Being a Vegan Yogi: Is It Really Necessary?

Can being a vegan make any difference in your yoga practice? (Wikimedia Commons)

Must a yogi or yogini be a vegan?
It’s a bit confusing to me as a yogi for these recent years. Some of my gurus and senior practitioners provide various examples on this way of life. The vegan way of life.
I know some yoga gurus who eat no meat. Some others don’t abide this rule. They eat somewhat liberally, if I cannot say haphazardly. A few try to be vegans but to no avail they retreat. Eating as a vegan in Indonesia is quite hard unless you have your own kitchen. Not to mention the temptation. But that is a series excuses. They just don’t have the consistency and determination, I guess.
Uniquely enough, I also ran into a guru who used to avoid eating meat but then he practiced it no more ever since. His cease of vegan way of life occured after he was on his brief excursion in India. He told me he stumbled upon an Indian. A vegan he was, the guru specified. But the thing is the guru then discovered he got scammed as a helpless foreigner and tourist by the vegan Indian.
“So what’s the point of being a vegan?” the guru protested. All he know about being a vegan is bringing ourselves closer to virtue. To God the Almighty. Yet, the fraud that just happened to him changed his perception on vegan way of life.
“It’s overly hyped,” he concluded. “Being a vegan doesn’t guarantee you to be more virtuous, to be kinder, to be better as a human being.”
In his case, I cannot refute. The experience was so raw and mind-boggling. This might be true or false. He is entitled to his own opinion that vegetarianism is vanity.
So far, I have never had such incidences. Bad vegans probably exist out there but they are outnumbered by the good ones, I am sure. As far as I am concerned, vegans around me are kind, compassionate and lovely human beings. They are less judging, and as energetic as carnivores but more controlled in some way.
So I look for more examples in the yoga world. And I found some teachers like Kino MacGregor and Sharon Gannon who advocate the vegetarianism. An ashtangi I know also happens to be a vegan.
Gannon, dubbed also as a spiritual activist and animal rights defender, remarked that yogis and yoginis “must remain steady and solid in our convictions.” She exemplified the Earth as the perfect example of this steadiness in conviction. Never does it slip away from its course.
“Patanjali says in his sutra:’sthiram sukham asanam’,” she explained. The word ‘sthiram’ means firm and steady in our life. It means sticking to our course of action, she added.
Often we are confronted by people who think we are overreacted by avoiding eating meat, accusing us of loving animals more than fellow human beings. But Gannon said it is not supposed to be like that. And she reasoned that loving should not be restricted to human beings. “Extend it (compassion) to all beings because we are all one, connected to each other,” said she. That said, hurting animals means hurting ourselves. Poisoning rivers mean poisoning ourselves. When we pollute the air, we pollute ourselves.
Speaking of the issue of yoga and vegetarianism, Gannon bases her logic and arguments on Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra and particularly on the second chapter of the sutra. “Otherness is the biggest obstacle to enlightenment, because in enlightenment is when you perceive the oneness in all being. An enlightened being doesn’t see others. An enlightened being only sees God,” she expounded.
This otherness can be dissolved by not hurting beings that are different from us. This is ahimsa. And do not lie to them, which means satya or honesty. And never steal from them, called asteya. What is more important is never abuse others for sexual pleasure, that is brahmacharya. And never let yourself swept by greediness. This is aparigraha or greedlessness.
Maybe we ask in mind, if eating animals cannot be justified, what about eating plants? Well, plants are creatures, too. Plants can feel. They are alive. Kino MacGregor, a renowned ashtangi, answered,”Plants as sentient beings are lower on the totem pole.”
MacGregor also mentioned that teh leats harmful food we can eat is a fallen fruit. “It’s given freely, ripe and a tree wants you to eat its fruit to spread seeds,” she elucidated.
So if a yogi or yogini desires enlightenment, which is the ultimate goal of yoga practice, hurting other creatures is never allowed. This means not eating animals, too. Happiness, she said, cannot come from exploiting others.Finally, we should answer the question in the opening of this writing: “Must a yogi or yogini be a vegan?” Only you can answer. (*)

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