The Meat Problem for Sai Baba's devotees
Today, let it be anyone, whether one deems himself a devotee or not, he should give up meat caring. Why? Meat eating promotes only animal qualities. It has been well said that the food one consumes determines one's thoughts. By caring the flesh of various animals, the qualities of these animals are imbibed. How sinful is it to feed on animals, which are sustained by the same five elements as human beings! This leads to demonic tendencies, besides committing the sin of inflicting cruelty on animals. Hence, those who genuinely seek to become devotees of God have to give up non-vegetarian food. Calling themselves Sai devotees or devotees of Raama and Krishna, they fatten on chicken. How can they be deemed Sai devotees? How can God accept such a person as a devotee? Therefore, whether they are devotees in India or outside, they should give up from this instant meat eating.
Next, there is the question of drink. The water that one drinks is life-giving. It issues from the head of Shiva. It is sacred. Instead of such wholesome drink, it is wrong to drink intoxicants. It makes a man forget his true nature. Alcoholic drink is utterly obnoxious. It degrades the addict. It makes him forget God. The drink addict is not conscious of what he says or does. The very sight of such a person is revolting. The drink evil has ruined innumerable families. Alcoholics have caused misery to their wives and children by wasting all their money on liquor. Of what use to the world are such derelicts?
In addition to liquor, many are addicted to smoking tobacco. Today cigarette smoking is the cause of many diseases like asthma, lung cancer, cosonaphilia and heart ailments. The evil effects of smoking can be easily demonstrated. If a whiff of cigarette smoke is blown at a handkerchief, the cloth turns red at the spot. If smoke can cause such damage to a piece of cloth, how much damage will it not do when it gets into the blood stream? It ruins one's health and shortens one's life-span. Therefore, those who aspire to become true devotees of God have to give up meat, liquor and smoking.
Drink addiction is the cause of many evils. But no Government can stop this. The change must rake place at the individual level. This can take place only through a mental transformation and not as a result of preaching by others. Each one has to recognise the truth and reform himself.
Embodiments of Love! You are deeming this day as the sixty ninth birthday of Svaami. I have no desire to celebrate such birthdays. As I was coming I was greeted by many wishing Me "Happy Birthday" I am always happy Why should anyone wish "Happy Birthday" for Me? Be happy yourselves. Your happiness is My happiness.
Today, as an offering to Svaami, give up meat eating, consuming liquor and smoking. By renouncing these three, you will benefit yourselves as well as society and the nation. Svaami's sole aim is to promote the welfare of the family, the society and the nation. If you wish to carry out Svaami's aim, renounce from this moment itself these three bad practices. Do not put if off to tomorrow. Take the resolve from this moment. Expecting that you will carry out Svaami's wish and thereby promote the well being of your family and the nation, I bless all of you.
Whereas Sai Baba's opinion on the matter is quite clear, it is also reasonable to assume that there would be a uniformity of opinion among Sai's devotees. Unfortunately this is not the case, as several followers have problems accepting the totality of the implications contained above and even find ways of justifying their reluctance to accept Sai Baba's principles.
This is quite easy to sympathise with as even I was a meat-eater when I first became a devotee. I even continued to eat meat for at least two years afterwards. Although I cannot recall fully, I don't think that anyone in my circle of devotee-friends had any major problems with this as many of them were also meat-eaters. The President of my Sai Centre had both of his children studying in Sai Baba's schools, and he consumed eggs. Several other devotees related to me their problems with drug and alcohol dependency and cigarettes, and how they had found strength in Sai Baba to give those habits up even though many still continued to maintain such vices. As far as I could see there was no big deal attached to these issues as it was accepted that such vices had to be given up in their own time and that it was a question of the individual's motivation , although everyone knew that Sai Baba himself disapproved of these things.
The beginning of the end of my own problems with meat-eating occurred around 1991. I was so absorbed in the beauty of Sai Baba's 'Bhagavatha Vahini' that simply reading the text filled me with the firm resolve and conviction that I had to give up meat. Given the fact that I highly enjoyed consuming meat products since I was practically old enough to eat, this was quite a big deal for a 12-year-old kid to decide! Unfortunately I made the mistake of being economical; I decided that I would give up eating meat completely just as soon as the stocks ran out in our freezer. As we never stopped shopping I never gave up meat and continued eating it for at least another two years, although Bhagavatha Vahini had left a very strong impression in my mind and the conviction stayed with me.
It was only until the summer of 1993 when I spent a total of three months in Sai Baba's Whitefield and Prashanti Nilayam ashrams that I suddenly kicked the habit. I couldn't explain it. Three months of continuous canteen seva and eating of vegetarian food had somehow weaned me off the addictive meat. I began a vegetarian life and since then I have never looked back. This year I have successfully completed 12 years as a vegetarian. Even now, close friends and family are still amazed as they remember the shocking change.
So while I understand the "addiction" of meat and the reluctance to give it up, I can conclusively state that life is much better and healthy without meat. I also managed to give it up in my own time and didn't have Sai Baba breathing down my neck in a 69th Birthday speech unlike other devotees. You would think that such a statement of clear directions would convince followers to make a serious attempt to give such vices up, but no joy.
As can be seen from the ongoing discussions in some Sai-related forums, many devotees and defenders try to produce some obscure justifications for meat-eating in order to disguise or defend the practice. Here is one such statement from Lisa De Witt:
And don't forget about Jesus feeding the multitudes FISHES and loaves! Narrow-minded bigots like Tony [O'Clery] and Sanjay just DON'T GET that the message is about PREMA. They are so busy messaging their intellectual superiority complexes and minding everyone elses business and then wonder why they are so unhappy and not getting anywhere.
Regardless of my supposed unhappiness and inability to "get anywhere" (what kind of point is that to make anyway?), I cannot help but notice how queer it is to employ Jesus Christ as a way to endorse meat-eating. Anyone who makes a cursory study of the Gospels (John 6, Mark 6, Matt 14, Luke 9 for instance) is made aware that, in the famous 'five loaves and two fish' incident, Jesus simply accepts whatever is available to feed the large crowd. This is not an implicit or explicit go-ahead to eat meat products no matter however one twists it.
To those who would point to other incidents in the Gospels such as those where Jesus consumes lamb for the Passover feast as well as consuming fish in order to prove that his ressurected body was real and true, I would interpret the first as an example of Jesus' following of the Jewish tradition and the second to be another example of Jesus accepting whatever was near and available to prove himself. Even if it could be argued that these incidents support meat-eating, it would show a healthy disregard for the vehement urgings of Sai Baba. How interesting it is that devotees would choose to disregard the pleas of a figure who they revere as God Himself - the Father of Jesus Christ - and follow the bimillennial examples of the Son instead!
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