Detachment and diet

As a Westerner, detachment has been something very difficult to grasp. In fact, a lot of Hindu philosophy has been difficult. I took one day of a Hindu philosophy class in college, before realizing that it was way over my head and then dropping it to take a medieval English literature class (all middle English and Chaucer and whatnot). Now that I’ve been following sanatana dharma, it makes a lot more sense, and I sort of wish I could go back in time and take it again, because I think I’d actually understand it pretty well.

The point of that rambling monologue is that I keep growing and learning and realizing new things.

Take vegetarianism, for example. I’ve never been particularly good at abstaining from things I like. I spend more time watching TV than is good for me. I over-listen to music until I can’t stand to hear it any more. I eat a certain food exclusively until it becomes unappetizing. So while I’m good at working things through my system, the giving up isn’t as easy.

Inititally, I assumed that the purpose of vegetarianism was ahimsa, or noninjury (for those reading who aren’t as familiar with terminology). And it’s really still mostly about that, as far as I can tell. You don’t eat animals because a Hindu (to use a blanket term) does his/her best not to harm living things. You do this by refraining from using unkind words, by making choices that benefit others rather than harm them through neglect or direct action, and at least on special holy days you try not to eat meat.

But you know what? As with many of the new things I’m learning, I realize that there’s much more to it. For me, the gradual path towards vegetarianism is a lesson in detachment. I read somewhere that detachment isn’t separation from the world/maya/the physical, but rather not needing it to be a whole person. You experience but are not affected by the physical, because understand that that “need” is an illusion. So here’s how diet has helped me realize this: I used to eat beef and pork and lamb and goat and all other sorts of mammals. I didn’t eat them a whole lot, but I ate them with great relish, even going as far as to tell myself that I “needed” them to be healthy. About eight months ago, right about the time I started this blog, I cut all those out of my diet. I still eat poultry and fish occasionally (small steps), but don’t eat red meat or pork. At first, I was worried that I’d crave it, and I did eat it a few times.

Now, though? Well, I know it exists. I smell it cooking, I see other people eat it, and my husband still cooks it at home. Occasionally I’m at a place where it’s all that is served. However, I’ve gotten to the point where I know that my life will not be any better or worse for not eating it, and that I can go happily on my way without it in my life.

I think that’s the way I will probably approach my struggle with detachment from now on. Obviously not everything fits this model (for example, family), but my goal is the same – live my life now, making choices as they come, and knowing that I am secure no matter what happens. You deal with things as they come, process them, and don’t pine for them when they’re gone. Like that steak that I once thought I needed, it’s not something that I can’t live without, even if sometimes I think it is.

About HappyGoth

By day, I'm a graphic designer. By night, I'm a knitter. I'm doing my part to keep Hotlanta stylish. I imagine that if you don't already understand the title of the blog, you're probably confused and perhaps slightly annoyed, but never fear - I do have a reason (and it's a good one). Having gone to hear Stephanie Pearl McPhee, and then having been inspired to blog about knitting, I found myself wondering what to call the blog. I recalled a conversation I had with Mouse and the Chicken Goddess about why it is a Bad Idea to anger knitters - this conversation was following SPM, aka the Yarn Harlot telling the assembled throng about Those Who Do Not Understand Knitting and Therefore Belittle It Much to the Chagrin of Others, or TWDNUKTBMCO, which is not the acronym she used but is the one I'm using because I forgot hers - that is, we are numerous and we all have very pointy sticks, easily transforming into an angry mob. Therefore, knitters = angry mob.
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14 Responses to Detachment and diet

  1. Ambaa says:

    I’ve never really thought about diet and detachment together before. I think you’ve got a great point!

    I like this: “detachment isn’t separation from the world/maya/the physical, but rather not needing it to be a whole person.”

    • HappyGoth says:

      I wish I could take credit for that, but I’m totally just paraphrasing it from another source that I’ve neglected to write down. I’ll be sure to link to it once i remember where it came from!

      The other way I put it is: “Bacon may be a tasty food, but I can live without it.”

  2. kodanda says:

    Bacon is my bane of existence. Beef- no problem, chicken- didn’t care for it to begin, fish- rarely ate it prior……. BUT…. BACON. This is the hardest part for me and I do slip ever so often.

    • HappyGoth says:

      Aw, man. Sorry to hear! 😉

      I’ve never been particularly attached to bacon, but I know folks who are.

      Though If I felt about bacon the way I do about grilled chicken, then I guess I can sympathize!

      I feel guilty about it and then I tell myself that I’m not required to be perfect right away – it’s the consistent and determined effort towards my goal that’s really what’s important. Though progress is a part of that!

    • Sarojini says:

      Bacon alternatives are pretty awesome.

  3. Anuj says:

    It’s meant to be detachment from the top three senses of maya:
    1) Sex
    2) Alcohol
    3) Non-vegetarian food

    Abstaining from all three is said to bring us closer to the real(non-maya) world. It’s harder than it sounds. I’m trying to imagine old folks back in 3000BC writing sci-fi(non-fiction?) material sitting under a banyan tree. What’s more chilling is the vedantis description of the universe and setting an exact lifetime of 8.64 billion years. That’s the closest figure any religious text has ever come up with that matches scientific assumptions – our sun will live for 8-10 billion years before it extinguishes all it’s fuel.

    Those are some interesting old folks, yes?

    • HappyGoth says:

      Really interesting old folks, yes! That’s a big part of the reason why sanatana dharma/vedic thought appeals to me – it’s so darned practical! And eerily accurate…

  4. kodanda says:

    We need more Doughnut guru’s 😀

  5. Really good post — so glad I stumbled upon your blog! I’ll be reading through pretty much all your posts over the coming weeks.

    I like thinking of vegetarianism in terms of detachment, as well as ahimsa. I think keeping both in mind helps to keep us from becoming zealots about food, no matter what we eat. It’s not very much in keeping with ahimsa if we end up so attached to our vegetarianism that we hit others over the head with it everytime we eat with them or berate those who don’t follow our diet and principles. It’s not very non-violent to be so attached to our particular form of eating that we alienate other people and abuse them for their food choices. We do not progress spiritually with that attitude and we don’t help anyone else either.

    I’ve known far too many people for whom adopting vegetarianism/veganism as part of their yogic or Hindu path has meant they forget to ‘eat with compassion’, which extends not only to what is on our plates but to those we eat and commune with. If we become such zealots or fanatics about the good that vegetarianism can do (for us individuall and the world), the we can forget to apply ahimsa to how we speak to others about vegetarianism and there ends up being a violence of our language and attitudes towards them…. at least, that has been my experience with too many people. And I think it, sadly, refelcts badly on Hindu converts, making us seem as if we have chosen a very inflexible, impractical or hard-hearted path. Which could not be farther from the truth!

    Anyway, again, thanks for this great blog!

    • HappyGoth says:

      Sorry for the delay in comments approval; I had a busy weekend!

      Anyway, thanks for reading!

      I find it sometimes difficult to feel like I’m making progress at ahimsa in modern life – cars aren’t good for it, plastics aren’t good for it, much of modern life is harmful and problematic. However, I think that the authors of the Vedas and the people who formed the framework for Sanatana Dharma (and especially those who continue to teach and guide others) are much wiser than we give them credit for. Every lesson has many purposes, and every action we take has many different consequences, beyond the initially apparent. I think the most important lesson in the practice of ahimsa is living in harmony with those around you, and I don’t think that happens as smoothly without a sense of detachment. I knew many very militant vegans when I was eating meat, and found that their attitudes actually served to do the opposite of what they intended – their anger and close-mindedness only made me more resolute in my lifestyle.

      What’s that old saying? “You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar?” It’s not exactly appropriate in this situation, but the sentiment is still valuable.

    • HappyGoth says:

      Also, just so you don’t wonder where it went, I deleted the duplicate of this comment (I figured it was probably a double-click error).


  6. Curious says:

    It’s Diwali tomorrow — so Happy Diwali !!

    ~ Best wishes

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