Yoga and veganism. Looking for points of contact

To begin with, it is worth defining yoga itself. Considering how many “enlightened” charlatans and false prophets are now wandering the world, some people, especially those who are not familiar with the philosophical concepts of Asia, have a very unflattering idea of ​​uXNUMXbuXNUMXbthis tradition. It happens that between yoga and sectarianism put an equal sign.

In this article, yoga means, first of all, a philosophical system, a physical and mental practice that teaches you to control the mind and body, track and control emotions, and relieves bodily and psychological clamps. If we consider yoga in this vein, relying on the physiological processes that occur in the body when performing a particular asana, then the question of sectarianism or religious exaltation will disappear by itself.

1. Does yoga allow vegetarianism?

According to Hindu primary sources, the rejection of the products of violence is predominantly advisory in nature. Not all Indians today are vegetarians. Moreover, not all yogis are vegetarians. It depends on what tradition a person practices and what goal he sets for himself.

One often hears from people who have lived in India for a long time that the majority of its inhabitants adhere to a vegetarian lifestyle, more because of poverty than for religious reasons. When an Indian has extra money, he can afford both meat and alcohol.

“Indians are generally very practical people,” hatha yoga instructor Vladimir Chursin assures. — The cow in Hinduism is a sacred animal, most likely because it feeds and waters. As for the practice of yoga, it is important not to violate the principle of non-violence in relation to oneself. The desire to give up meat should come by itself. I didn’t become a vegetarian right away, and it came naturally. I didn’t even pay attention to it, my relatives noticed.

Another reason why yogis do not eat meat and fish is as follows. In Hinduism, there is such a thing as the gunas – the qualities (forces) of nature. Simplistically, these are three aspects of any being, their essence is the driving force, the mechanism for building the world. There are three main gunas: sattva – clarity, transparency, goodness; rajas – energy, ardor, movement; and tamas – inertia, inertia, dullness.

According to this concept, food can be divided into tamasic, rajasic and sattvic. The former is dominated by the mode of ignorance and is also called grounded food. This includes meat, fish, eggs, and all stale foods.

Rajasic food fills the human body with desires and passions. This is the food of rulers and warriors, as well as people seeking bodily pleasures: gluttons, adulterers and others. This usually includes too spicy, salty, overcooked, smoked food, alcohol, medicines, and again all dishes of animal origin from meat, fish, poultry.

And, finally, sattvic food gives a person energy, ennobles, fills with goodness, allows him to follow the path of self-improvement. These are all raw plant foods, fruits, vegetables, nuts, cereals. 

The practicing yogi seeks to live in sattva. To do this, he avoids the habits of ignorance and passion in everything, including food. Only in this way is it possible to achieve clarity, to learn to distinguish between true and false. Therefore, any vegetarian food is associated with the purification of existence.

2. Are yogis vegan?

“In yogic texts, I have not seen any mention of veganism, except for descriptions of extreme practices,” says Alexei Sokolovsky, hatha yoga instructor, yoga journalist, Reiki healer. “For example, there are direct indications that the most perfect hermit yogis, who spend the whole day meditating in a cave, need only three peas of black pepper per day. According to Ayurveda, this product is balanced by doshas (types of life energies). Since the body is in a kind of suspended animation for 20 hours, calories, in fact, are not needed. This is a legend, of course – I personally have not met such people. But I am sure that there is no smoke without fire.

As for the rejection of products of exploitation and violence against animals, adherents of Jainism adhere to the principles of veganism (of course, they do not use the term “vegan” for themselves, since veganism is a phenomenon, first of all, Western and secular). Jains try not to cause unnecessary harm even to plants: they eat mainly fruits, avoiding tubers and roots, as well as fruits containing many seeds (for the seed is the source of life).

3. Do yogis have to drink milk and do yogis eat eggs?

“Milk is recommended in the Yoga Sutras in the chapter on nutrition,” Alexei Sokolovsky continues. – And, apparently, it is fresh milk that is meant, and not what is sold in stores in cardboard boxes. It’s more of a poison than a cure. With eggs, it is somewhat more complicated, since in the village they are alive, fertilized, and therefore, this is a baby or a chicken embryo. There is such an egg – to participate in the murder of a baby. Therefore, yogis avoid eggs. My teachers from India, Smriti Chakravarty and her guru Yogiraj Rakesh Pandey, are both vegans but not vegans. They consume milk, dairy products, butter, and especially often ghee.

According to the instructors, yogis need to drink milk so that the body produces the right amount of mucus, which is necessary for the normal functioning of muscles, ligaments and joints. Vegan yogis can replace milk with rice, as it has similar astringent properties.

4. Are humans and animals equal, and does an animal have a soul?

“Ask the animals, especially when they are sent to the slaughterhouse,” says Yevgeny Avtandilyan, a yoga instructor and associate professor at Moscow State University. – When one Indian guru was asked for whom he prays in his prayers: only for people or for animals too, he answered that for all living beings.

From the point of view of Hinduism, all incarnations, that is, all living beings, are one. There is no good or bad fate. Even if you were lucky enough to be born in the body of a man, not a cow, everything can change at any moment.

Sometimes it is difficult for us to come to terms with what is happening in the world when we see suffering. In this regard, learning to empathize, to distinguish the true, while taking the position of an observer is the main thing for a yogi.

5. So why aren’t yogis vegans?

“I think yogis are generally not inclined to follow the rules, even those established by the yogis themselves,” says Alexei Sokolovsky. And the problem is not whether they are bad or good. If you apply the rules thoughtlessly, without checking on your own experience, they inevitably turn into dogmas. All concepts on the topic of karma, proper nutrition and faith remain concepts, no more, if a person does not experience them for himself. Unfortunately, we cannot purify karma in straightforward ways, because even if we consume plant foods, we destroy millions of living beings every second — bacteria, viruses, microbes, insects, and so on.

Therefore, the question is not to do no harm, although this is the first rule of Yama, but to achieve self-knowledge. And without it, all other rules are empty and useless. Applying them and imposing them on other people, one becomes even more confused. But, perhaps, this is a necessary stage of formation for some. At the beginning of the process of purification of consciousness, the rejection of the products of violence is necessary.

To summarize

There are many schools and traditions in yoga today. Each of them can give certain recommendations regarding food that can and cannot be consumed. It is important to understand that there is no limit to spiritual and moral perfection. Suffice it to recall that in addition to veganism, there are healthier and more environmentally friendly raw food and fruitarianism, and, in the end, prano-eating. Perhaps we should not stop there, without making a cult out of our actions and views of the world? After all, based on the Hindu worldview, we are all particles of a single whole. Complex, beautiful and endless.

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