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