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Selected Quotes from The Sufi Message of Hazrat Inayat Khan
on the Subject of Eating Meat and Vegetarian Diet
A Question about Fasting
Question: Do you advocate a long fast from 30 till 90 days in order to purify the body for spiritual attainment?
Answer: I am not an advocate of asceticism, but at the same time I see the good work that many ascetics have done and I do not wish to depreciate it.
 Coming to the question of fasting, I think that fasting is one of the ways by which the denseness of the body can be diminished. And when one knows the right way of fasting, when one is under the direction of someone who really knows when a person should fast, and why and how he should do so, and how he could gain the benefit of his fasting, then great benefit can be obtained by it. Surgeons keep a person without food for so many hours or days knowing that it will help them to heal quicker. In the same way spiritual teachers may prescribe a fast to their pupils: sometimes being without cereals, sometimes without eating meat, sometimes without bread, sometimes living on milk, on fruits, and sometimes, for a certain limit of time, without anything. They see the capacity of the pupil: what he can endure and how he can be benefited by a particular fast.
 But, to tell the truth, I am the last person to prescribe fasting. I only give some advice if persons themselves wish to fast, for I know a story of a disciple who went to a teacher and was told, "In order to begin the practices you must start with a three days' fast". One day he felt so hungry that he ran away from the city in order never to see the teacher again!
 There is always a meaning if a teacher prescribes a fast; he has a reason for it. There is an amusing story of a great Sufi who lived in Baghdad. There are many stories of his wonderful achievements. He had told a young pupil of his to live on a vegetarian diet. The mother of this young man, having heard that since the boy went to the teacher he had grown pale and thin, came to give the teacher a little talking to. He was at table when she came and there was a chicken dish on the table. So the mother said, "You are teaching your pupils to live on a vegetarian diet, and you yourself are enjoying chicken!" The teacher opened the dish and the chicken flew away. The teacher said, "The day your son can do this too, he can also eat chicken"! Sufi Teachings Health and Order of the Body and Mind A Question about Fasting

Harmlessness
 Harmlessness IS a good moral, but the difficulty is that we cannot be good to one without being harmful to another. For instance, we are good to our cat and we give it the lamb's meat to eat; so we are harmful to the lamb. Or we sacrifice the vegetable for the sake of being good to the lamb. We harm the mineral when for the sake of some flowers we put clay in water, bend and knead it and then put in the fire in order to make a bowl to hold the flowers. How many things do we make out of iron, how much do we torment it in order to make ourselves comfortable? How many things do we make out of wood? The lives of how many animals do we sacrifice in order to make ourselves comfortable and happy? As to ourselves, how much do we sacrifice the benefit, the comfort of our fellow-beings for our own benefit? We do not ponder upon it, but it is so.
 How many things do we make out of the bones of animals? Our shoes are ,made out of the skin of animals; the furs of animals cover us warmly. The flesh of animals we use for our food. Fishes, which never dreamed of harming us, we catch in nets. We load burdens upon horses, camels and elephants, and we take from the calf its share in the form of milk and butter upon which our everyday's livelihood depends. This shows that what we have built up and have comforted ourselves with is nothing else than tyranny - of which we never stop to think for a while.
 We are so placed that we cannot live one instant without being harmful. In Persian it is said: Bandagi becharagi bondage is helplessness. Man cannot help being harmful, and without being that he is helpless. It is this dependence, this helplessness, which makes him the servant of God. The Quran speaks of abdul Allah, servant of God, and this is the highest title that can be given to man.
 The moral is rather to be harmful to the lower creation for the sake of the higher, rather to be harmful to the animal than to man. If a man has stolen your dog, rather let him have the dog, than have him sent to prison, because the man is more valuable than the dog. If your child has hurt the cat a little, and if you shake the child and hurt it, it is a mistake, because the child is of more value than the cat. If an animal has eaten your corn, your flowers and fruits, let the corn go, do not break the back of the animal. By this moral a person becomes so harmless that in the end he is not harmful any more - not even to the mineral. Harmlessness is the essence of moral. Sufi Teachings Privilage of Being Human Harmlessness
 

A Question about Vegetarianism
Question: Is vegetarianism advisable for the sake of not killing animals?
Answer: There are two things to be considered in this connection. One is harmlessness. It is a human tendency to hurt and harm; man has inherited it from the lower creation. It is this tendency which prompts him to kill poor creatures and make his food out of them in spite of all the vegetables and cereals, fruits and nuts which are provided for him by nature. The other point is that for the purification of the blood, for the health of the muscles, and for general purity of the body the vegetable diet is far preferable to flesh food.
  At the same time the training of the Sufi is a spiritual treatment and, as a physician sees in every case what is best for that particular person, so the Murshid prescribes for his mureeds what is best for them. There may be a person for whom a vegetable diet is not sufficient or not good; meat for him may be like a medicine. There is no such restriction, therefore, in Sufism; the need of every individual is according to his health. We do not make a dogma out of vegetarianism.
 In connection with the same question I may make another remark. In ancient times shepherds used to clothe themselves with tiger skins in order to secure their lives from the danger of wild animals, when taking care of their herds they moved about in the forests. When a wise person who is good and kind lives in this world of different natures, it is more difficult for him to live in the gross vibrations than for others who perhaps are more or less of the same kind. Very often therefore one hears people say of a person who has died young that he was good - and there is some truth in it too. Many souls, fine, good and beautiful, come on earth and cannot withstand the coarseness of the ordinary human nature.
 What is diet? Diet is not for the soul, it is only for the body. The body is a cover, a blanket, and if the body is covered with armor, then it can stand the struggle of life. If ever the great ones allow themselves to partake of flesh food, which in reality is meant for the average person, it is for that reason. Sufi Teachings Privilage of Being Human A Question about Vegetarianism

The Idea of Halal and Haram in Islam
   In Judaism there has existed an idea concerning eating and drinking and everything that is done, that certain things are allowed and certain things forbidden, and the same ideas were perhaps developed a little more in Islam. Those who have followed them have obeyed the law of religion, and those who have understood them have found the truth. Of edible things, flesh in particular, the flesh of certain beasts and birds and of certain creatures living in the water was forbidden. The only reason underlying this law was the protection of man against eating anything that he might like, which may perhaps hinder his spiritual evolution.
 As all things that man eats and drinks have their cold and warm effect on man's body, and to a certain extent on man's mind, so, especially with animal food, it is natural that man should partake of the quality of the animal he eats. The pig was particularly pointed out, both by Judaism and Islam, as the forbidden animal. Besides many other reasons, the chief reason was that if one can observe, comparing the life of the pig with that of other animals, it will prove to be the most material, regardless of what it eats, blind in passion, and without the faculty of love and affection. The dog also, and the cat, and all carnivorous animals, were considered, from the hygienic point of view, Haram, unwholesome, and the people who have made use of their flesh as food have realized that its effect upon their bodies and minds is harmful.
 Then there has been a law among Islamic and Judaic people that the animal that is used for food should be made Zebah, which means that it should be killed in a certain way. People believed in this as a religious faith, and did not understand the truth at the back of it, and refused to eat meat coming from people who did not follow their religion. The reason was that people should not eat dead animals or birds, considering their flesh to be as wholesome as that of freshly killed animals. And behind it there is a philosophy--that it is not only flesh that benefits man as a desirable food, but the life that still exists in the flesh is the secret of the vigor and freshness that flesh food gives man; when the life is gone out of it, to eat it is like eating dead flesh; it is flesh, and yet there is no life in it. That is why it was made a religious custom--so that if they did not understand its scientific and philosophical point, they might at least follow it because it is their religion.
  Then intoxicating drinks were made Haram, especially during the time of the Prophet, who accepted milk, it is said in a tale, from an angel who had brought before him two bowls, one of wine, the other of milk. Milk is considered, even by Vedantists, as a Sattvic food, a food that gives rest, comfort, and wisdom, whereas wine is considered as a Rajasic food, which gives joy, pleasure, confusion, excitement, and happiness for the time. As its results have shown its weak part in all ages to all peoples, that explains why it was forbidden. But, besides that, the philosophical fact is that all things that are made of decayed substance, whether flesh or herb or fruit, have lost the life from them; and the idea is to touch the life in eating and in drinking and in everything that is done, until one is able to touch the Life Eternal, which alone is the innate yearning of the soul. The Unity of Religious Ideals - Prophets and Religions - The Idea of Halal and Haram in Islam

Gatha 1 Everyday Life Number 4
Outer and Inner Ablutions
 The vehicle which is made of earth can be cleansed with water and by air.  Therefore besides external ablutions inner ablutions are necessary to make the body a proper vehicle for the working of the spirit.  In many different religions different ways of ablution are taught.  They are not only for the cleanliness of the body, but are also helpful in making the body a fitting instrument for the spirit to experience life.
 The external organs of the body are used for external activities, but the inner ones are the instruments of the mind.  The factors which are closer to the mind and which are more important for man than his physical organs are the centers which are located in the body, and the cleaner the channels of the breath are the more active the centers become.  The breath is to these centers as the air is to the plant.  Besides inner ablutions, the breathing practice itself cleanses the channels of the body.
 

Gatha 1 Everyday Life Number 5
Inner Ablutions
 Besides making ablutions it is necessary that the channels of the breath be kept clean, and for this consideration is necessary about what one eats and drinks.  Food that is raw and indigestible, stale food, old and decayed vegetables, rotten fruits, and meat that has been preserved for a long time, and all such-like things do not only block the channels of the breath, but their influence makes the breath impure.  The air, which is always pure, becomes dense and impure by the contact with the impurities of the earth, and so is the nature of breath.  Naturally when a person cannot digest food or when his lungs are not open and free the breath is not pure.  The Sufi takes great care in his life as to what he should eat and what he should drink.  Alcoholic drinks and drinks made from decayed fruits naturally make the breath impure; even smoking tobacco has a bad effect on the breath.  Those who observe the mystical rules carefully even refrain from all flesh food, even from eggs.  No doubt white meat is preferable to red meat, for red meat has particles which block the channels of the breath.  This was the reason why the eating of pork was prohibited by the prophets of Beni Israel.  No doubt to the pure all things are pure, but in order to become pure it is necessary to observe the rules of purity.
 One must not judge of another person's spiritual evolution by seeing what he eats or drinks, because this has nothing to do with a man's evolution, for Shiva, the great Lord of Yogis, had fish for his food, and wine was given in the church of Christ as a sacrament.  Therefore no one has the power to estimate his fellow-man from what he eats or drinks.  But everyone who wishes to tread the spiritual path may observe the mystical law, which certainly enables one to progress speedily.  It must be remembered that it is the spiritual ideal which is the first thing to be held fast; what to eat and drink, and what not to eat and drink is a secondary thing.  Any dispute about this proves to be unnecessary. Gathas Number 5 Inner Ablutions
 

Gatha 1 Everyday Life Number 6
Vegetarian Diet
 The question of vegetarian diet is often discussed among seekers after philosophical truth.  Some people give no importance to what they eat or drink, and there are some who give more importance to it than necessary.
 There are two things which speak against flesh-eating; one thing is that meat, as a substance, hinders spiritual progress, and the other is that the unkindness towards the animals is a breach of moral law.  Speaking about the first question, it is no doubt true that meat causes two kinds of harm to an adept.  One is that it produces in man to a certain extent the animal nature; also it has an influence on the character of man.  The nature of the animal he eats certainly has an influence upon a man's character.  It was therefore that the prophets of Beni Israel forbade their followers to eat the flesh of certain kinds of animals and birds.  Mystically speaking, it clogs the channels of the breath, and the important psychical centers which work in man as the instruments of wireless telegraphy.  Morally, there is no doubt that it has a hardening effect upon the heart of man, which is meant to sympathize, not only with his fellow-man, but with every living creature.  There is no doubt that if all the people in the world became vegetarians, there would be no more wars.  A person who refrained from killing the lower creatures would surely not be inclined to kill his fellow-man.
 Of course, there is another side to the question:  Life exists in all aspects of the creation, even in plants; and if one does not see the harm done to the plants, it is because they cannot express themselves.  And, looking from this point of view, one can observe that life lives on life.  At the same time, the creation is a process by which the lower form of life evolves to a higher form, and the life used in this process of evolution is not really lost, on the contrary it is raised to a higher consciousness.  It would not be an exaggeration to say that the animal which is used as the food of man has been transformed from the animal kingdom to the human, which is really a natural process of evolution, the human kingdom being the goal of the lower creation.  However, this point of view does not help man, morally or physically, in his individual evolution; he has not gained by eating flesh, on the contrary, he has allowed himself to evolve more slowly than he could otherwise have evolved.
 The impression on the consciousness of man of having done harm to another creature which can feel pain as he himself can is not a good one; it blunts the fine, tender, and sympathetic feeling towards all living beings.  At the same time not every person who eats meat is capable of considering the subject philosophically, and therefore of giving an answer to his conscience or to another one, as an explanation of having caused harm to a living creature for his enjoyment.
 For many thousands of years the human race has lived on flesh food, especially in the cold countries, and the bodies made with that essence for thousands of years are so dependent upon flesh food that they cannot abstain from it without causing some harm to their health.  Man feeds on things of which he is made, and it is not, in every case, easy for a man to give up flesh food, even if he realized its disadvantages.  There are countries where there are deserts -- no trees to be found for miles -- and the inhabitants could not live if they did not live on flesh food.  For the evolution of humanity in general, uniformity is necessary.  If some ate flesh and others lived on vegetables, it would be as if carnivorous and herbivorous animals were living in the same forest.  Certainly people living different lives cannot live together harmoniously, and the strong must in every case have the upper hand.  Tenderness of heart will not answer the same purpose as strength and power.  Therefore it is a question how vegetarian diet can be introduced in the world.  There is another side to this question:  If the animals were left alone they would multiply and the herbivorous would become a prey to the carnivorous animals.  The tigers and lions and bears and wolves would increase and would be in search of man; so the human kingdom would diminish and the animal's increase.
 For those who strive in the spiritual path it is most essential to be thoughtful and considerate, and to be kind to the whole creation, and if they can manage to live a vegetarian life, it is no doubt very helpful to them.  It is not right, however, for a vegetarian to look at the flesh-eater with contempt and regard his own harmless attitude with pride.  There are many vegetarians who will prove selfish and unkind to their fellow-man, whereas there are many non-vegetarians who will prove to be otherwise.  Verily, charity of the heart must begin at home and then expand so that it may reach the very lowest of the creation. Gathas Number 6 Vegetarian Diet

 Then there is another aspect of self-discipline which is connected with eating and drinking: to avoid certain things in one's everyday food or drink, and to make a practice of being able to live without them, especially things that one feels one cannot live without. So you will see that there are adepts who live on a fruitarian or vegetarian diet without certain things that one is accustomed to drink, and are without these for days or weeks or months. Sufi Teachings Health and Order of the Body and Mind Self Discipline

 A mystic never restricts himself to a certain rule, for instance to the rule of celibacy, although for certain experiences celibacy is of great importance. But if it is necessary for him to fast, practice celibacy, live on a vegetarian diet, or stay in a remote place in seclusion, or any other such thing, he can prescribe it for himself and be benefited by it. The Path of Initiation Sufi Mysticism Mysticism

 The Buddhist religion has taught to humanity the sense of compassion for life in every form and in all forms. The central theme of Buddha's teaching was ahimsa parmo dharmaha. That was Buddha's watchword, and it means harmlessness is the essence of religion. And it is wonderful to see that, though mankind has lived for centuries on animal food, the first principle of those who followed Buddha's message was to leave animal food, to live on a vegetarian diet. But, one might ask, "Is that all? Is Buddha's teaching to become vegetarian?" No, vegetarianism is a principle for becoming harmless.
 The first step in becoming harmless is to become harmless to the 'one who stands next to us, to human beings. Very often you can be a vegetarian and you can be harmful too. It is recognition of brotherhood, even with the lowest creation. It does not mean that Buddha did not know the point of view of other great teachers, who did not make a remark on this subject. No, his mission was to create compassion in the heart of man. Buddha's belief was that the only remedy for all the harm that comes to man is harmlessness. And if you study all philosophy and ethics, in the end you will find this as the essence of the whole philosophy, that all pain comes by having no regard for the pain of another. It is automatic.
 No doubt it is grosser to say, "Do not have animal food and live on a vegetarian diet." A fine teaching on the same principle would be to be conscientious every moment of your life, realizing that, by a thought or by a word, by a glance or frown, by the tone of voice, by atmosphere, by thought or feeling, you might hurt someone. The Message Papers -  July 27, 1926