The Endless Debate: Veg or Non-Veg?
By Sadhguru Jaggi Vasudev
Ask Your Body
Vegetarians always act “holier than thou,” while non-vegetarians always claim they are more robust and fit for the world, as they treat all species on the planet as part of their menu. Many philosophies have evolved based on the choice of food. But one must remember there is nothing religious, philosophical, spiritual or moral about the food we eat. It is only a question of whether the food is compatible with the kind of body we have.
This compatibility can be towards various ends. If you just want to grow like a bull, if being big is your highest aspiration, then certain types of foods have to be consumed. If you want a body that supports a high level of intelligence, or a body with a certain level of alertness, awareness and agility, other types of foods must be consumed. If you want a body that is highly perceptive — if you are not someone who will settle just for health and pleasure, but want to download the cosmos — you will need to eat in a very different way. For every aspiration that a human being has, accordingly he will have to manage his food; or if your aspirations involve all these dimensions, you will have to find a suitable balance.
If it was just a question of basic survival, eat whatever you want. But once survival is taken care of and there is a choice about what to eat, it is very important that this choice conscious — not simply led by the compulsion of the tongue but by the essential design of our bodies. If you listen to your body, your body will clearly tell you what kind of food it is happy with. But right now, you are listening to your mind. Your mind keeps lying to you all the time. Hasn’t it lied to you before? Today it tells you “this is it!” Tomorrow it makes you feel like a fool for what you believed yesterday. So don’t go by your mind. You just have to learn to listen to your body. It takes a certain mindfulness and attention to do this. Once you have that, you will know what to eat and what not to eat.
Integrating a Simple Software
In terms of the quality of food entering you, vegetarian food is definitely far better for the system than non-vegetarian. We are not looking at it from a moral standpoint. We are looking at what is suitable for the system and will is comfortable for the body.
When you eat food, you are taking another life — either plant or animal — and making it your life. Essentially, all life on the planet is coming from the earth. Whether it is a human being or an earthworm, it is the same soil. But if I eat a mango, the mango becomes a man in me. If a cow eats a mango, the same mango becomes a cow. This is happening because there is a certain information — or in modern terminology — a software in you that transforms what you eat into a man or a woman. Every life is happening the way it is happening because of a certain dimension of information.
The idea is to eat that kind of life which is a very simple software. Then, your ability to override that software and make it entirely a part of you is very good. It is from this context that it is important to eat a vegetarian diet. As the software gets more complex, your ability to integrate it goes down. Especially if it is a creature that has some sense of thought and emotion, it will not integrate, and that animal nature will start manifesting itself in you. In other words, we are incapable of complete integration of the more evolved, intelligent, and emotionally endowed creatures. You may get nourishment, but that software does not break down as completely as it would with that of a vegetable or a fruit.
Does Vegetarian Food Give You Enough Nutrition?
The problem with today’s vegetarian meal is that it is so overcooked that most of the nutrients are destroyed. If at least 50–60% of your food is uncooked vegetarian material, your system will be in its best health. Also, because of the way crops are grown today, their nutritional quality is compromised. If you eat what is grown on the farm today, you are bound to get B-12 deficiencies and other kinds of problems. If you consume organically grown food, this will not be an issue.
Some people think that a vegetarian diet will make you develop protein deficiencies or anemia. No. It is just that in your vegetarian diet, you may be eating just certain types of foods. Anemic conditions may occur because you tend to eat only salads and fruits. If you eat sufficient amount of nuts, lentils, sprouted gram, some amount of cereal and honey, you will have a full diet. Your protein requirement will also be taken care of.
One aspect of vegetarian diet is that you have to be conscious about what you eat; you have to ensure you are eating a variety of foods. With non-vegetarian food you don’t have to worry, you just eat a piece of meat and the basic nourishment is taken care of — in a gross way, but it is taken care of. You won’t have these kinds of deficiency problems at least. Vegetarian diet needs much more awareness to consume. The very process of eating vegetarian food demands a certain level of attention and also leads to a heightened level of awareness. But people don’t have that kind of involvement in what they consume and want to just pop something and be okay. So naturally they have shifted to non-vegetarian diet in a big way.
— excerpt from Isha Foundation’s Taste of Wellbeing — Sadhguru’s Insights for Your Gastronomics, published by Harper Collins.