In 1980, after I became involved with Ananda Marga I felt that I was in a vortex, a wonderful vortex that transformed me completely. The most visible change was my vegetarianism. I became one of the few vegetarians in the country.
In Turkey Mediterranean diet is not so popular even though Turkey is sometimes considered a Mediterranean country. Turkish people eat too much meat in my opinion. If you don’t count the appetizers, there is meat in every dish . They use meat broth in soups too.
I was in college then. My only option was the school cafeteria. There were no vegetarian choices. Finding vegetarian meals became a nightmare for me but I was determined to stay a vegetarian. In Ananda Marga people are not vegans, they are vegetarians. They eat dairy products. Milk, cheese and yogurt saved me. For many days, I ate only rice and yogurt.
My struggle to find healthy vegetarian meals was a small problem compared to the troubles I had in my family. My parents reacted strongly to my vegetarianism. They said I was losing my religion. They were embarrassed by my philosophical choices but they were also scared about my vegetarianism. They were concerned because everybody in my home town was gossiping about me and saying that I abandoned my religion. This put my life in danger.
I blissfully ignored everybody because I deeply felt that I had found the true religion and my faith in God was becoming even stronger. I was actually much calmer in those days. I had to exercise self-control in many social occasions. One day, an older relative used very harsh words bordering on insult for almost an hour. He was extremely disturbed by my new outlook in life. I did not defend myself, I simply listened to him. I knew that he would not listen to my explanations nor would he understand what I said. I don’t think I can achieve that kind of self-control at my mature age today. I was able to achieve this incredible self-control because of my meditation practice.
After many years, relatives accepted my quirkiness regarding spiritual practice, but they never accepted my vegetarianism. This was an unexpected challenge for me. I have been a vegetarian for 33 years. Even today, there are friends and relatives who are still trying to convert me back to meat eating. I find this very amusing.