I am a new Kundalini Yoga student and I have a question about the dietary guidelines that Yogi Bhajan advised.
Are these guidelines very strict, or is it acceptable for a practitioner of Kundalini Yoga to eat in a way that honors their own individual needs and cultural traditions?
I am asking because my body does not do well on a strict vegetarian diet, but as a conscious consumer, I make sure to only buy meat from animals that were ethically raised.
Thank you for sharing your question. It is extremely valuable since it is likely that many other people have similar concerns.
Yogi Bhajan’s teachings regarding diet and all other subjects, were always intended to bring maximum benefit to the individuals who choose to relate to them. They were offered as wise guidelines, never as dogmatic rules of right or wrong. Yogi Bhajan very much disliked fanaticism of any kind and often said, “God save us from the fanatics.”
Questions of diet are extremely personal for many reasons—social, cultural, emotional, intellectual, financial, etc. However, when someone’s physical health is in question one should always defer to their health care professional. If your statement, “My body does not do well on a strictly vegetarian diet” is the opinion of your doctor, then by all means follow the doctor’s advice.
It has been well-documented that a vegetarian diet has many benefits that occur at a number of different levels. Each person who maintains a vegetarian diet has their own very personal reasons for doing so. These reasons may or may not have anything to do with the benefits.
In the context of Kundalini Yoga, the purpose of the vegetarian diet is multi-leveled. It builds a physical platform that facilitates the elevation of consciousness. For example, spine flexes feed the internal organs with improved circulation, and also facilitate an expansion of consciousness through stimulation of the spine and brain.
When higher brain functions are stimulated in this way we gain a more subtle perception of ourselves, other living things and the world in general. This increased perception translates into intuition and a deeper understanding of the effects of our actions on ourselves and the world. Thus we make better choices that minimize suffering for ourselves and those around us, while maximizing harmony with nature and the flow of life.
One of the first people I met who became a vegetarian was raised with the typical American diet of the 1960’s. He had a very narrow reason for his change. He simply decided intellectually that he did not want to personally eat deceased creatures. His entire diet consisted of McDonald’s hamburgers without the meat patties.
He was not interested in nutrition or his own health. He also was not interested in ecology or making a political statement. He was just intellectually against consuming other creatures. I don’t think he would be considered typical today, but his example demonstrates at least one end of the spectrum regarding dietary choice.
By contrast, some people have a natural or intuitive aversion to eating other creatures that does not involve the intellect at all. These people report very early childhood memories of being forced, against their will, to eat the flesh of other creatures. They were initially revolted by the smell, the look, the taste, the texture and the entire process.
Typically, as soon as these people were physically able to make the choice, they became vegetarians. In some cases, open-minded parents will honor the intuitive experience of very young children and allow them to be vegetarians in a meat-eating household.
Whether you are born into a vegetarian family or culture, or have intellectual, intuitive, emotional, social, political, financial or other motivations to become a vegetarian in adulthood, it remains an extremely personal choice. Yogi Bhajan encouraged us not to believe in belief, but rather to relate to experience. He wanted us to do the work, to gain the experience, so that we would be genuine and aware.
He also taught the value of obedience as a technology to minimize the crippling effect of unchecked ego on self-awareness. Challenge was an essential part of his gift to humanity. The point of every challenge was to elevate us. Someone once added up the time it would take to do every discipline Yogiji instructed us to do every single day. I believe the number was around 42 hours per day.
So, a huge part of the challenge is to use your own experience, your own intelligence, your own intuition and your own compassion towards yourself to determine the choices you make in life. This is the way to maximize the benefits offered by the technologies of consciousness.
It is my prayer that something I have shared will be useful and that whatever choices you make will support you to live in perfect health, unlimited happiness and an ever-expanding oneness with the Divine.
Sewa Singh Khalsa has been teaching Kundalini Yoga for over 40 years and has been providing counseling to couples and individuals based on Kundalini and White Tantric Yoga® technology for 35 years. He holds an MFA from the University of Washington and has taught at Eastern Washington University, Western Washington University and the University of Washington.
Please note that the information and opinions here are based on the experience of one person and any contradictions or omissions regarding the teachings of Yogi Bhajan are unintentional. Any diet, exercise and/or lifestyle information in this communication is a representation of yogic traditions and is not intended as a substitute for consulting a qualified health professional. This information is only for educational purposes and not for any person’s specific medical condition. Always check with your personal physician or licensed health care practitioner before making any significant modification in your lifestyle to insure that the lifestyle changes are appropriate for your personal health condition and consistent with any medication you may be taking. If you have unresolved emotional issues, consult with a qualified therapist. 3HO Foundation International and I are not responsible for any adverse effects or consequences for the use of any of the information presented in this communication. For more information about Kundalini Yoga as taught by Yogi Bhajan®, please see www.3ho.org/kundalini-yoga andwww.kundaliniresearchinstitute.org