International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India

Vegetarianism A Way of Life

Jesus once warned his disciples of the danger of crying, "Lord, Lord." and not doing the things which He professed. Proclamation is always easier than obedience. A spiritual pilgrimage always tends to deteriorate into organized formalism. Recently I read of a respected religion of non-violence closing its temples to "Harijans"! If the "people of God" are not permitted to enter into the temple, then indeed the latter must have become the temple of the devil.

By inclination I am a vegetarian, although it was India alone that brought me into its full practice. Therefore, there is no credit to one who prefers to do as he does. But if I understand vegetarianism rightly it is a way of life. I fear many of us make it merely an unmeaningful ritual.

Vegetarianism provides for our food, we are told by the men of research, much more economically than does the non-vegetarian kingdom. In these days when such a large proportion of people are without sufficient food, this fact ought to play a large part in our ethical living. We are people who should be concerned with food for all. Thus we should likewise be interested in a movement such as the Sarvodaya Movement which today is trying to bring land to each family in the village, that all may have food, Those who come to India for the first time ought to give especial attention to this revolutionary movement which is in the spirit of true vegetarianism.

Again, if vegetarianism is truly nonviolent living, it is simple living. You will not misunderstand me when I say that I have been concerned with our programs in various parts of India during the cool season which seem to me to smack of something else than simple living and, therefore, of violence. Surely we cannot spend unnecessarily upon ourselves when the brother and sister are partially naked and hungry.

You and I believe in peace. We believe that vegetarianism is the basis of nonviolence and thus of peace. But surely we know, if we stop to think a moment, that a hungry village does not produce peace in this world. Displayed luxury or even a tendency to luxury does not command the admiration of our brother. On the other hand these are days when differences in material wealth do produce conflict, jealousy, and all manner of violence. We cry out that atomic explosions must cease. What is the use so to cry if we are producing the very conditions which seem to make the hydrogen bomb

I became a vegetarian by principle when I learned that India's diets which have come out of the past, especially the vegetarian diet here in the South, was essentially a balanced diet according to modern science. As my wife was making that discovery I was impressed also by the fact that out of accumulated experience India also claimed that the vegetarian diet, used with discrimination, was the best food basis for spiritual living. My first concern, I believe, is the spiritual life. So I said to my devoted wife: " If India's diets of the past fulfill present scientific standards, then India's claim that food and spiritual living are connected must contain a germ of truth. Hereafter I am a vegetarian by principle. I have not made much progress in my spiritual pilgrimage. But I am convinced that the vegetarian diet has been helpful for such a yatra. Again, are we merely eating for the sake of eating or are we on our own pilgrimage of Truth? Vegetarianism does have profound spiritual implications. Do we understand them? Are we growing in such understanding? Are we living in spirit and in truth?"

I believe I have asked disturbing questions. Unless we are disturbed by the violence in our own present living there is little hope for the world. May these efforts for the vegetarian way of life in these days throughout India be the means of taking us all further on that hard and upward trial of non-violence and truth!