Any query......

Somik Raha somik at YAHOO.COM
Thu May 16 22:25:47 CDT 2002

Jaldhar wrote :
> Sure Japanese cuisine is mostly meat based, but they have rice and
> noodles and things.  And what I don't understand is why you just can't
> learn to cook? Or get together with other like-minded people?  Or pay
> someone to cook you the right food?

Well  -this is not the US where you have so many Indians that you can either
order Indian food to your home or pay someone to cook. When you come back
tired, late at 11 or 12 - and you dont mind non-veg and the only shops open
offer you that - you dont have much choice.

Yes - getting together with like-minded people is an option that I've taken.
And we did cook for a while, till both of us got so busy that we are both
eating non-veg outside. But my roomie and I do get pleasure cooking veg once
in a blue moon. And yes, we know how to cook.

Japanese cuisine have rice - but you cant eat only rice. Everything else is
meat. You dont get noodles without meat either normally. Only some shops
provide that on special request - and I do take them when I can.

> There is more to being sattvic than just seasoning.  What is being cooked
> is also very important.  The idea of vegetarianism is connected to the
> idea of karma.  the more conscious a being, the more it is capable of
> intentional actions.  So my absorbing a particular being you are also
> inheriting it's accumulated paapa and punya.  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.

This consciousness issue is where there is a difference of opinion. Sri
Vivek Anand Ganesan made some interesting points in this regard. By the
theory of karma, it could be the "phala" of the animal to be killed and
eaten by a human. Is the human to blame for being an instrument ? Just the
same as - if someone is unkind to you - and you believe deeply in karma, you
would justify it by the fact that it is your prarabdha which you are now
getting. However, in order to get your prarabdha, another person has to be
involved! Just how guilty that person is - is a big question. For without
his involvement - the theory of karma wont work. At the same time, if the
person involved does even a seemingly incorrect task, but does so as its his
karma, then he doesent really sin. In fact, "sin" itself seems like a
debasing concept - but that would be another debate.

> The intention of the eater is also important.  eating out of need is less
> sinful.  In fact there is a legal maxim, the nyaya of Vasishtha and the
> dog.  Once there was a terrible famine and the Maharshi Vasishtha  fought
> with a chandala over a piece of dog meat.  In other words even ordinarily
> wrong things can be justified in extremis.  But eating meat for taste or
> convenience is more sinful.  Some Vedic yajnas involve animal sacrifice.
> This is ok because the animals go directly to Heaven.  (Though increasing
> squeamishness on this topic might be the reasonsuch yajnas are rarely
> practiced nowadays.)

Extreme situations are relative. A Yogi which no extreme can touch is much
higher than a yogi who tries to maintain his environment around him. But I
do agree about eating for taste. And my contention is - most Indian
vegetarians (and perhaps non-Indian vegetarians too) eat for taste. They
dont like the taste of non-vegetarian and associate it being dirty. And they
also assume that non-vegetarians like the taste of meat. The truth is
otherwise - for non-vegetarians its not a big deal - it is just food.
By this argument, the merits of vegetarianism itself seem to vanish.

> The most important factor is shistachara.  Meat-eating is the norm in some
> castes and localities.  In Bengal even Brahmanas eat fish or meat.  Some
> learned scholars such as Vishwanatha Tarkapanchana author of the Bhasa
> Pariccheda have written works defending the practice. But for others like
> the Brahmans south of the vindhyas' vegetarianism is the norm.  There is
> shastric support for deeming even onions and garlic as non-vegetarian.
> Jains and many Vaishnavas follow this.  My practice is to avoid them as
> much as possible in general and particulary during utsavas and shravana.

Thats a good practice. As I said vegetarian food cooked the right way is
really good for health. There is no doubt about it.
Bcos its good for health -> its good for the mind -> and ultimately takes
you forward on your journey to self-realization.
I am in total agreement with you here.

> But even those who accept meat-eating as conventional agree that a
> vegetarian diet is spiritually superior for the reasons given above.

I do. :)

> It's the wrong place to look.  The dharmashastras such as Manu or
> Parashara or Yajnavalkya say more on the subject.

Why should the Gita be the wrong place to look ? Arjuna's question is so
specific. He asks what kind of food is to be eaten and what kind is to be
avoided. And there were definitely non-vegetarians around at that time. This
was a golden opportunity for Lord Krishna to set the record straight - and
get the whole of India to become vegetarian. But he didnt.

> I agree wholeheartedly.  Being in the IT field you are no doubt familiar
> with the expression "garbage in garbage out" Reason is useless if not
> based on sound premises.

I agree. :) If you ever visit Japan, I think you will concur that the
vegetarian food here is mostly garbage - oily, spicy, greasy.
Its very hard for me to imagine that one cannot fall ill if more than two
meals of Indian vegetarian in restaurants here are attempted.

> > FYI, Swami Vivekananda, before he went to attend the Parliament of
> > Religions, took permission from Sri Ramakrishna whether he could eat
beef in
> > America as the perception in those days was that you had to, if you
would go
> > to the West. Sri Ramakrishna told him - he was so pure, nothing would
> > him and he could eat just what he wanted to.
> Is this true?  Then I consider it a blot on the character of Vivekanand.
> Compare to Gandhiji who also journeyed to a foreign land and whose mother
> made him promise to never eat meat. He often subsisted on boiled cabbage
> or bread and butter but he never broke his promise.

Now thats a quick and brutal judgement. Swamiji was a yogi for whom rules
had broken down. Gandhi (though a great yogi himself), was not at that plane
when he visited the west.

> > Beef is probably another
> > debate, but it is a known fact that Ramakrishna Mission does not
> > fish as tamasic or rajasic, and allows it in the diet.
> >
> Because they are Bengalis.  Philosophy has nothing to do with it.

Well - are all Bengalis base sinners who cannot be lowered any further by
fish (or are they so pure that fish wont affect them) ? If non-vegetarian is
bad, surely fish ought to be banned. Besides Ramakrishna Mission allows
their monks to eat fish (and I am told chicken and mutton also). Surely that
would go beyond Bengalis.

> > There are views and then there are views. Everyone is of course entitled
> > his/her own opinion. Personally I am in favour of vegetarianism, but not
> > the cost of practicality.  There is no point in starving and not doing
> > duty for my company, at the cost of sticking to this idea.
> >
> Any morality based on expediency is no morality at all.  I sympathise with
> your plight but if you know what you are doing is wrong how can you
> continue with it?  Who decides what is practical?  Things will only become
> less impractical if you are willing to expend some effort.

But I dont think what I am doing is wrong. Thats the whole point. I think
veg food is great, but I dont see where the harm in non-veg food cooked
decently is ? The effort that I spend in being a thorough misfit here, I'd
rather spend on my work and make some contribution to technology which will
help the world and my nation in some way.

> > This anecdote leads one to believe - that people in India, were beef
> > upto that point.
> [...]
> You maybe right you may be wrong. We can only speculate about times so
> remote.  The fact is that for as long as anyone can remember, it has been
> forbidden.  That fact is more important than any theory.

Anything that is forbidden must have been done to be forbidden. If you are
suggesting it was forbidden from the beginning of time, that would be

> Fine, I doubt if anyone would disagree with that.  Recently in the
> newspapers here in New York there was a story about a couple who were
> vegans (avoided animal protein altogether) whose baby had developed
> rickets--a malady rare even in the thirld world now--due to their
> unhealthy and faddish diet.
> But there isn't an either/or situation.  It is possible to avoid both meat
> and unhealthy vegetarian food.

In the US probably, not so in Japan.

> Here in America we do.  Not all the time but increasingly so.  And that is
> due to the fact that people insisted on it.  Many of the early Indian
> immigrants did take up meat for "practical" reasons but enough did not
> that I don't have to worry abot it today.

Well - the case I am talking about is different. I have always been a
non-vegetarian, so I didnt have to give up some ideology or make a
compromise. However, I tried to be a vegetarian, and that failed. But I do
follow vegetarianism in India.

> How does the impractical become practical?  Due to the effort people put
> into it.  you are like a pioneer in the wilderness.  You may have to
> suffer hardships but if you persevere you will make it easier for the next
> person who will make it easier for the next person and eventually it will
> seem completely normal.

Sure - but I'd prefer my pioneering activities in software :). 70-80% of
vegetarians are probably that way bcos their parents are vegetarians. If it
were not so, the philosophy would be different. A philosophy that changes
with location is obviously not applicable to everyone. Like the previous
arguments on maya - it is all impermanent - so any theories on the
impermanent wont matter - they could all co-exist. It is true no doubt that
for a person eating veg all his life - non-veg food might cause strange
effects. The same as people eating tahir Shaadam or sambhar rice all their
life in the South, simply cannot consume the rich North Indian food. And
people from the North find the sour tasting cuisine of the South a little
too difficult to take on a daily basis. I know this because I have spent
years in the North, taking that cuisine, and years in the South taking the
South Indian food. And I loved both, I have a metabolism where I really like
anyone's food cooked from their heart (as long as it doesent burn me up with
spice and oil). Ive spent years in the West and East - and their food habits
are quite different. I cant frankly find the one size that fits them all.

> What it shows is that "Hinduism" is a vague and meaningless term beyond
> just an umbrella for describing religions of India.  I use it for
> convenience but I don't have a "Hindu" identity I have Brahman, Smarta,
> and Gujarati identities all of which do have specific things to say about
> diet even if "Hinduism" doesn't.  Despite the best efforts of the VHP and
> other right-wing lunatic fringe groups, most "Hindus" feel that way and so
> should you.  Perhaps it may turn out that meat-eating is the right path
> for you but please come to that conclusion based on sound principles.

Yup - I hope I am reasonably sound on that - I have found it difficult to
understand the concept of sin connected to it, and perhaps sin in general -
especially when one talks of Brahman and Advaita philosophy.

Bytway - its a pleasure to discuss these ideas at a non-fundamental level.
Thank you for the discussion. I hope to clarify a lot of my misconceptions.


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