Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Duality and Our Diet


Now, before I even get started writing this piece, I know that there will be those who flat out disagree with me. And you know what? That's okay. I personally think there should be room for different interpretations of Gurbani in the Panth. But what I will not stand for though is people snubbing their noses at those who disagree with them or saying stuff like "you are not a real Sikh". About that, Guru Nanak said:

"The fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom. What is called meat, and what is called green vegetables? What leads to sin?.... Those who renounce meat, and hold their noses when sitting near it, devour men at night. They practice hypocrisy, and make a show before other people, but they do not understand anything about meditation or spiritual wisdom." - Guru Nanak Dev ji

Secondly, for this article, I will only be using Gurbani from the Guru Granth Sahib and Bhai Gurdas ji's vaaran since almost all Sikhs accept the authority of these two works. I could also use historical evidence (such as the janamsakhis, rehatnamas, historical accounts written by Sikhs as well as non-Sikhs, etc.), but I won't be doing that today.

Thirdly, I realize that I am imperfect, and that being so, my words are not Gurbani. I will say upfront that I personally believe in jhatka maryada (where an animal is killed by the single strike of a sword or axe). And historically, this is what the Khalsa followed. But again, I won't get into history today. I am currently working on matching my own diet to my ideals.

The Deunification of the Panth

I personally believe that this whole "trend" of Sikhs being vegetarian or vegan did not begin until more than a century ago with the growth of "Baba" or "Saint" culture.  And almost all the Sikhs I have met who claim to be vegan or vegetarian are influenced or follow a group that was founded by a Baba. With the exception of the Damdami Taksal and the Budha Dal, all other mainstream "jathas" in Sikhi were founded by a Baba. Akhand Kirtani Jatha (AKJ)? Founded by Bhai Randhir Singh ji. Dodra? Founded by officer Jaswant Singh (otherwise known as Khoji). Neeldhari Panth? Founded by S. Harnam Singh. Sikh Dharma International? Founded by Yogi Bhajan. Then there are offshoots like the Naamdharis, Nirankaris, etc.

Even though all of these guys made significant contributions to the Panth, what exactly makes me skeptical of Baba culture (as I like to call it)? Well, this might be the former Agnostic side of me coming out, but all of these Babas/Saints (who are supposed to be enlightened beings) contradict each other on several issues. For example, just by glancing over this list, I can tell you that all of these men would give you different answers to what is kirtan, how it should be done, and how Simran should be conducted. Don't believe me? Just go and look up all their rehat maryadas for yourself. They would also contradict each other on small issues such as what a Sikh should wear. Now, if all of these people are suppose to be connected to "Ik Oankar", why all these different ideas? I could go further into that, but let's keep going with my article.

Now that you understand why I generally distrust Babas, I will give a rundown on what I think Gurbani teaches on this issue

1) Everything is "Ik Oankar" and contains a life source

Sikhi is a non-dualistic faith. Meaning that at the end of the day, we realize that everything we see and touch and feel is "Ik Oankar" or God.


"In the eye of the Saint, everything is God." - Guru Arjan Dev ji

"God Himself is everything; those who are in their ego cannot even speak of this." - Guru Amar Das ji

"Waaho! Waaho! You are wonderful and great, O Lord and Master; You created the creation, and made us. You made the waters, waves, oceans, pools, plants, clouds, and mountains. You Yourself stand in the midst of what You Yourself created." - Guru Nanak Dev ji

"The entire Universe is the form of the One Lord" - Guru Arjan Dev ji


And on top of that, everything (yes, everything) has a joon in it. Guru Nanak describes this in Gurbani.

"I took the form of so many plants and trees, and so many animals. Many times I entered the families of snakes and flying birds." - Guru Nanak Dev ji

"Mortals, forests, blades of grass, animals, and birds all meditate on You." -Guru Nanak Devi ji

"For several births, you were a worm and an insect; in so many incarnations, you were an elephant, a fish, and a deer. In so many incarnations, you were a bird and a snake. In so many incarnations, you were yoked as an ox and a horse. Meet the Lord of the Universe - now is the time to meet Him. After so very long, this human body was fashioned for you. Pause. In so many incarnations, you were created in rocks and mountains; in so many incarnations you were aborted in the womb; in so many incarnations, you developed branches and leaves; You wandered through 8.4 million incarnations."

So those who preach that they are vegetarian or vegan because life only comes from eggs and animals, clearly, according to Gurbani, this is false. When we read Gurbani, everything needs to be read from a place of non-duality and oneness. Realize that God is us, and we are God. Realize that we ultimately originated from the same source as the elephant, the water, and the blade of grass. 

2) No matter if you are vegetarian, vegan, or neither, you are still killing/removing life

In order for our bodies to function, it is necessary that we take the life of another (whether plant or animal). We can not avoid this. 

Now let's talk about Bhagat Kabir ji. Bhagat Kabir ji was so intuned with Naam that he did not want to cause harm to literally ANYTHING. 

Regarding plants he says: 

"You tear off the leaves, O gardener, but in each and every leaf, there is life.  That stone idol, for which you tear off those leaves - that stone idol is lifeless. In this, you are mistaken, O gardener. The True Guru is the Living Lord. Pause. Brahma is in the leaves, Vishnu is in the branches, and Shiva is in the flowers. When you break these three gods, whose service are you performing?" 

Regarding killing a chicken he says: 

"Do not say that the Vedas, the Bible, and the Koran are false. Those who do not contemplate them are false. You say that the One Lord is in all, so why do you kill chickens?

If you read the whole Shabad, you see that Bhagat Kabir ji is addressing a Mullah (a title given to a person who is formally educated in Islam). Now, for those who aren't familiar with the Abrahamic faiths (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam), animal sacrifice is carried out in order to please God, receive forgiveness from God for sins, or to receive a blessing from God. So basically here, Bhagat Kabir ji is saying, why are you sacrificing an animal for God when God itself is in the animal or is the animal? Basically, this is a pointless ritual and could be used as an argument for why Sikhs don't eat halal or kosher meat. 

He then goes on further in the shabad, implying that really, killing is an illusion. 

"You seize a living creature, and then bring it home and kill its body: you have killed only the clay. The light of the soul passes into another form. So tell me, what have you killed?"

Basically, if you take the stance of Bhagat Kabir ji, animal sacrifice is pointless.

While we are on the topic of Bhagat Kabir ji, let's also bring up another shabad that people like to bring up.

"Kabeer, those mortals who consume marijuana, fish, and wine. - no matter what pilgimages, fast and rituals they follow, they will go to hell." 

Now, what do all of these three things have in common? They also can be used as intoxicants *gasps* "So you're saying fish is an intoxicant?" I'm saying that there are fish that can get you high (aka hallucinogenic fish). And some groups in the past have used fish to do exactly that. And from what I have personally been told, Bhagat Kabir ji was addressing one of these groups. 

3) Sikhs should not eat anything that has been exploited or produced through exploitation

"Kabeer, they oppress living beings and kill them, and call it proper. When the Lord calls for their account, what will their condition be? 

It is not okay for Sikhs to eat anything that has been oppressed, abused, or produced by the oppressed or abused. What does that mean? Jhatka meat is allowed, but no factory meat (which is what 99% of the meat in America is). The way factory meat is produced is horrific, to say the least, and we Sikhs shouldn't be supporting that. That's also why some people do not drink milk or any dairy products. Because of the treatment of animals when it comes to producing dairy products.

Gurbani also alludes to the fact that plants (yes, plants) might be able to feel pain. Here is this shabad by Guru Nanak

"Look, and see how the sugar-cane is cut down. After cutting away its branches, its feet are bound together into bundles, and then, it is placed between the wooden rollers and crushed. What punishment is inflicted upon it! Its juice is extracted and placed in the cauldron; as it is heated, it groans and cries out. And then the crushed cane is collected and burnt in the fire below. Nanak: come, people, and see how the sweet sugar-cane is treated!" ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

Now, let's hop over to the religion of Jainism for a second. Jains do not believe in eating meat, eggs, gelatin, or (get this), anything that grows underground (including potatoes, onion, and garlic). Why? Because they realize that when you pull something up from the ground or are cutting something, you are taking that's plants life away. And usually not in the most careful way. They will only eat plants that can be plucked from above the ground because plucking it won't kill the whole plant (i.e. apple trees).

So as a Sikh, if your main priority really is mercy and non-violence, don't be hypocritical and follow the Jain diet. 

And heck, I'll just throw this randomly in, but look at from where you are buying your clothes. Did a 5-year-old child from China working 12 hours a day produce it? If so, doesn't' this destroy your whole point of being merciful towards others and non-violent.  Sat Sangat ji, realize that I am not only talking to ya'll but I am also talking to myself. 

4 ) Sikhs Should Not Eat Alot 

Now, here is one idea that I have not seen among people on both sides of the spectrum. As Sikhs, we are yogis (people actively trying to become one with the One). Yogis do not eat a lot because physically when you eat a lot, your body becomes heavy/drowsy and meditation becomes more and more difficult. So whether we eat meat or vegetation, we should only eat as much as our body needs. I purposely try to follow this.

"Feeding and pampering your body, your life is passing away" ~ Guru Arjan Dev ji

"They burn away the bonds of the world, and eat a simple diet of grain and water. You are the Great Forgiver; You give continually, more and more each day." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

"The Guru has revealed the stores and the city within the home of my own heart, where I intuitively carry on the true trade. Sleep little, and eat little; O Nanak, this is the essence of wisdom." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

"The nights are wasted sleeping, and the days are wasted eating. Human life is such as precious jewel, but it is being lost in exchange for a mere shell." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji 


5) Bhai Gurdas' jis Vaaran

For those who don't know, Bhai Gurdas ji is the original scribe of the Guru Granth Sahib and his writings were deemed "the key to interpreting Gurbani" by Guru Arjan Dev ji. Almost all Sikhs agree on the authenticity of his writings. Now, this time around I won't be giving my views or opinions on what he has to say surrounding this issue and will let the reader come to a conclusion themselves.

How Our Instruments For Kirtan Are Made

"A handsome tree got cut itself and got manufactured into a rebeck. A young goat underwent the mortification of getting killed itself; it distributed its meat among the meat-eaters. Its intestines were made into gut and the skin was mounted (on drum aka tabla) and stitched. Now it is brought in the holy congregation where melody is produced on the instrument. It creates the melody of Raag as the Shabad is heard. Any one who worships the true Guru, the God, gets absorbed into the equanimity" 

On the Goat

"The proud elephant is inedible and none eats the mighty lion. Goat is humble and hence it is respected everywhere. On occasions of death, joy, marriage, yajna, etc. only its meat is accepted. Among the householders its meat is acknowledged as sacred and with its gut stringed instruments are made. From its leather the shoes are made to be used by the saints merged in their meditation with the Lord. Drums are mounted by its skin and then in the holy congregation the delight giving kirtan, eulogy of the Lord, is sung. In fact, going to the holy congregation is the same as going to the shelter of the true Guru." 

Origins of Life

"Four life originating mines (egg, fetus, sweat-born, and vegetation) and four speeches (para, pasyanti, madhyama, vaikhari) were assimilated into each other and the drama of transmigration was enacted."

Different Diets, Same Destination

"A goat was caught by a lion and while about to die, it gave out a horse laugh. The surprised lion asked why it was so happy at such a moment (of its death). Humbly the goat replied that the testicles of our male progeny are crushed in order to castrate them. We eat only wild plants of arid regions yet our skin is peeled and pounded. I think about the plight of those (like you) who cut the throat of others and eat their flesh. The body of both of the proud and the humble will become dust ultimately, but, even then the body of the arrogant (lion) is inedible and that of the humble (goat) attains the status of edible. All who came to this world have to die ultimately." 


Conclusion

In conclusion, I leave ya'll with these two quotes by Guru Nanak:

"Some eat meat, while others eat grass. 
Some have all the thirty-six varieties of delicacies,
While others live in the dirt and eat mud.
Some control the breath and regulate their breathing. 
Some live by the Support of the Naam, the essence of the Formless Lord.
The Great Giver lives; no one dies.
O Nanak, those who do not enshrine the Lord within their minds are deluded. "
~ Guru Nanak Dev ji

"What good is food, and what good are clothes, 
if the True Lord does not abide within the mind?
What good are fruits, what good is ghee, sweet jaggery, 
what good is flour, and what good is meat?
What good are clothes, and what good is a soft bed, 
to enjoy the pleasures and sensual delights? 
What good is an army, what good are soldiers, servants, and mansions to live in?
O Nanak, without the True Name, all the paraphernalia shall disappear." ~ Guru Nanak Dev ji



It is my benti (request) to the Sangat that instead of following these Babas/Sants/Brahmgyanis (which are in a way breaking apart the Panth and causing friction between ourselves), we should read Gurbani (whether it be from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Dasam Granth, or Sarbloh Granth) for ourselves, do the research into our history ourselves, and realize that whatever conclusion we come to is solely OUR conclusion. We should not push our way of thinking onto other people and should not deem anyone as not Sikh. Whether you are a meat eater, vegetarian, or vegan, as long as you are following Gurbani as you understand it to the best of your ability, in my eyes, you are a Gursikh.

Forgive me for any mistakes I have made. I sure there are many. I will probably add more shabads later when I have the energy to. Waheguru ji ka Khalsa. Waheguru ji ki Fateh. 

P.S. There are some valid reasons for being a vegetarian. Including helping to combat climate change or in order to combat health problems. That's fine, but saying it is for religious reasons is kind of.....eh. That's all I'll say.