The Dharma of Eating: Religions and Food
by Louise Bialik

The first food any human baby ingests is mother's milk. Before the advent of monotheistic religions such as Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, western polytheistic cultures, like the Egyptians and Romans, worshiped the lactating breast, believing that the moon itself was the bosom of the moon goddess, Artemis, and the Milky Way but milk drops splattered into the night sky when Hera took the infant Hercules off her breasts. If milking breasts fed the hungry, and babies learned over time that their mothers would feed them when they cried, the natural progression would be the development of language to express gratitude so that more food would find its way home. Yet man had outgrown suckling and abandoned the moon mother when desiring to chat with the Great Force whose seeds, fruit trees and vegetation provided a heartier bite. Before science and technology, the sky's boundaries were unknown and off limits. Evolving man imagined or intuited such a power had to be a Heaven Dweller who watched over all things created from seed, even the moon itself. If seeds come from male sex organs, then there must be one source which is omni-everything and therefore, male, too.

Sometime around the invention or realization of a singular and masculine God, man began to exchange female breastmilk power for the inverse; infanticide. Done for the reason of honoring God's gifts, this practice was "logical" because executing one's own kin would leave one less mouth to feed and more food to go around. Such was the experience of Abel who was killed by his over-hungered brother, Cain, after Abel impressed God with an animal sacrifice which threw Cain into a jealous rage. Talk about food fights! Fruit did not fall far from Cain's tree when according to Genesis, his parents, Adam and Eve, sacrificed their immortality when eating the big apple. For their selfishness, their offspring and all of mankind were punished by hunger, and as a family, before they began begetting their endless chain of human bondage, they learned to make sacrifices, large and small.

In the ancient sacrifices of the Old Testament, only the blood and selected parts of the victim were offered to God while priests and followers feasted on leftovers (Leviticus 7: 11-21). A holocaust (from the Greek "wholly burned") was a sacrifice in which an animal was taken to a High Place and, except for its hide, consumed by fire (Leviticus 1: 1ff). During one holocaust, Abraham, father of Isaac, was asked by God to sacrifice his son to prove his devotion, but when Abraham was about to ignite Isaac, God sent an angel and made him stop. Abraham had proven his devotion to God. As recounted in the Iliad, the ancient Greeks sacrificed cattle by taking the choicest portion of meat from the thigh bone to wrap in fat and garnish with tiny bits of flesh on the outside. Afterwhich, they burned this offering over a fire which carried their smokey prayers up to their gods.

In the Hindu Satapatha Brahmana when, "In the beginning, the sacrifice most acceptable to the gods was man," man got wise and began substituting human flesh with "a horse, then an ox, then a sheep, then a goat, until at length it was found that offerings of rice and barley was most pleasing." But was God really happy by these substitutions? According to Hebrews 9:12, God sacrificed his Son to redeem mankind, and, to spare the blood of animals. Essentially saying, 'Don't kill any more babies or animals, but if you must, a goat is best, but only if the slaughter is humane and clean, and if you remember Me in the ritual. This is not about a bloodfest. If you abide by my laws, I will bless you with bountiful harvests and Eternity.' From this direction, man learned to appreciate four basic food groups: a) forbidden, b) transubstantiated, c) sacrificed, and, d) blessed.

Jewish Kosher Foods

"Kosher" in Hebrew means "right and appropriate according to law." Jewish dietary laws mandate strict adherence to separating dairy and meat in the kitchen. Dairy products aren't allowed in meat meals or served with them (no bean and cheese burritos for instance). A period of time is observed between dairy and meat meals (4-6 hours). When a food product is neither milk nor meat, and can be served and eaten with both, the word "Parve" is stamped on the item.

Many kosher households have two kitchen areas, one for meat and the other for dairy. Non-Kosher forbidden foods are seafood without scales or fins, like shrimp and crab, and pigs and rabbits. Acceptable foods are slain animals with cloven hooves (only cud chewers) and chicken. All kosher animals must be slaughtered in the ritual manner of throat-slitting while the animal is alive and prepared under rabbinical supervision.

During Passover, which occurs for eight days every year in March or April, the Jewish dietary law only permits food that does not contain any leavened products, since during their exodus, people of Israel did not have time to bake leavened bread. Unleavened bread which is Kosher and Parve looks like crackers.

According to the Old Testament, when God destroyed most of Earth by a flood, Noah sailed his Ark in search for dry land. After a year, Noah reached dry land, and seven colors of a rainbow appeared which brought the "Seven Commandments." One of the spectral "Seven Commandments" forbade cruelty to animals, specifically the practice of "wrenching a limb off a living animal for food." Yet the rainbow commandment declared that "killing animals in a humane manner for eating its meat is allowable, but ingestion of its blood which would then commingle animal with human life would be an act of transgression." (Kosher Overseers of America).

Pork, Sausages, Cured Meats

Poultry, Beef, Lamb, Liver, Sweetbreads, Eggs, Cheese and Dairy Products, Flour Ingredient Products, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Sugars and Preservatives, Potatoes, Rice, Herring and Fish, Shrimp, Fish with Scales

Muslim Foods

Muslim food preparation is governed according to Halaal laws found in the Koran of Islam. There are many rules and restrictions according to what is allowed and when. But essentially, any food product coming from pig's meat, like pork, ham or bacon, is forbidden, and all alcohol is forbidden, even in the preparation of Muslim food (no red wine vinegar in the salad dressing for instance).

Animals and poultry, such as lamb, beef and chicken, are acceptable if slaughtered according to specific Halaal methods. Special fasting rules apply during the month of Ramadan when Muslims fast from dawn until sunset. The fast is known as the "sawm " (like the Hebrew word, "tzom" ), and while fasting, no water, food or sexual contact is to be taken or experienced.

Pork, Sausages, Alcohol, Eel, Animal Fats

Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Poultry, Yogurt, Nuts, Rice, Corn, Pasta, Eggs, Herbs and Spices, Cheese and Dairy Products, Dried Beans and Peas

Hindu Foods

Practioners of the Hindu religion are either non-vegetarian Hindus or strict vegetarians. Both groups refrain from eating beef and pork. Some Hindu vegetarians and members of the Jain community don't eat roots like ginger, garlic, onions, potatoes and carrots while vegan vegetarians keep away from all meat, fish, eggs and dairy products.

Last year, a vegetarian Hindu man visiting a drive-thru Taco Bell asked for a bean and cheese burrito but midway through a big bite he found himself eating carne de carcass. He was pretty peeved because he sued for what it would cost to be purified in the Ganges.

Beef, Beef Products/Meat Exchange, Veal, Eggs, Cheese and Dairy Products, Lamb, Pork, Fish and Seafood, Chicken/Fowl, Animal Fats, Taco Bell

Rice, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Starches, Corn, Herbs and Spices, Tofu, Dried Beans and Peas

Buddhist Foods

For the Buddhist vegetarian, vegetable based food is ideal for health, spiritual growth (karma / dharma) and environmental welfare. Most Buddhists regard all living creatures with equal respect and mercy since everything is reincarnated and one may not wish to risk eating one's ancient kin, or worse, consume the living memory stored within the flesh of the recently deceased (especially if their death was painful). In this sense, you not only are what you eat but you become negatively influenced by the life energy you take. Lord Buddha says that meat eating, "in any form, is not permitted to anyone" (Lankavatara Sutra).

Regionally, the Buddha's dietary practices vary from Korea , Tibet, China and Japan. Tibetan Buddhists tend to be vegan while Asian Buddhists may at times eat fish or poultry, and Korean Buddhists may sample forbidden pork and shrimp.

"You must not use your God given body for killing God's creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever." - Yajur Veda Samhita 12.32

Beef, Beef Products/Meat Exchange, Veal, Eggs, Cheese and Dairy Products, Lamb, Pork, Fish and Seafood, Chicken/Fowl, Animal Fats

Rice, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Starches, Corn, Herbs and Spices, Tofu, Dried Beans and Peas

Orthodox Christian and Catholic Foods

In early spring, during the season of Lent, Orthodox Christians and Catholics give up eating meat and dairy products, eggs, fish and olive oil. Like the Muslims, children, menstruating women, the elderly and the sick are excused from fasting. The fast is done in sacrifice to remember the fasting that Christ experienced for 40 days and 40 nights. And like Jesus, televisions and radios are unplugged for those 40 days.

In addition to the Lent fast, Catholics, Orthodox Christians and other Christian sects celebrate a ritual called Communion every Sunday (Sabbath Day) when their priest or minister prays over wine and bread to transubstantiate into the blood and flesh of Christ. Afterwards, they eat and drink these transformed foods in remembrance of Christ's Last Supper and crucifixion. On Friday evenings, some conservative Catholics go without red meat and poultry, having just fish with vegetables. This dinner is known as Fish Friday.

During Lent: Beef, Beef Products, Veal, Eggs, Cheese and Dairy Products, Lamb, Pork, Fish and Seafood, Chicken/Fowl, television, radio; and on Fridays if you re a Conservative Catholic: no red meat or poultry

Wine, bread, Rice, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, grains

7th-Day Adventist Foods

Seventh-Day Adventists are generally lacto-ovo vegetarian Christians who've given up meat and mood altering substances because when man and animal co-existed in the Garden Of Eden, there was no flesh-eating, no wild partying, and no java-wired chain smoking. The chief reason why 7th-Day Adventists go without meat and booze is because they regard the body as a temple of God's creation. With this gift, members of the church aim to practice healthy lifestyles which include meditation and exercise. The 7th-Day Adventists also producea delicious line of protein rich soy burgers and have a University in Loma Linda, California.

"Those who eat flesh are but eating grains and vegetable at second hand; for the animal receives from these things the nutrition that produces growth. The life that was in the grains and the vegetables passes into the eater. We receive it by eating the flesh of the animal. How much better to get it direct by eating the food that God provided for our use!" - Ellen G. White, Co-Founder of 7th Day Adventist, 1905

All meat, alcohol, tobacco, drugs, MSG, cigarettes, caffeine

Rice, Fresh Fruits and Vegetables, Starches, Corn, Herbs and Spices, Tofu, Dried Beans and Peas

Vegetarian Links
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