Is it necessary to be a vegetarian in order to follow the spiritual life?
The vegetarian diet does play a role in the spiritual life. Purity is of paramount importance for an aspirant. This purity we must establish in the body, in the vital and in the mind. When we eat meat, the aggressive animal consciousness enters into us. Our nerves become agitated and restless, and this can interfere with our meditation. If a seeker does not stop eating meat, generally he does not get subtle experiences or subtle visions.
At one time the animal consciousness was necessary for forward movement. Animals are by nature aggressive but, at the same time, there is some dynamic push forward in the animal consciousness. If we had not had animal qualities, we would have remained inert, like trees, or we would have remained in the stone consciousness where there is no growth or movement. But unfortunately the animal consciousness also contains many unillumined and destructive qualities. Now we have entered into the spiritual life, so the role of the animal consciousness is no longer necessary in our life. From the animal consciousness we have entered into the human consciousness, and now we are trying to enter into the divine consciousness.
The mild qualities of fruits and vegetables help us to establish, in our inner life as well as in our outer life, the qualities of sweetness, softness, simplicity and purity. If we are vegetarians, this helps our inner being to strengthen its own existence. Inwardly, we are praying and meditating; outwardly, the food we are taking from Mother-Earth is helping us too, giving us not only energy but also aspiration.
Some people feel that it is meat that gives them strength. But if they go deep within, they may discover that it is their own idea about meat that is giving them strength. One can change that idea and feel that it is not meat but the spiritual energy pervading one's body that gives one strength. That energy comes from meditation as well as from proper nourishment. The strength that one can get from aspiration and meditation is infinitely more powerful than the strength one can get from meat.
Many spiritual seekers have come to the conclusion that a vegetarian is in a position to make quicker progress in the spiritual life. But along with a vegetarian diet, one must pray and meditate. If one has aspiration, the vegetarian diet will help considerably; the body's purity will help one's inner aspiration to become more intense and more soulful. But again, if one is not a vegetarian, that does not mean that one will not make spiritual progress or will not be able to realise God.