These are just my thoughts on how a simple thing like becoming a vegetarian can help dissipate violent thoughts and negative emotions. Almost all great spiritual leaders in the world have spoken against violence and have endorsed non-violence in daily living and thinking. As Laughter Yoga is based on unconditional love and an inner spirituality of a sort, it can be an important tool to dispel destructive thoughts and change one’s attitude towards life.
Why I Became Vegetarian
Before booking any flight, I give standing instructions to my travel agent to order vegetarian meals for me. I don't eat chicken, fish or beef, but I take eggs, milk and cheese. Earlier, there were times when I had non-vegetarian food, but now it is almost more than 15 years since I became a complete Vegetarian.
The root of vegetarianism has come from my family. In fact, my mother did not even allow it to be cooked in her kitchen. It could only be made in the courtyard outside the house, with a separate set of utensils! While the women in my family are strictly vegetarian, the men eat meat twice or thrice in a month. When I was a child, my brother encouraged me to eat chicken, but my mother always asked me not to. Maybe, this was the reason that I never really developed a taste for non- vegetarian food.
In the 90s, when I gave up eating meat completely, no one was happier than my mother. Often people ask me what made me take this decision. I tell them it’s because I love life. Gopal Mehta, a friend in Mumbai, who is a strict vegetarian himself, told me something very profound. He said, “Madan, if you cannot kill the animal yourself, you have no right to eat them.” It was that day, I decided to become a total vegetarian.
Why More Indians are Vegetarian
Vegetarianism has evolved through years and is an integral part of Indian culture, which has something to do with the principle of Non-Violence. If you study the history of India, it has been subjected to several invasions by foreign rulers, but has never retaliated violently. In fact, it is the only country which has never invaded or colonized another country.
The credit goes to the core Indian ethos of non-violence. We call it Ahimsa in Sanskrit. Himsa means violence or to kill or to hurt, while Ahimsa means absence of violence. Our greatest hero, Mahatma Gandhi, liberated India from the British rule only with his philosophy of non-violence. The weakness of Indians was that they were not great fighters. Gandhi turned this weakness into the greatest strength. Our war of Independence was perhaps the only one in the world fought without resistance and with the policy of non-violence. Interestingly, Gandhi was a vegetarian!
Root Cause of Violence is Greed
Violence comes from our ego mind which is a false mind and has selfish tendencies, insecurities, fear, hatred, aggression and competition. It is entirely centered on the self and believes the only way to happiness is through acquisitions of power and material possessions.
After one has fulfilled all the basic needs, one struggles for more comfort and kuxuries which is the need of the egocentric mind. Gandhi once said that there is enough in this world for the need of everyone; but not for the greed of anyone. If we observe our life, we all have very few needs, but we build more and more needs which perpetrate violence in many forms. Down history, it has been proved that a many a war has been fought just to acquire more.
By becoming vegetarian and deciding not to kill animals, is just one way to practice non-violence. Some amount of violence is unavoidable, as it is necessary for survival. Our daily chores like cooking, eating, walking and cleaning involve killing of some form of life. Therefore, if we keep our needs to the minimum; it will not involve much violence. But, if our needs become greed; it will lead to more violence. Today, the aggression at international levels is a mere extension of Greed and ever-increasing wants.
In our first Laughter and Silence Retreat in Melbourne, Australia, we contemplated the difference between needs and wants. Needs are basic and are required for survival, while wants are optional. It is something we would like to have if we can afford or have the resources. If we have more wants and desires, it will cause mental stress which will increase negative emotions like anger and frustration which can be responsible for non-violent behavior.
Non-violence of a Different Kind
There are three kinds of Violence:
Violence of Thoughts
Violence of Words
Violence of Deeds or Actions
Therefore, our MISSION should be to:
Watch our Thoughts; they become our Words
Watch our Words; they become our Actions
Watch our Actions; they become our Habits
Watch our Habits; they become our Character
Watch our Character; it will be our DESTINY
In a nutshell, everything starts with a thought in the mind. The best way to bring peace is to watch your thoughts which can be done by being in silence. You will learn a lot about the quality of your thoughts and quality of life by watching your thoughts in silence meditation.
By talking too much and indulging in mind chatter with other people, we get involved in many reactions, which makes us upset and can lead to Violence. Most of the time, people talk of negative things; therefore one should speak as little as possible. Violence in the mind finds its expression through words and deeds. What you speak depends upon what kind of thoughts you have in your mind.
Spirituality Removes Ego
The best way to practice non-violence is to watch our thoughts. To control the mind is very difficult as it has the habit of falling back to old patterns, and memories programmed in our subconscious mind.
The essence of spirituality is unconditional love for one and all. According to spiritual principles, we are one, and belong to the same source. Once we understand this oneness and spirituality, it will reduce the differences and the hatred, and bring forth virtues of goodness.
The way we can purify the mind from negativity is by putting positive and virtuous thoughts consciously. We cannot remove the negative thoughts of hatred, anger, jealousy and greed, but we can create and replace them with unconditional love, compassion, forgiveness, tolerance and patience. All spiritual practices will help you to achieve this easily.
Our ego mind is focused on selfish agendas, while spirituality is focused on helping others. The real non-violence characteristic is when we are aware and are sensitive to all human beings irrespective of culture, religion and traditions. Also, we need to be sensitive to all forms of life. We need to build awareness about the needs of others, and help them fulfill their needs.
Laughter Yoga is a practical tool to cultivate your spiritual nature. The unconditional laughter in Laughter Yoga, brings out the true spiritual nature of compassion, forgiveness and service, that leads to the oneness with one and all.
Since this is a practical experience, one does not need to rely on mind control and worry about any logical approach towards spirituality. The process of laughing and breathing exercises helps to bring about changes in attitude, and you will experience more positive thoughts. In fact, people who come regularly to the Laughter Clubs have reported a change in their attitude towards negative people and negative situations in daily life. This will definitely go a long way to promote non-violence and peace in the world.