Monday, October 26, 2009

Diet among the World's Religions

Tammi Hagensick through Professor Rev. Dr. James Kenneth Powell II

(WQ) This brief overview begins with a description of the extreme Jain tradition and its ancient Indian practices of distinguishing healthy (sattvic), over-stimulating (rajasic), and dark (tamasic) foods. Jains practice harmlessness (ahimsa) and compassion and are therefore vegetarian. It is close to Buddhism and Hinduism.

But Buddhism is a world religion. And part of its universal appeal derives from not instituting absolute restrictions. Vegetarianism is voluntary. But animals are not butchered by any Buddhists and are never specially slaughtered for monks or nuns. Yet, Buddhists who eat meat are said not to incur bad karma. However, even among those who eat meat, "royal" (elephants, horses) and vengeful animals (lions, tigers, snakes, panthers, bears, and hyenas) are avoided. Kindness and moderation are the ideals. Fasting, common around the world, is lauded. Monastics and intensive meditators "fast" daily, inasmuch as they do not eat solids after midday -- to stay healthy, mindful, and be easily supported.

Hinduism, like Jainism and Buddhism, recommends a vegetarian diet with vital taboos against eating certain animals, such as cows, monkeys, camels, pork, fowl, crabs, and snails. Like Jews, Hindus have elaborate food laws with fasting and feasting days. Success in meditation, purity, sacrifice, and social standing are some of the motivations for a harmless diet.

Jewish kashrut or kosher foods are presented. Islamic laws of halal and haram (healthy and harmful) foods are then described, based on the Koran. Both religions consider pork taboo. Moreover in Islam alcohol, Arabic for the "Dark One," and all spirits are forbidden.

Catholic diets are seasonal, with strict observations during Lent. But gluttony is a taboo all year around, which does not seem possible to observe due to the high carbohydrate, MSG and corn-laden byproducts of the West's processed junkfoods. Obesity, diabetes, cancers, and a shortened lifespan are the result.

Zoroastrianism is briefly previewed, where reasonable eating is the rule. Rastafarians avoid pork -- a custom borrowed from Judaism and/or Islam -- since they consider themselves a lost tribe of Israel. Like Muslims, all drugs (even coffee) other than cannabis, are forbidden.