The Advantages of a Plant-Based Diet (Pt. 1)

18 August 2013

This post begins a three part series discussing the advantages and benefits of a plant-based diet:

Part 1 – The philosophical and ethical reasons to eat a plant-based diet instead of consuming animal products.

Part 2 – Reasons why everyone should consider eating a plant-based diet.

Part 3 – Some unexpected benefits of eating A plant-based diet

We begin with Part 1 – As yogis, yoginis and students of yoga begin to seek liberation, they strive to perfect their actions and in so doing they quickly come to realize that every action is preceded by a thought. To perfect an action, thoughts must first be perfected. So, you might ask, what are perfect thoughts? Perfect thoughts are ones that are devoid of selfish motives; they’re free of anger, greed, hate, jealousy, etc.

Adopting a compassionate vegetarian diet is a good place to start if you truly intend to move toward a transcendental reality and have a lighter impact on the planet. Not everyone practices yoga asana (poses) every day, but everyone eats. And therefore everyone has the opportunity to practice compassion three times a day when they sit down to eat. This is one of the main reasons so many yoga practitioners and students choose make the change and become vegetarians.

This article is focused primarily on ethical vegetarians and foremost in the list of reasons they eat only plant-based food is in order to show compassion toward animals and other sentient beings which in turn benefits the entire planet. There are those who say they are vegetarians but still consume milk products, eggs, and fish. These are actually not strict vegetarians but “lacto-ovo” vegetarians (milk & eggs) and “pescatarians” (includes fish) and ethical vegetarians do not consume any dairy products, eggs, or fish because these are not plant-based and eating them causes great suffering to other beings and the planet. Vegans are ethical vegetarians who endeavor to extend their ethics to include not just what they eat but everything they use: including (but not limited to) food, clothing, medicine, fuel, and entertainment. When using the term vegetarianism in this article, keep in mind that refers to ethical vegetarianism or veganism.

Many, if not most meat eaters defend their food choices by claiming that it is natural, because in a natural, wild state animals eat one another. Whenever people bring this up as a rationale for eating meat, they need to be reminded that the animals that end up on their table aren’t those who eat one another in the wild. The animals that are exploited for food aren’t the lions, tigers, and bears of the world. We eat the passive ones, the vegan animals that, when given free choice, would never even think of eating the flesh of other animals, although sadly, they are forced to do just that on today’s factory farms where they are fed “enriched feed” containing dead, rendered animal parts.

The majority of Americans believe a plant-based (or vegan) diet is difficult to follow. But what does difficult mean when compared to suffering and eventually dying from heart disease caused by an animal diet high in saturated fats and cholesterol? Even so, many people will still choose to go through invasive bypass surgery or have a breast, colon section, or kidney removed. And/or they may opt to take powerful pharmaceutical drugs for the rest of their lives rather than change their diets – all because they mistakenly think veganism is drastic and extreme. Do these who choose to eat meat ever consider how difficult it is for the animals who suffer degrading confinement and cruel slaughter, dying for their dining convenience and the satisfaction of their appetites?

When yoga practitioners and students begin following the yamas prescribed in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, they begin to realize that suffering is inevitable only to those who are unenlightened (or turn a blind eye) about the truth, which exists to connect us all. Real responsibility means realizing that our own actions bring about the situation we live in and that is reflected in the first yama “Ahimsa” (non-harming). Yoga practice has the potential to heal the one common disease that we are all suffering from; the disease of disconnection. War, destruction of the environment, extinction of species, and even domestic violence, all of these originate as a result of the disease of disconnection. Others can only be abused and exploited by those who are disconnected from them and have no idea about the potent consequences inherent in their own actions. When someone feels connected, they know it’s them, as well as other living things, who will suffer from the anguish they inflict.

Eating meat and consuming animal products is a long-standing (and generally accepted) habit in American culture. Many Western yoga practitioners will argue that they have to eat meat and that they need the protein to keep up the strength required for a physically challenging asana practice. Ironically, Sri K. Pattabhi

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