Sunday, July 2, 2017

Sathya Sai on meat-eating: "leads to demonic tendencies"

Given below are my recent comments on sister Selvi Samuvael 's post, https://www.facebook.com/selvi.samuvael/posts/1744097855624399. [Note I have given only my comments. Those who want to read the full exchange should visit the Facebook post I mentioned.]

Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
In my view, it is important in this immediate post-Mahasamadhi decade that writers like sister Selvi Samuvael keep Swami's words alive in social media and elsewhere through posts sharing authentic and publicly expressed views of (physical form) Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

Some people like Muddenahalli group are trying to dilute Bhagavan's teachings to make it more palatable to a larger audience (though not in this particular matter of meat-eating, as far as I know). I strongly disapprove of such dilution. Those who want to propagate a diluted form of Bhagavan's teachings can do so in their OWN NAME and not by misusing the HOLY NAME of Bhagavan Sri Sathya Sai Baba.

There is no doubt that Bhagavan wanted his devotees to abstain from meat-eating, alcohol and smoking. However, Bhagavan was also compassionate. So he would not drive away people who wanted to be devoted to him but had some weakness for these habits. He allowed them to enjoy his DIVINE satsang/company and perhaps hoped that eventually that would enable them to abstain from these habits.
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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
About the "demon" bit: Bhagavan may have used that term in a jocular way. I don't think Bhagavan would approve of emphasis on characterising those Sai devotees who eat chicken as demons.

Even in outside ashram Puttaparthi, while the eateries outside do not serve meat typically, there are many who cook meat at their homes/flats. Many of such persons revere Sathya Sai but their family traditions involve meat eating and so they follow it. I have no issues at all in interacting with such persons in outside-ashram Puttaparthi. I find some of them to be very good people.
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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
About meat-eating in general: Sister Selvi has written in the context of Sai devotees eating meat and not in a general context. But I felt it appropriate to share these views of mine. Those who are not interested in this comment may please skip reading (rest of) it.

In general, meat-eating in India is common, even among Hindus! As far as I know, meat-eating is prohibited by tradition only among Hindu Brahmins, who are a minority among Hindus, even though they are viewed (for millennia) as protectors and propagators of Hindu faith and Hindu traditions.

I am quite sure that most of the Indian armed forces and the Indian police forces eat meat. I am very grateful to the Indian armed forces and the Indian police forces as they are the people who protect law-abiding Indians like me and enable us to have a largely peaceful life. If they like meat and perhaps feel that it provides them muscular strength and mental aggression needed to combat enemies of India and criminals in India then who am I to say anything to them about their meat-eating? Besides, the Indian constitution and Indian law provides freedom of meat-eating to all Indians, if they want to do so. I support that food-choice provided by Indian constitution and Indian law.

A personal note: I am a Hindu Brahmin. Meat was not cooked in my home and I think my (late) parents never ever ate meat. But, after I went abroad in my early twenties (to Brussels, Belgium in mid-1980s) for a long assignment of around a year and a quarter, I took to meat eating. This continued after I came back to India (though never ever at home) and in my other foreign visits (USA & Europe mainly). I discontinued meat-eating in my late twenties/early thirties as my life took a decisive turn to the spiritual - this was before I came to know of Sathya Sai and became his devotee. I have not (knowingly) eaten meat since.
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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Well, sister Selvi Samuvael, when people read the words, 'demon' and 'evil', they think of very scary things. And there are demonic and evil people in this world who have no hesitation in killing or maiming innocent people.

While I do understand your stand that Baba has used the word and you are just reproducing it, perhaps as a writer about Baba and his teachings, you may want to be more sensitive to the feelings of some readers who get upset at seeing words like demon and evil in the context of meat-eating.

[Update: Please see later comment of mine in this post where I have quoted a discourse of Swami, where Swami says meat eating "leads to demonic tendencies". end-Update]

Baba would have used the word in a certain context. I don't recall him being publicly critical of meat-eaters as demons in the years I had the privilege and blessing of being in His physical presence in Sai Kulwant Hall on an almost daily basis (whenever he was in Prasanthi Nilayam), from Oct. 2002 to Mar. 2011. Note that, at that time, many top leaders from various fields in life, from India and abroad, came to have His darshan. Some of these leaders would surely have been meat-eaters. It would have been very embarrassing to them had Baba publicly called meat-eaters demons then. I mean, Baba was very sensitive to context in such matters.

And I think if he did use the word demon for meat-eaters it would have been in the context of Sai devotees and NOT the general people. Sai devotees treated Swami as father and mother. They gave him that authority to order them and to severely criticize them when Swami felt so, as they trusted him and knew that he only wanted their eventual good and their eventual spiritual progress.

From some comments you made here, I get the impression you are implying (or perhaps saying) that Baba referred to all meat-eaters, whether Sai devotee or not, as demons (and evil). Is that what you are trying to say/convey?
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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Thanks sister for your response. Drinking alcohol and demon are used together quite often, I think, and so will not ruffle that many feathers, I think.
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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Sister Selvi Samuvael, I searched online (sssbpt.info) for quotes about Swami linking meat-eating to demons. Here's one relevant discourse, given on his birthday, on 23-11-1994 in Poornachandra auditorium, http://www.sssbpt.info/ssspeaks/volume27/sss27.pdf. The relevant extracts from it are given below. [Note that the pdf file seems to have erroneously used the word caring instead of eating, which may have happened due to Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology being used to convert the printed discourse to pdf electronic file.]

--- start extracts from Swami discourse ---
Eschew meat, liquor and smoking

Today, let it be anyone, whether one deems himself a devotee or not, he should give up meat caring [eating]. Why? Meat eating promotes only animal qualities. It has been well said that the food one consumes determines one's thoughts. By caring [eating] the flesh of various animals, the qualities of these animals are imbibed. How sinful is it to feed on animals, which are sustained by the same five elements as human beings! This leads to demonic tendencies, besides committing the sin of inflicting cruelty on animals. Hence, those who genuinely seek to become devotees of God have to give up non-vegetarian food. Calling themselves Sai devotees or devotees of Raama and Krishna, they fatten on chicken. How can they be deemed Sai devotees? How can God accept such a person as a devotee? Therefore, whether they are devotees in India or outside, they should give up from this instant meat eating.

[Omitting next paras dealing with alcohol and tobacco.]
...

[Concluding words of Swami discourse:]

Embodiments of Love! You are deeming this day as the sixty ninth birthday of Svaami. I have no desire to celebrate such birthdays. As I was coming I was greeted by many wishing Me "Happy Birthday" I am always happy Why should anyone wish "Happy Birthday" for Me? Be happy yourselves. Your happiness is My happiness.

Today, as an offering to Svaami, give up meat eating, consuming liquor and smoking. By renouncing these three, you will benefit yourselves as well as society and the nation. Svaami's sole aim is to promote the welfare of the family, the society and the nation. If you wish to carry out Svaami's aim, renounce from this moment itself these three bad practices. Do not put if off to tomorrow. Take the resolve from this moment. Expecting that you will carry out Svaami's wish and thereby promote the well being of your family and the nation, I bless all of you.
--- end extracts from Swami discourse ---

Ravi: As it is a birthday discourse, there would have been VVIPs in the audience, some of whom would surely have been meat-eaters. So the embarrassment issue that I had mentioned in one of my previous comments would be there - I intend to update that comment to refer to this current comment.

Swami has used very strong words against meat-eating. He has said that it leads to "demonic tendencies". He has not been concerned about any embarrassment it would have caused to, I guess, some of the VVIP guests who would have been meat eaters and may have been attentively listening to Swami's discourse. BUT he did NOT refer to meat-eaters as demons, in this discourse at least. I think it is one thing to say that meat eating induces demonic tendencies (and so one should avoid it), and quite another (much stronger) to say that meat-eaters are demons!

Given this information, I think sister Selvi, you are being faithful to Swami by reproducing Swami's strong words against meat-eating. However, if you used a discourse like the one I have quoted above as the basis for your post, then perhaps you may want to consider using the words "leads to demonic tendencies" instead of demons, when mentioning Swami's words on meat-eating/meat-eaters. But if you do have the discourse(s)/public writings (as against personal note) where Swami says meat-eaters are demons, especially if it is a BIG discourse delivered in presence of VVIPs like a birthday discourse, then I think it is fair for you to say so (Swami saying meat-eaters are demons) in your posts.
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Given below are some comments from my Facebook post,
https://www.facebook.com/ravi.s.iyer.7/posts/1931670013716233, associated with this post.

--Name-snipped-- wrote:
Interesting post on meat eating. I always give comments based on my personal experiences. My (late) parents & i are not only sai devotees, also pure vegetarians. In this context, i wish to point out, i have friends who are meat eaters, who have a drink, who parties, they are non - sai devotees, but Very Good Human Beings. I'm indeed fortunate to have such lovely friends in my life. I have also come across vegetarian people who have only demonic nature in them, no trace of human qualities. My private view is, i don't like animals to get killed. They have the right to live.
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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
You put it strongly but I think your words in this sentence cannot be said to be false: "I have also come across vegetarian people who have only demonic nature in them, no trace of human qualities."
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Ravi S. Iyer wrote:
Though I also need to say that we may be viewing jealousy leading to spiteful behaviour as demonic, whereas Swami may be referring to much nastier things like physical beatings and killings.
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--Name-snipped-- wrote:
I agree with you. It's possible.
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