THE COMPASSIONATE DIET
A New Chapter for Journey to the Luminous - by Arran Stephens, ©2/2001
When I discontinued eating the flesh of animals more than 37 years ago
at the age of 20, I was motivated by a love and respect for life--a commitment
kept without any regrets. As a result, I soon discovered boundless
energy, and my youthful vitality, wasted as it then was by substance abuse
and wild living, became fully restored. As my heart expanded, I saw
animals as my younger relatives. It was far more than a mere intellectual
understanding. I also found the practice of a vegetarian diet and
abstaining from alcohol and drugs indispensable for progressing deeper
on the meditation path. It was only after completely embracing a
vegetarian and teetotal life that my spiritual quest led me to a perfect
Master, and subsequently, the inner science.
My wife's family had been traditionally vegetarian for generations and
our four children and grandchildren have all enjoyed the benefits of a
compassionate diet, with no nutritional, social or intellectual deficiencies.
As a non-medical layman, yet active participant in the wholistic health
movement for decades, I've seen many fads come and go. However, a
balanced vegetarian diet for energy, concentration and longevity has stood
the test of millennia!
History is on the side of the vegetarian way of life. Whether we
go back to Genesis, the ancient Vedas, to Mani, Christ, Krishna, or he
Buddha, we find inspiration and support for a compassionate diet.
Rabia Basri, a woman Sufi saint of Iraq, and princess Mira of India, could
not bear to eat the flesh of animals. It is written that the Prophet
Mohammed ate meat four times in his life--only when he was starving, whereas
he otherwise enjoyed excellent health on a diet of dates, barley and camel's
All that is womb-born must die, but during life's transition, it behooves
human beings--said to e the highest form in creation--to be good, kind,
noble, and true. A noble heart extends compassion not only to humans,
but to animals, forests, oceans, rivers, air, the land, and the cosmos.
I've personally known many healthy vegetarians who lived into their eighties
and nineties, including the great yogi, Sri Raghuvacharya who passed away
at 113 years. Medical studies have confirmed that vegetarians on
average, live seven years longer than meat-eaters. The fact that
most vegetarians avoid tobacco and alcohol must also play a role in their
slightly longer and often more healthy average lifespans. They too,
however, have to leave the body some day! Death is inevitable, but
death is not the end. To the mystic, death is welcomed as the harbinger
of union with the Beloved of the universe.
In one of his verses, Kabir (1398-1518) exclaimed,
"Mercy and compassion flee from those who kill or cause animals to be
butchered for their food; to the abode of fire do they go..."
St. Francis of Assisi, who could not bring himself to eat his brother and
sister animals and birds, found his tender heart embracing the one life-principle
in all. Leonardo DaVinci--genius of the Renaissance, and a vegetarian,
would buy birds from the market and set them free. He was so strong
that he could bend a gold florin between his thumb and forefinger.
Schweitzer, Gandhi, Einstein, G.B. Shaw, Yeats, Padre Pio and many other
noble souls of the 20th century practiced a compassionate diet. All
lived long and productive lives. Several world record-holding athletes
have been vegetarian, dispelling the myth that meat is needed for strength
"We dig our graves in the kitchen, and more quickly with our teeth,"
wrote Kirpal Singh. He and other Adepts in the Sant Mat lineage have
consistently advocated a sensible dietary approach to eat moderately from
the table of Nature: fresh fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds,
small quantities of fresh milk and cheese, clean water, coupled with fresh
air and exercise.
When we realize that killing and eating the flesh of animals leads to difficult
health problems later in life, if not painful circumstances in our next,
we will begin to change our ways, goaded by an inner motivation.
For the millions worldwide who engage in some form of spiritual practice--whether
deep prayer or meditations, soon discover that consumption of flesh and
intoxicants impede the inner way. Not just one great spiritual teacher
has taught this, but practically all.
According to karmic theory, the consumption of plants results in little
or no consequences, whereas killing insects and reptiles result in some
small payment. Killing mammals and birds may result in fines, prison
or possible consequences in future lives, but killing a human is the most
heinous deed, and usually results in life-imprisonment or the death penalty.
If unpaid in this life, all outstanding debts are transferred and adjusted
in the next. Those who cause suffering will suffer. Those who
bring joy and happiness, will reap similar rewards, however, both good
deeds and bad have ultimately to be transcended.
In the Gita, Krishna has said, "Good deeds are like chains of
gold, and bad deeds are chains of iron; both are binding." Many
spiritual seekers and initiates of various paths and teachers believe that
the goal of life is self-realization and liberations. Therefore,
it is only natural to follow the way of compassion and kindness to all
life, and to cultivate detachment from the objects of desire by becoming
attached to something Higher.
A plant-based diet is not only varied and delicious, but is more economical,
uses a fraction of natural resources, results in less medical bills, and
is beneficial to planetary ecology--especially when produced organically.
Pure food, obtained honestly and without killing, helps our spiritual unfoldment
and powers of concentration. The body is a temple of the holiest
of the holy. The kind and quality of "fuel" is considered by most
thinking persons to be of importance. And how are mighty engines
measured? In horsepower. Look how mighty and strong are the
elephant, the horse, the ox, and the mountain gorilla! What meat
or pills do they consume?
Let us calmly consider what lifestyle and dietary decisions will most benefit
our evolution and passage through this world. Each individual's choices
count in the collective legacy we impart to coming generations.
"Nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival
of life on Earth as much as the evolution of a vegetarian diet."
"Until he extends the circle of compassion to all living things, man
will not himself find peace." --Albert Schweitzer
"It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby
thy brother stumbleth or is offended, or is made weak." --Romans 1:4
"I solemnly declare that it my last wish that when I am no longer a
captive of this physical body, that my coffin when carried to the graveyard
be accompanied by mourners of the following categories: first, birds; second,
sheep, lambs, cows and other animals of the kind; third, live fish in an
aquarium. Each of these mourners should carry a placard bearing the
inscription: 'O Lord, be gracious to our benefactor G.B. Shaw who have
his life for saving ours!"
--Shaw, in his 90th years when told he havee to eat meat to survive
"You have just dined, and however scrupulously the slaughterhouse is
concealed in the graceful distance of miles, there is complicity."
--Ralph Waldo Emerson, Fate; the Conduct off Life, 1860
"It was said of them of olden time, 'Honor thy Heavenly Father and thy
Earthly Mother, and their commandments, that thy days may be long upon
the earth.' And next was given this commandment. Thou shalt
not kill,' for life is given to all by God, and that which God has given,
let not man take away. For I tell you truly, from one Mother proceeds
that that lives upon the earth. Therefore, he who kills, kills his
brother. And from him will the Earthly Mother turn away, and will
pluck from him her quickening breasts...And the flesh of slain beasts in
his body will become his own tomb. For I tell you truly, he who kills,
kills himself and whosoever eats the flesh of slain beasts, eats of the
body of death. And their death will become his death...that is the
path of sufferings, and it leads unto death. But do the Will of God,
that his angels may serve you on the way of life. Obey, therefore,
the words of God: 'Behold I have given you every herb bearing seed, which
is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit
of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. And to every
beast of the earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that
creepeth upon the earth wherein there is breath of life, I give every green
herb for meat.' Also the milk of everything that moveth and that
liveth upon each shall be meat for you; even as the green herb have I given
unto them, so I give their milk unto you. But flesh, and the blood
which quickens it, shall y not eat."
"...If you eat living food the same will quicken you, but if you kill
your food, the dead food will kill you also, for life comes only from life,
and from death comes always death. For everything which kills your
foods, kills your bodies also. And everything which kills your bodies,
kills your souls also. And your bodies become what your foods are,
even as your spirits, likewise becomes what your thoughts are."
--Essence Gospel of Peace, translated by Eddmond Bordeaux-Szekely
"Diet is indeed an important aspect of the spiritual life. If
we wish to follow the path of nonviolence and love for all creation; then
we will adhere to a strict vegetarian diet. In doing so, we will
not only have compassion on the younger members of God's creation, and
our fellow-man, but we will also have compassion on our own selves."
--Darshan Singh, Spiritual Awakening>
The early historian Josephus recorded that Jesus and the nazarene community
to which he belonged were vegetarian, and teetotal. Epiphanius, of
the same period, noted that the Nazarenes:
"Forbid all flesh-eating, and do not eat living things at all."
--Epiphanius, Panarion 1:1.19 PES, p. 11
"I live on bread alone, with olives, and seldom even with pot-herbs...This
is sufficient for me, because my mind does not regard things present, but
things eternal, and therefore no present and visible thing delights me."
--Clementine Recognitions, VII: VI (of Sainnt Peter). CR pp. 340-341
In a well-documented and insightful work on early Christinanity, The Gospel
of Jesus, by John Davidson (1995 Element Books), there is ample historical
evidence that the direct disciples of Jesus were vegetarian and teetotal
(John the Baptist, James the Just, Matthew and Thomas), and that eating
of meat and drinking of wine were only introduced later by Paul of Tarsus,
who was not a direct disciple.
About James the Just (brother of Jesus) it is written:
"He was holy from his mother's womb; and he drank no wine nor strong
drink, nor did he eat flesh."
--Hegesippus, in Eusebius, History of the CChurch 2:23, CHE p. 125; cf HC
Clement of Alexandria wrote about the disciple Matthew:
"Happiness is found in the practice of virtue. Accordingly, the
apostle Matthew partook of seeds, and nuts, and vegetables, without flesh."
The laws of karma and reincarnation were also an integral part of the teachings
of Jesus and taught by his direct initiate disciples. The dilution
of the Master's teachings was an effort to expand Christianity and make
it easier for the masses to follow. Exoteric Christianity expanded
exponentially, but the inner mystical teachings became lost and misunderstood.
Emphasis shifted from the inner life of the spirit to outer rites and rituals,
blind faith, dogmas, and the corrupt power of the priesthood. Divorced
from the inner spirit of love, charity and service to all, religious wars
and bigotry frequently flared up.
A vegetarian diet, coupled with an ethical life and practice of meditation
has a very positive effect on the individual. Individual practice
tends to universal awareness and a love for all creation.
Last Updated 8/5/01