A Plant-Based Diet and its Benefits
|Table of Content|
|1. How to Become a Vegetarian|
|2. Plant-Based Diet vs Meat|
|3. Why be Vegetarian?|
|4. Diet and Mental Health|
|5. Making the Right Choices|
Sadhguru: What kind of food you eat should depend not on what you think about it, or on your values and ethics, but on what the body wants. Food is about the body. Ask the body with what kind of food it is really happy. Try different foods and see how your body feels after eating it. If your body feels very agile and energetic, that means the body is happy. If the body feels lethargic and needs to be pumped up with caffeine or nicotine to stay awake, the body is not happy.
f you listen to your body, it will clearly tell you with what kind of food it is happy. But right now, you are listening to your mind. Your mind keeps lying to you all the time. Hasn’t it lied to you before? Today it tells you, “this is it.” Tomorrow it makes you feel like a fool for what you believed yesterday. Do not go by your mind. You just have to learn to listen to your body.
How to Become a Vegetarian
In terms of the quality of food that is entering you, definitely vegetarian food is far better for the system than non-vegetarian food. Just experiment and see, when you eat vegetarian food in its live form, what a difference it will make. The idea is to eat as much live food as possible – whatever can be consumed in its raw, uncooked form. A live cell has everything to sustain life. If you consume a live cell, you will see the sense of health in your system will be very different from anything that you have known. When we cook food, we destroy the life in it. Eating food after this process of destruction does not give the same amount of life energy to the system. But when you eat live food, it brings a different level of aliveness in you. If one brings in at least thirty to forty percent live food into their diet – sprouts, fruit, and whatever vegetables that can be consumed in a live condition – you will see, it will sustain the life within you very well.
Above all, the food that you eat is life. Other forms of life are giving up their life to sustain ours. If we can eat with enormous gratitude for all of them, then food will behave in a very different way within us.
Plant-Based Diet vs Meat
Q) Sadhguru, I am a foodie. Is it okay to eat non-vegetarian food if it feels right for me?
Sadhguru: Whether you eat a plant or an animal, it is still violence. There is substantial documentation today to show that plants are just as sensitive. There is enough evidence to show that they do scream. You do not hear it, that is all. Among the trees, let us say there are a thousand or ten thousand trees here and an elephant came and started eating the leaves of one tree. This tree will immediately send messages to all other trees of its species that it is being eaten like this. Within minutes, if the elephant goes to the other trees, all the trees would have produced a certain amount of poisonous material in their leaves. When the elephant tries to eat the leaves, they taste bitter so it will not eat them. They are that sensitive.
Whether you pluck a fruit or a vegetable or cut an animal and eat it, everything is cruel. It is just that we must do it with some sensitivity, only to the extent that is necessary. You should drop this idea of being a foodie. We all must eat food; otherwise it will be cruel to our own body. But becoming identified with food is not right because that means we will indulge, not just nourish, ourselves. As a life we have a right to nourish ourselves – this is how the food cycle is in the world – but we have no right to take another life wantonly, just for pleasure. We have no business doing that. We have every right to nourish this life, but we have no right to enjoy taking another life. Do not call yourself a foodie because food should never become the identity. We will eat whatever we have to eat in the given moment for survival and nourishment.
Why be Vegetarian?
When your survival is under threat, your entire life becomes about survival. But once survival is taken care of, now you wonder, “What is this all about?” Because when survival is in question, it looks like everything is going to be great when your survival is fulfilled. But once survival is taken care of, you realize that is not the truth, your life is longing for something else.
In India, survival was very simple and easy. This was a rich land and people survived well. Because of that, they started looking inward and nearly seventy percent of the country's population was always actively spiritual.
Turning inward was an important part of life. Because of this, when they turned inward, they realized that what they eat matters. If you just want to be all beefy brawn, then you can eat a lot of meat and just grow muscles and fight with each other. But if you are looking at how to become sensitive to life, and be able to perceive things beyond what is considered normal perception, then what you put into the system becomes very important.
In all the carnivorous animals, the length of the alimentary canal is approximately only three times the length of its body. In all the herbivores, the length of the alimentary canal is five to six times the length of the body. In a human being it could be anywhere between twenty-four to twenty-eight feet which is nearly five to six times the length of our body. If you put meat in this kind of alimentary canal, it will travel through this very slowly. Raw meat would take approximately seventy to seventy-two hours to pass through the system. Cooked meat will take fifty to fifty-two hours. Cooked vegetable meals will take anywhere between twenty-four to thirty hours. Raw vegetables will take twelve to fifteen hours. Fruit will take one-and-a-half to three hours.
We started recognizing which food passes through the body quickly and with least amount of residue. In Yoga, one important thing that we look at is if we eat anything, the stomach must be empty within two-and-a-half hours. The stomach is empty, but we are energetic, so we do not eat. Generally, in the Isha Yoga Center, everyone has only two meals – at ten in the morning, and seven in the evening. Most of the days, I eat only one meal. If I am traveling, I may eat something else a little bit, but otherwise generally if I am home, I eat only one meal, generally around 4:30 to 5:00 in the evening. It will keep me going for the entire twenty-four hours. It is not like a rule. If there is a lot of physical activity on a certain day, then I may eat a small breakfast or a fruit or something like that. Food is not to be made into a philosophy or a kind of a religious process. Food is the requirement of the body.
If you watch the body, you will naturally notice that the body is most comfortable and at ease with plant-based food. It is flexible, at ease, and has less to process on a daily basis. Those who observed the nature of their own bodies naturally became vegetarian. When survival was the question, hunting and eating whatever you kill was a natural process. But once societies settled down, they could grow what they want. As they observed themselves more and life became not about survival but about enhancing one's life to higher levels of perception and experience, then turning vegetarian was a natural process. It is bound to happen everywhere.
Diet and Mental Health
Q) Is there a connection between our mind, mood, emotional state, mental health, and the food we eat? In general, what is the connection between our body and our mind?
Sadhguru: The Yogic system does not identify the body and mind as two different entities. It is just that what we generally refer to as mind is a certain amount of memory and intelligence. Your brains are part of your body. People generally think the brain is everything just because it handles the thought process. But between the brain and the rest of the body, which has more memory and intelligence? If you look at it carefully, your body’s memory goes back millions of years. It clearly remembers how your forefathers were. The mind cannot claim that kind of memory. When it comes to intelligence, what is happening in a single molecule of DNA is so complex that your whole brain cannot figure it out. In the Yogic system, there is a physical body and there is a mental body – an intelligence and memory running right across the body.
The type of food we eat has a huge impact on the mind. An average American is said to consume 200 pounds of meat per year. If you bring it down to 50 pounds, I would say 75% of the people will not need antidepressants anymore. Meat is a good food to survive if you are out in the desert or the jungle. If you are lost somewhere, a piece of meat will keep you going, because it provides concentrated nourishment. But it should not be a daily food that you eat when there are other choices.
There are many ways to look at this. One aspect is that animals have the intelligence to know in the last few moments that they are going to get killed, no matter how cunningly or how scientifically you do it. Any animal that has the capacity to express some kind of emotion will always grasp when it is going to be killed. Suppose you come to know, right now, that at the end of this day, you are going to get slaughtered. Imagine the struggle that you would go through, the burst of chemical reactions within you. An animal goes through at least some fraction of that. This means when you kill an animal, the negative acids and other chemicals are in the meat. When you consume the meat, it creates unnecessary levels of mental fluctuations in you.
For most of those who have become mentally ill, the illness is not pathological but has been cultivated. Such a large percentage of people cannot be mentally sick unless we are somehow culturing it within our social fabric.
If you put people who are on antidepressants on a conscious vegetarian diet, in about three months’ time, many of them will not need their medication anymore. We have seen this with many people who have come to the Isha Yoga Center.
Making the Right Choices
I think we need an effective campaign for food, like the anti-smoking campaign in United States. In the 70s, you had to wade through smoke in any public place in the United States. Then they started an active and successful campaign that cleared up the air. Today, you can walk into a restaurant, and there is no smoke. But there is still carbon-dioxide in the drink! At one time, smoking was not just a necessity for a whole lot of people, it was fashionable. It was the right thing to blow smoke into other people’s faces. With the right kind of campaign, within one generation, this situation has changed completely. A similarly successful campaign is needed about what we eat and what we drink.