Humans are both physical and spiritual beings. These aspects are inter-dependent. As physical beings, our life-style can promote inner growth and be motivated by it. As spiritual beings, we are nurtured through inner experience and meditation.
Q : Does this mean that there is something intrinsically, spiritually important about our food choices? After all, we have to eat. Can we theorize that our commitment to a compassionate diet signals a growing spiritual development?
" COMPASSION " is like a muscle that must be flexed in order to grow strong. Our daily commitment to a compassionate diet is vital to this practice. It contributes to our development into a spiritually focused human being. Developing and practicing COMPASSION is an important requirement in finding success in both our physical and spiritual lives. We can say that the development of COMPASSION is an intrinsic part of finding inner peace.
"Ahimsa "is a religious concept which advocates non-violence and a respect for all life. "Ahimsa " in Sanskrit is for" avoidance of himsa, or injury ". It is interpreted most often as meaning peace and reverence toward all sentient beings.
" Ahimsa ", or non-injury, refers to abstaining not merely from deeds of physical violence but includes the control of our thoughts and words as well. The practice of Ahimsa makes us strong and gives us bearing power when we meet with opposition.
" Ahimsa "was introduced to the West by the Mahatma Gandhi. Inspired by his actions, Western civil rights movements, led by such people as Martin Luther King Jr., engaged in non-violent protests.
Gandhiji was clear on the need for Compassionate Diet in humankind's development. In the West, Martin Luther King was of likemind. Even today his wife Coretta Scott King and his son are vegetarians. The brilliant philosopher Immanuel Kant was also very clear on man's need to become vegetarian :
" If man is not to stifle human feeling, he must practice kindness toward animals, for he who is cruel to animals becomes hard also in his dealing with men. We can judge the heart of man by his treatment of animals " - Immanuel Kant
As we refrain from eating the flesh of innocent creatures, we become more sensitive to the life around us. We begin to realize that much of our suffering has stemmed from our participation in the suffering of the slaughtered animals. We begin to glimpse the higher truth that all life is connected.
Compassionate Diet can be classified into grain, cereals, vegetables, and fruits. In the Ayurvedic tradition these foods are called satvic. A satvic diet is pure and produces serenity and equipoise.
Historically, Sages and Saints have preferred these foods as the best to facilitate spiritual meditation. Satvicfoods and simple living are conducive to the development of highest culture or civilization.
Our priority should be that food is made for humans and not humans for food. If we wish to create receptivity for higher things in life, we may want to remember to eat to live rather than live to eat. Following this course, along with choosing an ethical life will do much to lead us on our journey toward self-knowledge and God knowledge.
(source: website www.vegspirit.com)
The body needs to be refined, to be improved, to be moulded into such a form and made of such constituents as may best fit it to be the instrument on the physical plane for man's highest purposes. Everything which tends in that direction is to be encouraged and cultivated, everything which goes contrary to it is to be avoided.
The physical matter in man is in exceedingly close touch with the astral. Each is to a great extent a counter part of the other, and coarseness and grossness in the physical body imply a similar condition in the higher vehicles.
The ordinary person lets his body build itself up 'anyhow' out of the materials supplied to it, without regard to their nature, caring only that they shall be palatable and 'agreeable' to his desires, and not whether they are suitable or unsuitable to the making of a pure and noble dwelling for the self.
If we are careless about the physical diet we build into our dense bodies solid particles of an impure kind, we attract to ourselves the corresponding impure kind of what we call the solid astral. On the otherhand, as we build into our dense bodies solid particles of purer type, we attract the correspondingly purer type of solid astral matter.
As we carry on the purification of the physical body by feeding it on clean food and drink and by excluding from our diet the polluting blood and flesh of animals, alcohol and other things that are foul and degrading, we also begin to purify the astral vehicle and take from the astral world more delicate and fine materials for its construction. The effect of this is not only important as regards the present Earth Life, but it has a distinct bearing also on the post-mortem state, on our condition in the astral world, and on the kind of body we shall have in the next life upon earth.
As the astral body is the vehicle of the emotions and passions, it follows that a man whose astral body is of the ruder type will be chiefly amenable to the lower and rougher varieties of passion and emotion; where as a man who has a fine astral body will find that its particles most readily vibrate in response to higher and more refined emotions and aspirations.
There can be no questions that it is the duty of every man to develop all his vehicles as far as possible in order to make them perfect instruments for the use of the soul.
All these vehicles, therefore, must be in the highest possible condition of efficiency; they must be pure and clean and free from taint. And, it is obvious that this can never be, so long as the man puts into the physicalbody undesirable constituents like flesh of animals, birds, reptiles and flesh of that of crustaceous creatures and molluscs which feed on carrion. How could bodies made of such materials be sensitive, delicately balanced and yet perfectly healthy with the strength of tempered steel such as is needed for all the higher kinds of work?
(Source: " Man and His Bodies" by Annie Besant)
The difference between flesh-based and vegetarian foods lies in the amount of sun-light they contain. Fruits and Vegetables are so steeped in sun-light, that one could say they are a condensed form of light. In order to develop the qualities of the heart, besides eating peacefully, one needs to eat consciously.
This means bringing in the light, eating the concentrated light which contains the beautiful sounds that connect our hearts to the rhythms and invisible aspects of the Universe. This attracts the luminous properties of matter and illuminates your being, especially your thoughts and emotions, not just today, but throughout your experience of your existence on this material plane.
Your future depends on how you eat and what you eat. Your body is your temple and every action within the temple, done with conscious intention, creates a more harmonious outcome. Transcendence happens as you obtain better and more refined particles to replace that which hold the old and limiting particles which colour your experience of this ecstatic Universe.
The quality of your food, it's physical properties, not only transforms your emotions and mind, but can actually change your appearance and personality. Everything around us is permeated by forces and those forces become more pure and subtle the further they reach the higher planes of light that exist here in the physical world.
Source : www.tonysamara.org .. Vegetarianism and Spirituality from ancient times to the present .. The Samara Foundation
Will Tuttle has a masters' degree in humanities from San Francisco State University and a Ph.D. in the philosophy of education from the University of California, Berkeley. A professional pianist, composer, and teacher, he has for the last fifteen years presented at progressive churches, vegetarian and human potential conferences, and intentional communities throughout the country. Tuttle trained in Korea as a Zen Buddhist monk and has worked extensively in Tai Chi, yoga, meditation, intuition development and spiritual healing. He lives in Healdsburg, California. A few excerpts from the book " The World Peace Diet ".
Animal foods concentrate both physical and metaphysical toxins.
The physical toxins in animal foods .. such as the trans fats, pathogens, and pesticide, drug, and hormone residues .. besides injuring our bodily health, can also disturb us mentally and emotionally.
Mood-swings, irritability, and loss of attentiveness are well-known side-effects of drugs and chemicals and the power of psychoactive substances is well documented. We are rediscovering what Pythagoras taught us thet : " EATING animal foods has negative effects on our consciousness ".
Studies have repeatedly shown that high levels of testosterone are associated with aggressive destructive behavior, impatience, and irritability. In addition, it's now understood that diets high in animal fat and low in plant fiber lead to a retention and concentration of sex hormones like testosterone in the body.
The fiber of vegetables, grains, and other plant foods binds these circulating hormones and" keeps them in check" through SHBG ( sex hormone binding globulin) which increases with plant food intake.
Beyond this physical level of bio-mechanism such as hormone levels, toxins, and nutrients, there are " metaphysical forces "at work that though ignored are nevertheless operating.
" Metaphysical toxins " .. i.e., the concentrated vibrations of terror, grief, frustration, and desperation permeating these foods .. are invisible and completely unrecognized by conventional science, yet they may be even more disturbing to us than physical toxins because they work on the level of feelings and consciousness, which are more essential dimensions of ourselves than our physical vehicle.
Physicists are beginning to glimpse the truth that Mystics and Sages have been pointing toward for centuries, that the world that appears to us through our senses is a vibrational phenomenon.
Energy that vibrates within a certain range becomes perceptible to us as " MATTER ", and vibrations outside that range, though not necessarily perceptible by our senses, still exist.
We may look at an egg and see just a material thing, but if we had the necessary intuitive equipment, we could become much more aware of the egg as a vibrational entity.
Though our mind may be blocked from seeing, feeling, or sensing the egg as a vibrational energy system, our body, which is also a vibratory system, will be affected by it at the essential vibratory level. Our body knows what vibration it is EATING, as does our mind at the deeper levels beyond conscious awareness.
At the level of vibrational frequency, our bodies know and respond to the vibrations of environments and situations, of relationships, of emotions, and especially of what we EAT. It has been well known for generations that the milk of a mother who is angry or disturbed will often make her baby sick.
Consciousness and" ENERGY-MATTER" are mutually conditioning, interpenetrating, and interdependent in utterly profound and mysterious ways.
Consciousness is primary and essential, and what appears as " ENERGY-MATTER " is ultimately a manifestation of consciousness.
Many cultures recognize that food that is prepared with love and caring attention to detail is more healthful than food that is prepared with indifference or, even worse, with irritation or anger. For this reason .. for example .. in many Zen monasteries, only the most senior and advanced meditation monks are allowed to prepare food in the monastery kitchen.
In India, MOTHERS have been encouraged for centuries to cook in a loving, calm, and meditative mood so that the food they prepare for their children will nourish them not only physically but also emotionally and spiritually.
It's also widely recognized that when food is eaten in an attitude of mindfulness and appreciation, it's more nourishing than if eaten in a distracted, hurried, or irritated frame of mind.
Food, like all apparently physical matter, is energy and vibration and is a manifestation of consciousness, and though it is important to prepare, eat, and share food mindfully, we can see that it's important to look more deeply than this, to the actual source of our food.
Matter, Energy, and Consciousness are inseparable, and the cruelty unavoidably embodied in animal foods is a potent and unrecognized toxin, damaging not just to our physical health, but to our emotional and spiritual health as well.
Excerpts from : Spiritual India - Jul-Aug 2014
Piyadassi Maha Thera .. ( 1914 - 1998) is best known as a great preacher of the Dhamma. He was born on 8th July 1914 at Kotahena in Colombo, Sri Lanka. At the age of twenty 'he entered the Buddhist Order and mastered the religion and philosophy of Buddhism under the erudite scholar monk Venerable Pelene Siri Vajiragnana Nayaka Thera, founder of the Vajirarama Bambalapitiya. Venerable Mahathera Piyadassi was one of the world's most eminent Buddhist monks having travelled widely carrying the message of the Buddha-Dhamma, both to the East and to West, he was able to write in a style that has universal appeal. A few excerpts from the book " The Spectrum of Buddhism " by Piyadassi.
" Karuna " is defined as " the quality which makes the heart of the good man tremble and quiver at the distress of others " .. " the quality that rouses tender feelings in the good man at the sight of others suffering. "
Cruelty or violence is the direct enemy of Karuna while .. homely grief is the indirect or masked enemy. Though the latter may appear in the guise of a friend, it is not true Karuna, but false sympathy; such sympathy is deceitful and one must try to distinguish true from false compassion.
The compassionate man who refrains from harming and oppressing others and endeavours to relieve them of their distress gives the gift of security to one and all, making no distinction whatsoever.
" Karuna " is loving-compassion. It is that sublime quality which makes the hearts of the noble quiver at the suffering of the world.
" Karuna " has the characteristic of a mother whose thoughts, words and deeds tend to relieve the distress of her babe. It has property of not being able to tolerate the sufferings of others, and the manifestation of perfect non-violence. Its consummation is the eradication of all cruelty. Its proximate cause is the sight of the forlorn state of those in distress.
By precept and example the Buddha was the Great Compassionate One (Mahakarunika). He radiated his great compassion towards all beings, and never encouraged wrangling, animosity and violence.
Addressing the disciples he once said : " I quarrel not with the world, it is the world that quarrels with me. An exponent of the Dhamma does not quarrel with anyone in the world. "The entire dispensation of the Buddha is permeated with this sublime quality of karuna.
Goodness and violence cannot co-exist ; goodness constructs while violence destroys. Compassion cannot be cultivated by one who is obsessed with thoughts of selfishness. It is the self-sacrificing man who fills his heart with pure thoughts of pity and wishes to help and serve others. The selfish cannot be of real service to others for their selfish motives prevent them from doing good. No sooner do they become selfish and self-possessed than they fail to soften their hearts.
If you remove compassion from the teachings of the Buddha, you remove the heart of Buddhism; for all virtues, all goodness and righteousness have compassion as their basis. as their matrix ( kaurna nidhanam hi silam ).
All the virtues (paramitas) that a Bodhisatta, one bent on Enlightenment .. cultivates are initiated by compassion.
Compassion is guided by wisdom .. and wisdom in guided by compassion. They go hand in hand, they are the Backbone of Buddhism, the guiding principles.
(Source : Spiritual India - Mar - Apr, 2014)