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Food is Sacred

May all beings be healthy and happy and enjoy fullness without being too full.

Luthar.com

Vegan Salad with Mango pieces

Sri Ramana spent many years cooking for others at the Ashram and even gave precise instructions to those in the kitchen on cooking! He was a taskmaster and did not allow any food to be wasted.

The Upanishads remind us that food is sacred. “Food (anna) itself is Brahma” ~  Taittiriya Upanishad.

Bhagavan Ramana taught the devotees that food influences our body and mind, and should be selected with care, prepared well, and eaten in moderation.

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How And Why I became a Vegetarian: By Tony O’Clery.

In 1985 on a visit to family in Australia I was on Bondi Beach, where I ate a hamburger. I fell asleep on the beach and had a strange dream that I was a cow. I saw the whole process of the slaughterhouse, including fear, smells, noises, terror, cruel treatment etc.

It was a horrifying nightmare and I awoke saying aloud ‘They know, they know they are to be cruelly slaughtered’. That day I became a vegetarian. I had always said that if I ever really thought about the morality of eating meat, I would probably stop. Continue reading

Bhagavad Gita and the Sattvic Diet: By Dr. Harsh K. Luthar

Fruits

Sri Ramana used to say that of all the yogic rules and regulations, the best one is taking of Sattvic foods in moderate quantities. This view is consistent with that expressed in the Bhagavad Gita, and indeed most of the Yoga Shastras.

The logic is that since food consumed has a major effect on the body and the mind, a Sattvic diet should be adhered to in order to enhance both the health of the body as well as purity, strength, and calmness of the mind. An agitated person will find it difficult to sit quietly and meditate.

A disciplined and one pointed mind is an aid to ones’ learning and education as well as having success in business and other worldly affairs. A clear, pure, and a reflective mind is, of course, essential to self-enquiry which leads to Self-Realization.

The question then becomes, “What is a Sattvic diet? What is the authority for saying that certain foods are Sattvic and lead to good health, mental clarity, poise, and spiritual advancement, while other foods do not?”

There is much yogic literature on this topic and also some disagreement among experts depending on their school of thought and background. Since most Hindus generally accept the Bhagavad Gita as the final word, I will refer to that as my primary source on the Sattvic diet.

We should keep in mind that Sri Krishna, who speaks in the Bhagavad Gita with complete spiritual authority, is also considered the model of exceptional and abundant physical health and perfect mental poise. He is depicted in the ancient writings as slim, active, energetic, graceful, and attractive.

In the Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna demonstrates profound insight into not just the spiritual nature, but also human nature and physical nature. By inference, Sri Krishna’s words on food and the Sattvic diet carry much weight for those who study the Bhagavad Gita.

What foods should one minimize according to the Bhagavad Gita?

In Chapter 17 (verses 8, 9, 10), Sri Krishna makes clear the type of foods to be avoided by those who seek good physical and mental health, worldly success, and progress on the spiritual path.

According to the Bhagavad Gita, foods which are too bitter, sour, salty, pungent, dry, and hot can lead to pain, distress, and disease of the body. Further, Sri Krishna says that foods cooked more than three hours before being eaten, foods which are tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean should be avoided by spiritual aspirants and those who seek excellent physical and mental health.

What foods should be eaten according to the Bhagavad Gita?

In Bhagavad Gita, Sri Krishna states, “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water, I will accept it:” (Bg.9.26). To me this seems to suggest that Sri Krishna is sanctioning a diet based on leaves and fruits and water as the best one for spiritual growth. I am no scholar on the Bhagavad Gita, but my liberal interpretation of this verse would be that the Sattvic diet is generally plant based and includes all or most vegetables, fruits, legumes, grains, nuts, seeds, etc.

Because Sri Krishna gave cows sacred status similar to that of a human mother and favored raw butter for personal consumption as a child, one could reasonably argue that dairy products (such as yogurt, milk, kefir, lassi, sour cream, etc.) belong to the Sattvic food category.

Many yogis hold the view, however, that dairy products can only be considered Sattvic if these are obtained respecting the cows and goats who are shown kindness, love, and humane treatment. According to the principle of Ahimsa (nonviolence), any food procured through violence to living beings cannot be considered Sattvic.

Yogic Sattvic Diets

Some yogis that I have met favor a completely raw vegetarian diet with a primary focus on sprouted grains and beans (such as Garbanzo, Blackeyed peas, etc.) along with raw fruits and vegetables. Their diet is essentially vegan and contains no animal products. However, modern science teaches us that since vitamin B12 is missing from a purely vegan diet, supplementation is necessary.

A number of medical and scholarly references can be found on this issue on the web.

Other yogis have felt that a raw vegetarian diet is too limiting and include cooked foods as well as dairy products (milk, yogurt, lassi, etc.) in their diet. This diet, known as the lacto-vegetarian diet, is probably the most wide spread among Indian Hindus and Jains.

A few well known yogis have also traditionally included not only dairy but also eggs and egg products in their otherwise vegetarian diet. This is known as the lacto-ovo vegetarian diet.

Although very few Indian yogis include any kind of fish, fowl, or meat in their food, there are exceptions. Buddhist yogis, for example Dalai Lama, do eat meat. A few Hindu yogis also eat meat pointing out that some ancient scriptures sanction meat eating for certain religious rituals.

For most Hindu and Jain yogis, however, there is no convincing argument for eating meat if one wishes to uphold the supreme principle of Ahimsa and follow the philosophy of nonviolence.

What is the best Sattvic Diet?

The general answer from my study is that foods which cause the body to gain health and for the mind to be calm and peaceful constitute the Sattvic diet. To some extent, this requires knowing the needs of one’s own body and being sensitive to the effects of various foods on our system. Foods which are very suitable and nutritious for one person may not be right for another. Common sense and wisdom are the essential ingredients to find the best Sattvic diet for yourself.

In terms of particular foods to be eaten, the yogis and sages have answered this question, but the answers have different variations. One common element of a yogic Sattvic diet is that it is primarily vegetarian. This is true at least for Hindu and Jain yogis.

Within the broad framework of vegetarianism, a number of dietary systems are possible where certain foods are included and some are excluded. In the most liberal vegetarian diets, eggs and dairy products are included. Some people include dairy in their vegetarian diet but not eggs. Some include eggs but not dairy. In the most strict vegetarian diet, eggs and milk are excluded. Supplementation through certain vitamins is needed in such diets, according to modern medical opinion.

My personal experiences

Having experimented with a variety of diets for decades, I feel that a vegetarian diet can be healthy or unhealthy depending on many factors. For example, if I am a lacto-vegetarian and eat too many pizza pieces, the feeling of discomfort is likely to follow. In fact, after experimenting with eating pizzas thousands of times in my younger days, I am fairly certain that this is indeed true. I believe this also holds if one eats bucket loads of ice cream on a frequent basis. So, is lacto-vegetarian diet healthy? It depends on how lacto you are and how often you go lacto with heavy fat and fried lacto foods!

The point is that a vegetarian diet can be either healthy or unhealthy depending on the nature of food eaten as well as the quantity of food consumed.

In Chapter 6, verse 16, Sri Krishna specifically emphasizes moderation in eating and sleeping. He states, “There is no possibility of ones’ becoming a yogi, O Arjuna, if one eats too much, or eats too little, sleeps too much or does not sleep enough.”

Clearly, overconsumption of food leads to problems and one can logically conclude that the quantity of food consumed is probably an important element in a diet being considered Sattvic.

Sattvic diet is also a matter of degree. Some diets may be very Sattvic, while others may be moderately Sattvic.

Finally, the thoughts and the emotional balance while eating the food have an effect on our system. This is why in many religions, prayers and showing of gratitude for the food being consumed is offered. This mental state while eating helps the diet become more Sattvic.

What does it all mean?

So what does it all mean and what are the lessons from Bhagavad Gita and our discussion of the Sattvic diet? Here is what I think some of the lessons are. See if you agree.

1. Whatsoever you eat, eat in moderation.

2. Educate yourself on proper nutrition, be sensitive to your body, and see what foods work for you.

3. Emphasize fresh vegetables and fruits and eat a diet which is mostly plant-based.

4. Do not eat foods which are too salty, bitter, or have gone stale and putrid.

5. Regardless of the food being eaten, eat with gratitude, prayerful attitude, and with mental poise.

6. Chew the food carefully and taste it deeply without rushing.

There are literally thousands of great sources on the web and hundreds of books in stores to help you educate yourself on the Bhagavad Gita, vegetarianism, and nutrition. Go do some research and find out for yourself!

That’s my homespun wisdom for today. Like Captain Planet used to say, “The Power is yours!”

Given below are some pictures of plant based dishes that I made keeping the principles of Sattvic food in mind. Wishing you all abundant physical, mental, and spiritual health. Namaste.

Vegetarian Lifestyle: By Dr. Shyam Subramanian

Question from a student: As a Hindu living in the U.S., should I remain a vegetarian? If I include meat in my diet there are so many more choices in restaurant menus. Also, when I go to parties I feel awkward telling the host that I can’t eat many of their meat dishes. It is really uncomfortable. I see many of my Indian friends eating meat and fish and caviar and whatever is available and I feel they are more accepted socially in the western culture and that will help them get ahead professionally as well and make more money. As an American born in India, I feel very conflicted about this whole vegetarianism issue. There is pressure from my family to remain a vegetarian but my friends who are not vegetarians are having a better time at my college it seems.

shyam

Answer By Dr. Shyam Subramanian

Continue reading

Hinduism and Vegetarianism: By Dr. K. Sadananda

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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.

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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.

http://www.cnn.com/2007/HEALTH/conditions/06/05/heart.pressure.reut/index.html?eref=rss_health

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.

Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_vegans

Recipes

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Our recipes page is meant to whet the appetite for vegetarian/vegan cooking. Online resources are available to find just what you are looking for and sometimes to find something new and different. Any of the recipes that include dairy or eggs can be modified. There are many soy products which include milk, butter, yogurt, and a wide variety of cheeses and can be used in place of the dairy kind. There are several substitutes for eggs, including egg replacers which you can find in most health food stores.

Egg Substitutes

[Courtesty of HSUS and PETA]
A popular egg substitute is Ener-G egg replacer, which is make from potato starch, tapioca flour, leavening agents (calcium lactate, calcium carbonate, and citric acid) and a gum derived from cottonseed. It’s primarily intended to replace the leavening/binding characteristics of eggs in baking, but it can be used for nonbaked foods and quiches.

Use to Replace Eggs (quantity is per egg substituted for) …

2 oz of soft tofu can be blended with some water to add consistency

2 oz. of mashed beans, mashed potatoes, or nut butters

1/2 mashed banana

1/4 cup applesauce or puréed fruit

One Tbsp. flax seeds (found in natural food stores) with 3 Tbsp. water can be blended for 2 to 3 minutes, or boiled for 10 minutes or until desired consistency is achieved.

1 tsp. soy flour plus 1 Tbsp. water

Use to Replace Butter (in recipes)…

Soy margarine

7/8 cup canola or corn oil = 1 cup butter

Sauté instead in wine or vegetable broth.

Use lemon as a dressing

Amma’s Kitchen

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From Bhagavad Gita 4.24 and 15.14

Brahmaarpanam Brahma Havir
Brahmaagnau Brahmanaa Hutam
Brahmaiva Tena Gantavyam
Brahma Karma Samaadhinaha

[This is 24th verse from the 4th chapter of Bhagavad Geetha] The act of offering is Brahman. The offering itself is Brahman. The offering is done by Brahman in the sacred fire which is Brahman. He alone attains Brahman who, in all actions, is fully absorbed in Brahman. (As we chant this prayer we are offering the different types of food to Brahman).

Aham Vaishvaanaro Bhutva
Praaninaam Dehamaashritha
Praanaapaana Samaa Yuktaha
Pachaamyannam Chatur Vidam

[This is 14th verse from the 15th chapter of Bhagavad Geetha] This sloka is a sort of acknowledgement and assurance to us from Brahman. “I am Vaishnavara, existing as fire God in the bodies of living beings. Being associated with ingoing (prana) and outgoing (apaana) life breaths, I will digest all the four different types of food (that which we bite and chew; that which we masticate with the tongue; those which we gulp; that which we swallow) and purify them.”

Harir Daatha Harir Bhoktha
Harir Annam Prajaapatih
Harir Vipra Shareerastu
Bhoonkte Bhojayathe Harih.

Oh Lord Hari, You are the food, You are the enjoyer of the food, You are the giver of food. Therefore, I offer all that I consume at Thy Lotus Feet.

Bobby G…

Mardis Gras Beans Hermit Chili

Coming soon…

Carrot Rice Moong dal with brocolli Balti potatoes