By P. Soma Palan –
There was a Government proposal to ban slaughter of cattle for meat. This prompted me to pen some thoughts on the above headed subject as it is closely related. It is not my intention to express my views, on the pros and cons of cattle slaughter. Nevertheless, the Government has not given a clear and categorical rationale for such a proposal. That is, whether it is on grounds of religious compulsion or compassion or both. If it is religion and compassion, it is not tenable because one cannot confine it only to cattle slaughter only. Then, it should extend to slaughter of other animals for food as well, such as Goats, Pigs and sea animals. In India, slaughter of cattle is prohibited solely for religious reason, because the Cow is held to be holy and treated as “Go Matha”, a status of divinity as it is Lord Shiva’s Vahana “Nandi”. It is also because the Cow” is of multiple utilitarian value to humanity. Therefore, it is for both religious and compassionate reason. My views on Non-vegetarianism or the food culture of meat consumption is not driven by consideration of religion or compassion for animal slaughter, but on biological grounds based on empirical evidence from history of nations showing the correlation between Non-vegetarianism and Materialism, and Vegetarianism and spiritualism. And also its relationship to human biology and human nature.
Food is required for human existence, nourishment and survival. Food is broadly divided into two broad categories. (a) Plant based vegetarian food and (b) Meat of slaughtered animals. The former is Mother Earth’s gift to mankind and as a practice of food culture it can be referred to as “vegetarianism” and latter as a practice of “Non-Vegetarianism”. These descriptions are per se not correct. It can be only used in a qualified manner. The word Vegetarian is a positive and an absolute description. The Vegetarians consume plant based vegetable food only. The word Non-Vegetarian is a negative description. By disclaiming that they are not vegetarians it is implied they consume meat of animals. Non-vegetarians are not exclusive meat consumers, because they consume vegetable food as well.
The fundamental nutritional elements of both animal meat and vegetable food that nourishes the human body, its growth and development are the Proteins, Carbohydrates and Vitamins, including other micro-nutrients. The common belief is that meat of animals is rich in Proteins. It is true to some extent. It does not mean Vegetarian food lacks Proteins for body nourishment and growth. The notion that animal meat has more Proteins for bone and muscle growth is the propaganda of animal slaughtering and food processing Industry to enrich their business than for any altruistic concern. If this is a fact one cannot explain the self-evident truth that Herbivorous animals like Elephants, Giraffes, Horses, Cattle, Camels etc are much bigger and stronger than the meat eating animals like Lions, Tigers, Bears etc. Meat only enhances physicality of the gross human body; Whereas, Vegetarian food contributes not only to the physical body, but also significantly to the enhancement of the subtle body, the mind, and brains of the human beings. Furthermore, plant based vegetarian food have medicinal properties to prevent, cure, and resist various illnesses and diseases, unlike the meat of animals. Recent study has revealed that excessive and persistent consumption of meat of animals, cause disease as Cancer in human beings.
Food we consume has a strong influence on human behavior and tendencies. There are three main qualities in human beings according to Hindu religious tradition called “Gunas”. The three major Gunas are- (a) Satwa (b) Rajasic and (c) Tamas. Satwa Guna evince qualities such as nobility of character, mental balance and composure, tranquility, peacefulness, kindness and compassion. Rajasic Guna manifest physical drive and action, aggressiveness, urge to expand, control, dominate, violent disposition. Tamasic Guna, manifest inertia, laziness, inaction, passivity etc. The kind of food human beings consume determines to large extent their Gunas, that is, their behavior and tendencies.
Non–Vegetarianism & Materialism
The consumption of animal meat is a legacy of ancient, primitive tribes to modern man. The tribal people killed animals in the wild and roasted the meat and ate. In the progress of human civilization select domesticated animals were slaughtered, and cooking became more refined by addition of spices, sauces etc and made palatable and edible for consumption. Today animal slaughtering and packaging Industry is a world-wide lucrative, organized business. The consumption of animal meat is the predominant dietary culture of Western, Latin American, African, Arab, nations and eastern and far-eastern nations. The Mongoloid and Chinese races consume the meat of even reptiles like snakes, worms and Bats etc, which are considered even as delicacies. By nature the structure of human body is not designed for consumption of animal meat. The Intestinal tract of man is long according to his height between 30-36 feet length. The transit time of food consumed is long, 24 hours or more, through metabolic process of digestion, absorption and assimilation into blood for growth and development of the human body. Thus, this is not conducive for meat of animals, which would decompose, causing bacterial action and consequent illness and diseases to the body.
The food culture of meat consumption of animals as Cattle, Goats, Pigs, Poultry and varieties of Sea animals, is widespread globally. Food we consume plays a great influence in the physical, mental and emotional body of human beings. Food is vital for the physical development of the body, its bone and muscle growth. Those whose dietary culture is predominantly and compulsively of animal meat are by nature more active, acquisitive, expansive, controlling, dominating, aggressive, and violence oriented. The History of nations from ancient, medieval and modern times gives demonstrable evidence to support this view. The Western and Far-Eastern countries were perpetually invading, conquering other countries. These countries produced Warriors and War lords from the time of Roman Empire, Julius Caesar, Allexander the Great and Eastern Mongols like Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan, Barbar etc. Meat eating was the driving force of their violence and belligerence. The Western nations were eternally embroiled in wars, the military exploits of the Roman Empire, the Crusades, Thirty years War, Crimean War, Ottoman wars and the scramble for colonies which led to the first and second World Wars. The Wars emanates from the minds and hearts of the human beings. This is caused by the physical constitution of the human body, which is greatly influenced by the food consumed. If the predominant food culture is that of the meat of slaughtered animals, then the blood that runs in the veins of the humans is tainted with the blood of animals. Animal instinct overpowers the innate natural human instinct, resulting in violent disposition and aggressiveness to dominate the world, politically, militarily and economically.
Thus, there is a direct nexus between what one eats and what one becomes. Non-Vegetarianism or animal meat centric dietary culture is outward focused. The natural instinct is to control the environment, and expanding and enlarging it. Physical urges creates material wants as space and resources. Meat eating food culture induces a material-minded view of life. Therefore, non- Vegetarianism has a nexus with materialism. The fact that western nations with predominant meat consuming culture produced great men of intellect and excellence have been Vegetarians, such as Albert Einstein, eminent British literati Bernard Shaw, Bertrand Russell, the great German philosopher Schophenauer, (vast number of other vegetarians of intellectual excellence are unknown universally) This, reinforces the thesis that Vegetarianism greatly influence mental excellence in human beings. Bernard Shaw expressed his abomination and revulsion for animal meat by his characteristic witticism that “I do not want to make my stomach a graveyard for dead animals.”
Large majority of peoples’ interest and attention is centered on their gross body. Therefore, animal meat forms a major component of their food culture. They consider animal meat in their diet as indispensable for their physical wellbeing and survival. Human body is perishable matter. The human spirit is of no importance to them. Life is solely driven by acquisitiveness and possession of material things for happiness, which is determined by the urges of the physical body fuelled to a large extent by the intake of food of animal meat. Thus the nexus between non-vegetarianism and materialism is a self evident fact. Non-vegetarianism is outward-oriented and not introspective and inward-oriented.
Vegetarianism and Spiritualism
It is a commonplace truth that what you eat you become. There is a direct correlation between the nature and kind of food human beings consume and its effects on the physical, mental and emotional planes of human body. Just as animal meat consumption has a greater effect on the physical body, the consumption of plant based vegetable food has a greater effect on the mental plane of the human body. This does not mean that vegetarian food has less effect in the growth and development of the physical body of man.
From a world perspective, India is the only country where vegetarian food culture is predominant and almost a national tradition, since the beginning of time. This culture of vegetarianism has ancestral roots to the ancient times of the Indian Hindu Rishies, the Sages and Seers, whose dietary culture was exclusively vegetarian. The culture of food consisting meat of animals was introduced to India by the foreign invaders from the western side, the Islamic Moghuls, the Persians and from the eastern side, the Mongolian invaders Genghis Khan, Kublai Khan and their descendant, Barbar, who captured Delhi and ruled. Non-Vegetarianism was further fortified and entrenched by the later western colonial invaders, the Portuguese, Dutch and the British. Notwithstanding the prevalence of Non-Vegetarianism, predominant majority Hindu Indians of modern India are Vegetarian in the food culture. In contrast to the Non-Vegetarianism of the western countries, which produced great Empire builders, warriors and military geniuses and conquerors, colonizers of others territories and drained their resources, India remained a non- conquering country. India was inward looking, both territorially and spiritually, focusing on the inner nature of man and inquiry into the “Self” of man and discovering the Eternal Truths of life, Divinity of the Existence and flowering of religion, philosophy and spirituality, the three pillars forming the bed-rock of the Indian national theme.
The nexus between Vegetarianism and spiritualism is proven beyond doubt from the misty pre-history of India. In diametrical contrast to the history of Western nations whose dominant food culture is consumption of animal meat, India produced a galaxy of Rishies Sages, Seers Yogis and Mystics.
They are the backbone of India’s religious, philosophical and spiritual tradition. These Sages and Seers realized the great Truths of Existence and Life that were revealed to them through the Yoga of Meditation. The Vedas and the Upanishads contained the quintessential philosophy of Hinduism. India produced intellectual and spiritual giants like Valmiki, the author of the Epic Ramayana (5000B B.C.) Vyasa the author of the Epic Mahabharatham (3000 B.C.) Lord Krishna’s Bhagavad Geetha, Vishwamithra, Agastya, the great philosopher of Logic, Kapila who was the contemporary of Lord Buddha and his mentor. There were other outstanding men of excellence like Kautilliya, the author of “Arthasastra”, Manu , the Law Giver. These ancients were succeeded by modern day men of excellence, such as Adi Shankara, the great Vedantic philosopher, Ramanuajam, Sri Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, latter’s illustrious disciple Swami Vivekananda. One can name a long line of many outstanding personages of religion, philosophy and spiritualism such as Siridi Sai Baba, Sai Baba, Swami Chinmayananda the founder of the Chinmaya Mission of India, contemporary mystic Sadhguru, Jiddu Krishnamurti, The Apostle of Non- Violence, Mahatma Ghandi, Sri Aurobindo and the Nobel Prize winner for English Literature, Rabindranath Tagore. This testifies and exemplifies, beyond any doubt, the direct nexus between Vegetarianism and spiritualism, and mental development of human beings.