Question: Acharya Ji, is it possible to be spiritual and eat animals?
Acharya Prashant: No, it is not at all possible.
It is just not possible.
Because to be spiritual, is to simply know, the spiritual one would know who he is and what is happening through him. He would not be blind to what is kept on his plate. To be spiritual is to be not-fragmented. One would then really know, what is this thing called hunger, what is this thing called food, and what is thing called food-chain.
One would just not open the can, take the flesh and munch it. One would know where the whole thing is coming from, both in a physical way and in a mental way.
When you know where the entire thing is coming from, it simply does not happen. You see, a spiritual man does not relate to the other, in terms of body. It is something of the eye.
I often ask those who consume meat, instead of proceeding with a packaged product like meat, why don’t you slaughter the thing yourself, and when you slaughter the animal yourself, why don’t you know it fully?
Even as you slaughter it, after all, even from a perspective of self-interest, if something is going into your body it makes sense to know it fully.
Why don’t you look into its eyes as you slaughter it?
And when you look into the eyes of an animal, and if you are really awake, you will only see your own deep innocence, which might be hidden from you. It is impossible to see anything or anybody else when you really look around. And that thing that you look at, and that which looks back at you is most prominently visible in the eyes.
It is visible everywhere, it is visible even in the leaves, in the soil, in the sand, in the stone, everywhere, but given the limits of our identification and consciousness, it is the most visible in the eyes, so, look at the animal, pause and meditate for a while, and then go ahead and slaughter it, if you can.
You’ll only be slaughtering yourself.
I repeat, those eyes are your own primitive eyes and when I say your own primitive eyes that brings us to another interesting way of looking at it:
You see, that which you call as man, is divinity at the core, then animal by evolution and intellectual by society.
The animals that you see outside of you are all present within yourself as well. To really know an animal, is to know that part of yourself which remains hidden, suppressed beneath all the social conditioning.
Have you looked at kids playing?
If you look at kids playing and if you look at animals playing, you would not find much difference. In fact, human kids go along very well with animal kids. Later on, when we cover ourselves with a lot of acquired knowledge, with a lot of social conditioning then the animal within us gets suppressed, and the more suppressed it gets, the more we live with frustration and sorrow.
What does that tells us?
It tells us more we are violent to the animal on the outside, actually we are more violent towards the animal inside of us. And, if we are violent towards the animal inside of us, we cannot live in any kind of relaxation.
Just returned from the learning camp in Himalayas, there we saw a lot these jungles being hecked down. I said, ‘When man is hecking down these jungles, he is actually destroying the greenery within himself; when the man is polluting the rivers, he is actually polluting that which flows within himself, and keeps him wet from the inside.’
So, you cannot have this misbehaviour towards animals, unless you are adamant that you would misbehave towards yourself as well.
You are the universe, you look into the animal and you see at yourself, now how will you misbehave? You look into an animals eyes and you find you are looking into a mirror, now how will you misbehave?
You pollute a river and you find that you are polluting yourself; now will you do that? And that is not a concept, if you really look at a river, you are reminded of something very ancient within yourself, that is why you are attracted to the river.
Have you wondered why man go to forests or hills, why you enjoy waterfalls, snow so much?
It is because the waterfall is you, it is because the pristinely clear gurgle is your own, that is why you like it so much.
That animal is your innocence, that animal is what you are if all language is taken away from you, and you are really craving to be that animal, that’s why given the first convenient opportunity, we like to do away with our clothes.
Have you seen how kids often resist clothes?
Even if their mothers would all deck them up, the moment they find an opportunity they would unbutton themselves and go around naked, that is the animal within us seeking expression.
When you kill that duck, you are killing the kid within you.
Because the kid identifies with the duck, the kid is the duck.
The more you sit in a man-made place and have all this stuff on your plate, which is actually just meat, the more you are acquiescing with the society, the more you are identifying with the intellect and the further you are going away from the rabbit and squirrel within you; even the lion, I don’t want to be some kind of a species-ist, even carnivorous animals are alright!
These jungles are very important to us, not because they provide us stuff; because they are what we are. When you bring down a tree, you have brought down a part of yourself, and having brought down a part of yourself you have unnecessarily made yourself incomplete. From completion you have moved to incompletion. How can a spiritual man do that?
Spirituality is about moving from incompletion to completion, and killing this and destroying that is about moving from completion to incompletion.
So, it is not possible, not at all possible to be spiritual and yet a consumer of this, that and I am not only refering to meat, when you raise crops from the perspective of destroying them after their season and after their utility, it is much the same; in fact, if you are that kind of a vegetarian, it will not really take much of a push to turn you into a meat-eater, and that is why, you see, it is fairly common for vegetarians to flip into meat-eating; that which was not there, suddenly cannot appear. The seeds of violence were there even when one was a vegetarian, and that is why upon persuasion and upon opportunity one moves to meat.
Veganism cannot be a taught quality, it has to be something of the heart.
You cannot give arguments in favour of it. It has to be a destroyer of all arguments. You are really a vegan, if in spite of all arguments, you are still a vegan. Tomorrow a body of evidence may arise which says if you know, you are vegan then such and such minerals and vitamins get deficient within your body, now in spite of all that evidence, and that evidence might be scientifically accurate. But in spite of that evidence you say, ‘I am what I am and I refuse to do that which is against my nature’, then you are really a vegan, because veganism is about having the right relationship with the world around you.
Veganism in its essence is religion.
You cannot just say I am a vegan, you are actually stating your religion when you say that, one does not look at it that way but that’s what it really is.
Q: Is is pleasurable to be a vegan?
AP: To be vegan does not feel pleasurable.
I know this might disappoint you, but please it does not feel like anything. In fact to live rightly and to have a right relationship with the world is to gain freedom from various kind of feelings.
As long as one eats to get a certain feeling, the eating would always involve violence. So if you are promoting veganism, kindly do not promote a culture of feeling, because all feeling is excitement, all feeling is sensory, all feeling is experiential and all feeling is fleeting.
One does not live by his feelings, one cannot live by his feelings, one has to live by truth. One feels a lot in his everyday life and that feeling itself is man’s hell and torture.
Why do you enjoy sleep?
You enjoy sleep because sleep is a cessation of all feelings sleep is a non-feeling and that’s why it is the best feeling.
Being a vegan, I do not feel a lot of things that others feel. I do not feel tension, I do not feel excitement and because I do not feel pleasure, I also do not feel pain. It is a beautiful silence, it is a lovely thing and it is not a feeling. It is something far more deeper than the feeling. I am tempted to use the word ‘mystical’ but that has its own, images and connotations, so I would rather avoid.
Don’t live by feelings, don’t live by images or don’t live by experiences.
You go to any of the restaurants, and they will say, ‘Come! experience this new kind of food, is this new cuisine not really exciting?’
Now excitement, experience, feeling, emotion, titillation, pleasure, they are all words belonging to the same family. And as long as these words carry value in our mind, man will not be able to be kind to himself or to the world.
If excitement is a value, then there is a lot of value in hunting.
If experience is a value, then it is always new experience to kill a new specie. Really understanding that is highest value that is the highest freedom and if one does need to have a feeling, then the feeling must be to be situated in that understanding. this feeling is love. that is the only thing one wants, really wants, then it really is love, I want to understand I want to live by my nature and I want to live simply, innocently, this want is love, love obviously denotes wanting but what is it that one wants
One needs to look very carefully into that what is it that I am really wanting, that which you want will decide your life. So want only the highest, nothing less than that. Do not want feelings, they are not the highest rather a freedom from feelings, that doesn not mean kiling the feelings it only means that one is not a slave of feelings.
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Acharya Prashant is an emerging champion of socio-spiritual awakening in the world today. An alumnus of IIT-Delhi and IIM-Ahmedabad, and a former Civil Services officer, Acharya Prashant is an acclaimed Speaker, Vedanta Teacher and author of over 50 books. Apart from that he wears various hats: a veganism promoter, an environmental activist, a science activist, a campaigner against superstition, and a champion of essential human freedom. Know More