” Namaste ” Dear Friends!
Today I will try to put light on The Hindus and their practice of vegetarianism.
Hindus have a worldwide recognition for being devoted vegetarians. For many decades vegetarianism has been one of India’s strongest cultural and religious foundation. People around the globe know little about Hinduism as a religion, they are convinced that Hindus don’t eat meat because of their religious commandment .
The reality is more interesting and complex.
In Hinduism there are no commandment directing food habits of any individual human being / community or caste. In other words there are no rigid “do’s and don’ts” in Hinduism regarding food habits or eating habits of any individual. You are free to choose your food from the nature where in ancient times it was gathering as well as hunting.
Hinduism gives us the wisdom to make up our own mind on what we put in our body except there is a firm prohibition only of eating cow meat (beef). The Hindus worship cow, and the Cow is a very scared part of Hindu religion. Cow is the most Holy animal for the Hindus. So Cow meat or Beef should be avoided in any circumstances.
Hinduism was born and flourish in a well fertile land of Sindhu river basin – modern day ” The Indus Valley” where food was in plentiful supply of meat, vegetables, fruits, pluses etc.. .
Originally, the Hindus used to consume what they gather from gathering and hunting or growing as agro crops, like most others of their time. If we read the histories and legends of the ancients, we find that hunting was a popular sport and the best meat was occasionally offered in the sacrificial rites and rituals in Hinduism.
Around 550 BC, ” Gautam Buddha” and ” Mahavira Jain” preached and spread the message of non-violence and vegetarianism with a new light. To distinguish themselves from the Hindus, they opposed the Vedas and the animal or meat sacrificial rites that it endorsed for centuries. They reasoned that a sacrifice in which animals are slaughtered cannot possibly bring peace to any individual spiritually or religiously.
The most wonderful and beautiful thing – the Hinduism survive the strike of time, is it’s noble ability to learn from others and integrate the best and positive practices from others. The Hindus learned the positive and beneficial aspects of vegetarianism from Jainism and Buddhism. India with a very fertile land, favorable climatic conditions and advance agricultural age and concept , the idea of living on a vegetarian diet became popular with time. Gradually with passing time, in Vedic rituals, animal sacrifice was replaced by purely vegetarian alternatives like pulses, nuts, fruits, vegetarian cooked food items.
The Indian subcontinent is blessed with a wonderful tropical climate, So the Indians grows a huge variety of pulses, vegetables, fruits, nuts etc. This climatic opportunity given the Indians a wide chance to create a huge number of vegetarian dishes, so varied and wonderful that one can get a new dish everyday. Spices also grown in India in large quantity, India is the home of some of the best spices in the world, hence these vegetarian dishes were wonderfully flavoured.
Over the course of time the Indians have found alternatives to meat diet. With time the Indians understood that all the important and necessary proteins and vitamins needed in a balanced diet are present in the vegetarian foods they opted for.
All the Hindus are not vegetarian. As per survey only one third of the total Hindu population of India is vegetarian.The Hindus who live in the coastal areas or in the vast river basin and deltas of the Ganges, Brahmaputra and many other big rivers eat fish as it is still their staple diet.
Those from warrior / rajput caste eat meat as a matter of course.People from lower castes have very few religious injunctions on them and eat meat when they can.
Besides being an expression of compassion for animals, vegetarianism is followed for ecological and health rationales in modern days, as scientific research is proving new health and mental benefits of vegetarian food everyday.
For the past few decades, hundreds of thousands of meat-eaters – Hindus and non-Hindus – are distancing themselves from non vegetarian or meat diets . Few major reason giving people motivations for such a strong decision.
One of the main reason is observation of Ahimsa, the universal and well respected and proven law of non injury. Ahimsa is practised for generations in Buddhism and as well as in Hinduism. The whole world respects and still follows the principles of ” Ahimsa Movement ” of Mahatma Gandhi Ji.
Another prominent reason is the Karmic Consequences or the effect of Karma. All of our actions, including our choice of food, have Karmic consequences that means if we injure, hunt or kill some living creatures like animal, fish, shell, egg etc. the same consequences we will have to follow as Karma. So people respecting and believing the Karmic consequences are more and more opting for vegetarianism everyday.
The intake of food controls the chemistry of our body and mind. In Hinduism there is a very strong mention of ” Satvik” and ” Tamasik” behaviour and food habits. The ” Satvik” food means vegetables, fruit, nuts and pulses in the other hand the ” Tamasik” food means meat, fish, egg, shellfish, fowl etc.. in the scripture it mentioned clearly the ” Satvik” food makes one’s mind pure, loving, conscious, peaceful and non violent, other way the “Tamasik” diet makes your mind jealous, angry, violent, anxious , the ” Tamasik” diet makes one’s mind fearful of death and uncertainty. So one should avoid meat or non vegetarian diet for peaceful mind.
In modern age the medical studies prove that a vegetarian diet is easier to digest, provides a wider range of nutrients and imposes fewer burdens and impurities on the body.Their immune system is stronger, their bodies are purer, more refined and skin more beautiful compare to the non vegetarian.
“The earliest Vedic scriptures and texts dominantly supports and mention the concept of vegetarianism . This same concept was observed by the ancient traveler Megasthenes and also by Fa-hsien, a Chinese Buddhist monk who, in the fifth century, traveled to India in order to obtain authentic copies of these scriptures.” These scriptures strongly support the meatless way of life.
The Holy book of Mahabharata, it is mentioned that the great warrior Bhishma explains to Yudhishtira, the eldest of the Pandava , “that the meat of animals is like the flesh of one’s won son.”
Same way, the book of Manusmriti declares that one should ‘refrain from eating all kinds of meat,’ for such eating involves killing and leads to Karmic bondage , Elsewhere in the Vedic literature, the last of the great Vedic kings, Maharaja Parikshit, is quoted as saying that ‘only the animal-killer cannot relish the message of the Absolute Truth [Shrimad Bhagavatam ]”
FEW QUOTES FROM SCRIPTURE –
“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 birth.” – Mahabharata 115.47
“Those high-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, understanding, mental and physical strength and memory should abstain from acts of injury.” – Mahabharata 18.115.8
“The very name of cow is aghnya [“not to be killed”], including that they should never be slaughtered. Who, then could slay them? Surely, one who kills a cow or a bull commits a heinous crime.” – Mahabharata, Shantiparva 262.47
“The purchaser of flesh performs himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing: he how 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 of these are to be considered meat-eaters.” – Mahabharata, Anu. 115.40
“He who sees that the Lord of all is ever the same in all that is – immortal in the field of morality – he sees the truth. And when a man sees that the God in all that is, he hurts not himself by hurting others. Then he goes, indeed, to the highest path. “- Bhagavad Gita 13.27-28
“Ahimsa is the highest dharma, Ahimsa is the best tapas. Ahimsa is the greatest gift. Ahimsa is the highest self-control. Ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. Ahimsa is the highest power. Ahimsa is the highest friend. Ahimsa is the highest truth. Ahimsa is the highest teaching.” – Mahabharata 18.116.37-41
“WHAT IS THE GOOD WAY? IT IS THE PATH that reflects on how it may avoid killing any creature”. – Tirukural 324
“All that lives will press palms together in prayerful adoration of those who refuse to slaughter and savor meat.” – Tirukural 260
“What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin.” – Tirukural 312, 321.
Vegetarianism gradually established itself in Hinduism. At first, eating meat and fish was accepted as long as the animal was sacrificed to the gods, the sacrifice justifying the killing. Then, in a religion which was increasingly marked by Ahimsa, the ‘absence of the desire to kill’, abstaining from meat and fish became commendable and vegetarianism established itself as a model respecting the principle of non-violence.
At the same time, fish and meat were considered as particularly impure, soiled by the act of slaughter. Vegetarianism was practised by the Brahmin caste (the highest Hindu caste made up of priests) and was at the top of the hierarchy of dietary regimes.
The practice of vegetarianism varies, however, depending on the region, family and social class. There are differences even within the same caste. Brahmins from Kashmir, for example, (a state in the north of India) eat meat whereas Brahmins from Bengal (a state in the east of India) eat fish.
Nevertheless, India Has the Highest Percentage of Vegetarians in the World
With nearly 30% of India being vegetarian, it does have a much larger percentage of vegetarians than any other nation. The next closest nations for vegetarianism all have less than half the percentage of people eschewing meat: Switzerland, Taiwan, and Israel (13-14%). Of the remaining countries where dietary surveys have been done — in Europe, North and South America, and East Asia — the percentage of vegetarians is generally under 10%, with many nations in the low single digits. Given this, it’s easy to see why, particularly for visitors to India without knowledge of the demographics, it can seem like everyone is there vegetarian. Compared to much of the United States outside of urban centers, and much of Europe, vegetarian food options are plentiful in India.
And the Number of Vegetarians in India (and Around the World) is Growing
Vegetarianism is better way of life , and we should continue it , if possible for us.
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