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I Am Not a Vegetarian.


I attended a talk of world renowned yoga guru Dharma Mitra at the Hongkong Convention Center and he talked about why yogis should not eat meat. For him, not eating meat is a commitment to non-violence. When we stop eating meat, we end violence against animals.

I am certainly against the inhumane treatment of animals. Animals have rights too.

But there are issues bothering me as I ponder on the ideas of Dharma Mitra. If all humans decide not to eat meat, could violence in this world actually stop? Is violence simply an issue of food consumption?

I decided to ask a vegetarian friend about this. My friend claims that by not eating meat, she participates in non-vioence against other animals.

And this where my perspective diverges from them. For me, all organisms whether they belong to animal kingdom or plants or fungi or what have you, are all important in this grand scheme of life. After all, we are all essentially made up of living cells.

Hence, if we are so concerned with animals, we must also be concerned with how we treat plants and other organisms belonging to a different taxonomical kingdom. Aren’t eating plants a form of violence against living organisms as well? You may not hear them cry for help, but they could certainly be aware that their life is being ended. Plants respond to external stimuli as well know. Following this thought, if we are going to be over-protective of other organisms, shouldn’t antibiotics be banned as well because they are designed to “kill” other organisms. Bacteria may be unicellular, but they are still living organisms. And just like other vegetarian fanatics, we should also ban pesticides and insecticides as they are testament to “violence” against rats, mosquitos and cockroaches. Let these vectors of diseases be protected as we can never kill another animal.

For these very issues, aside from the fact that eating out as a vegetarian is quite expensive, I am not a vegetarian.

I recognize that I as an organism is an omnivore. And I belong to a food chain that is based on the eco-system that all organisms, no matter how many cells you are made of actually belong to whether we like it or not.

Yoga and its values represent an amazing tradition that is a landmark in humanity’s quest for a better life. And I can’t help but honor and respect this rich practice.

But if we want to live a rational life, I feel that we must see yoga with a 21st century perspective.


3 Responses

  1. This is one of those areas that I think “dharma” makes sense. If every organism has a path, each organism has to take that path – whatever it is. Maybe your path is vegetarian, maybe it’s not, but it’s nothing you should feel bad about because it simply IS. By the same token, if people have “dharma” then so do animals and other organisms. And if your dharma is to be a beef cow, then that’s the path.


    I’m not a big fan of there’s One Right Way to do anything and, in my experience, it’s not productive to try and shame people into vegetarianism. Either you want to do it or you don’t – and if you DON’T, there’s nothing that will make you do it. 😉

    The Yoga Journal had a really interesting article about this a couple of months ago, with some high profile yogis speaking up about eating meat. The message was that everyone has different needs and just because you eat meat it doesn’t mean you’re ‘not as good.’

  2. Thanks for this wisdom 🙂

  3. Being a vegetarian is like praying before you eat, it is a particular act of mindfulness connecting to the act of nourishment. However, I know many people who pray before they eat and are not mindful. Similarly, many people who become vegetarians believing they are renouncing violence, only reintroduce it at a more unconscious level where they are less able to make a mindful relationship with the violence in their own life.

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