One of the biggest myths prevalent in today’s society is that the Hindu tradition requires one to be a vegetarian. In most of the ancient Vedic scriptures, nowhere is the consumption of meat banned. Many of the Yajnas (fire sacrifices) enjoined by the Vedas involve killing animals. The famous Ashvamedha Yajna was carried out by kings who let a horse roam in the neighboring kingdoms. The neighboring kings could either declare their alliance or hostility respectively by either letting the horse roam or restricting its movement. At the end of the Yajna, the horse was sacrificed, along with a great many other animals. Animals, including cows, are part of many other Vedic sacrifices. The Vedas instruct the sacrificers to consume the cooked meat of the animals which are thus sacrificed in the fire.
Our genes carry evolutionary data
From ancient times, humans have found cooked meat to be the most nourishing of all foods. Scientific research has confirmed that eating meat is the reason the human species was able to grow the brain we all possess today. The practice of settling down to practice farming and domestication of animals is only around five to ten thousand years old. Most of the health problems and common diseases of today are linked to mankind’s turn towards agriculture and pastoralism.
Before settling down to grow crops, human beings lived the life of the hunter-gatherer for hundreds of thousands of years. The ancient texts of India (along with ancient myths of other cultures) have stories of human beings living for hundreds of years. One wonders if these stories are memories of some ancient past when humans lived the free life of the hunter-gatherer, living for hundreds of years, free from the restrictions and degeneration caused by agricultural lifestyle.
The human genetic code was developed over hundreds of millions of years as evolution took place beginning with the bacterial soup, going through the sea-dwelling phase, the land-dwelling phase etc. Finally, we find today’s human beings as one of the most advanced products of evolution. Throughout the long genetic evolution of mankind, meat was the only major form of sustenance. Cooked meat provides adequate protein, fat, bio-available vitamins and innumerable other nutrients vital for the healthy development of the body. This fact was known to the ancients.
What the Vedas say
Most of the Vedic sacrifices involve meat, ghee and other extremely nutritious ingredients. The idea behind sacrificing such valuable items into the fire was to propitiate the gods and the forces of nature as well as to form the mental discipline and rigor required to lead a life of Dharma. The idea behind sacrifice is the fact that human beings take on temporary hardships to obtain good results in the long run. The ancient Indians recognized the fact that if they put in the hard work and sacrifice today, they stood to reap rich rewards in the future. The lives of most citizens of pre-colonial India revolved around such sacrifices.
It is highly probable that warriors such as Bhima and Hanuman were meat-eaters as they did not have access to the artificial supplements used by today’s vegan bodybuilders
The idea of vegetarianism as a religious practice was originally introduced by the Jains, who hail form one of the most ancient traditions of India. Later on, vegetarianism was also picked up by the Buddhists. Gautama Buddha opposed animal sacrifices and the consumption of cooked meat. From this, one can infer that meat-eating was widely practiced in Ancient India. As time went on, the followers of the Vedic tradition appear to have come under the influence of the followers of the Jain and the Buddhist traditions. The wide-scale adoption of vegetarianism was then undertaken, especially among Brahmins. It is interesting to note that the Brahmins of Kashmir and West Bengal have traditionally consumed meat. One wonders if this practice is a remnant of the ancient Vedic past when meat-eating was widely practiced.
Vegetarians have very few options for obtaining fat and proteins, which are essential nutrients for the healthy development of the muscles and the brain. In the Indian tradition, following the adoption of vegetarianism, the consumption of food was healthily regulated in the Shastras. The Shastras prescribed the use of ghee, fasting, eating only twice a day and other methods. These rules ensured health and well-being.
The Western angle
In the West, the practice of vegetarianism has caught on only in recent times. This has been precipitated by a heady mixture of dubious nutritional research, environmentalism and leftism. As shown by many recent exposés, the field of nutritional science in the U.S. following World War II has been marked by a remarkable lack of scientific rigor and honesty. The nutritional field is today plagued by ideological warriors instead of scientific researchers. This faulty science led to many Western governments to virtually declare war on fat and cholesterol. The propagation of the low-fat diet has meant that in most food products, fat was substituted by a dangerously addictive substance, namely sugar. Because of the overconsumption of sugar (in various forms), diabetes, obesity and heart disease have reached epidemic proportions in the U.S. In India also, these epidemics are slowly becoming causes for massive concern.
On another front, environmentalists and animal activists actively oppose the consumption of meat. Also, large numbers of Western leftists have adopted vegetarianism. It is likely that vegetarian diets reduce testosterone and some vegan foods, such as soy, may even increase estrogen. This is perhaps the reason why leftists, advocating the overwhelming power of the state and the trampling of individual responsibility, are attracted to vegetarianism. Many practicing Hindus, who happen to be vegetarians, point to low-energy leftists and to dubious nutritional research in order to validate their own erroneous vegetarian beliefs!
The human genetic code developed over millions of years with the consumption of cooked meat. As a result, the overconsumption of grains always leads to side effects. The human evolutionary history and the evidence in the Vedas both stand opposed to the practice of vegetarianism. It is unfortunate that there is a lack of adequate knowledge in India about what the Vedic scriptures say about the consumption of cooked meat. As a result, today, the study of Sanskrit and Vedic traditions, the practice of Yoga etc have somehow been mind melded into also requiring one to be a vegetarian.
Swami Vivekananda, one of the boldest thinkers in the field of dharma, saw these facts and encouraged his followers to be meat-eaters (see Swami Vivekananda, Complete Works, 5.15). He linked the prevalence of dyspepsia and digestive problems to the practice of vegetarianism. He also identified the lack of energy and lethargy which he noticed among the vegetarian Babajis of his time as signs of the quality of Tamas (meaning “darkness” or “dullness”). It is about time that these words are taken seriously and applied to the betterment of the country.