Speeches by Youth
Part 2 – Is it OK to Eat Meat According to Gurbani?
Ardas Kaur (Yes) and Kiran Kaur Brar (No)
Video of Session:
Text of Speeches:
1 Ardaas Kaur:
|Mās mās kar mūrakẖ jẖagṛe gi▫ān ḏẖi▫ān nahī jāṇai.
Ka▫uṇ mās ka▫uṇ sāg kahāvai kis mėh pāp samāṇe.
Q1. When we as humans take on a cause, we seem to become part of something bigger. We practice random acts of kindness,, fight injustice, teach the next generation, and sometimes even start a revolution. But one of the most remarkable things about humans is that we possess the ability to reflect and reason. And along with that ability comes the application of it. But in doing so, We need to take a moment to consider. We as sikhs, are part of a faith that holds the truth at the highest value—- Our guru’s message is the simple, wholesome, defined, TRUTH.
And keeping that in mind, What one decides to eat and doesn’t decide to eat is a topic to be considered.
Let’s explore this further through deciphering the Guru Granth Sahib Ji.
baabaa hor khaanaa khusee khuaar
jith khaadhhai than peerreeai man mehi chalehi vikaar
Renounce the food that causes body illness and makes the mind filthy
Without a doubt Sikhism encourages healthy living. Our body is a temple that we must keep clean and healthy. Although, “Health is not simply the absence of sickness.” Health is a state of complete physical, mental, and spiritual well-being. But saadsangatji, let me ask you this, Does it matter if this can be achieved by both eating meat and not eating meat?
|maasahu ni(n)mae maasahu ja(n)mae ham maasai kae bhaa(n)ddae
In the flesh we are conceived, and in the flesh we are born; we are vessels of flesh
The Guru Granth Sahib ji states one thing in very clear terms, vegetarianism and non-vegetarianism by no means, share a relationship with spirtuality or religion. In a world where everything is temporary and in Maya, Guruji asks only one thing of us, that we not get lost in the worldly pleasures, over indulging on things that we absolutely don’t need to survive, this is an act of disciplining our bodies, And by disciplining our body, we are creating a platform to fulfill our ultimate purpose in life which is to discipline our mind.
jeea badhhahu s dhharam kar thhaapahu adhharam kehahu kath bhaaee
aapas ko munivar kar thhaapahu kaa ko kehahu kasaaee
Guruji says If killing a living being- taking away the beings’ right to life- a life that has been given to the being by Waheguru himself- can be classified as a righteous action then, what can possibly be worse and be classified as an unrighteous action
We call each other sages, while butchering animals in the name of god. Who then would we call a butcher?
However if we keep reading the shabad in the full gurbani context, Guruji is telling us that we are failing to see the precedence in this matter.
raam naam kee gath nehee jaanee kaisae outharas paaraa
He says that we have our priorities mixed up, we fight about the virtues of not eating meat and expend great efforts to show what is right and wrong,yet we do not instead spend our time contemplating Waheguru. He uses this particular example about the righteous and the unrighteous to highlight the level of hypocrisy our society has reached. Let’s not make guilt the foundation of our faith, saadsangatji.
Q3. Now this leads us to the question, for those sikhs that do choose to eat meat, where do the boundaries lie. There are many mixed views about Ritualistic forms of meat, those being kosher or halal.
According to the Damdami Taksal Sikh Rehat Maryada Code of Conduct
The eating of any type of meat is strictly forbidden and it makes one a traitor to the Guru.
According to the Akal Takhat Sikh Rehat Maryada
An Amritdhari Khalsa Sikh is not allowed to eat the meat of an animal slaughtered the Muslim way, but is allowed to eat jhatka meat, meat in which the animal has been killed quickly without suffering or religious ritual.
The semitic practice of eating the flesh of an animal cooked in a ritualistic manner is not allowed because of the belief that killing an animal with a prayer is not going to enoble the flesh. No ritual, whoever conducts it, is going to do any good either to the animal or to the consumer.
According to the Guru Granth Sahib JI
eik maasehaaree eik thrin khaahi
eik mitteeaa mehi mitteeaa khaahi
Sikhi is a state of mind. And although not eating halal or kosher is a practice we use to discipline our bodies, whether we don’t eat meat at all, eat only jhatka meat, or eat all kinds of meat, does not determine how strong our faith is.
Now, Sadhsangatji, Once we have reached the ultimate state of mind, where our faith becomes
so strong that it consumes all fear, doubt and uncertainty, why would we ever need to question
the relevance of what we eat or do not eat?
Q4. Many of us have heard the phrase, “You are what you eat” —used to emphasise the importance of a good diet as a key to good health. Food powers your life. It fuels all bodily processes. Food affects who you are, what you do and your ability to pursue your dreams and aspirations.
Now, whether one chooses to follow a vegetarian diet or meat based diet, is completely a matter of choice. Yet there are pros and cons to both.
The Human anatomy has evolved to support a primarily vegetarian diet. A vegetarian diet delivers complete nutrition and can provide health benefits that are less susceptable to certain diseases than the meat-based diet. A vegetarian diet also is helping conserve the planet, and home that we live on, because it leads to the decrease of greenhouse gas emissions.
While a meat-based diet may provide a better source of protein, may in fact help an individual fight many other diseases, and it may not be entirely increasing our environmental footprint.
The list goes on and on. Either way we are detracting something and gaining something, but the most important thing we are to determine is what we need and do not need to survive. And that is what matters most.
Q5 Vegetarians mistakenly elevate the value of animal life over plant life. Research shows that plants respond electrochemically to threats and may feel fear, so this might mean that being vegetarian is also killing plants. Every organism on earth dies or is killed, at some point, so others organisms can live. There is nothing wrong with this cycle; it is how nature works.
It does not necessarily mean that we should eat meat. Sikhism concludes no injunction against eating meat but also no advice to eat it. Why? Because what we eat should not be a hindrance to us, it’s as simple as that. Do we eat to live or do we live to eat? What is most important is less what enters the stomach, but more what comes out of the mind.
Therefore Guruji tells us to eat for solely survival, because overindulgence is diverting our attention, from the guru’s real hukam
Look into yourselves, saadsangat ji, try to find out the true, deeper reason that compels you to listen to your Guru, to find your true purpose, to connect back with the naam and see if it has spread its roots to your heart. Once you have attained this level of enlightenment, our differences and mistakes will not depend on whether we eat meat or not, but on whether our love for God is the source that fuels us to attain our ultimate purpose.
alap ahaar sulap see ni(n)dhraa dhayaa shhimaa than preeth
eat little, sleep little, and keep Mercy, forgiveness and love in heart
2. Kiran Kaur Brar
There is a lot controversy when it comes to consuming meat as a Sikh.
According to Shri Guru Granth Sahib ji,
ਮਾਸੁ ਮਾਸੁ ਕਰਿ ਮੂਰਖੁ ਝਗੜੇ ਗਿਆਨੁ ਧਿਆਨੁ ਨਹੀ ਜਾਣੈ ॥
ਕਉਣੁ ਮਾਸੁ ਕਉਣੁ ਸਾਗੁ ਕਹਾਵੈ ਕਿਸੁ ਮਹਿ ਪਾਪ ਸਮਾਣੇ ॥
Foolish ones argue about flesh, but they don’t about meditation and spiritual wisdom. They don’t know the difference between flesh and vegetables, and eating which is sinful.
According to the rehat maryada, kutha meat is prohibited. Regarding other meat, it is silent. It is presumed non-kutha meat is not prohibited for Sikhs. However, any kind of meat is not served in Langar.
I will make my argument to keep meat away from our diet, firstly, on the basis of its health implications.
There is also a lot of scientific evidence that human bodies, on a biological level, are designed to support a plant-based diet. Similar to herbivores, we have a stomach capacity that is 30% of total volume of digestive tract, a need for extensive chewing, carbohydrate digesting enzymes in saliva, and a stomach pH level of 4-5 since we don’t need strong acid to eat meat.
Our body does digest meat, but it comes at a very high cost to our health.
According to Dr. Davis, “animal protein is not one of the healthiest foods around- rather it is strongly associated with diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, and cancer, the primary killers of our time”.
Heating meat releases toxins which when consumed cause inflammatory response at the cellular level, along with containing carcinogens and heme Iron, which are chemicals directly involved in causing cancer. Iron in plants is non-heme and healthy for us.
Thus, we should stick with food that is healthy and easily digestible.
Bhagat Kabir says:
ਅਬਧਹੁ ਸੁ ਧਰਮੁ ਕਰਿ ਥਾਪਹੁ ਅਧਰਮੁ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਤ ਭਾਈ ॥
ਆਪਸ ਕਉ ਮੁਨਿਵਰ ਕਰਿ ਥਾਪਹੁ ਕਾ ਕਉ ਕਹਹੁ ਕਸਾਈ ॥੨॥
Guru Ji highlights the hypocritical behavior of the pundits, while giving us a message that those people who are killing animals in the name of God should be ashamed of their act.
Guru Nanak dev ji always criticized the insincerity of the pundits and those who were only religious outwardly only for show, asking them if they are truly righteous and pure and cannot hurt an animal, then how can they justify being deceitful to others?
Guru sahib is telling pundits if killing animals is a sin in their religion, so is taking the rights of others:
ਹਕੁ ਪਰਾਇਆ ਨਾਨਕਾ ਉਸੁ ਸੂਅਰ ਉਸੁ ਗਾਇ ॥
Guru Nanak Dev Ji elaborates on this in another shabad,
ਜੇ ਰਤੁ ਲਗੈ ਕਪੜੈ ਜਾਮਾ ਹੋਇ ਪਲੀਤੁ ॥
ਜੋ ਰਤੁ ਪੀਵਹਿ ਮਾਣਸਾ ਤਿਨ ਕਿਉ ਨਿਰਮਲੁ ਚੀਤੁ ॥
ਨਾਨਕ ਨਾਉ ਖੁਦਾਇ ਕਾ ਦਿਲਿ ਹਛੈ ਮੁਖਿ ਲੇਹੁ ॥
ਅਵਰਿ ਦਿਵਾਜੇ ਦੁਨੀ ਕੇ ਝੂਠੇ ਅਮਲ ਕਰੇਹੁ ॥੧॥
Guru ji is giving us the message that renouncing or consuming meat alone does not make one pious, one must also stay away from evil deeds, do naam simran with love, and purify our minds. Otherwise, keeping a certain diet may only increase one’s ego, distracting them from the spiritual path.
ਨਾਨਕ ਜਿ ਨਾਮੁ ਨ ਚੇਤਨੀ ਤਿਨ ਧਿਗੁ ਪੈਨਣੁ ਧਿਗੁ ਖਾਣੁ ॥੧॥
Sikh rehat maryada strongly rejects meat that is made in a ritualistic manner, such as kosher or halal and is considered a Bajjar Kurehat.
According to Dr. IJ singh, “the reason lies in the view that killing an animal with a prayer is not going to ennoble the flesh.” This also includes killing animals by reading the mool mantar.
ਬੇਦੁ ਪੜੈ ਮੁਖਿ ਮੀਠੀ ਬਾਣੀ ॥
ਜੀਆਂ ਕੁਹਤ ਨ ਸੰਗੈ ਪਰਾਣੀ ॥੩॥
Instead of doing jhatka(done by Nihang Singhs in war), which is a quick strike from the back of the neck in the spinal cord (where all the pain sensors are located), halal is made by killing the animal slowly from the front of the neck to the back to maximize pain .
ਕਬੀਰ ਜੋਰੀ ਕੀਏ ਜੁਲਮੁ ਹੈ ਕਹਤਾ ਨਾਉ ਹਲਾਲੁ ॥
ਦਫਤਰਿ ਲੇਖਾ ਮਾਂਗੀਐ ਤਬ ਹੋਇਗੋ ਕਉਨੁ ਹਵਾਲੁ ॥੧੮੭॥
Even if done reciting hymns or as a sacrifice to God, using force on any animal or human is tyranny and have no place in Sikhism.
As Sikhs, we must also question the underlying practices behind the production of meat. Today, a lot animals go through a lot of cruelty.
ਜਉ ਸਭ ਮਹਿ ਏਕੁ ਖੁਦਾਇ ਕਹਤ ਹਉ ਤਉ ਕਿਉ ਮੁਰਗੀ ਮਾਰੈ ॥੧॥
- In Bhagat Kabir’s shabad,
ਰੋਜਾ ਧਰੈ ਮਨਾਵੈ ਅਲਹੁ ਸੁਆਦਤਿ ਜੀਅ ਸੰਘਾਰੈ ॥
ਆਪਾ ਦੇਖਿ ਅਵਰ ਨਹੀ ਦੇਖੈ ਕਾਹੇ ਕਉ ਝਖ ਮਾਰੈ ॥੧॥
Guru Ji is reprimanding us for the obvious hypocrisy in murdering other beings for personal pleasure, but pretending to be a religious person.
In order to live a spiritual life, we must have santokh, daya, and dharam. Keeping meat away from our diet supports these virtues.
The purpose of life is not to life for the pleasures of food. A Sikh is content with his simple meal.
kbIr KUbu Kwnw KIcrI jw mih AMimRqu lonu ]
ਹੇਰਾ ਰੋਟੀ ਕਾਰਨੇ ਗਲਾ ਕਟਾਵੈ ਕਉਨੁ ॥੧੮੮॥
Guru Arjan Dev Ji reinforces this idea,
ਤਨੁ ਧਨੁ ਹੋਸੀ ਛਾਰੁ ਜਾਣੈ ਕੋਇ ਜਨੁ ॥
ਰੰਗ ਰੂਪ ਰਸ ਬਾਦਿ ਕਿ ਕਰਹਿ ਪਰਾਣੀਆ ॥
Guru sahib states delicious tastes to be useless, encouraging a Sikh to be content and live a simple life.
Guru Nanak Dev Ji further elaborates and explains the danger of indulging in various pleasures.
ਰਸੁ ਸੁਇਨਾ ਰਸੁ ਰੁਪਾ ਕਾਮਣਿ ਰਸੁ ਪਰਮਲ ਕੀ ਵਾਸੁ ॥
ਰਸੁ ਘੋੜੇ ਰਸੁ ਸੇਜਾ ਮੰਦਰ ਰਸੁ ਮੀਠਾ ਰਸੁ ਮਾਸੁ ॥
ਏਤੇ ਰਸ ਸਰੀਰ ਕੇ ਕੈ ਘਟਿ ਨਾਮ ਨਿਵਾਸੁ ॥੨॥
Guru sahib says, if we are distracted with all these relishes of the human body, then how can God’s Name secure an abode within the heart?
Along with santokh, we must also have daya and sensitivity of what we eat and where it comes from. We should not support infliction of pain on animals. Commercially raised animals today are raised in very inhumane conditions. They are kept in filthy, overcrowded feedlots and inject hormones to make them grow bigger and faster abnormally.
Many make the argument that if can eat plants, then why not animals? Although both are living organisms, the fundamental difference between the two is that animals are sentient being. A sentient being is one that has a mind; they have preferences, desires, or wants.
Plants are not sentient beings because 1. They lack sensory organs which enable them to see, hear, and taste like animals do. 2. Plants lack variability of response. Plants will react the same regardless of different scenarios.
Animals, on the other hand, have a conscious perception which acts as an intermediary between their environment and their many different behavioral responses to it.
There are many others additional differences that make the 2 distinguishable.
Animals have a brain and a strong nervous system and can feel a lot of pain, unlike fungi and plants which have a weak or no nervous system.
Animals have relationships and mothers who look after their young’s just like humans. Animals are also aware of death and will react when there is a threat to their life.
A hukamnama by Shri Guru Hargobind ji states,
ਮਾਸ ਮਛੀ ਦੇ ਨੇੜੇ ਨਹੀਂ ਆਵਣਾ |
Having a plant-based diet is good for one’s meditation and spirit. Eating meat can pass on hormones from the animals to us and biologically and chemically it is not difficult to see why.
ਬਾਬਾ ਹੋਰੁ ਖਾਣਾ ਖੁਸੀ ਖੁਆਰੁ ॥
ਜਿਤੁ ਖਾਧੈ ਤਨੁ ਪੀੜੀਐ ਮਨ ਮਹਿ ਚਲਹਿ ਵਿਕਾਰ ॥੧॥ ਰਹਾਉ ॥ (SGGS – 16)