[Advaita-l] Vegetarianism

Jaldhar H. Vyas jaldhar at braincells.com
Sun Apr 15 22:02:21 CDT 2012

On Sat, 14 Apr 2012, abhishek sm wrote:

> Brahmins always consume vegetarian food and refute from consumption of 
> meat,etc on the grounds of ahimsa. I was recently questioned by a 
> friend-"If killing animals is a sin and is himsa then what about killing 
> of plants? Don't we cut the plant to get rice?"

My answer would be that one, Brahmanas are not always vegetarians, and 
non-Brahmanas are not always meat eaters.  it is dependent upon caste, 
regional culture, and sampradaya.  It is never a sin to follow ones 

Two, it is not a sin to kill animals per se.  (For food. Leave aside 
hunting or killing them on a whim etc.)  Life lives on life as the saying 
goes.  (Shri Subrahmanian quoted this exact saying from the Bhagavata.) 
We don't consider lions or tigers to be sinful despite their diets.  But 
the difference between Humans and other animals is that we are bound by 
our natures.  We have the ability to think and reflect and based on those 
thoughts make choices.  We can choose to cause less suffering in our lives 
(while acknowledging we can't reduce it all the way to zero.) and one of 
the ways is to refrain from those actions which cause suffering merely to 
satisfy our egos.  Thus even if one _can_ eat meat, one _should_ refrain 
from it for unchecked ahamkara is the ultimate sin.

On Sun, 15 Apr 2012, Rajaram Venkataramani wrote:

> I am not opposed to shAstrIya definition on ahimsa. You don't need 
> shastras to define what is himsa. If I slap you, we will know it is 
> himsa. We don't need dharma shastras to tell us that. We need dharma 
> shastras only to tell us when himsa is allowed.

You also need dharmashastras to tell you that eating meat is himsa. 
Perception and logic make it quite clear that Homo Sapiens is omnivorous. 
Archaelogical evidence shows that the earliest humans had a diet that 
included meat.  The evolution of canine teeth, gastric enzymes for 
breaking down animal protein etc. also show this.  If we have moved beyond 
our animal natures it is because of viveka - the ability to discriminate 
between the real and the unreal.  That viveka comes from the shastras.

> People eat meat because it satisfies their tongue.

I have mentioned before the running joke that the Ekadashi (agiyaras in 
Gujarati) of the Pushti Margi Vaishnavas is agiyar ras ("eleven flavors") 
because their cooking on what is ostensibly a day of restricted food is so 

Hedonism or ascetisism are not only in the tongue but ultimately in the 
brain.  While there is definitely correlation, it is by no means given 
that a vegetarian will not be a sensualist while a meat eater will.  This 
is the message of the Mahabharata story of the hunter Dharmavyadha who 
despite his unsavory lifestyle is compared favorably to the Brahmana 
Kaushika who despite his great learning was unable to control his senses.
(Shankaracharya specifically refers to Dharmavyadha as a jnani in the 
bhashya on the apashudradhikarana.)

>  Those of you who mislead the ignorant using the respect that your 
> position as a brahmana or sannyasi gets you.

As for me, my duty is to the truth.  I will recommend people become 
vegetarian but I will not lure them into it under false pretenses.

On Mon, 16 Apr 2012, श्रीमल्ललितालालितः wrote:

>> It is extremely important. None of the mandatory yajnas involve animal 
>> sacrifice. The yajnas that involve animal sacrifice are not mandatory. 
>> They involve specific rules on who can do, when, why and even how the 
>> remnants are to be shared. There is no room for running 
>> slaughterhouses.
> To your surprise you must know that even nitya and naimittika karma has 
> adhikArI, etc. So having adhikArI, etc. can't prove vaidika-hiMsA 'bad'. 
> Moreover, if you accept veda-s as pramANa for nitya-karma-s, you must 
> also do same in the case of kAmya-karma, etc. for both are prescribed by 
> the same veda-s. So, either accept both type of vaidika-yaGYa-s as good, 
> i.e, prAmANika and hence conducive to good OR shun the validity of 
> veda-s in case of nitya-karma-s too as it prescribes 'bad' karma-s.

You are right and this is the argument in ashuddhamiti chet... as 
mentioned elsewhere in this thread.  But I don't think that was what 
Rajaram was trying to get at.  I think what he meant was that it is 
possible for one to fulfill ones nitya and naimittika karmas without 
having to resort to himsaka yajnas and allowing himsaka yajnas in some 
cases does not give a carte blanche to kill animals indiscriminately. 
That part I agree with.

On Mon, 16 Apr 2012, V Subrahmanian wrote:

> A Nepali Brahmin boy (studying shAstra -vyakarana, nyaya, etc. in 
> Vrindavan) who had come to Bangalore for the Vivekachudamani workshop 
> told me that just like among Bengalis there are Brahmin families in 
> Nepal too who include meat in their daily/occasional menu.  There are 
> inter-marriages between families who have this practice and those who do 
> not.  If the girl from the latter agrees to go into such a meat eating 
> family there are no hassles.

But it is interesting to note that even in the places were non-veg is the 
norm, vegetarianism is considered spiritually superior.  My wifes 
co-worker is a Nepali Brahmani.  She grew up eating goat and chicken but a 
few years ago she came under the influence of a Vaishnava goswami and 
decided to give it up.  Now in her house she has two separate kitchens and 
cooks two meals daily, one vegetarian for herself and one daughter who 
followed suit and one meat for her husband, other children, and in-laws 
who keep the traditional Nepali ways.  Neither side has any problems with 

To get back to what I wrote at the beginning of this post, one who 
considers himself a Vedantic sadhaka should go beyond the letter of the 
law and be willing to place additional restrictions upon himself as a way 
of cultivating friendship towards all living things (which ultimately 
leads to considering ones own atma as the paramatma) not out of 
considerations of papa and punya.  And it also means they should show some 
tolerance to those who aren't restricted.

Jaldhar H. Vyas <jaldhar at braincells.com>

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