Guest post by Sonal Chauhan. Learn more about Sonal here.
Brown girl probs #598: realizing chicken nugs might taste delicious, but are not good for the soul. Literally.
The holy Hindu text known as the Bhagvad Gita reads, “Just as a man discards worn out clothes and puts on new clothes, the soul discards worn out bodies and wears new ones.” This is a scripture pertaining to the essence of a core Hindu belief: reincarnation. As I continue to explore the complexities of my Hindu religion I not only understand but also now wholeheartedly believe that the human immortal soul takes birth–time and time again–and that the affects of the soul’s past actions determines the “path” (or fate?) of reincarnation of that soul. Hinduism does not accept the premise that human beings can overcome all their imperfections in just one lifetime and return to their Creator as liberated souls.
With that said, I have recently began to question many of my own actions and choices, even the most “normal” ones that I never thought twice about, one of them being my consumption of meat. To break it down simply: eating meat = animal cruelty = unjust acts as an immortal to your own kind. Furthermore, Hindu beliefs convey the notion that eating meat = blocked consciousness because gross matter within = barrier to the soul’s ability to reflect through the cycles of reincarnation with clarity in order to ultimately achieve liberation.
Being raised in America as a child of Indian immigrant parents, I was one of the lucky ones whose parents attempted to strike a balance between exposing and strictly enforcing the Indian religion and culture. They exposed my sisters and me to our religion by explaining our scriptures and having us attend temple until we were “of age” to make our very own choices about which paths we wanted to take. Eventually and fairly later in my upbringing, I finally made my personal choice to become more invested in learning about Hinduism as a result of feeling a strong resonance to many of the ideals that are based on the most basic concepts of “spirituality (n) – the quality of being concerned with the human spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.”
I had always understood to not eat the forbidden red meat known as beef because if I was going to classify myself as even just liberally religious, I needed to have respect for the cow–the worshiped and holy animal among the Hindu gods. Avoiding meat during our week-long religious holiday as a form of holy fasting was never even quite a challenge to me except for the occasional chicken nugget craving that I had to fight through (serving as a perfect example of embodying the value of holy fasting anyway). This led me to believe that I could most certainly become a vegetarian forever. While it’s also daunting to think of the “limited” options I would have at a BBQ or to have to give up delicious buffalo chicken pizza, I have become more than acutely aware how ridiculous that concern is compared to my strong conviction of my faith and committed spiritual belief in reincarnation.
As a result of further educating myself on the topic of how vegetarianism positively influences the soul’s reincarnation cycle, what resonated with me the most is belief that non-vegetarians ultimately struggle with reflecting and learning from the worlds the souls have existed in – an essential process that progresses the soul through reincarnation until liberation of itself is achieved. I have understood that once the immortal clearly recognizes its soul’s past lives, the individual will comprehend and wholeheartedly believe that all of existence is related, thus bringing your soul one step closer to liberation, to nirvana. And with that, I am further compelled to become a vegetarian because who here doesn’t want to achieve nirvana?