Meat: A Sikhi do or don’t?

It is said in Guru Granth Sahib Ji that one must go through 8.4 million lives/forms before one can attain the Human Form and work towards salvation and god. In other words, if we don’t work towards salvation in this life time as humans we must wait to go through 8.4 million more lives before we get another chance. That leaves the big question will eating meat hinder the process of salvation, help it or have no effect according to beliefs of Sikhism? When the topic of meat comes up often the Guru’s that took part in hunting expeditions are mentioned, also mentioned are the shabids in Guru Granth Sahib Ji that speak of meat eating and the final argument tends me of the nature that we humans evolved as hunters and gathers, so it’s in our blood.

Three of the Ten Sikh Guru’s (Guru Hargobind Ji, Guru Har Rai Ji, and Guru Gobind Singh Ji) are known to have gone on hunting expeditions. Everything from great lions to tiny rabbits were hunted in these expeditions. The wide range of animals hunted serves to prove that hunting was not done just for purpose of eating meat (who eats lion meat?) and to prove the hunting’s were not done for the purpose of sport (why would great Guru’s hunt something as little as a rabbit?). If these hunts didn’t take place for sport or food, then why did the Guru’s hunt? They hunted to give salvation to former followers or bhagats, which for one reason or another did not reach salvation in their human forms. This theory is supported by the sakhis in Tarkeeh Guru Khalsa and by Mahmia Prakash. Never has it been mentioned that Guru Ji ate the meat after the hunting expeditions, that fact has always been assumed but never proven. If they did eat meat how can it be justified? Some say that Guru Gobind Singh Ji might have eaten meat in the time he spent in the jungles but is that justifiable? No matter what the circumstances can Guru Gobind Singh Ji, the guru that sacrificed his family for the good of world, do something he didn’t condone just because the circumstances were tough? That fact just doesn’t sit well with me. There are only two ways about this, either Guru’s condoned eating meat or they didn’t condone it and they didn’t eat it themselves either. But like all other arguments this leaves us back at step 1, without an answer to the meat question. But it does leave one to wonder, if Guru’s did condone meat eating, where did the idea of not eating meat come from? One theory is that is how it was interpreted from Guru Granth Sahib Ji and other Gurubanis but is that really likely? Majority of Sikh history was in oral form and written decades after it originally happened. It is possible and very likely that for many years Guru’s Sikhs didn’t eat meat because that is what they saw the Guru’s doing and where taught by the Guru’s to do. And that was what the Sikhs did for many years and taught their younger generations to do. From there the tradition of not eating meat was adopted by the Sikhs. But once the Sikhs no longer had the Guru’s to explain Bani to them, the interpretation of Bani began.

The hope was that each Sikh would interpret Gurbani for themselves that is why Gurbani was written in a way that anyone knowing Gurumukhi could read it. Gurumukhi is a very easy language to learn and read. But that is not how it happened, the Sikhs got dependent on others to read and explain it to them, mostly granthies and kirtanias. If that was not bad enough, people don’t question what the Kirtanias and Granthies are telling them because they assume that they know more about Gurbani then them and thus have to be right. With less and less people reading Gurbani for themselves and questioning those that did read and interpret Gurbani a much distorted view of Gurbani has been created. Gurbani is easily manipulated for the benefit of others and if it is made to sound very logical, even less people question it. That is why today you will hear a lot of Sikhs say they listen to so and so Sant because the stuff they say sounds right. With Sikhs listening to the interpreters of the 11th Guru instead of the Guru himself, they have created many misunderstandings. One of those misunderstandings is eating meat. Yes, there is a Shahabad in Guru Granth Sahib Ji by Guru Nanak Ji that states “The fools argue about flesh and meat, but they know nothing about meditation and spiritual wisdom. What is called meat, and what is called green vegetables? What leads to sin? It was the habit of the gods to kill the rhinoceros, and make a feast of the burnt offering. Those who renounce meat, and hold their noses when sitting near it, devour men at night. They practice hypocrisy, and make a show before other people, but they do not understand anything about meditation or spiritual wisdom. O Nanak, what can be said to the blind people? They cannot answer, or even understand what is said.” That Shahabad is too often taken out of context to mean that we have Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s permission to eat meat because that is what we desire and that is what we see in Guru Nanak Dev Ji’s words, permission. But is that really what it is…permission? Another way  to interpret this Shahabad would be too say Guru Nanak Dev Ji meant what is the point of preaching that eating meat is a sin, if you keep on doing all the other bad deeds and if you keep doing all the other bad deeds, does it even matter if you eat meat or not? If it doesn’t matter why have the argument?  This is a small Shahabad out of Guru Granth Sahib Ji and like any other Shahabad the reader can interpret it in any way they desire or they feel is right. I personally have interpreted it both ways for myself, first giving myself permission to eat meat because of the Shahabad and then about a week later still not feeling right about my interpretation, I interpreted in this way. Because I was able to read the Shahabad myself and didn’t have someone else do it for me, I was able to think for myself. Often the case is whichever version of the interpretation that sounds better to a Sikhs ears is what they will accept and because the interpretation is so easily received and accepted their mind is less likely to doubt to question. If Guru’s Sikh sat down to interpret the meat question for themselves, they would have come across with more Shahabads in Guru Granth Sahib Ji that are often looked when the meat debate happens. When I hit the internet I found many a sites arguing the same topic which I had set out to solve for myself. But it wasn’t long before I found that both sides sounded too appealing, whichever side’s arguments I would read, I would believe. The deeper I searched into the topic, the more confused I got. Till I chanced upon Kabir Ji’s Bani’s which are not mentioned in many debates.

Kabir Ji was not a Guru but he was a respected Bhagat, so respected that his bani earned a place in Guru Granth Sahib Ji. His bani should receive same importance as any Bani of the Guru’s in Guru Granth Sahib Ji and over and over he says eating meat is wrong. “Kabeer, those mortals who consume marijuana, fish and wine – no matter what pilgrimages, fasts and rituals they follow, they will all go to hell” or “You keep your fasts to please Allah, while you murder other beings for pleasure. You look after your own interests, and so not see the interests of others. What good is your word?” There are many such Shahabad’s of Bhagat Kabir that call eating of meat wrong. That says only one thing, there has to be something to this not eating meat thing. Why? One, Bhagat Kabir was born muslim which condones eating meat, there has to be something wrong with it for Bhagat Kabir to go against the religion he was born into and say it’s wrong. Secondly, For Gurus to admit a bani into the Guru Granth Sahib Ji they must have agreed with it. Third and most important reason that is often overlooked, “Bani is Guru and Guru is Bani”. If guru is bani and vice versa, then what does it matter who wrote the bani? At this point anyone reading this should make some time to read the Guru Granth Sahib Ji for themselves and collect whatever pearls of wisdom they can.

If they are manmukh’s like me, they will have much trouble collecting pearls and will constantly question everything they find, is it a real pearl or not? To test authenticity of the pearl, they will put it through their own logical tests.

The first logical statement that comes to mind has to be, how one feels after eating meat and then having to do Matha-Tak. I have yet to meet a Sikh that doesn’t feel at least some guilty about going in front of Guru Granth Sahib Ji after eating meat. If it is something a Sikh feels guilty about there has to be a reason. Sikhs have always taught to hold their head up high and not do anything that lowers it. Sikhs are full of pride. The automatic guilty of eating meat and facing god is an automatic psychological answer saying meat eating for Sikh’s is wrong. This is one logical test that has to be done for oneself and decide for one’s self.

While you’re at the Gurudwara, stop by the langar hall and eat some langar. As you’re getting langar, check to see if any of the langar contains meat or eggs. Guess what? It doesn’t. There are many theories as to why that is, why meat isn’t served as part of langar. One of the many theories is that in the times of Gurus visitors were first required to sit together and share a meal. It is said sharing a meal creates a special bond, hence the huge emphasizes on meals. Meat was not included as part of the meal, that is langar, because it might offend someone that doesn’t eat meat. It would create rifts, not bonds between the people that sit together for a meal. Seems, like a logical explanation as to why meat isn’t part of langar but doesn’t solve the no meat mystery. There is a very well-known sakhi where the son of Guru Har Rai Ji baba Ram Rai misreads the bani of the Gurus and Guru Ji disowned him. If Guru Ji could disown his own son because he misread the bani so he wouldn’t offend the Muslim emperor. If Gurus were not worried about offending anyone and disowning their own child that, then why would they worry about serving meat in the langar, if they thought it was right? Nothing could ever stop Guru’s from doing anything they believed in, they would give their lives before they bent over backwards to please anyone. Nothing has ever stopped the Gurus, not political-correctness, not money. It is written in a few books that meat is not part of langar because it’s too expensive to serve meat. That is takes too much money to buy, store, cook meat. Since the day of Guru Nanak Ji there has been no lack of donations to the guru’s, whether it is in form of food, money, land or time. So if Guru’s wanted their Sikhs to feast upon meat in langar, they wouldn’t lack it. But that was the never the intention of Guru’s that is why none of the ten Guru’s allowed meat to be served in langar. Once again, nothing would stop the Guru’s from doing what they felt was right. It is sometimes said that the Guru’s themselves have feasted on meat. Guru’s have taught us to live life through their example. So why would they on one hand not serve meat in langar, on the other they would feast upon it as if there is nothing wrong with it? That is not teaching by example, that’s going against everything they taught. So if the Guru’s ate meat, they would serve meat in langar. The Guru’s ate the same langar as the sangat and even today we do the bhog of langar to Guru Granth Sahib, offering it the same langar as the sangat. None of the Guru Ji’s ate meat, nor did they ever attend for their Sikhs to eat it.

Are human natural instincts to be hunters and gathers stronger than Guru’s teachings? The final word on all meat vs. no meat debates, the final word is always on our natural instincts. We have evolved eating meat, so it’s natural for us to continue eating meat. God created us to be able to eat both plants and meat, unlike animals which are either typically carnivores or herbivores. But at same time God also made us the only form that is able to reach god, it is in our human form that we are the strongest to overcome our natural instincts. If we are able to overcome the million barriers to reading bani, to being faithful to our partners and doing everything else that our natural instincts don’t normally want us to do. Then why is it so hard to give up our natural instinct to stop eating meat? We are humans, we created to overcome our natural instincts and become one with god.

We won’t get this chance for another 8.4 million lives/forms to become one with god, so let’s not waste it. It’s time to stop listening to others, read bani and decide for ourselves on what the Guru’s taught. Whether the issue is meat, or anything else, only Gurbani can lead us on the right path. At this point I want to ask just one thing from you, forget everything you have read about eating meat in the last 4 pages, and read for yourself and decide for yourself. The last 4 pages I was doing the very thing I am asking you to do now. I won’t tell you what I learned through these four pages because that’s for me, not for you.                                                                                                                                                                                                       Waheguru Ji ka Khalsa, Waheguru ji ki Fateh!

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