What a person eats is purely his or her private and personal choice as we often say in Hindi, ‘Aap ruchi khana’ (eat to your heart’s content). Yet, there are unwritten codes on dietary proclivities and preferences. India’s ancient Sanskrit texts and books on medicines like Charak Samhita advocated and recommended herbal diet which is now called Vegetarian diet.
Here the point is not to eulogise vegetarian diet and demonise non-vegetarianism as food for demons! That’s dietary extremism which often becomes exasperatingly obvious when a vegan diet is aggressively advertised by the PETA people. The issue is different. There’s a famous saying in Hindi: ‘Jaisa anna, waisa man’. Quite right. Without sounding pejorative or condescending, food has raajsik, taamsik and saatvik effect/s on a person.
A vegetarian diet has a calming effect on the senses. Moreover, it’s healthy, digestible, and clean. That’s the reason, the health-conscious western world is turning towards vegetarianism. The benefits are manifold. Daily exercise, enough water intake, and a little veg diet is the worldwide medical mantra to be followed by fitness enthusiasts. This keeps one’s body, mind, and spirit in unison. And when it comes to the spirit, vegetarianism is indeed worth-emulating.
Not only in ancient India, even in faraway Greece, the great gymno-sophists and philosophers were vegetarians. So were all Sufis and mystics. Hakim Sanai, Nizami, and Khaqani wrote verses in praise of the vegetarian diet and exhorted their disciples to resort to it for the cleansing of soul and self. The most loved Mughal, Dara Shikoh, was a complete vegetarian. Now even modern science is of the view that the human body is not meant for meat consumption. Many types of cancer are related to meat-eating and (cancer) patients are advised by doctors and oncologists to abstain from having meat.
That apart, vegetables are easily available and there are number of varieties. Eco-system also gets balanced when vegetarianism is promoted. Veg diet is also ethically acceptable, nay palatable! There’s no guilty feeling of killing a helpless animal for one’s palate. Eat green, go green is a significant advice that must be followed in toto for a balanced as well as salubrious existence. Let me sum up this subject with a rudimentary Hindi two-liner: Sabzi khao, sabzi ugao/ Sabzi ki tarah hariyali phailao (Eat vegetables, grow vegetables/Spread greenery like vegetables). Remember this.
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