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Vegetarianism: Karma, Compassion & Simplicity


Vegetarianism, known in Sanskrit as Shakahara, was for thousands of years a principle of health and environmental ethics throughout India. For India's ancient thinkers, life was seen as the very stuff of the Divine, an emanation of the Source and part of a cosmic continuum. They further held that each life form, even water and trees, possessed consciousness and energy. Non-violence, the primary basis of vegetarianism, had long been central to the spiritual traditions of the culture.

In early India, an unparalleled concern for harmony with all life forms led to a common ethics based on noninjuriousness and a minimal consumption of natural resources - an ethics of compassion and simplicity. If homo-sapiens are to survive this present predicament, we will have to rediscover these two primary ethical virtues.
"All beings tremble before violence
All fear death
All love life
See yourself in others
Then whom can you hurt
What harm can you do?"

~ Buddha
Vegetarianism is a way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings, for to consume meat, fish, fowl or eggs is to participate indirectly in acts of cruelty and violence against the animal kingdom. The abhorrence of injury and killing of any kind leads quite naturally to a vegetarian diet. The meat-eater's desire for meat drives another to kill and provide that meat. The act of the butcher begins with the desire of the consumer.

Food is the source of the body's chemistry and what we ingest affects our consciousness, emotions and experiential patterns. If one wants to live in higher consciousness, in peace and happiness and love for all creatures, then we cannot eat meat, fish, shellfish, fowl or eggs. By ingesting the grosser chemistries of animal foods, one introduces into the body and mind anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, suspicion and a terrible fear of death, all of which are locked into the flesh of butchered creatures. Due to the horrendous slaughtering techniques of animals in our modern world, one may wish to consider what is really being absorbed when eating meat. The mental cruelty, complex chemicals, the fear, pain and terror experienced by the animal are part of what we consume. Studies have shown that the consumption of meat products increases aggressive behaviour. For these reasons, vegetarians have the opportunity to live in higher consciousness.

As a vegan for the past 25 years I have witnessed the transformation that happens as a person changes their diet. On a balanced vegetarian diet, not only does the body become cleaner, healthier and stronger, there are also shifts in consciousness, which manifest as a repulsion to the eating of meat. India's greatest saints have confirmed that one cannot eat meat and live a peaceful, harmonious life. Man's appetite for meat inflicts devastating harm on the earth itself, stripping its precious forests to make way for pastures.

If children are raised as vegetarians, every day they are exposed to non-violence as a principle of peace and compassion. Every day they are being reminded to not kill. If they won't kill another creature to feed themselves, they will be much less likely to do acts of violence against people.

"If you have men will exclude any of God's creatures from the shelter of compassion and pity, you will have men who will deal likewise with their fellow man." - Saint Francis of Assisi

The Sanskrit word karma means "action", or more specifically, any material action that brings a reaction that binds us to the material world. Although the idea of karma is generally associated with Eastern philosophy, many people in the West are also coming to understand that karma is a natural principle, like time or gravity, and no less inescapable. For every action there is a reaction. According to the law of karma, if we cause pain and suffering to other living beings, we must endure pain and suffering in return, both individually and collectively. We reap what we sow, for nature has her own justice. No one can escape the law of Karma.

To understand how Karma can cause war, for example, let's take an illustration from the Vedas. Sometimes a fire starts in a bamboo forest when the trees rub together. The real cause of the fire however, is not the trees but the wind that moves them. The trees are only the instruments. According to the law of Karma, the neighbourhood supermarket or hamburger stand has more to do with the threat of war than the White House. We recoil with horror at the prospects of war while we permit equally horrifying massacres every day of the world's automated slaughterhouses.

The person who eats an animal may say that they haven't killed anything, but when they buy their neatly packaged meat at the supermarket they are paying someone else to kill for them, and both of them bring upon themselves the reactions of Karma. Can it be anything but hypocritical to march for peace and then go to McDonald's for a hamburger or go home to grill a steak? This is the very duplicity that George Bernard Shaw condemned: "We pray on Sundays that we may have light to guide our footsteps on the path we tread; we are sick of war, we don't want to fight, and yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead".

According to the laws of Karma when we are a part of inflicting injury, pain and death, directly or indirectly, we will, in the future, experience in equal measure the suffering caused.

From a spiritual standpoint, eating live-plant food awakens dormant powers of intuition, instinct and consciousness. By choosing to eat this way one becomes more aware of cause and effect. Cause and effect is the law of Karma. One also becomes more aware of what is going on in and out of the body. Intuition is heightened, communication between body and mind is enhanced, and we feel lighter in body, mind and spirit. This heightened awareness eventually makes it impossible to pollute one's body or the planet or one's spiritual energy.

"The time will come when men such as I will look upon the murder of animals as they now look upon the murder of human beings". - Leonardo DaVinci

Planet earth is suffering. In large measure, the escalating loss of species, destruction of ancient rainforests to create pasture lands for livestock, loss of topsoil and the consequent increase of water impurities and air pollution have all been traced to the single fact of meat in the human diet.

One example of the drain of natural resources: it has been estimated that there are approximately 1.3 billion heads of cattle populating the earth at any one time. And it takes an average of 2,500 gallons of water to produce a single pound of meat. According to Newsweek, the water that goes into a 1000-pound steer could float a destroyer. In contrast, it takes only 25 gallons of water to produce one pound of wheat.

No single decision that we can make as individuals or as a race can have such a dramatic effect on the improvement of our planetary ecology as the decision to not eat meat. Many seeking to save the planet for future generations have made this decision for this reason and this reason alone.

From an environmental standpoint, eating fresh live-plant food implies the least impact on other life forms and creates the opportunity to create more life through gardens and planting fruit trees. Eating foods as fresh as possible creates the least amount of pollution, and the least amount of packaging and provides a way of life that is 100% beneficial to the environment.

Those who understand the laws of Karma know that peace will not come from marches and petitions alone, but rather from a campaign to educate people about the consequences of murdering innocent animals. That will go a long way toward preventing any increase in the world's enormous burden of Karma. To solve the world's problems we need people with purified consciousness to perceive that the real problem is a spiritual one.

Eating a live-food vegetarian diet is physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually healing and enlightening to the individual. It opens up dormant regions of human potential and consciousness. This is one of the simplest and most profound truths I have ever discovered.

From a pleasure standpoint, fresh live food is a celebration for the taste buds. Vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and grains are gifts to the senses providing a wonderful array of colours, scents, tastes, textures and sounds. While your body is enjoying, your heart and mind can be at peace.

Beyond concerns of health, economics, ethics, religion and even Karma, vegetarianism can support us in our oneness with the spirit that lives in all things. I would concur with the ancient Vedas when they say that the purpose of human life is to reawaken the spirit to this relationship and live it through compassion and simplicity.

WALTER KACERA Ph.D., D.N., has been a practicing Therapeutic Herbalist and Ayurvedic Vegetarian Live~Food Nutritionist and been eating a plant~based way of life for well over 30 years. He teaches certificate courses in Therapeutic, Practical & Shamanic Herbalism, Constitutional Iridologyt and Ayurvedic Living Nutrition.