Beyond Vegetarianism

Beyond Vegetarianism

 By Stephen Knapp

            On the spiritual path those who are the most inclined to lead a peaceful existence that respects the value of all life often adopt the vegetarian lifestyle. For some people this is a very big step. This is in accordance with the yogic principle of ahimsa, which is to observe nonviolence and abstain from injuring any being in any way. However, many people ask what about the plants that are killed in the process of cooking vegetarian foods. Don’t they suffer? And don’t we get reactions for that?

            The basic law of nature is that every living being lives off the weaker living entities. But there is a way of living so that we all can benefit, that we all make spiritual development. And this spiritual lifestyle is a way in which that can happen. The way this works is in the process of bhakti-yoga, wherein devotion goes beyond simple vegetarianism, and food becomes a method of spiritual progress for both those who prepare and eat the food, and those living beings that are used in the preparations.

For example, in the Krishna temples, food is offered to the Deities in a special sacrament, after which it becomes prasadam. This means the mercy of the Lord. Thus, the food we eat after it is offered to the Lord becomes a means for our purification and spiritual development.

            In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, “All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering to Me.” So, offering what we eat to the Lord is an integral part of bhakti-yoga and makes the food blessed with spiritual potencies.

The Lord also describes what He accepts: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” Thus, we can see that the Lord does not need anything, but if one offers fruits, grains, and vegetarian foods, He will accept it. The Lord does not accept foods like meat, fish, or eggs, but only those that are pure and naturally available without harming others. So, we offer what Lord Krishna likes, not those items which are distasteful to Him. We also do not use garlic, onions, or mushrooms when we prepare food for Krishna, for these are considered to invoke passion or are from impure sources, which similarly affect our consciousness. Foods for Krishna should be in the mode of goodness, sattvic foods which when we accept as prasadam also elevate our own consciousness.  

So, on the spiritual path, eating food that is first offered to God is the ultimate perfection of a vegetarian diet. The Vedic literature explains that the purpose of human life is reawakening the soul’s original relationship with God, and accepting prasadam is one of the ways to help us reach that goal.

The food is meant to be cooked with the consciousness of love, knowing that it will be offered to Lord Krishna first, and only after that distributed to ourselves or guests to take. The ingredients are selected with great care and must be fresh, clean and pure vegetarian. Also, in cooking for Krishna we do not taste the preparations while cooking. We leave the first taste for Krishna when it is offered to Him.

After all the preparations are ready, we take a portion of each one and place it in bowls on a special plate that is used for this purpose only and take it to the altar to offer it to the Deities or pictures of Krishna.

            Then the preparations are presented with special prayers as we ask that God accept our humble offering. The most important part of the offering is the love with which it is given, and then the Lord accepts it. God does not need to eat, but it is our love for God which attracts Him to us and to accept our offering. Even if the most sumptuous banquet is offered to God but without devotion and love, Krishna will not be hungry to accept it. It is our love, our devotion and bhakti, which catches the attention of Lord Krishna who is then inclined to accept our service.

            After He glances over and tastes the loving offering of vegetarian preparations, He leaves the remnants of the food offerings for us to honor and relish. Krishna’s potency is absorbed in that food. In this way, material substance becomes spiritualized, which then affects our body and mind in a similar and most positive and elevating way. This is His special mercy for us. Thus, the devotional process becomes an exchange of love between us and God, which includes food. And that food not only nourishes our body, but also spiritualizes our mind and consciousness.

            By relishing the sacred food of Krishna prasadam, it purifies our heart and protects us from falling into illusion. In this way, the devotee imbibes the spiritual potency of Lord Krishna and becomes cleansed of sinful reactions by eating food that is first offered in sacrifice to God. We thus also become free from reincarnation, the continued cycle of birth and death. This process prepares us for entering the spiritual world since the devotees there also relish eating in the company of Lord Krishna.

            However, what does this do for the plants that are offered? They are also living beings. In this process, not only do we make advancement, but all of the plants that are used in the preparations as an offering to God are also purified and reap spiritual benefit. They are used and offered to God and thus make progress in the same way we do. That is why this is beyond mere vegetarianism in which we may live more simply and nonviolently, but in this process, everything we use in the service of the Lord becomes spiritualized.

            If we merely cook for ourselves, we become implicated in karma or the reactions if we cause the harm of any living being, even plants. The vegetarian lifestyle surely causes less karma than the unnecessary slaughtering of innocent animals. However, the system of first offering food to the Lord and then taking prasadam becomes the perfect yoga diet and frees us from such karma.

            Therefore, the cooking, the offering, and then the respectful eating or honoring of this spiritualized food all become a part of the joyful process of devotional service to the Lord. Anyone can learn to do this and enjoy the happiness of experiencing the potency of Krishna prasadam.

[Available at: www.stephen-knapp.com]

Why Be Vegetarian

Why Be Vegetarian

By Stephen Knapp

 

      On the spiritual path, there are several reasons why a person is recommended to be vegetarian. One primary reason is that we need to see the spiritual nature within all living beings, and that includes the animals and other creatures as well. Universal brotherhood means nonviolence to both humans and animals. It consists of understanding that animals also have souls. They are alive, conscious, and feel pain. And these are the indications of the presence of consciousness, which is the symptom of the soul. Even the Bible (Genesis 1.21; 1.24; 1.30; 2.7; and in many other places) refers to both animals and people as nefesh chayah, living souls. Those who eat meat, however, because of their desires to eat animals or see them as a source of food for one’s stomach, are not so easily able to understand the spiritual nature of all beings. After all, if you know that all living entities are spiritual in essence, and that all living beings that are conscious show the symptoms of the soul within, then how can you kill them unnecessarily? Any living creature is also the same as we are in the respect that it is also a child of the same father, a part of the same Supreme Being. Thus, the killing of animals shows a great lack in spiritual awareness.

      Many portions of the Vedic literature describe how the Supreme Being is the maintainer of innumerable living entities, humans as well as the animals, and is alive in the heart of every living being. Only those with spiritual consciousness can see the same Supreme Being in His expansion as Supersoul within every creature. To be kind and spiritual toward humans and be a killer or enemy toward animals is not a balanced philosophy, and exhibits one’s spiritual ignorance.

      The next reason for being vegetarian is to consider the amount of fear and suffering that animals experience in the slaughter industry. There are countless stories of how in fear cows cry, scream, and sometimes fall down dead while inside or even before they are taken into the slaughter house. Or how the veins of dead pigs are so big that it shows they have practically exploded from the fear the pig felt and the adrenalin that was produced while it was being led to slaughter. This certainly causes an immense amount of violence to permeate the atmosphere, which goes out and falls back on us in some form. Furthermore, the adrenalin and fear in the animal also produces toxins which then permeate the body of these animals, which meat-eaters ingest. People who consume such things cannot help but be effected by it. It causes tensions within them individually, which then spreads in their relations with others.

      The ancient Vedic text of the Manu-samhita (5.45-8) says, “He who injures innoxious beings from a wish to give himself pleasure never finds happiness, neither living nor dead. He who does not seek to cause the suffering of bonds and death to living creatures, but desires the good of all beings, obtains endless bliss. . . Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun the use of meat.”

      The Bible (Romans 14.21) also says, “It is neither good to eat flesh, nor to drink wine.” Another biblical commandment (Exodus 23.5) instructs us to help animals in pain, even if they belong to an enemy.

      The Buddhist scripture (Sutta-Nipata 393) also advises: “Let him not destroy or cause to be destroyed any life at all, or sanction the acts of those who do so. Let him refrain from even hurting any creature, both those that are strong and those that tremble in the world.” It is also said in the Buddhist scripture, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, “The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion.”

      For Jews, the Talmud (Avodah Zorah 18B) forbids the association with hunters, not to mention engaging in hunting.

      In the New Testament Jesus preferred mercy over sacrifice (Matthew 9.13; 12.7) and was opposed to the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice (Matthew 21.12-14; Mark 11.15; John 2.14-15). One of the missions of Jesus was to do away with animal sacrifice and cruelty to animals (Hebrews 10.5-10).

      We especially find in Isaiah where Jesus scorns the slaughter and bloodshed of humans and animals. He declares (1.15) that God does not hear the prayers of animal killers: “But your iniquities have separated you and your God. And your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear. For your hands are stained with blood. . . Their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed innocent blood. . . they know not the ways of peace.” Isaiah also laments that he saw, “Joy and merrymaking, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine, as you thought, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (22.13)

      It is also established in the Bible (Isaiah 66.3), “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” In this regard St. Basil (320-379 A.D.) taught, “The steam of meat darkens the light of the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts.”

      Thus, we should find alternatives to killing animals to satisfy our appetites, especially when there are plenty of other healthy foods available. Otherwise, there must be reactions to such violence. We cannot expect peace in the world if we go on unnecessarily killing so many millions of animals for meat consumption or through abuse.

      The third factor for being vegetarian is karma. As Newton’s third law of motion states, for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. On the universal scale this is called the law of karma, meaning what goes around comes around. This affects every individual, as well as communities and countries. As the nation sows, so shall it reap. This is something we should take very seriously, especially in our attempt to bring peace, harmony, and unity into the world. If so much violence is produced by the killing of animals, where do you think the reactions to this violence goes? It comes back to us in so many ways, such as the form of neighborhood and   community  crime,   and  on  up  to  world wars. Violence breeds violence. Therefore, this will continue unless we know how to change.

      Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, asked, “How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy? How can we speak of rights and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood?” He went on to say, “I personally believe that as long as human beings will go shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace.”

      In conclusion, we can mention the March 10, 1966 issue of L’Osservatore della Domenica, the Vatican weekly newspaper, in which Msgr. Ferdinando Lambruschini wrote: “Man’s conduct with regard to animals should be regulated by right reason, which prohibits the infliction of purposeless pain and suffering on them. To ill treat them, and make them suffer without reason, is an act of deplorable cruelty to be condemned from a Christian point of view. To make them suffer for one’s own pleasure is an exhibition of sadism which every moralist must denounce.” Eating animals for the pleasure of one’s tongue when there are plenty of other foods available certainly fits into this form of sadism. It stands to reason that this is counterproductive to any peace and unity or spiritual progress we wish to make. It is one of the things we need to consider seriously if we want to improve ourselves or the world. So here are a few reasons why a genuinely spiritual person will choose to be vegetarian.

  

BEYOND VEGETARIANISM

      In the process of bhakti-yoga, devotion goes beyond simple vegetarianism, and food becomes a means of spiritual progress. In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, “All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” So offering what we eat to the Lord is an integral part of bhakti-yoga and makes the food blessed with spiritual potencies. Then such food is called prasadam, or the mercy of the Lord.

      The Lord also describes what He accepts as offerings: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” Thus, we can see that the Lord accepts fruits, grains, and vegetarian foods. The Lord does not accept foods like meat, fish or eggs, but only those that are pure and naturally available without harming others.

      So on the spiritual path eating food that is first offered to God is the ultimate perfection of a vegetarian diet. The Vedic literature explains that the purpose of human life is reawakening the soul’s original relationship with God, and accepting prasadam is the way to help us reach that goal.

Vegetarianism: Supported in the Bible

Vegetarianism: Supported in the Bible

The Bible has many quotations against meat-eating as can be seen from the following: “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require; at the hand of every beast will I require it.” (Genesis 9.4-5) Certainly we can see in this verse that no one was meant to live by eating the flesh and blood of others. If one did so, then he would have to pay with his own blood, as it says, “your blood of your lives will I require.” This is merely a reference to the law of karma: for every animal who suffers because of you, you will also similarly suffer: “at the hand of every beast will I require it.”

“To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices unto me? Saith the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of goats. When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide Mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear, for your hands are full of blood.” (Isaiah 1.11,15)

“It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood. (Leviticus 3.17). . . And whatsoever man there be of the house of Israel, or of strangers who sojourn among you, that eateth any manner of blood; I will even set My face against that soul that eateth blood.” (Leviticus 17.10)

From these verses and others not included here, we can certainly see that God’s law, as set down in the Bible, was against the eating of flesh and blood and the killing of other entities. However, there are some people who try to legitimize the eating of meat by draining the blood and, thus, make the meat “kosher.” Of course, this idea doesn’t really work. Blood permeates meat, so how can one be free from eating blood by trying to drain it from the flesh? This is not very realistic, and it certainly does not free one from the violence that must be inflicted on the animal when it is killed in order to eat its flesh. The real point of the matter is not to kill. This is clearly stated in Exodus (20.13) in the Hebrew lo tirtzach, which, when accurately translated, means “thou shalt not kill.”

In fact, the Bible compares the killing of cows to murdering a man: “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” (Isaiah 66.3)

There are a few verses, however, which I am sure some students of the Bible will reach for that seem to support the eating of flesh. But in every case, this is due to inaccurate translations as we shall see.

For example, in John (4.8) it states: “For his disciples were gone away unto the city to buy meat.” The word meat was taken from the Greek word trophe, which actually means nourishment. This is exactly the same case in Acts (9.19): “And when he had received meat, he was strengthened.” When translated accurately it means that by receiving nourishment, he felt stronger.

In Luke (8.55) we find, “And her spirit came again and she arose straightaway: and he (Jesus) commanded to give her meat.” The word meat in this case was translated from the Greek word phago, which translated correctly simply means to eat.

In I Corinthians (8.8) it states: “But meat commendeth us not to God, for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither if we eat not, are we the worse.” The word for meat here is broma, which actually means food. Therefore, this verse signifies that eating or not eating food has little to do with our relationship to God and not, as some people think, that eating meat holds no wrong.

In Romans (14.20-21) the verses are: “For meat destroy not the word of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor anything whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.” The word for meat here is broma, which actually means foods, and the word for flesh is kreas, which does mean flesh. Therefore, this verse makes it clear that flesh eating is unacceptable.

If the Bible explains that eating meat is wrong, then what is the proper thing to eat? Genesis (1.29) clearly states: “And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.” This makes it quite obvious that the food for human beings is herbs, seeds, grains, and fruits.

We also find in Isaiah (7.14-15): “Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a young woman shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good.” The first verse is often quoted by Christians for proof that Jesus was the savior, but the next verse shows that he will be a vegetarian to know the difference between right and wrong.

As mentioned earlier, meat-eating is a sign of spiritual ignorance and tends to keep one from developing compassion and mercy towards our fellow living entities. To be merciful only to man and yet be an enemy to animals by killing and eating them is Satan’s philosophy. One will never live in true harmony with God while performing such activities. This is often overlooked by the Christians, Muslims, and others. If these verses were actually understood and the meaning fully realized and practically applied by the Christians and others, I am sure it would bring beneficial reactions the world over in their spiritual development. After all, one of the ten commandments specifically says thou shalt not kill. It does not say merely thou shalt not murder, which would imply only humans, but it says “Thou shalt not kill,” meaning any living being.

Vegetarianism: Recommended in Vedic Scripture

Vegetarianism: Recommended in Vedic Scripture

By Stephen Knapp

 

       Many times there seems to be some confusion or lack of clarity on whether the Vedic path condones or condemns the eating of meat. Often times I hear Indians and followers of the Vedic path explain that meat eating is all right, that the Vedic shastras do not condemn it. Of course, in this day and age meat eating includes and supports the whole meat industry, which is the systematic slaughter of thousands of animals on a daily basis. But if we actually research the Vedic texts we will find that there are numerous references in the various portions of the Vedic literature which explain in no uncertain terms the karmic dangers of meat-eating and unnecessary animal slaughter. These indicate that meat eating should be given up for one’s spiritual and even material progress. This means that the Vedic conclusions that some people present for meat-eating are not accurate, and that they have never studied their own religious books very thoroughly. This is something that is important to understand, so let us take a look.

 

LORD KRISHNA’S INSTRUCTIONS ON WHAT TO EAT IN BHAGAVAD-GITA

Many people question what Lord Krishna says, or if He says anything at all, about whether to be vegetarian or not. Actually, He provides some important insights. Lord Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita: “The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.” (Bg.3.13)

So, food should be first offered in sacrifice, or ritual, but what ritual is this? He explains quite clearly that all food, as well as anything else, should first be offered to Him. “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it. O son of Kunti, all that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me. In this way you will be freed from all reactions to good and evil deeds, and by this principle of renunciation you will be liberated and come to Me.” (Bg.9.26-28)

Herein it is clear that food should be first prepared for offering the Lord, but with love. You can often see this in temples wherein the food is cooked with the intention of preparing it with love and then offering it before the Deities of Krishna with love. Thereafter, the devotees take the remnants and distribute amongst them as offered food. This becomes prasadam, or the spiritually surcharged food that is the mercy of the Lord, and which purifies our consciousness by honoring it through the process of respectfully eating it.

Furthermore, what is meant to be offered to the Lord is outlined as a leaf (most vegetables consist of leafy substances), flowers or fruits (which consist of grains, nuts, and fruits and juices), and water. Thus, no meat is mentioned. There are a number of reasons for this, one of which is that food that is acquired through cruelty is in the mode of tamas, or darkness and ignorance, or in the mode of rajas, passion, which causes pain and distress to both the eater and the eaten. This is completely counterproductive to our own well-being, both in the present and in our future, and certainly causes pain and suffering to others. So, how can this be beneficial to anyone’s spiritual, mental, emotional, and subtle development? As Lord Krishna explains:

            “Even food of which all partake is of three kinds, according to the three modes of material nature. The same is true of sacrifices, austerities and charity. Listen, and I shall tell you of the distinctions of these. Foods in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such nourishing foods are sweet, juicy, fattening and palatable. Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, pungent, dry, and hot, are liked by people in the mode of passion. Such foods cause pain, distress, and disease. Food cooked more than three hours before being eaten, which is tasteless, stale, putrid, decomposed and unclean, is food liked by people in the mode of ignorance.” (Bg.17.7-10)

            Herein, it is clear that pure and wholesome vegetarian foods are what is needed for our own refinement, health, strength, and happiness, while other kinds of food cause pain, suffering and disease. It does not take much comparative study to recognize this.

           Furthermore, we can see that the process of preparing and eating food is also a part of the Vedic system for making spiritual advancement. As the Vedic literature explains, what we eat is an important factor in the process of purifying ourselves and remaining free from accumulating bad karma. It actually is not so difficult to be vegetarian, and it gives one a much higher taste in eating and in one’s spiritual realizations. The level of our consciousness is also determined not only by what we think and do, but also by the vibrational level of what we put into our bodies as food. The more natural and peaceful the food, the more healthy and peaceful will be our consciousness. If it is further blessed and offered to the Lord, then it becomes especially powerful and spiritualized. This vibration goes into our own bodies and is assimilated by our consciousness to assist us in our spiritual upliftment. However, if we eat foods that are the remnants of animals that were petrified with fear before being slaughtered, or were tortured during the slaughter process, that fear, aggression and suffering will also become a part of our own consciousness, which is reflected back on our own life and the people with whom we come in contact. And people wonder why there is not more peace in the world.

Another reason why no meat is mentioned as being acceptable to Lord Krishna is that the soul, which is a part and parcel of the Lord Himself, is equally present in not only humans, but all species of life.

            “The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [or outcaste].” (Bg.5.18) Thus, a wise person recognizes the value of life, the soul, within all species of living beings. Because he recognizes the soul in all bodies, he does not cause any cruelty to them. Cruelty or suffering inflicted on any living being will certainly cause harm to ourselves and regression in our own development, spiritual or otherwise. Compassion and kindness to all beings is how we make spiritual progress. Is there anything that is really more important that this? As Lord Krishna explains:

            “One who is not envious but who is a kind friend to all living entities, who does not think himself a proprietor, who is free from false ego and equal both in happiness and distress, who is always satisfied and engaged in devotional service with determination and whose mind and intelligence are in agreement with Me—he is very dear to Me.” (Bg.12.13-14)

            Thus, how can we be kind to all living entities if we are looking at them as if they would be our next meal? This is not compassion, concern for others, or kindness. It is no different than the way animals look at each other with the intent to eat another being, or with fear to keep from being eaten. As human beings, we should be better than that, certainly more developed than carrying a mere animal mentality within ourselves. Meat cannot be acquired without violence to others, and unwarranted violence toward others offers nothing elevating to anyone. It is hardly God’s philosophy to be a friend to humans but an enemy to animals by wanting to slaughter and eat them. What can be more thoughtless and evil than that? Thus, this sort of nonviolence that is exhibited toward others, as when one abstains from eating meat, is a godly quality, as Lord Krishna further explains in Bhagavad-gita (16.2-3): ahimsa or nonviolence is one of the transcendental qualities that belong to godly men endowed with divine nature.

 

VEDIC REFERENCES AGAINST MEAT-EATING AND ANIMAL SLAUGHTER
       To start with, the Manu-samhita clearly and logically recommends that, “Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun the use of meat. Having well considered the disgusting origin of flesh and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him entirely abstain from eating flesh.” (Manu-samhita 5.48-49)

       However, it is not simply the person who eats the meat that becomes implicated by eating the dead animal, but also those who assist in the process. “He who permits the slaughter of an animal, he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, must all be considered as the slayers of the animal. There is no greater sinner than that man who though not worshiping the gods or the ancestors, seeks to increase the bulk of his own flesh by the flesh of other beings.” (Manu-samhita 5.51-52)

       As we get further into the Manu-samhita, there are warnings that become increasingly more serious. For example, “If he has a strong desire (for meat) he may make an animal of clarified butter or one of flour (and eat that); but let him never seek to destroy an animal without a (lawful) reason. As many hairs as the slain beast has, so often indeed will he who killed it without a (lawful) reason suffer a violent death in future births.” (Manu-samhita 5.37-38)

       In this way, the only time to carry out the need to kill animals for consumption is when there is an emergency such as when there simply is nothing else to eat. Otherwise, when there are plenty of grains, vegetables, fruits, etc., to eat, it is only mankind’s lust and selfish desires that motivate one to kill other beings to satisfy one’s tongue by tasting their blood and flesh, or to fatten one’s wallet by making money from participating in the distribution or the cooking of meat. Such violent actions create opposite reactions. For this reason the warnings are given, “He who injures harmless creatures from a wish to give himself pleasure, never finds happiness in this life or the next.” (Manu-samhita 5.45)

       Nonetheless, there are also benefits that are mentioned that a person can attain simply by not eating the bodies of other creatures: “By subsisting on pure fruits and roots, and by eating food fit for ascetics in the forest, one does not gain so great a reward as by entirely avoiding the use of flesh. Me he [mam sah] will devour in the next world, whose flesh I eat in this life; the wise declare this to be the real meaning of the word ‘flesh’ [mam sah].” (Manu-samhita 5.54-55)

       “He who does not seek to cause the sufferings of bonds and death to living creatures, (but) desires the good of all (beings), obtains endless bliss. He who does not injure any (creature) attains without an effort what he thinks of, what he undertakes, and what he fixes his mind on.” (Manu-samhita 5.46-47)

       Also, “By not killing any living being, one becomes fit for salvation.” (Manu-samhita 6.60)

       The earlier texts, such as the Rig-veda (10.87.16), also proclaim the need to give up the eating of slaughtered animals. “One who partakes of human flesh, the flesh of a horse or of another animal, and deprives others of milk by slaughtering cows, O King, if such a fiend does not desist by other means, then you should not hesitate to cut off his head.”

       “Those who are ignorant of real dharma and, though wicked and haughty, account themselves virtuous, kill animals without any feeling of remorse or fear of punishment. Further, in their next lives, such sinful persons will be eaten by the same creatures they have killed in this world.” (Bhagavata Purana 11.5.14)

The following verses are from  the Tirukural:

How can he practice true compassion 
who eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh?
Riches cannot be found in the hands of the thriftless,
nor can compassion be found in the hearts of those who eat meat.
He who feasts on a creature's flesh is like he who wields a weapon.
Goodness is never one with the minds of these two. 
If you ask, "What is kindness and what is unkindness?" 
It is not-killing and killing. Thus, eating flesh is never virtuous.
Life is perpetuated by not eating meat.
The jaws of Hell close on those who do.
If the world did not purchase and consume meat,
no one would slaughter and offer meat for sale.
When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh
of another creature, he will abstain from eating it.
Insightful souls who have abandoned the passion to hurt others 
will not feed on flesh that life has abandoned.
Greater than a thousand ghee offerings consumed in sacrificial
fires is to not sacrifice and consume any living creature.
All life will press palms together in prayerful adoration
of those who refuse to slaughter or savor meat.

          From these verses there should be no doubt that the Vedic shastra recommends that such selfish meat-eating must be given up if one has any concern for other living beings, or one’s own future existence, or for attaining any spiritual merit.

        There are also references in the Mahabharata that forewarn the activity of eating flesh. This is in the Anushasana Parva section where there is a conversation between Yudhisthira and Grandfather Bhishma about the merits of abstaining from meat eating and the demerits and consequences for doing so. It is quite revealing. One quote is: “He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures, lives in misery in whatever species he may take his [next] birth.” (Mahabharata, Anu.115.47)

       “The purchaser of flesh performs violence by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does violence by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells, or cooks flesh and eats it–all these are to be considered meat-eaters.” (Mahabharata, Anu.115.40) All of these people will also incur the same karmic reactions for their participation in killing, distributing or eating the flesh of animals, as explained next.

       “The sins generated by violence curtail the life of the perpetrator. Therefore, even those who are anxious for their own welfare should abstain from meat-eating.” (Mahabharata, Anu.115.33)

        A more thorough and educational rendering of the teachings of Bhishma in the Mahabharata is as follows:

Bhishma started, “Numberless discourses took place between the Rishis on this subject, O scion of Kuru’s race. Listen, O Yudhisthira, what their opinion was. (115.7)

            “The highly wise seven celestial Rishis, the Valakshillyas, and those Rishis who drink the rays of the sun, all speak highly of abstention from meat. The self-created Manu has said that the man who does not eat meat, or who does not kill living creatures, or who does not cause them to be killed, is a friend of all creatures. Such a man is incapable of being oppressed by any creature. He enjoys the confidence of all living beings. He always enjoys the praise of the pious. The virtuous Narada has said that that man who wishes to multiply his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures meets with disaster. (115.9-12)

            “That man, who having eaten meat, gives it up afterwards wins merit by such a deed that is so great that a study of all the Vedas or a performance, O Bharata, of all the sacrifices [Vedic rituals], cannot give its like. (115.16)

            “That learned person who gives to all living creatures the gift of complete assurance is forsooth regarded as the giver of lifebreaths in this world. (115.18)

            “Men gifted with intelligence and purified souls should always treat others as they themselves wish to be treated. It is seen that even those men who are endued with learning and who seek to acquire the greatest good in the shape of liberation, are not free of the fear of death. (115.20)

            “What necessity be said of those innocent and healthy creatures gifted with love of life, when they are sought to be killed by sinful wretches living by slaughter? Therefore, O King, know that the discarding of meat is the highest refuge of religion, of the celestial region, and of happiness. Abstention of injury [to others] is the highest religion. It is, again, the highest penance. It is also the highest truth from which all duty emanates. (115.21-23)

Flesh cannot be had from grass or wood or stone. Unless a living creature is killed it cannot be procured. Hence is the fault of eating flesh. The celestials who live upon Svaha, Svadha, and nectar, are given to truth and sincerity. Those persons, however, who are for satisfying the sensation of taste, should be known as Rakshasas [flesh-eating demons] pervaded by the quality of Darkness. (115.24-25)

“If there were nobody who ate flesh, then there would be nobody to slay living creatures. The man who slays living creatures kills them for the sake of the person who eats flesh. If flesh were not considered as food, there would then be no destruction of living creatures. It is for the sake of the eater that the destruction of living entities is carried on in the world. Since, O you of great splendor, the period of life is shortened by persons who kill living creatures or cause them to be killed, it is clear that the person who seeks his own good should give up meat altogether. Those dreadful persons who are engaged in the destruction of living beings never find protectors when they are in need. Such persons should always be molested and punished even as beast of prey. (115.29-32)

“That man who seeks to multiply his own flesh by (eating) the flesh of others has to live in this world in great anxiety, and after death has to take birth in indifferent races and families. High Rishis given to the observance of vows and self-control have said that abstention from meat is worthy of praise, productive of fame and Heaven, and a great satisfaction itself. This I heard formerly, O son of Kunti, from Markandeya when that Rishi discoursed on the sins of eating flesh. (115.34-36)

He who purchases flesh, kills living creatures through his money. He who eats flesh, kills living beings through his eating. He who binds or seizes and actually kills living creatures is the slaughterer. These are the three sorts of slaughter through each of these acts. He who does not himself eat flesh but approves of an act of slaughter, becomes stained with the sin of slaughter. (115.38-39)

“That wretched man who kills living creatures for the sake of those who would eat them commits great sin. The eater’s sin is not as great. That wretched man who, following the path of religious rites and sacrifices as laid down in the Vedas, would kill a living creature from a desire to eats its flesh, will certainly go to hell. That man who having eaten flesh abstains from it afterwards acquires great merit on account of such abstention from sin. He who arranges for obtaining flesh, he who approves of those arrangements, he who kills, he who buys or sells, he who cooks, and he who eats it, [acquire the sin of those who] are all considered as eaters of flesh. [Therefore] that man who wishes to avoid disaster should abstain from the meat of every living creature. (115.44-48)

“Listen to me, O king of kings, as I tell you this, O sinless one, there is absolute happiness in abstaining from meat, O king. He who practices severe austerities for a century, and he who abstains from meat, are both equally meritorious. This is my opinion. (115.52-53)

“Yudhisthira said: Alas, those cruel men who, not caring for various other sorts of food, want only flesh, are really like great Rakshasas [meat-eating demons]. (116.1)

“Bhishma said: That man who wishes to increase his own flesh by the meat of another living creature is such that there is none meaner and more cruel than he. In this world there is nothing that is dearer to a creature than his life. Hence, one should show mercy to the lives of others as he does to his own life. Forsooth, O son, flesh has its origin in the vital seed. There is great sin attached to its eating, as, indeed, there is merit in abstaining from it. (116.11-13)

There is nothing, O delighter of the Kurus, that is equal in point of merit, either in this world or in the next, to the practice of mercy to all living creatures. (116.19)

Hence a person of purified soul should be merciful to all living creatures. That man, O king, who abstains from every kind of meat from his birth forsooth, acquires a large space in the celestial region. They who eat the flesh of animals who are desirous of life, are themselves [later] eaten by the animals they eat. This is my opinion. Since he has eaten me, I shall eat him in return. This, O Bharata, forms the character as Mamsah [meaning flesh] of Mamsah [me he, or “me he” will eat for having eaten him]. The destroyer is always slain. After him the eater meets with the same fate. (116.32-35)

“He who acts with hostility towards another becomes victim of similar deeds done by that other. Whatever acts one does in whatever bodies, he has to suffer the consequences thereof in those bodies. (116.36-37)

“Abstention from cruelty is the highest Religion. Abstention from cruelty is the greatest self-restraint. Abstention from cruelty is the highest gift. Abstention from cruelty is the highest penance. Abstention from cruelty is the highest sacrifice. Abstention from cruelty is the highest power. Abstention from cruelty is the greatest friend. Abstention from cruelty is the greatest happiness. (116.38-39)

“Gifts made in all sacrifices [rituals], ablutions performed in all sacred water, and the merit which one acquires from making all kinds of gifts mentioned in the scriptures, all these do not equal in merit abstention from cruelty.” (116.40)

 

THE QUESTION OF WHETHER LORD RAMA ATE MEAT IN THE RAMAYANA
              Sometimes the idea comes up that the Ramayana indicates that Lord Rama ate meat, especially while He was in exile in the woods. However, there is no verse in Valmiki’s Ramayana that establishes that Lord Rama, Lakshmana or Sita ate meat while in or even out of exile. In fact, it seems to show that He very much disliked the notion of eating meat. The evidence for this is as follows:

              The verse that comes in question in this regard in the Valmiki Ramayana, Sundarakanda, Skanda 36, Sloka 41, says: “Na mamsam Raghava bhunkte, na chaiva madhu sevate, Vanyam suvihitam nityam bhaktamsnati panchamam.”

              The literal translation of this verse is: “Sri Rama does not take meat or honey. He partakes everyday of wild fruits and boiled (wild) rice fully sanctioned (for an ascetic) in the evening.”

              Faulty English translations have put it as something like this: Hanuman to Sita, “When you were away, Sri Rama did not even take deer meat.” This incorrectly implies that Rama normally may have ate meat but did not do so while Sita was away from Him.

              Now in this verse, the Sanskrit word bhunkte is a verb that means strong desire for eating. It comes from the Sanskrit bhaksha, which means voracious eating. When you say Na bhunkte, as we see in the line that says “Na mamsam Raghava bhunkte”, it gives a complete negative connotation, meaning that Lord Rama abhorred meat-eating. On the other hand, if the words were “Na mamsam Raghavo khadate”, it could then mean that Raghava may have engaged in meat eating before, but had stopped it at this point. However, this is not what is said, but is where some English translations present a similar confusion, or are simply unclear about this issue. Nonetheless, by analyzing the correct view of the proper translation, it indicates clearly that the Valmiki Ramayana shows how Lord Rama not only did not eat meat, but greatly disliked it.

 

THE PRINCIPAL OF BEING MERCIFUL
       Meat-eating and animal slaughter also disrupts and disregards the doctrine of ahimsa, or non-violence. It is not possible to kill animals for the pleasure of the tongue without violence. The Padma Purana (1.31.27) simply says that, “Ahimsa is the highest duty.” Therefore, one must honestly ask themselves if they intend to truly follow the Vedic tenets or not, at least if they call themselves a Hindu, follower of Vedanta, or a Sanatana-dharmist. If they are, then they must adopt the ways of ahimsa.

       Ahimsa is more directly explained in Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras (2.30) wherein it is said: “Having no ill feeling for any living being, in all manners possible and for all times, is called ahimsa, and it should be the desired goal of all seekers.”

       It is also said in the Buddhist scripture, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, “The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion.”

       One of the principles that one must follow in the endeavor to be free from acquiring bad karma and for spiritual advancement is being merciful, based on ahimsa. Mercy means more than just being nice. Mercy means being kind to all living entities, not just to humans, but also to animals, birds, insects, etc. This is because the living entity, depending on its consciousness, can take a material body in any one of the 8,400,000 species of life. Therefore, to develop and maintain the quality of mercy, one must follow the principle of no meat eating. This includes no eating of meat, fish, eggs, or insects. In this way, those who are serious about a spiritual path remain free from so many unnecessary karmic reactions. Karma means that for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Killing an animal to eat is certainly an act of violence that creates a negative reaction in the atmosphere which returns as more violence. This comes back to us as reversals in life which we must endure in the future.

       It is bluntly stated that meat eating is actually the grossest form of spiritual ignorance. To kill other living entities for the pleasure of the tongue is a cruel and selfish activity that requires one to be almost completely blind to the spiritual reality of the living being, that within the body is a soul like you, a part and parcel of the Supreme Soul. It also causes one to remain hard-hearted and less sensitive to the concern for the wellbeing and feelings of others.

       As previously explained, according to the law of karma, whatever pain we cause for others we will have to suffer in the future. Therefore, a wise man does not even want to harm an insect if possible, what to speak of slaughtering an animal in order to taste its flesh and blood. As explained in the Manu-samhita, the sinful reaction for animal slaughter is received by six kinds of participants, which include, (1) the killer of the animal, (2) one who advocates or advertises meat-eating, (3) one who transports the meat, (4) one who handles or packages the meat, (5) one who prepares or cooks the meat, and (6) one who eats it.

      The sinful reaction shared by these six participants in animal slaughter is serious. In fact, the Bible compares the killing of cows to murdering a man: “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” (Isaiah 66.3) It is also explained in the Sri Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, Chapter 17, verse 166): “Cow killers are condemned to rot in hellish life for as many thousands of years as there are hairs on the body of the cow,” which is also referenced in the Manu-samhita. So an intelligent person will try to avoid this fate.

       Some readers may say, however, that the sacrifices in the early Vedic literature prescribed animal slaughter, so for that reason it is all right to kill animals. But such activities in this day and age are refuted by Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu in the Caitanya-caritamrita (Adi-lila, Chapter 17, verses 159-165) which He explains to the Chand Kazi who was a Muslim:

       “The Vedas clearly enjoin that cows should not be killed. Therefore any Hindu, whoever he may be, does not indulge in cow killing. In the Vedas and Puranas there are injunctions declaring that if one can revive a living being, he can kill it for experimental purposes [in the ritual]. Therefore the great sages sometimes killed old animals, and by chanting Vedic hymns they again brought them to life for protection. The killing and rejuvenation of such old and invalid animals was not truly killing but an act of great benefit. Formerly there were great powerful brahmanas who could make such experiments using Vedic hymns, but now, because of Kali-yuga, brahmanas are not so powerful. Therefore the killing of cows and bulls for rejuvenation is forbidden. ‘In this age of Kali, five acts are forbidden: the offering of a horse in sacrifice, the offering of a cow in sacrifice, the acceptance of the [renounced] order of sannyasa, the offering of oblations of flesh to the forefathers, and a man’s begetting children in his brother’s wife.’ Since you Mohammedans [and others] cannot bring killed animals back to life, you are responsible for killing them. Therefore you are going to hell; there is no way for your deliverance.”

       This quotation makes it perfectly clear how anyone who participates in killing other living beings is responsible for such acts which cause one to attain a hellish future, or at the least, causes stifling of their spiritual progress. We mentioned the karmic reactions for killing the cow, but there are karmic results that one acquires from killing other entities as well, which is to suffer a similar pain or die in a similar way. Whatever you do unto others will later return to you, either in this life or in a future life. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That is the law of karma.

       We can now begin to understand how dark the future is for someone who owns or manages something like a hamburger or fried chicken stand. Not only is he responsible for the animals that are killed, cooked, and then sold by his business, but he is also responsible for those he hires to help with it, and those who buy and eat the dead animals. We can also begin to get an idea of the dark collective karma of the population of a country whose food habits are centered around the meat industry. The violence that is generated by such a society certainly cannot help but create adverse affects in the world.

 

THE BENEFIT FROM COWS
       The cow and bull are the prime targets of the meat industry. However, cows and bulls are very important to human civilization. Until the recent invention of the tractor, the bull was used for helping to cultivate fields for producing food, and the cow has always supplied milk. A moderate supply of milk in our diet provides the proper nutrients for developing a good brain for understanding spiritual topics. Some sadhus in India do not eat, but take only milk. From milk one can make many other foods that are used in thousands of recipes that we all appreciate, such as cheese or curd, yogurt, kefir, butter, ghee, and so on. (However, this is not to approve of the cruel and questionable practices of the dairy industry as found in western countries.) This means that, according to the Vedas, the cow is one of our mothers and the bull is like a father for the benefit they have done for society. To do outright harm to such creatures is considered extremely serious.

       I have heard Western people criticize India for not slaughtering its cows, and talk about how there would be no more starving children if they would just eat the cows. That is not the cure. I have traveled all over India and have seen hungry people there as well as in American cities, which is more able to hide such problems. Homeless and hungry people are found in every country. For another thing, cows are one of India’s greatest resources. They produce food, fuel and power. Bullocks do as much as two-thirds of the work on the average farm. They help plow the fields, hall produce, and turn the presses. For India to convert to machinery to do these tasks, especially in villages, would cost as much as 20 to 30 billion dollars. For a country like India, that is out of the question and a waste of time and money.

       The cows also supply up to 800 tons of manure each year for fuel. Cow dung gives a slow even heat, good for cooking. Using coal for cooking would cost 1.5 billion dollars a year. And besides, believe it or not, cow dung kills bacteria and is antiseptic. And keeping cows is cheap since they eat things like wheat stubble, husks, and rice straw, which people cannot use.

       So why raise cattle for meat consumption when it takes seven times more acreage for a pound of beef than a pound of milk? Only four to sixteen pounds of flesh food is produced for every hundred pounds of food eaten by cattle. Ten to twenty tons of nutritive vegetable food can be produced from the same amount of land that can produce only one ton of beef. In one year, you can get much more protein from a cow in the form of milk, cheese, etc., than in the several years it takes for a cow to mature enough to produce meat. To produce one pound of wheat takes 25 gallons of water, whereas one pound of beef requires 2500 gallons. And water is not always a plentiful resource in countries like India. Obviously, using agricultural resources for meat production is nothing but wasteful.

       Furthermore, if we are so concerned about the starving people in the world and the environment we live in, then let us consider the fact that 60 million more people in the world could be fed if Americans reduced their meat consumption by only 10%. Plus, thousands of acres of rainforest are lost every day in various countries, and it is said that 50% of that is directly linked to raising cattle for meat production. And though 76% of Americans consider themselves concerned about the environment, only 2.8% are vegetarians (at the time of this writing). Many Americans may say they love animals, but they still eat them on a regular basis. Obviously, they need to raise their consciousness about this. In any case, there are many books on the market that present this type of environmental information much more thoroughly.

              For those of you who would like to learn more about what a vegetarian diet can do for you and how to cook vegetarian meals easily, there are plenty of books available to help you get started. Or check here on my website for additional information and resources to get started.

Vegetarianism: Quotes From Noteworthy People

Vegetarianism:

Quotes From Noteworthy People

            “Is it not a reproach that man is a carnivorous animal? True, he can and does live, in a great measure, by preying on other animals; but this is a miserable way–as any one who will go to snaring rabbits, or slaughtering lambs, may learn–and he will be regarded as a benefactor of his race who shall teach man to confine himself to a more innocent and wholesome diet. What my own practice may be, I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals, as surely as the savage tribes have left off eating each other when they came in contact with the more civilized.”                                                           Henry David Thoreau in “Walden”

 

            “I do feel that spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.”           Mahatma Gandhi

 

            “It is my view that the vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.” Albert Einstein

 

            “As long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love.”             Pythagorus

 

            “It is necessary to correct the error that vegetarianism has made us weak in mind, or passive or inert in action. I do not regard flesh-food as necessary at any stage”    Mahatma Gandhi

 

            “Nonviolence leads to the highest ethics, which is the goal of all evolution. Until we stop harming all living beings, we are all savages.”           Thomas Edison, inventor

 

            “When a man wants to murder a tiger, he calls it sport; when a tiger wants to murder him, he calls it ferocity.”                                                    George Bernard Shaw

 

            “Truly man is the king of beasts, for his brutality exceeds them. We live by the death of others. We are burial places! I have since an early age abjured the use of meat…”                Leonardo da Vinci, painter, sculptor, poet.

 

            “A dead cow or sheep lying in a pasture is recognized as carrion. The same sort of carcass dressed and hung up in a butcher’s stall passes as food!”                  J. H. Kellog

 

            “I do not see any reason why animals should be slaughtered to serve as human diet when there are so many substitutes. After all, man can live without meat…” The Dalai Lama

 

            “He who does not value life does not deserve it.” Leonardo da Vinci

 

            “I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species. We err in copying the lower animal world if we are superior to it.”                                  Mahatma Gandhi

 

            “I look my age. It is the other people who look older than they are. What can you expect from people who eat corpses?”                               George Bernard Shaw, great English playwright

 

            “Oh, my fellow men, do not defile your bodies with sinful foods. We have corn, we have apples bending down the branches with their weight, and grapes swelling on the vines. There are sweet-flavored herbs, and vegetables which can be cooked and softened over the fire, nor are you denied milk or thyme-scented honey. The earth affords a lavish supply of riches, of innocent foods, and offers you banquets that involve no bloodshed or slaughter; only beasts satisfy their hunger with flesh, and not even all of those, because horses, cattle, and sheep live on grass.”    Pythagorus

 

            “Can you really ask what reason Pythagorus had for abstinence from flesh? For my part I rather wonder both by what accident and in what state of mind the first man touched his mouth to gore and brought his lips to the flesh of a dead creature, set forth tables of dead, stale bodies, and ventured to call food and nourishment the parts that had a little before bellowed and cried, moved and lived. How could eyes endure the slaughter when throats were slit and hides flayed and limbs torn from limb? How could his nose endure the stench? How was it that the pollution did not turn away his taste, which made contact with sores of others and sucked juices and serums from mortal wounds? It is certainly not lions or wolves that we eat out of self-defense; on the contrary, we ignore these and slaughter harmless, tame creatures without stings or teeth to harm us. For the sake of a little flesh we deprive them of sun, of light, of the duration of life to which they are entitled by birth and being.

            “If you declare that you are naturally designed for such a diet, then first kill for yourself what you want to eat. Do it, however, only through your own resources, unaided by cleaver or cudgel or any kind of ax.”                  The Roman Plutarch, in an essay “On Eating Flesh”.

 

            In a similar line of thinking is this quote: “I’m no shrinking violet. I played hockey until half my teeth were knocked down my throat. And I’m extremely competitive on a tennis court. . . But that experience at the slaughterhouse overwhelmed me. When I walked out of there, I knew I would never again harm an animal! I knew all the physiological, economic, and ecological arguments supporting vegetarianism, but it was firsthand experience of man’s cruelty to animals that laid the real groundwork for my commitment to vegetarianism.”                                            Peter Burwash, champion tennis player in his book, “A Vegetarian Primer”

 

            “I do not want to make my stomach a graveyard of dead animals.”    George Bernard Shaw

 

            “He who, seeking his own happiness, punishes or kills beings who also long for happiness, will not find happiness after death.”                                             Buddhist Dhammapada

 

            “It may indeed be doubted whether butchers’ meet is anywhere a necessary of life. Grain and other vegetables, with the help of milk, cheese, and butter, or oil where butter is not to be had, afford the most plentiful, the most wholesome, the most nourishing, and the most invigorating diet. Decency nowhere requires that any man should eat butchers’ meat.”                                  Economist Adam Smith in “The Wealth of Nations”

 

            “In all the round world of Utopia there is no meat. There used to be. But now we cannot stand the thought of slaughterhouses. And, in a population that is all educated, and at about the same level of physical refinement, it is practically impossible to find anyone who will hew a dead ox or pig… I can still remember as a boy the rejoicings over the closing of the last slaughterhouse.”     H. G. Wells, vision of the future in “A Modern Utopia”

 

            “We are all God’s creatures–that we pray to God for mercy and justice while we continue to eat the flesh of animals that are slaughtered on our account is not consistent.”        Isaac Bashevis Singer, Nobel-prize winning author

 

            “Vegetarianism is a greater progress. From the greater clearness of head and quicker apprehension motivated him to become a vegetarian. Flesh-eating is an unprovoked murder.”    Benjamin Franklin, great American statesman

 

            “Various philosophers and religious leaders tried to convince their disciples and followers that animals are nothing more than machines without a soul, without feelings. However, anyone who has ever lived with an animal–be it a dog, a bird, or even a mouse–knows that this theory is a brazen lie, invented to justify cruelty.”        Isaac Bashevis Singer

 

            “To be nonviolent to human beings and to be a killer or enemy of the poor animals is Satan’s philosophy. In this age there is always enmity against poor animals, and therefore the poor creatures are always anxious. The reaction of the poor animals is being forced on human society, and therefore there is always strain of cold or hot war between men, individually, collectively or nationally.”                 A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, in Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.10.6)

 

            “Every act of irreverence for life, every act which neglects life, which is indifferent to and wastes life, is a step towards the love of death. This choice man must make at every minute. Never were the consequences of the wrong choice as total and as irreversible as they are today. Never was the warning of the Bible so urgent: ‘I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life, that you and your children may live.’ (Deuteronomy 30:19)” Erich Fromm

 

            “To avoid causing terror to living beings, let the disciple refrain from eating meat… the food of the wise is that which is consumed by the sadhus [holymen]; it does not consist of meat… There may be some foolish people in the future who will say that I permitted meat-eating and that I partook of meat myself, but… meat-eating I have not permitted to anyone, I do not permit, I will not permit meat-eating in any form, in any manner and in any place; it is unconditionally prohibited for all.”                                                      The Buddha in Dhammapada

 

            All beings hate pains; therefore one should not kill them. This is the quintessence of wisdom: not to kill anything. Sutrakritanga (Jainism)

 

            Beings which kill others should not be killed in the belief that the destruction of one of them leads to the protection of many others. Purushartha Siddhyupaya (Jainism)

 

            For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seed of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love. Pythagoras (6th century BC)

 

            Those who have forsaken the killing of all; those who are helpmates to all; those who are a sanctuary to all; those men are in the way of heaven. Hitopadesa (Hindu)

 

            Let him not destroy, or cause to be destroyed, any life at all, nor sanction the acts of those who do so. Let him refrain from even hurting any creature, both those that are strong and those that tremble in the world. Suita-Nipata (Buddhist)

 

            One act of pure love in saving life is greater than spending the whole of one’s time in religious offerings to the gods … Dhammapada (Buddhist)

 

            But for the sake of some little mouthful of flesh we deprive a soul of the sun and light, and of that proportion of life and time it had been born into the world to enjoy. Plutarch (c.AD 46-c.120)

 

            The Utopians feel that slaughtering our fellow creatures gradually destroys the sense of compassion, which is the finest sentiment of which our human nature is capable. Thomas More (1478-1535)

 

            From thence the beasts be brought in, killed and clean washed by the hands of their bondsmen. For they permit not their free citizens to accustom themselves to the killing of beasts, through the use whereof they think clemency, the gentlest affection of our nature, by little and little to decay and perish. Thomas Moore (1478-1535)

 

            After they had accustomed themselves at Rome to the spectacles of the slaughter of animals, they proceeded to those of the slaughter of men, to the gladiators. Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

     

            Fishing is a pleasure of retirement, yet the angler has the power to let the fish live or die. Hung Tzu-ch’eng (1593-1665)

     

            How do we know that we have a right to kill creatures that we are so little above, as dogs, for our curiosity or even for some use to us? Alexander Pope (1688-1744)

 

            No humane being, past the thoughtless age of boyhood, will wantonly murder any creature which holds its life by the same tenure that he does. Henry David Thoreau (1817-1862)

 

            If he be really and seriously seeking to live a good life, the first thing from which he will abstain will always be the use of animal food, because …its use is simply immoral, as it involves the performance of an act which is contrary to the moral feeling — killing. Leo Tolstoy, great Russian philosopher (1828-1910)

 

            The very emphasis of the commandment: Thou shalt not kill, makes it certain that we are descended from an endlessly long chain of generations of murderers, whose love of murder was in their blood as it is perhaps also in ours. Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)

 

            While we ourselves are the living graves of murdered beasts, how can we expect any ideal conditions on this earth? George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

 

            To a man whose mind is free there is something even more intolerable in the sufferings of animals than in the sufferings of man? For with the latter it is at least admitted that suffering is evil and that the man who causes it is a criminal. But thousands of animals are uselessly butchered every day without a shadow of remorse. If any man were to refer to it, he would be thought ridiculous. And that is the unpardonable crime. Romain Rolland (1866-1944)

 

            To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. I should be unwilling to take the life of a lamb for the sake of the human body. Mohandas Gandhi (1869-1948)

 

            Late upon the third day, at the very moment when, at sunset… there flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unsought, the phrase ‘Reverence for Life’. Dr Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)

 

            A man is ethical only when life, as such, is sacred to him, that of plants and animals as well as that of his fellow man, and when he devotes himself helpfully to all life that is in need of help. Dr Albert Sweitzer (1875-1965)

 

            Any religion or philosophy which is not based on a respect for life is not a true religion or philosophy. Dr Albert Schweitzer (1875-1965)

 

            The man who regards his own life and that of his fellow creatures as meaningless is not merely unhappy but hardly fit for life. Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

 

            We cannot have peace among men whose hearts find delight in killing any living creature. Rachel Carson (1907-1964)

 

            To inflict cruelties on defenseless creatures, or condone such acts, is to abuse one of the cardinal tenets of a civilized society – reverence for life. Jon Evans (1917- )

 

            Life is life’s greatest gift. Guard the life of another creature as you would your own because it is your own. On life’s scale of values, the smallest is no less precious to the creature who owns it than the largest … Lloyd Biggle Jr. (1923- )

 

            Killing an animal to make a coat is a sin. It wasn’t meant to be and we have no right to do it. A woman gains status when she refuses to see anything killed to be put on her back. Then she’s truly beautiful! … Doris Day (1927- )

In the words of George Bernard Shaw:

 

We are living graves of murdered beasts

Slaughtered to satisfy our appetites.

We never pause to wonder at our feasts,

If animals like men could possibly have rights.

                                                             .

We pray on Sunday that we may have light,

To guide our footsteps on the paths we tread.

We are sick of war, we do not want to fight,

And we gorge ourselves upon the dead.

                                                             .

Like Carrion Crows we live and feed on meat,

Regardless of the suffering and pain

We cause by doing so, in this we treat,

Defenseless animals for sport or gain –

                                                              .

How can we hope in this world to attain

The peace we say we are so anxious for,

We pray for it o’er hetacomba of slain,

To God while outraging the moral law,

Thus cruelty begets the offspring — WAR !

Universal Brotherhood Includes Animals: Another Reason to be Vegetarian

Universal Brotherhood Includes

 Animals:

Another Reason to be Vegetarian

by Stephen Knapp

      I know some people may not want to consider the information in this section. Others will feel this has nothing to do with establishing world peace and unity. However, there are numerous ancient religious texts and contemporary authorities who feel otherwise. Therefore, we can consider that if we really want to establish peace and brotherhood among all people, we should take it a step farther to include the animals.

      As I have said before in my book, Toward World Peace, we need to see the spiritual nature within all living beings, and that includes the animals and other beings as well. Universal brotherhood means nonviolence to humans AND animals. It consists of understanding that animals have souls. They are alive, conscious, and feel pain. And these are the indications of the presence of consciousness, which is the symptom of the soul. Even the Bible (Genesis 1.21; 1.24; 1.30; 2.7; and in many other places) refers to both animals and people as nefesh chayah, living souls. Those who eat meat, however, because of their desires to eat animals or see them as a source of food for one’s stomach, are not so easily able to understand the spiritual nature of all beings. After all, if you know that all living entities are spiritual in essence, and that all living beings that are conscious show the symptoms of the soul within, then how can you go on killing them? Any living creature is also the same as we are in the respect that it is also a child of the same father, a part of the same Supreme Being. Thus, the killing of animals shows a great lack in spiritual awareness.

      Many portions of the Vedic literature describe how the Supreme Being is the maintainer of innumerable living entities, humans as well as the animals, and is alive in the heart of every living being. Only those with spiritual consciousness can see the same Supreme Being in His expansion as Supersoul within every creature. To be kind and spiritual toward humans and be a killer or enemy toward animals is not a balanced philosophy, and is an exhibit of one’s spiritual ignorance. On a national level, to maintain so many slaughterhouses for the sake of satisfying the human beings’ taste for eating flesh will continue to produce reactions that will constantly disturb the very peace we are trying to establish in the world.

      We have to consider the amount of fear and pain animals are forced to endure when taken to the slaughter house. There are countless stories of how in fear cows cry, scream, and sometimes fall down dead while inside or even before they are taken into the slaughter house. Or how the veins of dead pigs are so big that it shows they have practically exploded from the fear the pig felt and the adrenalin that was produced while it was being led to slaughter. This certainly causes an immense amount of violence to permeate the atmosphere, which goes out and falls back on us in some form. Furthermore, the adrenalin and fear in the animal also produces toxins which then permeate the body of these animals, which meat-eaters then ingest. People who consume such things cannot help but be effected by it. It causes tensions within them individually, which then spreads in their relations with others. This is one of the reasons why we may experience quarrels, hostilities, or even international tensions and wars.

      We may respect our fellow human beings, but unnecessary violence to animals is also unwanted and sinful, as the various quotes that follow from different religious texts will confirm. People who prescribe the killing of animals out of voracious selfishness are guided by their lower animal propensities. Our true human and spiritual nature can never fully shine if we do not refrain from such habits of killing and abusing other creatures.

      The ancient Vedic text of the Manu-samhita (5.45-8) says, “He who injures innoxious beings from a wish to give himself pleasure never finds happiness, neither living nor dead. He who does not seek to cause the suffering of bonds and death to living creatures, but desires the good of all beings, obtains endless bliss. He who does not injure any creature, attains without an effort what he thinks of, what he undertakes, and what he fixes his mind on. Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun the use of meat.”

      The Bible (Romans 14.21) also says, “It is neither good to eat flesh, nor to drink wine.” However, how many people who claim to be Christians continue to do this on a regular basis? Therefore, how can they call themselves real Christians? And another biblical commandment (Exodus 23.5) instructs to help animals in pain, even if they belong to an enemy.

      The Buddhist scripture (Sutta-Nipata 393) also advises: “Let him not destroy or cause to be destroyed any life at all, or sanction the acts of those who do so. Let him refrain from even hurting any creature, both those that are strong and those that tremble in the world.” It is also said in the Buddhist scripture, the Mahaparinirvana Sutra, “The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion.”

      An important principle of Jainism is related in the Sutrakritanga (1.11.33) which explains, “A man should wander about treating all creatures as he himself would be treated.”

      For Jews, the Talmud (Avodah Zorah 18B) forbids the association with hunters, not to mention engaging in hunting. So if people are going to be true Jews or Christians, they should follow the tenets of their religion. Otherwise, anyone may profess to be of any religion, yet not be a true follower because of failing to regard the principles.

      Some Jews and Christians are convinced that sacrificing animals, as mentioned in certain parts of the Bible in the Old Testament, justifies meat-eating. But in the New Testament Jesus preferred mercy over sacrifice (Matthew 9.13; 12.7) and was opposed to the buying and selling of animals for sacrifice (Matthew 21.12-14; Mark 11.15; John 2.14-15). One of the missions of Jesus was to do away with animal sacrifice and cruelty to animals (Hebrews 10.5-10). So how can Christians continue to sacrifice animals for the sake of their tongue if they claim to be followers of Christ?

      We especially find in Isaiah where Jesus scorns the slaughter and bloodshed of humans and animals. He declares (1.15) that God does not hear the prayers of animal killers: “But your iniquities have separated you and your God. And your sins have hid His face from you, so that He does not hear. For your hands are stained with blood. . . Their feet run to evil and they hasten to shed innocent blood. . . they know not the ways of peace.” Isaiah also laments that he saw, “Joy and merrymaking, slaughtering of cattle and killing of sheep, eating of meat and drinking of wine, as you thought, ‘let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.’” (22.13)

      It is also established in the Bible (Isaiah 66.3), “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man.” In this regard St. Basil (320-379 A.D.) taught, “The steam of meat darkens the light of the spirit. One can hardly have virtue if one enjoys meat meals and feasts.”

      In an article called “The Golden Age Must Return: A Catholic’s Views on Vegetarianism,” written by the Chairman of the Catholic Study Circle for Animal Welfare in London, Reverend Basil Wrighton, it establishes that a vegetarian diet is consistent with and required by the tenets of Christianity. The article further explains that the killing of animals for food not only violates religious tenets, but brutalizes humans to where violence against other humans becomes inevitable.

      In this way it can be understood that a true religionist, one who is always thinking of the welfare of others, never tries to cause anxiety for any creature, human or otherwise. Therefore, we should understand that killing other living entities for one’s food is an act of cruelty to others and should be avoided.

      So, even though there are areas in the world where a meatless diet is difficult to follow, or that meat is a basic part of a region’s cultural ways, we must consider that if we really want peace, we must also think of the well being of others. That includes the other nonhuman living beings. It is not that we must always go out of our way to provide the animals with all the comforts of home. They can usually provide for themselves, at least those in the wild. However, we should find alternatives to killing animals to satisfy our appetites, especially when there are plenty of other healthy foods available. Otherwise, there must be reactions to such violence. We cannot expect peace in the world if we go on unnecessarily killing so many millions of animals for meat consumption or through abuse.

      As Newton’s third law of motion states, for every action there must be an equal and opposite reaction. On the universal scale this is called the law of karma, meaning what goes around comes around. This affects every individual, as well as communities and countries. As the nation sows, so shall it reap. This is something we should take very seriously, especially in our attempt to bring peace, harmony, and unity into the world. If so much violence is produced by the killing of animals, where do you think the reactions to this violence goes? It comes back to us in so many ways, such as the form of neighborhood and community crime, and on up to world wars. Violence breeds violence. Therefore, every several years there is a big war in various areas of the world which causes wholesale slaughter of people. This is a reaction of nature for the immense cruelty produced by humankind. Humanity may not see this, but the reaction must be there. Thus, quarrels and wars appear between any group, such as Protestant and Catholic, Russia and Afghanistan, Muslim and Christian, or so many others. This will continue unless we know how to change.

      Isaac Bashevis Singer, who won the Nobel Prize in Literature, asked, “How can we pray to God for mercy if we ourselves have no mercy? How can we speak of rights and justice if we take an innocent creature and shed its blood?” He went on to say, “I personally believe that as long as human beings will go shedding the blood of animals, there will never be any peace.”

      In conclusion, we can mention the March 10, 1966 issue of L’Osservatore della Domenica, the Vatican weekly newspaper, in which Msgr. Ferdinando Lambruschini wrote: “Man’s conduct with regard to animals should be regulated by right reason, which prohibits the infliction of purposeless pain and suffering on them. To ill treat them, and make them suffer without reason, is an act of deplorable cruelty to be condemned from a Christian point of view. To make them suffer for one’s own pleasure is an exhibition of sadism which every moralist must denounce.” Eating animals for the pleasure of one’s tongue when there are plenty of other foods available certainly fits into this form of sadism. It stands to reason that this is counterproductive to any peace and unity we wish to establish. It is one of the things we need to consider seriously if we want to improve the world.

Prasada: The Power of Sacred Food

Prasada:

The Power of Sacred Food

 By Stephen Knapp

 

      On the spiritual path those that are most inclined to lead a peaceful existence that respects the value of all life often adopts the vegetarian lifestyle. It is in accordance with the yogic principle of ahimsa, which is to observe nonviolence and abstain from injuring any being in any way. However, in the process of bhakti-yoga, devotion goes beyond simple vegetarianism, and food becomes a method of spiritual progress. In the Krishna temples, food is offered to the Deities in a special sacrament, after which it becomes prasada or prasadam. This means the mercy of the Lord. Thus, the food we eat after it is offered to the Lord becomes a means for our purification and spiritual development. 

      Devotional service or Krishna consciousness is often described as a process of singing, dancing and feasting. But the feasting is done with spiritual food, Krishna prasadam. 

      In the Bhagavad-gita Lord Krishna says, “All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, as well as all austerities that you may perform, should be done as an offering unto Me.” So offering what we eat to the Lord is an integral part of bhakti-yoga and makes the food blessed with spiritual potencies. Then such food is called prasadam, or the mercy of the Lord.

      The Lord also describes what He accepts as offerings: “If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” Thus, we can see that the Lord does not need anything, but if one offers fruits, grains, and vegetarian foods, He will accept it. The Lord does not accept foods like meat, fish or eggs, but only those that are pure and naturally available without harming others. So we offer what Krishna likes, not those items which are distasteful to Him. We also do not use garlic, onions, or mushrooms when we prepare food for Krishna.

      The Lord is fully satisfied in Himself. He is the creator of all so everything is already His. He supplies us with food through nature, but we give thanks to Him by offering it back in a mood of loving devotion. So if His devotee offers something with love, out of His causeless mercy Krishna accepts it. The Lord is never hungry for our food, but for the love and devotion we offer. And then He reciprocates with that love. 

      So on the spiritual path eating food that is first offered to God is the ultimate perfection of a vegetarian diet. The Vedic literature explains that the purpose of human life is reawakening the soul’s original relationship with God, and accepting prasadam is the way to help us reach that goal.

      The food is meant to be cooked with the consciousness of love, knowing that it will be offered to Lord Krishna. In the spiritual world, Radharani cooks for Krishna and She never cooks the same preparation twice. The temple kitchen is understood to belong to Radharani.

      The ingredients are selected with great care and must be fresh, clean and pure vegetarian. Also, in cooking for Krishna we do not taste the preparations while cooking. We leave the first taste for Krishna when it is offered.

      After all the preparations are ready, we take a portion of each one and place it in bowls on a special plate and take it to the altar to offer it to the Deities or pictures of Krishna.

      Then the preparations are presented with special prayers as we ask that God accept our humble offering. The Lord accepts it with the most important part being the love with which it is offered. God does not need to eat, but it is our love for God which attracts Him to us and to accept our offering. Even if the most sumptuous banquet is offered to God but without devotion and love, Krishna will not be hungry to accept it. It is our love which catches the attention of Lord Krishna who is then inclined to accept our service.

      After He glances over and tastes that loving offering of vegetarian preparations, He leaves the remnants for us to honor and relish. Krishna’s potency is absorbed in that food. In this way material substance becomes spiritualized, which then affects our body and mind in a similar way. This is His special mercy for us. Thus, the devotional process becomes an exchange of love between us and God, which includes food. And that food not only nourishes our body, but also purifies our consciousness.             

      By relishing the sacred food of Krishna prasadam, it purifies our heart and protects us from falling into illusion. In this way, the devotee imbibes the spiritual potency of Lord Krishna and becomes cleansed of sinful reactions by eating food that is first offered in sacrifice to God. We thus also become free from reincarnation, the continued cycle of life and death. This process prepares us for entering the spiritual world since the devotees there also relish eating in the company of Krishna.

      Not only do we make advancement, but also all of the plants that are used in the preparations as an offering to God are also purified and reap spiritual benefit. However, we become implicated in karma if we cause the harm of any living being, even plants, if we use them for food without offering them to God. Thus prasadam also becomes the perfect yoga diet.

      Therefore, the cooking, the offering and then the respectful eating or honoring of this spiritualized food all become a part of the joyful process of devotional service to the Lord. Anyone can learn to do this and enjoy the happiness of experiencing prasadam. The Sunday love feast in the Hare Krishna temples is the opportunity in which everyone can participate in this opulence of Lord Krishna. So we invite you to attend as often as you like and make spiritual advancement simply by relishing Krishna prasadam.