Why I Follow a Vegetarian Diet

I have been following a vegetarian diet for most of my life. When I was a young child, my mother couldn’t get me to eat the meat she served. She was concerned that I wasn’t getting enough iron in my diet, so she made sure I had plenty of raisins since she’d heard they were high in iron. My favorite sandwich in those days was Wonder Bread with Miracle Whip and raisins. Luckily, my choice of vegetarian foods has greatly improved from those early years. I clearly came into this incarnation with a strong preference from past lives to avoid meat.  But beyond my personal likes and dislikes, choosing a vegetarian diet such as we follow at The Expanding Light has a lot of merit for physical, mental, and spiritual health.

As a species, were we meant to eat meat? Yogananda’s guru, Sri Yukteswar, points out that the human tooth structure is not like that of a carnivore, which has long pointed teeth designed to tear into flesh. Also, the digestive tracts of carnivorous animals are much shorter proportionally than those of humans, so when we eat meat it stays with us longer before elimination than in an animal that has to survive on meat. Meat may be a source of high protein and energy but it also comes with a lot of toxins. Many research studies have shown that people who eat a vegetarian diet are about 40 percent less likely to develop cancer than meat eaters.

When we think about what occurred before a piece of meat came neatly packaged into our refrigerator, it isn’t hard to understand how stress hormones of fear and anger from the animal that was slaughtered (even if the animal was raised naturally and grass fed) would be present in that meat. Those who want a life of inner peace and happiness find it helpful to keep the nervous system as free as possible from fight-or-flight neuro-chemicals (such as those produced by fear and anger). So, following a vegetarian diet makes sense. Plants offer themselves for harvest with much less fear and stress.  Fruits and nuts that fall off the tree are the most willing source of nourishment.strawberry

If we had no other choice of food to sustain life, it would certainly be better to eat meat than to starve. But in today’s world we find ourselves with lots of choices. We can get the protein we need from other high quality sources without resorting to meat. If we want to make the most of this lifetime, then why not do all we can to reach our highest potential?

The food we eat gives us much more than just nutrients. Food imparts vibrations that we receive when we ingest it. Yogananda told us, for example, that cherries impart cheerfulness, avocados enhance our memory, and coconuts lift our spiritual awareness. The animal magnetism of meat, on the other hand, diminishes our spiritual magnetism. Meat eating brings our focus of awareness too much to the physical plane, and so we feel restless, heavy, and bound by worries of the world. To find greater happiness, we need to lift our consciousness to feel light and expansive.

Certainly there is more to a healthy diet than just avoiding meat. There are pitfalls in being vegetarian, such as overemphasizing carbohydrates and sugars. Over the years I have worked to eat fewer processed or starchy foods, with fewer sweets (no more raisins on white bread). Now I include many more live, high vibrating, and colorful plant-based foods. It takes effort and willingness to enjoy new tastes and textures. But it is worth finding ways to honor the body as a temple and to be conscious about how to keep it clean, making the body temple a place fit for the Divine to dwell.  In the end, our attitudes and purity of heart are what matter most. The healthiest food is that which we bless and offer to God.

I love Yogananda’s prayer before meals:
“Heavenly Father, receive this food. Make it holy. Let no impurity of greed defile it. The food comes from Thee. It is to build Thy Temple. Spiritualize it. Spirit to Spirit goes. We are the petals of Thy manifestation but Thou art the flower, its life, beauty, and loveliness.  Permeate our souls with the fragrance of Thy presence.”


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  1. Joshua Gold says:

    Thank you for this clear and convincing post.

  2. patrick says:

    Thank you this is great information 🙂

  3. Ram says:

    Sri. Yukteshwar’s facts on human anatomy (herbivore vs. carnivore) can now be found in a nicely compiled summary table on the internet, “Humans are naturally plant eaters in depth article” by Michael Bluejay. http://Www.michaelbluejay.com. Similar info is on PETAs website. UN/IPCC declared that meat grown for food emits more greenhouse gases than all modes of transport in the world. Unfortunately, true biology and climate change concepts are still unknown to almost 99 pct of the world.

  4. Juan Raydan says:

    Thanks for writing such an interesting article. I decide to be vegetarian in 1976 a year before I finish college. Reading at that time Paramahansa`s book Autobiography of a Yogi, I became vegetarian. Now, with the world catastrophe on the Coronavirus, I want to make a writing on the relation of this pandemia with the slaughtering of animals in China and other countries. I think that this bad karma comes from the way human being are treating our “minor brothers”, as Saint Francis of Assisi used to say.

    • Maitri Jones says:

      Thank you for your comment Juan. I am praying that we work together as brothers and sisters to overcome this tragic pandemic and in the process learn to live in health, harmony and peace with all of creation.

  5. Laurie says:

    When you say vegetarian do you mean still to consume eggs , dairy , (fish?)
    I’ve been vegan for 2 1/2 years now and have started to wonder if it is sustainable for me , I just can’t get past the animal suffering for all of it;(
    But I don’t want my body to suffer if I’m not giving it what it needs either
    Advice ?

    • Maitri Jones says:

      Dear Laurie,

      I am vegetarian meaning that I do eat some eggs and dairy. But I try to get my eggs and dairy from the most humane and non-toxic sources possible. I appreciate those who can be totally vegan and I am concerned about the cruel conditions that animals can be subjected to as well as the toll on the environment. So I try to minimize my consumption of eggs and dairy. I also look for local farms such as we have at Ananda where we raise our own goats, chickens and ducks. Paramhansa Yogananda said that Americans probably should eat some eggs because we lead such busy lives. Eggs are considered rajasic or activating. But this activation can manifest as restlessness so better not to overdo it with this type of foods.

      We all have to listen to our own bodies and be guided by inner awareness about what we need in our current state. So if you are feeling depleted, try adding a bit of animal product to your diet to see if it helps. Eggs or dairy would be the first choice. If one is feeling the need for more than vegetarian food, fish would certainly be a better choice than higher life forms.

      May you be radiantly healthy!

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