Ahimsa & Vegetarianism?

(Before I say anything today, I need you to know that I’m absolutely against any sort of animal cruelty.)
I was quite sure about how I wanted to approach this subject that has been bothering me a lot lately. But since I knew it was a sensitive one, I decided to do a lot of reading before writing. The result was big mental chaos and confusion. So, here I am at a vegetarian restaurant trying to clear my thoughts and hoping to be able to write something that will make some sense, or maybe just in an attempt to feel…less guilty?!
I have such mixed feelings towards vegetarianism and I’m full of questions about it, but the one that gets me the most is if I’m not as good as a person and a Yogi because I’m not a vegetarian… big dilemma!
Before I go any deeper into my writing, I would like to explain a very important concept for those of you who are not familiar with Yoga philosophy… Ahimsa.
There are eight pillars of Yoga called the Eight Limbs. These are moral and ethical principles that act as our guidelines for a better life. The first Limb, Yama, is related to the universal ethical principles that dictate how we should behave in relation to the external world. Ahimsa is the first of five Yamas and it literally means non-violence, non-harming, non-injury at all levels (physical, mental and emotional). So based on this concept, it is believed that we should be vegetarian as we should not harm any living being.
So now that you have that piece of information, let me share with you my… “meat eating background”; this will help me put together some of the ideas I want to express.
I have never been a big fan of red meat. Actually that is an occasional craving that I have developed in the past few years of my life. Red meat has always been my last choice, “if there is nothing else to eat” kind of thing. Chicken was ok, but not anymore, as I’ve developed a distaste for it. Pork, well, I have to confess I have a weakness for pork; I grew up eating long stripes of deep fried, crunchy pork belly! And let’s not even mention fish and sea food! I’ve always loved it! But, since I moved out of my parent’s house my meat consumption dropped radically. Food became 100% my own choice and I began to eat almost cero meat. I never buy any meat at home and when eating out, I’d rather go for the vegetarian choice, even if sometimes fish is very welcome into my plate. I know this might sound a little bit ridiculous to some of you, but I’m almost vegetarian, not by choice… maybe by… taste!
So… to be or not to be? Are we, human beings supposed to be meat eaters or not? Can we be healthy with a vegetarian diet? And what about Ahimsa? How come cutting a plant or digging a root out of the earth is not Himsa (violence-harming-injuring)? They are living things too! Is it a matter of opinion or just a conviction? Is it a trend? I don’t think the answers are any close for me! And I’m not even sure I’ll ever get them!
When I chose the Yoga path, I was not expecting a “tortuous” road full of sacrifice to seek redemption, that’s actually one of the things that pushed me away from religion! And that might be one of the reasons why this subject has been bothering me so much these days; feeling that I have to accept and follow something that is imposed. Shouldn’t we have the choice? What is it with this need to fight our animal nature? Why can’t we be “intelligent beings” without loosing our instincts?!
I wish I could put into words all the feelings that are passing through my head right now without sounding totally insane (if I’m not sounding a bit insane already!)! I guess that coming to this vegetarian restaurant, aside from leaving me with a broken tooth thanks to the organic risotto (yes, sometimes organic food can be harmful), didn’t help that much to put my ideas in order. So I better leave now and while the answers arrive, I guess I’ll keep on living my life with moderation!.
I’d like to leave you today with some words I found from Sri Swami Sivananda about Ahimsa that give me some sort of peace: “Absolute Ahimsa is not possible even to the most conscientious Sannyasin (renunciate). You cannot avoid killing countless creatures while walking, sitting, eating, breathing, sleeping, drinking, etc. You can hardly find a single ‘non-injurer’ in the world, but you can protect every living being by some means or other.”

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