The principle of ahimsa is the foundation for the Hindu practice of vegetarianism. What we eat affects not just our body but also our thoughts and actions. Man’s appetite for meat inflicts devastating harm on Earth itself, stripping its precious forests to make way for pastures. Moreover, Satguru Sivaya Subramuniya Swami in his book, Dancing with Siva, says “Hindus teach vegetarianism as a way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings, for to consume meat, fish, fowl or eggs is to participate indirectly in acts of cruelty and violence against the animal kingdom.” He also goes on to say, “The meat-eater’s desire for meat drives another to kill and provide that meat. The act of the butcher begins with the desire of the consumer.” In other words, the desire to eat meat is as sinful as the act of actually eating it. Pramukh Swami Maharaj speaks of the emotional damage caused to another living being: “Imagine someone eating your mother, father, brother, sister, or child. Animals have feelings and dependencies too. By taking away someone’s life we are depriving many around them of what is rightfully theirs.”
Pramukh Swami Maharaj has spoken in his discourses about eating pure, home-cooked food for better health of the body, mind, and soul. Just as unclean food can have an effect on our digestive system, certain types of foods can negatively affect our thinking as well. Bhagwan Swaminarayan prescribed that His followers should eat only vegetarian food, strictly avoiding meat, fish, and eggs. He also prescribed that onions and garlic, which have tamasic properties, should not be consumed by His followers.
The purest food is that which is prepared at home or in the mandir for offering to God. To promote healthy food, the BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha now provides food courts serving vegetarian food at its mandirs and centers.