Addendum to 'The Meat Problem'
It has come to my attention that meat is a category of food that is considered to be 'tamasic'. In traditional Hindu exegesis, everything is grouped into three broad categories; sattva (purity, goodness), rajas (passion, excitement) and tamas (dullness, darkness). These three categories are judiciously employed to determine the inherent characteristics of various things such as character, birth, actions, personality, and even food.
It may seem strangely limiting for outside events and figures to decide what is appropriate to eat, but actually it is made clear that the final decision lies with the individual. It is advised for spiritual seekers not to consume meat (tamasic food) as it is in stark contrast with their spiritual (sattvic) goals. The reason being is that it is believed that the consumption of meat reinforces the individual's identity with the physical body as well as base attachments to certain sensual pleasures. Since journeys along the spiritual path usually begin from the point of realising that the individual is an entity that is separate from the body, what to speak of desiring release from it as well as all other attachments, it makes perfect sense that meat is an inappropriate food for spiritual seekers to consume.
This is perhaps one reason why Sai Baba requests his followers not to eat meat. He even goes so far as to suggest that people should give up meat-eating regardless of whether they are his devotees, as well as questioning the status of those who eat meat and consider themselves his devotees.
"Calling themselves Sai devotees or devotees of Rama and Krishna, they fatten on chicken. How can they be deemed Sai devotees? How can God accept such a person as a devotee?"
It is interesting how, at the end of that 69th Birthday discourse, Sai Baba optimistically blesses all of his devotees, assuming that they will take heed of his emotional appeal to give up meat-eating and be urged to give it up instantly. Considering that earlier in the discourse Sai Baba was vehement about the evils of these three activities and suggested that those who indulge in the same cannot be considered true devotees of God, it would be reasonable to assume that devotees who continue to eat meat - what to speak of drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes - will remain exempt from receipt of such broad blessings.
Or so you'd think.
In this regard it'll be appropriate to note how the late Dr. John S. Hislop - a very well-known devotee of Sai Baba, a prolific speaker and author of at least three Sai-related publications, served as a national and international chairman for the Sri Sathya Sai Organisation in the West, and recently praised in Radio Sai online magazine (endorsed by Sai Baba) as a 'perfect disciple' - ate meat!
I am fully aware how Hislop is loved and highly regarded amongst devotees then and as now, but the fact remains that he consumed meat even unto the very end of his life. Not just any meat, mind you, as another senior devotee - Dr. Dennis Gersten testified in a (now offline) Sai discussion group that while personally taking care of Hislop in his last days, the latter desired to eat a steak which Gersten promptly cooked and served to him. It is a well-known fact that beef-eating is very much a strong taboo in India, and for someone to consume beef and expect to get somewhere on the proverbial spiritual ladder is an irrational proposal. This, too, despite being directly and personally told by Sai Baba that meat was not an appropriate food for spiritual seekers:
"Meat gives the blood its effect, like passion and similar qualities. Dirty thoughts come with fish. Although fish is always in water, it has a bad smell.
"If you are keen on spiritual life, eating meat is not worth while; but if you are keen on worldly life, it is all right. There is another spiritual reason. When you kill an animal you give it suffering, pain, harm. God is in every creature, so how can you give such pain? Sometimes when someone beats a dog he cries, he feels so much pain. How much more pain then in killing? Animals did not come tor the purpose of supplying food to human beings. They came to work out their own life in the world. When a human being is dead, the foxes and other animals may eat, but we have not come to provide food for those that eat the human body; we have not come for that purpose. Similarly, man eats the animal, but the animal has not come to provide man with food. But, we have taken to eating meat as a habit." - Conversations with Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba, pages 145-156, 22. (Conversation recorded in 1968)
Sai devotees tend to frown and scowl when all of these facts are put forward for their attention. Some of them choose to ignore such things and point to the fact that Sai Baba's love is paramount and that he loves his devotees, no matter what their faults. In other words, they respond: "Just see Swami's love for Hislop! The loving mercy and forgiveness of the Avatar!" What a convenient ploy and attempt at obfuscation to get around Swami's strict rules! Sai Baba does not seem to share such a view as he is notable for his repeated urgings to his devotees to put his teachings into practice. For such people, he says:
"If you are true devotees, examine for yourselves how long you have been listening to Swami's discourses? Years have gone by. To what extent have you gone spiritually? How far have you put into practice Swami's teachings? What is the use of merely listening? Is it not all a waste? You are listening, but not putting the teachings into practice. Hunger can be appeased only when the cooked food is eaten. Only the devotee who practises what he has learnt is a true devotee. Your practices are different from precepts. You are leading selfish and self-centred lives. Such a life is led by birds and beasts." - January 1st, 1993.
Considering how the devotees' paltry justifications for their indulgence in eating meat and other things constitute a clear case of intellectual dishonesty, Sai Baba has this strong rebuke for them:
"Almost 90 percent of the so-called devotees are, in fact, deceitful ... Even the stray dogs scrounging around for something to eat are better than such fake devotees!" - 22nd July, 2002.
The conclusion is clear.
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