How yoga makes you more spiritual

Sitting comfortably in Govindas, the cosy little restaurant at the Hare Krsna temple in Rondebosch, Murari Gupta Das and I have a conversation over a cup of ginger and lemon tea. He’s wearing a woollen beanie, and wooden beads around his neck. Not dressed in his usual orange attire (which represents celibacy) surprises me, and I ask him why. He replies that he will be working in the restaurant later, and he doesn’t want his clothes to get stained. It is customary for the monks to do service at the temple. Murari’s service includes working at the restaurant once a week, handling the temple’s finances, doing grocery shopping and last, but not least, giving yoga classes 5 times a week.

The turn of conversation towards yoga immediately fires a passion in Murari’s eyes.

The yoga he teaches is called Hatha yoga. Ha means sun and tha means moon. Traditionally, Hatha yoga is about uniting the mind and body. Murari, on the other hand, aims to bring his students to the realization that “we are not the body or the mind; we are the soul.”

As he excitedly describes the different yoga poses, he suddenly remembers one of his yoga books, The Yoga Bible. When he returns with the book under his arm, I am so impressed by the hundreds of different illustrations of poses that I asked him if I could borrow it. He kindly agreed.

I ask Murari to share the procedure of an ordinary yoga class. Firstly, his students start with centering themselves. In other words, they turn the mind inwards and focus on the breath in order to calm the mind and stop its unceasing racing. Then, they start with warming up exercises. At this point, Murari gets up from his seat and shows me how to do a plank in the middle of the restaurant. These warming up exercises, including neck exercises and other postures, prepares one for the main pose, or The King of asana, namely the headstand.  According to The Yoga Bible, the benefits of this pose are countless. It calms the nervous system, nourishes the brain cells, balances the hormonal and digestive systems and strengthens the spirit. Not everyone can do the headstand, but a posture called the little bird helps one to reach the point of successfully doing a headstand. To do the headstand successfully, one has to concentrate. When I attended one of Murari’s classes a few months ago, all I could focus on was the pain in my limbs, my fast heart beat and my desire for rest. Concentration was the last thing on my mind. Murari said this problem can easily be solved if you “practice yoga regularly.”

Garudasana or Eagle Pose, which improves balance and focus. Photo: Lara Antonopoulos

So, how does yoga connect to spirituality? Interestingly, yoga was developed because people sat cross-legged during meditation, and a means was needed to assist the body during meditation. Meditation was almost unbearable since sitting in the same position for hours caused the body to ache and pain. Yoga was a solution, as it makes the body suppler. It creates a sense of spiritual and physical wellbeing to those who practice it. Even if one doesn’t meditate, yoga is still relevant to everyone, especially because we sit in front of the computer for hours on end.

Sitting in meditation can cause aches and pains, but this can be solved through yoga. Photo: Lara Antonopoulos

Vasisthasana or Side Plank Pose, strengthens arms, legs, wrists and core and improves concentration and balance. Photo: Lara Antonopoulos

If a single yoga pose has all those benefits listed above, why don’t all people practice yoga? I’ll be able to answer this question through self-reflection (by no means assuming my reasons are the same as everyone else’s.) Firstly, I hate the way exercise makes me feel – out of breath, in pain and sweaty. Secondly, I hate seeing how good everyone else is compared to me. I can’t even touch my toes without bending my knees. And lastly, improvement seems far away. I haven’t noticed any improvements, which is demotivating.

Murari’s advice – “practice yoga regularly” – seems to be a solution to all these problems.

Keren Shawlov, a student of Murari, says yoga gives her “mental clarity” and “it also helps me to maintain a good level of flexibility.” Another student who prefers to remain anonymous said “When I do yoga I feel de-stressed. I feel better physically and mentally.” Both students said they feel more spiritual when they do yoga. It is interesting that both students experience yoga as not just a physical form of exercise, but mentally revitalizing too.

Yoga isn’t all sunshine and butterflies though. “Yes, yoga could be dangerous,” says Murari. He encourages people to practice yoga under the guidance of a teacher. Yoga poses could be dangerous for different reasons, depending on the individual. For example, if you are pregnant, Murari doesn’t encourage you to do postures that compress the stomach. If you have high blood pressure, you shouldn’t attempt the headstand.

As our interview comes to an end, I swallow the last bit of my tea and then tell Murari that I would have liked to buy him a chocolate to thank him for his time but I assumed he doesn’t eat chocolate (he is a vegan). He tells me he eats dark chocolate, playfully throwing a hint. On that note, we conclude our interview, and I reluctantly leave the peaceful warmth of Govindas.

 

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Does the soul really rest in peace?

What happens after death is a question people have grappled with since the beginning of time. At the time of death, do we enter a state of eternal oblivion, do we meet God in a space of heavenly bliss, or do we come back to this life?

In this article, I will focus on the possibility of coming back to earth after death. This is known as reincarnation. Reincarnation is the cycle of death and rebirths to which the soul is tied. Some people might argue that the eternal nature of the soul is something people believe in because they are afraid of death, but the eternal nature of the soul is based on science. The soul is pure energy. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy can neither be destroyed nor created.

There are many scientists and philosophers who believe in reincarnation. Socrates once said, “I am confident that there truly is such a thing as living again, that the living spring from the dead, and that the souls of the dead are in existence.” Jim Tucker, a professor of psychiatry and neurobehavioral sciences at the University of Virginia, investigates cases of children who have memories of past lives. In one of these cases, a boy named Ryan Hammons had memories of his previous life as a director in Hollywood. He told his mom “I think I used to be someone else,” at the age of four.

Tucker’s work includes over 2500 cases of children who remember previous lives. Past life memories, hypnotic regression and near death experiences are among the things that provide evidence for reincarnation. The video below tells the story of Vicki Noratuk, a blind woman involved in a near fatal car accident. Her out of body experience suggests that the soul is indeed distinct from the body.

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I spoke to Shyamananda Das, who joined the Hare Krishna movement in 1987. He is not some religious fanatic. On the contrary, he has a background in applied physics and electronic engineering. Shyamananda remembers being in the womb. One day, he entered the lounge while his roommate was watching a program on television about the development of babies. They were filming the baby in the womb, and Shyamananda says “[I] got this overwhelming feeling of being in that position. I actually collapsed.” His revelation was revealed to him in his heart, and he says he knows “unequivocally” that it is true; and not just mere imagination or a dream.

Shyamananda was 25 when he had an out of body experience. He was meditating, and his internal prayer was to have proof that he is not the body. “Suddenly, I was out of my body, looking at myself meditating,” he says. The experience didn’t last very long, but it is proof that because we are separate from the body, we are eternal. The basis of reincarnation stems from the fact that we are eternal.

Contrary to popular belief, it is not only Indian religions that believe in the concept of reincarnation. Ancient books such as the Bible and the Koran support the idea of reincarnation as well. In John 3:3 Jesus told Nicodemus, “no one can see the kingdom of God unless they are born again”. In the Koran, Surah 2:28, it is said, “How can you deny Allah? Did he not give you life when you were lifeless; and will he not cause you to die and again bring you to life; and will you not ultimately return to Him?” To any theist these verses are crucial.

It is liberating to know that after death there is more than eternal darkness. Once you accept the concept of reincarnation as truth, the soul can start working towards the goal of escaping the cycle of death and rebirth and then finally rest in peace when he is united with God.

Life from a monk’s perspective

Murari Gupta Das (51) is a full-time monk living at the Hare Krishna temple in Rondebosch. Murari looks ten years younger than he actually is, and his whole demeanor speaks of vitality and energy. Murari is the name of the Lord and Gupta means hidden.  To Murari, his name symbolizes the fact that the Lord is hidden in his heart. Murari, previously known as Michael Hand, has been initiated as a monk since August last year. His new name signifies the shedding of an old identity and an old life.

I asked Murari what is the first thing he does when he wakes up in the morning. He said he prays to mother earth and asks her forgiveness for putting his feet on earth. After he says his prayers, he chants for half an hour and then attends the morning program at the temple.

I spoke to Murari’s spiritual master, Medhavi Das, about the morning program at the temple. Mangal arotike begins at 04:30 AM. This is followed by Tulasi puja. Then there is “a period of japa meditation where devotees individually chant the Hare Krishna mantra as attentively as possible. Afterwards, there is a greeting of the deities on the altar.” Then there is a class on the Srimad Bhagavatam, which has been translated from Sanskrit by Śrīla Prabupāda, which contains the gradual education in the intricacies of spiritual understanding and spiritual knowledge, following which there is breakfast, or Prasad (food that is offered to Krishna).

The altar with the deities. Photo: Lara Antonopoulos

Murari has been a vegetarian for nine years. Recently, he became a vegan.  Someone shared a video with him about how dairy animals are treated in factory farms. He then made the decision to not “partake in their suffering” and be “part of their torture” any longer. “The suffering of the cow goes into the milk, and then goes into the person who drinks or eats it,” he says.

The three main things one has to do to become more spiritual are first, realizing that there is “more” to life.  Secondly, one has to associate with spiritual-minded people. Spiritual strength comes from associating with like-minded people. Thirdly, one has to “start looking for a spiritual master/guru that you can surrender to and take instruction from to lead you further on the spiritual path.”

Murari says he has become happier since becoming spiritual. “Our true nature is service to the Supreme Lord. Therefore by practicing devotional service (chanting, hearing, and remembering), we are becoming more in tune with our true nature. That’s how you become happier,” says Murari. His path has been checkered, as he got divorced and his girlfriend died from cancer three years ago. Murari battled with depression a few years ago, and his psychologist told him “all you need to do is think of nothing.” He thought, “but thinking of nothing is thinking of something.” But when he discovered meditation, he found out it’s all about concentrating on one thing. Murari says meditation gave him a “peace of mind, it cured my depression, increased my concentration and increased my ability to be present in the moment.”

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Murari sitting in a meditative position. Photo: Lara Antonopoulos

What inspired Murari to become a monk is “the desire to develop a relationship with God. Living a normal life you are always so busy with living that you often don’t seem to have the time to contemplate on where you come from and what happens after you leave your body.” Murari feels he has become a better person since becoming spiritual. His diet has to do with compassion, but by no means does he judge meat-eaters. Through spirituality “you learn compassion and forgiveness. Those traits make you a better person.”

Murari has been celibate for two years. The purpose of celibacy is to focus your thoughts on God and spiritual things, instead of sexual pleasure. The Hare Krishnas believe that the purpose of sex (if you are married) is to make children. Celibacy isn’t easy, but through meditation one gradually detaches oneself from worldly pleasures, as you are drawn like a needle to a magnet to spiritual pleasures.

My absorbing conversation with Murari comes to an end too soon. What strikes me most about Murari is how happy he is with his life. A monk’s path is definitely not an easy one, but it is a happy one.

The power of mantra meditation

Meditation was once referred to by Hazur Maharaj Charan Singh as “the panacea for all ills”.  There are dozens of ways to meditate, so how do you know which practice is the best and which one will render the most benefits?

The answer is, there is no “best” meditation practice. The trick is to find the perfect technique that works for you. In this article, I will focus on mantra meditation, specifically the Mahã-mantra. It will be up to you to decide whether mantra meditation is for you.

A mantra is “a syllable, word, or verse with special spiritual potency chanted or meditated upon to invoke spiritual understanding and realization.”

The Mahã-mantra rings as follows: Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. Hare refers to the divine feminine, Krishna refers to the divine masculine, and Rama means an all-encompassing source of pleasure.

In Chant and be Happy: The Power of Mantra Meditation it is explained exactly how to chant. There are two kinds of chanting: japa and kirtan. Japa is when you chant alone on japa beads, whereas kirtan is when you chant in a group, usually with instruments. The beads should be held in your right hand and an individual bead should be rolled between your thumb and middle finger. While holding a bead, the mahã-mantra should be completed. Then you move onto the next bead, and the next, until you’ve chanted on all 108 japa beads. One round of chanting is now complete. Serious chanters chant for a minimum of 16 rounds per day, which is a total of 1728 mantras.

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Kirtan, or group chanting. Photo: Lara Antonopoulos

You can chant anywhere, at any time, but scriptures encourage us to chant before sunrise and after sunset. It is a conducive time to meditate because our concentration is better and it is generally quiet during these times.

The benefits of meditation vary according to how regularly you practice it. It is better to practice meditation every day for short periods of time, rather than infrequently for longer periods of time, according to Andrew Holecek, author of Preparing to Die.

Monks chant for a minimum of two and a half hours each day, and they wake up between 02:00 and 06:00 to chant. This lifestyle might not be compatible with a student, but that’s why you can chant (it doesn’t have to be out loud) on your way to class, in the jammie or whenever you have a spare moment.

Japa beads used in individual chanting. Photo: Lara Antonopoulos

I spoke to Hrsikesa Ramjith,19-year-old student at UCT majoring in BSc and computer science and physics. He still manages to incorporate time for meditation in his busy schedule, and explains that meditation has made him “a lot more relaxed.”  Meditation has also helped him cope with stress during exams.

Vasanti Devi Dasi, a monk at the Hare Krishna temple, told me that meditation has made her more peaceful, because “the why’s of life have been answered.” She has also become more disciplined and more selfless. Vasanti says mantra meditation is an offering of love. By chanting, you become free of the desire to commit sins, and your sins become minimized or eradicated depending on how sincere your chanting is.

In an interview with Bill Faill, Śrila Prabhupãda said, “Real meditation means to achieve a state in which the mind is saturated with God consciousness.” Whatever motives you have for meditating – be it to become less anxious, to still the mind, or to grow spiritually; there is ultimately no “wrong” or “right.” Do whatever works for you at a certain time in your life.

Why do bad things happen to good people?

When my cup of misery and self-pity is dangerously close to flowing over, the only option is to drink it, no matter how bitter it tastes. When I think “I don’t deserve this”. The ugly truth is, I probably do.

“That which we have done in a past life has become our destiny, our fate in this life”

Life is fair. Photo: https://za.pinterest.com/pin/127860076898222735/ Edited by: Lara Antonopoulos

During hard times, it is comforting to remember that everything which happens to you is a result of your actions in previous lives. It’s a lot to swallow, but in the end, it encourages us to always do actions of which we want to reap the desired results.

In The Master Answers, Maharaj Charan Singh says there are three types of karma:

Kriyaman karma is what we do in this life, and for which we will have to pay in the future.

Pralabdh karma is fate, in other words, the karma we face as a result of previous lives.

Sinchit karma is our reserve karma which has accumulated over thousands of lives because it is impossible to pay for what one has done in previous lives in one life only, therefore we have  Sinchit karma, a huge debt.

One of the main things you can do to lessen your karmic burden is to stop eating meat. One might ask why is what we eat a determiner of what good and bad things happen in our lives. The crucial thing about eating is the fact that you literally have a choice between life and death. Brian Hines, author of Life is Fair says the following about meat-eaters: “No matter how virtuous my actions are in other respects, no matter how devoted I am to my creator, I’m digging myself into a moral hole every time I sit down for a meal.”

It is strange that the murder of a fellow human being is seen as atrocious, but murdering thousands upon thousands of animals each year to satisfy the taste buds is seen as a normal lifestyle. When people say “I can’t live without meat,” they don’t consider that the suffering of animals is neither normal nor natural.

Not only does meat eating cause animals to suffer, but it also contributes to the suffering of humans in the form of diseases, such as cancer and cardiovascular diseases. Perhaps this is the karmic price to pay for eating meat.

Karma is a law of nature. Whether you believe in it or not, it is inescapable and infallible. Karma is a Sanskrit word which means “action”. It does not only refer to bad action. Karma can be good too. People whose lives seem too good to be true – they’re rich and successful, happy and good-looking – are reaping the fruits of the good actions which they sowed in previous lives. On the other hand, the trials and tribulations which another person might be experiencing is also a result of seeds sown in previous lives. You get what you give, whether it’s good or bad.

Bad things happen to good people, but bad things also happen to bad people. Someone who gets away with murder will pay for it in his next life. But by no means should you only be kind just because you fear karma. “If people are good only because they fear punishment, and hope for reward, then we are a sorry lot indeed.” So be kind, just because.

 

A Monk’s Story

Gopa Kumar Das, a monk living at the Hare Krishna temple in Rondebosch, went from being homeless to being richer than most people on earth.

Gopa doesn’t drive a BMW or have billions of rands in the bank. But he is happy. “I don’t remember how to be sad,” he tells me. Of course, I find it hard to believe, as sadness is a part of life, but Gopa assures me that good news and bad news is the same to him. Gopa used to be a painter, and he came to Cape Town to market his paintings. “I did well,” he recalls. “My agent stole everything I had and I ended up on the streets.” I assumed that an event like that would be enough to turn anyone into a hardened, resentful and angry human being. But Gopa surprised me when he told me “I really appreciate that he [the agent] did it. I wouldn’t have realized there was suffering if he didn’t do it.”

Gopa went a year without showering, and sometimes he went up to three days without any food. It seems like a cruel world, but Gopa recalls a story of great warmth and compassion: “There was one guy from Nigeria. Whenever he had money, he would buy me food. He was struggling as well.” Sometimes they slept together on the benches in Gardens. Gopa says they are still “close”. His reminiscence shows one that kindness is one stranger away and one act away from turning a stranger into a lifelong friend.

“I knew I wasn’t a victim to anything.”

Gopa’s faith in God never wavered; not even during times when his hunger was gnawing or when his thirst was like sandpaper against his throat. His faith in God remained unwavering because he never blamed God for his circumstances. “When I was in the streets I somehow knew I did something that put me in that position. Everything is a reaction to something. There’s a reason for everything.”

If you live from day to day with the only goal to put food in your belly, isn’t spirituality the furthest thing from your mind? When Gopa lived on the streets, people passed him by daily. He recalls that he listened to them as they passed by, and he heard them complaining about their lives. “The people who had homes were suffering more than I was,” he realized. Gopa prayed every day to God to give him a roof over his head, but his realization that everyone was suffering made him wonder, “Is anything going to change if I have a roof over my head?” and “Why are we here?”. At this point, Gopa became more interested in spirituality than gaining material things.

Gopa was still homeless when he became acquainted with the temple. He started washing pots for the temple every now and then. Management offered to pay him for his services, but he refused. Serving made him feel better. “The temple president told me the temple is for people like me who want to give devotional service” he recalls. “I had no idea it was a possibility for me to stay at the temple.”

Today, Gopa has been living at the temple for six years. His daily routine has changed from walking around searching for food to devoting every hour of every day to the Lord. He meditates every day for a minimum of two hours, he learns scriptures for a few hours every day and he distributes books in the streets and spreads the word of God to those who are willing to listen.

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Gopa holding Japa beads, which he uses during mantra meditation. Photo: Lara Antonopoulos

Medhavi Das is a spiritual master who was kind enough to spare some time to speak to me about the history of the temple. Two devotees – His Grace Vardhanya Das and His Grace Bhimal Prasad Das – and their wives came to Cape Town in 1986. The building in Rondebosch was purchased in January 1988 by Vardhanya Das. It was an old apartment building, and “it had seen better years,” says Medhavi. Medhavi and his wife managed the temple from September 1988. The temple has about 30 rooms. The temple does not only offer housing to monks. On the contrary, even students can live there. One must abide by the temple rules, though. “No meat-eating, no intoxication, no illicit sex, and no gambling,” says Medhavi. Persons who are accepted to live in the temple are expected to attend some of the morning program that starts at 4:30 in the morning.

A usual day in the temple starts at 4:30 in the morning. The program is called Mangal Arotike. This is followed by Tulasi Puja which lasts for 15 minutes. Then there is a period of Japa meditation where devotees sing the Hare Krishna mantra and that is followed by a greeting of the deities on the altar. During the day, monks perform services in service of Krishna. Students, on the other hand, focus on their studies whilst they are encouraged to attend a few morning programs each week.

The transition from living on the streets to being a monk in the temple is a big one. Not only has Gopa’s lifestyle changed, but his mindset as well. “By being a monk, you’re free. It’s about working with what’s eternal. So-called normal people look for temporary things.” Gopa’s devotion to the eternal has made it easier for him to detach himself from material things. But he says when you meditate, the goal is not to become detached. The goal is to realize yourself. In the process, you become detached. He says it’s easier to become detached from material things when you understand that you are not your body. He uses a simple example to illustrate that we are not the body. He says when we talk about our bodies, we say “my body” not “me body”. Our bodies are thus something we possess, not something we are.

I asked Gopa to describe himself in three words, but instead, he reverted the question back to me, “How would you describe me?” Without hesitation, I said, “devotional, a servant and willing.”

Some people are so poor, all they have is money. Of his austere life, Gopa says, “This is the best life ever.” Owning little is great, but wanting even less is greater.

 

The secret to TRUE happiness

Everyone wants to know the secret to inner happiness. The truth is: there is no quick, 10 step guide to inner happiness. There are many ways one can achieve happiness, but there is a difference between material, temporary happiness, such as money, cars, a dream job, etcetera, and spiritual contentment, which is perpetual happiness. When I speak of spiritual happiness, I do not mean an isolated life in the Himalayas, with your only material possession being the clothes on your back. On the contrary, it is possible to achieve inner happiness while balancing a life of family, work and the buzz of everyday life.

In an interview with Vasanti Devi Dasi (28), a full-time monk in Rondebosch, she said one of the three fundamental characteristics of the soul is Ananda, which means divine joy or bliss. Ananda can only be accomplished through regular, devoted meditation, according to Paramhansa Yogananda, author of “Autobiography of a Yogi”.

The radiant-looking Vasanti. Photo: Vasanti Devi Dasi

True happiness cannot be found on the outside. When we attach ourselves to money and material possessions, there is always the possibility of losing material possessions and riches. Do we really want to base our happiness on what we own? The law of karma explains why some people are happy (regardless whether they are rich or poor) and some people are not. True happiness comes when one is happy with what one has. Gratitude can boost dopamine, just like antidepressants, says Alan Korb, the author of The Upward Spiral.

Wayne Dyer once said, “abundance isn’t something we acquire. It is something we tune into”. When you are happy with what you have, then that becomes enough. So, it isn’t a happy person who is grateful, but rather a grateful person who is happy. Being grateful cultivates a relationship with a higher being. Ancient texts, like the Bible and the Bhagavad Gita, emphasize the importance of a grateful heart. “Whatever I am offered in devotion with a pure heart — a leaf, a flower, fruit, or water — I accept with joy.” – Bhagavad Gita, chapter 9 verse 26.

“Attitudes are more important than circumstances”

Happiness is determined by the quality of our thoughts. I once read a quote which said: “when you fix your thoughts on God, God fixes your thoughts.” Thoughts lead to attitudes, and with a positive attitude, you can make the best out of the worst situation. When you accept events in life as if you have chosen it, then life changes for the better. Happiness, therefore, does not depend on what you make of life, but how you take it. hector Esponda says in his book, A Spiritual Primer, that attitudes are more important than circumstances. The way you react to a situation is truly what matters.

Vasanti has practiced meditation since the age of four, which proves that anyone can meditate if they are devoted enough. Through devotion or bhakti, one renders a service to God which ultimately leads to a deep sense of satisfaction and joy.

“The best way to be unendingly happy is to be conscious of the Divine.” Divine consciousness is achieved through meditation. Seeker, the answer to true happiness lies within!

You save more water by not eating a pound of meat than you do by not showering for six months

The water crisis in Cape Town is a dire situation as there are only 79 days of useable water left. Our water resources will be exhausted by 30 June, as announced by News24.

Cape Town uses approximately 801 million litres of water per day, which is 101 million liters above the target of 700 million liters per day. It is not only large corporations that use exorbitant amounts of water. Many households are responsible for this high water usage – 20 000 homes use 50 kilolitres a month, according to Patricia de Lille, the mayor of Cape Town. These households will not go unpunished though. They face steep fines if they fail to reduce their consumption levels and warnings have been issued which affirms that their water usage will be cut to 350 litres per day.

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Theewaterskloof dam, one of the biggest water suppliers in Cape Town, is close to empty. Photo: http://www.news24.com/SouthAfrica/News/emergency-measures-in-place-for-water-crisis-cape-town-20170313 Edited by: Lara Antonopoulos

Each individual can make a difference to save Cape Town by reducing their level of water consumption:

Adopting a vegetarian diet could be beneficial to Cape Town and aid in the attempt to save the city. The amount of water that goes to raising animals for food is astounding. The production of one pound of meat takes more than 2,400 gallons of water, whereas just 25 gallons of water is needed to grow 1 pound of wheat. Diets which depend on meat, therefore, place enormous pressure on the environment. Research claims that up to 24% more water will be needed to grow the world’s food in 20 years. It is simply not viable if one continues to live a meat-based life.

There are many other prudent ways in which people – meat eaters and vegetarians – can save water. Non-potable water (water that is not of drinking quality) can be utilized in many ways:

  • Individuals can shower with a bucket and recycle the grey water to use in the garden.

  • Vehicles can be washed with non-potable water.

  • Other little things which make a big difference include fixing a dripping tap and

  • Turning off the tap when you brush your teeth (because running the tap while brushing your teeth uses up to 20 litres of water!) or

  • Installing a water meter.

Attempts to manage water consumption will be put into effect, according to Xanthea Limberg –   the mayoral committee member for water services – in an interview with Cape Argus. “… the city will intensify the restriction rules further and drop pressures to inhibit high consumption.” The installation of water management devices would assist households, businesses and other users to efficiently manage consumption. Level 3B water restrictions have been in effect since 1 February 2017 until further notice. The hyperlink explains what the restriction entails in more detail.

It may seem futile to fix a dripping tap – one might ask how that matters in the grand scheme of things, but it is important to remember that every drop counts. Overcoming the water crisis starts at home. In the end, saving water will not only help the water crisis in Cape Town, but it will also benefit the environment.

If you are what you eat, are you a garden or a graveyard?

Do you miss bacon?” is one of the first responses I get when I tell someone I’m a vegetarian. The answer is no. In fact, the thought of ever eating meat again makes me shudder. Vegetarianism is a hotly debated topic, and there will always be people that believe they “can’t” live without bacon. This article is not here to try and persuade you to become a vegetarian or to shove “meat is murder in your face”. I am merely explaining vegetarianism from a spiritual point of view.

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You are what you eat. Photo: twitter.com/my_vegan_dreams/status/772464413483921410 Edited by Lara Antonopoulos

Albert Einstein once said that “nothing will benefit human health and increase the chances for survival of life on Earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet”. There are many scientific arguments which support a vegetarian diet. Meat eating causes cancer,  obesity, heart disease and many other health issues. The meat industry also destroys the environment. It causes deforestation, a waste of resources, water pollution, and global warming. Spiritual people are vegetarians for different reasons, though.

Imagine how terror-stricken an animal becomes the moment before it is slaughtered. There are many stories of how cows die of fear while they are led to the slaughterhouse. It was even found that dead pigs have humungous veins which basically exploded of fear and adrenalin while the pig was led to the slaughterhouse. The perpetuate cycle of being born only to become someone’s dinner transmits an energy of anxiety and melancholy onto our plates. Energy can’t be destroyed, and it remains in the meat from the moment the animal is slaughtered until the moment we consume it. It is impossible to keep our bodies pure while sustaining ourselves on meat. Our body is a temple, and it is spiritually counterproductive to pollute it with the corpse of a dead animal.

In an interview with Murari Gupta Das, a local monk at the Hare Krsna temple in Rondesboch, he  shared an anecdote with me about how he became a vegetarian. A Swami asked him, “Do you want a relationship with God?” Murari replied, “Yes”. The Swami then said, “But when you eat meat, it’s like me going to your house and saying ‘I’m hungry, can I eat your dog?’ Would you want to be friends with me then?” Murari said “no”. The Swami explained that the same applies when you want to have a relationship with God. If you want to be friends with him, you cannot eat meat. Nine years later, Murari is still a vegetarian.

Only vegetarian food is cooked in the temple kitchen. Photo: Lara Antonopoulos

Vegetarianism is also encouraged by the Bible and ancient Vedas. Stephen Knapp quotes the Vedic text of the Manu-samhita (5.45-8) in his book The Heart of Hinduism: The Eastern Path to Freedom, Empowerment and Illumination: “… but let him [man] never seek to destroy an animal without a [lawful] reason. As many hairs as the slain beast has, so often indeed will he who killed it without a [lawful] reason suffer a violent death in future births.” (Manu-samhita 5:37 – 38) This quote shows us that when you sow suffering, you will reap suffering. As the second law of thermodynamics states, for every action, there must be an equal and opposite reaction. This is called karma. In your next lives, you will pay the consequences for inflicting pain and suffering on innocent animals. When we base our happiness on the suffering of other beings, we bring upon ourselves undesirable consequences. Is it worth slaughtering an innocent animal for the sole purpose of satisfying your taste buds?

How can man find peace if, through the tortuous cycle of the meat industry, man’s body is permeated with the anxious energy of an animal living on a factory farm? How can man find peace if his karma accumulates every time he eats an animal?  Finding peace and bliss is a crucial part of spirituality, and it is important to remember “until he extends the circle of his compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”