Meditation, Self-Inquiry, and Self-Realization: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Bhagavan Ramana Reclining

Bhagavan Ramana Reclining

The distinction between Meditation and Self-Inquiry is subtle. However, in one way, understanding this difference is central to grasping the full import of teachings of the Sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi.

Sri Ramana used to say that meditations, affirmations, and other similar techniques presuppose the retention of the mind. To practice a mantra, visualization, pranayama, etc., requires the use and activity of the mind as an independent agent separate from the higher power. One of Sri Ramana’s favorite analogy was that asking the mind to subdue itself is like asking a thief to go ahead and capture itself. The mind will make a game of it, pretend to control itself, but will remain engaged in playing hide and seek.

Certain meditation practices no doubt have a calming and a relaxing effect. However, Sri Ramana states that in all such approaches, the mind remains dormant only temporarily. It rushes forth after sleep or meditation in its individual form when the proper stimulation presents itself. With all practices conducted with the mind, that have an object as their focus (mantra, breath, image, etc.), the seed of duality is already built in.

Someone once asked Sri Ramana whether Self-Inquiry that he advocated was also not a mental activity. If so, it must be presumed as having the same difficulty and limitation as other meditative techniques.

Sri Ramana acknowledged that Self-Inquiry also made use of the mind in initial stages. However, he held that in asking oneself the question “Who am I?” in a serious, alert, and an intense way, the mind was being concentrated and driven inwards towards its Source. This Source is not a form or a sound but the very origin from which the mind arises.

Therefore, in Self-Inquiry, the full power of attention is brought to bear upon this question, “Who am I”? This question does not have an intellectual answer. Asking it is meant for becoming aware of consciousness as existence that permeates us as our root identity. It is this feeling and sense that everyone has of themselves as “I Am”. From childhood to old age, we are aware of this sense of existence without having to give it a name.

This subtle awareness has no form. It is this self-awareness, independent of thoughts, that one has to abide in and follow to the Source. If grace allows for that, the Supreme Heart that the ancients called Sat-Chit-Ananda, reveals It Self. It is really a Self-Revelation. The Heart is recognized as one’s own identity independent of thoughts, personality, mind, etc.

Sri Ramana maintained that although Self-Inquiry required initial use of the mind, after a certain point a spontaneous power took over. The response to serious Self-Inquiry comes from within. Sri Ramana referred to this Source within as the Heart. Self-Inquiry stirred the inner power of the Heart which then became like a magnet pulling the mind within so that Self-Recognition and Self-Realization of Supreme Bliss as our nature could take place.


Self-Inquiry_The Science of Self-Realization: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

According to Advaita Vedanta, the science of Self-Realization (which we call Self-Inquiry), requires a different approach than the sciences involved in discovering the complexities of the Universe. Both approaches are similar in one way in that our consciousness with focused attention and awareness is used as an instrument of perception to gain knowledge.

Sciences involving the exploration of the universe and its laws focus the attention outside to perceived objects (time, space, matter, laws of motion, gravity, mass, etc.) to determine their nature. When attention and awareness are focused on such analysis, the relationships between various objects according to universal laws becomes clear. This is due to the inherent power of consciousness to discover and make known to itself anything that it focuses attention on. That is how sciences (Mathematics, Physics, Medicine, etc.) move forward.

However, the theoretical limit to understanding objective phenomena is always there to the extent that the observed phenomena is based on the very nature of the observer. It is not clear how precisely the relationship between the subject and the object can be determined scientifically. Philosophically, this is due to the logical difficulty of separating the subject from the object and demonstrating their independence.

Science of the Self, however, is a radical departure from the physical sciences and has a different aim. Here attention is directed inwards towards the subject and not outwards towards objects of perception. The classic methodology given by Sri Ramana for Self-Inquiry is to ask oneself with attention and inquire, “Who am I?” This is done in order to introvert the mind and drive it deeper into its source. In Self-Inquiry, the quality of consciousness itself becomes the center of attention. In this method, consciousness is not focused anywhere or on anything other than itself.

Language is not perfect but there are many ways to say this. Attention focused on attention itself is Self-Inquiry. Consciousness becoming self-focused is Self-Inquiry. Mind turning inwards to its source is Self-Inquiry. Awareness aware of itself is Self-Inquiry. All of these are variations of the same process and basically refer to the same thing. These statements indicate that one should quietly abide in one’s own sense of identity and being with full awareness.

This is not an easy notion to grasp. The Self-Inquiry methodology does not present the aspirant with an image or a sound to concentrate on. Because we are so dependent on our sense of hearing and sight even for meditation and prayer, Self-Inquiry presents a challenge. People often find it difficult to know what to focus in doing the Self-Inquiry because they associate their identity and thus consciousness strongly with the body.

This is why Sri Ramana used to say that Self-Inquiry is not for everyone to take on immediately. I have observed this phenomena carefully for a long time. People find meditation, yoga, tantra, chakras, and kundalini methods much more interesting and exciting to talk about and practice than Self-Inquiry. It is because all of these Yoga systems are directly or indirectly based on producing changes in the physical or the subtle bodies which one can experience.

Consumption of experience in some form or another is natural to all living beings. Self-Inquiry points, however, to the subject; the one who experiences. What is the nature of the one who experiences? Self-Inquiry shifts our attention from perception to the perceiver. Who is the one who perceives and experiences reality?

The practice of meditation and yoga leads the mind to temporarily withdraw the senses from objects of perception. However, internal perceptions in meditative states or Samadhi will most likely still exist. These internal perceptions may manifest in a number of ways including that of visions of angels, holy sages, the Goddess. Various spiritual and religious symbols often appear spontaneously in the mental eye of the aspirant during meditation or contemplative prayer and there may also be experiences of lucid dreaming states. So even in higher meditation states, the distinction between the subject and the objects of perception continues as we engage in and consume one experience after another.

Self-Inquiry, on the other hand, is found to be boring and irrelevant by many people because it promises them no special experience to enjoy other than being their own self. People should always do what feels natural. Nothing can be forced.

Eventually with the practice of meditation and other types of yogas, the mind becomes more subtle. The understanding of the nature of consciousness as free from outer perception (of physical objects) as well as internal perceptions (dreams, visions, other mental experiences) can then start to emerge. Once the independent nature of consciousness (free from all perceptions) is understood, one can recognize the essential quality of existence and pure being in the midst of various experiences.

When attention/awareness become self-focused, that is called Self-Inquiry. When attention lights up attention, awareness lights up awareness, consciousness lights up consciousness, Self is Realized as Sat-Chit-Ananda, the ultimate subject, the very core of being. Sri Ramana called it simply the Heart, whose nature is that of silence which is beyond all understanding.

Underdog and Sweet Polly Purebred: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

(Pictures in this article come from

Underdog and Sweet Polly Purebred

Do you remember that cartoon show “Underdog”? You might have watched it as a kid in the 1960s and early 1970s. Underdog was a “humble and lovable Shoeshine Boy” who had a secret identity.


Whenever there was a serious world crisis or threat to the city, Underdog would turn into a superhero after taking a special vitamin pill from the secret compartment in his watch.

Underdog had a girlfriend named Sweet Polly Purebred. Sweet Polly was sweet on Underdog. Sweet Polly was a reporter, who seemed to get into trouble with the bad guys in every show. When in crisis mode, she would yell, help, help, help, Underdog, help. Sometimes Sweet Polly would actually sing despondently when Underdog was late in arriving. “Oh where, oh where has my Underdog gone?”

Underdog was probably the best boyfriend Sweet Polly Purebred ever had. No matter how far away and how deeply engrossed in shining shoes of his customers, Underdog could always hear Sweet Polly calling out his name. The “humble and lovable Shoeshine Boy” would slip into a phone booth and emerge as the champion of justice and protector of Sweet Polly. Underdog had super sensitive hearing, at least when it came to Sweet Polly. No doubt this would have resulted in a happy marriage if they had ever tied the knot. Underdog would often say, “When Polly’s in trouble I am not slow, it’s Hip, Hip, Hip and away I go !”


Underdog always came to Sweet Polly’s rescue, yelling, “Never fear, Underdog is here!” Sometimes Underdog took his time and Sweet Polly had to yell help for a long time. This was not easy on our ears as kids. But we hung on. We strongly suspected that Underdog would indeed arrive at some point.

When Underdog finally came, it was a great consolation. We did not really want Sweet Polly to get roughed up by the bad guys. Unfortunately, Underdog was no muscle dog. He had a small chest and a big belly. He was a heart attack waiting to happen according to modern medical standards on waist to chest ratio (which were probably not well known when the show started in the 1960s). In fact, Underdog often became exhausted within a few minutes in his fight with the bad guys and looked for his vitamin pill to get his vitality back. Not being able to locate the magical nutrition pill in time posed a serious problem to Underdog’s health.

It was awful to watch and we were full of tears as Sweet Polly looked for Underdog’s backup energy pill in her purse while Underdog was beaten to a pulp by the bad guys. Sweet Polly always found the needed vitality tablet for Underdog at the last minute, but not before giving everyone the distinct impression that she was very disorganized.

The magic pill, once found, was a life giving elixir. As soon as Underdog put it in his mouth, the effect was immediate. The vitality pill always seemed to bypass Underdog’s digestive system and go straight into his muscles. Typically Underdog swallowed the pill in one gulp and regained his energy the next instant. Then he would beat the surprised bad guys quickly before the show ended. Underdog always saved the day including, of course, Sweet Polly.


I was recently thinking that in real life, some people are like Underdog (who don’t have a Sweet Polly), and some are like Sweet Polly (but without their own personal Underdog).

Sometimes we want to act as saviors to people who do not wish to be saved. Other times, we need desperately to be saved but no one except mom seems interested in the job. That perfect match of being the savior and being saved that Underdog and Sweet Polly had is seldom achieved for most people. Underdog and Sweet Polly were made for each other.

We certainly lack that magic vitamin pill that Underdog had in the secret compartment of his watch. But even for Underdog, the effect of the magic vitamin pill was only temporary. He had to keep taking those pills to maintain superhero status.

One wonders where Underdog got his supply and the money to pay for those pills. After all, he could not have made much as a shoeshine boy. Perhaps he got big tips from his customers. Maybe Underdog had really good health insurance and there was low co-pay for those very strong vitality pills.

I wish that there had been some closure to the Underdog show. Underdog could have proposed to Sweet Polly Purebred in the final season of the show. If Underdog was too shy to do it, maybe Sweet Polly could have proposed to Underdog. Given the number of times Underdog saved her, that’s the least Sweet Polly could do.

It would have been nice to have a big wedding for Underdog and Sweet Polly Purebred at the end of the final season. I can just see Sweet Polly saying to Underdog before they went off on their honeymoon, “Underdog darling, make sure to pack some extra energy pills for the next two weeks.”

Maybe there will be an Underdog movie which will show that Underdog and Sweet Polly Purebred got married and lived happily ever after. If they did it right, the Underdog movie would be blockbuster!

Underdog and related characters are © 1997 GBPC, a subsidiary of Golden Books Family Entertainment.

Lovers Love Completely: The Goddess Mystery. By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar


Picture of Arunachala by Gabriele Ebert

Song to the Goddess

Either let me be intoxicated
in your love completely
or put on my robes of joy
and rob me absolutely.
Judge me guilty
in the court of love
or absolve me absolutely;
find me flawed if you like
but never hold me weakly.
No middle ground is possible
for lovers who love completely! 

Love, Consciousness, and Bliss

The great sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi, used to say that all deep thinking people are fascinated by the nature of consciousness. The outer world of time and space is known only through ones’ own mind. Therefore, the mystery of mind and consciousness has been a magnet of attraction for philosopher, yogis, sages, and scientists. Upanishads say that one should know “That” by which all else is known.

What is “That”, which makes all else visible and known? The ancient philosophy outlined in the Upanishads, the sacred Hindu scriptures, refers to “That” as Sat-Chit-Ananda, the core of one’s being which is Absolute Bliss, Absolute Existence, Absolute Consciousness, and we can also say that it is the same as Absolute Love which makes all human love possible. Sri Ramana used to say that “Love is the actual form of God.”

For one irresistibly pulled by the hunger of Self-Knowledge that manifests in one’s own heart, the turning within to “That” Absolute Love and Bliss happens at some point. When consciousness spontaneously starts the process of scanning its own formless form, this churning results in the beauty and self-delight of awareness which underlies all manifestations of energy (Shakti).

Appearance of the Supreme Goddess

In many of the mystical traditions of Hinduism, the manifestations of this energy, resulting from consciousness becoming focused on its own nature, take the forms of Devi. Devi is the Supreme Goddess, who appears in visions and dreams of devotees according to their mental and spiritual condition to nurture, protect, bless, and guide them.

The Goddess is depicted in Hindu art in hundreds if not thousands of ways. This art is part of the Indian history, culture, and Hindu traditions. It comes from the inspired imagination of the artists and is based on the ancient stories about the Goddess and Her powers.

However, no artwork can really capture the form of the Goddess who appears in the mystic eye of the aspirant. She appears to each devotee in a unique way according to what best suits the nature and personality of the person at that time. As the yogi evolves in the spiritual path, the visionary forms of the Goddess can change along with that.

So a relationship develops between the devotee and the Goddess or the Divine Beloved. Like human relationships between lovers, it is not always easy.

Sometimes, the devotee cannot bear the separation and wants immediate union and consummation. He may even blame and question the Goddess as to why She has left him in the middle of the path after taking his hand.

Song of Despair to the Goddess

Play hide and seek
not too much longer
and risk this longing
get even stronger;
when people ask unashamedly
why your love flees from me
what honest answer can I make
and can you also say for sure
that in choosing me as your lover
you have made some grave mistake.

But the Goddess realizes that it is not time and waits for the moment to be ripe for the final liberation. Many of the love poems of mystics to the Goddess have come from this intermediate level of spiritual experiences where the Supreme Beloved appears to plays hide and seek with them.

Sri Ramana and Marital Garland of Letters

In the classic Tamil poem, “The Marital Garland of Letters” the Sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi, chides the Divine Beloved in some of the verses and apologizes for having done so in other verses. He begs Arunachala to fully embrace him (as the devotee) and utterly consume him in love; Because only then he will have peace.

Ramana writes:

Verse 23. “Sweet fruit within my hands, let me be mad with ecstasy, drunk with the bliss of Thy essence, Oh Arunachala!”

Verse 34. “Unless Thou embrace me, I shall melt away in tears of anguish, Oh Arunachala!”

Verse 60. “In my unloving self Thou didst create a passion for Thee; therefore forsake me not, Oh Arunachala!”

Hindu Mystical Bhakti Poetry

The love pattern of alternating between despair and ecstasy (Does She/He love me or love me not), joy and sadness (When will the Goddess/Divine Beloved visit again) is common in the poetry of many Hindu saints and mystics. Even the seeming confusion about the relationship itself, which makes the devotee beg sometimes for love and other times actually blame, chide, and command the Goddess/Divine Beloved, can be seen in some of the poems including the Marital Garland of Letters.

Although the Marital Garland of Letters by Sri Ramana is embedded in the Indian spiritual, historical, and cultural context, the symbolism of a lover who is in complete despair because of an incomplete consummation with her/his beloved is universally understood.


People who are in love with and fascinated by the mystery of consciousness have felt that mysterious pull of the Heart from within themselves. Who can really explain ways of the Divine and the different forms She/He manifests in.

What is the first step on this path of love? No one can say for sure. Was it the smile and look of a Sage, the grace of the Divine Mother, the kiss of the Goddess, or the kindness of a teacher or a friend? There must be many possibilities that make us aware of the Heart within, whose nature is Sat-Chit-Ananda, that which is the source of the ultimate bliss.

This memory once awakened brings upon the experience of pure being, and attracts the devotee to the truth of her/his own nature. This gentle pull within makes itself felt. It does not let go until the Truth of one’s own Heart is recognized, and there is nothing left to let go.

Some say that it is the Goddess Herself, who takes the devotee into the Heart and then reveals Herself as the Universal Heart. The complete identity between the devotee, the Goddess, and the Heart thus established, everything disappears. There is only that Heart of Love and Fullness, eternal consciousness completely at rest in its own nature.

Knowing That is Self-Knowledge. That is the final consummation.

I came to feed on Thee, but Thou hast fed on me; now there is peace, Oh Arunachala!” Verse 28. Marital Garland of Letters.

NOTE: Some of the verses on the Goddess in this article are from a longer poem on the Goddess by Dr. Harsh K. Luthar.




Comments on Deep Body Relaxation: By Dr. K. Sadananda

I received some excellent and thoughtful comments from Sada-Ji (Dr. K. Sadananda) on the article, “The Method of Deep Body Relaxation.” These comments with minor editing are given below. Thank you Sada-Ji.


Comments on “Deep Body Relaxation” By Dr. K. Sadananda

Harshaiji – PraNAms

Here are some comments on your article about “Deep Body Relaxation.”

Shava Asana is always done at the end of yoga exercises as a relaxation technique.

However, I would like to add a word of caution for going from Shava to Shiva – that is lying down and doing regular meditation. There is a good reason why the Lotus Posture (Padmaasan) is universally recommended for meditation. Shava or the corpse is considered as inauspicious while Shiva means auspiciousness itself

Also, it should be kept in mind that when one is in meditation, the normal breathing process will slow down and mind becomes quiet and calm. These conditions are conducive for the mind to go to sleep easily. Hence for most meditators, sleep becomes a big hurdle to overcome. Therefore, the Shava Asana (Corpse pose lying on the floor or bed) may not be useful for meditation.

Sleep is the opposite of meditation. In meditation one attempts to stay conscious and awake. That is one of the reasons why meditation is not recommended in the night when the mind is tired, but in the early mornings when the mind is fresh and vibrant. The period around 4am in the morning is considered best for meditation (it is called brahma muhurtham in Sanskrit).

The Lotus posture insures that the person who is meditating does not fall forward. Sitting in the lotus pose is recommended so that the student is stable and firm on the ground.

Yogic texts all advise that the vertebral column and the neck be in straight line (without going into the details of kundalini aspects).

This way one can stay in meditation for any length of time – awake-vigilant and meditative. Indeed that is the state of mind in meditation to be aimed at.

As Harshaji states, one can easily go to sleep in the Shava Asana. In fact one should go to sleep in that pose thinking of the Lord.

Then one can have Yoga Nidra and blissful heavenly relaxation.

But for Vedantic inquiry, the mind has to be sharp. Our own experience is that we can read stories or popular magazines lying down. But for any serious work, we have to sit up and study. Knowledge can take place only when the mind is sharp. Then, what to talk about the subtlest knowledge about one’s own self. So the recommendation is to do meditation in the sitting pose – if you can.

If you cannot, then alternate poses are recommended.

Now the question is whether one should do meditation in a lying down pose such as Shava Asana! Of course you can do! It is like a drunkard who went to ask a priest, “Sir, can I drink while praying to God?” Priest of course said, “No. you should not drink while praying.”

The drunkard thought about this and re-framed his question and asked again, “Sir, can I pray while drinking?” “Yes of course”, said the priest. So, can one meditate while lying down? The answer is, “of course you can meditate any time and anywhere.” No problem!

Should one lie down to meditate? No, that is not advisable. Sri Krishna himself recommends sitting down and meditating in the 6th Chapter of Bhagavad Gita.

Of course for relaxation – what Harshaji says is correct.

But For a meditator, relaxation is not the goal, but it is only a by-product. Vedantic meditation requires a calm, quiet, and vigilant mind. It is a subtle inquiry within of the very essence of life itself. If relaxation becomes a goal, the meditative mind will only long for that. If the mind settles in that groove, it will not be ready to take a higher flight.

The Method of Deep Body Relaxation: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Deep Body Relaxation

I used to teach Yoga, relaxation, and meditation classes in the late 1970s in NYC to make a living. After the Hatha Yoga sequence was done, students were led through a guided deep body relaxation in Shava Asana (the corpse pose where everyone lies down and relaxes each part of the body). After teaching Yoga for many years, it seemed to me that for most students, the guided meditation while lying down was absolutely the most favorite part of the class. Many students would continue in the Shava Asana for half an hour or more after the class was over. Some became so relaxed that they would fall asleep.

Over the years, I have come to feel that the best posture for meditation is not always the Lotus posture as many Yoga traditions claim, but simply lying down in Shava Asana. The sleeping posture is universal and sets no high bar for anyone to have to overcome. Therefore, it is the perfect posture for attaining Self-Realization. In fact, we know that the Sage of Arunachala, Sri Ramana Maharshi, became Self-Realized in that posture.

Deep body relaxation can be mastered by anyone slowly and many people experience physical, mental, and spiritual benefits from it. I have personally found it to be immensely useful in a variety of ways. My own experience of the Heart, Oneness of Being, came when I was very young. I had been meditating for many hours, sitting straight in a cross-legged position, and my back was aching and so tired that I lay down to rest for a few minutes. I was not trying to relax but it was in that resting posture that this deep conscious relaxation came over me and the truth of being revealed itself with complete clarity.

The Relaxation Method

The relaxation method I use is easy. I simply bring attention to every part of the body and consciously experience it and relax it. I start with each individual toe on both feet and relax these. I also focus on the bottom of the feet and relax these. Then I focus on the upper feet and relax these. Then I come to the ankles and relax these and keep moving up to the legs and other parts of the body and so on.

Sometimes, in my teaching, I have combined this method with visualization of white light filling the different parts of the body from the head to the toes. This is a beautiful way to use the intelligence and imaginative and visual faculty of the mind to fill the body with deep relaxation and to create a sanctuary of peace for one self.

Of course, Hatha Yoga is important for many people and sitting in meditation with a straight spine has its own health and energy oriented benefits. Meditation on energy centers along the spine is facilitated by sitting straight in a cross-legged posture. It also helps in doing certain pranayama and deep breathing exercises.

For many people who cannot sit cross- legged, sitting straight on a chair with support for the elbows is helpful. There are many ways to meditate. The main thing is that one should be comfortable in one’s posture.

Sincere Practice Leads to Self-Discovery

One, who is serious about meditation and relaxation and practices it with sincerity, slowly discovers what postures and exercises are the most helpful for her/his body and mind. Each person is unique in terms of what they find useful.

Finding a good yoga teacher is much easier today than it was when I was teaching. Back in the 1970s, in the U.S. and other Western countries, Yoga was popular only in big cities like Manhattan and Los Angles among the actors and actresses and the elite. But now it has become more mainstream and one can find Yoga classes in virtually any city.

Deep body relaxation seems to be universally attractive to people, because it allows for letting go of accumulated tension. It is easy to learn and do and with practice and experience becomes natural.

Sayings of Sri RaJ Mata-Ji: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Sri Raj Mata-Ji

Philosophy of Sri Raj Mata-Ji

Sri Raj Mata-Ji is one of my earliest spiritual advisors and counselors. Here are some of her sayings in Hindi and Punjabi that I have translated into English.


Life is fleeting. Do something for yourself as well as others.

Grab some happiness when you can.

Happiness is having a caring family and cooking for them.

Happiness is having good friends and good neighbors to talk with.

Happiness is a state of mind.

Some people have everything but they are not happy. It’s a pity.

The secret to happiness is in giving.

If you serve others sincerely, you will be happy.

Nobody cares for the weak. Be strong.

You can only help and serve others if you are mentally strong.

Pray and ask God to make you strong.

If you eat too much, don’t complain afterwards.

Go take a walk after a big meal.

Take care of yourself. Nobody else can in the same way.

Make an appointment with the doctor and get a complete check-up.

Help others who need it. It will be good for you.

Give to charity whatever you can afford.

Make friends with your neighbors. Go shopping with them.

Stay active getting older and be part of a community.

Look for friends. They are looking for you.

Don’t look for perfection in others.

Life is a compromise.

You are better off than a lot of people.

Do the best you can and trust in God.

Hinduism and Vegetarianism: By Dr. K. Sadananda


Editor’s note: Sada-Ji (Dr. K. Sadananda) is well known to the Hindu community in both the U.S. and in India. He is one of the most brilliant and thoughtful exponents of the Bhagavad Gita as well as the ancient philosophy of Advaita-Vedanta.

In this article, Sada-Ji discusses a practical question that frequently comes up among many students of Hinduism as well as many Westernized Hindus. The question is, “Should I become a vegetarian?”

I took the liberty to edit and restructure Sada-Ji’s original e-mail answer to this question for the purpose of this article to give it an easier reading flow. I hope that justice has been done to Sada-Ji’s explanations and that I have stayed within the limits of editorial license. Of course, any errors are mine and as soon as these are pointed out will be promptly corrected. Thank you for your understanding and patience.


Should I Become a Vegetarian?

Recently two questions were asked – Does Hinduism require one to believe in God? Does Hinduism require one to be a vegetarian?

In a recent article, I have addressed the first question. Here I will provide some thoughts for the second question. In relation to the first question, I have discussed what Hinduism stands for and who is truly a Hindu. In essence, Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma, and that Dharma is from time immemorial; it involves pursuit of Moksha through self-reflection, inquiry, and Self-Knowledge. Self-Knowledge in Hinduism is synonymous with Moksha (Liberation from the cycle of birth and death).

Therefore, the one who is seeking to understand the ultimate mystery of existence and thereby gaining salvation or release is a true Hindu, irrespective of the nationality, caste, creed or gender. With that catholic understanding, one can see that Hinduism becomes a way of life because the pursuit of the essential purpose of life is the goal of the ideal Hindu life. If you ask most Hindus whether they believe in God, you will get a firm “Yes”, in response.

With this perspective, it is easier to analyze all other questions including whether Hinduism requires one to be a vegetarian. Since the purpose of life is securing liberation or Moksha, until we reach that we need to maintain our body. Keeping the body healthy through proper nourishment is the Hindu Dharma. The human body is considered a temple of God. Therefore, it is sacred and should be treated with respect.

You asked whether a Hindu has to be a vegetarian. Well, it is a fact that not all Hindus are vegetarians. Hindu kings and princes and the warriors have eaten meat for thousands of years. So your question is not whether a Hindu should eat but whether you should eat meat. Since such a question has already arisen in your mind, perhaps you have developed a degree of sensitivity about harming other living forms to satisfy your physical hunger. If that is true, you may be better off not eating meat. That way you will be at peace with yourself. Since you are sensitive to this issue, your intellect may be directing you towards being a vegetarian. It is a possibility. However, your mind wants the pleasure of eating meat and your body may crave it due to past habits. So you have to reflect on this. Why has this question come up for you? What is the right thing for you to do?

Follow Your Self-Nature

When you go against your own intellect and good understanding of life you commit a sin. An act that is contrary to your SWADHARMA (your own nature) creates a conflict within you. So you have to reflect on whether being a vegetarian is natural to you or not. Now, of course, even the traditional non-vegetarians are choosing vegetarianism not because of any compassion to other animals but they are recognizing that meat is not good for their health.

I have already mentioned that Hinduism does not say to you “don’t do this and don’t do that”. You must determine your own actions based on your intellectual values, culture, education and primary goal in life. You will find that following your Swadharma (your own nature) will make you comfortable with yourself. It is not for others to judge what food is right for you! It is for you to decide.

While you are trying to decide whether to be a vegetarian do this experiment. Imagine your self to be a chicken or cow who is about to be slaughtered for food. Would you not advise the guy who wants to make a dinner out of you to be a vegetarian instead? The golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” can sometimes help shape our analysis.

Life Lives on Life

Life lives on life. That is the law of nature. Whether I eat an animal or plant, I am destroying a life in some form. Among all life forms, Man is different from the rest. He has the capability to discriminate right from wrong. That gives him the freedom of choice which animals and plants lack.

According to ancient teachings and our observations, plants have just a body and perhaps a rudimentary mind. Animals have both body and mind to express their feelings and suffering, but rudimentary intellect. Man has not only body and mind but also a well developed intellect to discriminate between good and bad, and to choose.

Man always has three choices: He can choose to do something, not to do it, or find another alternative way to do it that is more satisfactory. For animals and plants there is no freedom of choice. They are instinctively driven. The cow does not sit down before meals and inquires whether it should be a vegetarian or non-vegetarian. Same with the tiger or the eagle. They don’t say prayers before eating like we do. They just act according to their nature. No one can hold that against them.

Man and Sin

For a Man the discriminative intellect is much evolved. Plants and animals do not commit sin in their actions because there is no will involved in their actions. For a human, the story is different.

You may wonder why I brought sin in the argument. Let me explain. Sin is nothing but agitations in the mind. It is these agitations that prevent me in my journey to Moksha. Mind has to be pure (meaning un-agitated) for me to see the truth as the truth. (Bible also says blessed are those whose minds are pure).

To define sin more scientifically: It is the divergence between the mind and intellect. Intellect knows right from wrong. But we feel like doing things even though we know they are wrong . That is, the intellect says something but mind which should be subservient to the intellect rebels and does whatever it feels like. This divergence is sin.

After a wrong action is performed there is a guilt feeling. Intellect, although it was overruled, does not keep quiet. It keeps prodding “I told you it is wrong. Why did you do it?” With peace of mind gone, Man goes through a “Hell”. Man is not punished for the sin; he is punished by the sin! Think about it. All the Yoga schools, if you analyze clearly, are bringing this integration between the body, mind, and intellect so that there can be harmony. With harmony, there is peace.

For a true Yogi, what he thinks, what he speaks, and what he does are in perfect alignment. In our case, we think something but have no guts to say what we think. Our lips say something different from what we are thinking. Sometimes people say, “Watch My Lips or Read My Lips “. They mean to emphasize that what they say can be counted on. However, if you watch their lips as requested and follow their actions these are again different! There is no integration anywhere. Our lips and our hips have divergent paths. We live a chaotic life of freestyle dancing! Besides deceiving others, we deceive ourselves, and the worst thing is sometimes we don’t even realize that.

Animals and Sin

Now, when a tiger kills and eats, it does not commit a sin. Because its intellect is rudimentary, it does not go through any analysis before it kills and asks “should I kill or not kill this cute deer”? A tiger does not ask itself, “Should I be a non-vegetarian or a vegetarian?”. When it is hungry, to fill the natures demand, it kills its prey and eats what it needs and leaves the rest when it is full. A tiger does not overeat. There are no fat tigers in nature.

A tiger is not greedy either. It does not seek luxury beyond satisfying its needs. Animals and plants and birds and bees and insects and all living things follow a beautiful ecological system. It is only man who destroys the ecology by being greedy. But Man also has the beautiful instrument of the intellect and the ability to develop it and to meditate on the reality of the universe.

Should I be a vegetarian or non-vegetarian?

So yes, “Should I be a vegetarian or non-vegetarian?” is asked only by a man. Why does that question come? It comes due to reflection. Because man has a discriminative intellect, he can reflect on the nature of pain and suffering. Perhaps a man may think at some point in his life whether it is justifiable to harm and kill an animal to fill his belly. A person may reflect whether eating animals is consistent with the golden rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”. A man may consider whether this maxim applies to all forms of life or just other human beings.

Plants are life forms too. “Should one hurt them?” you may ask. If one can live without hurting any life forms that is the best, but that is not possible. Life lives on life – that is the law of nature. My role as a human being with discriminative intellect is to do the least damage to the nature for keeping myself alive and well.

At least, I am not consciously aware of suffering of the plants. That is why eating to live and not living to eat is the determining factor. In Bhagawad Geeta, Sri Krishna emphatically says that a Sadhaka (one who is in pursuit of Moksha) should have a compassion for all forms of life. There may come a point when it is advisable to be a vegetarian – only taking from nature what you need to keep the body in optimal health.

In one’s spiritual growth, one develops subtler and subtler intellect. That is, the mind becomes more sensitive, calmer, and self-contented. Your sensitivity to suffering of others also grows. Hence, the thought about becoming a vegetarian may come. Only you can decide what is right for you and not someone else. Any decision that is imposed on you from the outside does violence to your nature.

Many young people are now becoming vegetarians. They all have their own reasons. Fortunately vegetarianism is mainstream now and accepted. Most schools and universities offer vegetarian and even vegan meals and so the option to become a vegetarian is easier today than ever before.

Flowers grow in their own time. Whether you are vegetarian or not does not matter ultimately.

You are all flowers blooming in the light of the divine.

Hari Om and Tat Sat. – Sadananda

Good News for Vegetarians and Vegans? By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

A newly released study has found that a diet rich in omega-3 fatty acids may help lower a person’s blood pressure. Omega-3 fatty acids are typically found in larger quantities in certain types of fish, nuts such as walnuts, and flax seeds.

The study examined the diets of 4,680 men and women, ranging from ages of 40 to 59 from four different countries (Japan, China, Britain and the United States). Research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids has been ongoing for a number of years and the Internet is full of references to such literature.

This particular study interestingly concluded that people who got their omega-3s from vegetarian sources (such as Walnuts, flaxseed, and canola oil) had just as much benefit as those who get them by eating fish. This is probably reassuring news for vegetarians who do not eat fish.

Vegetarianism has become more mainstream in the West since the 1970s. People are vegetarian or become vegetarian due to a variety of reasons including their religion, cultural upbringing, and the desire to not eat meat.

Most vegetarians in India include dairy products as part of their diet. Some include eggs as well.

Veganism is a more strict form of vegetarianism in which no animal products are included in the diet at all.

For a list of famous vegans, see the following link.