Questioner: Sadhguru, can you tell us what kind of food we are supposed to eat? Why are meat and meat products not considered the right kind of food for people on the spiritual path, and how is seafood different? If this is just about killing or violence – isn’t a plant also life?
Sadhguru: This is not just about violence. We know life is violent. The question is just, will you conduct violence only to the extent that is necessary or will you overdo it? No one can live here without violence. Every breath is violence. Whether you cut a carrot, an apple, a chicken, or a goat – it is violence. Whether it is an ant, a cockroach, or a goat – for every life form, its life is the most precious thing on the planet. You may think, “Just a goat’s life.” A goat never thinks so. See with how much pride it walks. It thinks it is the most important life on the planet. Just like you.
In the yogic culture, we call the different life forms jeevarasi. One heap of life – different levels of evolution. Different levels of sensitivity. What we are concerned about is that whatever you eat should be as far away from you as possible in the evolutionary scheme of things. Plants are furthest away. If you have to eat an animal, we say it must be in the water, because that is the first form of animal life. If you want to look at it in terms of stationary life and moving life, among the moving life, fish are the furthest away from us, so we say it is okay. You don’t eat a mammal because it is very close to you.
If you think that if you eat a goat, you will become healthier, why don’t you eat a human being? Maybe you will become even healthier. What is the problem in eating another human being? It is that they are so much like us. A certain life form is more complex only because of a certain volume of memory. Suppose we bring back your ancestors. If we raise the previous 10 generations, out of these maybe 150 to 500 people, at least 25 people may look startlingly alike, because the memory continues.
In the human system, the memory is more intricate than in any other life form. As life evolved, the memory became more complex, and the structure of the system became more sophisticated. If you eat an animal or any creature that is closer to you, which has its own very complex memory, do what you want – you cannot digest it. If you eat a plant, you can digest almost 100% of it – you eliminate its memory and impose it with your memory.
Your body started with two cells. Two cells of memory multiplied into all this – still maintaining the same characteristics. But if you go on eating food that has more complex memory, your ability to superimpose your memory on it becomes less and less, the closer it is to you. You may think a goat’s life is nothing, but that is not true in terms of life. It is so much like you. If you cut open a goat, you will see its digestive system, its liver, and its kidneys are very similar to yours.
Your body is just an accumulation of the food that you have eaten. If you want to impress your samskara on the food that you have eaten and make it yours, the complexity of the memory in the food should be minimal. The more complex it gets, the more you lose your characteristics. The inherent qualities that have flown through you, 25,000 years of culture will go waste on you if you eat food that has a complex memory structure. The idea of creating a culture and a civilization is so that it can be transmitted from one generation to the next. Transmission is not only in the school room. It happens in the genes. There are substantial studies to prove this today. We have always been saying this is your samskara. Samskara means a distilled essence of civilization flowing through you without being taught. You can see this from one person to another person. Even if you expose two people to the same kind of external influences, still one person is different to the other. This is because of samskara. Your ability to let this inherent quality flow through you will become minimal if you eat food with complex memory structure.
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Mahavir said this 2600 years ago – if you eat the flesh of an animal, you will slowly become like an animal. This does not mean if you eat goat today, tomorrow you will look like a goat. Over a period of time, the kind of food that you consume will create a kind of memory distraction in your system. If you eat food with minimal memory, your body, your memory structure, and your genes easily imprint themselves on that and make it “you.” If you eat complex memory and you reproduce, the next generation will be confused, because the imprint of memory on them will not happen as clearly as it would have happened if you ate food with less complexity of memory.
If you consume animals that have emotions and thoughts like human beings, it is close to cannibalism. This is not a religious or moral issue. It is an existential and scientific issue, a profound understanding of how the system works. If you consume meat or any food with complex memory and strong emotions, you will slowly lose your fundamental characteristics of being human.