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RE Vegetarianism
Date: Thu Nov 22 2001 - 19:46:35 PST

Dear Bhagavathas,

 I like to add to the discussion on Vegetarianism, based on Gita.
I noted many of you refer to Gita in this connection. However,
Gita has never explicitly said anything against meat consumption.
Gita is  pragnatic and is for all ages, all places and all people.
My father used to say that, Gita is  sarvaanukUka shAstram.
Being that, nowhere it speaks against meat consumption.

In  Chapter 17,verses 8-10 of the Bhagavadgita, the food habits of people as 
a function of their full-blown Satvic, Rajasic, or Tamasic temperaments are 

The Satvic people relish a smooth, firm, pleasant (to both the eyes and the 
belly), satisfying, and savory foods that promote longeivity, virtue, 
strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. 
The Rajasic people prefer food that are pungent, sour, salty, excessively 
hot, harsh, astringent, scorching and  causing pain, misery, and sickness 
(perhaps to both the consumer and/or the consumed).

The Tamasic people desire foods that are stale, tasteless, putrid, left-over, 
and the rejected. 

The tone with which a "shwapacha" (a dog cooker) is referred to in the 
Bhagavadgita (Chapter 5, Verse 18) implies that people who ate dog meat were 
looked down by all but a true Pundit.  We also know that the word "shwapacha" 
was used in India to describe out-castes. 

Thus, it is clear that the Gita  does not outrightly denounce eating meat or 
vividly  glorify vegetarianism.  However, the flavor with which the satvic 
food has been described in particular and the setting of the entire Gita in 
general,  perhaps conveys a subtle message against eating meat. 

Gita (being a universal philosophy) realizes that in certain circumstances  
consumption of meat may be inevitable  for self preservation.  After all, our 
body is a temple of God and serves as a vehicle for our spiritual upliftment. 
Thus, body should be cared for as a prelude to Dharmic accomplishments (" 
Shareeram Adhyam Khalu Dharma Sadhanam"). 

For instance, what one should do if the choice is between starving for the sa
ke of principles(belief or religious injunction) or eating meat? The answer 
to this question can be seen in Verses 5 & 6 of Chapter 17.  In these verses 
Gita denounces wrong ways of starving and in acts undertaken 
over-enthusiastically in the name of religion. These two verses are 
interesting because they show that such abuses by misguided people were 
common enough to arouse denounciation by the Lord.

Perhaps the relation between  food and temperament is mutually complementary. 
In other words, the type of food consumed may influence one's temperament 
(you are what you eat) as much as one's temperament motivates the 
individual's preference for a particular type of food (you eat based on who 
you are).

At any given time the world is composed of people having varying degrees of 
Satvic, Rajasic, and Tamasic qualities ( it is also wrong to think that the 
Saatvic individuals are found only among vegetarians or that all vegetarians 
are saatvic people- for e.g., Adolf Hitler was a vegetrian!). 

Human nature in combination with nurture (the environment) has resulted in a 
wide assortment of foods we have come to know in this world.   

>From times immemorial India has had a far greater respect for the spiritual 
than any other nation in the world (India is referred to by others as the 
"empire of the spirit").  In such an atmosphere our ancestors have succeded 
over the years in compiling a variety of  rather uniquely balanced 
lacto-vegetarian diets (with regional variations) which have withstood the 
test of time.  

These diets are also pretty much favored by the modern science. The two 
components the modern science objects in our lacto-vegetarian diets are 
"Ghee"(found in foods from all regions of India) and coconut oil (regional). 
Probably ghee was essential in those times when there was much physical 
exercise.  The objection to coconut oil is rather inconclusive, as it has not 
been investigated in the context of rest of the diet. 

It is in our interest to hold back on ghee from these nearly perfect 
lacto-vegetarian diets. Ghee is rich is fat plus cholesterol. Perhaps the way 
ghee was made traditionally in india, the cholesterol might have been 
transformed (Ghee was made
from butter, which was made from  yogurt, that is fermented milk. During
fermentation, bacterial transformation of cholesterol is a good possibility).


K. Sreekrishna Tatachar


           - SrImate rAmAnujAya namaH -
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