In recent days, Ayurveda is being associated more and more with spirituality, hence a notion is there among people that, if you are on Ayurvedic medicines, you should follow a vegetarian diet. If one is a firm follower of practical spirituality, and if one considers Ayurveda as a serious medical system, then here is the place to explore the answer with detailed explanation to the question – Is Ayurveda vegetarian?
Why do almost all Ancient Ayurveda treatises explain meat?
Dr JV Hebbar
Like today, even in ancient times, there were both meat eaters and vegetarians. Small to moderate amounts of meat consumption, “in the meat eaters” has some benefits. Ayurvedic medicines with non vegetarian diet Meat is also used in certain Ayurvedic treatments and medicines. These medicines are useful for those who are accustomed to meat eating. Read related: Ayurvedic Medicine List With Non Vegetarian Ingredient
The prime example of the utility of meat in treatment is present in Sushruta Samhita.
Master Sushruta writes –
परिशुष्काल्पमांसानां गम्भीराणां तथैव च ||८१||
कुर्यादुत्सादनीयानि सर्पींष्यालेपनानि च |
मांसाशिनां च मांसानि भक्षयेद्विधिवन्नरः ||८२||
विशुद्धमनसस्तस्य मांसं मांसेन वर्धते |८३|
pariśuṣkālpamāṃsānāṃ gambhīrāṇāṃ tathaiva ca ||81||
kuryādutsādanīyāni sarpīṃṣyālepanāni ca |
māṃsāśināṃ ca māṃsāni bhakṣayedvidhivannaraḥ ||82||
viśuddhamanasastasya māṃsaṃ māṃsena vardhate |83|
Sushruta Samhita, Chikitsa Sthana 1/81-83
This verse is from Dvi Vraneeya Chikitsita Adhyaya, where Acharya Sushruta explains about the management of wounds with muscle and blood loss.
Acharya Sushruta writes
pariśuṣka – in a person with very dry, emaciated, debilitated body,
alpa māṃsānāṃ – in a person with very less muscle mass (due to injury, wounds, war, accident etc.,)
gambhīrāṇāṃ tathaiva ca – as well as in a person with serious injuries,
kuryāt utsādanīyāni – gentle massage with palm, (using nourishing herbal oils such as mahamasha taila, masha taila etc and herbs such as Apamarga, Ashwagandha etc.) should be done
sarpīṃṣyālepanāni ca – ghee should be applied all over the body,
māṃsāśināṃ ca – in those who are accustomed to eat meat,
vidhivat māṃsāni bhakṣayet naraḥ – meat should be given to eat, with proper procedure (after proper cooking)
viśuddha manasaha – The patient should have a pure mind, remain devoid of fear, anger, depression etc.
tasya māṃsaṃ māṃsena vardhate – By doing this, his muscle tissue improves by the intake of muscle (meat).
In this explanation, the phrase – māṃsaṃ māṃsena vardhate is very famous among Ayurveda physicians. It means, by eating meat, a highly debilitated, meat habituated person’s muscle strength improves.
Two things are important to note here.
This is not a general statement for all. This indication is only for people who are accustomed to non-vegetarian food.
In case of muscle mass scarcity, meat is good, says Acharya Sushruta. But in this day and age, for most of us, over-eating and food abundance is the main problem, not the food scarcity.
We have learnt that meat improves muscle tissue.
But the same meat, if eaten excessively can cause vitiation of muscle tissue in the body. Acharya Sushruta again explains, that vitiation of muscles lead to
arbuda – cancerous tumors,
arśa – hemorrhoids,
adhijihva upajihva upakuśa galaśuṇḍika – excess tumor and polyp growth in oral cavity and throat, etc.
Reference: Sushruta Sutrasthana 24/9
गुदमुखमेढ्रपाकाश्च; अधिमांसार्बुदार्शोऽधिजिह्वोपजिह्वोपकुश गलशुण्डिकालजीमांससङ्घातौष्ठप्रकोपगलगण्डगण्डमालाप्रभृतयो मांसदोषजाः
guda mukha meḍhra pākāśca; adhimāṃsa arbuda arśo adhijihva upajihva upakuśa galaśuṇḍika alajī māṃsa saṅghāta oṣṭhaprakopa galagaṇḍa gaṇḍamālā prabhṛtayo māṃsadoṣajāḥ
Excess non vegetarian foods leads to cancerous growth
We are in a world of food abundance especially in developed countries. There are numerous research papers which directly link meat consumption to cancers. One example from Reuters
Low meat, high vegetable diet is linked with longevity. There are again countless research papers on this fact. Here is one example
Excess meat consumption is also associated with other issues such as climate change – National Geography report
Considering all this, it appears to be the high time we reduce or stop our meat consumption and adopt a healthy vegetarian diet with lots of nuts, beans, fruits, grains etc., avoiding processed and refined foods.
For a meat-eater, it is not advisable to quit meat all of a sudden. Many of my clients who quit meat suddenly have complained of extreme fatigue and loss of strength.
Acharya Vagbhata offers the solution.
पादेनापथ्यमभ्यस्तं पादपादेन वा त्यजेत् ।
निषेवेत हितं तद्वत् एक द्वि त्रि अन्तरीकृतम् ॥
अपथ्यमपि हि त्यक्त शीलतं पथ्यमेव वा।
सात्म्यासात्म्यविकाराय जायते सहसाऽन्यथा॥४९॥
pādenāpathyamabhyastaṃ pādapādena vā tyajet |
niṣeveta hitaṃ tadvat eka dvi tri antarīkṛtam ||
apathyam-api hi tyakta śīlataṃ pathyam-eva vā|
sātmyāsātmya-vikārāya jāyate sahasā’nyathā||49|| – Ashtanga hrudaya, 7/48-49
It means, unhealthy food habits should be reduced gradually by 25% each, (for example, weak after weak / month after month) and healthy food habits should be adopted in the same manner – 25% each (weak after weak / month after month).
Sudden stoppage of unhealthy foods, for which the person is already accustomed to, leads to many diseases.
The concept of a vegetarian diet: In Vedas and Puranas, there is mention of non vegetarian diet and its qualities etc. The famous “Vatapi Jeerno bhava” incident in Agastya Maharishi is a classical example for the prevalence of non vegetarian diet in those times.
The Hindus adopted a total vegetarian system after Buddhism spread across India. It is a classical nature of the Hindus to be flexible and to adopt any good thing from any other religion.
Is Ayurveda vegetarian ?
Mamsarasa – meat soup is explained in all the classical texts as the best medicine for extreme emaciation. It reduces tiredness due to Pitta imbalance (for example working under the sun for long hours), ideal for those who do daily exercise, improves the strength of voice , skin quality, immunity etc. (Reference: Charaka samhita Sutra sthana 27/312-325).
Aswagandhadi leham, also known as Ajaswagandhadi lehyam conains meat as an ingredient, along with other herbs. [Some companies manufacture it without meat as an ingredient]
Variants of meat soup are explained as Vesavara in Bhavaprakasha, another classical Ayurvedic text.
Meat soup and other non vegetarian diets have been prescribed along with certain medications. For example, meat soup is a co -drink for the medicine Punarnvadyarishta.
Ayurveda does not say that one should follow total vegetarianism.
A non vegetarian diet has its own medicinal significance in Ayurveda.
It does not mean that everybody should have a non vegetarian diet. One who is accustomed to it, can have it and one who is not, may not have it.
One of the reasons why a total vegetarian diet is encouraged is because non veg is claimed to increase Tamas, which, according to spirituality, is true.
Following a non vegetarian diet will not have any bad effects on herbal Ayurvedic pills that one might be taking. One can have non veg, during his Ayurvedic medication period. There is no rule that non veg should not be taken while one is on Ayurvedic medicines.
P.S: I am a total vegetarian and am not trying to advertise / promote non vegetarianism.
The above article made an interesting reading but spiritually it is wrong. When Bernard Shaw was asked to take mutton soup to recover from illness, he replied, “I will not make my stomach a graveyard of birds and animals’.
Swamy Vivekananda said, football takes you closer to God than Bhagwad Gita. By this he meant that in order to do spiritual practices, one should be physically strong e.g. to meditate for 3 hours is no joke in Kali Yuga without changing the leg and hand position. So physical health is important but not at the cost of some helpless animal’s life. Have you seen how a fish struggles when it is taken out of water or how painful it is when a hook is stuck to its mouth while fishing. And all these activities keep us pinned down to this Earth with no chance for Moksha which is the true aim of our life.When Buddha was asked the way to Nirvana he said that HEALTH is the prerequisite for doing spiritual practices. He further said that one should concentrate on the breath from the nose to the diaphragm, while walking, standing, sitting and lying down. He told his students that if they practised that, then they would become very healthy. FRANKLY AND PERSONALLY I SEE NO JUSTIFICATION IN EATING BUFFALO OR ANY OTHER ANIMAL/BIRD FOR MY SURVIVAL. This is the opinion of the true masters. Lastly astrologer Linda Goodman had said that if you are eating non-vegetarian food from birth and now when you are an adult you can still wean yourself from this by staying on only mutton for five years then give it up and live only on fish. After this become a vegetarian and stay for five years and then become a vegan for five years and lastly become a fruitarian throughout your life and see the difference.
As far as my knowledge goes, in the book – Talks With Swamy Vivekananda, Swamiji tells that, – have non veg, no problem, exercise and build a better body first, and then go for spiritual practices.
I am a vegetarian. But I do not have a problem with people having non veg.
Do you know that when the vegetables and plants are plucked from the farms and gardens, they also do feel pain?
It is how the world works.
An argument – srinig467
You are just making some bogus claims.
1.If you choose to eat non veg its your karma, you will pay for it.
Your points are logical fallacies.
2.Animals are not food for humans or any other herbivore. By your logic, to a cannibal another human is food. So is it okay to eat other humans? God didn’t create humans to eat meat the same way he didn’t create cows to eat meat. BTW even carnivores pay for their karma they die very bad deaths.
This link describes in detail why we are herbivores with scientific proof and observable facts like the way we chew our food.
3.Non veg is tamasic. You have no knowledge of tridosha. Non veg has nothing to do with Tridosha. Tri Dosha is Pitta vata kapha…You seem to be confusing it with “guna” sattvic rajasic and tamasic SO PLEASE DON’T ARGUE FOR THE SAKE OF ARGUING> This proves you are just making ridiculous arguments. Just putting them in Bullet points doesn’t make them strong arguments. Either you are confused or you are just arguing to convince your own self cause you seem to be a meat eater disturbed by the facts I presented in my comment.
4. Again a logical fallacy. Citing an extreme case (even though normal) is not a sound argument. There is a reason why they say meat eating is one step away from cannibalism because all the justifications for meat eating can be used to justify cannibalism too. Many cannibals were living in remote areas and turned to cannibalism cause they ate up the animals in that place(tamasic guna which makes you only become worse)
Second Tawang Monastory through which Dalia Lama escaped is one of the coldest and highest places in the world. The Monks there are vegetarian and consume carbs. Carbs are considered the best food for cold regions. Especially in the form of hot soups.
Even warming vegetables are there. There are many vegetarian communities like Brokpa and Bon pas living in cold regions.
Even the west used to not eat as much meat. They started eating after the meat industry evolved and created factory farms and then they had to brainwash people to eat more meat to make profits.
5. WOW this is ridiculous. Ghee is Not Sattvic Its rajasic Its a myth its sattvic neither is sakkar sugar is a refined food not even natural. YOU THINK YOU ARE TOO SMART right hahaha no you sound stupid making such claims. Sattvic is eating whole food plants based diet lots of fruits and vegetables and healthy grains.
How can eating that destroy life Are you stupid or you think we are stupid?
I think I should stop here because you have been exposed as just lying through your teeth or you just extremely stupid. I can’t decide. You have basically lost all credibility with this ridiculous lies you are purporting. But I will continue for readers.
6.non veg rots in the system for upto 72 hours. Its a known fact that no veg is not digested well. In fact Muslims have told me they stop eating non veg when they fall sick as its difficult to recover from eating non vegan.
7. Who said in Asthma you have to eat non-veg? There is one treatment where the medicine is given inside a fish. And when that person was interviewed he said it was just for sensationalism the fish has no medicinal value. And digestion is really non veg. Wow, even non-vegetarians will not agree with you. Hard core non vegetarians also know they have to stop eating meat if they have digestion problems and they turn to soups without meat but maybe animal fat in it because Meat eggs are all hard to digest.
You are just lying through your nose Or maybe eating so much non veg and reduced your IQ
8. Again another logical fallacy. Sorry Balance doesn’t mean you have to balance good with evil. I hope you don’t apply this ridiculous definition of “balance” in another aspect of your life that is when loving your girlfriend/Wife or parents. What do you do? treat them nicely and then punch them from time to time to create balance??
Hahaha I guess not. Balance means to get all the food. IN food at least.
Never in any aspect does balance mean to balance good with bad.
To have a balanced diet doesn’t mean to include Junk food. It means you balance the Macronutrients That is carbs fats and protein and you don’t need meat to do it.
9. You are wrong All traditional grantha puranas forbid non veg
Watch this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecCPLt5rE58&t=311s
This is all result of Colonial scholars who wanted to introduce Slaughter houses into India.
10. What is this incoherent banter? What has that got to do with Nonveg
yes the world is progressing and look even the western culture you took refuge into make fallible arguments are now changing. They are going vegan(no dairy even) See the US govt Recommendation for physicians they are recommending Physicians to tell their patients to follow a plant based diet. Now what more do you want?
only people who eat meat will make such ridiculous arguments, I have observed.
People like you only do this to deal with your own dissonance.
@srinig467, as the person who replied to your laughable comment says, you yourself have clearly demonstrated that being vegan does not necessarily equal peace, serenity, and clear headed thinking. It is clear through looking at your comment. I was literally chuckling reading your comment before I even saw any reply to it. Also it’s clear that meat eating doesn’t equal an angry, negative disposition. It can be quite the contrary.
Now, for the readers, and especially for you srinig467, I’ll share my experience. I hope it brings some understanding to your enlightened, “peaceful” mind. I am what in ayurveda is known as a predominantly Vata person. Naturally thin, and physically (and mentally to an extent) not robust. Until I was 22 yo, I was a vegetarian. I don’t remember ever feeling strong, clear headed, and just alive in general. I then started eating eggs and eventually meat (meat infrequently and in small quantities) with weight training. There was a difference of day and night in how I felt! Eating protein made me feel strong, more mentally focused, and it cured my anxiety. It just made me feel way more grounded than I had ever felt on a solely lacto vegetarian diet! Another change I introduced not too long ago was having a substantial quantity of oil and fats.
So the point is that it’s not that eggs or meat take you out of balance and bring all the bad things, make you angry and blah blah blah. It’s about who you are, what your constitution is. I felt more angsty and irritated on a vegetarian diet than a diet including eggs and meat. Hardly something I would call peaceful and sattvic. On the other hand, including eggs in my diet has helped me become much calmer.
So people, stop putting dogmas out there and pigeonholing Ayurveda. Before I even knew about Ayurveda I experienced profound changes by adding eggs and to a limited extent, meat to my diet. So what’s right? My experience of how I felt and changed my life…or wrongly perceived teachings of Ayurveda that vegan diet is the best and it brings peace, strength, and health?
Another small point. I have lived in western countries. They eat a lot of meat. More than needed but that’s a different discussion. I do not see any undue levels of aggression in their behaviour. In fact they’re as nice as any other nice person on the planet. Nice, intelligent, rational, and clear minded. Just like you’d find someone in India or anywhere in the world. Think about that.
@srinig467; first of all good on you that you are a vegan….. first and foremost thing about spirituality is taking care of your body that your spirit lives in……. And Ayurveda gives u guidelines about the lifestyle u can opt and the doctor here he is explaining that beautifully……sattva is one guna( which u need more of) and rajas and tamas are equally important for life to function…..even earth wont rotate if there was sattva…!! If ghee and milk isnt sattvic then i don’t know what is…..i guess you were formula fed.
@srinig467 – Sir, at least you just confirmed something with a clear demonstration here.
A vegan diet does not bring by itself the inner peace and spirituality attitude one might be seeking for by only applying restrictions to one’s diet. And anger in one’s heart is not an exclusive byproduct of meat consumption.
Thank you for the information. I hope we do all find peace in the end.
Sir, this is a very important point that you made here, thank you. As I often like to think, Ayurveda is not a freedom restrictive medicine as if freedom restriction was necessary to find inner peace, it is more a balance finding medicine and in that particular way it helps me.
I have been eating meat since my early childhood and while on a ten years quest for inner peace, doing all that was recommended and BELIEVED to be the truth by so many ayurvedic practitioners and pseudo-masters over the internet, I stopped eating nearly everything that I liked and that kept me in balance at first.
And that drove me right into sickness.
Meat is helping me keep balance and when eaten consciously and rightfully, it helps me find inner peace.
I wish I would have found this article and some more moderation over the internet regarding the Ayurveda sooner .. but certainly wouldn’t I have learned so much about the complex being I am..
Thank you again Sir.
1. You have everything to choose for eating according to your situation, age, sex, disease, health, emergency etc. It’s your own mind & heart to choose according to. If you choose not to eat non veg, its your destiny.
2. All foods in the universe were created by God, and he will not hurt anyone except if any do wrong things like eating more or less etc.
3. Only you have to balance tridosha. If the environment is hot then dont eat hot food etc.
4. In some countries or locations, environments are not the same, some are hot or some are cold. Like India is hot and has variations of food according to. Western countries have to remain active by eating non veg & exercises.
5. Like more tamas food destroy life, same that more satvik food too destroy life. You cant eat always ghee, shakar, atta and contrary to it you too can not eat non veg continuously.
6. Practically old age people eating veg only are in worse condition to live compared to old age people eating non veg.
7. Sometime you get caught by asthma, poor digestion, you have to take non veg.
8. Always balance. Life is balanced, the universe is balanced, the country is balanced, the government is balanced, so are food.
9. All purana, granthas, vedas, samhitas do not exclude non veg.
10. Today life is more challenging than the previous one. Progress is not going in a linear way but in a multi way. You should have more power and strength to absorb these progression. In the end, you read a single subject but today you have to study lots like self motivation, business, money, relations, academics, new technologies even after you age.
I think these 10 reasons are enough to describe you. I do not intend to hurt you but try to lighten the subject.
At last 2 more things…humans can never decide what is wrong or right. Only God decides it. If he does not like it then He balance wrong thing with the good one.
Life is given for living with full forms. But he should have the right vision.