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Hindu View of Vegetaranism

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Hindu View of Vegetarianism

- Shri B.P. Sinha


(The author is a former member of the Indian Economic Service and he retired as Chief Economic Adviser to the Railway Board, Government of India. Hindu here signifies the Indian cultural view-point which includes Vedic-Sanatan Hinduism and its various offshoots, and Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism, as has also been indicated by the author in footnote 1. - Editor) Introduction Justification of choice between vegetarian and non-vegetarian food has been a matter of fierce debate for a long time. Not much purpose would be served by going into the hackneyed arguments that have already been made or in cleverly projecting them to the advantage of the favoured one as someone has observed 'this is not an area of argument but intuition’. While the debate on vegetarianism versus non-vegetarianism has still been broadly referred here to see how the various views on the subject stand, the whole issue is finally addressed from a somewhat new angle - a Hindu view - for the following reasons: A We all are Hindus1 here and would appreciate the conclusions of this discussion to be especially relevant in relation to our philosophy. B. Hindu philosophy has visualized the entire Prakriti in a threefold classification - trigunamayee - with an analytical purpose and has classified food and consumption, too, as Sattvic, Rajasic and Tamasic. C. The Hindus have a full-fledged theory of consumption whose pattern and nature correspond to a person’s general outlook or attitude towards fife and his value system. This also reflects his preparedness for spiritual attainments. sustenance vis-a-vis gratification of senses and also involving ostentation and wasteful consumption. We may revert to these aspects later. Typology & History We eat and consume for our sustenance and growth. This essentially involves use of nature’s unprocessed and processed resources. It is interesting that the body {deha) that is regarded as inanimate (jada)sms the soul and the one which the enlightened would not like to acquire in the deal for the next birth, must be taken good care of in this life so that it helps in achieving the main purpose of life, i.e., getting rid of the life and death cycle. Otherwise too, self- prservation2, as understood in common parlance, is a basic instinct of all beings. Except for people who live in (a) extremely inhospitable climate, (b) belong to traditionalistic nomadic hunting and herding societies, and/or (c) are extremely poor, there is usually a choice between eating vegetarian or non-vegetarian food. But in this population, a large proportion seldom bothers to consciously exercise this choice as it is by tradition or family-background they are used to consuming certain types of food. However, cultural evolution, beliefs, traditions, researches and fashion have given rise to several combinations of food-types along with the vegan.3 1 Lacto-ovo-vegetarian - allowing dairy products, egg and honey. 2 Lacto-vegetarian - allowing dairy products & honey but not egg. 3 Ovo-vegetarian - allowing egg and honey but not dairy products. There are some finer combinations to the above categories as well.4 52 A relatively small proportion of people are found to be lacto- vegetarian and a still smaller proportion of them exercises a conscious choice regarding food habits and /or towards changing them. Many people change their food choices under compulsions of health or on medical advice, under inspiration of a Godman, or due to non¬availability of certain types of food at some locations, etc. A very large proportion of people take both vegetarian and non-vegetarian food. Making a choice is a non-issue to them unless personal taste is considered. Within this group, a sizeable number of people do not consume certain types of non-vegetarian food on religious considerations (Hindus usually don’t take beef and the Muslims avoid pork). Especially among Hindus, a large number of people also avoid taking non-vegetarian food on certain days and occasions (e.g., on Tuesdays, Navaratri, Ekadashi, and on solemn religious ceremonies like Shraddha, Chautha, etc). Many Hindus restrict themselves to taking egg (some take only non-fertilized ones) and /or fish. In some other religions too (e.g., Christianity) similar restrictive traditions are in vogue. For all practical purposes, however, hardcore vegetarians and vegans constitute a small minority in the world; the proportion might be somewhat higher at locations where sizeable Hindu population is concentrated. Earliest references to the concept and practice of vegetarianism are found in the history of ancient India and Greece5 in the context of non-violence against animals. In the West, with the advent of Christianity, however, the concept of vegetarianism virtually vanished but during renaissance it re-surfaced in the form of orders of monks not to eat meat (though not banning fish) for ascetic reasons. In India, on the other hand, religious and philosophical invocations contained in the scriptures (Manusmriti, Srimadbhagawat, Adhyatma Ramayana, Mahabharata, Bhagwadgita, etc.) kept the tradition alive. In the 19th and the 20th centuries, a widespread resurgence of vegetarianism took place, against animals (and more recently on environmental considerations). A large number of societies/institutions in various countries cropped up to propagate and promote vegetarianism. Even in the context of Islam, where meat eating is allowed provided it is halal, formation of a Muslim Vegetari an/Vegan Society affiliated to the International Vegetarian Union has taken place.6 According to an estimate, Indian vegetarians (overwhelmingly lacto-vegetarians) constitute over 70 percent of the world’s vegetarians7 and make up for 20-42 percent of the country’s population. The range of the latter being too large it might not be a very dependable estimate - and in all probability an over-estimate. Around 5 percent of the world’s population, mainly concentrated in the Indian subcontinent, would thus seem to comprise of lacto- vegetarians. The debate Interestingly, while only a small proportion of people exercise their conscious choice in respect of taking vegetarian or non-vegetarian food, there is no dearth of arguments involving global and other far reaching considerations for and against both. Vast literature has been built around them since it is human nature to appear right. The various arguments may broadly be classified into six categories: I. Health, nutrition and longevity'. Comprehensive and strong arguments are made out that a vegetarian diet is deficient in some of the nutrients that are important from the viewpoint of health and strength of humans, such as, protein, iron, vitamin B12, calcium and fatty acids while they are easily available in non-vegetarian diet. It has been pointed out that to a large extent the common deficiencies of these nutrients can be made up from vegetarian items, such as, protein in the form of amino acid from milk, and also from soya, hempseed, pulses, etc; iron from black beans, cashews, kidney beans, lentils oatmeal, resins, sunflower seed, ete.; fatty acids from walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola oil, etc; vitamin B12 from dairy products, fortified foods and dietary supplements;8 calcium from leafy greens, etc. Vegetarian diet is also often accused of inducing E coli infection but the latest thinking is that E coli may be acquired from an excrement-infected food or human commensal bacteria. The crux of the matter is that sufficient awareness must exist among the people about the food deficiencies and safety. On the other hand, ‘vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and anti-oxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals’ .9 A number of studies10 have also brought out that a properly planned vegetarian diet satisfies the nutritional needs at all stages of life and vegetarians run lower risk of cancer, ischaemic heart disease, osteoporosis, etc. It helps in containing the body mass index, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, hypertension, Type- 2 diabetes, renal disease, osteoporosis and dementias (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), etc. Several studies have given the advantage of longevity to the vegetarians but it is believed that it is not very significant and decisive. 55 II. Ethical considerations: The ethical argument against the non- vegetarian food revolves round the pain and the trauma that the animal suffers during the killing. It is argued that in a vast majority of situations people can make an effective choice of diet that would not involve killing of animals. The sentient animals do not want to die but have no choice; their families and friends suffer; their expectations of enjoyment are dashed by the blade that chops off their necks, and the only protest they are able to make is the shrieks in some cases and the violent shaking of their beheaded limbs while loosing to the excruciating pain oatmeal, resins, sunflower seed, ete.; fatty acids from walnuts, pumpkin seeds, canola oil, etc; vitamin B12 from dairy products, fortified foods and dietary supplements;8 calcium from leafy greens, etc. Vegetarian diet is also often accused of inducing E coli infection but the latest thinking is that E coli may be acquired from an excrement-infected food or human commensal bacteria. The crux of the matter is that sufficient awareness must exist among the people about the food deficiencies and safety. On the other hand, ‘vegetarian diets offer a number of nutritional benefits, including lower levels of saturated fat, cholesterol, and animal protein as well as higher levels of carbohydrates, fiber, magnesium, potassium, folate, and anti-oxidants such as vitamins C and E and phytochemicals’ .9 A number of studies10 have also brought out that a properly planned vegetarian diet satisfies the nutritional needs at all stages of life and vegetarians run lower risk of cancer, ischaemic heart disease, osteoporosis, etc. It helps in containing the body mass index, cholesterol, blood pressure, heart disease, hypertension, Type- 2 diabetes, renal disease, osteoporosis and dementias (e.g., Alzheimer’s disease), etc. Several studies have given the advantage of longevity to the vegetarians but it is believed that it is not very significant and decisive. 55 II. Ethical considerations: The ethical argument against the non- vegetarian food revolves round the pain and the trauma that the animal suffers during the killing. It is argued that in a vast majority of situations people can make an effective choice of diet that would not involve killing of animals. The sentient animals do not want to die but have no choice; their families and friends suffer; their expectations of enjoyment are dashed by the blade that chops off their necks, and the only protest they are able to make is the shrieks in some cases and the violent shaking of their beheaded limbs while loosing to the excruciating pain of death. While violence against animals has been an old argument, in recent times it has received impetus in reaction to ‘industrial farming’ (of animals) whose proponents claim that the animals there are taken good care of, say, against the elements, disease and feed shortage. In practice, they are actually reared for the sole purpose of getting more meat and are kept in confinement that is much worse than their natural habitat notwithstanding all its drawbacks. An argument frequently made on behalf of the non-vegetarians is that in the nature there is life in everything (plants included), which has been scientifically proved. The various species, therefore, constitute food for each other and the violence involved in such a case is inescapable and justifiable. Serious explanations and counter arguments have been offered here by the protagonists of vegetarianism. A theory11 has been put forward that in the evolution of nature the order that has been followed is ether to air, air to fire, fire to water and water to earth.12 In the watery existence, of which vegetation is the result before the process of evolution reaches the stage of animate beings, the feeling of pain is minimal - almost non-existent. It is also because the sensory organs (Jnanendriyas), through which pleasure and pain are experienced, are almost entirely dormant in vegetation, except for touch (sparsh). So, if the human being consumes vegetation for his existence, least harm is done to the nature and his conduct is, indeed, in consonance with the intentions of nature sineeAhimsa and mutual tolerance are the two basic requirements for nature’s conservation, preservation and growth. The Adhyatma Ramayana, too, traces the full cycle of Jeeva in its evolution to annamaya Kosha and graduation to praanmaya kosh leading finally to re-birth.13 Thus it is argued that killing of animals for food, rather than being natural is actually against the nature.14 In an overwhelmingly large number of cases, an effective alternative to vegetarian food is available and,therefore, the killing is not for ‘survival’ but is reckless and generally to satisfy the taste buds and is encouraged by misplaced social mores and customs. It is also argued that the ultimate agony suffered by the killed animals and their silent curses generate ‘negative’ waves and impulses in the universe. If there is any significance and effect of the well recommended ‘positive’ thoughts and impulses, there would be contrary effects of the ‘negative’ ones too. These negative impulses are described to work to the detriment of the universal balance. III. Religious pronouncements: Several religions in the world have made pronouncements against eating of meat. Hinduism and Jainism view vegetarianism as a virtuous life-style. Non-violence (<ahimsa) as an ideal is common to both the religions as well as in several other offshoots of Hindu religion. In addition to ahimsa, the Hindu Vaishnav Dharma subscribes to vegetarianism on two other counts. First, the food itself is considered as an offering to God or the deity after making which only the ‘devotee’ consumes it as ‘prasad’. Therefore, only pure food is offered to God or the deity and taken by the devotee. Secondly, there is a theory emphasizing that the kind of food (Sattvic, Rajasic or Tamasic) determines the attitude and thinking of a human. (This is discussed in greater detail subsequently). While some types of vegetarian food are classified as Sattvic, meat, etc. are categorized as Tamasic. In Srimadbhagwat (Skandha7, Chapter 15, and Slokas 7-8) Narad tells Yudhishthira that those who understand the substance of Dharma never include meat in the food-offering to the ancestors during the Shraddhakarma since the ancestors are much happier to be offered the food taken by the sages than that including meat. Further, for those who wish to live in accordance with the religious precepts no religion is higher than not doing any harm to a being in thought, speech and action. In Mahabharata (Anushasana Parva), Bhishma replies in detail to the query of Yudhishthira about ahimsa and the consequences of taking meat. This exposition can be taken as the bovine ana representative view of the Hindu Sanatana Dharma as he has quoted venerable views of several authorities in his discourse. Among the many things was not aj mentioned by Bhishma in this context the more important ones are as vegetaria follows: millenm The religion of Ahimsa, into which all other religions merge, stands possible on four legs, viz., observing non-violence in thought, speech and deed of peon and not eating meat. for emu The sages have pointed out three causes of violence: desire for meat, supporting meat-eating and having a taste for meat. Hindu People have to suffer for the sin of committing violence and Acccr. praising meat-eating; violen Those sages who wished to have good health, good looks, sin.' 1 longevity, high intellect, purity, strength and good memory, shunned the J meat-eating. sevei According to Manu, the one who neither takes meat, nor indulges plant in violence and nor encourages violence by others, is a friend of all pull:r beings. by c According to Narad, the one who wants to enhance his own ‘meat’ duo (health) by eating others’ meat has surely to suffer. The one who was a meat and honey eater earlier but gave them up Bu: altogether subsequently earns merit {Punya) in a measure that even doii the study of all Vedas and performance of all yajnas cannot match. an< Those who eat meat get a short life and, therefore, should shun co meat-eating in their own interest. m< On this earth, nothing is dearer than one’s soul. Therefore, one should N be kind to all beings and should consider others like one’s own self. in A counter argument is often advanced that in ancient India tl many sages and the Aryans generally practised meat-eating and even the beef was not spared. There has been considerable literature for and against this contention. But it is quite an established fact that the k .. • ::: general and the cow in particular, had a especially ■Ue place in ate socio-religious system of ancient India and beef : general!} eaten. The people, however, comprised both lacto- n arts an a n on-vegetarians. At any rate, after passage of several an a ail round growth in culture and civilization making ie ■ ider choices and refinement in sensitivities, the lifestyles tec pie in ancient times present only alternatives and not courses era __aaon in present times. Jainism, too, upholds the ideal of the vegetarian diet as the > Non-violence is an indispensable part of spiritual progress.

aaa a to \lahavira, ‘violence in thought, indulging in (physical)
are rang violence by others and to contemplate violence is a N o product of the dead animals for consumption is acceptable in :. _r - aem. Honey, too, is prohibited. Among the staunch Jains, are fruitarians. Several of them don’t take even roots and rr: r:: iucts that grow under the soil because in getting them by u_7 a the plants, insects and other life-forms may be killed. Covering k do th of nostrils and mouth by Jain munis to avoid killing of insects : a rreathing and speaking, is well known.

It is said that as per the Pali canon of Theravada Buddhism15 uidha himself ate meat and also did not prohibit his followers from :a so. Adistinction was, however, made between the direct killing tend the already killed animals. The hunters and butchers were c: nsidered as pursuing unethical careers. But, on the other hand, the π : nks could not refuse taking meat preparations if received in alms. Most Buddhists in Asia are observed to be taking meat. But several injunctions in Sanskrit require the monks in Mahayan Buddhism fiat largely covered India, to be vegetarians as it helps a bhikkhu imbibing and developing piety and kindness. In Sikhism, the opinion is somewhat divided whether meat- eating is prohibited by the religion. Guru Nanak is believed to have

pointed out that consumption of any food involves a drain on the resources of the earth and thus on life. On the other hand, Guru Gobind Singh, the Tenth Guru, prohibited the Sikhs from the consumption of halal or Kutha meat (any ritually slaughtered meat) since sacrificing an animal in the name of God is mere ritualism.16 A large majority of Sikhs is non-vegetarian. Vegetarianism is not a favourite concept in Christianity, too, although Jesus Christ is sometimes quoted to have said: ‘whosoever eats flesh of an animal is actually eating his own flesh himself.’17 Most Christians believe that earlier both the animals and the humans were vegetarian but after the Great Deluge, God permitted humans to eat meat. There is no harm in eating meat or being a vegetarian because when God gave control of earth to man He allowed him to eat whatever he wished to take. On the other hand, some Christian leaders believe that Christ was a vegetarian.18 But according to many others, in the Book of Daniel vegetarianism was not favoured as the food that was offered to the Pagan gods was ‘unholy’. The Bible’s New Testament points out that a person’s dietary choice was a matter of small consequence and should not be a matter of confrontation.9 However, “all Oriental Orthodox, Eastern Orthodox, and Eastern Catholic monastics abstain from meat year round, and many abstain from dairy and sea food as well. Laity generally abstains from animal products on Wednesdays (due to a traditional belief that it was a Wednesday on which Judas had arranged to betray Jesus Christ) and Fridays (because Jesus was crucified on a Friday) as well as during the four fasting periods of the year: the Great Lent, the Apostle’s Fast, the Domitian Fast and the Nativity Fast. Fasting is seen as purification and regaining of innocence. Through obedience to the Orthodox Church and its ascetic practices, the Orthodox Christian seeks to rid himself or herself of the passions, or the disposition to sins.”20

A number of Jewish scholars - mediaeval and modem - (e.g., Rabbi Joseph Albo and Rabbi Abraham Kook) regard vegetarianism as a moral ideal that lends strength to human character. In Judaism, many believe that Adam did not eat animal flesh. It is also informed that members of the ancient Essene, who had ties with both ancient Judaism and Christianity, practised strict vegetarianism in support of non-violence. Although Islam preaches kindness towards animals, it allows meat-eating provided it is halal, that is, prepared following the prescribed procedure. Several Muslims have taken to vegetarianism on medical grounds but choose not to emphatically preach adherence to it. In spite of clear expressions by several religions towards vegetarianism, only around 5 percent of the world’s population today is lacto-vegetarian. This indicates the importance of other factors - man’s sensory indulgence being an important one amongst these - that has resulted in ignoring of religious injunctions. It would seem that religion, too, cannot stand against man’s pleasurable indulgences. IV Spiritual aspects: Arguments in the realm of spiritualism provide strength to religious pronouncements in preaching adherence to vegetarianism. The view that the type of food one eats affects his mind, attitudes, thought processes, sentiments and values finds reference in several scriptures. In Bhagwadgita (Chapter 17, Slokas 7-10) it is elaborately stated as thus: “Food also, which is agreeable to different men according to their intake disposition, is of, and likewise sacrifice, penance and charity, too, are of three kinds each; hear their distinction as follows: Foods which promote longevity, intelligence, vigour, health, happiness and cheerfulness and which are sweet, bland, substantial and naturally agreeable, are dear to the Sattvic type of men. Foods which are bitter, acidic, salty, over hot, pungent, dry and burning, and which cause suffering, grief and sickness, are dear to the Rajasic type of men. Food which is half-cooked or half-ripe, insipid, stale and which is impure too, is dear to men of a Tamasic disposition.” It would appear that in making such general categorization, the Gita does not explicitly refer to meat or non-vegetarian preparations and even the same item may be differently cooked to qualify for two different categories. But this hardly affects the logic and intention of the scripture. The type of food - cooked or otherwise - so generally described is found likable by men of different dispositions. According to a learned saint, ‘the Sanskrit word amedhyammtd in Sloka 10 (meaning ‘putrid’) covers items like meat produced from ovum and semen, fish, egg, etc. much impure items, that are dead and the very touch of which necessitates bathing’21 According to him, while describing such Tamasic items as amedhyam it would seem that God does not even want to name them. It is also argued that depending on his attitude, the consumer might derive a different quality-category of food from the one in which it is originally classified. Thus otherwise Sattvic food taken with an attitude of raga (attachment) may actually become Rajasic in nature. Another learned person, countering the argument that unfertilized egg does not qualify as involving killing, points out that the ‘vegetarian egg’, while not capable of fertilization and its eating might not involve violence as such, still has all the ingredients needed for creating life which increases the desire in the consumer for re-birth and thus comes in the way of his welfare.22 There is also a view that there is nothing like a ‘vegetarian egg’ ,23 The purpose of the above theorization is that attitudes both in the production(himsa or ahimsa) and consumption (involvement/ indulgence) different kinds of foods matter in affecting the welfare of individuals (his preparedness towards spiritual advancement) and of the natural environment at large. Both the actual consumption as well as the desire to consume Tamasic food should be shunned. V. Environmental consideration: While making decisions about the choice of food, the individual preference (shaped by tradition, taste, social and economic status, health condition, awareness about medicinal benefits, situational compulsions, group pressures, fashions, etc.) plays a decisive role, in justifying the choice, bogey of environmental considerations is often raised. The non-vegetarians would argue that by killing aimal for food a balance in the nature is maintained; otherwise the animal population would become too large. Further, by switching over to vegetarian diet unsustainable pressure on agriculture would come about. Still further, while labelling the use of animals for food and thus for human sustenance as violence, the protagonists of vegetarianism conveniently forget that in the consumption of vegetation food humans take away the feed of a large variety of animals that are herbivorous. On the other hand, the progagonists of vegetarianism derive support from the researches that point out that in the production of meat of a certain quantity several times more water, crops and other resources are consumed (by the animals involved) than would be required to meet the food requirement through vegetarian items.24 In terms of such estimates, the Stockholm World Water Institute, Sweden, and the World Health Organization (WHO) have expressed concern over the estimated 840 million undernourished people with uncertain food supply and another 2 billion by 2025. Important as such issues are, as has already been pointed out, any discussion on merits and demerits of vegetarianism cannot be expected to sway decisions of large numbers of people. Indeed, all kinds of people are required by the society and have important role in this world. Problems of population pressure have existed for several centuries. One would be well advised to have faith in the ingenuity and capabilities of man to tackle them, as has indeed been happening, in the long ran.

VI. Natural attributes of humans and other arguments: It is argued by the protagonists of vegetarianism that the nature has not made humans to be carnivorous. They do not possess sharp pointed teeth, strong jaws, rough tongue, larger liver and kidneys, low Blood- PH, etc., that are quite common amongst the carnivorous animals to aide their survival. Further, in sharp contrast to the carnivorous animals, humans have much larger intestines in relation to their bodies appropriate to digest vegetarian food and their saliva and digestive system are much less acidic. Hence the humans are more suitable to be vegetarian; they are essentially herbivorous. In counter argument, it has been pointed out that the early humans did have better suited bodies and survived for ages on non-vegerarian food. With natural evolution, development of agriculture and changes in life-style they have undergone several physiological changes. Further, the humans today need not hunt and use teeth and jaws to tear the meat of the prey; these are times of animal farming and preparation of delicious soft cuisines. The argument of going against the ‘nature of man’ is not found tenable by such people. Not surprisingly, an overwhelming majority of humans today take meat. Indeed, the humans today have enriched their diet by eating both types of food and can appropriately be called omnivorous. Some other arguments have also been made to clinch the issue by both sides. For example, the protagonists of vegetarian claim that the vegetarian food is cheaper and is available more conveniently. Further, with phenomenal progress made by civilization and opening of alternative production possibilities and technological progress, substantially enhancing productivity, it is gross to include meat and such preparations that involve killing and cruelty to animals in the diet of the modem man. Economic scarcity and pricing of eatables varies by place and situation reflecting in interplay of their demand (tastes/ choices) and supply (resource base) and any one sided generalization cannotte made. The argument involving the dynamics of civilization is, indeed, weighty and has to do with human sensitivity. We may revert to it in a wider context later after the next section. Consumption of animals in a larger perspective It is commonly known that other than food, animals are utilized for a vast variety of purposes in our day-to-day life. This can appropriately be called their consumption in a larger perspective. It involves killing and violence, too, and hence should be considered along with intake of food products. Animal products have traditionally been used for a vast variety of personal, household and industrial consumption, such as, medicine, footwear, dress material, caps, bags and suitcases, wallets, belts, seats, furniture items, sport-goods, adhesives, etc. Killing of cocoons for making silk fibre (e.g., for sarees) is well known. Animals are killed sometimes exclusively for such uses and often the limbs and substances from their bodies are obtained/ extracted along with killing for food. In recent times, there has been an explosion in thf use of animal products in making cosmetic items and goods of common consumption in households. The rendering plants have sprouted all over for cleaning, cooking and subjecting the carcasses and other body parts of animals to intense pressure to extract oily substances that are used in commercial production of a range of products.25 A small illustrative list of such substances and items mainly in preparing cosmetics may be found in the Appendix. Many of these substances, however, also have vegetarian alternatives but the animal products are widely and indiscriminately used in view of their easy availability and comparative economic advantage seen by the manufacturers and users. The purpose is to point out the great extent of our dependence on animals for the modem life-style and the extent of their reckless killing and exploitation. Many of such animal uses go unnoticed by ignorant and trusting consumers. They generally escape being subjected to the type of considerations made in the context of fafl«R

eating meat and other non-vegetarian items. This situation leaves almost every one a non-vegetarian in the contexst of total consumption in this world. Several issues arise here. Is such an overwhelming dependence on animals and their consequent killing or exploitation avoidable? Would any effort to substitute non-vegetarian consumption by plant based or synthetic consumption found acceptable in most cases? We may try to seek answers to these questions in the model of Hinduism. Hindu view of vegetarianism We may consider how the Hindu philosophy, the mainstream Upanishadic formulation, would address the issues raised above. The Hindu philosophy considers the present life as a continuum of a jeevatma’s journey, on the vehicle of karmas, towards merging into Parmatman. The present human life, being a karma yoni, also provides karma swatantrya or a precious opportunity to performing the karmas in a righteous manner. With such a vision, it must also regard vegetarianism as much more than sheer consumption of food items, on the one hand, and also test its desirability as karma, on the other. In order to sustain himself in this world, the man must draw upon the nature’s animate and inanimate resources. In this interaction, two interrelated things become relevant - the principle of Ahimsa and positive actions towards others. Ahimsa requires not putting any other being to discomfort. In a given situation and the way our civilization has developed, it may be extremely difficult to observe this principle in practice in an absolute manner. Two precautions, however, must be observed. Firstly, one must draw upon the nature’s resources to the minimum required extent (but what would also include maximization of one’s capabilities in a healthy manner) - along the lines of the principle of Aparigraha.26 This as such would minimize, though at the individual’s level, drawal on the nature’s resources - just the opposite of unbridled consumption leading to reckless resource 66

use, including the animals. At aphysical plane, this has been manifesting in global wanning and rapturing of the ozone layer. Having a discerning attitude is the hallmark of a Hindu seeker (saadhak). We must be very careful not only about the ramifications of consuming an item, its price, etc., but also its ingredients and the background of its production and trade. Sensitivity to violation of any illegal or immoral (including violence) conduct involved would help in shunning its consumption, seeking alternatives or foregoing its use altogether. If one’s sensitivity and conviction in this regard are strong enough, one would feel satisfied of his action rather than having a feeling of deprivation. Secondly, one must try to give back to (compensate) the nature for drawing on its resources for his sustenance. The very thought of doing something good to others is rewarding as it fits in well into the scheme of universal evolution. This also merges with the second (positive) aspect of Ahimsa necessitating compassion, empathy, kindness, etc., towards other beings; in short, loving God’s creation. All this constitutes, in the context of consumption, vegetarianism as per the Hindu view. An excouraging feature of Hindu philosophy /religion is that returning to the right path is always welcome and rewarding. In Gita, the Lord offers assurance to take one into His fold and to write off (in the sense of jeevatma not ‘feeling’ the agony of punishment) his past mistakes. Please recall, in the specific context of vegetarianism, it was emphasized that if a person who had been taking meat earlier but gives it up subsequently, he would earn more merit {punya) as compared to the one who has studied all the Vedas and performed various Yajnas. At least one’s own satisfaction and inner happiness are immediately guaranteed. The above course of action must be practised in a natural manner - as a matter of ordinary course - without a tinge of ego, submitting and surrendering all actions (karmas) to God. There is no scope for a ‘holier than thou’ attitude. Others may be provided 2013 67 guidance as a suggestion, if they so request, but not opposed and certainly not ridiculed for any differences in approach. Observing a genuine humility is also called for. One must not forget that the karma theory is value-neutral, i.e., one will have to reap the consequences of mistakes of omissions and commissions whether or not they were conducted knowingly or in ignorance. Hence, God’s mercy and kindness should always be invoked. This idea has been well expressed in the following sloka that used to be chanted by Gandhi ji after his prayer meetings:

dj pj.kd`ra okDdk;ta deZta ok Jo.ku;uata ok] ekula ok ok∙ijk/ka fofgrafMofgra ok loZesrr~ {keLo es t; t; d:.kkC/ks Jh egknso ‘kEHkksA ¼vFkkZr~ gkFk iSj }kjk] ok.kh ;k deZ }kjk ;k fQj Jo.k] n`f”V ;k eu }kjk tkus vkSj vutkus esa gq, lHkh vijk/kksa dks vkidh t; gks] gs d:.kklkxj egknso! vki {kek djsaA½

[Rendered into English: Whatever indiscretions - knowingly or unknowingly, I might have committed by use of my hands and feet, by speech or action, by listening or seeing, or by thought (manas) may be pardoned by, all praise to Him, the most benebolent Lord Shiva.] Appendix Some animal substances utilized in manufacturing of cosmetics and other selected products 1. Animal fat - in cosmetics, lipstick and eye make-up.27 2. Keratin - a protein taken from the horns, hooves, feathers, quills, and hair of animals, the scales and claws of reptiles, the shells of tortoise, turtle, terrapin, and the feathers, beaks and claws of birds, the armour of crabs, the plates of baleen whales - in shampoo, conditioner, body wash, body-lotion, toner, facial moisturizer, make- 68 tffcinrsf - 78 up foundation, mascara, lipstick, color cosmetics in hair rinse, and permanentwaves solutions, etc. 3. Gelatin or Gel - in shampoos, face-masks and other cosmetics. 4. Stearic fatty acid - fat from cows, sheep, dogs, cats, and stomach of pigs - in soaps, lubricants, hair-sprays, conditioners, deodorants and creams. 5. Arachidonic fatty acid - a liquid unsaturated fatty acid taken from the livers of animals - in skin creams and lotions to soothe the rashes. 6. Oleic fatty acid - obtained from inedible tallow - in soft soap, permanent waves solutions, creams, nail polish, lipsticks, etc. 7. Glycerin - from animal fat - in soap. 8. Mink oil - by killing minks and taking fat layer - in anti-ageing creams and softening leather. 9. Cochineal - red pigment from crushed female Cochineal insect (70,000 beetles are crushed to make a pound of red dye) - used in all red/pink colouring in cosmetics. 10. Allantoin - uric acid from mammals - in creams and lotions. 11. Carbamide (Uric Acid) - in deodorants, hair colourings, hand creams, lotions, shampoos, etc. 12. ChoIesterol - a steroid alcohol in all animal fats and oils, nervous tissue, egg yolk, and blood - in cosmeties, eye creams, shampoos, etc. 13. Collagen - fibrous protein derived from animal tissue - in all anti-ageing creams. 14. Guanine, Pearl Essence, Fish scales - in shimmery make¬up like lipstick, nail polish and eye shadow. 15. Placenta (after birth) - from the uterus of slaughtered animals - widely used in skin creams, shampoos, masks, etc. 16. Tallow - from rendered beef fat - in soaps, lipsticks, shaving creams and other cosmetics. 17. Vitamin A - from fish liver oil - in creams, perfumes, hair dyes.

18. Lard - fat from hog abdomens - in shaving creams, soaps, other cosmetics. 19. Polypeptides - obtained from slaughterhouse wastes - in analgesic dmgs. 20. Wax - from animas and plants - in lipsticks, depilatories and hair-straighteners. Footnotes 1 It is difficult to define Hinduism and who a Hindu is. But for purposes of discussion here a broad, somewhat tautological, definition of Hindu has been evolved. “A Hindu is a person bom in a Hindu family who has inherited the Samskaras that largely determine the beliefs and condition some important aspects of life-style of that person and his family. Even if not conscious about them many of the beliefs, values, mode of thinking, etc. of the Hindus derive from the interpretation of the Vedas and the thoughts contained in the Grantha- trayee (Srimadbhagwat, Ramayana and Gita) for whom Hindus have a natural regard.” The term Hindu here is not confined to the believers in the mainstream of Sanatana Dharma only but also broadly includes its offshoots, such as, Arya Samaj, and Jainism, Buddhism (as practiced in India) and Sikhism. 2 The Hindu scriptures, however, warn a beginner that “self’ is not to be confused with the “body”. 3 Strictly plant-based food not containing any animal product. 4 Fruitarian is a diet of only fruits, nuts, seeds and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant. Su-vegetarian, originating in Hinduism, excludes all animal products and fetid like onion, garlic, etc. Macrobiotic diet includes whole grains and beans, but sometimes fish too. Raw vegan includes fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, & vegetables.

21. Lard - fat from hog abdomens - in shaving creams, soaps, other cosmetics. 22. Polypeptides - obtained from slaughterhouse wastes - in analgesic dmgs. 23. Wax - from animas and plants - in lipsticks, depilatories and hair-straighteners. Footnotes 5 It is difficult to define Hinduism and who a Hindu is. But for purposes of discussion here a broad, somewhat tautological, definition of Hindu has been evolved. “A Hindu is a person bom in a Hindu family who has inherited the Samskaras that largely determine the beliefs and condition some important aspects of life-style of that person and his family. Even if not conscious about them many of the beliefs, values, mode of thinking, etc. of the Hindus derive from the interpretation of the Vedas and the thoughts contained in the Grantha- trayee (Srimadbhagwat, Ramayana and Gita) for whom Hindus have a natural regard.” The term Hindu here is not confined to the believers in the mainstream of Sanatana Dharma only but also broadly includes its offshoots, such as, Arya Samaj, and Jainism, Buddhism (as practiced in India) and Sikhism. 6 The Hindu scriptures, however, warn a beginner that “self’ is not to be confused with the “body”. 7 Strictly plant-based food not containing any animal product. 8 Fruitarian is a diet of only fruits, nuts, seeds and other plant matter that can be gathered without harming the plant. Su-vegetarian, originating in Hinduism, excludes all animal products and fetid like onion, garlic, etc. Macrobiotic diet includes whole grains and beans, but sometimes fish too. Raw vegan includes fresh and uncooked fruit, nuts, seeds, & vegetables. Some other terms depicting combinations of food items are also in currency, such as: Lessetarianism - focuses on reducing but not eliminating proportion of meat in diet. Semi-vegetarianism - excludes certain meats, viz•, in Pascetarianism all meats except fish, shell-fish and crustacca, and in Pollotarianism all meats except poultry and fowl. Flexitarianism - makes occasional exceptions to vegetarian diet. 5 Spencer, Colin - The Heretic’s Feast: A History of Vegetarianism (London, 1993). 6 Its proponents quote from the Holy Quran: ‘There is not an animal on earth, nor a bird that flies on its wings - but they are communities like you’. (6:38). 7 Vegetarian Resource Group, 2003: How Many Vegetarians Are There? 8 Since human body preserves (up to 30 years) and re-uses vitamin B12 its deficiency is quite uncommon. 9 From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia - Vegetarianism. 10 By the American Dietetic Association and Dieticians of Canada, among others.

11 References are to be found in Upanishads and Adhyatma Ramayana. 12 In universal cataclysm (Maha Pralaya) a reverse order ensues.

13 Kishkindha Kandam, Slokas 17-31 (Muni’s explanation to Sampaati, the brother of Jataayu, the vulture who laid his life fighting Ravana in the last lap of Sita’s abduction to Lanka). Having bequeathed its existence in heaven after using up the accumulated punya and spending some time in chandraloka (symbol of mind), Jeeva descends on earth. It sprouts as a (rice) plant, rice becomes food on whose digestion it becomes semen and impregnates a woman, forms a body in her womb (annamaya kosh) that grows and is imbued with chetana

(life, praanmaya kosh) in the fifth month and after acquiring all limbs takes birth after nine months. The process describes vegetation as an important stage of nature’s evolution on earth and as a primordial substance after water in the evolutionary process, thus before life in body with sensory endowments. 14 In Bhagwadgita too (see chapter 3, Slokas 14 & 15) the nature’s evolutionary cycle is beautifully connected with the imperative of performance of Yeda-approved actions (karmas) for the mutual benefit of the man and the nature. Proper understanding of this life cycle is considered necessary for the seeker (Saadhak) to be able to adjust his attitude and life-style in accordance with the same. 15 Theravad Buddhism is the oldest surviving Buddhist sect; Sthavirvad is its name in Sanskrit. It subscribes to the ancient teachings of Buddhism. It is estimated that there are about 800 million Theravadi Buddhists in the world now, mostly concentrated in the Asian countries outside India. 16 Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, op. cit., p.8. 17 See, for example, Aggarwal, Gopinath - ‘Vegetarian or Non-vegetarian: Choose Yourself, Jain Book Agency, New Delhi, 1991. 18 Old Testament, Daniel 1:8-16. 19 Roman 14:1-3. 20 Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, op.cit., p.9. 21 Swami Ramsukh Das - Sadhak Sanjeevani, Hindi Tika, Gita Press, Gorakhpur, 56th Ed., 2007, p. 1048. 22 Sinha, D.M. - Shakahaar ka Mahattva, Samaadhan Paripatra Sankhya 18, 2005 (Adhyatma Patrika, Meerut, mimeographed.) 23 Gopinath Aggarwal in his book cited in fn 17 above, has argued that the so called ‘vegetarian’ eggs are like ‘stillbirths’ and ‘dead bodies’ and pass through the same stages of birth as the hatchable eggs do. Considering the market for such eggs they are being chemically induced from the hen’s system like "III• i < rr (Ihe larms, the hens are under cruel situations (artificial hjlil in keep them awake) to eat am. produce more eggs; their reproduction cycle is also interfered with. The unfertilized eggs possess the same ‘harmful qualities’ as the other eggs have. 24 According to Alex Kirby, BBC News Online Environment Correspondent, as per scientific researches, animals fed on grains and also those which rely on grazing, need far more water than grain crops: A kilogram of grain-fed beef needs at least 15 cubic meters of water; A kilo of lamb from a sheep fed on grass needs 10 cubic meters of water; A kilo of cereals needs from 0.4 to 3 cubic meters of water. 25 In developing countries like India, such substances have sometimes even been used for adulterating Desi Ghee and cooking oils. 26 Aparigrahasthirye janmakathamtasambodhah, that is, One who is not greedy is secure. He has time to think deeply. His understanding of himself is complete. - Yoga Sutra 11.39. “The more we have, the more we need to take care of it. The time and energy spent on acquiring more things, protecting them and worrying about them cannot be spent on most basic questions of life. What is the limit to what we should possess? For what purpose? For whom and for how long? Death comes before we have had time to even begin considering these questions.” - Translation and Commen¬tary by TKV Desikachar 27 “Anyone looking at the elegant ads portraying glamorous models wearing beautiful make-up would never suspect that it is truly a make¬up of the refined, colored and perfumed oil derived from dead dogs, cows or pigs.”- Meow Cosmetics- www.meowcosmetics.com. C-2/43-B, Keshavpuram, Delhi-110035 + + +