|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
is predominantly and temperamentally a religious country. Its religious
fervour, its love of the abstract, its subtlising attitude and philosophical
propensities are proverbial. It is so deeply engrossed in religion and
it has so marvellously identified itself with it that Professor Max
Muller had to observe in one of his writings that "India eats,
drinks, sleeps, thinks, and acts religion," This means that in
every walk of life Indias has invested itself with religion. In fact,
India made it a paramount project of life and it is on account of this
that whatever is beneficial to humanity for its political, social and
economic well-being is considered as a religious duty. Vegetarianism
in India, therefore, has this background.
The East is reputed to be the cradle of all religions
chiefly because India had the good fortune of acting as Godmother to
various religions of the world and lent them its best.
The ancient Indian Incarnations, Rishis and Sages, whose
keen insight, clear outlook, deep love, and incessant meditations, conceived
codes and interpreted the laws of working of the Soul and its salvation
expounded the unity and essence of life in the external diversity and
multiplicity. They gave a vision to the nation and as a nation with
vision does not perish so it has not perished yet. It should, however,
be admitted that it had dwindled and deteriorated to some extent due
to the contacts with foreign powers and their conflicting cultures,
yet it has held its own. Its survival against onslaughts of foreign
powers and foreign ideologies is principally due to its spirituality.
India's Rishis taught the unity of life for the entire
animal creation. Those Seers also discovered the indispensability of
animals and plants to mankind and consequently both from higher motives
of religion, spiritual growth. as well as practical purposes of life,
they fore-sightedly preached the Gospel of the highest biological truth
of interrelation between man and members of other kingdoms. Thus judged
from the cultural and utilitarian points alike, the spiritual code of
Aryan life that they have evolved is so sound and sublime that they
have combined the good and the true with the beautiful, the secular
with the non-secular, culture with use and service, by wedding the spiritual
to the material.
It could not ignore the geo-economics of the land as they
moulded religion in the cast of agriculture. Agriculture connotes draft.
Beast is superior to man in point of draft. The ox was found most suitable
for the purpose and climate and the female could be tapped for the milk.
The animals whose male yielded food from fields and the females yielded
luscious lacto-products and whose fluid and excreta (urine and dung)
yielded fertility to the soil must naturally bear the palm.
The Cow is thus raised to the status of the Mother and
the Bull that of the Father. It is also deified in Vedic and post-Vedic
literature and enjoys n sacrosanct character, both as a symbol of animal
life and pivot of agronomy. It fed the land with its manure and man
with its lacto-products, the only source of getting nourishing food
for a majority of Indians who are vegetarians as well as for non-vegetarians
in a tropical country like India.
Thus the cycle of Tapa-Bhoga-Yagna is kept in motion. Animal fed the land and man, man in his turn fed the animal, and, in the alternative cycle. land paid its tribute to plant, plant to animal, and animal to man. Looking back to the history of various nations we find among the ancient Greek philosophers strong advocates of vegetarianism in Pythagoras, Plato, Socrates and others. In India, too, this problem of vegetarianism was solved much earlier by the Aryan philosophers, who in many of their writings, advanced logical and scientific reasons against killing of animals and eating flesh foods. There is a common belief among many historians and oriental scholars that the Western countries owed their ideas regarding vegetarianism to Aryan philosophers, who from pre-historic times have advocated and practised a strict vegetarian diet. India is the only country in the world where vegetarianism has prevailed for centuries among the vast majority of the people. The Hindus were the first nation in the world who understood the fundamental principles of the vegetarian theory. It was from the Hindus that other nations such as the Chinese, Japanese, Tibetans, Siamese, Burmese, Cantonese, and Persians became impressed with the idea that slaughter of animals for food is cruel, inhuman and wicked. The greatest thinkers of ancient India gave arguments in support of vegetarianism from considerations of health, physiological structure, chemical properties of food, and moral and spiritual ideals.
Physicians in India also do not consider flesh-foods as conducive to health. They believe that even the flesh of animals specially fed and fattened for meat is diseased in the majority of cases and the germs of various diseases are introduced into the human body. They further assert that all flesh being a production of nutrition contains some refuse matter, because its elimination is suddenly arrested by slaughter. Such refuse is intensely poisonous and contains creatine and is a source of many diseases. animal flesh produces unnatural heat in the system and causes unusual activity and restlessness leading to nervous debility. Use of meat also increases the action of the heart and creates heart trouble. The views of physicians of India are endorsed by physiologists and comparative anatomists of the west, who have proved from the structure of the teeth. stomach, alimentary canal, the microscopic blood corpuscles, and the digestive processes that man is by nature a frugivorous animal.
In ancient times when agriculture was unknown, men lived
on fruits, nuts, and other vegetable products which were found in abundance.
But when the struggle for existence, which is so strongly manifested
in the animal kingdom. became more difficult, people had to live on
whatever they found around them. The savage tribes who still did not
know anything about agriculture still lived on wild animals, birds,
and even reptiles. Some of them even became cannibals when, they could
not procure enough meat of wild animals. Can this signify that flesh
and animal flesh are the natural food of man? No! it remains unnatural
though it might be a diet in adversity and a relic of barbarity. A man
can eat anything unnatural with the help of cookery and artificial food
dressing but this cannot change the frugivorons nature of man.
The majority of people in India are lacto-vegetarians, some out of religious and ethical considerations, some by tradition and others for economic reasons. Vegetarians in India get their fat requirements from milk and dairy products, as they do not take eggs. For herbivorous animals mammal's milk is a natural. perfect food. From infancy babies who have no teeth or knowledge of eating grow on mother's milk only, physically and mentally. Thus milk is the natural food created for man when mother's milk ceased to be available. Cows' milk is used as being next to mothers' milk in dietetic values.
The cow in India is considered to be the Foster-Mother of mankind and s treated as a member of the human family. With a view to getting better and more milk, cows are given concentrates and are developed to give more milk. Additional milk produced by the cow after suckling her calf is used by mankind and is considered to be a natural and humane food. I am a unique example of a man sustained by 3lbs. of cow's milk only with frequent additions of vegetables and fruits. I think I am a challenge to the modern science of dietaries which worries about calories and vitamins. I think I get all of them from cows' milk.
This motherly regard and reverence for the cow in India as Gandhiji remarked, is the unique contribution of Hinduism, based on the principle of the oneness of life, to the evolution of the unity of life.
The younger generation in India was taught to be kind to animals and to refrain from killing or harming any creature. Hence an Indian devoted to his culture believes from his early childhood that killing for food is sinful. To the Western people this conception of sin in killing may not appeal as they are taught to believe that animals have no soul, no mind and no feelings. But this is a mistaken notion. The Hindu religion, including Vedic religion, Buddhism and Jainism is based on the fundamental principle of the evolution of man. It teaches one that life is manifesting in various forms of mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdom, and that all are linked together by a mighty chain of evolution. Wherever there is life there is the manifestation of cosmic mind, the difference being in the degree in the degree of such manifestation. Even the advanced scientists of modern times support this view.
Vedic religion forbids killing of animals. Buddhism and Jainism have Ahimsa, non-killing, as their basic principle. The Jains in India have greatly popularized this principle and have contributes much for its vindication. It is often argued by the advocates of animal food that in the economy of nature the struggle for existence demands that one animal shall live upon another. This may be true for lower animals, but man, the superior animal, is governed by moral and spiritual laws and has a higher aim of life. Man has to subdue his animal propensities by moral and spiritual laws and has to raise himself to the highest plane of spiritual enlightenment. Many sages and seers in India have attained spiritual enlightenment by abiding by the moral and spiritual laws and remaining non-violent in thought and action, and there are many philosophers and leaders of thought like Mahatma Gandhi, Vinoba Bhave, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, and various religious heads who move on a higher spiritual level with a vegetarian diet. So also there are many brave and courageous races like the Sikhs and others who, though living mainly on a vegetarian diet, are none the less brave.
In spite of such testimony throughout the centuries, nations of the world have gone against the laws of nature and have gone against the laws of nature and have finally produced a world in which no matter how hard they drudge nor how much ingenuity they use, they remain the prey of war, want, disease, ignorance, and early death, the final flavour of this so-called civilization being the constant threat of wholesale annihilation by atom bombs.
Let us, however, remember that God created a world in
which neither want war, nor disease need exist. All these are man-made.
If only mankind lives according to the natural law all these evils would
stop and there would be radiant health, long life and bounty for all
creatures and for man there would be a rich experience of that glorious
superhuman consciousness and achievement which is his special privilege
and goal of life.
The question model naturally arise as to how to revert to a natural way of life. If only we realize the truth of what we are, and realize the alternative way of life, assess successive steps to free ourselves from an unnatural and complex mode of life, and begin to take them, we call build a new and harmless world civilization.
But ambitious man, entangled in the passion of his senses, has plunged his living against the laws of nature and goes on increasing his desires and needs, and has become a ruthless exploiter of nature, creating problems of ill health, soil erosion etc., having its repercussions on drought, floods, pests, and pestilence. He has upset nature's plan by tending large herds for meat and breaking the cycle of land, animal, and man-reducing the world of plenty to one of want and semi-starvation. Economically also the flesh-eathg way of life is extravagant, demanding 16 times more land than the vegetarian way of life, which looking from the point of view of the world's food problem, is going to be a serious menace to the principle of co-existence.
Man has further developed a materialistic turn of mind and abdicated life under natural environments and preferred urban life with ever-worsening conditions.
Let us once again realize that man is potentially an expression
of Divine Creativity. He has the power of unlimited mental expansion
and realization. Let him utilize this rare opportunity to reach the
goal and act as representative of the Creator's purpose and guardian
to the kingdom of nature and thus be a fore-runner of a new humanitarian
It is a happy augury of the new era that eminent scientists, dieticians, and representatives of national vegetarian and humanitarian institutions of the world are sitting together to consider these problems and plan co-ordinated action under the International Vegetarian Union. Let us all set aside our personal or national differences and prejudices and strengthen this august world body financially and spiritually.
OLDEN INDIA: Fa-hian (399-414 A.D) the ancient Chinese traveller and pilgrim who stayed in India for number of years, writes in his memoirs: " No trace of flesh-eating or slaughter of animals can be seen in India. None except a chandala (low caste) touches a corpse of a dead animal or kills one. There is no liquor-shop or butcher-shop in India."
Hsuen Tsnng, (Hiouen-Thsang ) the famous Chinese Pilgrim of the 7th century says: "Hindus are patient and true in their speech, benevolent and kind-hearted. Their customs arc civilized and most humane."
Marco Polo who visited India in the 13th century says: "The people of India do not touch the flesh of animals."
PIONEER IN MODERN INDIA : 1910
In this Vegetarian movement the Bombay Humanitarian League has played a prominent part. Shri Labshankar Lakslimidas was a pioneer of the Modern Humanitarian Movement in India. He was closely associated with Dayalankar Setlh Lalubhai Jhaveri and in September 1910 they started Jiv Daya Gnan Prasak formed at Bombay. Soon other humanitarians joined these leaders of the movement and a constitutional body under the name of the Bombay Humanitarian League was called into existence. This body has been carrying on its noble work in various ways.
It has propagandists, who go about the country conveying the message of humanitarianism. It has through its efforts moved some states to pass suitable laws for the protection of animals. It has also created interest in the student world to study this subject systematically, by offering prizes for well-written essays. It has for this purpose prepared and published various booklets on humanitarianism and Vegetarianism.