‘Vegetarianism in Hinduism’ – a comment
I wish to share with your readers of The Island my views/opinions on the above article which appeared recently on the ‘Hinduism’ page of an English daily in Colombo.
The above article, while stressing the fundamental concept of adhering to vegetarianism by the Hindus, tries to justify animal slaughter/sacrifice to some extent in accordance with the Vedas stating that "killing of animals and eating of their flesh are only provided in the Vedas for sacrificial purposes and that the Vedic mantras and rites are considered so effectual in themselves that the souls of the animals offered for sacrifice are purified and despatched at once to some form of heaven or other, while the performers of the sacrifice are given some form of grace or other in a ‘secular plane’".
In my humble view if it has been stated so in the Vedic mantras, it is sheer nonsense. We, born as human beings, are blessed by our Creator to possess ‘intuition’ to decide what is ‘right’ and what is ‘wrong’ unlike animals which lack the attributes of speech and perhaps, judgement!
Nothing could be more horrifying than seeing an animal undergoing torture when it is slaughtered for its flesh for ‘consumption’ or ‘sacrifice’.
The folly of animal sacrifice has now been realised by most right-minded Hindus and animal sacrifice has been banned in many Hindu temples though I was highly saddened to watch quite recently on a television programme the most cruel slaughter of goats by chopping off their necks with a sword as a ritual of animal sacrifice in a Hindu shrine in Nepal. It was horror indeed!
In this context I would like to quote the late Swami Sivananda (a medical practitioner himself), who attained ‘enlightenment’ at Rishikesh, India) for the benefit of those who value and treasure ‘Ahimsa’ (compassion) and ‘Metha’ (loving kindness) or reverence for all life in general.
"In the Hindu view of life, the real value is placed upon the moral and spiritual worth of the man. Moreover, flesh- eating involves the exercising of cruelty which is not an elevating virtue. It is a bestial quality. It degrades man. Cruelty is condemned by all right-thinking men".
Thus the cruel slaughter of animals and flesh-eating make them abhorrent to all right-thinking people. People who are slaves to flesh-eating cannot it give up because they have become addicted to it. Hence, they try to justify the habit by devious arguments.
Professor M. Sivasuriya
Eating fish and flesh
I respond to Mr. A. D. Gunasekera’s letter/article titled "Eating fish and flesh" published recently (July 09, 2008) in one of our daily English newspapers.
Let me discuss the points on which I agree and those with which I disagree with him in regard to what he has ‘conveyed’ in his letter.
I concur with him that:
(1) All organisms have to eat to live;
(2) Only plants can manufacture their own food;
(3) Carnivores cannot live without eating other animals, but may I add here that ‘even carnivores never ever devour their own breed’ and
(4) One should not desist from eating fish or flesh merely because some religions pronounces it a sin.
I disagree with him. It is my personal view that if eating an animal is a sin, eating a plant also should be a sin as both are carrying out the same living functions etc.
Let me elaborate on my views. In my view it is only a religious belief because no human being certified ‘dead’ by a qualified medical practitioner has ever come back to ‘life’ again to tell what he/she experienced after death - whether he went to heaven or hell? Sin is said to be associated with ‘going to hell’, while virtue/glory with ‘going to heaven’. But where is the proof for all this? We human beings belong to different religions which are ‘man-made’ and each religion has its own ‘basic tenets’, which persons belonging to that particular religion are expected to follow. But what about the rest of the animal kingdom which have the same basic anatomy and physiological functions as the homo-sapiens (human beings), except for the faculty of ‘speech’ or ‘expression’ as we human beings understand it?
It is again my personal view that none of us has seen God and therefore it is axiomatic that something ‘supernatural’, call it ‘God’/Nature’/’Cosmic Energy/’Creator’ or ‘Whatever’, has created life on earth, the oceans, the mountains, the water falls etc.
We all know that animals neither have nor follow any religion: They do not pray to different gods as we humans do. So it is man who ‘made’ religion and the different deities according to their conceptions and beliefs.
The concept of ‘life’ should in my view be looked at from this angle - the more highly evolved animals of which the ‘most highly’ evolved being the human species, followed by those of the ‘lower’ evolved category, namely, microbes like the bacteria, viruses and unicellular organisms, both of animals and plant origin. The significant difference between these two groups, viz. plants and animals, is that most plants can ‘regenerate’ when some segment, such as a branch or part of the stem is injured or severed by injury/trauma and also, when subjected to the trauma there is no visible suffering or ‘agony’ experienced by the plant, whereas in the more highly evolved forms of ‘life’, which includes man and animals, what is witnessed is just the opposite. That is, an amputated or severed limb cannot be ‘replaced’ by nature and therefore the loss is permanent (unless of course an ‘artificial limb is fitted) and there is also immense ‘visible’ suffering/agony when animals are killed at game hunting or when slaughtered for the consumption of flesh as meat by man to satisfy his appetite.
The ‘uprooting’ of carrots/beetroot or the use of leaves, as in the case for spinach, gotukala or kang kung can in no way be equated, in my opinion, to the slashing of the neck of an innocent chicken, goat, pig or cow. A popular misconception among some Buddhists and Hindus is that the fish is not equivalent to meat. This view is erroneous: The fish is also an animal and is a cold blooded animal living wholly in water. It has been reported through scientific research that when taken out of its environment (water), the fish undergoes ‘untold/immense’ suffering prior to its death. Pathetic indeed!
Let me conclude by agreeing with what Mr. Gunasekera has stated in his letter – "One should not desist from eating fish or flesh because in religions it is taught as a ‘sin’, but because of compassion for more developed forms of life". This is exactly what the Noble Buddha taught and stressed.
May all beings be well and happy.
Prof. M. Sivasuriya