Why is it that (in the Hare Krishna movement) you do not eat onions and garlic?
After all they are vegetables, are they not? One can understand the prohibition against meat-eating. But what is wrong with eating garlic and onions? Surely there’s no more violence committed when we eat an onion than
when we eat a potato.
Answer: ALLIUM FAMILY
You may know that onions and garlic are botanical members of the Allium family – along with leeks, chives and shallots. According to Ayurveda, India’s classic medical science, foods are grouped into three categories –
sattvic, rajasic and tamasic – foods in the modes of goodness, passion and ignorance. Onions and garlic, and the other Alliums are classified as rajasic and to some extent tamasic, which means that they increase passion
and to some degree ignorance.Rajasic and tamasic foods are also not used because they are detrimental to meditation and devotions. Of course some of the Alliums have specific health benefits; garlic is respected as a natural antibiotic. In recent years, the cardiovascular implications of vegetable Alliums has been studied in some detail, although the clinical implications of onion and garlic consumption from this point of view are not well understood.
Nevertheless, despite medical comings and goings, alliums are still avoided by spiritual adherents because they stimulate the central nervous system, can act as a natural aphrodisiac, and disturb meditation. You may be aware that strict Buddhists also do not eat any of the Alliums for the same reasons as adherents of India’s Ayurveda – they disturb meditation. If you visit any strict vegetarian Thai, Vietnamese, Chinese, or Japanese
restaurant anywhere in the world, you will most likely find no Alliums in any of the cooking.
In ancient Buddhist Tao writings, one sage Tsang-Tsze described the Alliums as the “five fragrant or spicy scented vegetables” , and that each have a detrimental effect on one of the following five organs – liver, spleen,
lungs, kidneys, and heart. Tsang-Tsze said that these pungent vegetables contain five different kinds of enzymes which cause “reactions of repulsive breath, extra-foul odour from perspiration and bowel movements, and lead to lewd indulgences, enhance agitations, anxieties and aggressiveness,” especially when eaten raw.
Onions are well known for attracting bacteria, and it is said that a peeled onion in a sick room will draw the infectious microbes. Many diseases are spread therefore from chopped onions at salad bars. They are a tamasic food with some medicinal application but we need to avoid them because of their rajasic and tamasic qualities.