By Ayathuray Rajasingam –
After the Vedas pronounced that all beings are the family of one God, the Hindu mind became more established toward an attitude of reverence, benevolence, compassion, and auspiciousness toward all creatures. In effect, this certainly aroused people to wean themselves from eating meat. Soon afterwards the concept of non-injury became the model teaching of Hinduism. Manu Samhita stated earliest in the Mahabharata: “Ahimsa Parmo Dharma: Nonviolence is the primary religion,” and later Mahavira and Buddha adopted this as their main teaching. Vegetarian food came to be considered as the Sattvic food, which is regarded fit for all spiritual practices. Vegetarianism is a dietary meal, ideal among many Hindus, based on the concept of Ahimsa – non-violence and compassion towards all beings. Is is also considered Satvic, that is purifying the body and mind lifestyle in some Hindu texts.
Meat, fish, prawn are now regarded as a relatively toxic substance for human consumption. Health authorities worldwide agree that heart attacks, cancers, and many other diseases are more prevalent in the meat-eating population than in the vegetarian population. Above all, the longevity of a person is inversely proportional to the amount of his meat intake; the more meat one eats, the fewer years one may live. Dr Dean Ornish has more than 80 percent of the people who switched to plant based diet were able to reverse their heart disease. It has now been found that the carnivorous animals get plaques (similar to Alzhimer disease) in the brain when they age, herbivores don’t. Vegetarian food provides potassium to the body, which is considered a beneficial element. It also has a more alkaline base that is beneficial to good health in many ways. Vegetarian food is considered a complete diet, especially if there are sufficient dairy products and nutrient foods like soya in the diet. Some may consider milk products as non-vegetarian food, as its source is animals, but this is not acceptable to the Hindu point of view. Dairy forms the essential part of the Hindu diet, and it is therefore labeled as lacto-vegetarian. The average combined vegetarian meal contains a sufficient amount of the protein and other constituents needed by the body. Some people feel that vegetarian food is not easily available in most restaurants in the West, but now, with the increasing demand for the vegetarian meals, the restaurant industry is responding with many positive options.
God had created animals, birds, insects, and flies for the welfare of the humans. Having mercy on them and providing them with food, water, shelter, etc is called BALIVAISHDEV YAGYA. BALIVAISHDEV YAGYA means separate some portion of food for animals, birds, etc before eating. This is Dharma, always think of others before yourselves. Other beings are also the creation of God and we as humans should always protect and conserve them. This is the greatness of Sanatana Dharma. God created man in his own images and man, being a gentleman, returned the favour.
Hindus consider all life as sacred, human life as well as other living beings. Early in history, in the search for alternative sources of food, they realized that a vegetarian diet could be found instead of a meat diet. In this the cow was identified as the most important. Its nourishing milk established its status as mother or goddess. According to Hindu mythology, Surabi, the progenitor of all cows, emerged from the primordial ocean of milk and appeared to bless the world with abundance. A male bull is used to plow the land for agriculture. Soon India became an agricultural country. The humble appearance and nature of the cow has given her extra grace and dignity. She was divined as Kamadenu, the wish-fulfilling cow. In recognition of her invaluable services to humanity, Hindus in India have built thousands of cow homes across the country where weak and frail cows are lovingly cared for in their later years. It is with this aim that the practice of giving importance to vegetarianism in India has arisen.
Moreover, though meats provide certain nutrients that plants don’t, eating meat is not necessary for human’s health or survival. With appropriate planning, plant-based diets can provide the nutrients your body needs. It represents Mother Earth, as it is a source of goodness and its milk nourishes all creatures. Lord Krishna is often portrayed in stories recounting his life as a cowherd and referring to him as the child who protects cows.
Among the Vedas, Yajur Veda urges the human race to avoid non-vegetarian food. Yajur Veda 12.32.90) says, “You should show mercy to all creatures living on earth, air and water; you should not use your God-given body to kill God’s creatures, be they human, animal or whatever.” And the Manu Samhita states that “meat can never be obtained without harming sentient beings, and harming sentient beings is detrimental to the attainment of heavenly bliss; So let him abstain from the use of meat,” advises. The belief that all things are rooted in God and that God’s pervading nature is present in all things has been growing among Hindus since early times.
Manusmriti (5.48-5.52) says that a person can never obtain meat without causing injury to living beings and therefore he should abstain from eating meat.
The earliest records of vegetarianism as a concept and practice among a significant number of people are from ancient India. Vegetarianism is a dietary ideal among many Hindus, based on the concept of non-violence and compassion towards all beings. It is also considered Satvic, that is purifying the body and mind lifestyle in some Hindu texts.
In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says sarva–yonishu kaunteya (BG, 14.4): “In every living being there is a spirit soul.” That means even in the animals there is a soul, so we do not have the right to kill or eat flesh. Therefore any killing without a reason is considered as an act of brutuality.
“My stomach and body are not graves for slain or dead animals. How can we hope for any better situation on earth when we ourselves are the living graves of slaughtered beasts?” George Bernard Shaw noted.
It represents Mother Earth, as it is a source of goodness and its milk nourishes all creatures. Krishna, a central Hindu deity, is often portrayed in stories recounting his life as a cowherd and referring to him as the child who protects cows.
Does tree/plant have life? Isn’t just eating them a sin?
It should be recalled at this point to known what His Holiness Vallaalar has given the answer to this Compassion Discipline to animals and birds.
1. Plants such as tree, grass and paddy are sentient beings. That one knowledge is touch.
2. Plants do not have those karanas like mind. The soul experiences pleasures and sorrows through the mind and the karanas. Since these do not develop in plants, the soul in the plant does not suffer when taking these seeds, pods, fruits and flowers. Nor is it murder.
3. Taking the seeds, pods, fruits, flowers, etc. of plants, just as there is no pain or pain in plants, just as there is no pain or pain in taking a testicle, claw, hair etc.
4. We can use the seeds of plants like tree, paddy, grass etc. to make life effect. As the souls ascend to the seeds, it should be known that when the seeds mixed with the soil are watered, according to the law of God’s grace, the souls go to the soil and mix with the ripe truth of the soil and go to the place of the seeds.
Therefore, it should be known that eating seeds, pods, fruits, leaves, etc. of trees, grasses, rice etc. is not harmful to life.
According to the religion that originated from the ancient Vedas, Hindus have great respect for Nature. Trees are believed to be the origin of life. Trees have high religious significance in Hinduism. In fact, every tree has a tree deity or a deity to whom one should worship, respect and offer prasad. People in India believe that life cannot exist without trees. Trees are the main natural sources of solar energy that are essential to our existence, bringing flowers, fruits, wood and medicines. Hence, tree worship is one of the most widespread forms of popular religion in India. The Gita says that human society should protect the environment for their survival and for the biodiversity around them.
Questions may arise as to whether while cutting down trees does it not cause suffering to the soul in trees, when it is said the plant does not suffer when picking seeds, pods, fruit and flowers. According to Hindu tradition, all Hindus worship trees. According to the Skanda Purana, the bo-tree (peepal) is also worshiped as Vishnu, as it is a symbol of Vishnu. Trees are a great boon to us all. Trees also help preserve nature and keep the balance of nature intact. Forests help bring rain water so we can drink clean and pure water to survive. Vedic knowledge teaches that the Soul (jivatma) can take various bodies, human or non-human (devas, etc.) and animal or plant. A living tree is a living Soul with a plant body. All material bodies are destined to be born and die, and in the process such bodies give life to other beings.
When we calculate these characteristics of worshiping trees, it is clear that primitive man considered trees as deities. Next, the man thought that the god lived in the tree. After that it is known that he consecrated the deity under the tree and started worshiping it. After deciding a separate place called temples for the Lord’s worship, tree also was considered as a Sacred Tree (ஸ்தல விருட்ஷம்). People generally do not cut Sacred trees. This can also be said to be an evolution in Tree worship.
According to the ancient Vedic religion, Hindus have great respect for nature. Trees are believed to be the origin of life. Trees have high religious significance in Hinduism. Trees are the main natural sources of solar energy that are essential to our existence, bringing flowers, fruits, wood and medicines. Hence, tree worship is one of the most widespread forms of popular religion in India. The Gita says that human society should protect the environment for their survival and for the biodiversity around them.
Meat means great poison. The Tamil word “mamisam” is a combination of two words “maha” (great) and “visham” (poison). When God created man in the world, he made the whole body of man suitable for vegetarian food. Owaiyarr, Thiruvalluvar, Lord Buddha, Vallalar, Vedathiri and Mahaveer emphasized that vegetarian diet is best for the human body. When the animals are lined up at the place of slaughter, you can see pain, confusion, fear of death, worry, anger, sadness, regret in their eyes. The body of the slain creature excretes the poison through the body’s excretory glands. Such animals die involuntarily. This fleshly body belongs to another body (beast). That is why In the Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says ‘sarva–yonishu kaunteya’ (BG, 14.4): “In every living being there is a spirit soul.” That means even in the animals there is a soul, so we do not have the right to kill or eat flesh. Thus, when one eats that fleshy body, one is taken to a lower level. So one should eat whatever is natural food. This is why Valluvar says, “Don’t grow your flesh by eating another flesh.” Navaratri, Vinayagar Chaturthi, and other Hindu festivals and Vaibhavas highlight the fact that natural foods give the body satisfaction. “If you kill, it’s a sin, if you eat it, it’s gone” literally means “If you kill, you will sin. If you eat, your blessing will go away.” So the best way is to avoid meat which is very poisonous.
Today the world’s first fully Vegetarian city is located in India, Balidhana, a small town in the Bhavnagar district of Gujarat, India, considered the purest and most revered place by the followers of Jainism. In fact, killing animals for food here is completely illegal. And the sale of eggs or meat is strictly prohibited.
Further to benefit from Yoga without making any other lifestyle changes, the discipline of Yoga recommends a vegetarian, sattvic diet that avoids killing or harming animals and encourages eating naturally grown and ripened foods. Although meats provide some nutrients that plants do not, eating meat is not essential for human health or survival. With proper planning, plant-based foods can provide the human body with essential nutrients.
Vegetarianism in recent times has become a “wonder” word all over the world. Hindus are proud to be the first ones to adopt vegetarianism. Today the vegetarian movement is undoubtedly marching forward with great force. When God created the human race, He made it suitable for people to consume vegetarian food according to their physical structure. Human anatomical and physiological evidences lean in favor of vegetarianism – a human being’s teeth, digestive tract, and other bodily mechanisms are akin to plant-eating animals, not the carnivorous ones. Through this, we should know that the food prescribed by God is vegetarian food.
Meat eaters are not human beings. They will not receive the grace of God. We should also remember the words of His Holiness Vallalar who urged us to give up non-vegetarian food and eat pure vegetarian food at this time. Even the great Poetess Avvaiyaar said that killing and eating a living thing should be avoided. Similarly, Thiruvalluvar has written a chapter containing 10 verses relating to non-vegetarianism. Also, His Holiness Thirumoolar calls those who eat meat as Puliayars meaning meat eating people. Therefore, Jeevakaruniya meaning to show mercy to other living beings is considered as true worship of God. If these are violated, when the life separates from the human body, the soul also has to suffer the way of the murdered innocent creatures. Upon a realization of these things, the best way is to give up eating meat, especially the religious leaders and the politicians who lead the people.