I have taken the shakahara vrata – vow of vegetarianism

Vegetarian Curry

There are plenty of delicious foods I can eat!

Today I went to the Mandir and took the Shakahara Vrata or vow to eat vegetarian foods only. To many people who know me this might not seem like a big deal, I have been a vegetarian for many years, not eating any meat, fowl, or fish. However it has been something I have had to consider very carefully. The reason why is eggs. Up until today I ate eggs, as themselves occasionally but much more frequently as an ingredient in prepared food and baking. I don’t find it difficult to avoid eggs., but that is one of the reasons I have had to think about the vow so much. The vow will actually be harder for my wife than for me. She enjoys re-creating vegetarian versions of her mother’s recipes, and has found that one of the best meat substitutes to use for this is Quorn, which contains eggs. She also uses eggs in baking, and has found egg replacements don’t rise as well. As she is a Texan, her corn bread is very important to her. Of course I will be happy to just eat what she prepares that doesn’t include egg, but I know that she will often change her recipes and menus or even cook more than one dish. She is very considerate and would not leave me without what she would consider a proper meal. I have had comments on an egg-free diet, which I will discuss here.

Why not just eat free range eggs?

We should remember that the Hindu dietary guidelines were written at a time when all eggs were free range. Even the keeping of free range eggs involves the killing and disposal of male chicks and of hens when they are no longer productive. This clearly involves harm.

Keep hens rescued from battery farms for their whole lives.

This is very good, because it will actually give a better life to the hens rescued. It is making the best of an imperfect world. As far as ahimsa (non-harm) is concerned I don’t see any problem with this course of action. However the rules of the Saiva Siddhanta church say that eggs are forbidden, as do most Hindu sampradayas. If you follow a religion you cannot look for alternatives that appear as good to you. The discipline itself is as important as the rule. If you follow a religion except when you think you know better you are not following it at all, you are making up your own. For a few truly enlightened souls this might be a profitable path, but for most of us we have to “stand on the shoulders of giants”. There may be many karmic reasons for rules that we have not considered.

Taking the vow

I took the shakahara vrata at our local Mandir. I saw the pandit before arti and he said that what I should do is wait until after arti when the Gods have been summoned and then swear in front of Shiva not to eat any meat, poultry, fish, or eggs. He came with me and we chanted Aum Namah Shivaya together afterwards and then he said a mantra. I could feel the Shakti from Shiva and had an overwhelming feeling that Shiva was pleased and that I had done the right thing.

The pandit then said that it was a very good thing that I had done, and that Shiva had heard my vow and would give me the strength to keep it. He said that anyone who eats an animal takes on the karma of killing the animal even if they don’t kill it themselves.

Update

Since this I have filled in the Himalayan Academy Vrata certificate as part of the application process for the level 2 Master Course.

The Himalayan Academy Vrata Form

27 responses to “I have taken the shakahara vrata – vow of vegetarianism

  1. What about if someone else makes you a meal, say maybe someone not a close friend yet is an associate, and it contains meat? While I try to eat plant foods (and dairy products not made from factory farm cows, rather from farmers I know personally), whatever friends and family prepare me I will consume out of humility. (Is it humility, ot just a form of ignorance?)

    I’d like to go to a mandir, but I unfortunately have none nearby locally. 😦

    • Charley,
      I make sure everyone is clear about my vegetarianism. and I have done this for years. If something contains meat I won’t eat it. Now the same will be true about something containing eggs. Humility has its place, but not at the expense of breaking a religious vow. I work with many Muslims and I know that if they are offered pork by someone who doesn’t know they would not eat it and say straight away that it was against their religion, and I believe that Hindus should do the same. If you don’t do this where do you draw the line? Being served beef? Being taken on a hunting trip? The line should be drawn at knowingly breaking a vow. If you have not taken a vow and want to be “nearly vegetarian” then you are better off just presenting yourself as this (which I acknowledge that you have done).
      Namaste
      Chris

  2. In baking, some egg substitutes don’t work _at all_ but one thing I’ve found one that works even better than egg (really). For each egg in the recipe, put 1/4 cup applesauce in a bowl and stir in a tsp baking powder (not soda). It will start rising in the bowl. Stir it into the mix just like an egg. You can also use canned pumpkin instead of applesauce, especially with heavier flavors like gingerbread or chocolate. It will not taste pumpkin-y. I use this substitution in all cookies and people rave about the texture of the cookies.

    I have never tried it in corn bread, but I don’t see why it wouldn’t work. I think you could even stir baking powder into something like cream corn for a recipe like that (I haven’t tried, but I’m 98% sure it would work).

    I do not know any substitute for egg in dishes other than baked goods.

  3. Thanks for the above tip.I usually omit eggs and add a little more milk and a tablespoon of cooking oil and don’t bother about the texture.But it is a relief to know that one can also use apple sauce[is it pureed apple?] with baking powder.

    • Because of my mixed heritage and various familial influences, when we make a cheese sauce and want to thicken it, rather than use butter or eggs to enrich it, we add a bit of sifted flour and olive oil instead. It has an off-taste for sure, but most people I serve it to tend to like it.

  4. Deana, thank you for those excellent suggestions! I will try them. I especially like the idea of using canned pumpkin — yum! 🙂

    Sita, I make my own applesauce since most commercial applesauce has a lot of sugar. Slice apples which have been peeled and cored, and simmer the slices with enough water to cover and a little splash of lemon juice (1/2 tsp). When the apple slices are very soft, remove from heat and mash them with a potato masher, or you could cool them first and put them in the blender. Sometimes we have a few apples left over in the fruit bowl that don’t look so pretty anymore. This is a good way to use them up!

    Thank you both for your help!

    Kindest regards,

    Rosewillow (Chris’s wife)

  5. Well Veg v/s Non-veg has always been a conflicting topic for Hindus.
    I would like to say that a True Brahmin( by karma and not by birth) eats Sudh,Satvik,Sakahari food only.
    This is advocated by Dharma too.
    Meat and tamsic foods should be avoided as it leads to anger,hinsa and deviation from spiritual path.
    All Hindus should avoid meat and eat only vegie foods.

    Many argue that Kshatriyas are allowed meat but that is not true.Lord Rama and Lord Krishna were Kshatriyas and they never ate meat.
    I guess the meat eating in Kshatriya started in Kalyuga.
    But they too avoid beef,pork.
    I am a kshatriya and eat meat but would like to leave it completely some day.
    As of now i have taken a vow to not eat meat on first three days of the week. It has been over 4 yrs and not broken my vow [:D].And meat eating has also reduced to 5-6 times annually!

    Very nice to know that u have taken the vow.Best wishes to u on ur spiritual journey. May Lord Shiva guide u everytime.

    • Since when did Lord Rama become vegetarian? He was a kshatriya and it is a well known fact that he wasnt a vegetarian. Lord Krishna was probably brought up as a vegetarian because he was brought up in Braj Gokul. But he also took part in the Ashwamedha yagna with the Pandavs as a result of which he also had to eat meat…. stop confusing others by misquoting scriptures…. if you have to be a vegetarian, your inner soul strength should be the guide for that… and what about the himsa that you are doing to the plants and fruits that you are cutting up ??? when you are born in this world, if you ideally want to stop himsa then stop eating completely and give up living…. if you do not have the mental shakti or courage to do that … dont spread all this stuff

      • Many Hindu scriptures do teach vegetarianism. As far as avoiding harm to plants, there are some sanyasins who only eat fruit (which needs to be eaten as the normal lifecycle of the plant), but generally harm to plants is seen as a lesser harm than that to animals. I don’t accept the argument “if you cannot do something perfectly and completely then don’t do it at all”, every step in improvement and purification is something. Under most circumstances starving yourself to death would be an adharmic action in Hinduism anyway.

        • It is for a reason that Plants release Oxygen for most part of the day and Human and rest of animals release only carbon dioxide.

          Furthermore vegetarians generally don’t kill plants for food. Cereals, grains and pulses are taken out when plants turn gray(lifeless/ dies). Most of the vegetables and fruits are taken from the plants without killing it. Now please don’t compare it with examples like “leg of lamb or chicken…..” and etc. They(animals) can’t grow back their leg and other organs once clipped but plants can grow (fruits and flowers, even stems) back and this speaks in itself much. As for the roots, well yes you can avoid and many vegetation do.

          Regards:
          Rahul
          Bharat(India)

      • I think its fair to say shakahara (vegetarian) is not for you, but wrong to tell others that they are wrong and telling them to stop it. That is what the Christians do.

  6. well I am vegetarian(except egg) from some 5-6 years, I ahve been in UK, in central US, in NL I survived very well. Regarding vegetarianism I dont think it is mandatory anyway for any Hindu except those who read scriptures for themselves or teach to others. But food is divided in satwik, tamsik and Rajsik category and in Mahabahratra once when Pandhavas were in Forest there is a story of hunting. Pandhavas were Rajput by birth though we dont know what caste/varna they were by moon sign. I wanted to write here this point because it is essential for any person to know that purification is required for any deep thought, study , concentration etc and veg food helps us to do that.

    • Because of its rajastic nature, I will drink coffee from to time if I feel like I need to sleep in the middle of the day. Normally I eat as sattvic vegetarian, but sometimes an occasional pick-me-up is what I need.

      I am trying as hard as I can to stay on purity path, but occasionally when the tamas state hits me regardless, rajas is what I use to combat it.

  7. well, dining is always a pleasure to me, thank you for sharing the delicious dishes online.

  8. Read about the non-veg devotee Lord Shiva had here – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kannappa_Nayanar

  9. Namaste Chris,

    Congratulations on your shakahara vrata.

    Marcus

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  11. Well as Ardhnari said, there are days when I want some meat inside me (beef/lamb/mutton/fish), one reason being that I enjoy my food and the various world cuisine. I don’t see why I should deprive myself of the oh-so-scintillating-tasty-food-of-the-world. But, I don’t think that makes me any less a Hindu. I guess, come Judgement Day, I am going to be judged by my deeds on earth and hopefully GOD will overlook my dietary habits! 😉

    Peace

  12. con grats to a healthy way of eating, your right there’s alot of foods you can eat vegetarian style, eat good and enjoy life.

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  14. I am a pure vegetarian by birth. Though I have eaten eggs in between – because of the misconception that eating eggs would make me stronger – I no longer compromise on that issue. I do not eat if the food is prepared in a kitchen that cooks/serves non-vegetarian food. This is to avoid any possible mixing of plates, spoons, utensils either knowingly or unknowingly.

    If I am in the mid of a group that understands, I would explain the reason. Otherwise, I just say I am fasting. Actually I fast every Saturday evening and whole of Ekadasi (11 day of lunar calendar). In fact, Ekadashi is observed as fasting day in Bharath to give rest to the body and to bring calm to the mind. Some people eat only Satvik food on Ekadashi.

    I do not argue with the people that challenge the reason behind fasting or vegetarianism. I just smile and keep quiet.

    Om tat sat

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  17. allmovingparts

    Do you have any information on other vratas? My internet search hasn’t yielded anything other than marraige vows.

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