It is a disturbing thought that many Sikhs today believe that to attain spiritual enlightenment one can continue to tuck into a juicy steak, that the pain and suffering of the animal is separate to the succulent roast chicken on the table, that the cutting of the animals life force will not have a direct and adverse effect on their own 'karmic account '.
According to the maryada booklet , Kutha the meat prepared by the Muslim ritual killing is prohibited for a Sikh. Regarding eating other meat, it is still silent. Siri Guru Granth Sahib Ji (SGGS) makes various references to not eating meat but since it does this in a subtle way this has been ignored by many and has been taken as a green light to consume flesh. For most Sikhs this is very convenient as it is easier to eat meat then not to. As it stands most Sikhs are of the opinion that meat is open to Sikhs and they produce copious amount of information and 'evidence' to support this.
Learned and wise Sikhs say that man has evolved as a meat eating hunter gatherer and that meat is an essential part of our diet. It is true that man has evolved over millions of years, but if he was a 'monkey' once does he still have to follow primative urges? Is this now what seperates us from the rest of the animal kingdom? Only we have the capacity to evolve spriritually, and to do this we must have dicipline and fortitude. As for meat being an essential part of our diet, there are millions of vegitarians and vegans who would disagree. Avarice is a dog, falsehood the sweeper and cheating the eating of meat. (Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Sri Raag ang.15)
- Falsehood is my dagger and to eat by defrauding is meat.
(Guru Nanak Dev Ji. Sri Raaj ang.24)
One 'evidence' the pro-meat lobby will site is that Guru Hargobind Sahib ji and Guru Gobind Singh Ji were accomplished hunters, they bring the Guru's down to their level, they cannot see beyond the physical, "if they hunted meat then they must have consumed it, right ?" - Wrong.
In a book called Sikh & Sikhism the author states: "The game would have been cooked and put to good use, to throw it away would have been an awful waste."
This is a case of authors making things up as they go along, pure conjecture. Again we cannot see past the physical world. The Guru's were pure souls, at One with the Almighty. Guru Gobind Singh Ji in his glorious autobiography Bachittar Natak writes that after many eons of tapasia (meditation) the two (Guru Ji and God) became One. There is no doubt that Guru Sahib Ji had merged with the Almighty. If a glass of water is poured into the ocean who is to say which part is now the water from the glass and which is not, it becomes one, in the same way the Guru's were at One with God. Where ever they went they granted mukhti (salvation) to all who were ready to take it. Guru Nanak Dev Ji on his udasis's (journeys) saved such people like Suggen Thug - who would invite people to his house and then in the dead of night strangle them, Kaudda Rakhsh, who indulged in cannibal activites and Walli Quandhari the mean fakir who would not let anyone use his well. So, from the very begining the Gurus have been blessing and granting mukhti to those souls whose karmic circle needed breaking, and who can do this? Only the True Guru.
In the same way Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji and Guru Gobind Sahib Ji went hunting, not for pleasure - for the Guru's were way above the pleasures of this world - or the need to satisfy their taste buds, they were above this, it was to instill a sense of pride and self confidence in the downtrodden people of India who for centuries had grovelled to any invader who happen to come their way, and in the process to settle long overdue 'accounts', to release the souls of the poor unfortunate animals who may have wronged in the past, to grant them Mukti (salvation).
There is a story of Guru Gobind Singh Ji who sent out his falcon to hunt an animal, once caught Guru Ji watched as the baaj tore into the animals flesh. Asked by one of his Sikhs what was the reasoning behind this Guru Ji stated that in a previous life the animal had borrowed some money from the baaj and swore on Akal Purkhs name that he would pay it back, he never did, now it was pay back time. There are many instances like this which illustrate that the Gurus were not hunting for meat but to save these souls from the continuous cycle of birth and death. In two Hukamnamas of Sri Guru Har Gobind Sahib Ji there are clear cut instructions prohibiting the eating of meat, fish, etc.
When Guru Nanak in his sixth form prohibits Sikhs from eating flesh in such a strong language, how can he, in his tenth form, issue instructions absolutely contrary to and in negation of his own earlier instructions?
Dr Gopal Singh in his History of the Sikh People, In the Guru's Kitchen (or Guru Ka Langar) meat dishes are not served, maybe it is on account of its being expensive, or not easy to keep for long." (Or more likly to not offend vegitarians of other religions when they come and share a meal.)
When has money stopped Sikhs from doing anything. An appeal at any local Gurudwara for funds for a project or disaster will yield hundreds of pounds donated by the sangat on the spot. A meat eater will go to any lengths to get his fill, so this 'expensive' argument just does not hold.
Giani Sher Singh in his Philosophy of Sikhism says, "Kabir held to the doctrine of Ahimsa or non-destruction of life, which even extended to his followers. The Sikh Gurus, on the contrary allowed and even encouraged the use of animal flesh for food…"
Does the author go on to expand on this , does he give any evidence for this, no he does not, again pure conjecture and speculation. One should step back and think for a moment what is being said here. The Gurus were pure souls, Sikhs believe them to have merged with Akal Purkh are we then led to believe that they would tear into a chicken leg at meal time, piayrio don't even go there. Eating meat is a very primitive act and the Gurus taught us to be above this, to control our emotions and urges if we were to develop spiritually.
H.S Singha in his Mini Encyclopedia of Sikhism says, 'Guru Amar Das Ji ate only rice and lentils but this abstention cannot be regarded as evidence of vegetarianism, only of simple living.'
Why cannot it be evidence of vegetarianism? If we look at the lives of the Gurus we should try to emulate as much of them as possible because we regard their lives as ideal living, then this should be part of it.
Mohsin Fani (1615-70), the well known historian and a contemporary of Sri Guru Hargobind Sahib, writes in his work DABISTAN-E-MAZAHIB as follows:
"Having prohibited his disciples to drink wine and eat pork, he (Nanak) himself abstained from eating flesh and ordered his followers not to hurt any living being." After him this precept was neglected by his followers; but Arjun Mal, one of the substitutes of his Faith, renewed the prohibition to eat flesh and said, "This has not been approved by Nanak."
Sahib Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji's "UPDESH" to Bhai Daya Singh ji which is mentioned in "SUDHARAM MARAG GRANTH":
"One who does not Steal, Commit adultery, Slander anyone, Gamble, Eat meat or drink wine will be liberated in this very life (i.e. Jeewan Mukt)".
Mata Ganga Ji longed for a son. She confided in her husband, the fifth Guru, Guru Arjan Dev Ji. Guru Sahib Ji instructed her to prepare some food and seek the blessing of Baba Buddha Ji, a learned Sikh and spiritially a Braham Giani. Mata Ji prepared dishes of rich and spicey food and went with great pomp and ceremony to get blessed by Baba Buddha Ji. But Baba Ji was not impressed by all the fuss and rich food, despondent Mata Ji returned home.
Upon enquiring the outcome Guru Arjun Dev Ji urged her to prepare another meal but this time a simple meal of Missi roti (chapatties), yoghurt, achaar (pickle), onions and lassi, and to make it with her own hands. This she did and Baba Ji was very impressed.
Baba ji was a Brahm Giani (a stage of spiritual enlightenment) and ate simple wholesome foods, he did not care for rich spicey foods, instead he was contented to eat missi roti and yogurt.
He took the onion and brought his fist down upon it to break it open, and said " You will be blessed with a son Mata ji and like this he will crush the heads of the oppressors", in due course Mata ji was blessed with a son who later became the sixth Guru, Guru Hargobind Sahib Ji.
The point being, all spiritually enlightened souls lead simple lives and eat simple food, the Name of the Lord is their sustainer, they have no need to entertain their taste buds with rich spicey food let alone the spiritually corrupting meat.
Now, to get to the heart of the matter, we are talking about killing another living being, cutting its flesh and muscles which that animal relied upon for its existence and consuming it, primarily for the taste. It has been said that we are designed to eat meat and that we evolved to eat meat. There are many things that we can do but that does not make them right, we as gursikhs need to overcome these primal urges, we need to rise above them. We can exist quite happily without meat so why do many people feel the urge to consume it, taste plays a large part of it. Can we in our hearts believe that the Gurus advocated this?
Question: Are beings born on this earth and have living bodies just to be a convenience food? Or are beings born into a life with a body so that they can develop and eventually evolve away from karma and into Dharma?
In the beginnings of SGGS , Guru Ji says:
This human body has been given to you. This is your chance to meet the Lord of the Universe. Nothing else will work. Join the SaadhSangat, the company of the holy. Vibrate and meditate on the Jewel on the Naam. Make every effort to cross over this terrifying world-ocean. Your are squandering this life uselessly in the love of Maya.
- I have not practiced meditation, self discipline,
- Self restraint or righteous living.
- I have not served the holy;
- I have not acknowledged the Lord, my king.
- Says Nanak, my actions are contemptible!
- O Lord, I seek Your Sanctuary, please preserve my honour.
This 'body' is given to all in order to meet Akal Purkh and the Guru says that there is no other way to meet him. We are so fortunate that in Gods wisdom he has blessed us with a human body, for it is only a human who can meditate upon His Name and gain salvation, no other animal has this ability. Killing a healthy animal for consumption interrupts its life experience and its evolution towards meeting God. Animals can sense impending doom especially if they can hear the death throws of other animals. This can evoke a very powerful glandular response in the animal, pumping hormones around its body. When you eat that flesh you take on those hormones, and you take on its karma. This has a great effect on your Atma (soul), for the Atma feels pain. Why do you think we are always restless and only catch brief moments of inner peace? This is beacuse the atma is seperated from its maker, it longs to be reunited with it. By adding the karma of another soul to yours you are 'weighing' yourself down even more with paap, you are also interfering with your own desire to meet Akal Purk. If you have not cleared away your own karma why would you want to create the karma of killing and consuming the flesh of another being?
Sikhs do not eat or take into their bodies anything which is harmful or have an ill effect upon the body or mind. Meat is a stimulant of the gross passions of the mind and body. Meat is harmful on a physical, mental and spiritual level. You are killing a soul who is in the process of evolving towards God this is not going to help you in any way on your journey towards God. Meat stimulates your 'lower nature' making it impossible to achieve a meditative spiritual mind set, try sitting down and clearing your mind to meditate after comsuming meat, it cannot be done. If you want constant confusion and irritation then chew on a piece of flesh, if you want to feed your lower passions then carry on as you are. Make no mistake, when the noose of death is around your neck and the jaal (net) of maya (illusion) is finally lifted then all will become clear, but my friend, it will all be too late. If on the other hand you want to evolve spiritually, open up the capacity for meditative comprehension of higher truths, gain inner peace of which you have never known before, then the karmic and polluting nature of meat cannot be ignored.
It is said by many that plants also have life so why do we not abstain from eating plants? It is very true that plants do have life, Guru Nanak dev Ji has said "patti toray maalni, patti patti geeo" (The gardner plucks leaves from the plant, (but she does not know that) there is life in each leaf) but the karmic energy and consequences of eating plants do not compare to those of an animal which has feeling, possible thoughts, parental instincts towards its offspring, also plants (lentils, maize , spinach, etc.) are not harmful on a mental, spiritual level but are in fact good for the digestion.
Much has been made of the Nihang Singh sect eating Maha Parshad, but the Nihangs also drink a concoction of Marihuana and opium called Suckha, are we all to start taking drugs because of this?
The only hymn in the whole of Sri Guru Granth Sahib that is specifically cited in support of eating meat is the hymn of Sahib Sri Guru Nanak Dev Ji in the Var of Raag Malhar on pages 1289-90 beginning with the couplet:
- Maas Maas Kar Moorakh Jhaghrrey.
- Gian dhian Nahin Jaaney.
- Kaun Maas Kaun Saag Kahaavey
- Kis Mah Paap Samaaney. (pg. 1289-1290)
- Only the fool quarrels over the question of eating or not eating of meat.
- He does not have True Wisdom. Without True Wisdom or Meditation, he harps on
- which is flesh and which is not flesh and which food is sinful and which is not.
But look again:
This shabad does not say "eat meat" anywhere. Guru Sahib says, Vaishnavs who make their whole religion a rejection of maas/meat or Jains who despise meat are blind. They don't have the wisdom of the Guru and so they don't know what to eat and what not to eat. If someone cheats and steals, the food purchased with that money is the same as meat even if it is saag. The Jains eat things that are inedible like rotten grain but won't eat onions, ginger, etc. This is because they have no spiritual knowledge because they don't have knowledge from Satguru.
These pandits make a big show of rejecting meat and hold their nose but they have no shame in looting and cheating.
The pandit has so much pride over his rejection of meat but even in the Hindu faith there have been sacrifices and there are many references in the Hindu scriptures to this as well.
Having such a hatred of meat that they are afraid to be near it or even touch it is foolish. We ourselves are made of meat. Inside us is meat just like the meat we see for sale in the markets. Our families are made of meat and all our acquaintances. The flesh of the mother's womb wherein the human body is born, the flesh of the mother's breasts which feed the infant, the flesh of the tongue, ears, mouth, etc., used for perception of various senses of the body, the flesh in the form of wife and off-springs referred to in the Shabad, is flesh no doubt and one cannot escape it, but is it the flesh to be eaten as food by the humans?
If meat is so bad, then why do you associate with them? Why do the Pandits take money and make their living from Royalty? They too are made of meat.
What is meat and flesh made of? It is not some dirty substance. It is made from grain and water that we eat. So why do you hate it so much?
Only when you gets wisdom from the true Guru and are able to overcome the lure of these physical "ras" will you be able to become a real Sanyasi.
The gist of this shabad is a condemnation of the pakhand Pandits do when they run away from even the sight of meat and can't even fathom touching it. It says that without Satguru, there is no knowledge.
Nowhere in this shabad is there any indication that we should eat meat. Just that we shouldn't hate it because we are made of meat and we shouldn't think that by giving it up we are spiritual. There is no indication in this shabad that says "meat eating is ok". In fact this shabad indicates to us that we are meat and we should recognize that just as the thought of eating a dead body is revolting, the thought of eating meat should be as well. Because that’s precisely what it is: a dead body, and the same stuff our body is made of.
Here's the ultimate question: If there was an animal even higher in the food chain than us, would you appreciate it eating your Mother, Dad, brother or sister? No, didn't really think so. So what makes us think that animals do?
Now about the little cells or little organisms, any living thing which disturbs your life, may be it is human, animal or some little organisms, you will have to kill them or get them away from your life otherwise you can't survive.
We kill thousands of living bacteria in one breath but if we don't breathe we can't survive. We kill insects, mosquitoes, spiders, rats, etc to survive if we don’t kill them they will kill us. We kill humans also who are dangerous for humanity we have to kill them otherwise we can't survive. You can read the examples from Sikh history. If we don’t kill them they will kill us. If any body creates a disturbance in our survival we have to clear our way otherwise we can’t live. But I don’t see a cow, pig, goat, fish or chicken giving us a hard time, so why do they face the cruelty of humans when they are innocent and friendly to us?
If killing of any innocent human is a crime and sin in any religious language, then the killing of any innocent animal is also a crime and sin.
A final thought, the Sants and Mahapursh of the present day all warn us of the evils of eating meat. They all urge us to take Paol/Amrit and to give up maas, alcohol and tobacco. Not one Sant has ever said otherwise.
Do we eat to live, or do we live to eat?