[Advaita-l] Vegetarianism

Vidyasankar Sundaresan svidyasankar at hotmail.com
Tue Apr 17 08:40:48 CDT 2012


> To: advaita-l at lists.advaita-vedanta.org
> From: rajaramvenk at gmail.com
> Date: Tue, 17 Apr 2012 07:53:36 +0000
> Subject: Re: [Advaita-l] Vegetarianism
> In pranAgnihotram, we purify rice with ghee and offer it to prana devatas.
> This is done with suddhAnnam before even adding vegetable (sic I have to
> specify this) sambar etc. We cannot separate the mantra from the ritual
> and cannot change the ritual to suit our whims. 

Exactly. But we also have to understand the ritual completely.
The practice you describe above is seen among south Indians. What do you
think is the custom among those who don't begin their meal with rice?
Also, why is there a ritual intake of water with a mantra at the end of a meal
and why is there a rule for not speaking while eating?

If you think about these, you will realize that the ENTIRE meal is seen as a
ritual offering in the agni residing in the body in the form of the prANa-s. The
start of the prANAgnihotra is as you describe, but the ritual is not over till the
entire meal is eaten. What that means is that everything that is eaten as part
of the meal is offered in that yajna. And this includes whatever grains, whatever
vegetables and whatever fish or meat are included in the meal, depending on
local custom and practice. The rule on not speaking while eating (while it has
a hygiene component to it) is because in the middle of a yajna, the consecrated
fire is not to be used for some other non-yajna activity. Expending energy to
speak while eating would be equivalent to using yajna fire for other activity.

Your heart is in the right place in what you say about meat eating, especially
in today's context of industrialized mass production of food, but your head is
not, with respect to the ritual context. The beauty of sanAtana dharma rules
is that they are very general and can apply to lots of specific variations in
customs. Precisely for that reason, one should avoid over generalization of
what one is familiar with, and one should get the SAstra principles right.

It is possible to argue against meat eating on purely secular humane grounds
or on health grounds, but those conversations are different. The ritual and
religious use of various kinds of food is independent of these contemporary
reasons and also independent of an ethical system based on secular humane 
So, whether Ramakrishna Paramahamsa ate fish or not, as per Bengali
custom, and whether Ramana Maharishi ate only rice and vegetables, as per
Tamil custom, this has nothing to do with their level of jnAna. Advaita Acharyas
from older established institutions, who said something about these individuals,
knew all this very well. To acknowledge that Ramakrishna was a jnAnI has
nothing to do with fish or fowl. It has no consequence for the dietary policy
followed in their own institutions or recommended by them at a personal level
for those who follow their advice. 

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