Dr. D.S. Chahal
Our super active, demanding world requires a healthy body and a sound mind if we are to compete and prosper. So good nutrition is paramount the key of good health is eating a balanced diet. But there are many food fads in this world:
—there are people who are against eating of any type of meat;
—there are other people who will eat only fish on Friday and no other meat, still there are others who will not eat meat on Tuesday or Sunday;
—there are some people who will not eat pork while there are others who will not eat beef but will eat any other meat; and
—there are still others who will eat meat only if the animal is slaughtered by certain methods (slaughtered by bleeding slowly or slaughtered by one stroke of kirpans —sword).
There are many conflicting views about eating of meat for the Sikhs. Dr. Santokh Singh Dharam, Bhai Randhir Singh and many others are against eating of meat by the Sikhs. But code of conduct issued by the Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee allows eating of meat if the animal is slaughtered with one stroke of Kirpan (sword). According to Dr. Gurbakhsh Singh whether to be a meat eater or a vegetarian is a matter of individual’s choice. He said, “A Sikh may have course, be a vegetarian if he wishes, but must not look down upon people who eat meat.”
People who are against meat eating are so because they think that killing of living organisms is a sin. They call themselves vegetarians because they think that the plants are not living organisms. If they are so, they don’t have consciousness because of lack of proper knowledge of the life. In fact every living organism whether single celled or multicellular, plant or animal has consciousness and is very well aware of conditions inside of his body as well as outside of his body (environment). They try to protect themselves from the adverse condition as soon as their lives are threatened,
There is another argument that the level of consciousness varies with the development of the organism i.e. highest in man and lowest in single celled organisms. But this is also true within the class of human beings that a man born in a highly advanced family who possesses highest education will have the highest level of consciousness than that of a man born in a poor family living in a ghetto or in a cave (there are still cave men in this world). Therefore, the level of consciousness should not be taken into consideration while deciding whether man should eat meat or not.
Plant and Animal
Sometimes it is very difficult to distinguish between a plant and an animal. For example, Euglena is an organism which has chlorophyll and like plants, can synthesize its own food under certain conditions. However, it depends on readymade food under other conditions and ingests food particles and excretes wastes like an animal. Guru Nanak explained this phenomenon as under to convince people about these indistinguishable characteristics of certain organisms:
“Only fools wrangle about eating or not eating meat. They know not what a flesh (animal) is and what is vegetable (plant); and of what eating sin is consisted.” (GGS, M 1, p 1289)
Classification of Organisms on their food habits
The Almighty has created various types of organisms who eat particular type of foods designed for their lives. Guru Nanak classified the organisms according to their food habits as following:
“Some organisms (carnivores) eat flesh.
Some (herbivorous) eat plants.
While others (Omnivorous including man) have many (36) products to eat.
‘Still there are some who live in the soil and eat soil.
Some are counted to live on air and get their energy from air.
But the Almighty himself lives on Nam (the truth).
However, the Giver (The Almighty) has arranged as above to give ‘food 10 every living organism,
Those who are not aware of His activities (laws of Nature) will be deceived.” (GGS, M1, p 144)
a, Earth worms live in soil and eat soil to extract organic materials for their food requirements.
- Most of the organism eats readymade food like carbohydrate, proteins, oils, fat etc. for their energy requirements and for building of their bodies. Plants are autotrophs which can synthesize their own food from carbon dioxide from air with the help of sunlight. There are some plants which can fix nitrogen from air for their nitrogen requirement and also leave some in the soil for other fellow plants. Similarly there are many bacteria which can synthesize their own food from carbon dioxide by taking energy from inorganic compounds,
When it is said that there are some who have 36 products to eat means that these organisms are omnivorous who can eat any food (flesh or plants). Man like other animals is an omnivorous organism who can digest any food but it is not so with plants. Plants are composed of cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin. The digestive system of the man cannot produce respective enzymes to utilize these compounds found in plants. However, the man can utilize the carbohydrates proteins and other products produced by the plants. On the other hand the digestive system of a cow can synthesize celluloses and other enzymes to utilize cellulose, hemicelluloses etc. from the plant. Therefore, the man was not created to eat plants but it is the cow and other herbivorous organism who have been provided with special digestive system to utilize plants, nevertheless, eating of plants for the man is recommended as a source of dietary fiber for better bowel movement and for medicinal values. Grains and pulses give energy and proteins to the man. But the plant proteins are incomplete and have low biological values.
It may be added here that there are meat eating plants (carnivorous plants) that catch flies and. insects in their specially designed leaves or other devices. They digest them to get food especially nitrogen and other organic compounds for their growth. Now there is a question to ponder over that when a plant is meat eater, how it could be logical that a man who eats plants could maintain himself as non-meat eater.
Is Milk a Plant Product?
It is very strange that those who have never objected to drinking of milk and eating of milk products (dairy products) are not aware of the fact that milk and milk products are infect animal products. Milk is synthesized from blood in: the udder of a cow. When blood comes into the udder through special canals (veins) the blood is converted into milk by passing through various chemical reactions carried out in certain cells of the udder, therefore, the milk is as much a flesh as the flesh itself and it is an animal product but definitely not a plant product. An unfertilized egg of a hen is a product very similar to the milk of cow when compared its synthesis inside the body of the hen. Contrary to milk eating of egg is prohibited for vegetarians.
In fact the milk thus synthesized in the udder of a cow is meant for her calf but not for any other animal’ including man. When a man drinks milk of a cow in fact he is drinking the rightful food of the calf. From moral point of view drinking of milk is the most sinful act because by doing so one is taking away the rightful food of some young one the calf. Gum Nanak has strongly condemned taking away the rightful article or Tights of others as following:
“Snatching away the rightful article (or rights) of others is equal to eating of pork to a Muslim and eating of cow to a Hindu.” (GGS, M I, P 141)
(Guru Nanak used the example of pork and cow because eating of pork and cow by the Muslims and’ the Hindus, respectively, is considered sinful by their respective beliefs.)
If rising of a cow to get milk to maintain our health is justified, it is equally justified to raise any other animals or poultry to get meat and eggs to maintain our health.
Those who call themselves vegetarians and drink milk, an animal product, are not in fact vegetarians at all, Because the real vegetarians are those who don’t consume any type of animal product including milk and dairy products and depend only on grains and nuts for energy and protein supply. As the plant protein is not a complete protein, therefore, they possess the poorest health and it is difficult for them to live healthy life for a long time.
On the other hand, Guru Nanak has said eating of anything including flesh, wearing of certain clothes, living in palace and being protected by armed guards doesn’t matter, what matters is the remembrance of the Name of the Almighty:
“What is eaten and what is worn, it doesn’t matter,
If one has not realized the Almighty,
It may be (dry) fruit, starch (carbohydrates) or flesh or it may be beautiful clothes, good bed and sex, or it may be army of soldiers, armed guards for personal protection, or living in palace, are all useless without the Name of the Almighty.” (GGS, M 1, p 142)
Dr. Piara Singh Sambi has written a very interesting article in which he has traced out the history of meat eating right from the Vedic Times. He reported that meat eating was very common during those days and ‘so much so that the guest was honored by allowing him to slaughter the cow for eating (also see Latif), From Sikhism’s point of view he has summarized it as following:
“Prem Sumarg Granth, an early eighteenth century work on Sikh social order, advocated and encouraged meat diet and hunting (Ed. Randhir Singh, p 6264). Sardar Kapur Singh, National Professor of Sikhism, in his, Baisakhi of Guru Gobind singh (p 70); Professor Teja Singh in his, Sikhism, (p 15); and Giani Partap Singh, Head Granthi of the Akal Takht in his, Gurmat Lectures, (p. 408) categorically stated that Guru Gobind Singh allowed Jhatka meat to the Sikhs.” The latest Hukmnama issued by Jathedar of Akal Takht, Sadhu Singh Bhaura on February 15, 1980 clarifies that eating of Jatka meat is allowed to the Sikhs,
To remove the fads or super Station’s about foods and beverages from the minds of people Guru Nanak advised that anything made by God for eating and drinking is pure, if you have recognized the words (teachings) of the Almighty:
“Eating and drinking is pure because God has created so. For those who have recognized the words of Guru (God) no food is impure for them.” (GGS, M, 1.)
Guru Nanak also tried to explain that synthesis of flesh and plant products are same because all these things are made from the same basic elements ¢.g. carbon, hydrogen, oxygen, nitrogen, phosphorus and other minerals with the help of water. Therefore, technically there is no difference between various foods whether these are of animal or of plant origin these products look different taste different because of different composition of the above elements in them, Therefore, a particular food differs from the other in taste, texture, nutrition etc., because of their different chemical composition, Guru Nanak explained the above fact as following:
“O’Pundit you don’t know how the Slesh is synthesized?
Grains, sugarcane, cotton and in fact
Everything is synthesized the same way as the flesh with water. Water says that he is good and helps every process of synthesis. Nanak says if you want to become an ascetic then think of abandoning of everything.”
GGS, M 1. p. 1290
Guru Nanak explained to the Pundit that the flesh is synthesized the same way as the plant foods or fibers (grains, sugarcane, cotton etc.) with the help of water. Therefore, if one wants to become an ascetic one has to abandon not only eating of flesh but also all other foods.
Guru Nanak further explained that certain foods may be good for some but harmful to others:
“If anything on eating (or drinking or smoking), either gives pain, or damages body organs or it creates evil thinking in mind, it is not suitable,”
(GGS, M 1)
It has been established very well now that there are certain persons who could be allergic to certain foods. According to Dr. Samuel Freedman, Vice Principal of McGill University and Senior Physician at the Montreal General Hospital, in most severe cases the effected person goes into anaphylactic shock and dies by eating certain foods which are otherwise very good for health. The effect of such allergic foods is that the body releases large amount of histamine which causes the throat and tongue to swell and the blood pressure drops rapidly and finally the death. Dr. Freedman also said that it is hard in any given case to determine exactly what causes the fatal reaction an obstruction in breathing or the sudden drop in blood pressure (The Montreal Gazette, March 21, 1988).
According to the Allergy Information Association the top 10 food allergies are as following: Milk, wheat, eggs, fish, shellfish, walnuts (and other nuts from trees), peanuts (and other legumes) corn, food additives e.g. sulphite, monosodium glutamate and atrazine (a food dye) and alcohol. The allergic reactions include itching, tearing eyes, sneezing, tingling in the mouth and throat, asthma, and death. Keeping in view the above information one can easily conclude how correct the Sikh philosophy about eating foods is. Accordingly it is not only eating of flesh is harmful or sinful but eating of any other food which is otherwise not considered sinful could be fatal to certain people who are allergic to such foods. Therefore, Guru Nanak did not name any food which could be sinful, harmful or useful when eaten but made a universal rule that any food which on eating gives pain or damages body organs or creates evil thinking is not good.
Guru Nanak also condemned over eating:
“It is harmful for health to eat such things or to such an extent which increase obesity.” (GGS, M 1, p 790)
(Obesity is the root cause of many diseases.)
Finally all the superstitions about the purity and impurity of foods were removed by saying:
“All the impurities (described by Brahmins) of foods and impurities transmitted through physical touch of the low caste (how clean he may be) are nothing but superstitions. A (GGS, M I, p 742)
The above discussion leads us to the conclusion that The Sikh Gurus made the people aware of the fact that it is very difficult to distinguish between a plant and an animal, therefore, it is difficult to distinguish between a vegetarian and non-vegetarian diets. One has to find himself or through the help of food specialists to find a perfect food to keep one’s body physically fit and mentally sound to lead a perfect life.
Dr. Chahal is Professor of Applied Microbiology at the University of Quebec, Canada. This extract forms part of Dr. Chahal’s forthcoming book, “Scientific version of Sikhism.”
Article extracted from this publication >> October 21, 1988