Gabriel Cousens is considered a physician of the soul. His books, Conscious Eating  and Spiritual Nutrition have been referred to as the “bible of vegetarians.” His background as a holistic physician, medical researcher, live-food nutritionist, ecological leader, spiritual teacher and yogi, enables him to share a unique holistic approach to nourishing the hungry soul. In this interview he discusses the metaphysics of a sattvic diet, how veganism reduces our carbon footprint and his astonishing cure for diabetes.

Integral Yoga Magazine (IYM): What did the ancient rishis and sages know about Yoga and diet?

Gabriel Cousens (GC): They knew that live food has the most prana and that’s the key. Prana expands consciousness. Live food turns us into superconductors for the divine. My two gurus, Swami Muktananda and Swami Prakashananda, used to say that dairy, eggs, meat, poultry and seafood clog the nadis. As a psychiatrist and yogi, I used to see thousands of people who were working with kundalini shakti. In 1975 I received shaktipat from Muktanandaji. I had all kinds of visions and every chakra lit up. Coming out of the nothing, I saw all the petals of the sahasrara chakra. I “saw” a whole book of Yoga. As I felt the energy hit the bindu, a voice rang out saying, “You should learn to eat and live in a way that supports the kundalini.” So, as a holistic physician, that’s where my research went. I began working with people who had kundalini imbalance and I saw that meat acted as a kind of sludge for the kundalini.

IYM: Why don’t you recommend dairy products?

GC: We know that only ingesting plant source protein is significant for minimizing disease. The rate of cancer increases as much as four times in non-vegetarians. For women who drink milk, the rate of ovarian cancer is three times higher. The rate of lung cancer in men and women is twice as high in a milk drinker. The main protein in milk stimulates cancer production, when you drink even one to three glasses a day. It also increases insulin resistance as much as consuming a quarter-pound cheeseburger or a quarter-pound of sugar.

IYM: Why did ancient yogis and sages like Swami Sivananda recommend drinking milk as part of a sattvic diet?

GC: What was good then, unfortunately isn’t good now due to planetary pollution. Milk was sattvic in those days. Milk was usually from a cow that was lovingly cared for, even worshipped. When Chernobyl happened, there was a 900 percent increase in perinatal mortality in Boston. Radioactive iodines landed on the grass, cows ate the grass, mothers drank the milk, and babies died from radiation poison. In meat, toxins are 15 times higher as compared to vegetables. Dairy is 5.5 times higher. So, these environmental changes have occurred since the times of the rishis.

In the time of the rishis, having a little dairy was ideal for balancing and building ojas.  Ojas is the primordial, enduring and sustaining meditative and spiritual energy. Within the nadis, we have tejas, ojas and prana. Prana, is the wind that blows the fire (kundalini); tejas is the electrical energy (abundant in live food with its enzymes and biophotons); ojas aligns the nadis so the fire doesn’t burn the nadis. That’s why too much pranayama can cause imbalance. People have to build a certain amount of ojas or they can get imbalances [see Dr. Cousen’s book, Spiritual Nutrition]. Rishis did okay because they had just a little dairy and didn’t eat much as compared with the amounts we consume today. We have lots of vegan ways to build to ojas (coconut milk, ground flax, blue-green algae and anything high in omega 3). Soaked nuts and seeds, when ground and blended, will build ojas. We can take the yogic principle of a building ojas by eating sattvic food—which no longer includes dairy, now tamasic due to poisons in the environment—and utilize ojas-promoting vegan food like goji berries.

IYM: How else is our Yoga practice affected by what we eat?

GC: When we eat animals, we are consuming the energy of death. This is counterproductive to our Yoga practice. Yoga asanas open the layers of the mind, the koshas. The energy of death goes into the nadis and koshas; you are layering the koshas with the energy of death, fear and misery of the animal. The average dairy farm cow lives 3.5 years, yet the natural lifespan of a cow is 25 to 35 years. Our relationship with the animal world is important. There are consequences to our spiritual life when we violate or exploit the sacred feminine. Cows carry their babies for 7 months, and they are allowed maybe a day of breast-feeding. Then, they take the calf away and the cow gets artificially inseminated. That cow is not treated as a soul; that’s not rishi dairy! Non-vegan food blocks the flow of kundalini. It deadens the koshas, the nadis and negatively impacts our spiritual physiology. Swami Prakashananda said that when you eat animals, the death, cruelty, misery and fear goes into you and creates disease in you as the karmic result.

Sri Sri Ananda Murti said that when you take animal products into your body and you do Yoga asanas, you can do yourself harm. The energy of death goes into the koshas and blocks the flow of life. When we do Yoga we are opening the nadis and we become more susceptible to what we take in. A benefit of Hatha Yoga is that the body become stronger and more flexible, but the goal of Yoga sadhana is to open the nadis and activate the koshas; to open the three granthis (psychic or pranic knots) and to balance the chakra system. We have a Yoga system that works but when you take death in, it causes blockages at every level.

If we don’t have a properly functioning nervous system, how can we really transcend? If our bodies are filled with neurotoxins, how will we get anywhere? When we have sattvic, plant-based, organic sources of nutrition, we can minimize the neurotoxins. Then we are able, through meditation, to transcend the five-sense bio-computer we inhabit. So what we eat directly affects our Yoga practice. We have to eat but we don’t want to consume things known to be higher in concentrated toxins.

IYM: What else should we know about environmental toxins?

GC: Toxins and pollution are everywhere. We know how to counteract even the very serious ones with green juice fasts. Sea vegetables also pull radiation out of the body. Our environment no longer affords us the luxury of being non-vegan. In every country, depending on how much atomic energy and radiation exposure, there’s an increased rate of cancer. A study sponsored by the Red Cross found that the average newborn’s umbilical cord has 200 toxins and of these 180 were carcinogens and neurotoxins. So, the average kid is born very toxic. We have a program at Tree of Life in which we help parents get ready for pregnancy. A vegetarian mother has one percent of the toxins in her breast milk compared to a meat-eating mother.

Environmental and dietary toxins affect our biophotons (the electromagnetic emissions from nucleus of the cell to the cell wall and from one cell to another). When these emissions aren’t sufficient, cells don’t communicate or work well. Dr. Fritz-Albert Popp, a physicist from Germany, measured biophotons and found that the healthiest people have the highest amount. These biophotons can enhance our ability to consciously communicate with God and the universe. When people eat junk food they put out 1,000 biophotons. Newborns put out 20,000. Those who eat organic, plant source foods emit 43,000 and live or raw plant sources people emit 83,000. The more biophoton emissions, the more this begins to open one up to the divine—our subtle perceptions improve and we are more naturally attuned to the cosmos. If you are eating well, if you have good biophoton emissions, that’s nice, but it won’t take you where you want to go. But, if you are eating well, doing seva, doing mantra, doing asana, pranayama as a regular sadhana, you are opening up all the pathways and you start ascending much more easily.

IYM: How can a raw food diet potentially enhance our sadhana?

GC: Ancient yogis took great care of their diets because they understood the science of spirituality. With fasting, a sattvic live food diet, we can balance the doshas, we can harmonize tejas, ojas and prana. I’ve seen 100 percent vatas do perfectly well on a live food diet with proper instruction. When we cook our food, we change its electron energy. Biophotons opens us to the cosmic flow and our connection is enhanced—we become super conductors for the divine. Sattvic living is for one purpose: to transcend into the One. Some people think sattva is the goal. It sets the stage for us to wake up. We can’t eat our way to God. However what we eat, supports our turning inward and toward the grace transcending. That’s the key teaching.  Sri Ramana Maharshi said that when you eat pure food it quiets the mind and helps the knots of the heart become untied.

IYM: Please tell us about your program profiled in the documentary, Simply Raw: Reversing Diabetes in 30 Days.

GC: We’ve healed about forty people and the healing happens fast. We had a 76 year-old with a blood sugar of 195, and in 3 days. it was in the 80s. We see it all the time. We’ve applied to do a study at Tree of Life with 400 people. Our current work is now a pilot study, and we’re getting 95 percent reversal with Type 2 diabetes and a few with Type 1 healed.

Our approach is a live foods, anti-aging, high mineral, low glycemic, low insulin index, high fiber diet and lots of water. Kids who consume cow dairy products have 9 to 11 times more Type 1. Finland leads the world in type 1 and also consumes the most dairy. Cow’s milk contains over 100 antigens and our bodies make antibodies and cross-react with the pancreas which produces insulin. There are four main causes of Type 2 diabetes: eating too much sugar, meat and dairy consumption, lack of exercise and obesity. Eighty-two percent of American diabetics are overweight and 42 percent are obese.

Diabetes is accelerated aging—research suggests it takes between 10 to 19 years off of one’s life. What is unique about our approach is that the research shows that when you eat a sattvic diet, which is half as much food as one should eat, you have a 400 percent increase in anti-aging, anti-inflammatory, anti-diabetes and anti-cancer genes. Our program upgrades one’s genetic expression from diabetic expression to healthy expression in a short time. What we eat affects our genes and our consciousness. Our consciousness affects what we eat. Where does it take us? As I said before, we can’t eat our way to God, but we can eat in a way that upgrades our genetic expression and bio-computer.

IYM: Any further thoughts on the link between Yoga and diet?

GC: If we don’t care for the body, we’re not going to be in the vibrant, flexible strong place to do sadhana. A live food, vegan diet is an optimum diet for health so that we can actively be involved in sadhana. That’s the bottom line. Diet doesn’t make you wake up but it does create the precondition, if you stay with it, to wake up. Appropriate sattvic food is one of the most important preconditions for going beyond the mind, along with a proper Yoga practice. Live foods get you so high and full of energy but, without sadhana, you don’t know how to direct it. When you combine sattvic diet with spiritual practice, you have a powerful sadhana engine.

I’m very concerned about American Yoga and those who are more into the physical aspect; they’ve bought into the belief that it doesn’t matter what you eat. That’s beginning to change because of Sharon and David (Jivamukti Yoga), Kali Ray and some others who are talking about healing ourselves, healing the planet and helping the carbon footprint. The world needs to become vegan. The bottom line from all the traditions—from the Buddha to the Torah to Genesis 1:29—is that they say to not spill blood, but be vegan. Getting back to that is what the world needs to bring itself back into balance.


Rabbi Gabriel Cousens, MD is the author of many books including, Creating Peace by Being Peace, There is a Cure for Diabetes, Conscious Eating and Spiritual Nutrition. He has served on the board of trustees of the American Holistic Medical Association, and he speaks internationally on health and spirituality. Dr. Cousens is the founder and director of the Tree of Life Rejuvenation Center, an innovative holistic retreat center for the renewal of body, mind and spirit, based in Patagonia, Arizona. For more information, please visit his website