One step back leads to three forward

Shiva Family

The Family is important in Hinduism

There are times when the direct line of progress might not be the best approach, and a seeming back step is necessary to move forward. I wrote previously about how the shakahara vrata (vow of vegetarianism) was harder for my wife than for me, because avoiding eggs prevents her from using many of her recipes. A lot of her vegetarian recipes use meat substitutes such as Quorn which contains egg white. As time went on this continued to be very difficult for her, and the impact was making her feel negatively towards Hinduism. I delayed doing anything about this for quite a while, but when I realised that it was a continuing issue I contacted the Himalayan Academy monks. I told them that I was considering asking Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami to release me from the Shakahara Vrata, and allow me to take a lesser vrata which allowed eggs as an ingredient in meals cooked by my wife. I would still avoid eggs whenever possible and the flesh of all creatures. I said that I would understand if that meant that I would have to stop the stage two master course on being released from the original vow.

The monks quickly came back saying that they had consulted Satguru Bodhinatha, who had said that family harmony was of the utmost importance. Hinduism is very strongly family oriented, and for householders maintaining the Dharma of the household is a primary concern. He said that I should take the lesser vow, but still continue the master course.

If I were to uphold the vow at the expense of my family Dharma this would not be a step forward but three back. My wife feels that she may follow the path Hinduism herself one day but she is not ready to do this yet. There are many areas where I should make an effort to improve before doing something that mainly impacts my wife. Perhaps sometime I will take the full shakahara vrata again, but this time with my wife fully understanding the impact.

In the mean time my wife continues to avoid eggs in my diet for the most part, cooking an egg-free alternative if it is easy or when making ready meals. There are a small number of family dishes that don’t work without eggs, and being able to cook these makes a big difference to her. I am very grateful to her for trying to keep my diet as close to the ideal as she feels able. I feel that the “step back” of allowing a limited amount of eggs into my diet has been followed by three steps forward in restoring family dharma. I also think it shows how Hinduism is about spiritual development rather than laws and rules.

Let there be faithfulness to each other until death. This, in short, should be known as the highest duty of husband and wife. So let husband and wife ever strive, doing all their duties, that they may not, separated from each other, wander apart.

Manu Dharma Shastras 9.101-2. SD, 161

Satguru Bodhinatha Veylanswami

14 responses to “One step back leads to three forward

  1. Hi,
    I am a Hindu (by birth). I eat non-vegetarian food and also eggs. I still consider myself a true Hindu. I am glad that the Satguru Bodhinatha allowed you to continue the course, as that is what I was expecting to happen after reading the firs para.
    I would like to emphasis on the fact “Hinduism is about spiritual development rather than laws and rules”, that you have mentioned.


    कर्मण्येवाधिकारस्ते मा फलेषु कदाचन।
    मा कर्मफलहेतुर्भूर्मा ते सङ्गोस्त्वऽकर्मणि॥
    [Karmanye Vadhikaraste Ma Phaleshu Kadachana
    Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani]

  2. I’m glad you were flexible enough to consider your wife’s issues with her eggless recipes. It is indeed important to take the sentiments of the family along as long as they do not seem too extreme to following Dharma. There’s no point on being adamant on something when it directly breeds negativity in your life-partner towards Hinduism.
    An interesting event happened a few months back in our family – My grandmom who is now about 89 had renounced non-veg food and even onion-garlic around 35-40 years back. When she had a severed heart-attack and some other health problems early this year, the doctors advised her to include certain fish products in her diet. And I was amazed how she was flexible enough to follow the doctor’s orders without many complaints, though I’m sure it must have been difficult for her to start doing so.

  3. I was born in a strictly vegetarian family
    About 40 years ago, we all started eating eggs for health reasons and for being able to eat anything in the west

    You have to look at the big picture

    Veganism is probably the ideal, but non-achievable for most people

    Even meat-eating hindus, avoid meat one or two days of the week

    There is also the question of karmic gradient from cannibalism to veganism

    There is a heirarchy among Hindu meat eaters too

    First step is fish alone, eaten by Konkan coast and Bengali brahmins
    Next is fish-chicken-goat only, this is the standard hindu meat eater diet

    One step further is beef-pork

    In Hinduism, lacto vegetarianism is considered the ideal
    and milk is a preferred food
    In India, very many lacto-vegetarians have switched to lacto-0va vegetarian or eggitarian

    But these days, the dairy industry is full of animal cruelty and I submit that eating eggs is no worse karmically than drinking milk

    There is a hindu concept called apa-dharma or that in dire circumstances, dharma can be bent. There is a hindu text, that says it is OK to eat dogs during a famine

  4. I honestly feel that eating eggs laid by cage free eggs is no worse karmically than drinking milk

    The problem is that many foods have meat products

    Yogurt in the west often has kosher gelatin
    Cheese has rennet
    We do wear leather shoes

    Water was transported in leather-skin pouches

    Many of the Indian sweets have a silver wrapping on them and these silver wrappings contain animal intestines

    White cane sugar is made by bleaching brown sugar with animal bones

    And regarding beef, Nepalis eat buffalo and yak meat

    And there is a whole sect of Hinduism, namely Shakti worship that regularly sacrifices goats, sheep, chickens, and buffaloes

    All we can do is to minimise our karmic impact, we can never fully eliminate some karmic impact, unless one becomes a vegan

    • Thanks Shan,
      There are some interesting points.

      I honestly feel that eating eggs laid by cage free eggs is no worse karmically than drinking milk

      If you are talking about meat and eggs the way they are produced today then I agree. However if your guru has asked you to follow a particular diet then this in itself has karma. Departure from it needs his agreement, even if you do think that the other course is as good.

      The problem is that many foods have meat products.

      I understand that in some countries this is a real problem, but in the UK many foods are labeled “suitable for vegetarians”. This includes milk and eggs, which is one thing that makes avoiding eggs difficult. A few foods are labeled “suitable for vegetarians and vegans”, which means that they are entirely plant based. I am now seeing a fair number of foods labeled with the Indian “green dot in a square”, which means that dairy products are included but not eggs. Avoiding meat products is not too difficult in the UK.

      We do wear leather shoes
      Water was transported in leather-skin pouches

      This is a good point, most people do compromise somewhere

      And regarding beef, Nepalis eat buffalo and yak meat

      And there is a whole sect of Hinduism, namely Shakti worship that regularly sacrifices goats, sheep, chickens, and buffaloes

      True, but also there are many states in India where this is illegal. Nepal is a special case really, as conditions are probably too harsh for the land to support enough vegetable crops to support everyone , much of it only suitable for rough grazing. Avoiding eating beef seems to be the mainstream view.

      BTW bones are not used in sugar production any more.

  5. What I am saying is that dairy products are not safe either

    Cheese has rennet

    Many brands of yogurt have kosher gelatin

    and all male dairy calves are killed soon after birth

    Meat products are used indirectly all across the food industry

    Many cakes have lard

    All we can do is make a good faith effort to reduce our karmic impact.

    It is worth discussing with these gurus whether dairy products are OK, given that the male calf is killed after birth, and the dairy cow after its milk production drops

    There are no Goshalas in the west, except for ISKCON run goshalas, where old cows can live out their lives

  6. What good news! I’m glad that the monks confirmed that your effort is good. I love the title of your post, it’s so encouraging.

  7. hi Tandava,
    remember me? i have occasionally passed through your site, so have not been fully aware of your endeavour. i read of your intense efforts to learn about your spiritual self and progress.
    i was born to hindu brahmin parents. i have broken all my family ‘hindu’ rules of diet and worships etc. to many, i am no longer a hindu.
    i grew up forming my own beliefs, my convictions and my conscience to live an honest and honourable life. i swear by my beliefs. it does not stop me being a hindu. it gives me the freedom to better myself in my own way.
    hinduism is a way of life; and its strength is in its flexibility to accept diverse thoughts and opinions as we go along. being a hindu, I had the freedom to choose and be responsible of the consequences,
    if your goal is clear, and your efforts are honest, you have the choice – the freedom to decide for yourself. you do not need a guru or a swami or a priest or a mullah to decide for you.
    eating eggs will not make you any less a hindu

    • Hi Littleindian, yes I remember you.
      I think that if you follow your own path then you follow your own path, but if you follow a guru then you need to follow the guru. In other words it would be wrong for me to say that I was following Satguru Bodhinatha when I wasn’t.

  8. been thinking about this off and on the whole day. so been dropping in to read your other articles. in the past i enjoyed reading your views, today it feels different. and it worries me.

    it seems to me, i hope i am totally wrong, that in your strive to become a hindu, you are sacrificing your individual thinking self to become a true disciple. losing your freedom to choose. getting too focussed in outdated beliefs and rituals

    have you been to Rishikesh?
    the ganga splits into hundreds of tributaries on reaching the plains, but they join up eventually. regardless of which tributary you follow, the destination is the same. you have the freedom to chose which to follow.

    i believe i am so lucky to have been born a hindu. it gave me the freedom to ask questions. and the freedom to find my own answers. in my way, the strength to keep searching and not just go with the flow. the freedom to evolve my beliefs

    i have few questions I have never asked before,
    1. why did you choose to learn to live like a Hindu?
    2. the day you decide Hinduism is not for you, what will you be when you give it all up,?

  9. Pingback: The Guru and the path of freedom; a contradiction? | Western Hindu

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