Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions

Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions

Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions

Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions

Synopsis

Bringing together the work of nine distinguished scholars and practitioners of Yoga and Eastern thought, "Food for the Soul: Vegetarianism and Yoga Traditions" is organized around the fact that, although vegetarianism is a natural and inescapable part of the Yogic tradition, many Yogis and Yoginis today remain blissfully unaware of that fact.

The essays gathered here explore the important and much-debated subject of vegetarianism in the major Yoga traditions, looking at what diet has to do with the practice of Yoga and whether ahimsa (harmlessness) is a prerequisite for achieving Yoga's goals. The contributors draw on history, philosophy, ancient Yoga texts, Hindu scriptures, comparative religion, contemporary practitioners, the words of sages, and the teachings of Yogic masters to forge illuminating insights into the subject. Readers, whether students of Hinduism, practitioners of Yoga, vegetarian or animal rights advocates, or simply people with an interest, will find both the questions and the answers provocative--and edifying.

Excerpt

Yoga and vegetarianism are popular subjects. Every year, more and more people are adhering to one or the other—or both. But these are also subjects that are often misunderstood, especially their interrelationship. Although Sharon Gannon and others have eloquently and convincingly explored this in several popular volumes, scholarly background and detailed references are much needed, representing a lacuna that the present book hopes to fill.

As I see it, my task in this Introduction is twofold: (1) to define Yoga, both in terms of its original meaning and in terms of how it is understood today; and (2) to define vegetarianism, so that readers become familiar with the issues at hand and how diet relates to Yoga.

To begin, the term Yoga is derived from the Sanskrit root yuj, meaning “union,” “yoke,” or “to join together.” As commonly understood in most Yoga circles today, this definition refers to a sense of harmony and balance between all aspects of creation, a connection to a oneness that engulfs all beings. This in itself speaks to the subject of our volume: How can one thoughtlessly consume the bodies of living entities with whom one feels kindred? How can one blithely exploit the creatures of the earth—who are a part of the same oneness as ourselves, who feel, and think, and enjoy—for one’s own immediate pleasure?

But let us move on. Yogic union is also perceived as a sort of joining of the individual self with the higher self within, an awakening of spiritual consciousness, in which one realizes one’s own divinity. This divinity is said to glisten with sattva-guna, or “the mode of goodness.” Here, too . . .

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