Does Hinduism require one to be a vegetarian?
Subject: Does Hinduism require one to be a vegetarian?
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (K. Sadananda)
Date: Wed, 15 Jun 1994 10:36:41 GMT
Organization: Naval Research Lab, Code 6323
Recently two questions were asked - Does Hinduism require one to believe in
God? Does Hinduism require one to be a vegetarian? In a recent article, I
have addressed the first question. Here I will provides some thoughts for
the second question.
In relation to the first question, I have discussed what Hinduism stands
for and who is truly a Hindu. In essence, Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma, and
that Dharma is from time immemorial - it involves pursuit for Moksha.
Therefore the one who is seeking for Moksha is a true Hindu, irrespective
of the nationality, caste, creed or gender. With that catholic
understanding, one can see that Hinduism becomes a way of life because the
pursuit of the essential purpose of life is the goal of the Hindu life.
With that perspective, it is easier to analyze all other questions
including whether Hinduism requires one to be a vegetarian. Since the
purpose of life is securing liberation or Moksha, until we reach that we
need to live. Only death is the death of the ego that happens in the
spiritual awakening. Hence, keeping the body alive by nourishment is the
our Dharma. That means one has to eat to live (not the other way - living
for eating sake!)
Life lives on life. That is the law of nature. Whether I eat an animal or
plant I am destroying a life. Among all life forms Man is different from
the rest of the life kingdom. He has the capability to discriminate the
right from wrong. That also gives him the freedom of choice. Plants have
just body and perhaps a rudimentary mind. Animals have both body and mind
to express feelings and suffering, but rudimentary intellect. Man has not
only body, mind but also well developed intellect to discriminate, decide
and to choose. He always has three choices - Karthum sakhyam, Akartum
sakhyam and anyatha karthum sakhyam - he can choose to do, not to do and do
it other way. For animals and plants there is no freedom of choice. They
are instinctively driven. Cow does not sit down before meals, and inquire
whether it should be a vegetarian or non-vegetarian. So is a tiger. For a
Man the discriminative intellect is very evolved. Plants and animals do not
commit sin in their actions because there is no will involved in their
actions. For a human, the story is different. You may wonder why I brought
sin in the argument. Let me explain.
Sin is nothing but agitations in the mind. It is these agitations that
prevent me in my journey to Moksha. Mind has to be pure (meaning
un-agitated) for me to see the truth as the truth. (Bible also says
Blessed are those whose minds are pure). To define sin more scientifically
- it is the divergence between the mind and intellect. Intellect knows
right from wrong - but we feel like doing things even though we know they
are wrong - that is, the intellect says something, but mind which should be
subservient to intellect rebels and does whatever it feels like. This
divergence is sin. After the action is performed - there is a guilt
feeling, because intellect, although was overruled, does not keep quite, it
keep prodding " I told you it is wrong. Why did you do it?" With peace of
mind gone Man goes through a "Hell". Man is not punished for the sin, he
is punished by the sin. - Think about it.
All yogas, if you analyze clearly, are bringing this integration between
the body, mind and intellect. For a Yogi - What he thinks, what he speaks
and what he does are in perfect harmony or alignment (Manasaa vacha
karmana). In our case, we think something but have no guts to say what we
think, our lips says something different from what are thinking - if you
watch the lips and the actions that follow, they are again different! -
There is no integration any where. We live a chaotic life. Besides
deceiving others, most pathetic is we deceive ourselves, and the worst
thing is we don't even realize that.
Now, when a tiger kills and eats, it does not commit a sin. Because its
intellect is rudimentary, and it does not go through any analysis before it
kills - should I kill or not to kill - Should I be a non-vegetarian or
should I be vegetarian". When it is hungry, to fill the nature's demand,
it kills its pray and eats what it needs and leaves the rest when it is
full. It is not greedy either. That is its Swadharma. It follows a
beautiful ecological system.
It is only man who destroys the ecology by being greedy. Greediness is
going after what you donot really need. "Should I be a vegetarian or
non-vegetarian?" is asked only by a man. Why that question comes? Because
man has discriminative intellect, and he does not want to hurt others to
fill his belly. He learns what `hurt' means because he surely does not
want others to hurt him. Plats are life forms too, should one hurt them?.
You may ask. If one can live without hurting any life forms that is the
best, but that is not possible. Life lives on life - that is the law of
nature. My role as a human being with discriminative intellect is to do
the least damage to the nature for keeping myself alive. At least, I am
not consciously aware of suffering of the plants. That is why eating to
live and not living to eat is the determining factor.
In Bhagawad Geeta, Krishna emphatically says that a Sadhaka (one who is in
pursuit of Moksha) should have a compassion for all forms of life - Sarva
Bhuta HitErathAha. In the spiritual growth, one develops subtler and
subtler intellect (Sukshma Bhuddhi in contrast to TeeKshna Buddhi, i.e.
sharper intellect). That is, the mind is becoming quieter, calmer and
self-contended. Your sensitivity to suffering of others also grows. Hence
it is advisable to be a vegetarian.
Even the traditional non-vegetarians repel against eating dogs and cats or
other human beings! Why? Meat is a meat after all! But with familiarity
grows a compassion.
There are many two legged animals in human form with rudimentary intellect.
They behave like animals. But in the evolutionary ladder one develops
subtler and subtler intellect, then it is advisable to be a vegetarian -
only taking from nature what it needs to keep the body going. One should
not hurt any life forms to satisfy the craving of ones tongue.
Should Hindu be a vegetarian? Since such a question already arose in your
mind, you have a degree of sensitivity not to hurt other living forms to
satisfy your belly. Then you may be better off not eating meat and you will
be at peace with yourself. Since you are sensitive to this the intellect
directing you one way and your mind wants some baser pleasure and directing
you the other way. When you go against your own intellect you commit sin.
That is against your SWADHARMA as Krishna puts it.
Besides, now, even the traditional non-vegetarians are choosing
vegetarianism not because of any compassion to other animals but they are
recognizing that it is not good for their health.
I have already mentioned that Hinduism has no doos and don'ts, but you
determine your own doos and don'ts based on your intellectual values,
culture, education and primary goal in life. You will find that following
your Swadharma makes you comfortable with yourself. It is not others to
judge, it is for you to judge. If you are agitated, that means you are
loosing peace of mind for these and that is a sin! Imagine your self that
chicken or cow that you are eating. Would you not advice the guy who is
eating you to be a vegetarian instead and spare its life. Do not say you
are not killing the animal yourself, and killing will go on whether you eat
or not. If you don't eat, one animal is spared. This is the demand and
supply. I may not be stealing my self, but if I buy the stolen property
knowing that it was stolen, it is a crime! Is it not? Now there are
imitation meats too - so why the crave for a dead meet. Why do you want
your stomach to be a burial ground for a dead animal.
>From Hinduism point, it does not really care. All it wants is for you to
pursue the path towards the Sanatanadharma. So do what is needful to keep
your mind calm and un-agitated. Purification of the mind is the means for
attaining salvation, and that is the goal of human life. Since by willful
actions we got ourselves into this mess of Samsar, it is by willful Sadhana
only we can get out of it. Lord has given us the intelligence to accomplish
this - Krishna declares - you are better off following your swadharma than
paradharma. Swadharma (is not just what caste you belong or what religion
you belong) in the final analysis it is what your intellect or conscious
dictates. Because, after the action is performed, it is your mind that has
to settle accounts with your intellect. Decision should be based on not
what somebody did somebody did not do - Like one netter says - Swami
Vivekananda eat and so on. The situation he was in is different from the
situation you are in now. That is why one should follow Swadharma not
paradharma. You will be more at peace with yourself that way.
Do yourself a favor - eat whatJyou need and discard all the weeds from your
need. That keeps your mind green and peaceful. Hari Om and Tat Sat. -