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What role does the vegetarian diet play in your teachings?
Sri Chinmoy: In my teachings the vegetarian diet plays a most important role. In order to become pure, a vegetarian diet helps us considerably. Purity is of paramount importance in our spiritual life. This purity we must establish in the physical, the vital and the mental. When we eat meat, fish and so forth, the aggressive, animal consciousness enters into us. Our nerves become agitated; we unconsciously become restless and aggressive. The mild qualities of vegetables, on the other hand, help us to establish in our inner life as well as in our outer life, the qualities of sweetness, softness, simplicity and purity. But again, if you ask me whether by becoming a strict vegetarian you can realise God or not, then I would say “No,” a definite “No.” There are millions and millions of people on earth who are strict vegetarians, but I don’t think there are millions and millions of God-realised souls on earth. For God-realisation we need aspiration. But in answering your question, I wish to say that it is always advisable, if possible, to have a vegetarian diet in order to further one’s progress in the inner discipline, so that one can feel that even the body, with its purity, can help one’s inner aspiration to become more intense and more soulful.
So a vegetarian diet is not necessary in order to realise God?
Sri Chinmoy: Just by becoming a vegetarian one will not realise God. It is impossible! Many people have followed strict vegetarian diets, but there are not very many people on earth who have realised God. If you stop eating fish and meat you will not realise God overnight. Far from it! You must not expect such great results from so small an effort. But your aspiration will be increased. Your mild qualities, soft qualities, aspiring qualities will come to the fore sooner. Everything depends on how fast you want to make progress. If you feel that each second counts, if you feel that there is no end to your goal, then the best thing is to achieve the things that are ahead of you as soon as possible.
Do you feel it is important for the aspirant to follow the vegetarian diet?
Sri Chinmoy: We are progressing and evolving and all of us will realise God on the strength of our aspiration. For an aspirant, it is advisable to be a vegetarian precisely because when he eats meat, the aggressive quality of the animal enters into him. We are trying to live a life of peace and tranquility. If we sincerely want that kind of life, then it is foolishness on our part to eat something that would diminish our peace and tranquility and stand in the way of our meditation, concentration, etc. So it is always advisable to accept the vegetarian life. But, again, there are some countries or some parts of the world where it is exceptionally cold and there it is impossible for those particular people, to live on vegetables alone. What are they going to do then? There only if they eat meat can they remain on earth. Then, again, there are some sincere seekers whose physical constitution is very weak. Some children, for example, who are very ill require meat for a short time to regain their strength. Others from the beginning of their lives have been eating meat and now they have formed such a habit, such a bad habit, you can say, that they cannot manage without it even for a day. What are they going to do? On the one hand, they have sincere aspiration, genuine aspiration, but their body revolts. I feel, in such rare cases, that they should eat meat. But as a general rule, it is always advisable to be a vegetarian because we are trying to throw away the animal qualities and propensities from our nature. Already when we go deep within, we see that we have two different qualities or natures; the divine and the undivine. The undivine is the animal in us and the animal within us will always be aggressive and destructive. The divine in us will always be progressive and illumined. So if we want to march and run towards our Goal, then we have to do away with our animal life. To do that, whatever animal qualities we take into us in the form of meat or in some other form have to be discontinued.Now to come back to your question, if one says that one has to be a vegetarian in order to realise God or that one cannot achieve God-realisation unless he is a vegetarian, then I say that it is pure foolishness. There are many meat-eaters who have realised God: Christ, Vivekananda and many others who realised God, but ate eat as others do. There are many. A few months ago someone told me that in order to have purity in abundance, he stopped eating meat, but he also felt that just by becoming a vegetarian, he would be able to realise God. He would not have to meditate, he would not have to concentrate; only by becoming a vegetarian, he could achieve union with the Absolute. So I told him that in India, all widows without exception are forbidden to take meat. When their husbands die, on that very day, they have to stop taking meat. Now in spite of my deepest love and respect for Indian widows, I don’t think that they are all God-realised souls. That kind of feeling towards the vegetarian life is absurd. Yet we have to strike a balance. For a sincere aspirant, it is certainly advisable and helpful to be a vegetarian.
Why do you recommend vegetarianism? Is it related to purity?
Sri Chinmoy: If you want to lead a better life, a disciplined life, a pure life, I feel that a vegetarian diet is necessary. Those who eat meat, unconsciously are taking in the consciousness of an animal. Animals have tremendous restlessness. When we take in mild foods, our consciousness automatically becomes mild, soft and sweet. But when we eat meat, we take in the restless consciousness of animals. All the time we are taking in the consciousness of other persons and objects. When we stand in front of a spiritual Master, immediately we take in his consciousness, his vibration. He is offering us what he has to give. Similarly, the animal offers us what it has to give; and what it has to give are its animal qualities. It is up to us to accept or reject these qualities. So for the beginner, or for anyone who is following the spiritual path, it is advisable to have a pure vegetarian diet. This helps considerably. Purity is also necessary. One has to feel that purity does not come from merely washing the body ten times a day. Some people feel that if they take a shower six times a day they will be pure. Far from il! A fish is in the water twenty-four hours a day, yet the consciousness of a fish is not purer than that of any human. Cleanliness is next to godliness, true. We can take two or three showers a day, but to go on taking showers six or seven times in order to be pure is absolutely wrong. We can easily make the gross physical body pure if we install a living shrine inside our heart for the object of our adoration, who is God. We know that God exists, but where? Where can we see Him first? Inside our heart. God is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, but that does not satisfy us. What satisfies us is that God is all love. And where is this love? It is inside our heart. We can establish purity within ourselves by feeling God’s Presence inside our heart.