Vegans have a bit of a reputation for being a little smug (sorry, it’s true). Not only are they saving the planet and animals with every meal they eat, but they also seem to have more self-restraint than those of us who can’t say no to a juicy burger. But that’s not all. If you’re into spiritual stuff, you’ve probably noticed that veganism is pretty popular among yogis and the ‘woke’ crowd. But does eating meat affect your spirituality or make you a bad person? And why do so many spiritual types go vegan anyway?
Here’s all you need to know about eating meat while trying to be more spiritual.
Can you be spiritual and eat meat?
To answer the question ‘Does eating meat affect your spirituality?’, we need to go back a few steps and get a little spiritually technical.
While in the West, we think of yoga as a type of exercise, the word actually means union. That’s the union of your individual consciousness (your soul) with infinite consciousness (the universe). And when your soul and the universe unite, you achieve enlightenment (at least according to yogic texts). This all means that a yogic diet is one that helps you become more spiritually aware and move toward enlightenment.
According to yogic teachings, a yogic diet should be made up of foods that balance the body and mind, while increasing energy, calmness and mental clarity. These foods are known as sattvic (which means ‘pure’ in Sanskrit) and include in-season whole foods like fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, oils, ripe vegetables and non-meat based proteins.
Animal foods aren’t on the list because sattvic foods follow the yogic principle of ahimsa – also known as nonviolence or not harming other living things.
Not only did the great Indian sage Patanjali talk about ahimsa in the Yoga Sutras (ancient texts on how to practice yoga), it’s a principle that features in all religions that believe in enlightenment as the ultimate goal, namely Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Sikhism.
So, does eating meat affect your spirituality?
Put simply, yes.
There’s no getting around the fact that ancient wisdom on enlightenment and spiritual awakening suggests that eating the flesh of other living creatures isn’t the best way to go about raising your awareness.
This is why people on a spiritual path follow a plant-based diet.
So, we can agree that eating meat isn’t recommended when you’re focused on raising your awareness, but is it a total no-no? Or is it like sneaking a doughnut when you’re trying to lose weight – reaching your goal gets harder, but not impossible?
Does eating meat make you a bad person?
In a word, no.
Before we anger anyone strongly opposed to this viewpoint, we’d like to make one thing clear: this is just our opinion – we aren’t saying it’s a fact or that it’s the only opinion worth pondering over.
The reason why we have this opinion is because a big part of the human experience is that what’s ‘good’ and what’s ‘bad’ ultimately comes down to your conscience. We’ve all experienced that feeling of doing something that everyone else is doing, but it just doesn’t sit right with us. It doesn’t mean that everyone is ‘bad’ and you’re ‘good’, it’s just your inner guidance telling you that specific action isn’t aligned with who you are as a person.
We believe this is also true for eating meat. Yes, spiritual texts recommend giving animal flesh a wide berth, but forget about them for a second and focus on how you feel about eating meat, fish, eggs and other animal products. Does it feel inherently wrong to you or are you only questioning it because you’re now on a self-growth journey and you’re keen to do this spiritual stuff ‘right’?
If the answer is yes, it just feels inherently wrong, then it may be time to explore a plant-based diet and see how you feel on it. But if it feels fine to you right now, there’s no need to lock yourself into a life of deprivation – that could actually derail you as most people don’t stick to habits that feel like torture.
Remember that the journey is one of self-discovery and that may mean eating meat today, stopping tomorrow and maybe picking it back up again if you realise you function better with a little meat in your life.
Just remember to be safe when making dietary changes. If you’re going to cut out animal products after a lifetime of eating them, speak to a qualified nutritionist for advice on how to get all the nutrients your body needs on a plant-based diet.
Is it eating meat bad karma… really?
Again, if you look at yogic texts, the simple answer to this question is yes. But, of course, this only matters if you believe in the idea of karma.
Karma is a yogic concept (common in Hinduism and Buddhism) that’s defined as the effect of your actions – good or bad. So if you do something that goes against yogic principles, you create bad karma. And if you do something that aligns with yogic principles, that gives you good karma.
Karma really only matters on a spiritual journey because it’s the thing that keeps a person from being enlightened or fully aware. A person reaches a state of enlightenment when they stop creating karma because they’ve attained ultimate awareness and no longer react to life – which is what creates karma in the first place. When you’re fully aware, you just are – you move through life with full realisation that it’s all just a game of sorts, and so you have no attachment to outcomes and, as such, you don’t create karma. (Take a look at this article on the meaning of life if we’ve lost you.)
So just like eating the aforementioned doughnuts on a diet slows your progress, eating meat will technically give you bad karma but it doesn’t cancel out all the good karma you’re creating through other actions. Yes, you’re unlikely to become the next Buddha if you’re still creating any bad karma, but are you actually trying to become a Buddha or are you just eager to live a fulfilled life and be the best you possible?
We’re just putting that out there…
What about being a pescetarian – is eating fish better than meat?
While fish and seafood can feel like a completely different food group to meat, the truth is that it’s all the same. The definition of meat is any type of animal flesh, so this includes fish, seafood and even less common animal foods like insects.
But if you are going to eat animal flesh, fish seems to be the better option.
When asked about the best foods to eat, author and spiritual leader Sadhguru said that yogic tradition recommends eating “what is furthest away from you, genetically. In that sense, plant life is furthest away from us. If you must eat non-vegetarian food, we advise the consumption of fish, because among the animals, it is furthest away from a human being, if you look at it from an evolutionary perspective.”
What about being vegetarian – is that OK?
Interestingly, if you look closely at the traditional sattvic diet, you’ll find that it contains dairy, like milk and ghee. That’s probably because you can get hold of dairy without causing much harm to an animal… technically (yes, it can be argued that farming practices used to keep cows producing milk are harmful).
So that means that if you’re keen to follow a yogic diet to the letter, there’s no need to cut dairy from your diet.
Do you eat meat, fish or animal products? What do you think – does eating meat affect your spirituality? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below.