In this episode of The Ayurvedic Diet, I talk about meat as medicine and meditation.
I ended 26 years of a being a vegetarian because I was finding that my health was suffering – I was getting more tired – no matter how many great Ayurvedic herbs I was taking. I had tried everything, but I finally had to admit that I needed to eat meat. As a spiritual person and an Ayurvedic practitioner, I looked to the ancient texts of Ayurveda to look for a solution. Plus, what I needed most of all was a meditation that could process the negative karma of eating meat and honor the whole process of taking the animal’s Life Force and physical body so that meat became a medicine and a meditation.
Ayurvedic view of eating Meat
The medical text Charaka Samhita is 3,000 years old and it shows that in ancient India, eating meat was an acceptable Ayurvedic medicine. But before I could take this medicine I had to come to terms with the enormous ethical considerations of eating meat today, because I had been practicing Ahimsa – non-violence as a vegetarian for all of my adult life.
I guess you could say that, as an Ayurvedic Practitioner, I was not looking for “protein” – I was looking for “Prana”.
On average, a person who eats three meals a day – each one having some meat in it. I did the math and figured that’s a minimum of a thousand animals a year are killed for each meat eater. So in 26 years of being a vegetarian, I had spared at east 26,000 animals.
I had practiced Ahimsa, and I had made a difference in the world. And now I needed Mother Nature to take care of me.
Until now I had lived Dharmically. Alleviating the global negative karma of animal slaughter by being a vegetarian. I had prided myself on being more compassionate – and I used to judge others as being ignorant for eating meat when clearly there are other options for most of Earth’s human population.
But my spiritual pride was being destroyed – I was becoming humbled by the needs of my body – and I had to surrender my spiritual ego in order to survive.
Karma and eating Meat
Fortunately, I remembered the words of my Rimpoche, who taught me that “meat represents the aggression of the world”. Being an Awakened being, my Rimpoche had once taught me how to eat meat – knowing in advance that I would someday have to make this choice. Rimpoche taught me to take all the bad karma from the animal consciously, and pledge all my good karma to that the animal. So I pray, “May all my merit ripen on your Mind Stream, and may all your demerit ripen on my Mind Stream.” Rimpoche also said to me, “Not only for the animal you’re eating, but also for every being that had anything to do with the killing of that animal, give them your good karma and take all their bad karma into your Mind Stream.”
So I pray, “And not only for this animal but for any being and all beings who participated in the sacrifice, may all their negative karma ripen on my Mind Stream and may all my good karma ripen on their Mind Streams.
Rimpoche also instructed me to vow to spiritually liberate that animal in a future birth, as part of my Bodhisattva Vow.
Now, this is a serious spiritual practice! Because you actually do experience states of aggression and mental states of anger and fear that come up from the “tonglen” or the exchanging of karma that you do with the animal and all the beings that you included in the practice. But by the strength and virtue of your spiritual practice, your sadhana, your internalization of prayer – you transform those karmas in your own mind – as “mental karmas” before they even have a chance to roll out into the fabric of your reality.
What you purify in your own mind is the very substance of your spiritual practice.
There is a lot to say about this practice and about eating meat in general. Each yogi has to make a decision based on their real needs and their practice. If your practice is strong enough and your body is strong you can stay vegetarian forever. But if you need to eat meat as medicine, then it’s best to account for the karmic transaction consciously and promise to return to liberate that being who offered you its Life Force.
The thing about this also is that since that animal had no idea of when it would give up its life, you should also be prepared to give up your Life Force in exchange whenever that animals soul requires it of you, in whatever lifetime that is, unconditionally. This is a big subject, and I apologize for the shortcomings of this blog post.