By Niraj Bidawatka
This is one question that people often ask me, “Why did you give up eating onions and garlic after joining the Hare Krishna movement? After all, onions and garlic are vegetables and no killing of innocent animals is involved in eating them.”
The answer is that my revered spiritual master, His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has ordained that his disciples should not eat onions and garlic. The Sanskrit word for disciple is śiśya, whose verbal root is śaś, which means “to control or to rule”. So a disciple means “one who allows oneself to be controlled by his guru”. Similarly the English word disciple is also connected with discipline. So, when you accept a guru, you have to follow certain disciplines.
In order to become a disciple of Srila Prabhupada, one has to undertake to follow four essential disciplines. They are as given in the image below. These rules and regulations were exhibited by Prabhupada at ISKCON’s first center at 26, 2nd Avenue, New York in 1966, when he had just got his International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) formally registered with the American Authorities.
So one of the disciplines that one has to follow in order to become a disciple of Prabhupada is that one should be ready to give up onions and garlic. So becoming a disciple of a genuine spiritual master is not a cheap thing. You have to pay a huge price. And most of times, even though one is ready to pay that price, it may be difficult to find out a true spiritual master.
But in my case, I was lucky enough to find a genuine master in the form of His Divine Grace. I thought I have eaten enough of onions and garlics in my past innumerable births. Here I have found an opportunity of a lifetime in Srila Prabhupada, who promises me to take me back home, back to God and the process prescribed by him is also very simple – just chant Hare Krishna and go back home, back to Godhead. There are just four prohibitions – no meat eating (including onions and garlic from the vegetarian stuffs), no intoxication (including tea, coffee and cola), no illicit sex and no gambling.
“So let me try this out as there is no harm in leaving onions and garlics for one lifetime”, I thought, “I have been trying to enjoy since so many millions and zillions of lifetimes by eating all rubbish things but still I did not find any substantial happiness.” So, I eventually decided, “Let me give it a try. There are millions of other vegetarian dishes which I can offer to Krishna and eat. So why crib about two obnoxious and foul smelling vegetables, which are in the mode of ignorance.”
I was also told that Krishna does not eat onions and garlic and therefore they are not offered to Krishna. Further, my revered spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada told me that the devotees do not eat anything which is not offered to Krishna and if one eats anything which is not offered to Krishna, then one verily eats sin (please refer to this sloka from the Bhagavad Gita).
I had already come to the realization that “I am indeed a very sinful soul” and I was resolved to avoid committing any more sins. So I decided that I shall eat only Krishna prasadam and nothing else. So eating Krishna prasadam automatically involves giving up onions and garlic.