In Pt. II we considered the anatomical facts that showed man is essentially a veg-eater. The nutritional and economical facts show the hazards and losses of meat-eating. In this final article of the series, we'll be looking at the health status of vegetarians together with the views put forward by different scriptures.
"Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat, and the time will come when men will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of men."
Leonardo da Vinci
"It is in my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."
Veg-eaters Have More Stamina
It is often argued by health freaks among meat-eaters that vegetarians tend to have weak and pale bodies-but this couldn't be further from the truth. Various studies have shown vegetarians on the whole to be stronger, more agile and possessing greater stamina than meat-eaters.
In endurance tests at Brussels University by Dr. J. Ioteyko and V. Kipani results revealed that vegetarians were able to perform two to three times longer than meat-eaters before complete exhaustion, and they took one fifth the time to recover from fatigue after each test than the meat-eaters.
A Swedish scientist gave nine athletes bicycle endurance tests after three-day periods on various diets. All athletes were tested after periods on each diet so that differences in endurance could be accounted for only by differences in diet. (Astrand P, Nutrition Today 3: No. 2, 9-11, 1968).
The Effect of Diet on Glycogen Stores and Physical Endurance
|Glycogen Content Per 100 g. Wet Muscle
|Maximum Work Time
|Normal Mixed Diet
|Fat and Protein Diet (meats, fats, nuts)
|High Carbohydrate Diet
Endurance was almost 3 times greater on the vegetarian diet. This is accounted for, at least partly, by the higher and more sustained sugar (glycogen) content of muscle resulting from higher carbohydrate content of the diet.
It is also interesting to note that the world's most powerful and some of the longest lived animals are vegetarians. The elephant, buffalo, ox, camel, and horse all have large healthy bodies. Their stamina and phenomenal strength enable them to carry massive loads. No carnivore can put up with such strain and can never qualify to be a beast of burden.
What the Scriptures Say
The early Christians and Jews were also vegetarians. The Bible says, "And God said, 'Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of the earth, and every tree' in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat'." (Genesis 1 : 29). Further, in Genesis 9 : 4 it says, "But the flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat."
Hindu scriptures have long advocated a vegetarian diet for man. Lord Swaminarayan in His incomparable compilation of the code of conduct for His followers, The Shikshapatri, has pointed to the zenith of non-violence. He emphatically states: "None shall kill animals such as goats even for the purpose of performing sacrifices or for propitiating a deity, for non-violence in itself is held as the highest ethical code." (12). "None shall ever eat flesh, be it the remnant of offerings in a sacrifice…"(15).
Harvesting crops for food is permitted by the scriptures but not the killing of fully sentient animals such as cows, pigs, etc. Incidentally the egg even if non-fertilized is classified as flesh, animal material which was originally intended for the creation of a fully sentient animal. On the other hand, milk, though of animal origin, is a secretion like sweat, and its origin lies in the love of the mother towards its newborn. One does not have to kill the mother to obtain milk, no 'himsa' is thus committed.
There is also one other important aspect worth considering. Lord Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita (17:8, 9, 10) has categorized food into three types:-
(a) Those that promote : life, vitality, strength, health and joy are sweet, firm and nourishing and agreeable to good men. (Sattvic)
(b) Foods that are : bitter, sour, saltish, pungent, astringent, producing pain, grief and disease are liked by the passionate. (Rajasic)
(c) That which is : stale, tasteless, putrefying and unclean is liked by men of darkness (Tamasic)
"Animals are my friends… and I don't eat my friends."
"This is dreadful! Not only the suffering and death of
animals, but man suppresses in himself, unnecessarily,
the highest spiritual capacity - that of sympathy and pity
towards living creatures like himself - and by violating
his own feelings, becomes cruel."
George Bernard Shaw
Flesh is Tamasic because it will always be in a state of decay (Ref. 1st article) as Lord Swaminarayan reveals in His 'Dharmamrutam-Nishkami Vartman' (12): "Even the respectable class in society, out of sheer passion indulge in the consumption of undesirable non-sattvic foods as fish and other flesh, meats, alcohol…"
Sattvic food is ideal for man - having no adverse effects on his behaviour. For the aspirant who is treading the path to self and God-realisation, a control of his body's natural instincts is a must. 'Ahar shudhau Satva shuddhih' (Chandogya Upanishad VII 26, 2), means if your diet is pure then your thoughts will be pure.
An aspirant should always be vigilant in keeping his body's requirements as sattvic as possible; and to offer pure devotion to God he must abide by the scriptures with absolute faith. Recent scientific studies in the U.S.A. have revealed that human behaviour is radically affected by the nature of the food eaten.
Towards the end of the 19th century, a physician in the United States, Dr. James C. Jackson writing in "The Laws of Life," stated that: "I have found it impossible to cure drunkards while I allowed them the use of flesh-meats. I regard animal flesh as lying right across the way of restoration. Besides from its nutrition, it contains some element or substance which so excites the nervous system as in the long run to exhaust it, to wear out its tissues, and to render it incapable of normal action."
Albert Einstein was a staunch vegetarian and he believed, "It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."
Clearly then, vegetarianism is the diet for man, for which his body is suitably adapted. Summarily: next to tobacco and alcohol, meat is the greatest single cause of mortality in the United States, meat wastes energy when conservation is necessary; meat is deficient in two major essential food components - carbohydrate and fibre; it is more economical for the individual and the society to be vegetarian; and from the point of view of Karma, vegetarianism is innocent whereas non-vegetarians invariably have to pay heavily for the violations they commit. Lastly, vegetarianism is absolutely mandatory for true bhakti-yoga.
"Those who kill animals for food will be more prone
than vegetarians to torture and kill their fellow men."
Some Famous Vegetarians :
Pythagoras, Socrates, Plato, Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Leo Tolstoy, Henry David Thoreau, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, John Milton, H.G. Wells, Rabindranath Tagore, Albert Schweitzer, General William Booth, Mahatma Gandhi, George Bernard Shaw, Paul Newman, Upton Sinclair, James Coburn, Bob Dylan,...