Hinduism: The Way of Gentleness

Some people who are unaware of our scriptural heritage will say that Hinduism is bereft of ethical guidelines. How erroneous this is may be seen by the Hindu ethic that one must not cheat or harm another, even in one's dreams. Denying ethics gives excuse to deceit and even lying to one's guru to advance in position and life. But a scan of Hindu scripture reveals that creeds of conduct exist in the historical canons of every Hindu sect. And every great Hindu thinker, from King Janaka to Sankara, Manikkavasagar and Jnanesvara to Mahatma Gandhi and Bhagavan Ramana Maharshi, offers primacy to ethics as the bedrock of social and spiritual progress.

Ethics begins with the keepers of the home and family. The Vedas list five primary duties of the householder: study of and teaching the Vedas; daily worship of the Gods through rituals; bestowing honor upon ancestors; being kind to domestic animals; extending hospitality to guests and the impoverished. In the Taittiriya Upanishad is given one of the most eloquent and sweet-voiced creeds. It became the traditional farewell advice from guru to pupil:

Speak the truth. Practice dharma. Do not neglect the study of the Vedas. Do not neglect your duties to the Gods and ancestors. Treat your mother and father as God. Treat your teacher as God. Treat your guest as God.


Primary among Hindu ethics is ahimsa, "non-injury or non-violence." From ahimsa Hinduism imparted to the world the practice of vegetarianism. When Hinduism and Buddhism migrated out of India, much of Asia became vegetarian. The American Dietetic Association states, "Most of mankind for most of human history has lived on vegetarian or near-vegetarian diets."

Hindus are vegetarian because they revere all animal/fish bodies as vehicles for various astral and soul beings, and know that diet can either heighten or lower one's consciousness. Exposure to Christian schooling by many Hindus has distorted this paramount knowledge.


1. In every Hindu sect, ethics are the bedrock of social and spiritual progress.

2. Hindu ethics means honoring, serving and respecting others.

We Are Not Carnivores

Hindu scripture speaks clearly and forcefully on vegetarianism. In the ancient Rig Veda, we read: "O' vegetable, be succulent, wholesome, strengthening; and thus, body, be fully grown." The Yajur Veda summarily dictates: "Do not injure the beings living on the earth, in the air and in the water." The beautiful Tirukural, a widely-read 2,000-year-old masterpiece of ethics, speaks of conscience: "When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh of another creature, he must abstain from eating it." In the yoga-infused verses of the Tirumantiram, warning is given of how meat-eating holds the mind in gross, adharmic states: "The ignoble ones who eat flesh, death's agents bind them fast and push them quick into the fiery jaws of hell [lower consciousness]."

Having well considered the origin of flesh and the cruelty of fettering and slaying of corporeal beings, let one entirely abstain from eating flesh. When the diet is pure, the mind and heart are pure.


Vegetarianism today is practiced by nearly a billion people, including 10 million Americans and 1.6 million Britons. Most people become vegetarian by conscience. European geniuses--Leonardo Da Vinci, Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein--were vegetarian by conscience.


As the health and ecological sciences have recently discovered, vegetarianism is man's best and natural diet. The intestinal length of carnivores (meat-eating animals) is three times the body length to allow for quick removal of flesh wastes that putrefy in the intestines. Man's intestinal length, like other herbivores, is six times his body length and is designed for digesting vegetables, grains and fruits. Carnivores don't chew their food. Herbivores, including man, chew their food and have a similar pH value in their saliva. Our digestive system is closest to fruit-eating primates.


1. The noblest reason for vegetarianism is reverence for all beings.

2. Our digestive system is not suitable for digesting meat. It is closest to fruit-eating primates.

Be Healthy, Be a Vegetarian

The meat industry injects and feeds livestock with some 2,700 drugs to sustain and fatten them. Those drugs are passed to the meat-eater. Meat itself is directly linked to arterial and heart disease and cancer, man's major killers. Powerful hormonal secretions are released by livestock at the moment of slaughter. These are absorbed by meat-eaters and directly affect their mental and emotional tranquility. Conversely, medical evidence demonstrates that a balanced vegetarian diet provides all the right kinds of protein, minerals, amino acids and nutrients that the body requires. In 1961, the Journal of the American Medical Association stated that 97% of heart disease can be prevented by vegetarianism. Current studies show the vegetarian diet as cancer-preventative. Brussels University proved vegetarians perform physical tests two to three times longer than non-vegetarians and recover from fatigue five times faster.

The World Health Organization states that 45 grams of protein eaten per day is ideal for tissue regeneration. This is easily acquired through grains, legumes, vegetables and dairy products. Meat-eaters ingest over 100 grams, an unhealthy overdose. Meat protein is poor quality. The Max Planck Institute reported that vegetables, fruits, seeds, nuts and grains are excellent sources of complete proteins and are easier to metabolize.


One quarter of the world's vital rain forests have been destroyed to create pasture for beef cattle. Deforestation is changing global weather and could lead to polar melting, desertification of the major food-producing regions and oxygen reduction. Meat-eating is the engine behind this environmental destruction. The rain forests could be gone early in the 21st century. Further, beef cattle are consuming 85-90% of the Western world's grain. The average meat-eater uses five times the food resources of a vegetarian because cattle require fifteen pounds of vegetable protein for every pound of flesh protein. An acre of grain produces five times as much protein as that of beef pasture; legumes & leafy vegetables from ten to fifteen times as much. The world hunger problem would be vastly improved by converting all pasture land to farming use.


1. A good, balanced vegetarian diet provides excellent nourishment for mind and body, including more than adequate amounts of protein.

2. Vegetarianism is good for our planet, while meat-eating is not.

Purity of Food

All foods can be roughly grouped into one of three categories, known by the Sanskrit words, tamas, rajas and sattva. These are three basic qualities or rates of vibration by which in the ancient Hindu science of Ayurveda all things are classified. Simply stated, the sattvic tendency is ascending, superconscious, and connotes orderliness and sublimity. The rajasic tendency is expanding, intellectual, and connotes activity and restlessness. The tamasic tendency is descending, instinctive, and connotes inertia and stagnation. Tamasic foods, such as meat, fermented or stale foods and overripe fruits, imbue the astral and physical body with heaviness and inertia and arouse the instinctive nature. Overeating is also tamasic.

Rajasic foods, such as hot or spicy foods, strong herbs, onions, garlic, coffee and tea, fish, eggs and salt, invigorate the heat of the physical and astral bodies. Too much rajasic food will over-stimulate the body and excite the passions, making the mind restless and uncontrollable. Eating in a hurry also creates a rajasic vibration in the body and mind. Sattvic foods, such as natural fruits and vegetables, help refine the astral and physical bodies, allowing the superconscious forces to flow and permeate and invigorate the entire being.

Especially as a brahmachari or a brahmacharini, it is best to try to eat plenty of sattvic foods, to be moderate in the intake of rajasic foods and avoid the tamasic ones. The traditional Saivite diet naturally provides this important balance and is based on these Ayurvedic principles.


But we also want to avoid becoming fanatical in diet. Those whose diets include meat should not necessarily become vegetarians all of a sudden. Any such changes, if desired, should be made gradually to allow the body to adjust slowly and without upsetting the family. The type of work that you do is also important to consider if you are thinking of adjusting the ratio of sattvic and rajasic foods in your diet. Those who do more physical types of work may need to eat more foods in the rajasic category.


1. Purity of food brings purity of mind.

2. Eat a balanced diet, relying mainly on sattvic foods.

3. Avoid becoming fanatical; blend transparently with the customs of your family.

Coping With Peer Pressure

The practice of celibacy until marriage is a natural part of a sublime culture. There is nothing odd about remaining celibate until marriage. In fact, nothing could be more traditional and wise. Yet, devotees are occasionally troubled from time to time by "peer pressure" from students or friends who make fun of their purity and call them old-fashioned or worse. My response is, "If you are secure within yourself, such idle criticism will not affect you. And when others see that their kidding or ostracism does not bother you, they will probably cease their harassment. Perhaps they will come to you for some good advice!"


Take heart in realizing that the challenges you face in your practice of brahmachariya are not in any way unique to you. To the contrary, control of the sexual instincts is something faced by everyone, even those not practicing celibacy. The married person raising a family, too, must control and direct his or her energies, and this is part of the householder culture.

Throughout history, a universal idea has prevailed that sexual energy for non-procreative purposes can either be 'used up' in sexual activity or 'contained' for upholding the development of the body and the mind. This sex energy was seen as the fuel for opening these channels of experience, not only in the East but in the alchemy of the Europeans during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.


You are progressing nicely in your understanding of brahmachariya. Certainly you are to be commended! Keep striving! Approaching this study with consistency will give a great firmness of purpose and make possible steady progress on the spiritual path to Lord Siva's Holy Feet. Some people merely scratch the surface of this study and never go deeper. But those with firm patterns of consistency like yourself sustain their effort and are able to plunge to the depths of the subject and discover the pearls of knowledge within it.


1. If you are secure in your self, you can face any criticism positively.

2. Through the ages, the most astute have known the laws of transmutation.

Your Mind is Your Own

Each brahmachari or brahmacharini faces a constant challenge of working with his or her nature, setting personal standards so that awareness actually lives two-thirds in the inner worlds and only one-third in the outer world of external consciousness. This means that the base or point of reference and security is within. What is external consciousness? Mental pictures, or thinking, or visualization, or fantasy--these are all directly related to the First World, and though devoid of emotion in themselves, they can stimulate emotion when concentrated upon.


Pressures of the building force of brahmachariya may often take expression through intense mental visualizations of members of the opposite sex. Mental arguments may also occur while attempts at meditation are being made. The conscientious sishiya resists these impulses and works to subdue the sexual impulses and their corresponding fantasies. These visualizations are to be avoided. How? By just letting them go and not dwelling on them. This takes willpower based on firm resolve which is based on the desire to control the mind rather than be controlled by it. In your moments of quiet, let holy spiritual and constructive thoughts prevail in your mind. Use your energies constructively to fulfill your personal goals.

Of all disciplines chastity is the foremost and fundamental, and all other disciplines will follow naturally if one practices this primary virtue. He who leads an unregulated life and thinks impure thoughts loses all powers and strength of mind. He is at the mercy of the passing desires and feverish cravings of the senses.


After brahmachariya is practiced for an extended period of time, the energy is well-placed within the astral body and the mind is keenly alive. Do not dissipate this valuable mental energy by allowing yourself to day-dream it away.


1. Avoid mental fantasies. Simply let them go.

2. Brahmachariya builds a store of energy, but this can be dissipated through careless mental habits.

3. Good health and vitality instill pure, positive consciousness.

Hatha Yoga

Hatha yoga is an ancient Hindu system of exercise for health and vitality of mind and body, specifically designed as a preparation for meditation to balance the energies so the spiritual currents flow most strongly. On the following pages are drawings of hatha yoga postures. This is a very simple routine which can be performed in about 7 to 10 minutes and is designed to balance the energies of the body and thereby contribute to mental poise. Please try to perform the postures daily. Do them in the privacy of your own room, without drawing attention to yourself. Naturally, they should not be performed after eating.

You will notice that the postures, which are known as asanas, are organized into eight sets of three to be performed in series. In each position, sensitize yourself to feeling just when the body has been in the position long enough to tune the nerve currents involved. Then take a deeper breath and shift the body smoothly into the next asana. Once you have memorized and learned to correctly perform the postures of the simple system outlined here, just a few moments of practice will facilitate concentration almost effortlessly. You will automatically be concentrated because you will have no nerve strain to distract your mind or "bottle up" the pranas of the body. Needless to say, hatha yoga is a tremendous aid to transmutation of the vital forces.


As you perform the asanas, concentrate on feeling the energies within the nerve currents. Do not stretch unduly or force the body. Rather, relax into the poses as best you can. Do not worry if you can't perform the poses perfectly. In time, you will find the body becoming more flexible and supple. This suppleness is a reflection of the mind's condition of flexibility and alertness, and a subconscious free of repressions.

You may have already discovered that when mind tensions are released or resolved, tensions within the physical body are released as well. Likewise, when physical tensions are released through exercise and hatha yoga, mind tensions within the astral body are automatically dissolved. It is here that the tensions actually originate. Free the mind of thoughts and tensions. You will be more aware, more alive, more serene.


1. Make these asanas a part of your regular daily sadhana.

2. Hatha yoga is a great key in governing the forces of mind, body and emotions.

Personal Challenges for Chapter Six

when completed Discipline