1. Origin and meaning
The Marathi word for vegetarian is ‘shakahar’. It is formed from – Shak + ahar. Shak means Holy, and ahar means diet. Hence, the word shakahar means a Holy diet.
In Sanskrut, Shakaha means a plant. There is a female Deity by the name of Shakamb.
2. Importance and superiority of vegetarian diet
Vegetarian food contains adequate amount of proteins.
Vegetarian people are active, healthy, and live longer. George Bernard Shaw was a strict vegetarian and he lived a healthy life till the age of ninety four.
Many famous Western personalities were vegetarian. For example, Plato, Socrates, Aristotle, Rousseau, Goldsmith, Milton, Newton, Shelly, Voltaire, Caesar, Weznet, Thoreau, Tolstoy, Field Marshal Montgomery, Harry Wheatcraft, Brigadier Graphey. All these personalities said that, man can live a completely disease-free life on vegetarian diet.
Modern science has established the undisputed supremacy of vegetarian diet.’
3. Being vegetarian amounts to abiding by Dharma (Righteousness)
When God created the universe, He laid down rules on who should eat what. Accordingly, to be able to kill other animals, carnivorous animals have a specific jaw structure that includes long pointed teeth and canines. In contrast, the front teeth of humans are not designed to tear through meat. Teeth of humans can easily chew on a vegetarian diet. The dental pattern of humans is similar to that of cows, and according to the law of nature, cow is herbivorous. Humans should also follow a vegetarian diet; it will amount to abiding by Dharma.
Why does being vegetarian signify abiding by Dharma ?
Vegetarian diet makes an individual Sattva-predominant. Accumulation of Sattva component leads to spiritual progress. Hence, consuming a Sattva-predominant diet that fulfils the purpose of human life is akin to abiding by Dharma. Abiding by Dharma means accepting the appropriate ‘Code of conduct’; abiding by this code of conduct amounts to being appreciated by Dharma and as a result, by God. Vegetarian diet leads to dissolution of Tama component within the body, and the individual begins to move towards a Divine culture.
Vegetarian diet has the ability to transform an ordinary human being into a Divine being, and hence, being vegetarian is equivalent to abiding by Dharma.
4. Special characteristics of some food items in the vegetarian diet and their effects
Consumption of ghee (Clarified butter) made from cow’s milk, rice, wheat, pulses and grains increases the Sattva component and makes the individual Sattva-predominant.
Ghee made from buffalo’s milk increases fatty acids (cholesterol) in the blood; whereas, ghee made from cow’s milk does not increase levels of fatty acids in the blood.
Cow’s milk, ghee made from cow’s milk, fruits and green leafy vegetables have Shrīvishṇutattva (Shrīvishṇu Principle) to a greater extent, and roots used as vegetables have greater extent of Pruthvītattva (Absolute Earth Principle).
- Regular consumption of fried vegetarian food increases Raja-Tama components, leading to increase in sexual desire.
Milk increases Sattva component; however, items prepared by curdling the milk decreases its Sattva component, which in turn increases the Raja component.
5. Food items included in a vegetarian diet and reasons for their inclusion
Despite having feelings, plants are considered vegetarian. These feelings are not associated with any activity that shows Tama predominant desires; therefore, they are categorised as steady, meaning, having a peaceful nature and being purely a vegetarian-form. Since, the feelings of plants are stablised in their wood with the help of Tej within them, they are bestowed with the right to produce fire; hence, they are considered Holy.
Since milk is formed in the stomach of a Sattva-predominant cow, it comes in the category of Sattva-predominant vegetarian diet. Even though micro-organisms are present in milk, water and air, they are still considered vegetarian food. Vegetarian food is Holy, meaning, it has predominance of Sattva-Raja components. These components accommodate any Raja-Tama predominant components in the form of micro-organisms and make them inactive through the medium of the respective component. Effectively because of the active predominance of the Sattva-Raja components in the vegetarian diet, the micro-organisms in it become ineffective to a greater extent and hence, their presence at the respective level of the diet is negligible. Milk, water and air have superior Tej and Vayu (Absolute Air) Principles in large proportion, which function at the level of Panchatattvas and encompass everything including Raja-Tama components within them. As a result, the micro-organisms become ineffective.
C. Other food items that are included in vegetarian diet
Other natural items which do not have the ability to reproduce other animal forms and do not carry the reproductive seed are included in vegetarian diet. Food items that cannot give birth to any moving life form, are devoid of emotions and are categorised as vegetarian. Food obtained from plants is vegetarian. Since milk, fruits and vegetables do not reproduce any moving life form, they are included in a vegetarian diet.
6. Chanting the Name (of God) is more important than becoming a vegetarian
Becoming a vegetarian is not a must for spiritual progress; yet, it is true that being a vegetarian increases the Sattva component in an individual. Sattva component is important for spiritual progress. Similarly, the importance of vegetarian diet also lies in the spiritual path selected. For example, in Haṭhayoga (Path of deliberate rigour) principal importance is given to purification of the body. Hence, it is important for an individual performing spiritual practice according to path of Haṭhayoga to be a vegetarian. According to the science of Spirituality, Sattva component increases by 0.0001% by following a vegetarian diet, while it increases by 5% by chanting the Name (of God) with bhav (Spiritual emotion). Naturally, chanting with bhav carries greater importance.
Reference : Sanatan’s Sanstha Holy text ‘Importance of a sattvik diet’.