Often things that have little significance at the time, in the longer rhythm of things turn out to reveal a whole lot.
In 2010, long before I was thrown into the spiritual path, I applied for a summer internship at Microsoft Research. To increase my chances, I told them that I was flexible about the location of the job. Coincidentally, as it seemed, I received an offer from the branch in Bangalore, India. Also quite coincidentally, as it seemed, my university advisor whom I admired, was a vegetarian. Having no notion or ambition about vegetarianism, I yet had a slight curiosity about it. Why would someone refuse to enjoy what’s good? I had no sentiments or thoughts about animal rights or feelings, etc.
A thought came to me that being in India for three months can be a motivating occasion to try to be a vegetarian. I was actually thinking it may be difficult not to be a vegetarian in India, which turned out to be false. I had liked being vegetarian, with all the wonderful food in India, and upon returning to the U.S. I thought I’d like to continue. But I liked sushi too much, so I decided to be a pescatarian.
When I went to visit my family in Iran, they asked me why I didn’t eat meat. Though in my head it made complete sense, to my surprise I found it difficult to explain. The best I came up with was that “it is a lifestyle choice. People who are vegetarian also have a certain way of being and political views, that I mix well with.”
Another time I was with my friend, and a group of her French friends. By that time both my friend and I were “straight” vegetarians. Same thing happened. Our meat-loving French buddies asked why we didn’t eat meat. My friend, who love and kindness is her innate personage, replied simply “because I don’t like harming animals.”
Now I thought I had a much more clever response to that question, and impatiently awaited my turn. I explained to them that as I had become a vegetarian, refraining from eating certain things, I had found myself more aware about what I eat and had more awareness and presence when I ate. Because of that newfound mindfulness around eating, I had come to enjoy my food more than ever before.
Our companions listened to my long response, and then told me that they liked her response, not mine! So much for my infallible reasoning!
The truth is, I feel, we don’t really know why we become vegetarians. Those “reasons” that we give–animal rights, better health, more mindfulness–are actually ideas to satisfy the thinking mind. The attraction and decision happens on a deeper level.
The real reason, I believe, for many of us, is smriti.
Smriti is a yoga concept that means “divine recollection” in Sanskrit. As the soul, through many reincarnations, becomes more awake to the deeper realities beyond the material, it “remembers” its true divine nature as part of God, the universal consciousness.
Part of what we may “remember”, in a more subtle way than the usual meaning of the term, is our life journeys from past lives. Through seemingly insignificant events, like those of mine above, our soul picks up certain things that it had worked out in the past life, such as walking the spiritual path, knowing about sattvic vegetarian food and why it’s uplifting, etc.
In life we experience affinities and attractions, to people and things, that are just inexplicable. Have your eyes come across another pair of eyes, which you’ve never seen in your life, that yet you feel deeply you know? Why do we seem to just “click” with some people, in such a deep way that talking seems unnecessary? Why do our life journeys seem so inexplicably get magnetized in certain directions, without our own conscious effort or knowing? Why was I sent to India before having any conscious attraction about its wisdom?
At the root of all these lies the same thing–smriti, a vague inexplicable intuitive knowing, beyond the boundaries of this lifetime.
May we remember who we really are.
Do you know how beautiful you are?
I think not, my dear.
For as you talk of God,
I see great parades with wildly colorful bands
Streaming from your mind and heart,
Carrying wonderful and secret messages
To every corner of this world.
I see saints bowing in the mountains
Hundreds of miles away
To the wonder of sounds
That break into light
From your most common words.
Speak to me of your mother,
Your cousins and your friends.
Tell me of squirrels and birds you know.
Awaken your legion of nightingales—
Let them soar wild and free in the sky.
And begin to sing to God.
Let’s all begin to sing to God!
Do you know how beautiful you are?
I think not, my dear,
Could set you upon a Stage
And worship you forever!