Pranayama ...Yogic Breathing

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Pranayama ...Yogic Breathing

Spiritual and Religion

Why Vegetarian Diet ?

To Meat or Not To Meat

-by Shobha Nihalani

Many have scoffed at it; others are nonchalant; and some follow it religiously- it's vegetarianism. The term vegetarian comes from the Latin word vegetus, meaning 'whole', 'sound', 'fresh' or 'lively', as in homo vegetus - a mentally and physically vigorous person, The original meaning of the word implies a balanced philosophi­cal and moral sense of life, a lot more than just a diet of vegetables and fruits.

Most sceptics believe that vegetarians are a group of health fanatics. But the reasons for choosing a meat-free diet are not simply religious or moralistic. Let's examine some of the advantages of choosing a vegetarian diet.

In the Indian tradition, vegetarianism is not some kind of a new fad; it is ingrained in the Hindu philosophy. One cannot be pure in mind and body if one consumes the flesh of another living being- this is one of the fundamentals of the Hindu religion.

The ancient Sanskrit scriptures of India are known as the Vedic scriptures, or the Vedas; they represent knowledge of the Absolute. The Vedas are still followed by many people of today.

According to the Vedas, "Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures." The Vedas explain the law of karma (action). For every action there is a reaction, therefore, if we cause pain and suffering to others, we must endure pain and suffering in return.

In Christianity, there is much in the Bible to support vegetarianism. The first ten generations of humans begin­ning with Adam were vegetarians. But by Noah's time, people had 'fallen into sin'. Where Jesus is reported to have eaten meat in the Bible, the original words translate more accurately as 'food' and not 'meat'.

The Buddhist Law of Kanna also says that those who cause violence and suffering to living things will themselves experience the same violence. Bad feelings in people such as anger, hate and jealousy are believed to be the result of killing animals. When someone adopts a vegetarian diet which involves no killing, it is much easier for them to stay peaceful, happy and caring towards other people.

One could continue on the teachings of all religions one after the other, but, the fundamental principle of all relig­ions is the commandment: "Thou shalt not kill."


Health is one of the main reasons which have influenced many carnivores to change their eating habits. Increased incidence of heart disease and cancer among meat-eaters has convinced health experts that a predominantly vegetarian diet can reduce the risk of heart disease.

According to research conducted in several countries, the human body is unable to deal with excessive amounts of animal fat and cholesterol. Excessive cholesterol clogs the arteries and constricts the now of blood to the heart, leading to high blood pressure, stroke and heart disease.

Other research indicates that the human body does not require too much protein. The official daily recommendation for protein intake has gone down from 150 grams, which was suggested 20 years ago, to only 45 grams today. Protein consumed in excess of the actual daily need is not only wasted, but can actually reduce the body's energy level. A 100% vegetarian diet consisting of a variety of grains, lentils, nuts, vegetables and fruits, fulfils the protein requirement.

Nutritionists and biologists agree that the human body was never meant to digest meat. Flesh eating animals have short intestinal tracks to pass rapidly decaying, toxin pro­ducing meat out of the body quickly. The human intestinal track is 6 times the length of the body and takes much longer to pass the decaying meat out of the system. Toxins resulting from the meat put pressure on the kidneys, lead­ing to other diseases.

The animals that are slaughtered are injected with growth hormones and other chemicals 10 produce the most meat at the highest profit. Animals, which are infected with diseases, often receive approval for human consumption. The situation in animal factories is even more alarming. Many animals never see the light of day. Their lives are spent in cramped and cruel surroundings before they reach their final destination- the slaughter house. All this results in harmful effects on the human body, both directly and indirectly. Nitrites and nitrates are cancer-causing chemical preservatives which are used on slaughtered meat to give it a bright red color. Meat for market consumption begins to putrefy after slaughtering. In a few days, it changes iton a grey-green color. To mask these discolorations, the meat industry adds these chemicals.

Tranquillizers, artificial hormones, antibiotic resistant bac­teria, pesticides, chemicals and other drugs are used to fatten up and keep animals alive. Our bodies cannot absorb these chemicals, resulting in all kinds of health problems.


Feeding the world's growing population through animal breeding is considered inefficient. Animals cat 5-10 times more plant food than humans. Land is scarce and 'over­grazing' results in poor quality of farm land which may eventually turn into desert.
Poultry farming has grown rapidly in India. They are producing more meat than what the people can buy. Even though people go hungry in India, the country is now exporting meat to other countries, to those who can afford it. The poor are getting poorer because the little food that is available is fed to livestock, not people.

A study published in "Plant Foods for Human Nutrition", reveals that an acre of grain produces 5 times more protein than an equal area of pasture set aside for meat production. An acre of beans or peas produces 10 times more, and an acre of spinach, 28 times more protein. In fact, the economic facts about land use were known to the ancient Greeks. The great Greek philosopher Socrates recommended a vegetarian diet because it would allow a country to make the most intelligent use of its agricultural resources.


Degradation of the environment is another price that is paid for consumption of meat. Water, a precious resource, is needed to wash away huge amounts of blood and other slaughter house waste. According to a study conducted in the United States, a pound of wheat requires only 60 pounds of water, whereas production of a pound of meat requires anywhere from 2,000 to 6,000 pounds of water.

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