Category Archives: meat

Ahimsa and Veganism

by Susan Craig

“The most violent weapon on earth is the table fork.” Mahatma Gandhi

I became a vegan nearly 30 years ago – long before I found Sri Dharma. My decision to stop eating animals was born out of a very hopeless period in my life when I was severely abused. During that darkest days of my life I made a pact with myself that, as small and inconsequential as my life seemed to be, knowing what it felt like to be abused and to be treated as if I had no value, I would do my best not to treat others as if they had no value. This decision included non-human animals; the least that I could do was to stop eating them. Little did I know that this decision, along with the beginnings of an asana practice, would take me on a most amazing journey which recently included finding Sri Dharma Mittra as my yoga teacher.

While the deep pain in my life did not suddenly dissipate as a result of becoming a vegan, I did experience some immediate benefits. My overall physical health improved quickly and dramatically (To this day, at nearly 60 years old, I am far healthier than I was in my teens  and twenties.). Along with that, issues around body image and eating that had been a source of personal torture since my teens disappeared and never returned. These were miracles!

With veganism as a non-negotiable core value, along with the beginnings of an asana practice, I began the slow and arduous climb out of the deep pit that I found myself in. While I have utilized many additional means of recovery support along the way, I believe that the deepest and most profoundly transformative decision that I have made has been to become a vegan. Sri Dharma’s core teachings around Ahimsa certainly support this.

It is a rare individual who has not eaten animal flesh, dairy, and eggs. We have been born into cultures that treat food animals as commodities meant to be eaten. From birth we have been indoctrinated into a culture that tells us that we must consume animals, that it is normal and necessary for health. Upon questioning this indoctrination, however, we find that it is based upon false information. The human body is designed to thrive on a vegan diet. Additionally, on a deeper, spiritual level, the simple act of changing what we put on our plates at each meal – the decision not to participate in the abuse and slaughter of food animals, is liberating  beyond words. The benefits extend far beyond one’s health and spiritual development. As the effects of climate change become become increasingly evident, numerous sources of scientific research indicate that animal agriculture is the leading cause of global warming. (Perhaps the law of Karma is at work here…as we reap, so shall we sew.) What a blessing that, by choosing a plant-based diet, we are improving our own health, we are ceasing to participate in wide-spread violence towards sentient beings, and we are drastically reducing our contribution to the environmental stress on the planet!

In June 2015, I participated in the deeply transformative 200 hour LOAY training with Sri Dharma Mittra. Prior to making the decision to go through the LOAY training, as I searched for my yoga teacher, I started with one screening requirement: I needed a teacher who practiced and taught veganism as a core requirement of being a yogi. This one requirement narrowed the field of potential teachers down to few enough that I could count them on the fingers of one hand. Out of these few, I found myself drawn to Sri Dharma – his wisdom, dedication to his practice and to selfless service, his humility and egoless presence, and his fidelity to practicing and teaching the Yama of Ahimsa or non-violence. Ahimsa literally means A=not, himsa= killing or violence. In the LOAY Teachers’ Manual (2015, p. 4) Sri Dharma says, “Ahimsa means love; ‘thou shalt not kill!’ This applies not only to human beings, but to every living creature.”

Sri Dharma is one of the only yoga teachers of whom I am aware who does not shy away from teaching the yama of Ahimsa to his students truthfully. He regularly states while teaching that one must extend one’s compassion beyond one’s pets and that when one eats animals one is engaging in cruelty. He talks about how when one consumes animal products, one’s body becomes a morgue. In Sri Dharma’s words, “Without taking on the yama of ahimsa, there is little benefit to observing the other four yamas or any other aspect of the holy science of yoga.” (LOAY Teachers’ Manual, p. 5) I know, from the center of my soul, that this information is true and correct. The decision to become a vegan as a core component of one’s practice of Ahimsa will deepen and strengthen one’s  yoga practice. It will simultaneously improve the quality of one’s life immeasurably while benefiting other beings and the health of the planet. I highly recommend it!

Note: For additional information on the benefits of veganism that this blog has room for, I recommend reading The World Peace Diet by Dr. Will Tuttle and viewing the documentary, Cowspiracy.

Susan Craig is a Berkeley, California native who participated in the transformational June 2015 LOAY 200 hour training. Susan strives to practice Karma Yoga each day in her job as a school district administrator where she oversees support services for marginalized youth, as an advocate for animals through vegan activism, and as a teacher of a weekly donation-based yoga class. She resides in Napa in the home of the four cats and a rabbit who rescued her. Susan is most grateful to have found Dharma Yoga and to have Dharma Mittra as her yoga teacher and spiritual guide.

3 Ways To Cultivate Compassion In Your Life

By David Jozefczyk 
Ahimsa (non-violence/non-killing or compassion), the ethical guideline that stands in the forefront from the others, is life’s law of non-harming

Once this ethical guideline is mastered, all other ethical guidelines fall into place. Also true, is that the more compassion is studied, the more layers of understanding appear.



Most people understand Ahimsa in regards to non-killing or not causing physical pain to other human beings or pets.  But Ahimsa goes beyond that. Prior to learning about Ahimsa, I fell into this category.  The first time that I had the honor to receive Sri Dharma Mittra’s teachings regarding Ahimsa, it changed my life.  This intricate ethical guideline (Yama) was explained to me with such simplicity and in such a compassionate manner that it brought tears to my eyes and struck a chord deep within me
A vegetarian lifestyle is a great way to practice Ahimsa as it covers three areas – through thought, word and deed. 

1.    Thoughts

With thoughts, for example, when eating with friends and family who are not educated in Ahimsa, my thoughts do not judge or think bad of them.  I have realized their true Self does not mean to harm, it’s just their physical mind is not ready at this point in their evolution and so I feel compassion for them.



Ahimsa of thoughts not only applies towards others, but towards the self as well.  Negative thoughts can manifest themselves, so any negativity or harm towards yourself (as well as others) should be avoided.  A good amount of bad karma can be accumulated in this regard and no one wants that!

2.    Deeds
In regards to deed, leading by exampleand consistently living as a vegetarian is a very powerful way to influence and it may eventually change another person’s outlook on diet.  

3.    Words

Lastly, being vegetarian and practicing Ahimsa in regards to word, conversation arises from time to time and I am asked “what made you become vegetarian?”  I always choose my words carefully, as some friends and family members love to play devils advocate by mentioning plants.  I answer that it is impossible for most people to be completely non-harming due to the physical body needing sustenance, so I chose what I feel to be the lesser of two evils.  This type of conversation has the ability to transform others not aware of Ahimsa.

Words can be very powerful and life changing in both a positive and negative way.  Even a simple “hello” with the right intention to someone passing by can brighten his or her day! 

I feel it is a good practice to keep your words to a minimum and positive and uplifting in nature.  Many yogi masters teach that if you do not have anything good to say then this is a good time to practice silence or Mouna, which Swami Sivananda describes as “Tapas of speech.”
I am still learning from the masters to eradicate negative traits and to bring more compassion into my life by practicing Ahimsa.  Through a steady and consistent practice this can be mastered and then applied towards all Yamas and Niyamas!


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Dave Jozefczyk began practicing yoga in 2006 by taking class with his wife ‘chelle in his basement.  Having a consistent flow of friends who attended three days per week made it an official class.  The next chapter in Dave’s spiritual journey was experiencing a long weekend immersion with Sri Dharma Mittra at Kripalu in 2008 with his wife.  Since that transformative weekend, he has been faithfully practicing Dharma Yoga.  During these five plus years of practice and observing his wife’s transformation after completing her 500-hour LOAY Teacher Training, Dave realized that he also had the ability to help others and serve in so many different ways. In June of 2013, Dave was very humbled to experience the 200-hour LOAY TT at the Dharma Yoga Center in NYC.  He is currently teaching at the CNY Yoga Center (Dharma Yoga Syracuse) to fulfill his internship credentials.  It brings him such joy to be able to share the Dharma Yoga teachings, which he continues to learn from Sri Dharma and the Dharma family.

Psychic Transference

by Sara Schwartz  

When I first heard Sri Dharma Mittra say, “Psychic attack” I wasn’t sure I heard him right. How can an attack be psychic? Does it hurt? Then I pictured an exorcist type of event with convulsions. I was skeptical.  


As Michael Talbot explains in his book The Holligraphic Universe, “Psychic and spiritual phenomenon have played a significant role in aspects of our culture, but because they are not easy to rope in and scrutinize in a laboratory setting, science has tended to ignore them.”  


©Jeffrey Vock


Luckily, Sri Dharma is not bound by conventional scientific thought processes, and openly invites one to explore psychic phenomenon. Through the Dharma Yoga Life of a Yogi 500-hour teacher training, I began to learn what a psychic attack was. Slowly, the skeptic inside me turned from a judge into an observer. 



I learned that a psychic attack might be a thought that is not yours. A psychic attack might feel like you have a dark thought or craving that isn’t yours. For example, I might be walking down the street and suddenly crave a hot dog. I know I don’t like hot dogs, not even vegan ones. Perhaps it’s the person next to me who sees the cart and is tempted by its fare. Because we are all a part of the giant mind, her thought became my thought. 


A more obvious example might be when someone gets mad at you. His or her anger jumps into the pit of your stomach and you can feel it! That’s a psychic transference. Nothing physical actually happened between you, but you can feel the anger physically and emotionally. 


Subliminal advertising is a tangible example of a psychic attack. In 1957, James Vicary flashed, faster than most people can register, an image of popcorn and soda on a public movie screen. He found that the concessions sold more with this subliminal imagery. While this study was later debunked, it set off subliminal advertising fever. Later studies found that we are stimulated by these subliminal (often sexual) images in advertisements.


A psychic attack might be a mood. These moods can pass between lovers, friends, or even strangers. Riding the subway without your psychic defenses up can be a really harrowing experience. People are already in a bad mood when they have to be trapped in a small metal container and hurled through space at more than human speeds. Airplanes have the same general anxiety about them.


(Sometimes you can see a smile or hear good music, so these journeys aren’t always all bad!) 


©Sandra Pintaric

How do you combat a psychic attack? By strengthening your aura.


Yogi Gupta, Sri Dharma Mittra’s guru, in his book Yoga and Yogic Powers, instructs, “Rhythmic breathings, Nadi Purifier Breathing, Nadi stimulator breathing and Nadi Vibrator breathing are some of the techniques which will enable you to create a strong psychic aura of thought…”  


The psychic aura of thought happens on the subtle plane, which exists within the stage of the gross plane. The gross plane is your physical body, people on the subway, the subway car. The subtle plane is the amount of energy you feel you have in your body, all the thoughts and emotions of you and the people around you, and the hum of the engines. 


Because the gross and subtle planes are interwoven, he says, “…a strong psychic aura of thought, mingled with the forces of life, mind and prana, will serve as protection against a psychic attack.” 


Practicing the pranayama techniques will build your subtle psychic defenses and keeping your body healthy will help you on the gross level. Try an asana practice, cardiovascular exercise, drinking plenty of fresh water, eating raw/unprocessed foods, and reducing your consumption of animal products (where the fear of the animal might psychically make its way into your body). These are all ways you can help the prana energy flow clearly through your physical body.  


For your mind you need positive thinking so that the prana can flow freely. Yoga Gupta describes, “If the Great Lakes are full of sand, the ships can’t move through them.” So you have to clear your mind of heavy thoughts so the prana energy can sail free on the still waters of your mind. 




For your spirit, to purify your 72,000 psychic channels- the Nadi’s- that conduct prana through you, you can attend Sri Dharma Mittra’s Psychic Development classestwice a week.  The psychic development techniques help clear out and strengthen this weblike psychic shield of your astral body. 

Sri Dharma and any of his teachers can help you learn Rhythmic Breathings, Nadi Purifier, Nadi stimulator, and Nadi Vibrator breathings. Additionally, Sri Dharma recommends regular chanting of the Mantra for Purification, to purify your body and surroundings. 


Awareness of psychic attacks is key. Please, do not be afraid of psychic attacks or resentful towards anyone you feel is psychically attacking you. The goal is to strengthen your resolve to live a strong, positive, and healthy life. Keep your mind tuned into this positive direction and, as Sri Dharma says “may you acquire enough energy for the practice.”


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Sara Schwartz lives in Queens, New York with her husband Yancy. She currently teaches at Yoga to the People, where she received her 200-hour certification in 2010. She recently graduated from the Dharma Yoga Center Life of a Yogi 500-Hour Teacher Training. “Offer up the fruits of your practice” is her favorite advice from Sri Dharma Mittra. She is so grateful for the guidance of Sri Dharma and all of his teachers. 


Transitions


Gina Lee

My journey towards vegetarianism is not the one that you would normally hear of in a Dharma Yoga class. In fact, for years I attended classes and other teacher trainings in which they espoused the virtues of the yogic diet and I would politely nod my head knowing that as soon as I left I would be headed towards a meal with meat as its centerpiece. Even when I heard Sri Dharma give his classic comparison of our refrigerators to morgues and our stomachs to graveyards I went back to eating meat albeit with some food for thought (particularly thoughts that equated parts of my home and body to death). 
As a yoga teacher I was perplexed to hear from teachers that I had great respect for, that I was not living ahimsa by eating animals and I did my best to consume less by getting educated about where my meat was coming from and by choosing to eat only organically raised free range meat. This helped reduce the amount I was eating but I still felt the urge to eat it. Something was missing and I wasn’t really sure what. What would it take to give me the conviction that I needed? 
I was curious about how to possibly begin to incorporate more vegetarian options into my diet but it wasn’t until I met Sri Dharma that I felt a deeper pull to give vegetarianism a hard look. In my first immersion weekend with him he made his point clear: beyond the moral implications of eating animals, we could never realize the full potential of our meditation or yoga practice or feel the subtlety of the energetic impact of what we eat until we gave up meat and increased the amount of live foods that we consumed so we could see the difference for ourselves.
The idea of giving up meat cold-turkey (pun intended) scared me. But if there is one thing I’ve learned on my yogic path, it is that if something scares me I am headed in the right direction and that further investigation is necessary before drawing any conclusions or making a decision. 
As I started to root out my fears bit by bit, the first area that surfaced for inspection was my emotional connection to meat through my family of origin. Meat was a part of my psyche and identity as an Italian American. For us, meat was not only a primary source of protein but also one of pride and love. My mother’s meatballs are the stuff of legend; my Grandmother’s meat sauce has been passed down for generations, a rite of passage to be in the kitchen alongside her learning how to make it. To renounce meat would be to renounce them, to look upon my family’s rich tradition as barbaric and outdated.  
I also realized that my love for food and for cooking was heavily rooted in recipes for meat. For us, vegetables were always an afterthought or something meant to be choked down, certainly not enjoyed as a main course.  
As I peeled through the layers of awareness around my food habits I began to uncover hidden truths buried about myself within them. One that surfaced quickly was my emotionally reactive and addictive relationship with food that went far beyond meat. This particular fact was what led me to be 50 pounds heavier than I am today.   
My meals consisted mostly of highly processed foods, contained some fried element and had a super high fat content. My emotions and connection to food went something like this: 
Happiness=celebrate with food
Sadness=comfort yourself with food
Excitement=celebrate with more food than usual
Holiday=Plan entire day around preparing food then gorge yourself on food
Grief or depression=numb yourself with food
I knew I had a problem when I could remember more good meals than the names of acquaintances. I simply did not want to live in a world where pork fat was not a part of my diet. I derived more pleasure from eating bacon than any human should. Eating salad depressed me… you get the picture.
Through the careful practice and study of yoga I finally came to witness the feelings of emptiness and disconnection to my spirit that was driving me to eat the way that I was. I also realized how much my familial conditioning was holding me back from thriving as a healthy adult, and I wanted to be a better model for healthy eating habits for my children. Perhaps I could do the hard work of eating less meat and influence the ones I loved in a positive way.
I knew that I was ready to take the next steps on my path when I had successfully begun to add more and more vegetarian items to my cooking repertoire that didn’t depress me and were actually quite delicious (a shock even to myself) and more days passed before I had a meal with meat.  I was preparing myself for the next stage, my Dharma Yoga LOAY 500 Hour Teacher Training.
When it was time for me to seek out a 500-hour training, it was with careful thought and consideration that I chose Sri Dharma’s program. I knew that it would require a commitment to being a vegetarian for the duration of the training and I was inspired by the depth of devotion that Sri Dharma clearly had to his commitment to being not only vegetarian but mostly vegan. I was also genuinely curious about the energetic implications to what it would mean for me to have no meat for that great a length of time, the longest I would ever go without meat in my life thus far. 
At first, finding alternate replacements for protein was difficult; there was only so many sprouted almonds I could reasonably consume in a day. Once I got into my flow of morning smoothies and making tasty salads with tahini and avocado as suggested in Sri Dharma’s Ahimsa diet, I began to experience what they said about feeling lighter in my body and less disturbed in my mind. I also felt the digestive impact right away. The fresh green juices left me feeling energized and mentally sharper. I found I needed less sleep and that my emotions were more balanced. I was finally feeling something other than overwhelmed by what I initially felt was a restrictive lifestyle.
My family was largely unsupportive, which wound up being the more challenging thing for me to face.  My husband actually felt directly threatened by it, even though I still continued to cook meat dishes for him and our children. My mother and siblings outright taunted me at family gatherings. I stood firm but saw how challenging it would be to holding the diet for the rest of my life if I were to choose to do so once the training and all of my requirements were completed.
After all of my required months of steady diet journals and training, I felt my body (and perhaps mind) asking for meat so I allowed myself the ability to choose and see for myself what would happen to my energy and digestion again. I immediately found that my energy dropped and my digestion was impacted when I ate beef or pork. Chicken and fish seemed to do nothing so long as I watched the quantity and frequency. My decision was clear – beef and pork were officially off my plate (a major victory for cows and pigs everywhere, given how much I used to consume) and I would be greatly limiting the amount of chicken and fish I ate allowing it only when my body really gave me a message for it which is happening less and less frequently.  
I’m also happy to note that my family has backed off their incessant teasing to a certain degree; they are respecting my choices more and more and are even enjoying my creative interpretations to Italian classics such as mushroom “burgers”. They do still get mildly insulted when I turn down the food that they made with love and pride, but they are at least taking it a little less personally which is another victory to say the least.  
The lesson I learned through all of this is that even old habits and ways of being can change – even the strongest ones that you thought were an inextricable part of your being (if you give it enough time and self-reflection). I am gentle enough with myself to know that I will probably be in transition towards total vegetarianism for a while, but I know enough to not speak in absolutes or to attach too strongly to rigid timelines or expectations. Sri Dharma gave me the tools & strength to try, and I feel stronger in my convictions because of it. Life, like yoga, can be a work in progress.
Need some help with your transition? Join us on New Year’s Day for a special asana practice with Sri Dharma Mittra, followed by a FREE film screening of Forks Over Knives (Still have doubts about plant-based eating? This is the film for you.) Plus, free vegan snacks throughout the day, provided by the unbelievably delicious Cinnamon Snail food truck.
Make sure to pre-register for the festivities! 
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Gina Lee has been practicing yoga for ten years, teaching for five, and is the owner of Bearfoot Yoga & Wellness Center in Bay Shore, NY, which opened in May 2012. She is a certified Dharma Yoga Teacher (levels II and III) and a 200-hour level Integral Yoga instructor, as well as a certified Prenatal Yoga teacher. She has two beautiful, energetic sons and enjoys living her yoga in many ways, making her whole life a sadhana (spiritual practice). She enjoys making regular pilgrimages to the Dharma Yoga New York Center with her students in tow, spreading the light of Sri Dharma’s particular brand of yoga far and wide.