Ahimsa – A Motivator of Veganism? By Chahna Tailor Gupta
The ancient Vedic science of yoga is gaining more and more popularity each and every year. Even though the current practice of yoga is slowly moving towards mindfulness rather than just
stretch-based fitness, many still fail to realize that yoga is so much more. Yoga and meditation are designed for self-realization and the Yoga Sutras of Patanjali provide a step-by-step guide to reach enlightenment. To attain this, however, one must be able to quiet the mind and find a stillness between her thoughts.
The first step of the Yoga Sutras is “Yama” which translates to self-restraint or moral discipline and has more to do with our relationship with the exterior world. Yama includes: ahimsa (non-violence), satya (truthfulness), asteya (non-stealing), brahmacharya (conscious direction or use of energy), and aparigraha (non-attachment).
For enlightenment, finding stillness between the thoughts is easier when we are at peace with our thoughts. This is because peace does not produce a reaction. On the other hand, excitement, anger, sadness, and other emotional reactions disrupt stillness. Reflecting on our actions can affect us in times when we want to simply focus and meditate.
At first glance, Yama seems easy to interpret. However, in actuality, there are many layers to it. For example, ahimsa, non-harming, can be interpreted as not hurting people or ourselves. But what about other actions, or even inactions, through which we may contribute to it?
An obvious action that conflicts with ahimsa is eating meat or dairy, which is why veganism is sweeping the world. Vegans abstain from consuming animal products, byproducts, and even those items that exploit animals during the production cycle, such as honey from bees and silk from silkworms. It is easy to see how veganism is a conscious practice of ahimsa.
When yoga and Vedic sciences were flourishing, living off of the land and being one with nature was a huge part of the lifestyle. In general, yogic diets usually favored (and still do favor) light, easy-to-digest, seasonal, sattvic foods. This did not include meat, but did include dairy when taken from the animal without harming them or their babies and taking only what was needed.
Mass production is the main culprit of animal abuse which helped propel the vegan movement. As Dr. David Frawley states, “Yoga represents a Dharmic approach to spiritual harmony” and “aims at taking us to self-realization, which depends on a purified body and mind.” For those who think about the concept of veganism from an ahimsa perspective, the silence they seek can be obstructed by the guilt of hurting another jiva (sentient being).
Vegan food today is usually met with disdain from those who are not vegan, even Indian vegetarians. However, as technology and brilliant chefs come together, new and improved vegan recipes are being designed, tried, and tested every day. As a way to promote and practice ahimsa and offer an avenue for people to try delicious vegan cuisine, our upcoming event, Life Market, taking place on September 17, 2022, will feature only vegan food vendors. Come take a free yoga class, meet ayurvedic professionals, and try sattvic and plant-based alternatives that highlight how delicious guilt-free, non-violence tastes!
About the Author
Chahna Tailor Gupta, an Ayurvedic practitioner and certified yoga teacher, has a background in occupational therapy and health science with a focus in public health. Chahna was yoga trained in Rishikesh, India, and completed Ayurvedic clinicals in Kannur, Kerala. Chahna provides yoga, pranayama, meditation, 200-hr yoga teacher training, and Ayurvedic health counseling services through her company Namaskar To You. Chahna is a volunteer for Ekal Vidyalaya, American Association of Ayurvedic Professionals (AAAP), and Ayurveda Association of Florida (AAF). She is currently pursuing a doctoral degree in Ayurvedic Medicine while continuing her self-studies in yoga.