Sikhism and vegetarianism

In general, the instruction of Guru Nanak, the founder of Sikhism, regarding food is this: “Do not take food that is bad for health, causes pain or suffering to the body, gives rise to evil thoughts.”

The body and mind are closely connected, so the food we eat affects both the body and the mind. The Sikh guru Ramdas writes about the three qualities of being. These are rajas (activity or movement), tamas (inertia or darkness) and sattva (harmony). Ramdas says, “God Himself has created these qualities and thus has grown our love for the blessings of this world.”

Food can also be classified into these three categories. For example, fresh and natural foods are an example of sattva; fried and spicy foods are an example of rajas, and canned, decomposed and frozen foods are an example of tamas. An excess of heavy and spicy food leads to indigestion and disease, while fresh, natural food allows you to maintain health.

In the Adi Granth, the sacred scripture of the Sikhs, there are references to slaughter food. So, Kabir says that if the entire universe is a manifestation of God, then the destruction of any living being or microorganism is an encroachment on the natural right to life:

“If you claim that God dwells in everything, then why are you killing a chicken?”

Other quotes from Kabir:

“It is foolish to cruelly kill animals and call slaughter sacred food.”

“You kill the living and call it a religious deed. So what, then, is godlessness?

On the other hand, many followers of Sikhism believe that although the killing of animals and birds for the purpose of eating their flesh should be avoided and it is undesirable to inflict suffering on animals, vegetarianism should not be turned into a phobia or dogma.

Of course, animal food, most often, serves as a means to satisfy the tongue. From the point of view of the Sikhs, eating meat solely for the purpose of “feasting” is reprehensible. Kabir says, “You fast to please God, but you kill animals for your own pleasure.” When he says this, he means Muslims who eat meat at the end of their religious fasts.

The gurus of Sikhism did not approve of the situation when a person refuses to be slaughtered, neglecting control over his passions and desires. Refusal of evil thoughts is no less important than the rejection of meat. Before calling a certain product “impure”, it is necessary to clear the mind.

The Guru Granth Sahib contains a passage pointing to the futility of discussions about the superiority of plant foods over animal foods. It is said that when the Brahmins of Kurukshetra began to advocate the necessity and beneficialness of an exclusively vegetarian diet, Guru Nanak remarked:

“Only fools quarrel over the question of the permissibility or inadmissibility of meat food. These people are devoid of true knowledge and unable to meditate. What is flesh, really? What is plant food? Which one is burdened with sin? These people are unable to distinguish between good food and that which leads to sin. People are born from the blood of mother and father, but they do not eat fish or meat.”

Meat is mentioned in the Puranas and Sikh scriptures; it was used during yajnas, sacrifices performed on the occasion of weddings and holidays.

Similarly, Sikhism does not give a clear answer to the question of whether to consider fish and eggs as vegetarian foods.

The teachers of Sikhism never explicitly forbade the consumption of meat, but they did not advocate it either. It can be said that they provided a choice of food for the followers, but it should be noted that the Guru Granth Sahib contains passages against the consumption of meat. Guru Gobind Singh forbade the Khalsa, the Sikh community, from eating halal meat prepared in accordance with the ritualistic precepts of Islam. To this day, meat is never served at the Sikh Guru Ka Langar (free kitchen).

According to the Sikhs, vegetarianism, as such, is not a source of spiritual benefit and does not lead to salvation. Spiritual progress depends on sadhana, religious discipline. At the same time, many saints claimed that a vegetarian diet is beneficial for sadhana. Thus, Guru Amardas says:

“People who eat unclean foods increase their filthiness; this filth becomes the cause of grief for selfish people.

Thus, the saints of Sikhism advise people on the spiritual path to be vegetarian, as this way they can avoid killing animals and birds.

In addition to their negative attitude towards meat-eating, Sikh gurus show an absolutely negative attitude towards all drugs, including alcohol, which is explained by its negative effect on the body and mind. A person, under the influence of alcoholic beverages, loses his mind and is incapable of adequate actions. The Guru Granth Sahib contains the following statement by Guru Amardas:

 “One offers wine, and the other accepts it. Wine makes him insane, insensitive and devoid of any mind. Such a person is no longer able to distinguish between his own and someone else’s, he is cursed by God. A man who drinks wine betrays his Master and is punished in the judgment of the Lord. Do not, under any circumstances, drink this vicious brew.”

In Adi Granth, Kabir says:

 “Anyone who consumes wine, bhang (cannabis product) and fish goes to hell, regardless of any fasting and daily rituals.”


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