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Relationship between vegetarianism and spirituality

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Prasanna Seshadri

I have this question for a long time without a proper explanation. In Brahminic traditions, we generally uphold Vegetarianism as an important principle in life that is followed very strictly. If we notice carefully, most of the populations in the world are only Non vegetarians. For example, the Abrahamic religions do not object to Non vegetarianism, nor do they regard vegetarianism as a virtuous principle. Still, they too talk about God and spirituality. Does this mean that the majority in the world are ignorant and are only partially spiritual? How important is Vegetarianism for spirituality? How does Vegetarianism influence spirituality?
Without proper understanding vegetarianism by itself is not a virtue.
Hindus do not have 'absolute' commandments like those in Abrahamic religions.

But we have one principle that is close to a commandment - It says "Ahimsa Paramo Dharma" (अहिंसा परमो धर्मा)
Vegetarianism arises out of our understanding and following this principle.
This also means one should minimize harm by words, deeds and thought.

A burger will need 70 gallons of fresh water and it is the most expensive way to consume natural resources.
We think living within our minimal needs is a virtue.

Abrahamic religions preach that 'the good Lord has created all these for the enjoyment of men (& women) '
So animals are viewed without souls created by the good Lord for man's pleasure!
Spirituality means something different to everyone. For some, it's about participating in organized religion: going to church, synagogue, a mosque, and so on. For others, it's more personal—some people get in touch with their spiritual side through private prayer, yoga, meditation, quiet reflection, or even long walks.
Research shows that even skeptics can't stifle the sense that there is something greater than the concrete world we see. As the brain processes sensory experiences, we naturally look for patterns, and then seek out meaning in those patterns. And the phenomenon known as "cognitive dissonance" shows that once we believe in something, we will try to explain away anything that conflicts with it.
Humans can't help but ask big questions—the instinct seems wired in our minds.

Vegetarianism and religion are strongly linked in a number of religions that originated in ancient India (Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism). In Jainism vegetarianism is mandatory for everyone, in Hinduism and Buddhism it is advocated by some influential scriptures and religion authorities. Comparatively, within the Abrahamic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam) vegetarian diet is not promoted by mainstream authorities. In Christianity, however, there are minority groups promoting vegetarianism on religious grounds (Wikipedia).

Vegetarianism has been a common thread among the major world religions, even if only a minority have adopted the diet as an expression of their faith. Christians have always striven to minister to poor and hungry people. However, today the inefficiency of meat eating works against that ministry. In the United States 66% of the grains are fed to animals being raised for slaughter, wasting most grains’ calories and proteins. Ron Sider of Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary has observed, “It is because of the high level of meat consumption that the rich minority of the world devours such an unfair share of the world’s available food.” (Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger, pp. 43-44). Knowing the deleterious effects of animal-based foods on human health, Christian principles favor a plant-based diet.
Vegetarianism is just a fad.

Spirituality may not have much to do with it.

Non abrahamic religion have promoted vegetarian cult tying spirituality to vegetarianism.

If you are in a western country and are non veg it does not mean you cannot be spiritual.

You do not have to be a grass eater for that.
Saathvik (vegetarian food without any intoxicants) food is supposed to generate positive thoughts & energy..It is supposed to be nourishing, juicy & tasty..It makes a person cheerful and is conducive to good health

Rajasik food which includes non vegetarian food with onion/garlic is oily and spicy...It generates greed. anger, jealosy, anxiety sensuality & sexuality! They want to enjoy life!

Now you can guess why vegetarian (sattvik) food promotes spiritualism!
vegetarians can be greedy,jealous,sexual or sensual more or less than non veg types.

It is not correct to conclude that those who enjoy living cannot be spiritual in thought.

During drought and famine lakhs are living on grass and leaves. They are not spiritual exactly.

in fact this thread has no relevance tying vegetarianism with anything else leave alone spiritualism
Vegetarianism by choice reflects sattvik nature of the person. The vegetarian food reinforces the sattvik nature.
Though most of the Tamil speaking Bs may still be vegetarians, they don't apply this when religion comes into picture. Their affinity to Rama and Krishna, who were supposed to be NVs, as they belonged to Pshatriya clan, is equally very strong.
Vegetarianism is a dietary choice.

For some communities its a life style.

It need not always go hand in hand with "spirituality"(whatever spirituality means in the first place).
Abrahamic religions preach that 'the good Lord has created all these for the enjoyment of men (& women) '

Manu smirti too has this same line about nature and animals being created for men to enjoy.
As we understand that we are part of a varied and wonderful ecosystem, our voluntary duty should be to leave it intact, as much as possible, for others to enjoy the bounty that we are presented with. In this context, our acts should be such that it has a minimal impact of change (assuming that our actions disturb the natural order).

Going by this logic, we have to live like hermits using eco-friendly stuff, similar to the rishis portrayed in our puranas et al.

Once we imbibe this in our routine, we learn to flow with nature and simultaneously enjoy its benefits.


But coming back to reality - honey bee is satvik. It does not sting.

Manu smirti too has this same line about nature and animals being created for men to enjoy.

Scriptures of any religion should not be read literally but understood in context.
In case of Hindu scriptures, a Smriti has to be understood in the context of Shruti and this applies to even in-applicable smriti's such as Manu Smriti.
When read in the right context there is no possibility of confusion.
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