Misconceptions About Eating Meat
by Sandeep Singh Brar

The Times of the Gurus

Hunting Purely for Amusement & Sport - Not for Any Religious Reasons

Guru Gobind Singh, Vachitra Natak, Chapter 8, Chaupai 1-3
"When I became a Spiritual Sovereign, I tried to spread Religion to the best of my ability. I hunted various games in the forest, including bears, nilgaus and elks. Then, I left my home and proceeded towards the city of Paunta. On the banks of the Kalindri, I refreshed and amused myself with many kinds of amusements. There, I killed many ferocious lions and also nilgaus and elks."

Bhai Gurdas, Var 26 Pauri 24
"Earlier Gurus sat on the pontific throne, Leading a life of peace and contentment; Hargobind keeps dogs for sports, And goes out for hunting wild animals."

Creation of the Khalsa by Guru Gobind Singh in 1699

All of the Sikh cronicles record the fact that during the ceremony of initiating the first five Sikhs into the Khalsa brotherhood Guru Gobind Singh asked for volunteers who would be willing to give their heads. He took each volunteer into the tent and a loud thud was heard and blood trickled out of the tent. Guru Gobind Singh then emerged from the tent with his sword dripping with blood and asked for the next volunteer. Eventually Guru Gobind Singh emerged from the tent with the five beloved ones alive. He pulled back the covers of the tent and revealed to the thousands gathered that he had really slaughtered five goats with his sword and not the five beloved ones.

Guru Nanak Eating Meat

Bhai Mani Singh, Gyan Ratnavali, pg. 123

At Kurukshetra, a great centre of Hindu pilgrimage, where a big fair was being held on the occasion of the solar eclipse. A follower of the Guru offered him deer meat to eat. The Guru who had never made any distinction between one kind of food and another and took whatever was offered to him, did not refuse the courtesies of his devotee. And he allowed him to roast it for his food.

A History of the Sikh People by Dr. Gopal Singh, World Sikh University Press, Delhi
It first occurs in Bhai Mani Singh's Gyan Ratnavali (pg. 123) which mentions Nanak having been engaged in debate with a Pandit, called Nanau Chand. The deer-meat was, according to this version, brought to him as an offering by a Prince and his consort, who having been dispossessed of their realm, came to him for a blessing. In the dialogue that followed with the Pandit, he is not only convinced of Nanak's logic, but persuades also the fellow Brahmins, basing his argument on the Veda, the Puranas and even the Quran, saying that even the Hindu gods could be propieated since the earliest times only through yagnas in which meat was invariably served, and that it has been the dharma of the Kashatriya Kings since ages to hunt.

Guru Angad and Guru Amar Das Eating Meat

The Sikh Religion, Volume II by Max Arthur Macauliffe
One day the Guru had a meat dinner prepared. Amar Das said, "If the Guru is a searcher of hearts, he must know that I am a Vaishnav and do not touch flesh". The Guru (Guru Angad), knowing this, ordered that dal should be served him. Amar Das then reflected, "The Guru knoweth that meat is forbidden me, so he hath ordered that dal be served me instead." Amar Das then rapidly arrived at the conclusion that any disciple, whose practice differed from that of the Guru, must inevitably fail. He therefore told the cook that if the Guru were kind enough to give him meat, he would partake of it. The Guru, on hearing this, knew that superstition was departing from Amar Das's heart, and he handed him his own dish. When Amar Das had partaken of it, he for the first time felt peace of mind, and as he became further absorbed in his attentions and devotion to the Guru, celestial light dawned on his heart. Thus did he break with the strictest tenet of Vaishnavism and become a follower of the Guru. One day the Guru, in order to further remove Amar Das's prejudices, thus began to instruct him: "The meats it is proper to abstain from are these - Other's wealth, other's wives, slander, envy, covetousness and pride. If any one abstaining from meat is proud on the subject and says, 'I never touch meat,' let him consider that the infant sucks nipples of flesh, that the married man takes home with him a vessel of flesh." Guru Angad then repeated and expounded Guru Nanak's sloks on the subject. He also related to Amar Das the story of Duni Chand and his father, giving in the Life of Guru Nanak. "If you think of it," continued the Guru, "there is life in everything, even in fruits and flowers, so say nothing of flesh; but whatever thou eatest, eat remembering God, and it shall be profitable to thee. Whatever cometh to thee without hurting a fellow creature is nectar, and whatever thou recievest by giving pain is poison. To shatter another's hopes, to calumniate others, and to misappropriate their property is worse than to eat meat."

Macauliffe collaborated with the most learned Sikhs of his time when he wrote this over 100 years ago. The exact written source of this account is unknown.

Guru Hargobind Eating Meat

Mohsin Fani, Dabistan-e-Mazahib
Mohsin Fani was a historian, traveller and mystic who was born around 1615 in Persia. During the lifetime of Guru Hargobind he migrated to India and studied the religions of India. He became very good friends with Guru Hargobind and spent a great deal of time with the Guru upto the Gurus death in 1644. In between 1645 and 1654 he produced his great work 'Dabistan-e-Mazahib' meaning 'the schools of thought of various religions'. This book provides the most accurate account of the life of Guru Hargobind and the Sikhs at that time. Mohsin Fani writes:

"The Guru believes in one God. His followers put not their faith in idol-worship. They never pray or practice austerities like the Hindus. They believe not in their incarnations, or places of pilgrimage nor the Sanskrit language which the Hindus deem to be the language of gods. They believe that all the Gurus are the same as Nanak. The Sikhs are not restricted in the matter of eating or drinking. When Partap Mall Giani saw a Hindu boy who had a mind to embrace Islam, he said, 'Why do you become a Muhammadan? If you have an inclination to eat everything, you may become a Sikh of the Guru and eat whatever you like."

Some use a quote from Mohsin Fani to prove that Guru Nanak and Guru Arjan did not allow Sikhs to eat meat. Since he only emigrated to India during the lifetime of Guru Hargobind, his information about Guru Nanak and Guru Arjan cannot be considered an eyewitness account of his. Also vegetarian proponents usually only give a partial quote, the full quote of his is:

"Nanak himself abstained from animal food and the prudent Arjan endevoured to add to his saintly merit and influence by a similar moderation; but the adventurous Hargobind became a hunter and an eater of flesh, and his disciples imitated him in these robust practices."

Gokul Chand Narang
Another contemporary of the Guru, Gokul Chand Narang provides the following eyewitness acount:

"Hargobind began to devote most of his time to wrestling, riding, tent-pegging and hunting the tigers and the boars. With the change of aims the occupation changed, and with the change in the occupation came a change in tastes and even diet. Animal food was not only sanctioned but encouraged."

The Khalsa Army Under Banda Singh Bahadur Eating Meat

An eyewitness account of the siege of the Khalsa army at Gurdaspur and how the Khalsa soldiers and Banda Singh Bahadur bravely held out against the Mughal army for eight months is provided below:

Khafi Khan, Muntakhabul-Lubab, pg. 723
"The Sikhs were not strict observers of cast, they slaughtered oxen and other animals and not having any firewood, ate the flesh raw. Many died of dysentry and privation... when all the grass was gone, they gathered leaves from trees. When these were consumed, they stripped the bark and broke off the small shoots, dried them, ground them down and used them instead of flour, thus keeping body and soul together. They also collected the bones of animals and used them in the same way. Some assert that they saw a few of the Sikhs cut flesh from their own thights, roast it, and eat it.