It is well known that the majority of the Indian populations do not eat meat. (The Muslims and a few modern Hindus do eat it.) This is not altogether because they cannot afford meat. Most of them object to it because it involves the taking of life. Underlying that objection is the law of karma, which has been familiar to Indians for many thousands of years. Saints and their disciples do not eat meat, fish, eggs or any sort of animal food for the same reason. It involves the slaughter of animal life, and that means the assumption of karmic debts. Let us now see how it works out both in theory and in practice.
In vegetables there is but one active tattwa, or elementary condition of matter. That is jal, which means ‘water’. It refers to the liquid state of any substance. In insects there are two active tattwas, agni or ‘fire’, and vayu or ‘air’. Agni refers to the resolving state, or heat; it means a transitional state of matter. Vayu refers to the gaseous condition of matter. In birds there are three active tattwas: jal, agni and vayu. In the higher animals there are four active tattwas: prithvi (earth), jal, agni and vayu. But in man, and in man alone, all five tattwas are active. As a matter of fact, all five tattwas are in everything in the world, but they are not active. Akash is the last one, which is active in man alone.
Now, the law by which we are governed is this: The greater the number of active tattwas that are combined in the living individual, the higher he is in the scale of evolution and also the greater the responsibility involved in killing that individual – hence, the greater the burden of karma assumed in killing. But since man has to eat something in order to continue his life here, the ancient sages and Masters selected the least harmful substances, that is, those things in the killing and eating of which there is the least karma to be assumed. They decided on vegetables; no animals at all. Of course, there is some karma to be assumed in eating vegetables, as there is life in them too. But in vegetables there is the lowest form of life, and hence the least karma involved. This is the chief reason why the saints do not approve of killing and eating animals.
The second reason is that the eating of animal food interferes with one’s spiritual refinement. It drags a person down toward the animal plane. It is a fact that as long as one eats animals, he will be more or less like animals. It is unavoidable that we should become like what we eat, just as we become like that of which we constantly think. We must absorb its qualities to some extent. How could it be otherwise? That is but common sense, and I believe most people will agree to it. It may be tested by anyone. A heavy animal diet will always awaken the animal passions and drag one’s thoughts down to th animal plane. But the disciples of the saints have as their chief aim and effort in life to rise above the animal plane and to unfold their spiritual powers. Hence they must not eat that which will pull them down to the animal level.
Another reason is that an animal diet is an unhealthy diet. It fills the body with impurities, the purine group especially – uric acid and other by-products of animal-food digestion. All these bring on their train of evils – rheumatism, metal dullness, heaviness and laziness, appendicitis, etc. the refuse in the intestinal tract from animal foods develops soluble poisons that are themselves deadly, and if a person goes on manufacturing and absorbing them, they may lead to disease, an enfeebled old age or an early death.
But the student of the Masters wishes to keep his body in as perfect a condition as possible. This is one of the oft-repeated commands of the Master. Then it stands to reason that he must select the purest and least harmful foods available. This means a diet of vegetables, fruits, grains and nuts, and all dairy products.
Students of the Masters are strictly enjoined not to indulge in intoxicating drinks. This is because they confound the intellect, vitiate judgment and almost destroy discrimination, leading to creating bad karmas. Under its influence, one may do things which result in a heavy karmic debt that can only be wiped off in several incarnations, besides bringing shame and dishonor here. Both body and mind suffer, the resulting mental slavery being a great impediment in the way of spiritual practice.
– The Path of the Masters, The Science of Surat Shabd Yoga, The Yoga of the Audible Life Stream
Julian Johnson, M.A., B.D., M.D.