Once I was asked a question: “Do the Vedas teach vegetarianism?” The answer is, there is no Veda without the mention of ahimsa. “Ahimsa paramo dharmaha” means that the greatest dharma one can embrace is ahimsa. Saint Ramalinga Swamigal always said, “If you want the golden key to unlock the heaven, please be kind to all life. No saint, no sage and no scripture has ever recommended himsa (violence).
That’s why the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali and all scriptures teach us ahimsa. Reduce the hurt and reduce the violence as much as possible. Whatever you get in your life, whatever you receive in your life, let the source be love—it should come with love. Your money should come with love. Your clothing should come with love. Your food should come with love, not violence. It all should be a love offering.
Unfortunately non-vegetarian diet never comes to us with love. Have you ever heard of an animal coming to you with love and saying, “Here, please, take my thigh and make your soup”? No. The animals don’t offer their body parts to us this way; they even try to escape. They hate us because we cause violence to them. Non-vegetarian food is not a love-filled food. Even if you offer nice food—wholesome, clean and healthy food—to somebody with hatred in the mind, that food becomes poison to that person. Whatever we eat goes to make up the body and the mind. Our thought forms go along with the things that we give. When a mother is in an angry mood and nurses the baby with her milk, the baby will fall sick. Why? The anger goes through the milk.
We are born vegetarians. Our human body is made to run on vegetarian fuel. If a car is made to run on gasoline and you put crude oil into it, it will choke and the engine will cough. It is made for gasoline, not for crude oil. Our body is made for vegetarian diet. Our intestines are much longer than the non-vegetarian animals. Our tongues are different; we don’t have claws or fangs. Compare our features to those of the non-vegetarian animals and those of the herbivorous animals. Our features are more like the goat, cow and deer.
Non-vegetarian food is not our natural food. In order for our bodies to digest meat, we have to cook it a lot. Even then it is not easily digestible, whereas fruits and other vegetables can be eaten raw. We don’t even need to have a kitchen to be vegetarian, but we have to cook meat. Meat affects the body. In the medical science now they are proving it. Meat leaves a lot of toxins, a lot of cholesterol. It leaves a lot of decayed matter. See for yourself: cut a piece of meat and leave it outside the refrigerator and, at the same time, break a carrot and leave it there. After some time, the meat will have a foul smell because it is decaying, but the vegetables will only dehydrate.
There are so many reasons for a vegetarian diet. Consider the mental attitude of the different animals and that will also show you something. All the herbivorous animals are peaceful. They are just left alone. They roam around easily, with eyes full of love. Carnivorous animals have to be caged. Even in the cage, they roam around restlessly. You can see a marked difference in the mental attitude. You can see physical differences as well. You can poke your nose into the mouth of a goat and you will never find a bad smell. But if you even go near the cage of a tiger, lion or fox, it smells awful. Why? Their excreta. Why should it have a bad odor? Because what goes in comes out. Ask a meat-eater to raise the arm up and you get an awful smell; but not in one who is a vegetarian.
Ask any engineer how they measure power—they measure in horse-power. A motor is measured by horse-power and not tiger-power or lion-power. Why? If you have a tiger-power motor you cannot control it. Horse-power you can harness and control. Even an elephant has so much strength. It’s the strongest animal. But people invent various arguments and say that a tiger can kill an elephant. What does that mean? The tiger has killing power, but the elephant has pulling power. What do you need: killing power or pulling power? Sattvic strength and energy is what we need, not rajasic energy.
That is what Gandhiji meant when he spoke about “soul power.” That is sattvic energy. That is the kind of strength that we want to cultivate. A non-vegetarian diet is not conducive to cleanliness of body and strength of mind. If you want a clean body and a strong mind; if you want a tranquil body and a tranquil mind, then vegetarian food is the best. When you clean the mirror of the body-mind well, it will reflect your true nature, the divine in you. To realize God you need a clean body and a peaceful mind. When you keep your body and mind clean, in a sattvic condition and a tranquil state, then you will experience God-realization
Further Resources: The Yoga Way: Food for Body, Mind & Spirit by Swami Satchidananda