This debate has raged for thousands of years, but was clearly answered by one of the greatest human beings to ever walk the earth, commonly called Jesus. He said:
"What goes into someone's mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them... Don't you see that whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of a person's mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts--murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person; but eating with unwashed hands does not defile them." —Jesus, from Matthew 15:11, 17-20
People are free to eat whatever they find to be ethical, conducive, and beneficial for one's health.
There are many masters from Nirvana (the spiral path) who eat a vegan or vegetarian diet, and that is conducive to their path. There are other masters who want to work with greater expediency (on the direct path, the path of the bodhisattva, also called tantra). Therefore, they consume some portions of red meat that contains the element fire (tattva tejas). This is necessary in order to practice white tantra (alchemy).
Life Continues Because of Sacrifice
With any diet, there is a sacrifice. Something that is living must be sacrificed so that we can live. Eating, masticating, digesting, and consuming involves the death and consumption of a living thing, including plants and minerals, so that we can regenerate our body. Whether you chose to subsist on a vegan diet or not is a personal choice, but this alone does not make you "spiritual."
Samael Aun Weor originally thought he could live off such a diet, but later abandoned it. Vegetarianism made him weak and sick, as it has many others. In regions that are higher vegetarian, such as India, there are also correlating health problems. There is no comprehensive evidence that being vegetarian is the healthiest diet, and it certainly is not a "spiritual" diet.
Ultimately, you have to listen to your body and consume that which gives you optimal health. Some people do better with a vegan diet. Some people cannot do either, and to be healthy, they must consume meat. The Dalai Lama is one such person; for his health, he includes some meat in his diet.
Why do some spiritual groups declare that vegetarianism is the path to God when others say it is not?
You have the look at the facts. Are you maintaining your health to a greater degree through such a diet, or are you deteriorating? In Gnosis, we accept what is useful and reject what is useless. Therefore, if abstention from meat is causing you to be ill, then you need to revise your method.
Also, since Christ taught the path of balance, why would he uphold a doctrine that promotes sickness for many who cannot adapt their physicality to the rigors of a vegetarian diet? While some people may thrive on vegetables, not everyone has the body type that can accommodate such a practice. Obviously, one feels ill from not treating one’s body correctly.
We should not label, denigrate, or criticize others for pursuing or not pursuing a vegetarian diet. We only emphasize that students are free to eat what they wish when it benefits their bodily temperament and disposition. If a vegan or vegetarian diet suits you, then by all means fulfill it. We only wish to emphasize that diet should help one’s religion and that it should not be one's religion.
Cruelty to Animals
How can one continue to eat from and therefore support the slaughterhouses, dairy farms, and meat industries due to their cruelty and abuse?
Recommending a healthy diet is not the same as condoning the savage treatment of animals in this era. It is distressing how we — humanity, every one of us — have converted this planet into a true hell. That hell is not just for us and the animals. Plants and minerals are also conscious, at their levels. We make them suffer, too.
This planet is very far from the pure place it once was. There are no pure plants or minerals. Even that which is labelled as "pure" is actually deeply contaminated on every level, because everything on this planet is interconnected. Nothing is isolated. As an example, you can go to the highest mountain in Asia, and find plenty of pollution and radiation from the western hemisphere, carried there by the atmosphere, by the water, the rain... The plants suffer from pollution, chemicals, being harvested by machines, etc
Everything we eat is an act of killing. The plant that you eat also suffers and dies. It has a lower level of consciousness than the animal, yet it is still a living thing. So too the mineral. That salad you are eating is the body of a soul.
"Simply, each plant organism is the body of an elemental of Nature. Therefore, it is not the plant that cures. It is the elemental of the plant, its mantras, and the healing that is performed incessantly that cures.
"The elemental of a plant furiously reacts against the herbalist who tears apart its physical body. Therefore, this wounded elemental not only does not cure, but moreover, it harms, because the vitality of the plant is psychologically altered with the anger or with the terror inflicted upon it." —Samael Aun Weor, Esoteric Medicine and Practical Magic
The same is true when you eat a fruit or a vegetable. You cannot hear it, but the plant you chew is suffering.
Eating is the way of nature; everything is part of a cycle. To live, you must kill. Nevertheless, this must be done in balance, and with knowledge.
Here, we learn how to eat with respect for nature, as our ancestors did. We eat consciously. We eat while aware of eating, and we use mantras while eating. We show respect to the souls who die to sustain our life. In that, we elevate that sacrifice, and aid the elementals.
You are free to adopt any diet you wish. What we eat is not what takes us to liberation. We know well what Jesus taught:
"Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."
Liberation is not determined by our diet, but by how we transform ourselves. For example, the Dalai Lama is a great master, yet he eats meat, as do many other masters.
Animal bodies transform energies of a certain voltage, needed to nourish certain levels of spiritual work. For beginners, that is not necessary. Yet, for those who need it, since they are working at those levels, they know how to transform those energies in a way that is not only healthy for them, but also aids the animal.
Isn’t it better to exclusively consume plants because animals suffer more in the slaughterhouses and since animal foods harm the human body, even in “balanced” amounts?
The way to the higher kingdoms is determined by creating and utilizing individual will, which is not beholden to collective will. Rather, individual will is an expression of the will of the Innermost Being. Nevertheless, in order to create individual will, one needs atoms of very high spiritual value, which cannot be obtained exclusively from the lower kingdoms. If that were possible, we could reach liberation from those lower kingdoms, yet none of the lower kingdoms can do that. Liberation is the result of a transformation of energy, not any theory or intention. The only one who knows what energies we need — and when — is our Innermost Being: that knowledge is not found in the mind, beliefs, or feelings. To acquire liberation, we first must learn how to hear the guidance of the Innermost, then we must act on it. You may not need to eat meat. Yet, you may. That is something only you, through meditation and prayer, can discover. This is not a matter of debate, research, theory, or belief. It is a matter of getting guidance from the Innermost. All of this is explained in books and lectures.
The materials we recommended you study suggest that those who do consume meat attempt to eat in moderation, only what is needed, and from the most humane sources possible. Obviously, the best would be to raise one's own food. The relationship between the grower and the food supply is a critical one; done properly, it benefits both.
Specifically regarding meat, it is recommended to find halal sources, since in that tradition the animals are treated like their children, and are never allowed to suffer.
A Balanced Diet
What does Samael Aun Weor state about a balanced diet?
Question: Beloved Master, when you addressed the gluttons in regard to the disequilibrium of the scales, can we by analogy say the same about those who ignorantly yet voluntarily lack adequate nutrition, especially because of their unawareness about the eternal, common, cosmic Trogoautoegocrat Law. Can we therefore consider that the orthodox parishioners who have created a religion within their kitchen, or rather the vegetarians, will dwell within the fourth circle which you are bringing up in this lecture?
Samael Aun Weor: Respectable gentleman, in regard to your question, allow me to tell you with completely dazzling clarity that everybody is free to feed themselves as they please. There exist unbearable vegetarians who have created a religion out of food, likewise there exist upon the Earth bloody, carnivorous, near cannibals, who have also destroyed their organism. So, there are variety of nonsensicalities in this life. Thus regarding disequilibrium, everybody is guilty, since everyone violates the law of the scales, and the outcome of any violation is not pleasant.
However, it is not irrelevant to repeat that everyone is free to nourish themselves as they please. Nevertheless, we must not forget the law. If we destroy our bodies, we will have to endure the consequences. Regardless, it is convenient to specify that many vegetarians exist within the abysses. However, none of them suffer there because of the crime of eating vegetables, but because of many other causes and motives. Again, about nutritional matters, let everybody eat whatever they please. What is important, I repeat, is not to break the law, and that is all. —Samael Aun Weor, Hell, the Devil and Karma
Fishing or Hunting
The universe is sustained by the life and death of all beings. There cannot be one factor without the other, meaning that the law of the Cosmic Common Trogoautoegocrat is "the law of reciprocity and balance of all cosmic units." If you hunt your own food, what is good is to pray to the elemental of these animals and to thank them with all of your soul, by the grace of the Lord, for their sacrifice, since through their death you may in turn live and better serve God Most High for the betterment of humanity.
Whenever one eats fish, animals, grains, vegetables, or any meal, we should give thanks to divinity for the sacrifice of these elements so that we may live and nourish our body. We can thank the elementals of any food we eat and vow that through their consumption, we will in turn help raise their level of being through their assimilation within our body and their elevation within our soul through the work of transmutation, sanctification, and selfless service.
When you hunt your own food, you should pray in this fashion, that through their sacrifice you are helping the souls of these elements rise higher and closer to the Absolute in accordance with the will of your Innermost and the transformation of these elemental energies within your body, soul, and mind.
Personal Testimonies about Vegetarianism
From an instructor:
"You are free to eat whatever you want. We respect the will of each person to do what they want. But for the sake of providing another point of view, let me express my experience. I chose to become vegetarian for the very same reasons many cite; chiefly, I was disturbed by how animals were treated by the food industry. I was a vegetarian for ten years. I was highly informed, ate a very carefully managed diet, and had access to the best quality food (unlike many people in the world). In spite of that, at the end of those ten years I was developing several very dangerous health problems, and was extremely weak, not only physically, but emotionally and mentally. Fortunately, a good friend recognized the problem, and encouraged me to begin consuming beef broth. It changed my life, restored my health, and taught me more than I could possibly write here. This is how I wasted what should have been a robust youth. Interestingly, although I am now much older, I am far healthier, stronger, and happier. There is no doubt that my diet plays an important role in that.
"Be aware that all of our teachers — Jesus, the Dalai Lama, Padmasambhava, Moses, etc. — eat meat. This is not for pleasure or cruelty. Rather, it is a necessity for the body and the soul. This has already been thoroughly explained elsewhere.
"Bear in mind that we recommend only consuming a small amount of meat. Some students only eat a very small portion once a week or so. For them, it is sufficient.
"I believe many students still eat too much meat, and this is the cause of their difficulties: not the eating of meat, but the eating of too much, too often, and from poor sources. Undoubtedly, eating cheap meat only brings negative results.
"I address my concern for the animals by trying to acquire animal products sourced without cruelty, and I express my gratitude to the animal for providing its elements."
Why did Samael Aun Weor renounce vegetarianism? Read this lecture: The Common-Cosmic Trogoautoegocrat Law
Food and Violence
Even if you are a vegan, you are still performing violence against other creatures, because plants and even minerals are living, conscious organisms like ourselves. Even scientists are starting to become aware of this with respect to plants. New studies are finding that plants can think, and even communicate with one another. Do they think on our level? No, but they still have consciousness. They are still living things deserving of respect and love. So why do people extend the principle of ahimsa [non-violence] to animals, but not to plants? Why are people willing to kill some organisms, but not others?
Does this mean that we should stop eating plants? No. The physical body cannot live without consuming other organisms. Shiva is Creator and Destroyer. New life is born through death. Fire renews nature incessantly.
Does this mean you should start eating animals? No, not necessarily. If eating animals is something you are not comfortable with, then you shouldn't do it. Vegetarianism is a noble practice, and many find it to be very helpful. Nevertheless, you may discover along the Way that it has become necessary for you to eat meat. And if that happens, you should be open to doing so.
In the Bible, Jacob represents the sephirah Tiphereth. When you reach Tiphereth, and you have already created your bodies, and you are in the Half of the Half of the time, then Samael appears at another level and says, "Fight me. If you defeat me, you will receive your sacred name and become a Son of God, a Son of the Sun." But, understand me, this is another step in relation with the Great Work; in that work, you have to help the lower Monads because this is precisely the path of the middle, in which the Initiate helps the lower Monads to rise. How do you help them to rise? How does Christ help you when you incarnate him? Christ enters into you and starts making a revolution; that is, revolving the Gibor in the clockwise direction. That is what the Lord does, because the other forces like Judas, Pilate, and Caiaphas rotate the wheel in the opposite way, and the Lord comes and does it in the clockwise direction. He is rebellious. He is against everything. With that action from your psyche, he is turning you, and with his own essence (the fire), taking your consciousness to another level: Solar Man, Galactic Man, and beyond—a Kosmic Man. In the same way that he helps, we also have to imitate him. How do we imitate him? When you eat your vegetables, your plants, your cereals, you are helping the Monads in that kingdom through your transmutation, to elevate them to the higher levels. If you eat that with a lot of hunger, and then go and fornicate, you are sending them down. The real Initiate eats, drinks the water, eats plants, eats cereals, and also eats flesh, because he loves the animals. The Monads of the animals also need to go up. When you eat the flesh of an animal and you transmute it, you are elevating that Monad, helping it, showing it how to do it. If you are a vegetarian, okay, that is good, but how are you going to help the animals? By giving a lecture? They do not understand English; they only understand the animal languages. However, if you eat them, through the Law of the Cosmic Common Trogoautoegocrat, and digest them into your own honey, and you transmute it, then those Monads whose elements are in the flesh will feel elevated through your spiritual work.
If you are not doing that, it does not matter if you eat meat or not, but if you do the Work, then you understand why the Human Being feeds himself with the three inferior kingdoms—Animal Kingdom, Vegetable Kingdom, Mineral Kingdom—because we need to help those Monads too. For that you kill them, because when you eat an apple, you are killing the apple. Do not think that only when you eat meat are you killing the animal. No, you also destroy the life that is there, when you digest it. That is precisely the meaning of the Work, the Pancatattva. I am not teaching you to be carnivorous, but you have to help those animals too, especially in this day and age, because they suffer. Eventually these animals will become intellectual animals, and they will think, "Well, when I was an animal, somebody ate my body, and I felt how he transmuted the energy and elevated me, and taught me through experiencing that." That is the Law of the Cosmic Common Trogoautoegocrat; it is not only to be swallowed and to swallow. It is a psychological and spiritual process. It goes up even to the Monad, because anything that you find, has a Monad, has an intelligence, has essence, whether it is an apple, whether it is water that you drink, whether it is honey that you eat, or a piece of meat, fish, etc." —Gnostic Instructor, Runes Course: “Rune Perth”