Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at BRAINCELLS.COM
Tue Jun 4 14:31:41 CDT 2002

Another collection of replies to earlier discussions.

Vivek Anand Ganesan wrote:

> >  It works the other way for
> > plants.  Because they are devoid of consciousness, they
> > are incapble of
> > progressing up the ladder of karma unless they hitch a
> > ride in the stomach of a good person.
> Isn't this more of the jaina reasoning? I am led to believe
> that the hindu concept of vegetarianism is based on the
> three guNa-s.

Well this is a view expressed by the Gita (which also equates the three
gunas with colors, varnas etc.)  But the Gita hardly exhausts Hindu
thinking on the matter.

> Since, meat is rAjasic it should be avoided
> by those who are committed to leading a sattvic life. Also,
> excessively spicy food is also rAjasic but I find that even
> brAhmaNa-s eat such food. Greasy food is tamasic, I
> beleive,
> because it leads one to obesity, sloth and indolence. Is
> there any verse that explicitly states that it is wrong to
> eat meat because animals are "higher" beings but eating
> plants is OK because plants are "lower"?

Well that's not exactly what I said.  The subject is brought up in the
Brahmasutras in the anyadhishtitadhikarana. (3.1.24-27) The context is a
discussion of the panchagnividya of the chandogyopanishad where it
explains how after enjoying its' karmaphala in the chandraloka etc. the
atma falls back to earth and becomes re-embodied.

anyAdhiShTite pUrvavat abhilApAt || 24 ||

Into which is ruled by another as before as Shruti states.

Chandogyopanishad 5.10.6 says "He is born as rice and corn, plants and
trees, sesame and barley.  From there escape is full of obstacles."  The
opponent says that this should be taken literally and the atma is really
reborn as a plant and has to enjoys the fruits of the karma of a plant
before moving on.  Why should he become a plant?  As a punishment because
of the sins of eating meat and sacrificing animals in the previous life.

The siddhanta is no this is invalid because as the shruti states, the atma
goes into that which is ruled by another atma.  "whoever eats food and
procreates [the atma] beomes that person again" [Ch. U. 5.10.6] the food
is just an intermediate stage.  Besides if the plant were the "body" of
the atma, then husking the rice, chopping the vegetable etc.  would kill
that body and release the atma again.  But shruti says it continues on to
the parents and is reborn to them.

A further complication is that the plants have atmas of their own and
those atmas may be there as a result of misdeeds in a previous life.  But
this does not apply to the atmas which have fallen from the chandraloka.

ashuddhamitichet na shabdat || 25 ||

If it is said [yagnas are] impure, no because of the Shruti

The main argument is paused for a while to consider a side issue.  The
opponent had argued that himsa such as meat-eating is the cause of bad
karma and a consequent low rebirth.  He also puts himsaka yajnas in this
category.  Because the Shruti says "Do not harm any living creature."

Shankaracharya points out that it is the same Shruti that enjoins those
sacrifices i.e. "Offer an animal to Agni and Soma"  Either Shrutis
commandments are valid or they're not.  You cannot selectively choose to
follow only the bits that suit you.  An act enjoined by the Vedas cannot
be adharmic because it is only from the Vedas that we get notions of
Dharma in the first place because these are ideas outside of the realm of
experience.  The answer is that non-violence is a general rule but the
sacrifice to Agnisomau etc. is a specific exception for specific
circumstances.  Thus we cannot consider the performance of yajnas as a
cause for bad karma.

retasigyogaH || 26 ||

In connection with the producer of semen

Shruti had said "whoever eats food and procreates [the atma] beomes that
person again" [Ch. U. 5.10.6] but again this cannot be taken literally
that he becomes the person because a child has it's own characteristics
and is not a clone.  Rather it means there is a connection between the
future fate of the atma and the body it is travelling in.  Although the
sutra and Shankaracharya's bhashya assume the father, a footnote in the
edition of the Brahmasutras refers back to an earlier adhikarana where the
examples of Drona, Drshtadyumna, Sita, Draupadi were born without a father
or in the second case, without a mother or father.

yoneH sharIram || 27 ||

from the womb a body

As the sperm and egg unit, the process of human development begins and the
atma enters that body and is born.  It is in that body that the jiva
(embodied atma) can enjoy or suffer the fruits of karma.

So from this we can conclude that Eating plants is good (or atleast less
bad) because it aids the progress of the atmas therein.

> Also, doesn't such
> a hierarchy within life forms negate the equality of all
> sentience that is put forth by advaita?

I ment sentience in the sense of viveka not chetana.  It is the former
which is relative.  See below

Shrikrishna Ghadiyaram

> Whatever may be the food one eats, excess quantity of
> food is always tamasik, in the sense it makes one
> dull.
> I see some small difficulty in Jaladhar's replies. He
> probably used inadvertantly used the owrd
> 'consciouness'. It should have been, like this: 'the
> plants do not have mind' (not the word consciousness).
> The concept of HIMSA comes with MIND only.
> Yes, consciousness is there in every Being, animate
> and inanimate in different levels, (as Asti, Bhati, Priyam).

Yes consciousness was the wrong word.  What I meant was viveka--the
ability to reflect and discriminate betwwen real and unreal.  A plant is
no less Brahman than a Maharshi but the plant has no self-knowledge so it
cannot comprehend its' true Brahman-nature.  Animals are also bound by
instinct.  You cannot criticize a lion for eating meat because it does not
know how to do anything else.  It is only in the higher creatures like Man
that there is the ability to choose between right and wrong.  It would be
nice if you could avoid killing altogether but as the proverb says, "life
lives on life"  So it is the lesser evil to kill that which is merely
existing rather than something which is more "alive"

Venkatraman Chandrasekaran wrote:

> On the contrast, there is also a story told of a King whose kingdom
> faces dire famine. With very little food left for himself and his family
> to consume he keeps getting several famished visitors, his own
> citizens. Without having the food himself, he continues to part with his
> food little by little until there is food left only for one. Before he
> consumes the last morsel, a chandala comes begging for food. The
> king willfully parts with his food and starves. In the end the king attains
> a higher state owing to his selflessness even under that extreme
> situation. I am not sure which of the puranas is the source for this
> story.

It seems familiar.  Is it the story of Raja Harishchandra?  And the
Chandala was Vishnu Bhagawan in disguise to whom lacking any more food, he
offers his own flesh.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at>
It's a girl! See the pictures -

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