Vegetarianism

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"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the
chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the
evolution to a vegetarian diet."
-- Albert Einstein

The Sikh scripture, Guru Granth Sahib, declares that the purpose of human beings is to achieve a blissful state and to be in harmony with the earth and all of God's creation. It seems, however, that humans have drifted away from that ideal. For the earth is today saturated with problems. It is agonizing over the fate of its inhabitants and their future! It is in peril as never before.

Its lakes and rivers are being choked, killing its marine life; resources are being depleted at an alarming rate; its forests and natural environments are being denuded; a smoky haze envelops many cities of the world. Human beings are exploiting other human beings, other living beings, the Earth's resources and the planet; the planet is being polluted and stripped of it natural state continuously; there are many serious health and disease issues all over the world.....

The Sikh Gurus showed the world the way to live in accord with the environment and its surroundings; all the Guru's constructions adhered to this principle of harmony with the planet. Living a life with a small impact on the environment is enshrined in Sikhi; Green living is an integral part of Sikhism. The way of live in harmony with other being is part of the Sikh way of life. The following article addressing the issue of vegetarianism from a spiritual angle:

For Alternate view click here

Interview with Baba Thakar Singh

Main article: SGGS on Meat

Question: Master ji, we all know that it's very crucial to abstain from the eating of meat because this increases our karmas, but can you explain in more detail the reasons for becoming vegetarian?

Thakar Singh: We should not increase our burden of karmas as you have already said. There is karmic value in every kind of thing we use in this world. The air we consume, we have to pay for. The water we use, we have to pay for. The light of the sun or moon is also not free for us, and this green grass is also to be paid for - nothing is free. Depending on the "Jun" (life-form), there is a price to be paid. Lower life forms have a lower price to pay. Plants have a lower spiritual price than animal life forms. So why take the higher burden?


If you are to construct a house, you don't make it with gold or silver or jewels. If you can, you make the house with stone - Stone is very strong and cheap -- So, why don't you make your house with stone and bricks instead of gold? This body is like a house. Build it with material that is spiritually cheap and strong. Fruits and vegetables are spiritually cheap and they can make you spiritually and physically strong. Higher life-forms are expensive - and you will have to pay a higher price!


In the same way, if we can maintain a simple life style, with a spiritually lower cost - with this greenery, fruits, etc - then why attract so much burden and payment of karma by consuming higher life-forms? God did not really say that it is "burden-less" or it is all free. He has never explained it like this, but He has allowed us to have these lower forms because with our meditations we can release ourselves very quickly and easily and therefore we will not "over-burden" ourselves for a long time.


This is also the case with people who eat animals. Their nervous systems have been seriously disturbed and shaken. Even if you look at an animal that has been killed you will be emotionally affected; your nervous system will be disturbed and you will lose so much peace; you will not feel good and your heart will be affected by it. Look at a dying fish. It is out of water and if you look at it, for one or two hours or even some days your heart will not feel good. You will think of the condition of that fish and it will feel horrible and your heart and mind will be in some kind of perturbed state.


For months even this state of mind will continue. Maybe after a long time you will forget this scene and its effect will be gone from your heart and then perhaps you cannot remember it - still it has its effect. If just looking at a dead fish causes this then what will be the case when we eat it and all these negative vibrations enter into our system. So many diseases will come up and our mental systems will be disturbed.


But when we eat some greenery or fruit everything is wonderful. The plant produces the fruit for consumption by an animal so that the seeds can be transported to new places. In fact by eating the fruit you are doing a favour to the plant! - the fruit is a bait for the animal to do a function that the plant desires - That is the function of a fruit. If you look at fruit that is ripe the colors tell you so wonderfully that it is ripe. A fragrance is also available and when you smell it you enjoy it and even when you remember the smell you feel good. Your heart is also enjoying and your mind and body are at peace.


  • Above is a edited and enhanced version of a interview with Bhai Thakar Singh of Delhi

Gurbani - Links to SGGS

Main article: SGGS on Meat

Gurbani is the only spiritual and moral guide for the Sikhs in everything that they do. No Hukamnama by anyone else can move the Guru's Sikh away from this stand. Gurbani offers clear guidance on this issue. There is no reason to rely on advice by any other third party. The following quotes from Sri Guru Granth Sahib give the Sikhs clear and concise direction on what a Sikh should eat and other aspect of this facet of human life:

[P.S. Please click on the SGGS link for every reference, and on the top right corner please choose Prof. Sahib Singh for "Teeka". I'm sure the punjabi translation gives a better picture of the whole sentence. Below references are only a part of the pankhti.It is important to understand the whole sentence before coming to any conclusion.]

...and yet he does not hesitate to take the lives of others.((3)) (SGGS p201)

They burn away the bonds of the world, and eat a simple diet of grain and water.(SGGS p467)

The world eats dead carcasses, living by neglect and greed. ((Pause)) Like a goblin, or a beast, they kill and eat the forbidden carcasses of meat.(SGGS p723)

You kill living beings, and call it a righteous action. Tell me, brother, what would you call an unrighteous action? (SGGS p1103)

He kills his self-conceit, and does not kill anyone else. ((3)) (SGGS p1128)

Even with only dry crusts of bread, and a hard floor on which to sleep, my life passes in peace and pleasure with my Beloved, O sisters. ((2)(3)(42)) (SGGS p1306)

You say that the One Lord is in all, so why do you kill chickens? (SGGS p1350)

You seize a living creature, and then bring it home and kill its body; you have killed only the clay.(SGGS p1350)

Kabeer, I will remain in the Saadh Sangat, the Company of the Holy, even if I have only coarse bread to eat. (SGGS p1369)

Kabeer, they oppress living beings and kill them, and call it proper. (SGGS p1375)

Kabeer, the dinner of beans and rice is excellent, if it is flavored with salt. Who would cut his throat, to have meat with his bread? ((188)) (SGGS p1374)


Kabeer, those mortals who consume marijuana, fish and wine - no matter what
pilgrimages, fasts and rituals they follow, they will all go to hell. ((233)) (SGGS p1377)

Vegetables vs Meat

When you eat vegetable you are also taking a life This section is from khalsanet.org

Q. Flesh-eaters often say to vegetarian Sikhs, if you eat only vegetables you are also taking life. What, then is the difference between taking the life of, say, a pig and that of a vegetable?

A. All the difference in the world. Does a potato cry out when it is taken from the earth the way a calf does when it is taken from its mother? Does a stick of celery scream in pain and terror when it is picked the way a pig does when it is being led to slaughter and is having its throat cut? And how sad, lonely, and frightened can a head of lettuce feel?

We don't need a polygraph to demonstrate that plants have consciousness of a sort, but this consciousness is obviously of a rudimentary kind, far different from that of mammals with well developed nervous systems. Nor do we need tests to prove that fowls and pigs and sheep experience pain to the same degree as human beings, for it is common observation that animals wince, howl, wail, and show terror when abused or injured and make every effort to avoid pain.

Actually many fruits and vegetables can be picked without killing or even harming the plants. These include berries, melons, legumes, nuts, seeds, pumpkins, and many other vegetables. Potatoes are taken from the ground after the plant has died. Most vegetables are annuals, harvested at or near the end of their natural life.

In fact, there is considerable scientific evidence that the human physiology, like that of our closest living creatures - the great apes, is vegetarian in design. The structure of our skin, teeth, stomach and bowels, the length of our digestive system, the composition of our saliva, stomach acids and urine, etc. are all typically vegetarian. There is also a mountain of evidence proving that a meat-based diet contributes to a whole range of diseases. Many scientists now concede that fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and grains appear best suited to the human body.

Finally, we know that we cannot subsist for long without food, and all food is matter that was once alive. But since we can subsist well and even thrive without meat, why take animal life in addition to the plant life we need to survive?

Among certain spiritually oriented persons one will often hear this strange rationalization: "Sure, we eat meat", they say, "what of it"? What is most important is not what enters the stomach but what comes out of the mind! Although it is true that ridding oneself of one's delusions, breaking out of the prison of the ego-I into a life of sympathy with all sentient beings is paramount, how can we establish a sympathetic rapport with non-humans while we are feasting on them?

"Do not cause pain to any creature, Go back to your Home with honour." (Sri Guru Granth Sahib, pg 322)

Non-Vegetarianism and Cruelty

Main article: Cruelty and food

"The green pastures and idyllic barnyard scenes of years past are now distant memories. On today’s factory farms, animals are crammed by the thousands into filthy windowless sheds, wire cages, gestation crates, and other confinement systems. These animals will never raise their families, root in the soil, build nests, or do anything that is natural to them. They won’t even feel the sun on their backs or breathe fresh air until the day they are loaded onto trucks bound for slaughter."

Please go to: www.goveg.com to read more about cruelty to animals in modern day slaughtering and animal-farming businesses.


Sikhi and Kutha

The controversy in the Khalsa Panth over being a vegetarian or non-vegetarian arose due to the difference in the interpretation of the word Kuthha - one of the four primary taboos or Cardinal Sins for the Sikhs. Before going into the depth of what "Kuthha" really means, it is imperative to consider the real importance of these taboos in Sikhism. It is an undisputed fact that any Sikh who commits any one of these four taboos becomes an apostate. That means he is no longer a Sikh, i.e., he is automatically de-linked and ex-communicated from the Khalsa "Brotherhood", even though he may be considered a Sikh by society. As a natural corollary, he loses the Grace of the Satguru without which progress is hindred in achieving the Bliss of Naam-Simran. The four great taboos prescribed for the Sikhs are, thus, of fundamental importance.

Other Thoughts

In the free kitchen of the Gurdwara (langar), vegetarian food is always served. This has been the case for all the period for which records can be found and is in keeping with the main thrust of the above Gurbani Tuks. The Gurus have given their opinion on the subject of vegetarianism, but it can generally left up to the individual member of the religion to conclude whether to stay vegetarian or eat meat and this is largely a personal decision for a Sikh.

Further, it should be remembered that the SGPC's Reht Maryarda www.sgpc.net mentions "four transgressions" which are "tabooed practices". These rules do not at any point allow Sikhs to eat meat. What these rules say is that it is an absolute sin to eat meat for a particular type. It does not follow from this statement that one is allowed to consume all other types of meat. In a similar way is say in the SGPC's Reht Maryarda that "Cohabiting with a person other than one's spouse" is an absolute sin – It does not follow that "some sexual glances at someone other than one's partner" are allowed in Sikhism. The four "Kurhats" are complete "no-go" areas for a Sikh - Never to be visited ever! However, it follows that a Sikh must try and stay very clear of these serious sinful "no-go" areas giving them a wide berth.


However, one need to remember that to get to a position of absolute compliance with Gurbani in all aspects of life in one go is not possible or expected. However, it the duty of all Sikhs to work towards this ultimate goal. So if one is not a Vegetarian, you are not expected to change overnight. It’s a Sikhs duty to strive toward this important concept of Sikh life. If you are a Vegetarian, you cannot look down at non-vegetarians – as they may have excelled in other areas of Sikhism.

Alternative View:

From Sikh Times

1. Those that choose to dwell on the consumption of substances rather than focus their minds on remembering God have been derided by the Adi Granth ('consumed by the desire for substances'). This 'desire' can be either for a single substance or for a number of substances. It is worth noting that the Adi Granth mentions the desire for meat at the very end of a list of nine desires:

"The desires for gold, silver, women, fragrances,' ..'horses, beds, palaces, sweets, and meat."

  • (Verse 43/1, p. 34) [Guru Nanak, Adi Granth, p. 15]

It is clear from Guru Nanak's verse (above) that he accords meat a status similar to gold, silver, women, fragrances, horses, beds, palaces, and sweets.

To forget God and remain obsessed with substances is 'desire.' For those that are immersed in the rememberance of God, no substance is 'desirous.' To obsess unduly on meat, i.e. only one of the nine desires acknowledged by the Adi Granth, is tantamount to ignoring the fundamental messages of the Adi Granth.

2. To attach undue importance to matters of eating and drinking rather than focusing on remembering God has been termed by our Gurus as harmful to the pursuit of a spiritual lifestyle. Furthermore, our Gurus have placed meat on par with other superior substances such as fruit, butter, jaggery, and refined flour.

"What good are fruits, butter, sweet jaggery, refined flour, and meat?"

  • (Verse 44/2, p. 34) [Guru Nanak, Adi Granth, p. 142]

Verses such as the one above make it abundantly clear that it is not incorrect to view meat on par with other superior substances such as gold, silver, butter, jaggery, and refined flour.

The above section is taken from an article in the [www.Sikh Times.com] Friday Oct 28 05)

(editor: As most of statements in the article were not supported by direct quotes from SGGS, and therefore have been omitted. Please go to [www.Sikh Times.com] for full text.

Guru Nanak Dev Ji said that those who waste their time deciding on whether or not to eat meat are foolish. He did not eat meat, and neither did the other Gurus. Guru Har Rai Ji was sad when his robe trampled a few flowers, yet Guru Gobind Singh Ji told us Sikhs to fight the forces of Aurangzeb and we did so (thus killing many Mussalmans along the way). Why shed blood when it is inhumane. Becuase killing of an animal or any living organism should only be done when it is necessary. Meat is not essential for survival, so some people believe it should not be eaten. The Gurus only killed when necessary; Guru Gobind Singh Ji only killed others to protect basic human rights, mainly religious beliefs. One should only eat meat when it is necessary for survival, otherwise different choices should be taken. But, over this, one should concentrate on the Guru's Hukam. Sadhna Ji was a butcher, and he had to be in order to survive. Nobody said that he enjoyed killing, but that it was simply his profession. If you think it unjust to kill something, consider why you worship the Guru Granth when Sadhna Ji's bani is part of it. The only reason to kill is for necessities, not for pleasure. Kill only when it is necessary for survival. This was taught by all the Gurus, especially from Guru Arjun Dev Ji (he did not personally kill, but he encouraged the building of a Sikh army) and onward. Bodies are gifts of God, and so we must respect all of them. They are our way of reaching God, and the way of others. Guru Ji indirectly says that we must kill only for three reasons: self-defense, when meat is all that is available, and justice. Only when the soul within the body should be punished is the body destroyed (when talking of humans). WAHEGURU JI KA KHALSA, WAHEGURU JI KI FATEH!

Vegetarianism and Spiritualism '</div>

The other side of the issue

Including meat in the diet has long been a controversial topic among the Sikh Circle. But the debate on Sikhism and Meat Eating has lead the majority of Sikh Scholars to agree on the view that Sikhism is not against the eating of meat.

Check Neutral Views on Meat Eating for authentic scholars writings.

External Links


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References

  • 1.Maulvi Karim Bakhsh later became well known as Sant Lakhbir Singh.
  • 2.Autobiography of Bhai Sahib Randhir Siugh. pg. 51.
  • 3.Ibid pg. 60-61.
  • 4.Ibid pg. XXVI - Dr. Trilochan Singh's Introductory Thesis.
  • 5.Gandhi, M.K. Story of My Experiments with Truth. pg. 41-5.4.
  • 6.Autobiography. pg. XXXVIII
  • 7.Bhai Balbir Singh retired as Executive Engineer. He has five children and is now settled in Ludhiana. Bibi Daler Kaur was married to S. Mohinder Singh and has one son.
  • 8.Autobiography. pg. 436.
  • 9.Singh, Prof. Harbans. Sikh Review, July 1978. pg. 44.
  • 10.Singh, Trilochan. Sikh Review, July 1978. pg. 23.
  • 11.Autobiography. pg. LXV.
  • 12.Singh, S. Kapur. Parasharprasna or Baisakhi of Guru Gobind Singh. pg. 69-70.
  • 13.Banerjee, Indu Bhushan. Evolution of the Khalsa, Volume 1. pg. 79.
  • 14.Khalsa Rahit Maryada (Sura Publication). pg. 85.
  • 15.Singh, S. Kapur. Sikh Review, July 1978. pg.51.
  • 16.Singh, Gyani Udham. Guru Nanak Jiwan - 1k Nawee Khoj. pg. 242.
  • 17.Ibid. pg. 240.
  • 18.Singh, S. Kapur. Sikh Review, July 1978. pg. 52.
  • 19.Bhai Gurdas ii - Var 20, Pauri 10 and Kabit Swayey No.124 & 309.