A Deeper Understanding of Ahimsa

The progressive, enlightened transmigration of the soul through the process of reincarnation

Woman at grocery store

 Twice a week, as part of our outreach of Hindu culture from our monastery in the East Village, myself and a few other monks teach classes on the art of vegetarian cuisine at Columbia University and New York University.  We also try to share some of the essential tenets of the vegetarian/vegan life from some of the great traditional sources of the Vedas, such as the Bhagavad-Gita. We mix in with this knowledge a wide breath of moral, economic, and environmental reasons to support the vegetarian/vegan ideal

We do this with an eye to perhaps convince our friends to try to experience the values and benefits of a vegetarian diet, and for those already on the path, to show them the depth of their commitment and the potential for real change that comes by not eating our fair animal comrades.

My own journey into vegetarianism began with a lot of doubt and a little help from my friends. I was once of those students receiving delicious Indian vegetarian fare from Hindu monks at the University of Michigan, but having come from a different culinary background, the food they offered simply bewildered me.  Over time, my monk friends won me over to their heartfelt offerings as they explained more of the culture behind it, and I also just came to realize the food was really, really good. 

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As I began to explore a commitment to vegetarianism, I had the good fortune of being surrounded by friends who were already engaged as vegetarians and vegans.  I was also in a progressive college community where there were plenty of restaurants and groceries which catered to the vegetarian lifestyle.  As I moved on into the lifestyle of a Hindu monk, I started to learn how to cook, which helped me to further appreciate the colorful, savoury, and rich depth of the vegetarian cuisine of India and of the rest of the world.

So it is with an immense sense of gratitude from my own end that I now am able to return the favor to all those who guided me towards the vegetarian ideal, by teaching its art and depth of knowledge to some of Manhattan's brightest.  At the foundation of our presentation is a unique understanding of the value of ahimsa, or non-violence, as presented in the Gita.  Going beyond the foundation of not causing any physical, mental, or psychological harm to any living creature, the deeper understanding of ahimsa lies in the understanding of the progressive, enlightened transmigration of the soul through the process of reincarnation.

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