Becoming a vegetarian could be a big lifestyle change if you have been eating non-veg your whole life.
One of the easiest ways to optimize your practice of bhakti yoga meditation is to adopt a vegetarian diet.
In fact, taking control of the the food you eat when you become vegetarian is one of the easiest ways to support and maintain the mental purity you gain from your practice.
What we eat influences not only our physical well being, but also the quality of our mind and the quality of our thoughts and motivations. Ultimately, this affects our spiritual well being and progress.
There are many positive social, ethical and economic reasons to become vegetarian in today's world. To explore these, we recommend this article: "How to Successfully Become A Vegetarian". Click to see in your browser or right click to download.
Vegetarianism in Hinduism
Taking the life of another living being for its consumption is considered detrimental to a spiritual lifestyle. Saints and scriptures have reiterated this in many places and encourage us to become vegetarian.
The Vedas and other Vedic scriptures advocate non-violent behavior towards all living beings and this was reflected in the admonition to become vegetarian and maintain a vegetarian diet. But India's occupation by foreign powers over hundreds of years was bound to affect its cultural and religious values.
The book, Food for the Spirit-Vegetarianism and the World Religions, observes, "...the non-vegetarian diet became increasingly widespread among the Hindus after the two major invasions by foreign powers, first the Muslims and later the British. With the latter came the desire to be 'civilized,' to eat as did the British."
"Those trained in Vedic scriptures never adopted a meat-oriented diet, and the pious Hindu still observes vegetarian principles as a matter of religious duty."
"That vegetarianism has always been widespread in India is clear from the earliest Vedic texts. This was observed by the ancient traveler Megasthenes and also by Fa-Hsien, a Chinese Buddhist monk who, in the fifth century, traveled to India in order to obtain authentic copies of the scriptures."
"These scriptures unambiguously support vegetarianism. In the Mahabharat, for instance, the great warrior Bheeshm explains to Yuddhishthira, eldest of the Pandav princes, that the meat of animals is like the flesh of one's own son."
"Similarly, the Manusmriti declares that one should refrain from eating all kinds of meat,' for such eating involves killing and the consequence of that action deepens our karmic bondage' [5.49].
Elsewhere in the Puranas, the last of the great Vedic kings, Maharaja Parikshit, is quoted as saying that it is only the animal-killer who can't enjoy the message of Absolute Truth.' [Bhagwatam 10.1.4]."
Fish and meat are listed among the "food injurious to the yogi" by the Hatha Yoga Pradipika (I, 59), and eating animal flesh violates the first principle of yogic ethics (yamas) by Patanjali in the Yoga Sutras of non-violence (ahimsa).
The Modes of Maya and Food
According to Ayurveda, the Vedic science of medicine, all food is classified according to the three modes of maya, sattva, rajas and tamas. Each quality has a profound influence not only on our physical health, but also on our state of mind.
- Sattvic food promotes clarity and serenity of mind and is conducive for spiritual growth. It is fresh, sweet, juicy, light, nourishing, lightly cooked with minimal spices and includes most fruits, nuts, seeds, vegetables, particularly green leafy vegetables, whole grains, honey, pure water and milk.
- Rajasic food feeds the body, but promotes activity and therefore induces restlessness in the mind. Rajasic food is bitter, sour, salty, pungent, hot and dry. It includes most spicy foods, stimulants like coffee and tea, eggs, garlic, onion, meat, fish and chocolate, as well as most processed food. Eating too fast or with a disturbed mind is also considered rajasic. These foods create sensuality, sexuality, greed, jealousy, anger, delusion, fantasies, egotism and irreligious feelings.
- Tamasic food induces heaviness of the body and dullness of the mind, and ultimately benefits neither. It increases pessimism, ignorance, lack of common sense, greed, laziness, criminal tendencies and doubt. Tamasic food is dry, bad smelling, distasteful or unpalatable. It includes alcohol, meat, and food that is stale or overripe. Foods that have been processed, canned or frozen are tamasic. Overeating is also tamasic.
If you practice bhakti yoga meditation it is best to become vegetarian and adhere to a sattvik diet as much as possible. If your diet only partially includes sattvik food, you receive only partial benefit. It's like rowing a boat while it is still tied to the dock. You can do something more to speed up your journey -- untie the boat! Become vegetarian.
Jagadguru Kripalu Pyramid:
Sattvik Food for Aspiring Bhakti Yogis
One of the biggest questions you may have if you want to become vegetarian is: What exactly can I eat? The following model is an adaptation of a typical food pyramid that was pioneered by Swami Prem Yogi in his book Bhaktiyog-Beyond Religion. He calls this the "Jagadguru Kripalu Pyramid" and it is designed to perfectly support your bhakti yoga meditation practice and it is super easy to follow for those who want to become vegetarian.
The basic food groups on the Jagadguru Kripalu Pyramid are:
- Legumes (also called beans, pulses, dals, lentils or grams)
- Fresh and dried fruits
- Nuts and Seeds
- Honey, Ayurvedic tonics and nutritional supplements
This pyramid is a part of a 5-part process explained in the book called Jagadguru Kripalu Yoga.
A Basic Sattvik Vegetarian Eating PlanA new vegetarian may worry if he is satisfying his body's need for adequate nutrition. But old-timers (long-time vegetarians) know a vegetarian diet supplies all the macronutrients (carbohydrates, proteins, fats and oils) and micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) they need, less the damaging effects of non-veg food. Below is an approximate serving guide for a balanced daily diet following the Jagadguru Kripalu Pyramid:
- Grains -- 3-5 servings a day as:
- 1 slice wholegrain bread, or 1 small cup whole grain cereal, or 1/2 cup cooked cereal
- Legumes -- 3-5 servings a day as:
- 1 cup boiled dal, grams or lentils, or 1/2 cup boiled larger beans (kidney, black-eyed, garbanzo, etc.)
- Vegetables -- 4-5 servings a day as:
- 1 cup raw, 3/4 cup semi-cooked, 1/2 cup fully cooked
- Fruits -- 4-5 servings a day as:
- 1 small fresh fruit, 1/2 banana, 1/4 papaya, 1 dried dates, 2 dried figs/apricots, 1 cup berries or cut melon
- Dairy -- 2-3 servings a day as:
- 1 cup non-fat/skim milk, 1 cup yogurt, 1 cup buttermilk
- Nuts and Seeds -- 1-2 servings a day as:
- 7 almonds, 3 walnuts, 8 peanuts
- Oils -- 1-2 servings a day as:
- 1 teaspoon healthy oil (cold-pressed olive, flaxseed, etc.)
- Honey -- 1-2 servings a day as:
- 1 teaspoon (unprocessed organic)
Simple, isn't it! And don't forget to drink at least 8 glasses of pure filtered water every day.
Tips for Shopping and Cooking
Use a pressure cooker
Many new vegetarians are often confused about how to cook legumes and beans. The fastest, most economical way to do this is in a pressure cooker. If this is a completely new experience for you, please visit this site for a great tutorial on how to get started.
Think you might need more protein?
Your diet may provide enough protein for your needs - but there are other plant-based protein options. Click here for vegetarian protein ideas.
Local health food stores
Local health food stores and markets are bound to have vegetarian foods and products you haven't seen before. Ask questions about vegetarian foods that are new to you.
Exploring the local markets in your area of cultures that are inclusive of vegetarianism. Have you ever visited an Asian Store? All stores that cater to customers of India origin sell a huge variety of legumes, pulses, grams and beans. You will find lots of new and interesting items to add to your diet -- it will inspired you in your quest to become vegetarian. Visit our links page for info.
Bookmark vegetarian cooking and recipe sites
Check out a few of our favorites on our links page.
Not all recipes will follow the guidelines for a sattvik diet, so don't be scared to make changes to ingredients to optimize a dish.
Become vegetarian and establish a sattvik diet and lifestyle. Develop a library of vegetarian resources that will support you and your practice of bhakti yoga meditation.