Ayurveda and the Philosophical Case for Vegetarianism

Posted by on Jun 13, 2012 in Blog | Comments Off on Ayurveda and the Philosophical Case for Vegetarianism

Ayurveda and the Philosophical Case for Vegetarianism

I have been an on and off vegetarian (on and off of fish, though no meat) since high school.  In Gr. 7, I wrote my speech on why we shouldn’t eat pigs (yes, just pigs… I loved Charlotte’s Web).  I grew up around animals and learned very early about how important it was to respect them and their feelings.  By taking care of our fish, cats, dog, and even chicken (miss you, Cecka), I became invested in their happiness, and suffered when I thought they were unhappy.  People who know me well have heard the story of my sobbing and carrying on, singing Kate Bush to my cat, swearing I would trade places with him if I could when I heard that he was cross-eyed.  Note: This cat was already about 14 by this time, and was very well established in his Siamese cross-eyed situation, happy as a clam just as he was.

The thing is, it’s hard to explain to non-vegetarians that this is a reason to be vegetarian.  You either feel this connection with conviction, or you don’t.  What tends to make sense intellectually are the cases made for a veg diet because of the environmental impact of eating meat on the planet, or for the physiological effects that eating meat can have on the body (for example, eating too much red meat).  Philosophically, or spiritually, it’s much more difficult to discuss.

I recently read an excerpt from David Frawley’s book Yoga and Ayurveda and came across an interesting passage about the case for giving up meat (if any of you are familiar with the tenets of Buddhism, this will be familiar).  If all foods have energetic properties (we implicitly believe this at some level as we eat food for nourishment, growth, building amino acids, which all requires energy), then it stands to reason that the energy embodied in our foods is passed on to us when we ingest them into our systems.  The bulk matter of the food is used and passed along, but what of the energy?  When an animal becomes meat for our consumption, there is suffering, or at the very least, violence.  The energetic properties of such suffering are then consumed and stored in the human body.  If you are open to the idea of Karma or reincarnation, it follows that the negative, tamasic (heavy, dark) energy consumed builds up and adds samskara or Karmic baggage.  The goal of those working towards enlightenment – and aren’t we all? – is to become more sattvic (uncontaminated, pure), to shed our darkness and live as aligned with light as possible.  In other words, to consume what originates in suffering is to further carry the burden of suffering.

I don’t mean to sound as if I’m proselytizing; I truly believe this to be an interesting meditation, and one that may lead people to think differently about what they eat.  Trust me, I have my tamasic side (just ask my husband).  I began eating fish when I was pregnant with my son, and still occasionally eat seafood.  The more time I spend with this idea, however, the more I have trouble with many of my own dietary decisions.  Just as I avoid chemicals in my food because I believe I store them and they may have unseen effects on my well-being in the future, I believe I need to work on doing my part to reduce suffering in the world both for humane and selfish reasons.  Frawley makes the case for more humane choices within the meat-eating realm as well and suggests at least to avoid factory-farmed meat, eggs and poultry, and to buy from farms that ensured that the animal lived as it was meant to live and died with as little suffering as possible.  It’s not enough to look to food which makes your body healthy.  You are not only a body.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I feel as if I’m carrying around enough of the heavy stuff.  It’s time to lighten the load in whatever ways I can.

Find great vegetarian/vegan recipes at the following sites:

Finding Vegan

Cupcakes and Kale

101 Cookbooks

SOS Cuisine

Smitten Kitchen

Honest Fare

All content by Lisa Veronese. Please do not publish or copy my material without my consent.