Some plant-based dietary individuals believe meat causes cancer and destroys the planet. But meat-eaters often argue that giving it up all together leads to nutritional deficiencies. Both sides say their approach is healthier. But, what does Sadhguru say?
Q: Sadhguru, I am a foodie. Is it okay to eat non-vegetarian food if it feels right for me?
Sadhguru: Whether you eat a plant or an animal, it is still violence. There is substantial documentation today to show that plants are just as sensitive. There is enough evidence to show that they do scream. You do not hear it, that is all. Among the trees, let us say there are a thousand or ten thousand trees here and an elephant came and started eating the leaves of one tree.
This tree will immediately send messages to all other trees of its species that it is being eaten like this. Within minutes, if the elephant goes to the other trees, all the trees would have produced a certain amount of poisonous material in their leaves. When the elephant tries to eat the leaves, they taste bitter so it will not eat them. They are that sensitive.
Do not call yourself a foodie because food should never become the identity.
Whether you pluck a fruit or a vegetable or cut an animal and eat it, everything is cruel. It is just that we must do it with some sensitivity, only to the extent that is necessary. You should drop this idea of being a foodie. We all must eat; otherwise it will be cruel to our own body. But becoming identified with food is not right because that means we will indulge, not just nourish, ourselves. As a life we have a right to nourish ourselves – this is how the food cycle is in the world – but we have no right to take another life wantonly, just for pleasure.
We have no business doing that. We have every right to nourish this life, but we have no right to enjoy taking another life. Do not call yourself a foodie because food should never become the identity. We will eat whatever we have to eat in the given moment for survival and nourishment.
Why be a vegetarian?
When your survival is under threat, your entire life becomes about survival. But once survival is taken care of, now you wonder, “What is this all about?” Because when survival is in question, it looks like everything is going to be great when your survival is fulfilled. But once survival is taken care of, you realise that is not the truth, your life is longing for something else.
In India, survival was very simple and easy. This was a rich land and people survived well. Because of that, they started looking inward and nearly seventy percent of the country’s population was always actively spiritual.
Turning inward was an important part of life. Because of this, when they turned inward, they realised that what they eat matters. If you just want to be all beefy brawn, then you can eat a lot of meat and just grow muscles and fight with each other. But if you are looking at how to become sensitive to life, and be able to perceive things beyond what is considered normal perception, then what you put into the system becomes very important.
Those who observed the nature of their own bodies naturally became vegetarian.
In all carnivorous animals, the length of the alimentary canal is approximately only three times the length of its body. In all the herbivores, the length of the alimentary canal is five to six times the length of the body. In a human being it could be anywhere between twenty-four to twenty-eight feet which is nearly five to six times the length of our body. If you put meat in this kind of alimentary canal, it will travel through this very slowly. Raw meat would take approximately seventy to seventy-two hours to pass through the system. Cooked meat will take fifty to fifty-two hours. Cooked vegetable meals will take anywhere between twenty-four to thirty hours. Raw vegetables will take twelve to fifteen hours. Fruit will take one-and-a-half to three hours.
We started recognising which food passes through the body quickly and with least amount of residue. In Yoga, one important thing that we look at is if we eat anything, the stomach must be empty within two-and-a-half hours. The stomach is empty, but we are energetic, so we do not eat.
Generally, at the Isha Yoga Center, everyone has only two meals – at ten in the morning, and seven in the evening. Most days, I eat only one meal. If I am traveling, I may eat something else a little bit, but otherwise generally if I am home, I eat only one meal, generally around 4:30 to 5:00 in the evening. It will keep me going for the entire twenty-four hours. It is not like a rule. If there is a lot of physical activity on a certain day, then I may eat a small breakfast or a fruit or something like that.
Food is not to be made into a philosophy or a kind of a religious process. Food is the requirement of the body.
If you watch the body, you will naturally notice that the body is most comfortable and at ease with plant-based food. It is flexible, at ease, and has less to process on a daily basis. Those who observed the nature of their own bodies naturally became vegetarian. When survival was the question, hunting and eating whatever you kill was a natural process. But once societies settled down, they could grow what they wanted. As they observed themselves more and life became not about survival but about enhancing one’s life to higher levels of perception and experience, then turning vegetarian was a natural process. It is bound to happen everywhere.
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