|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Vegetarianism: A Message for the New
Vegetarianism as a religious philosophy has been practised in India for thousands of years, arising from the recognition of the sacredness of all life and its essential unity. This traditional and habitual practice, however, is not strong enough to hold the faith of younger generations; so it is necessary to make the scientific, medical, and nutritional reasons for vegetarianism more widely known. The aims of the 15th World Vegetarian Congress is to present the spiritual, humane, and ethical aspects of vegetarianism reinforced by scientific facts to make the cause of a meatless diet invulnerable. It is our fervent hope that India will not deviate from her most ancient and unique heritage of Ahimsa, the principle of non-killing, which is absolutely essential for world peace and the spiritual evolution of men of all nations. In our haste for material progress, we should not overlook the things of the spirit, in which India is so rich. Application of the principle of Ahimsa is very vital to the whole world, because it is the only divine instrument through which we can lift ourselves from the abyss of materialist greed in which we find ourselves. Vegetarianism examined from any rational and logical point of view is a good thing and is absolutely essential for the total integration of humanity as a whole.
Vegetarianism is a question of moral choice. We must ask ourselves if killing another creature before its life cycle is complete is right, good, or beneficial. The reactions of our moral decisions shape our future and the causes we create become the Karmas whose effects we will have to endure sooner or later. Vegetarianism is the way of life of civilized behaviour which is so very important for soul growth.
Vegetarianism is a practical way to peace and a complete philosophy capable of solving many of the problems that lie between us and lasting peace.
The recent trend of events leading to the present shortage
of food throughout the world has forced the economists to admit that
the world cannot be fed by the wasteful method of flesh eating, for
a given piece of land will feed at least six times as many people by
yielding grains, fruits and vegetables as by feeding cattle.
Peace can only become a real and permanent state in the
world when man shall have peace within himself, when he is free from
the guilt of murdering animals, free from fouling the temple of the
living God, his own body, with impure and poisonous food.
In the concept of a welfare state, the welfare of all
creatures is included. In any welfare state the principle of non-hurting
and non-killing must be applied to achieve its ultimate goal of lasting
The functioning of the mind is affected by the food man
consumes. There are certain pure kinds of food that supply the correct
material for the activating of the mental process. The mind works best
on a mild vegetarian diet without meat, as it contains fresh vitamins
and inorganic constituents rich in calcium and phosphates.
The true meaning and significance of vegetarianism are little understood. It is looked upon as something connected merely with Dietetics, rather than as a great spiritual movement inspiring humanity towards a purer and saner state and a fuller realization of the true purpose of life. Even many amongst the vegetarians do not consciously recognize any such Divine meaning in it ; they are attached to it solely as a matter of habit by tradition or for health reasons. because they find a non-flesh diet more conducive to a good state of health. In India, where a large majority are vegetarians by sheer religious belief or habit moulded by traditions, the people do not care to think of higher reasons or see any deeper spiritual significance in this practice. The modern ideal of vegetarianism from ethical, spiritual, scientific, and economic points of view is a new philosophy for the survival of the human species and the peace of the world. Everybody is talking of a New Age and the progress humanity has achieved so far. What is meant by the new Age is a new consciousness of ethical and spiritual value of things, a refined and civilized attitude towards men and all living creatures.
Man is essentially a moral and spiritual being and his
constant yearning is for realization of a fuller and higher spiritual
life. There is an inward urge to know the Truth or God or Self. The
path to Truth-realization, God-realization, or Self realization is shown
by all great religions and spiritual philosophies of the world. This
spiritual communion with the Divine Being or the realization of the
Soul within, is possible through the path of self-discipline, self-sacrifice,
purity of body, mind and soul, and through dedication to the Divine
Will and service of all creatures.
Vegetarianism is a Message of Purification unto Life.
From times immemorial, prophets teachers have insisted
upon the purity of the body which is the Temple of the Living God. The
body is the vehicle of the soul and through it alone can the Divine
Power be manifest. God, who is Life and giver of life, cannot be fed
with death (meaning the flesh of the animal which is killed for food.)
God is Light and thus He cannot be pleased with the darkness of the
blood of the innocent creature. If humanity is sincere in its yearnings
for the realization of truth or God, it is logical that it should employ
means which are righteous and pure. How can Truth be realized by the
act of violence and killing? How can God be realized by the Godless
act of cruelty and torture to sentient life? Self can only be known
by the light of the Self, which is a Unity of all living things. Truth
can only be experienced by the pure consciousness of a man whose food
is pure and Holy. Our aims must be noblest and our means purest. If
we really want peace, all our actions must be non-violent. The advocacy
of vegetarianism by the 15th World Vegetarian Congress which is to be
held in India in the month of November has a deeper purpose and meaning.
Its message is more profound and transcendent ; it is of individual,
social and national redemption. Vegetarianism, which is known on the
outer planes as Food Reform of fleshless diet, is a call to the innermost
of every man and woman to seek unto the finding of true life, that life
which may be regarded as the Divine Life. The forces which operate towards
the understanding of the necessity of Sattvic (pulse) food are generated
within those spheres which are invisible; and these are the outcome
of potencies which are not of the earth, but of the heavens. When the
consciousness of the unityof all life and oneness of the whole universe
dawns upon man, humanity is bound to progress towards its spiritual
goal through non-violence and truth. Man will refine himself emotionally
to such an extent and his susceptibility will increase so much that
an injury to any part of his own animal kingdom will be felt as a wound
upon his own self.
The mission of vegetarianism is, therefore, a great and
holy one; it is universal since it is applied to humanity as a whole.
It is ultimately to touch every life. It brings the message of non-killing,
and lifts man into a true noble manhood, and adorns woman with those
graces of goodness, gentleness and pity which we associate with true
womanhood. The ultimate goal of vegetarianism is to endow men with those
attributes which we would recognize as virtues of the children of Divine
Love. There are those who enter the vegetarian way of life through beholding
its inner meaning which is implied in the great awakening to nobler
living revealed in the glorious and blessed endeavour.
The Impact of Western Civilization.
The impact of western materialistic civilization upon
India has been harmful in many ways as it has been beneficial in some
ways. We have cultivated a slave mentality of imitating from the West
all things - good, bad and indifferent. Some Indians think that to eat
meat, drink, and smoke are signs of a civilized society which in the
ultimate analysis is at the cost of the most supreme ancient Indian
culture. India is backward in many ways and the Government officials
are fifty years backward in their ways of thinking on the problem of
nutritive food for the health of the body, mind, and soul. It is really
shocking to read the recent report on Meat Marketing issued by the Indian
Ministry of Food and Agriculture which is based on insufficient, inaccurate,
and outmoded data and information. The most revolting and unscientific
statement in it is that "Meat is vitally important to the Indian
population because their diet is deficient in first class proteins and
these could easily be obtained from meat." For the cure of the
illusions and delusions of the drafters of this report, we would strongly
recommend two ounces of almonds daily and if almonds are too costly,
peanuts (groundnuts). soya beans, and lentils will serve the purpose
and through the proteins supplied by them, their brains will work in
a more rational way. The figment of meat as a necessary food for human
health and strength has long since been exploded. The foremost medical
and scientific authorities have demolished this superstition which was
being used and which is still being used even now the world over for
It is necessary that people are warned against the use of chemical fertilizers as they are fraught with grave dangers. Hurriedly grown plants with artificial fertilizers are deficient in essential elements and thus the crops are prone to various diseases. To remedy this, pesticides are used, which remain on the vegetables and fruits until they are eaten. Thus a gradual and mild poison is injected into the human system. A number of cases are recorded where people have died through such poisoning. It is easily understandable that food grown with chemical fertilizers, poisonous insecticides, contaminated by preservatives, colouring, deodorants, and so on and so forth, lead to ill-health and diseases. We come to the inevitable conclusion that due to ignorance and egoism, wrong food and wrong living, human beings have become victims of ill-health and diseases and as a remedy drugs, injections, vaccines, dopes have been invented which have ruined the dignity of man. The only recourse to get out of this vicious circle is to fall back again to a natural, humane, vegetarian diet.
The Humane Aspect of Vegetarianism.
The humane aspect of vegetarianism is perhaps the most
vital. It does not easily dawn upon many who have not yet arrived at
the vision of the real sacredness of all life. It is gratifying to show
that there is an ever-increasing number of persons who have been drawn
into the vegetarian movement on humanitarian grounds alone. There are
those who are deeply moved with the awful horrors of the slaughter-house
and of the whole unholy traffic in the lives of the defenceless creatures,
who behold the gruesome and unspeakable tragedy of needlessly butchering
them in order to minister unto those false appetites and desires in
themselves, which are the result of ages of wrong living, wrong habits,
and wrong conduct. There are men and women who have such boundless compassion
towards all life that the very thought of taking the life of a creature
for any purpose whatsoever, or of imposing torture and suffering upon
a creature even in the name of science, fills them with horror and a
deep sense of wrong done to the creatures and constrains them to protest
against this iniquity. Though they understand the dietetic, economic,
and other aspects of vegetarianism, they transcend these lower positions,
having arrived at a fuller consciousness of the oneness of all life.
They see the unity of all life in the great scheme of Divine Love. There
are many who feel that the creatures are not what they seem, nor what
the commercial and social world has considered them to be. The natural
humane emotions are very real and find expression in their devotion
to the cause of the redemption of creatures. Through the deliverance
of creatures will humanity as a whole again find the manifestation of
the Divine nature which is latent in every one. For until the cruel
oppressive spirit is banished from the human kingdom, until men and
women manifest universal compassion and love, the full upward movement
of the human race cannot be accomplished.
We have thus seen how the vegetarian movement has an ascending
scale, how it passes from heights to heights. from wider to yet wider
visions and brings new meaning at every ascending step. It is the vegetarian
diet through which the body is more truly and purely nourished : hygiene
thorough which the laws of cleanliness, purity, sanity and health are
brought to the knowledge of all ; Economics by means of which the whole
social organism is to be uplifted and national life purified from many
wrongs and evils which now prevail. These benefits of vegetarianism
are to be crowned with the true humanitarian aspect that embraces the
whole of living kingdoms. And this latter aspect gives to all the others
dignity and saves them from becoming merely physical or mundane questions
to be accepted or rejected according to the whims and fancies and bias
of the individual. The humanitarian aspect and concept of vegetarianism
shed a lustre and glory to the whole question and take away apparently
narrow and selfish applications whilst imparting a Divine significance.
The Highest ideal of Vegetarianism is to Attain Supreme
What we have heretofore dealt with is transcended by the innermost spiritual and cultural meaning of the Vegetarian Ideal. Within it can be discovered the secret, the purpose, the manifestation, and the goal of life itself. The Divine Wisdom which creates, supports, and protects everything and the Divine Love which is the dynamic moving principle within it, will be discovered in the glorious consummation of the highest spiritual ideal of vegetarianism. The whole mystery of creation and the plan, design, and destiny of all creatures will be revealed unto the higher consciousness which has been bestowed to accomplish such a Divine Consummation, by the practice of a life dedicated to the principle of Ahimsa-Non-violence. The question of vegetarianism is essentially religious in the sense that it is spiritual, though it is not theological or ecclesiastical in its nature. To a casual thinker the question of vegetarianism may appear to be of little importance as its manifestations are outward ; yet, in reality, its work is the inward attainment of a supreme culture. The whole question pertains to the spiritual nature of man and belongs to the kingdom of the Soul. Of God such a consciousness of the Unity of all life and oneness of all beings is born and it has for it the highest spiritual destiny of mankind. In the beginning man had ordinary consciousness ; then, after thousands of years of the process of evolution, he attained "I am I" consciousness by which his awareness of his relationship with, and responsibility to, all created things were established. Now, by his discriminative power of ethical choice, he is verging towards the extra-sensory super-conscious stage wherein he will find the answers he has been seeking to all problems. Such is the essential process of the refinement of animal-man into a God-man: by this process alone can humanity be redeemed unto the perfect way of life. Vegetarianism is not a fad : it is the way for a better and a higher living through cleaner, purer, and more refined habits. There can be no purity and Holiness whilst the flesh of animals is partaken of and utter cruelty towards the creatures is perpetrated. The fulfillment of the Immutable Divine Love is the redemption of man and when this is fully realized, the conditions of all life will change : the visions of the prophets and the dreams of the Soul will have found fulfillment and reached a blessed realization. No more shall selfishness, greed. cruelty, and evil darken the life, nor violence come near the Soul's dwelling place. For, through the vegetarian way of life there shall be the goodness of love all throughout the land and in the kingdoms of the world there shall reign peace. Thus the world's highest ideal shall be achieved ; man shall be at last crowned with the glory of the perfected life and the world will be a new earth and a new heaven for all souls to dwell in. By such a pure and enlightened living the longed-for Christhood will be attained and the call of the Great Teachers of the world to seek unto the finding of Unity of Life in the Divinity of God shall have found response in the human heart.