Lord Krishna's Instructions On What To Eat In Bhagavad Gita
Many people question what Lord Krishna says, or if He says anything at all, about whether to be vegetarian or not. Actually, He provides some important insights. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita: “The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Bg.3.13)
So, food should be first offered in sacrifice, or ritual, but what ritual is this? He explains quite clearly that all food, as well as anything else, should first be offered to Him. “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it. O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me. In this way you will be freed from all reactions to good and evil deeds, and by this principle of renunciation you will be liberated and come to Me.” (Bg.9.26-28)
Herein it is clear that food should be first prepared for offering the Lord, but with love. You can often see this in temples wherein the food is cooked with the intention of preparing it with love and then offering it before the Deities of Krishna with love. Thereafter, the devotees take the remnants and distribute amongst them as offered food. This becomes prasadam, or the spiritually surcharged food that is the mercy of the Lord, and which purifies our consciousness by honoring it through the process of respectfully eating it.
Furthermore, what is meant to be offered to the Lord is outlined as a leaf (most vegetables consist of leafy substances), flowers or fruits (which consist of grains, nuts, and fruits and juices), and water. Thus, no meat is mentioned. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that food that is acquired through cruelty is in the mode of tamas, or darkness and ignorance, or in the mode of rajas, passion, which causes pain and distress to both the eater and the eaten. This is completely counterproductive to our own well-being, both in the present and in our future, and certainly causes pain and suffering to others. So, how can this be beneficial to anyone’s spiritual, mental, emotional, and subtle development? As Lord Krishna explains:
“Even food of which all partake is of three kinds, according to the three modes of material nature. The same is true of sacrifices, austerities and charity. Listen, and I shall tell you of the distinctions of these. Foods in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such nourishing foods are sweet, juicy, fattening and palatable. Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, pungent, dry, and hot, are liked by people in the mode of passion. Such foods cause pain, distress, and disease. Food cooked more than three hours before being eaten, which is tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean, is food liked by people in the mode of ignorance.” (Bg.17.7-10)
Herein, it is clear that pure and wholesome vegetarian foods are what is needed for our own refinement, health, strength, and happiness, while other kinds of food cause pain, suffering and disease. It does not take much comparative study to recognize this.
Furthermore, we can see that the process of preparing and eating food is also a part of the Vedic system for making spiritual advancement. As the Vedic literature explains, what we eat is an important factor in the process of purifying ourselves and remaining free from accumulating bad karma. It actually is not so difficult to be vegetarian, and it gives one a much higher taste in eating and in one’s spiritual realizations. The level of our consciousness is also determined not only by what we think and do, but also by the vibrational level of what we put into our bodies as food. The more natural and peaceful the food, the more healthy and peaceful will be our consciousness. If it is further blessed and offered to the Lord, then it becomes especially powerful and spiritualized. This vibration goes into our own bodies and is assimilated by our consciousness to assist us in our spiritual upliftment. However, if we eat foods that are the remnants of animals that were petrified with fear before being slaughtered, or were tortured during the slaughter process, that fear, aggression and suffering will also become a part of our own consciousness, which is reflected back on our own life and the people with whom we come in contact. And people wonder why there is not more peace in the world.
Another reason why no meat is mentioned as being acceptable to Lord Krishna is that the soul, which is a part and parcel of the Lord Himself, is equally present in not only humans, but all species of life.
“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [or outcaste].” (Bg.5.18) Thus, a wise person recognizes the value of life, the soul, within all species of living beings. Because he recognizes the soul in all bodies, he does not cause any cruelty to them. Cruelty or suffering inflicted on any living being will certainly cause harm to ourselves and regression in our own development, spiritual or otherwise. Compassion and kindness to all beings is how we make spiritual progress. Is there anything that is really more important that this? As Lord Krishna explains:
“One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me—he is very dear to Me.” (Bg.12.13-14)
Thus, how can we be kind to all living entities if we are looking at them as if they would be our next meal? This is not compassion, concern for others, or kindness. It is no different than the way animals look at each other with the intent to eat another being, or with fear to keep from being eaten. As human beings, we should be better than that, certainly more developed than carrying a mere animal mentality within ourselves. Meat cannot be acquired without violence to others, and unwarranted violence toward others offers nothing elevating to anyone. It is hardly God’s philosophy to be a friend to humans but an enemy to animals by wanting to slaughter and eat them. What can be more thoughtless and evil than that? Thus, this sort of nonviolence that is exhibited toward others, as when one abstains from eating meat, is a godly quality, as Lord Krishna further explains in Bhagavad-gita (16.2-3): ahimsa or nonviolence is one of the transcendental qualities that belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.
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