eat another animal unless he is forced to by humans. We have found that meat does not go well with the constitution of the animal. That is one of the reasons that cows developed “Mad Cow Disease” recently and later they found that the cows are fed with bone powder to ensure that their milk is rich with protein. Similarly, a tiger or a lion are programmed to hunt and eat meat. Just because there are no animals available or because there is a nice piece of fruit in front of them, they do not become vegetarian. In the case of Indian mythology, Lord Narasimha has the body of a human being but the head of a lion. He feeds on human flesh because though he is a Lord, he is in the form of half lion and thus kills Hiranyakashyap.
Plants are programmed to eat the material from the earth. We cannot say my plant is very respectful and very sacred so let me feed this Tulsi (the sacred plant for all Indians within the country), some freshly cooked rice. However sacred the food or plant may be, the plant which does not get its necessary nutrients of the soil and earth, it will certainly die. The entire realm of creation is programmed to eat, except for the human being. Humans can eat plants, animals, fish, birds, eggs, and even another human. That is his freedom.Even then the law still holds well in creation, what Krishna stated in the Bhagavad-Gita that is food which sustains food. The food in all forms supports food.
Sri.N.V.Raghuram is the Chairman of Yoga Bharati and a spiritual Guru to many. He was awarded the title of “yogashree” in the year 2007 by Govt of India. He is the professor and faculty at SVYASA (Vivekananda Yoga Research Foundation), Bangalore, India and is also a faculty for Yoga Bharati’s Yoga Teachers Training course.