I love social media. It can actually border on some kind of meditative experience because it can sometimes have the effect of getting a person away from his own thoughts – but IF that happens (a very big if) then it usually is incredibly short-lived because within minutes of viewing social media a person has reconnected with his thoughts – in reaction to content viewed – and sometimes even more disturbed than before. I imagine prior to the advent of such prevalent and easily-accessed social media people were alone with their own thoughts more than they are now.
I was scrolling through Facebook recently and came upon a comment back-n-forth between one of my friended folks and one of his own friends. It was spawned by my friend having updated some photo of his to be one of him working out – a side view of himself to show off some bicep / tricep action. One of the first comments was about him eating beef… Which is almost ironic because people assume anyone with any sort of noticeable musculature MUST consume loads of animal flesh, yet there are vegan body builders with “swole” muscles all over their body. I’d think, if no one else, someone who is anti-meat would know that muscle building doesn’t automatically equate a carnivorous diet. But the guy doing the accusing below makes exactly that assumption. Lucky for him, this time he’s correct. I’ll attach screen shots of the conversation between them. Scroll beyond the images to continue reading.
So here you can see a dialogue that started in an inflammatory way and then continued with the one accusing the other not just of consuming meat, but meat from the flesh of Hinduism’s iconic “gau-maata” and therefore of practical blasphemy – all because of the one guy’s bicep. I’ve written before that I find it incredibly risky to one’s overall karma to feel so strongly about avoiding meat. I don’t argue that a meat-free diet is better – for billions of people alive today it factually is. But for billions of others, meat in some form or other is factually necessary to their physical health. Our methods of farming produce, regardless of whether we’re talking fruits or vegetables, still contribute to the deaths of millions of animals annually. Vegetarians and vegans alike roll their eyes when it’s said, but animals die for every salad put in a bowl and for every ounce of hummus spread over pita.
So it seems to be a pretty obvious thing that, from the most superficial examination, while a meat-free diet is better than a meat-based one, it isn’t actually as better as non-veg folk usually think. And then there’s the mental-emotional-spiritual component to wrestle with – which is really what stands out to me. With even a basic understanding of concepts like karma and samskara one can discern that getting your panties twisted – on any level – about sentient beings being consumed by other sentient beings is potentially about as detrimental as choosing a burger from the menu.
But lets try to put all that aside for a second. Lets suppose that EVERYONE on the planet gave up eating meat. In fact, this is a probable eventuality. We know for a fact that current livestock farming practices are wholly unsustainable. We know for a fact that the oceans are increasingly fucked and that the things we eat from there are being over-fished and we’re seeing entire populations depleted. The current most obvious round of extinction is happening land-side but next great wave of extinction WILL come from under the waves. Soon enough we’ll have no choice but to find other ways of getting nutrients.
If the degree of ignorance currently so prevalent across humanity continues, it’s foreseeable that there will come a time when the planet is inhabited almost solely by an overpopulation of humans – there’d still be some plants (probably only ones we can still farm at that point), microorganisms (which we current cannot feed from), and some types of insects (many of which will also have gone extinct along with the land and water life forms). I don’t usually hear vegetarians or vegans lamenting the plight of night crawlers, ants, or crickets – and yet they (or similar creatures) are already a prominent part of human diet in some parts of the world. I find that odd, but I assume the reasoning is that an earth worm or grasshopper is significantly less sentient than a cow (never mind that scriptures tell us that God resides equally within all beings). Threaten to kill a cow and it will run from that threat. Threaten to smash a cricket and it will, for the exact same reason, try to escape. Why no outcry for the grasshoppers that end up on kebabs?
Really going down a rabbit hole….
For the sake of argument, let’s say that there IS less paap (sin) associated with eating “lesser” beings – which would include plants since they have their own base level of awareness and responses to threat, not unlike some insects. Let’s say the entire world is fed from veggies and maybe supplemented with fried crickets (or not – stick with plants only, if you want). Wouldn’t the entire world, under such conditions that no one was eating beings of higher sentience, then enjoy universally improved karma? Or maybe not, since sentient beings die for every salad produced?
How do we know the difference of karmic influence for a person eating one cow versus that same person eating 50 crickets? I don’t know how many fried crickets a person would typically eat in a year’s time, but even the most basic math says that eventually that person would consume however many crickets is the equivalent of having eaten a cow. The same math would on some level apply to accidental deaths of sentient beings that happen during farming. So then would the world’s karma be fucked again? Or maybe crickets, like plants, are so worthless that this would never be an issue? Maybe the amsha (spark) of God that lives in the lettuce and the cricket means less, is less divine? And what about the karma attached to a salad for which one thousand animals were accidentally killed during lettuce or carrot harvesting? If I want my salad and animals die for that, how is that terribly different from me wanting a cheeseburger and an animal dying for that? Vegans and vegetarians, do roll your eyes – but also answer these questions, if you please. If you think you can.
In Sahaj Marg / Heartfulness we give study to the idea of impressions (Hindu lingo = samsara). Meat-free eating is absolutely encouraged but not demanded by our hierarchy. It’s understood that, just as bad as biting into a lamb, is a traumatic reaction to biting into a lamb. Aversion is understood to be equally detrimental as attraction in the same degree. This might be weird to read but this is kind of where Heartfulness is a confluence of Hinduism, Buddhism, and Sufism. All of this is trapping and all of it should be moved beyond.
Aum Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha | Aum Shanti