In the last post, I began writing about vegetarianism and my evolution where it is concerned. Truly, there are many people whose “package” as a unique being has meant that vegetarianism is wrong. And, truly, there are those of the persuasion that this couldn’t possibly be wrong for ANYONE. My views have evolved from vegetarianism not even being on the radar, to thinking I needed to adopt it and that other should too, to recognizing that not only are there a bajillion people out there for whom this is plainly wrong but also that – at times – I might be one of those people. That feeling, of meat being increasingly not right for me, has definitely plateaued. I no longer feel like it’s something I need to fuss about in any context, but I’d like to continue to explain a bit about where I sit with it all and why.
As I mentioned in the last post – it’s simply not right for some people. There could be many reasons for this and some of those reasons may well be temporary. Another blogger has touched on this a number of times in his own journey with the matter. There are times even when a person might very much want to avoid meat and it’s just not in the cards.
For some abstaining from meat means health issues. I’ve known a number of vegetarians who admit that they aren’t “healthy” eaters – but don’t worry! They’re avoiding meat so it’s all good. WHAT?!?! That’s ridiculous, and I would argue that any karmic benefit gained from not eating meat would be just as quickly and easily wasted by neglecting the “temple” of one’s own body. Ask any shilpi or temple architect and it might be argued that if you can’t do it properly, then you’re perhaps better off (in many ways) just not doing it at all. And along the lines of karma, I’ve written before about how our reactions and sentiments carried about meat eating can create way more karma than we’re unloading by avoiding meat.
I also, in many contexts, find vegetarianism to be hypocritical where it relates to sentient life. Many people who are vegetarian have made the choice to be so because they are uneasy about the idea that sentient beings likes cows, chickens, and pigs are farmed for food. Of course, given the chance and freedom these life forms would opt out of landing on your dinner plate or mine. They are aware of their own existence and would prefer to keep on existing, right? Right.
So, where in all of this does it become okay to pick-n-choose which sentient life we value and which we do not? Isn’t that in itself cruel? Yet that’s exactly what we’re doing as vegetarians. You see, if animals aren’t being farmed then plants will be. And plants cannot be farmed without the loss of life. I’m not talking about broccoli being aware of itself. I’m talking about the MILLIONS of instances of life that are killed just to make one bowl of meat-free salad. Even if we exclude the use of pesticides and likewise exclude the massive number of insects that are killed by them, any farmer will tell you of the massive number of snakes, turtles, rabbits, raccoons, mice and other rodents, and even larger forms of life, that are butchered in the fields where our lettuce and kale are grown.
So I’m morally evolved if I value the life of a cow but not that of a deer? There’s an interesting and well-written article on the Huffington Post about how true veganism (obviously different than the vegetarianism I’ve been writing about) should actually mean people become insectivores. You can read it here. There’s an article here that pertains to vegetarianism and it’s role in the destruction of life. If we’re choosing meat-free eating primarily because of principles like ahimsa and suffering of sentient beings, then you’re absolutely a hypocrite. I know those words might seem strong to some well-meaning people, but I say it’s true because anywhere you look in Hinduism’s holy texts you can read that the core, the seed, of all life is the same regardless of the life form. A cow might look and behave differently than a fox or a human because that’s the difference of living an existence as a cow versus another life form – but the amsha (spark) at the core of any life form is not different based on the life form itself. To think your salad has less blood on it than your brother’s steak is ignorance. And to think a cow or rat or praying mantis have differing values or worth is hypocrisy.
The plain fact is that, at this point in human history, choosing vegetarianism (or veganism) for reasons related to saving sentient life is not only hypocritical but also it’s not really even that humane. But people will believe whatever they wish and absolutely will rationalize whatever makes them feel better about their choices – because that’s what we all really want: justification for our ways.
There are also some texts sacred to Hindus that advise that the authentic sage, or advanced soul, eats whatever is given to him. I’d have to check, but I think one place I came across that was one of the Gitas (not the Bhagavad Gita, obviously). That was an immense lesson for me. The implications are profound and have nothing whatsoever to do with carelessness.
Obviously, all of these things should be considered and reconsidered when deciding to be a vegetarian or not, and the REAL reasons behind why one might. For me, the preference will remain overwhelmingly in favor of flesh-free eats, but probably not strictly and also not likely for the same reasons as the bulk of other people making the same choice.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha – Aum Shanti