Yes, you read correctly. The title says “again”. There used to be a time, quite a while ago, when meat was not “demonized” by the majority of the Ayurveda world. In fact, meat was revered enough to be considered the food that the sick and warriors needed the most due to its highly nutritional value. Just about now you may be asking yourselves, how did this change?
The quick answer that my immature self would give, is in the lines of political and religious conspiracy. But this is where I would lose almost every one with a head on their shoulders.
Instead, as a mature adult (I think), I am going to give you some historical facts and let you decide for yourselves:
Ayurveda is considered by some to be the oldest medical system. No one can be certain whether it is the oldest or not given that its origins also contain several mythological aspects. What we know is that original Ayurveda was documented in what is now called India, between approximately 400 BC to 400 AD.. The three main ancient Ayurvedic collections of texts are still in existence.
However, a lot of the original Ayurvedic knowledge was dismissed between the early 500 AD to the 1800’s. This is when a significant shift happened in the practice of Ayurveda due to political and socioeconomic reasons. Ayurveda was intentionally altered to fit the agenda of certain casts. This is also when the vegetarian lifestyle started to become popular along with folklore and superstition.
What makes traditional Ayurveda so powerful is its simplicity. The foundation of Ayurveda in and of itself is extremely simple. It offers a blueprint, an archetype that every one can follow in order to reach their highest potential not only for their own benefit but primarily for that of their community.
Charaka, one of the three most important Ayurvedic doctors of all times, was very broad in his prescriptions for diet. He wanted to make sure that his recommendations could be applied to every person, no matter their circumstances.
When it comes to beef, Charaka says:
”The flesh of the cow is beneficial for those suffering from the loss of flesh due to disorders caused by an excess of vayu, rhinitis, irregular fever, dry cough, fatigue, and also in cases of excessive appetite resulting from hard manual labor.”
As a clarification, excess vayu is what most of us experience today emotionally and mentally most of the time, if not also physically.
What complicates matters is the undeniable fact that Ayurveda is closely related to the Vedic system of philosophy which is often confused with Hinduism (as in religion). A significant number of Hindus (starting with Brahmin priests) trying to differentiate themselves from the Buddhists and the Muslims have been great advocates of the ban of beef-eating.
However, the Vedic tradition is not vegetarian. In fact beef was regarded as a ceremonial food offered to the gods, just like ghee, milk and white basmati rice. Beef-eating (mostly from a bull or a sterile cow) was also taking place during celebrations, guest honoring, weddings and even funerals. All through the Vedas, the Upanishads, the Sutras and the Epics, wealth has been equated with the ownership of cattle.
As the great Swami Vivekananda said over a hundred years ago:
“You will be surprised to know that according to ancient Hindu rites and rituals, a man cannot be a good Hindu who does not eat beef.”
He went as far as to say that:
“Meat eating cannot be out rightly condemned, in the face of the glaring evidence that among the meat eating kshatriyas are the authors of the Upanishads, as well as avatars such as Rama, Krishna, and Buddha.”
What Ayurveda teaches us is that food carries subtle energies. These energies interact with the energies within us to impact the quality of our human experience. Whether the energies that we gratefully take in come from the animal kingdom, the plant kingdom, or the mineral kingdom, we want them to be as wholesome as possible. In other words, to have followed the path of ahimsa, the path of least harm by action, word, or thought. This is for our own benefit and most importantly that of our community.
As far as modern India goes, it is great to see that there are still practitioners of the traditional Ayurveda who unofficially spread its wisdom through their actions. One such example is the Village Food Factory.
Invoking Swami Vivekananda’s wise words once again:
“The test of ahimsa is absence of jealousy. Any man may do a good deed or make a good gift on the spur of the moment or under the pressure of some superstition or priest craft; but the real lover of mankind is he who is jealous of none. The so-called great men of the world may all be seen to become jealous of each other for a small name, for a little fame, and for a few bits of gold. So long as this jealousy exists in a heart, it is far away from the perfection of ahimsa.”
Thank you for sticking with us and reading all the way. If you would like any of the references in terms of the ancient ayurvedic classics, please contact us and we will be very happy to share these with you. – Vie and Tim
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