|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
The first object of worship by all early civilizations
was the Sun, the source of life and of fecundation. In Egypt. India,
Persia, and all the earliest nations which attained the highest degree
of cultural development, the sun was the main object of adoration. The
moon, which after the sun, runs as second as the source of life, was
also worshipped, in those countries. In the third place comes fire,
which according to modern scientists, is the best symbol of life, as
both fire and life, are very closely connected with each other.
The religions of ancient Egypt were founded on the oneness
of life, and their rites consisted in promoting life, in not destroying
it. Therefore Egyptians never killed animals, but rather loved them.
They abstained from meat and blood. The mysteries of Isis consisted
in an approachment of man to nature. Isis, the eternity, was symbolized
by the moon, and is the goddess of the Nile, which fertilizes the ground.
Isis was also the first physician in Egypt. Osiris, who represents the
sun, and who was the origin of Ceres, the goddess of cereals and agriculture
of the Romans, is the god of cereals and
The Zend Avesta (the sacred Book of the Zoroastrians)
teaches that "Purity is, next to life, the greatest gift of man"...
In one of its chapters, Vendidad, it says : "I bless all those
who multiply and who make grow." This book forbids also the picking
of fruits from the trees, unless they are ripe and are intended to be
used for food ..Hunting and every form of killing or injuring animals
is forbidden in the Zend-Avesta. In one of its parts, called
Khorda-Avesta there is a prayer of contrition to be said by all
those who have ever done wrong to an animal. According to Porphyr, the
aim of the Mitra Mysteries, for which the Persian Magi officiated was
to show that we have something in common with all other forms of life.
The Zarathustrian religion forbids even the burning of dead bodies.
Instead they mere placed in certain spots in the mountains to be devoured
by the cultures and allowed to be disintegrated by the elements. Such
places were called 'Towers of Silence.' Though this method the suggestion
of death was removed from the sight of man, and human corpses were used
to feed animals, and therefore, to promote the law of the conservation
The Vedas, another of the oldest Books, tacitly or explicitly present the conservation of life as the synthetic principle of morals. It condemns the killing of animals and the habit of eating meat.. . All religions derived from the Vedas forbid us to injure any kind of life which has feeling, including trees, plants, and grass. These religions are so strict in that respect that Brahman priests are forbidden to be farmers, because "the plough hurts living beings." The Mahabharata (Vana-Parva, 116-34) says : "Neither was there nor will there be a higher gift than the gift of life. "The book of the great legislator Manu is full of places in which it forbids the killing of animals and the eating of meat. Similarly in the Buddhist Scriptures :
"Do not kill, nor encourage others to kill"
(No hanaye, no ghataye), says Lord Buddha. "Him I call a Brahmana
who does not kill nor causes to kill" (Dhammapada, XXVI,
405). "None should destroy life himself, or cause others to destroy
life, or sanction the acts of those who destroy life." (Sutta-Nipata,
Dhammika-Sutta. 19). "A being with three dispositions will
be taken into heaven. What are they? One who abstains from slaying;
one who restrains others from slaying, and one who is not fond of slaying.
(Angultara-Nikaya, Tika Nipata, Acepala-Vagga 153)."
The Ancient religions of China are based also on the conservation of life. Like Buddha, Confucius also considered immoral the custom of destroying life of any kind and in any form, even for making sacrifices or for food. The following sentence which we find in the book King is very illustrative of that fact : "The aim of cereals and of fruits is to nourish man. Consequently the habit of converting that food into a liquid which only serves to harm man is a two-fold crime against the conservation of life." Confucius also says : "Do not unto others as you would not that others should do unto you." - a negative statement of the Golden Rule enunciated by the Chist : "Do unto others as you would that they should do unto you."
"Paganissn, the religion of ancient Greeks and Romans,
presents us with a striking proof of the importance which these two
old and advanced civilizations gave to the conservation of life. The
Golden Age as the paradise of Greek Mythology. At that time all living
beings lived peacefully with each other and none killed. In singing
that age, the philosopher Empedocles, said: "In early times people
did not kill animals as in this, and to devour their noble limbs was
considered a sin." (De Natura vers. 404-5) ... Greek mythology
imputes the fall of man to Prometheus. He was the first one to kill
a bull and to steal the fire from heaven to cook it. For this crime
Prometheus (mankind) was thus punished: he was tied to a rock, where
a vulture (disease) devoured his liver forever. A fair symbol of mankind,
his sins, and his logical unhappiness indeed. One of the oldest and
greatest gods of Greek mythology was Dionysius, who like Ahhra-Mazda
of the Zarathustrians, and Osiris of the Egyptians, represented the
principle of life, the creator of life. Dermeter was the Goddess of
agriculture, of marriage, and therefore of promoting life. In Ceres
the Romans had a goddess corresponding to Demetcr of the Greeks. Orphious
the great singer ascetic lived simply and prevented men from killing
animals and from eating meat. Venus was the goddess of love, and Apollo
that of health. Xenocrates and Porphyrius say that the following three
laws of the Athenian Triptolemus ruled in Eleusis : "To sacrifice
only fruits to the gods; not to harm any harmless being, and not to
eat meat." All great Greek philosophers supported those laws. Like
the Buddhistic monks, Pythagoras forbade his pupils from having any
dealings with killers (butchers, hunters, etc.) He introduced into Europe
the custom of sacrificing animals of dough.
The importance of life as the most sacred thing was also
recognized by all ancient Semitic religions, from Assyrio-Babylonians,
down to Muhammad. The latter preached physical culture, and forbade
the killing of animals and the use of alcoholic drugs. Muhammad himself
lived so plainly that he very seldom used fire in his home, either for
light or for cooking.
Charles Brandt, from whose comprehensive book "The
Vital Problem," we have collated the above from his chapter on
Religion, then goes on to show that the supreme importance of life is
most conspicuous in the Bible. The ancient Hebrew prophets spoke sternly
against blood sacrifices, and that the sacrifice of animals which Moses
tried to eradicate, was successfully abolished by the Christ who taught
the law of Love and Compassion. Mr. Brandt. concludes this chapter :
So we see that all the most important religions of the world including those founded by Zarathustra, Osiris. Buddha, Brahma, Muhammad, Confucius, Moses, Christ, and the ancient Greeks recognize this principle : Do not destroy life, but increase it through hygiene, through peace ... To love is the most positive, and not to kill the most negative form of the vital imperative. Consequently, in all the most important religions : "Do love" and "Do not kill" constitute the two most important Commandments. This allows that the most important religions implicitly recognize that the basis of morals consists in the law of the conservation of life. The Founders of all religions have devoted themselves to preach peace, and to cure the sick. Because peace and health are the two most effective means to promote life, as well from the general as from the individual point of view.