I stopped eating red meat and pork when I was fifteen. It’s too long of story to explain in full here but I have to admit that the original reason was largely out of boredom. A few years later, however, I stopped eating all meat, including chicken and fish. Taking that final step was for a very different—and better—reason. What’s interesting about it is that my reason was far from the most common reasons why people choose vegetarianism. In the Indian tradition, one shuns meat not for environmental, health, or even animal rights reasons. Instead, the primary reason is spiritual. Our goal in life, all of us, is to raise our consciousness until we reach its very highest expression: superconsciousness.
When an animal is slaughtered—no matter how humanely—that animal feels a certain amount of anxiety and fear at the time they are killed. By eating their flesh, we are essentially inhaling that fear and anxiety, albeit on a subtle, vibrational level. Consuming those negative vibrations works against our ability to raise our consciousness. It holds down our spiritual expansion. It can even make it more difficult to do certain kinds of practices, such as meditation.
That’s not to say that all the other reasons for being a vegetarian aren’t valid as well. I also believe that humans are naturally herbivores; physiologically, we simply aren’t constructed to eat meat. There is excellent evidence that suggests that our early ancestors ate very little, if any, meat and that meat eating only came into our society long after homo sapiens were biologically established as herbivores. That’s one of the many reasons that meat is so bad for us physically. Additionally, eating meat puts a great deal more strain on our environment. It takes so many more resources to produce a pound of meat than a pound of grains. It’s shocking when you see the numbers. Finally, I don’t feel comfortable knowing that another living creature had to suffer and die just to feed me when other, perfectly nutritious and tasty options are available.
Of course, there have been many spiritually great people who do eat meat. You can most certainly make spiritual progress and still eat meat. We mustn’t exaggerate its importance in the scheme of things. A vegetarian diet is by no means the primary determination of spiritual progress. Eating vegetarian only assists the process but many other factors are more important.
Still, most people find that, overall, the incremental help that a vegetarian diet provides spiritually, physically, environmentally, and morally makes it well-worth doing. While some have no problem giving up all forms of meat at once—the younger you are, the easier it is to do–I generally recommend that people slowly phase in a vegetarian diet over the course of years. Start by giving up red meat and pork for a couple of years. Later, when the time feels right, stop eating chicken, duck, etc. Lastly, after you feel like your body is fully adjusted to a life without meat and that you have learned how to cook without it and dine out without it, take the last step and give up fish.
I found it was easy to stop eating meat after watching and knowing the barbaric treatment the animals go through. Not only that, but I feel I have much more energy now that I don't eat it, and I can actually sleep better and am less tired during the day.