In his famous and priceless book The East and the West, Swamiji wrote a lot about food and drink in our country and other countries. Although it is a long passage, if we do not quote part of it here, Swamiji’s ideas on food will remain incomplete. ‘. . . There are several controversies over certain rules, both in ancient times and now, in modern times as well. First of all, from ancient times until today, there is a big debate about vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Does eating meat help or harm the body? In addition, whether it is right to take the life of a living being has also been hotly debated over the years. One group says, “It’s a sin to kill an animal for any reason,” while the other group says, “That’s bullshit!” Unless there is slaughter, how will the cycle of life progress? Even among those who follow the shastras, there is enormous turmoil because the shastras themselves are contradictory. In one place it says, make sacrifices to the yagna, while in another place it says, “never harm living creatures”. Hindus have decided that outside of yagnas it is a sin to kill and eat animals, yet after a sacrifice you eat the meat with impunity! ‘. . . The modern day Vaishnavas find themselves in a predicament because according to incidents in the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, their gods Rama or Krishna seem to be happy to eat meat and drink wine! Sita Devi had sworn to offer meat, rice and a thousand jars of wine to the Ganges! Also read: The only thing PM Modi and Swami Vivekananda share is their first name “Western civilization is equally divided. One group claims that eating non-vegetarian foods causes all kinds of illnesses and that vegetarianism is much healthier. The other group says it’s just fiction; otherwise the Hindus of India would have had no disease and the Western countries would now have disappeared with all their diseases. One group says that if you eat goat meat you will have goat brains and if you eat pork meat you will have pig brains and if you eat fish you will have fish brains! The other side says, if you have cauliflower, you will have vegetative brain, if you eat potatoes, you will have potatoes for brain and if you eat rice, you will have dull rice brain ! And that it is much better to have the intelligence of a living animal than that of an inert and dead plant. One group claims that the chemical composition of rice and dal is the same as that of meat. The other group laughs at them, saying the same must be there in the air too – so why don’t you just have air instead of food? One group says that even on a vegetarian diet, people can be healthy and work hard and long. The other group says that if that were true then vegetarian countries would have been stronger, but that is absolutely false. All of the strongest nations in the world are those that eat meat. Those who are in favor of eating vegetarian food – say, look at the Indians and the Chinese – they live on a meager diet, eating only rice and vegetables, and look how miserable they are. Japan was like that too, but since they started eating meat, they’ve completely transformed. Swamiji came to his own conclusion, which he presents to us in his book: ‘. . . After carefully weighing all the arguments and seeing all the sides, I believe the Hindu way is the best. By this I mean the principle that people’s place in life and the work they do determines what they eat. It is true that eating meat is barbaric and eating vegetarian is of course purer. So, those who only want to practice Dharma should eat vegetarian food while those who have to work hard and compete with all the forces of the world to steer the boat of this life should definitely eat meat. The modern Hindu, however, will not listen to the shastras or any sages. To understand Swami Vivekananda’s food, fasting, his love for cooking and his food philosophy, the two books to read are East and West and Paribrajak (The Nomad). He made it very clear to us that to really cook well, it is not enough to simply put the vegetables or the fish and the meat in the pot and put it on the fire. It is necessary to have an excellent understanding of the history of civilization and the philosophy of food! We know that from very childhood Vivekananda had a keen interest in food. We also know that one of his first book purchases was a book on French cuisine, bought in easy installments. What is remarkable, however, is that his interest has gone beyond Hindu and Bengali cuisine to Muslim recipes through his father’s interests, to European cuisine and American cuisine too, which he has had the opportunity to observe and learn personally over the past decade. of his life, an opportunity he fully exploited. Read also: Swami Vivekananda belongs to no one, stop playing politics on him Now, instead of commenting on his writings, let us directly quote what he wrote. “If the food is pure, the mind will be pure; if the mind is pure, it leads to permanent self-awareness – this statement of the shastras is accepted by all communities in our country. Although Sankaracharya refers to food as anything that enters through our senses and Ramanujacharya refers to food as the actual food we eat, the unanimous understanding is that both are correct – for unless we eat nutritious food, how will our senses function effectively? It is certain that bad eating habits will have a negative impact on the absorption capacity of our sensory organs. This is obvious to everyone. Everyone is aware that in the event of a lack of food, our sight, for example, can be seriously impaired. It is also obvious that certain foods can cause particular physical or mental problems for people. All the discriminations that we create about food in our society also find their origin in this fact, even if we often forget the essentials and fight on marginal issues. “India has a million and a half soldiers. See how many of them eat meat. The best soldiers are the Gurkhas and the Sikhs, who have never been vegetarians. The argument, however, goes on. A one group says eating meat causes indigestion, while the other says that’s not true at all – in fact, it’s vegetarians who always suffer from stomach problems. And just because your green leaves can aid bowel movements and induce purging, do you want the whole world to eat just that?The net result of the argument however is that only meat eaters have always been brave warriors, leaders, thinkers, etc. non-vegetarians said that when yagnas were performed across the country (sacrifice that everyone eats them as prasad) then only great intellectuals emerged among the Hindus.Now in the era of “babajis” there there is not a single great thinker. Because of this thought, non-vegetarians are afraid to give up their non-vegetarianism. Even among the members of the Arya Samaj in our country, this controversy persists – one group says it is essential to eat meat, while the other says it is a great sin to eat meat. The debate continues. “As long as the human race follows the principle of ‘the stronger is the right’, we will have to continue to eat meat or find a way to get the same nutrition through another diet. Otherwise, the weak will be crushed under the feet of the strong! Simply saying “X or Y is healthy and strong enough despite being a vegetarian” is not enough. Compare the whole class of vegetarians and non-vegetarians. This excerpt from ‘Vivekananda : The Feasting, Fasting Monk’ by Sankar, translated from Bengali by Malati Mukherjee, is published by permission of Penguin Random House India.