Chanting is a journey towards realizing your spiritual nature and achieving higher consciousness. Part of this journey is to start looking at the way we live and how it affects us. This is part of the science of yoga which leads to cleansing the heart and experiencing the joy of living in spiritual harmony with the divine, nature, and others.
In bhakti-yoga, not only do we set aside time for spiritual practices like Mantra Meditation, but we try to live the rest of our day cultivating good character and giving up habits that degrade our consciousness. One of the most important ways your lifestyle can support higher consciousness is the practice of ahimsa or nonviolence.
Radhanath Swami writes beautifully about this in his book 'The Journey Within', a contemporary treatise on bhakti-yoga.
“The first regulative principle[in Sanskrit – yama], ahimsa, is nonviolence, to cause no harm to any living being through our actions, words, and, as far as humanly possible, our thoughts. This will protect us from accruing negative karma, which only further covers the self. The biblical equivalent to ahimsa is, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Logically, the Bible’s positive injunction embraces it’s opposite: “Do not do unto others as you would not want done unto you.”
The practice of ahimsa involves being respectful, patient, and forgiving—nonviolent. The Bhagavad-gita teaches that a Yogi sees the Divine in the heart of all beings and therefore wishes all beings well. We advance in yoga to the degree that we consider the suffering of others as our own suffering and the happiness of others as our own happiness. In this spirit, compassion is the basis of ahimsa.
Ahimsa is the primary reason that bhakti-Yogis choose to be vegetarian: their aim is to minimize the suffering they cause other creatures. Animals feel pain just as humans do. Animals express emotions and may love their offspring, and those close to them, not so differently, from the way we do.
Sadhu Vaswani, a well-known Yogi from the early twentieth century, says,
“All killing is a denial of love, for to kill, or eat what another has killed, is to rejoice in cruelty. And cruelty hardens our hearts and blinds our vision and we see not that they whom we kill are our brothers and sisters in the One Brotherhood of Life. “
The more we expand our spirit of compassion to honor the sanctity of life, the more deeply we connect with our own spiritual nature.”
I’m hoping that your interest in spirituality has already led you to commit to a meatless diet. But if not, please consider trying it for a week while you engage in Mantra Meditation. This will help open your heart to the healing and consciousness-raising power of the maha-mantra.
Food is a big part of bhakti and includes a practice that actually spiritualizes your eating. But the beginning is to refrain from unnecessary violence to animals, simply for satisfying your taste. Again, I’m hoping you have already come to this conclusion, but if you haven’t please consider this part of your lifestyle thoughtfully.