Question: I have read that Mahatma Gandhi had to face a lot of difficulties in the West as he was a vegetarian and most of the restaurants at that time served non-vegetarian food. Srila Prabhupada, the founder of ISKCON, when in America, used to cook his own food. I am very eager to know how Swami Vivekananda maintained being a strict vegetarian in the West.
My second question is “Is vegetarianism not an indispensable part of monastic and spiritual life”?
Answer: Swami Vivekananda was born in a Bengali family, who were non-vegetarians by birth. So was Swamiji was not a strict Vegetarian. He was not a strict vegetarian. Moreover, whatever food came to him whether vegetarian or non-vegetarian he used to accept it without making much fuss about it. Sri Ramakrishna used to say about his purity that even if he eats pork nothing will happen to him.
Moreover Gandhiji and Srila Prabhupada are vegetarians by birth. So they might have continued to be so in later life period also.
Gita teaches that a spiritual aspirant must eat Satvik food as far as possible. Food of violence is not Satvik food. There are non-vegetarians who are really highly advanced souls in spiritual life. However it is always helpful to take Satvik food. Even vegetarian food should be consumed in moderation at regular intervals and food like salads and fruits should be eaten in plenty. Finally I would like to mention that whatever food suits to ones constitution and easily digestible must be taken but not to satisfy the palate.
Swamiji lived for others sake and being a sannyasin, whatever food he received freely he took for his physical survival. We cannot compare the life style of one Saint with other great personalities. The life of each great ones is unique and we have to take whatever inspires us to lead an unselfish & pure life. Try to understand the great personalities more and more deeply by being yourself unselfish. Read Swamiji’s great life regularly and get inspiration from Him for your glorious future.