There are many reports out today reiterating the idea that not eating meat can help you live longer. In fact, out of the targeted population for life expectancy studies, vegetarians live 7-9 years longer, on average, than their carnivorous friends. There are obvious health benefits to avoiding animal flesh, including reduction of harmful saturated fats and cholesterol as well as avoiding hormone and chemical contamination. But what if your health is great, you eat meat sparingly, and are concentrating more awareness on spiritual ‘advancement?’ Is there a correlation between meat eating and enlightenment? Can you still become ‘enlightened’ if you eat meat?
There is much commentary on this subject in many religious texts and from a variety of ‘teachers’ today. Some regard meat-eating as an absolute no-no in the advancement of spirituality, others say it depends on the person and the meat, while still a different source will say that meat is essential to some people in their ascension process. So which is it?
If we look to the words of the Buddha in ancient texts, he comments on the subject: “I say that there are three instances in which meat should not be eaten: when it is seen, heard, or suspected (that the living being has been specifically slaughtered for oneself).” By this he is saying that basically all meat, which has been slaughtered for human consumption, should not be eaten.
Guru Nanak of the Sikh faith refutes this by saying that both animal and vegetable alike contain consciousness and are therefore equal in the question of whether or not to ‘kill’ something. “Everything is a living thing, whether one is killing an animal or a plant, can the vegetarian please tell him where the sin lies?” Deepak Chopra agrees with this philosophy when answering a question coming into the Chopra Foundation by saying that plants also have life. “A recent research that I came across in ‘The Times of India’, suggests that if we play some soothing music in front of a plant, it helps it grow in a far better way. Then, Are we not killing lives by eating vegetarian food as well?” I suppose these two teachers agree that you can still become enlightened while eating meat.
The famous Indian teacher, OSHO took a slightly different approach to the subject, suggesting that it is optional, though an enlightened being would simply not choose to eat meat. From his book Death to Deathless I quote:
“After enlightenment, it is optional, but no enlightened person can eat meat and fish. Not that by eating meat and fish his enlightenment is going to disappear – enlightenment cannot disappear, whatever you do. But the enlightened person becomes so sensitive, so aesthetic, that the very idea of killing somebody just for the few buds on your tongue is simply idiotic.“
One Christian site I found called Lovebound.org talks about how not eating meat can actually be bad for certain individuals on a ‘spiritual path.’ That the iron content and other more grounding elements actually help to support and sustain a person who is seeking to live from a higher order. This site also recognizes plants as equally valid forms of consciousness and asks those contemplating their path to simply become aware of why they are choosing to eat or not eat meat. I would have to agree.
Clearly there is evidence in every realm, both for and against the idea of eating meat to support the body and spirit. In the question of whether meat-eating supports enlightenment practices, we will have to leave the answer up to the individual in question.
Probably one of the most important elements on the path to self-discovery, advanced consciousness and increased awareness is realizing that you are a unique being with a path different from every other being on this planet. Part of self-realization is knowing that your own ‘enlightenment’ comes through you alone, not another teacher, teaching or ‘time-tested’ theory. The truth is, what is right for you is right for you. The real question and challenge becomes tuning into that innate wisdom and choosing to honor it, whatever it says, even if your senses would rather indulge differently.
So can eating meat inhibit enlightenment? You’ll have to answer that one on your own. Until you know for sure, the assistance from others who have gone before you can serve as guidance upon your path, but ultimately, the wisdom is in you.
Written by: Stasia Bliss