Any query......

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Thu May 16 12:11:32 CDT 2002

On Thu, 16 May 2002, Somik Raha wrote:

> I am afraid you misunderstand me. I do not connect "greasy" or "spicy" with
> "vegetarianism". But I do connect them with the options before me - and I
> clearly mentioned "Indian restaurants". I doubt how many Indian restaurants
> will serve true sattvic vegetarian food - low on oil and spice. Given the
> options before me - I prefer non-spicy, non-greasy non-vegetarian to spicy,
> greasy, oily vegetarian. I hope you are not recommending that I choose the
> latter over the former.

Sure Japanese cuisine is mostly meat based, but they have rice and
noodles and things.  And what I don't understand is why you just can't
learn to cook? Or get together with other like-minded people?  Or pay
someone to cook you the right food?

> I agree with you. It is no wonder to me that New Delhi with so many
> vegetarians constitutes some of the primary reasons for heart institutes in
> the area. Vegetarian Indian food cooked the oily way is just as bad as
> non-veg food cooked that way.
> And yes, America suffers from cardiac problems - bcos there is a prevalence
> of junk food - the burgers are not what I call sattvic. I am not making
> sweeping generalizations here. Non-veg cooked in the tamasic or rajasik way
> is just as bad as veg cooked in the tamasic or rajasic way.

There is more to being sattvic than just seasoning.  What is being cooked
is also very important.  The idea of vegetarianism is connected to the
idea of karma.  the more conscious a being, the more it is capable of
intentional actions.  So my absorbing a particular being you are also
inheriting it's accumulated paapa and punya.  It works the other way for
plants.  Because they are devoid of consciousness, they are incapble of
progressing up the ladder of karma unless they hitch a ride in the stomach
of a good person.

The intention of the eater is also important.  eating out of need is less
sinful.  In fact there is a legal maxim, the nyaya of Vasishtha and the
dog.  Once there was a terrible famine and the Maharshi Vasishtha  fought
with a chandala over a piece of dog meat.  In other words even ordinarily
wrong things can be justified in extremis.  But eating meat for taste or
convenience is more sinful.  Some Vedic yajnas involve animal sacrifice.
This is ok because the animals go directly to Heaven.  (Though increasing
squeamishness on this topic might be the reasonsuch yajnas are rarely
practiced nowadays.)

The most important factor is shistachara.  Meat-eating is the norm in some
castes and localities.  In Bengal even Brahmanas eat fish or meat.  Some
learned scholars such as Vishwanatha Tarkapanchana author of the Bhasa
Pariccheda have written works defending the practice. But for others like
the Brahmans south of the vindhyas' vegetarianism is the norm.  There is
shastric support for deeming even onions and garlic as non-vegetarian.
Jains and many Vaishnavas follow this.  My practice is to avoid them as
much as possible in general and particulary during utsavas and shravana.

But even those who accept meat-eating as conventional agree that a
vegetarian diet is spiritually superior for the reasons given above.

> > Also, do not mis-interpret Sattvic etc. in the way
> > that pleases you. You must understand that this is a
> > classification system, and suitable suggestions are
> > given so that people can design their diet, based on
> > thier true inner aspirations. For the great glory of
> > being closer to TRUTH, by practice and control of mind
> > through diet, this classification of food as inducing
> > Sattvic or Rajasic or Tamasic is given. The
> > intelligent man follows it and benefits from it. The
> > weak, neglect those valuable suggestions and suffer.
> If you can tell me which verses in the Gita include meat in tamasic or
> rajasic, I will be much obliged to you.

It's the wrong place to look.  The dharmashastras such as Manu or
Parashara or Yajnavalkya say more on the subject.

> The intelligent man should always reason for himself - after being given all
> the inputs. For the stupid man - you would want to cram it down his throat.
> So - I believe food has an important bearing to spirituality- it should not
> be closed to discussion.

I agree wholeheartedly.  Being in the IT field you are no doubt familiar
with the expression "garbage in garbage out" Reason is useless if not
based on sound premises.

> FYI, Swami Vivekananda, before he went to attend the Parliament of
> Religions, took permission from Sri Ramakrishna whether he could eat beef in
> America as the perception in those days was that you had to, if you would go
> to the West. Sri Ramakrishna told him - he was so pure, nothing would affect
> him and he could eat just what he wanted to.

Is this true?  Then I consider it a blot on the character of Vivekanand.
Compare to Gandhiji who also journeyed to a foreign land and whose mother
made him promise to never eat meat. He often subsisted on boiled cabbage
or bread and butter but he never broke his promise.

> Beef is probably another
> debate, but it is a known fact that Ramakrishna Mission does not consider
> fish as tamasic or rajasic, and allows it in the diet.

Because they are Bengalis.  Philosophy has nothing to do with it.

> There are views and then there are views. Everyone is of course entitled to
> his/her own opinion. Personally I am in favour of vegetarianism, but not at
> the cost of practicality.  There is no point in starving and not doing my
> duty for my company, at the cost of sticking to this idea.

Any morality based on expediency is no morality at all.  I sympathise with
your plight but if you know what you are doing is wrong how can you
continue with it?  Who decides what is practical?  Things will only become
less impractical if you are willing to expend some effort.


> This anecdote leads one to believe - that people in India, were beef eaters
> upto that point.


You maybe right you may be wrong. We can only speculate about times so
remote.  The fact is that for as long as anyone can remember, it has been
forbidden.  That fact is more important than any theory.

> You mentioned "high ideas" like spirituality, and how good health is at a
> different plane. I am sure you might have heard of the "Hindu" notion - the
> body is the temple of God. I have learnt as a child that one is not to abuse
> one's own body under any circumstances, and always treat it as a gift from
> God - with which one has to strive to achieve realization. This has to be
> done with sadhana, the proportion of which depends on the path and the age.
> But one thing is critically clear- which even the Gita mentions - that one
> must have a sound, healthy body, so that one may concentrate the mind on the
> Supreme One  - and this teaching is very important. It is very hard to pray
> and concentrate on one thing - when you have a flabby body with portruding
> tummies (after consuming those tons of desi ghee). That is definitely
> rajasic.
> Just as a disclaimer - I am not contesting the usefulness of sattvic
> vegetarian. I am contesting the non-usefulness of sattvic non-vegetarian vs.
> rajasic or tamasic vegetarian.

Fine, I doubt if anyone would disagree with that.  Recently in the
newspapers here in New York there was a story about a couple who were
vegans (avoided animal protein altogether) whose baby had developed
rickets--a malady rare even in the thirld world now--due to their
unhealthy and faddish diet.

But there isn't an either/or situation.  It is possible to avoid both meat
and unhealthy vegetarian food.

> Why this is relevant today - outside India -
> is because we dont get sattvic vegetarian in restaurants.

Here in America we do.  Not all the time but increasingly so.  And that is
due to the fact that people insisted on it.  Many of the early Indian
immigrants did take up meat for "practical" reasons but enough did not
that I don't have to worry abot it today.

> And we dont have
> time to cook. These are practical problems - and if the road to spirituality
> cannot accomodate these, then you will be indicating the road to be very
> narrow. That is contrary to my perception of Hinduism and spirituality.

How does the impractical become practical?  Due to the effort people put
into it.  you are like a pioneer in the wilderness.  You may have to
suffer hardships but if you persevere you will make it easier for the next
person who will make it easier for the next person and eventually it will
seem completely normal.

> Lastly, I am not sure if you are from South India - but if you are - then
> you would surely know of the great devotee Kanappa.


I am not, but I have heard it on this list.  What is ok for a hunter is
not necessarily ok for a Brahman and vice-versa.

> Hinduism is a system of paradoxes - it is not so black and white as many
> claim - and each has to find his own path in this vast system. It is true
> that your path is noble and great - but it is not true that other paths are
> all false.

What it shows is that "Hinduism" is a vague and meaningless term beyond
just an umbrella for describing religions of India.  I use it for
convenience but I don't have a "Hindu" identity I have Brahman, Smarta,
and Gujarati identities all of which do have specific things to say about
diet even if "Hinduism" doesn't.  Despite the best efforts of the VHP and
other right-wing lunatic fringe groups, most "Hindus" feel that way and so
should you.  Perhaps it may turn out that meat-eating is the right path
for you but please come to that conclusion based on sound principles.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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