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For a Healthy Body, Mind, Soul and Planet

In the last decade we have witnessed an explosion of scientific knowledge which has made more information available to humanity than in all previously recorded history. Due to the dedicated research of scientists and doctors, we now understand more than ever before about our physical body and what measures promote good health. As more evidence is coming to light about the beneficial effects of maintaining a vegetarian diet, the number of vegetarians around the world is steadily on the rise.

Throughout history many great philosophers, mystics, saints and enlightened thinkers have recognized the value of vegetarianism. These include such notable people as Leo Tolstoy, Albert Schweitzer, Percy Bysshe Shelley, George Bernard Shaw, Leonardo da Vinci and Mahatma Gandhi. It is only recently that science has confirmed the views on vegetarianism propounded by these great souls. More and more people are realizing that this diet can increase the health and well-being of our body, mind, soul and the planet.

The health benefits of a vegetarian diet have been extolled in numerous research journals books, magazines and newspaper articles. Doctors and nutritionists widely recommend that people reduce their consumption of meat, high-fat foods and eggs as a health measure. They encourage the increased use of vegetables, fruits and whole grains in one's diet to cut down on cholesterol in the body and to minimize the risks of heart attacks, high blood pressure, strokes and cancer. The results of medical findings have already had a far-reaching impact on the food and restaurant industries. We find more foods are being produced without animal products. If we look back even twenty years, a vegetarian eating at a restaurant hardly had any choices offered on the menu. Today, we can find salad bars and a variety of delicious vegetarian dishes at most restaurants. Natural food stores and vegetarian restaurants abound in most cities. In the West, many famous actors, actresses, singers and athletes are following this diet and affirming its great value. Those who carefully consider the advantages of vegetarianism will see that the quality of their life and health can be greatly improved on such a diet.

Longtime vegetarians have testified to the changes they experienced when they gave up meat. Many have reported that they felt more energetic, not only physically but mentally. Herbivorous animals such as the elephant, the horse, the mule and the ox are known for their great strength and endurance. Having more stamina, vegetarians tend to exhibit improved efficiency and concentration in their physical as well as intellectual work. We know that the health of the body affects our mental well-being. A number of researchers have been exploring the effects of diet on the mind. Some studies involving animals reveal that those fed a vegetarian diet were calmer and more peaceful than animals which were fed meat.

Most people are familiar with the expression, "You are what you eat." In countries of the East. where vegetarianism has been the main diet for thousands of years, people recognize that whatever they consume forms a part of their body and also influences their thoughts. They believe that if they eat the flesh of an animal then the mental and emotional vibrations or characteristics of the animal will form a part of their own nature. Thus, many people brought up in the traditions of the East prefer to live on plant foods, which are more conducive to mental equipoise.

Enlightened beings, saints, mystics and spiritual teachers have traditionally advocated a vegetarian diet for spiritual and moral reasons. For those pursuing a path leading to self-knowledge and God-realization, a vegetarian diet is essential for several important reasons. I will share what I have learned from studying the Science of Spirituality under my spiritual teachers, Sant Kirpal Singh Ji Maharaj and Sant Darshan Singh Ji Maharaj. They taught that we are not only the body and mind, but we are soul. Our soul, which has been separated from God, its Creator, resides in the body. The spiritual teachers have taught a technique of meditation to help us rediscover our soul and journey back to God.

To help gain proficiency in the spiritual practices, vegetarianism is necessary. In order for us to be able to concentrate in meditation, we need to be calm and collected. If we eat the flesh of dead animals, our own consciousness will be affected. There is a law in the universe which states that for every action there is a reaction. In the East this is called the law of karma. This means that we must reap the reward or pay the penalty for our thoughts, words, and deeds. If we do good deeds, we will gain a reward. If we perform bad deeds, we must pay the consequences. Spiritual teachers advise that one should not take the life of any creature. In order for our soul to be successful in completing its journey back to its Creator. It must develop the ethical virtues of nonviolence, truthfulness, purity, humility and selfless service. The vegetarian diet is a natural by-product of nonviolence, for we should not harm any living creature. Those who are serious about attaining self-knowledge and God-realization should follow a strict vegetarian diet, avoiding meat, fish, fowl and eggs.

Vegetarianism also improves the health of the planet. Ecologists and environmentalists are concerned about protecting the living creatures on earth. They warn that widespread destruction of animals to gratify our insatiable desires has far-reaching and disastrous effects on the balance of nature. It is true that human beings are the highest of all life forms, but we must respect the divine plan and design for our universe and all life inhabiting it.

Environmentalists also have pointed out that one solution to the problem of food shortages is better utilization of our resources. For example, the amount of grain needed to feed one cow to provide meat for one person could feed many times that number of people. Ecologists have also shown that raising cattle and processing meat requires much more fuel, water, and energy than is used to produce grains and vegetables. Vegetarianism is one effective means of conserving our vital resources.

As we near the year 2000, our attention has been focused on humanity's hopes and dreams for a better world. Humanity is becoming more enlightened, more concerned about obtaining the highest quality of life, more interested in solving the mysteries of the universe, and more keen to find personal fulfillment and lasting happiness. We are simultaneously concerned about the welfare of our global community and the preservation of our planet.

How we maintain our self-being is a choice each of us has to make. A balanced vegetarian diet will result in improved health and fitness, greater mental equipoise and higher spiritual attainment. Following this diet can help us achieve the health and purity of our body, mind, soul and planet. We will not only be contributing to peace for ourselves and all life, we will also be doing our part toward making Planet Earth a haven of joy and peace.

Sant Rajinder Singh

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