Thoughts on Vegetarianism

Here’s a quote from something I received today:

Vegetarianism is a natural and obvious way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings. Hindu scripture speaks clearly and forcefully on vegetarianism. The Yajur Veda (36.18. ve, p. 342) calls for kindliness toward all creatures living on the Earth, in the air and in the water. The beautiful Tirukural, a widely-read 2,200-year-old masterpiece of ethics, speaks of conscience: “When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh of another creature, he will abstain from eating it” (257). The Manu Samhita advises: “Having well considered the origin of flesh and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let one entirely abstain from eating flesh,” and “When the diet is pure, the mind and heart are pure.”

And here’s my question for the vegetarians (and spiritual leaders) in the house:

Most eastern religions emphasize that vegetarianism implies non-violence, and that killing animals is violent. However, if the Divine life force is present in every single object (animate and inanimate) that exists, then certainly pulling a carrot from the ground is killing just as cutting a bull’s neck is killing. BOTH are violent acts. In fact, the bull is not being pulled out from the roots, so it seems the killing of the bull is in fact less of a system shock.

So it seems that some killing is more important than others. Some is violent, and some is not.

Not to pull an Uber-Jain sentiment out of the hat, but isn’t it more important to recognize the sacrifice made by ANYTHING that provides you with life, rather than insisting that some sacrifices are more meaningful than others? In other words, in order for you to live, SOMETHING must die. Only in the case of an apple falling to the ground (from a tree that you did not shake) are you not directly involved in killing that something.

What is more important, the sacrifice, or the recognition of it as such?

It seems to me the focus of this kind of vegetarianism is on the repercussions on you as a killer, rather than on the suffering of the victim (be it bull or carrot). In which case, it doesn’t matter what you kill, you are guilty of the offense. Alan Watts said he was a vegetarian because “carrots scream softer than cows.” That is a different motivation than because killing a bull is worse karma than killing a carrot. That is not a moral choice, it is a choice that makes the negative act easier to live with.

And that, my friends, does not seem like a valid basis for a spiritual diet to me.

What seems valid is that no matter WHAT you eat, you are indebted to it for its biomass — without which you would not survive. Perhaps you did not personally end its life. But you are taking advantage of its death. To deny that is to perpetrate a lie. To not accept the consequences of living when other living things must die for it to be so, is to misunderstand karma altogether.

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