Twenty-five or thirty years ago vegetarians were considered a strange breed - fanatics, weird, and certainly doomed to eventual poor physical health. Now vegetarianism is not only accepted , but is highly recommended by many areas of the medical community. We commonly hear professionals from many health-related fields advise people to cut down or, or give up flesh foods completely? Why?
From a health perspective, everyone know that a vegetarian diet contributes to a healthy cardio-vascular system. Vegetarians also have remarkably lower incidences of cancer of the colon and kidney disease. In this country, vegetarians can expect to live longer and have fewer degenerative diseases.
People commonly ask, "Isn't a meat-based diet the natural diet for humans?" The answer to this is a strong "NO". Since none of us were born with "owner's manuals" telling us what the optimum fuel is for our bodies, we can logically deduce the best diet for our bodies by studying the bodies of wild animals (both vegetarians and carnivores) whose natural diet we know and seeing which type of body ours most closely resembles. As we compare these bodies and their parts (nails, teeth, etc.) it becomes readily evident that we do, indeed, live in a vegetarian body. Look at our fuel consumption mechanism - our gastro-intestinal track; it most closely resembles that of vegetarian animals. Even something as apparent as our body's cooling mechanism tells us what kind of fuel we need. Meat eating animals have no pores; they pant with their tongue to cool themselves off. Vegetarian animals perspire through millions of pores on the skin to cool their bodies. For optimum health, a vegetarian diet is the best fuel.
Although most people become vegetarians for health reasons, yogis espouse the vegetarian regime for not only health reasons, but also for moral, ethical and spiritual reasons.
A major principle in the practice of yoga is ahimsa, or non-violence. By practicing ahimsa, the yogi attempts to eliminate the beastly, cruel part of his or her nature. Even though most of us don't kill our own meat or fish before we eat it, we indirectly do so by purchasing it from someone who does. This killing cycle perpetuates cruelty and aggressiveness. About aggressiveness, Albert Einstein once said, " It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind."
From an ethical point of view, an animal-based diet is a significant contributor to world hunger problems. If we conserved our grain (80% of the corn grown in the US is fed to livestock) and gave it to the malnourished, we could easily feed almost all of the world's hungry.
Raising animals for food is a tremendous waste of the earth's resources. For example, an acre of land will produce 12 to 17 times as many pounds of vegetable protein as it will animal protein. It is estimated that raising food for a meat diet uses eight times as much water as growing vegetables and grains.
From a spiritual perspective, the yogis believe that our minds are largely made up of the foods we eat. Each thing we put into our body has a certain energy. Some foods have an uplifting, pure energy which helps to lift our consciousness. Other foods make the mind very active and restless. Even further down this chain, still other foods make the mind dull and lethargic. Meat goes is this last category.