Q. Why do you avoid smoking or drinking coffee, tea or alcohol?
A. Caffeine, nicotine, alcohol—to varying degrees these are all intoxicants. That is, they all have a toxic effect on the body. Devotees of Krishna eat and drink only things that can first be offered to Him, and in the scriptures He requests pure, nutritious food and beverages.
By avoiding caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, and similar substances devotees keep their minds clear for concentrating on spiritual goals.
Q. Why do you avoid meat?
A. The most important reason why we must refrain from eating meat is: Krishna’s instruction to us in the Ninth Chapter of the Bhagavad-gita. He requests us to offer Him everything we do, including our eating. He asks us to offer Him with love and devotion, “a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water.” Because Krishna doesn’t ask for meat products, we don’t offer Him any. Since the true aim of life is to please God and re-establish our love for Him, we don’t want to displease Him. The Gita’s third chapter gives the process of purifying our lives or making them pleasing to God.
Krishna is very merciful. He understands our need for material things. Therefore, He created a way for us to offer or sacrifice the things of the world for a spiritual purpose. In that way we can fulfill our desires and needs for material things and not incur karmic reactions. Krishna says that if we offer our food to Him we become free from sinful reactions. The idea behind “offering” something to God is that everything actually belongs to Him. If we don’t acknowledge that, we’re subject to a “fine,” or karmic reactions. This is just like taking advantage of gas, water, electricity, and so on, in your home. You can use these only if you’re willing to pay for them. Besides the spiritual consideration, a vegetarian diet is natural (humans have vegetarian digestive systems) and compassionate. It brings economic benefits both individually and collectively, and it is beneficial to one’s health and to the environment.
Q. Why are you Vegetarians?
A. The Vedic scriptures establish nonviolence, called ahimsa, as the ethical foundation of vegetarianism and for a peaceful society. According to the Vedas, God is the Supreme Father of all creatures, not just humans. Therefore, slaughter of innocent animals is considered equivalent to killing one’s brother or sister.
Krishna devotees follow a wholesome lacto-vegetarian diet excluding meat, fish and eggs. Although it may be argued that vegetarians are guilty of killing vegetables, foods such as fruits, nuts, milk, and grains do not require killing. Also plants have an undeveloped consciousness as compared to animals. Therefore, when a plant’s life is taken, the pain involved is dramatically less than that of a highly-sensitive animal such as a cow or lamb.
Further, in Bhagavad-Gita (9.26), the Lord says, “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it.” Here He clearly specifies what He will accept. According to karma, nature’s law of action and reaction, human beings must suffer for any killing that is against God’s laws. For this reason, as well as to show recognition and appreciation for the supreme proprietor and supplier of all food, devotees prepare vegetarian meals as devotional offerings to Krishna, God. Then food is called prasadam (spiritual food), which can be fully enjoyed without karmic reaction.