Every spiritual and religious tradition seems to focus on food as part of the process of enlightenment and transcendence. In addition to not eating meat, Yogis eat no garlic or onion and consume no coffee, tea, or alcohol, since these foods are thought to be too stimulating and distracting from meditative and other spiritual disciplines. Buddhists are also vegetarians, although some will eat meat if it has already been killed and is being served to them, in order not to waste the sacrifice the animal has made. Greek Orthodox monks fast for about half the annual calender, although they do eat onions and garlic (quite copiously I might add). Christian monks and ascetics also drink alcohol and have been the originators of both beer and wines throughout history…after all Christ turned the water into wine. Most also eat fish and seafood, although not meat (unless of course they live in a hermitage, outside the walls of the monastery, and actually hunt!). They also are famous for their cheeses, which of course, vegans eschew.
All this to say that if specific foods are favored or contraindicated in the pursuit of spiritual development…..shouldn’t they at least be the same foods? Is the Orthodox monk somehow less holy or further from God than the Hindu Yogi because he eats garlic, onions, fish, and consumes wine and beer? And why is diet so prominently associated with spirituality? Is it the symbolism of food as potential corrupter and contaminant, entering the temple of the body? Or is it about what happens psychologically and spiritually when people abstain from things they actually like, whatever those may be?
All I can say is that I’ve spent lots of time with Yogis, Buddhists, and Christian spiritual seekers…and the Christians are definitely more fun…unless you happen to fall on a bread and water fast week!