Angelie: The first question I want to ask you is how important is it to be a vegetarian on the spiritual path.
Swami Satchidananda: Yoga means you live a natural life. By nature human beings are vegetarians. There's no question about it. Because their features fit in with a vegetarian diet, as opposed to the animals. For example carnivores animals vs. vegetarian animals, they have different sets of teeth, a tongue, eyes to see at night to catch the prey for carnivorous animals, their claws, their intestines. They all differ very much. So when you see all that, our features are more vegetarian. So that's the natural food for a human being.
Angelie: Is it imperative for one to be a vegetarian to attain self-realization.
Swami Satchidananda: Yes, it is imperative. Because when you eat animal food, you incur the curse of the animals. The animals are not happy in giving their bodies to you. Have you ever seen a goat coming to you and saying, "Take my thigh and make soup of it". No, you haven't (Laughter). Whereas plants they offer the foods. Even if you don't go near the tree, they drop the fruits for you. So, it's a love offering. Our food, therefore, should come with a loving source. Animals do not give loving food for us. That's one important thing.
And again, the animal meat is not conducive for our system. And one more point, in the modern world, even animals are saturated with chemicals to make more meat. Either way it's no good for the human beings.
Spirituality means you need a peaceful mind. We call it in Sanskrit, a sattwic nature. You can't get the sattwic nature through animal food. But that doesn't mean that there aren't meat eating realized people. There are exceptional cases. But generally meat eating is not good for a spiritual pursuit.
Angelie: However, you find that one can eat dairy products -- by-products of the animal such as milk products, and that would be okay?
Swami Satchidananda: Even that is not recommended normally. Because milk -- cows give us milk, mothers give us milk. For how long do we drink milk, until we are no longer babies. When we outgrow the babyhood, we don't have to have milk. Because there are certain enzymes that can digest the milk in the system. After a certain age, the enzymes are not there any more. So you can not digest the milk products. But it's habitual that people eat dairy products. We sometimes say, "Okay, you are not hurting any animal by drinking milk." But still strictly speaking, milk is not good for us.
Angelie: So when you're saying milk is not good for us, you're also including cheeses, butter, all milk products.
Swami Satchidananda: All milk products.
Angelie: Do you believe in fasting, and if you do, what are the benefits of fasting.
Swami Satchidananda: Well, even the physical factories take a holiday on Sundays. (Laughter) So, our factory, which means the stomach, should get a holiday at least once a week. Because we don't digest all the food that we eat everyday. There may be certain undigested food left in the body. So if you give time for that to be digested by fasting, it digests everything, cleans up the body, and it gives rest to the digestive system, also. Otherwise, it would keep on working, working, working, get tired. So fasting is good, and at the same time., when the stomach is light and is not working, your brainpower can increase. That's why when you eat a sumptuous food, you can't think well. Why? The energy goes to the stomach to digest the food. So, the brain starves. But, when you starve the stomach, the brain gets the energy. So that's why in the spiritual sense, on all auspicious days, they fast, so that they can think well of God, and of God's peace.
Angelie: Good. Do you believe in eating three meals a day, and when should one eat their main meal?
Swami Satchidananda: Three meals a day are good for roguies. Rogi's means diseased people, sick people. Yogi, one meal a day; bogi,two meals a day; rogi, three meal a day. But again,it depends upon the work you do. If you have more manual work, you have to consume more energy, eat more food.
So this condition (one meal a day) doesn't apply to those people. People who work hard physically can eat more, three times a day. But people who think and do not do much physical work, can remain with one or two meals a day.
And the main meal would be the lunch meal.
Angelie: And if you have one meal a day, is there no snacking, or light snacking anytime. Are you saying strictly just one meal.
Swami Satchidananda: Yes, one meal. Snacking, also, it's a snaking. (Laughter)
Still eating. So you have to chew something and eat. There's no need for snacking in between. In that way you disturb the digestive system. You should wait for a sumptuous meal, eat well, and digest well.
Angelie: How does one choose the best foods for our development on the spiritual path?
Swami Satchidananda: Anything that would not agitate your mind. We call it Sattwic food as opposed to Rajasic food. There are three types of food. Tomasic, Rajasic, and Sattwic. Tomasic means the moment you eat, you feel like sleeping. It makes you dull. Another one, spicy. Rajasic, you become more active, super-active. But, Sattwic, normal, calm. So the foods are categorized in three ways. So bring any food that will bring the Sattwic tendency in you. That is gentle, nice, plain food, not too spicy, hot, things like that is to be avoided, but particularly for a spirtual seeker.
Angelie: If one leads a sedentary lifestyle, and has a more sluggish metabolism, perhaps a little bit more spice would be okay, rather than someone who is a very active person --
Swami Satchidananda: When you are sluggish, to wake you up, a little spicy food is okay. But to calm down to your Sattwic nature, you should avoid that later on.
Angelie: Do you include garlic as a stimulating food?
Swami Satchidananda: Garlic is a good food. It cuts away the mucous caught in the system. Garlic is a very good remedy.
Angelie: Do you believe in eating organic vegetables and fruits?
Swami Satchidananda: Sure. Organic. Because it's naturally grown, not chemically produced. When you eat chemically produced food, you eat the chemicals also. That's not good for your health.
Angelie: Should one meditate on an empty stomach?
Swami Satchidananda: Not too empty. You'll be thinking of the stomach. (Laughter).
The scriptures say (particularly the Bhagavad Gita talks about it), Yoga cannot be achieved by the people who do not eat food, or the people who eat more. That means moderation in eating. Buddha tried it. He was fasting, fasting, fasting until he became a skeleton, and he couldn't do anything. Then he realized, "Am I killing myself?" So, he started eating again. So moderation in eating, moderation in everything.
Angelie: This is my last question. Why are cows considered sacred in India?
Swami Satchidananda: That is probably an economical reason. Every animal is sacred. The Hindu Gods have many animals as their vehicles; lions, tigers, bulls, cows, snakes, rats -- Ganeesha has a rat as his vehicle -- peacocks, snakes. So all are to be respected as sacred animals. But the cow, especiallyl, because one time, I think, the Muslims came in and started slaughtering cows for their food. So to save the cows from that slaughtering, they made the cow as sort of a holy animal; not any other reason. But, of course, if I say this, even the Hindus may get offended, because they think the cow is a holy animal.
Angelie: So, it's more just a symbol representing the sacredness of all animals.?
Swami Satchidananda: Again, when the child has no milk from the mother, the next mother is the cow.
Angelie: And the goat?
Swami Satchidananda: And the goat. Normally, they don't use much. Ghandi used to drink goat's milk.
Angelie: Do you find if one were to want to drink milk products, that goat milk would be preferable over cow milk?
Swami Satchidananda: I should think so, goat milk is much better, more nutrition is there.
Angelie: Thank you very much.