International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India

CURRENTS OF VEGETARIANISM AND THE IMPORTANCE OF VEGETARIAN DIET
Swami Sivananda

The noble understanding that underlies the practice of vegetarianism is the fine fruit of enlightened thinking ; it is an active evidence of the growing purity of the nature of individuals practising it and a sign of the operation in their lives, of the endearing, extra-social, and unifying characteristics that are conducive to spiritual realization. The practice of broadbased vegetarianism, leads the consciousness of man into an intimate experience of the divine foundations of all forms of life; it is this experience alone that can become the bedrock of world-unity, world-harmony, world-happiness, and world-progress.

Without this form of cultural understanding and this deep experience of the very fundamental movements of existence by individuals, all efforts, endeavours, and pompous intentions and plans for a realization of the universal brotherhood and all those ideals that one generally hears of these days, would be abortive. Therefore, it is the privilege of everyone connected with this World Vegetarian Congress, to put in strenuous efforts to make the Vegetarian Movement a mighty cultural force in the contemporary world. This World Vegetarian Congress commands the cultural consent of the awakened opinion of all mankind exerts a moral force on all the represented countries, and compels the attention of all those who have not yet associated themselves with the Vegetarian Movement.

The knowledge that the International Vegetarian Movement is one of the most chastening and elevating cultural currents released into the contemporary world of many-sided life-activity, is a stimulating experience of a noble nature. The ideas, ideals,and principles of action, that form the foundation of this movement are in perfect consonance with those prevailing in the spiritual circles of the land of India. This fact lends the vegetarian movement an added strength and also gladdens everyone in India that this humanitarian trend shall continue to move from strength to strength and one day envelop all humanity in the most joyous sentiment of profound reverence for all life, of a recognition of the oneness and sacredness of all existence, and thus make for deeper bases of universal brotherhood, lore and progress.

If the machineries and measures of other world organizations and forms of efforts have shown themselves to be feeble to achieve the objective of world unity, world-peace, and world-progress, in the absence of the contemporary and indispensable action of the spiritual forces, this vegetarian movement, with its members of larger affections, broad views, liberal ideas, noble sentiments, elevated character, and genuine love for all that breathe, would prove with their growing activities a mighty force contributing to such an achievement. Herein we find that vegetarianism is not an end in itself, but a powerful enlightened instrument for rendering the lives of individuals into cementing forces of goodness, into centres of exalted natures that radiate and diffuse help, love, service, peace, and happiness into all forms of life.

Self-evident truths do not need to be emphatically shouted or substantiated by argumentation. It is futile to get into hot disputes over this question of vegetarianism or to bring statistics in support of non-vegetarian diet. It is not within the reach of all to understand the finer points in connection with vegetarianism.

The most important reason for which the vegetarian diet is advocated and non-vegetarian diet condemned is because of their respective effects upon the ethical and the spiritual development of the human being. The consideration is not so much of mere physical and mental or intellectual devolopment of the man. Man is more then just body and mind he is essentially an ever-perfect, ever-pure, and ever-free Spirit in his true inner nature. Human birth is given as an opportunity and a means to attain this sublime knowledge of his inner spiritual nature and to regain his Divinity. In this process, all grossness and animalistic tendencies have to be totally eliminated from the human personality. A non-vegetarian diet, which is gross and animal by its very nature, is a great hindrance to this process. A pure Sattvic diet is a great help to the refinement of the human nature. The Vegetarian diet is a great factor in this. Ethical idealism and spiritual aspiration find place and flourish more easily in a pure Sattvic and refined nature. Hence the vital importance of eschewing gross animal diet and adopting and a pure vegetarian diet. This is indispensable in the true interests of the noble inner culture of the man's being.

Ignorant people thoughtlessly wax eloquent in their advocacy of animal diet, They do not know about the important fact that man's nature is influenced by the diet that he takes. All foods are divided by our ancient men of wisdom into Sattvic, Rajasic, or Tamasic. Animal diet belongs to the Rajasic and mostly to the Tamasic category. Animal diet is not Sattvic. Sattvic diet is essential in the process of the ethical and spiritual culture of man. The Vegetarian diet is mostly Sattvic. The subtle part of the food material goes to make up the mind of man. A Tamasic diet produces Tamasic tendencies in man. Onion and garlic are extremely Tamasic. They are as bad as meat. Therefore, they are totally forbidden to those who wish for moral and spiritual growth. No doubt animal diet may produce a strong Sandow or a dauntless soldier or a keen brainy scientist. But, in the Hindu view of life, the real value is placed upon the moral and spiritual worth of the men. Moreover, flesh-eating involves the exercises of cruelty, which is not an elevating virtue. It is a bestial quality which degrades man. Cruelty is condemned by all great men. Thus the cruel slaughter of animals and the taking of innocent lives which flesh-eating entails makes it abhorrent to all right thinking men and women all over the world. People who are slaves to the flesh-eating habit cannot give up all animal diet, because they have become confirmed and inveterate meat-eaters and hence they try to justify their habit by various arguments and statistics. One carmot change their ways merely by argumentation and disputation. Ultimately, it is only the force of personal example that has a strong effect upon the people around you.

The Vegetarian diet has been acclaimed to be most conducive to spiritual and psychic advancement. It has been found that meat augments animal passion and decreases intellectual capacity. While it is true that meat-eating countries are physically active and strong, the same cannot be said of their spiritual attainments. Meat is not at all necessary for the keeping up of perfect, health, vigour, imd vitality. On the contrary, it is highly deleterious to health ; it brings in its train a host of ailments such as tapeworm, albuminuria and other diseases of the kidneys. Vegetarians keep up sound health till old age. It is a fact known to doctors that patients who are put on a regimen of vegetable diet, convalesce quickly. Killing of animals for food is a great blunder and the mentality it engenders is fraught with potential dangers for the life of humanity, a recognition of which made George Bernard Shaw say that as long as men torture and slay animals and eat their flesh we shall have war. Pythagoras seems to bewail when he says : "Beware, 0 mortals, of defiling your bodies with sinful food ! There are fruits bending their branches down by their weight, and luxurious grapes on the vines. There are sweet vegetables and herbs which the flame can render palatable and mellow. Nor are you denied milk. nor honey, fragrant of the aroma of the thyme flower. The bountiful earth offers you an abundance of pure food and provides for meals obtainable without slaughter and bloodshed."

Diet has intimate connexion with the mind. Mind is formed out of the subtlest portion of food. Sage Uddalaka instructs his son Swetaketu: "Food, when consumed, becomes threefold : the gross particles become excrement, the middling- ones flesh and the fine ones the mind. My child when curd is churned, its fine particles which rise upwards, form butter. Thus, my child. when food is consumed, the fine particles which rise upwards form the mind. Hence verily the mind is food." Again we find in the Chandogya Upanishad : "By the purity of food one becomes purified in his inner nature; by the purification of his inner nature he verily gets memory of the Self. and by the attainment of the memory of the Self, all ties and attachments are severed."