Is vegetarianism necessary for spiritual advancement?
Question: Is giving up meat-eating necessary for making spiritual advancement? When the highest heads of several religions eat meat, aren’t those who claim the necessity of vegetarianism indirectly claiming to be more advanced than the heads of other religions?
Answer: Yes and no; yes to the first question, no to the second.
All the theistic wisdom-traditions concur that all of us, irrespective of our religious denominations, are spiritually sick. Just as getting cured entails abiding by the medical prescriptions and proscriptions, making spiritual advancement entails abiding by two kinds of scriptural injunctions:
1. Affirmative injunctions that prescribe activities which promote the development of pure love for God, which is the essential, universal goal taught by all the great theistic wisdom-traditions of the world.
2. Regulative injunctions that proscribe or minimize activities which obstruct the development of that love.
Abstaining from meat is one such regulative injunction. We can understand the importance of this principle if we contemplate the implication of love. If a child loves the parent, an essential way that love becomes evident is by the love shown to one’s brothers and sisters. Similarly, if we love the Supreme Parent, an essential way that love becomes evident is by the love shown to our brothers and sisters in God’s family – including our nonhuman brethren, for they are also God’s creatures and, moreover, they, unlike us humans, can’t speak for their rights.
That’s why the Vedic wisdom-tradition enjoins those aspiring for authentic, pure love for God to abstain from meat. Vegetarianism is recommended as the desired ideal even in major non-Vedic traditions like Christianity, as is intuited at first brush from the commandment “Thou shall not kill” and is confirmed by well-researched books like the encyclopedic volume “Animals on the Agenda: Questions About Animals for Theology and Ethics” edited by Rev. Andrew Linzey & Dorothy Yamamoto. Consequently, thousands of such God-seekers have discontinued the unfortunate self-delusion inherent in claiming to love God while causing pain and death to God’s mute creatures just for the sake of one’s taste buds.
Those who stick to meat can still advance spiritually to the extent that they adhere to the affirmative injunctions for spiritual advancement. Those who adhere to both the affirmative and regulative injunctions experience spiritual advancement in its full acceleration. When they urge their fellow God-seekers to switch to a vegetarian diet, they do so not due to a feeling of spiritually superiority, but with a desire to share the warming of heart in love to all of God’s creatures – and thereby God – that they have experienced due to not partaking of a diet tainted by blood. Why let one’s taste buds stall or slow the tasting of divine love? Why continue a past misdirection mistake when compassion, scripture and experience all concur to redirect us?