International Vegetarian Union-Religion and Vegetarianism
We in Britain pride ourselves on having the oldest organised vegetarian movement in the world, but we should not forget that in India vegetarianism has been a way of life for hundreds, possibly thousands, of years.
The two articles below give brief introductions to two aspects of vegetarianism originating in India, both of which are represented at the 25th IVU Congress this year. They both draw on the inspiration of ancient Hindu scriptures to teach reverence for all life.
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness was founded by His Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, who went to America in 1965 with a mission to teach his faith to the western world. The Sikhs have a large community in the UK and they have been taking a great interest in the IVU congress.
By Amarjeet Singh Bhamra and Jaswinder Singh Bhamra
The Indians were totally vegetarian from time immemorial but under the influence of foreign invaders, the trend towards the practice of meat-eating was taken. up. It was the Mohammededans who started the cow killing first of all, but almost every state had banned it, affixing strict penalties for the killer of the cow, in some states imposing capital punishment too, until the British landed.
It was a chaotic period when Satugur Nanak Dev Ji, the founder of the Sikh religion, was born in the fifteenth century. In His youth, He started His mission of enlightening the masses. All His successors followed His footsteps and forbade Their followers from eating flesh and drinking. These traditions continued up to the Sikh raj of Maharaha Ranjeet Singh. After his death. Sikhism suffered a decline owing to the annexation of the Kingdom of Punjab to the British invaders.
Again in such a period of chaos appeared the twelfth incarnation of Satguru Nanak, Satguru Ram Singh Ji, who reformed Sikhism as did Satguru Gobind Singh Ji, the tenth Lord of the Sikhs. Satguru Ram Singh had initiated only five faithful followers who would not infringe the rules under any circumstances but soon He started receiving a numerous following to his creed and within ten years of His preachment, He had gathered more than 700,000 followers.
Today, The Supreme Spiritual Head of the Sikhs is the Satguru Jagjeet Singh Ji. Satguru Ji, who is fifty years old, believes in the axiom that all creatures are created by the same God and He attracts and awes everybody with His effulgence. His good health is due to regular exercises. His Grace rises at 3.00am and takes a bath with only natural water and, after reading Gurbanee (hymns from the Granth Sahib) He meditates on the holy name of God till day break. Sri Satguru Ji wears only white clothes, which match his white Distar (head-dress), beard and white mojae (synthetic shoes).
During the day His Holiness goes through the correspondence which He receives from His followers living in all corners of the world. His work is heavy and varied involving tours of those places where the people, including His followers, wait most eagerly for His Darshan (Holy presence).
Universal peace is the chief aim of His divine Grace. His advice is keenly appreciated by the Peace International, the International Confederation of Religions, the International Vegetarian Union etc. It is His Grace's sentiment that nohody be killed or molested. He discursively commands in this regard that after sampling human blood once, the wild beast craves only for more similarly when a man considers it too easy to butcher the animal kingdom, his unlimited desires overcome him. Consequently, one day he becomes a murderer or wishes to dominate the world hence war manners are adopted by him. If all the human race adopts the golden rule of non-violence and if all the fatal weapons are abolished. then world peace may be a reality within a short period.
Satguru Ji sermonises, inter alia, to respect all the creeds. It is His notion that people from the various religions should terminate profanation of loathsome criticism. His Holiness wishes all religious people to love each other heartily. Only in this way can we help establish peace on our planet.
As His Sikhs are staunch vegetarians they follow his belief in the Nature Cure or the Ayurvedic (indigenous) system of medicines which do not violate the religious principles. His Holiness is not in favour of chemical fertilizers, neither does He use them in His farms nor does He suggest that anybody else use them, considering them harmful for human and animal health. On the contrary, His Grace insists on the adequate use of cow dung and organic manure which has proved more useful and powerful. His Holiness takes a very active and a keen role in the welfare and the development of the cow in India and abroad. At His cattle farms, one can find the best cows and buffaloes. He claims that the milk of the cow is very beneficial for the brain, eyesight and the physical hcalth of a person. It makes those witty who use it from the beginning.
Cow Protection in the Vedas
By Aniha Brahmachari
The International Society for Krishna Consciousness is a worldwide community of devotees practicing bhakti-yoga, the eternal science of loving service to God. The Absolute Truth is contained in all the great scriptures of the world. However, the oldest known revealed scriptures in existence are the Vedic literatures, most notably the Bhagavad-gita, which is the literal record of God's actual words, In Bhagavad-gita we learn that we are not our bodies but eternal spirit souls, part and parcels of God (Krsna). As such we are al1 brothers and Krsna is ultimately our common father.
In the Krsna Consciousness movement we attempt to perform all our actions as offerings to Krsna, doing nothing for our own sense of gratification. Therefore, before we eat we offer to the Lord the food that sustains us. Then Krsna becomes the offering and purifies us. And what does Krsna like? The basic principle of vegetarianism is found in the Ninth Chapter, 26th verse of Bhagavad-gita wherein God instructs: "If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it."
Lord Krsna likes pure vegetarian food (no meat, fish or eggs) prepared and offered to Him with love and devotion, and such food is afterwards distributed freely as prasadam, or the Lord's mercy. Anyone who cares to visit one of our centres is welcomed with a full plate of ourishing prasadam, food for the body, food for the mind, and food for the soul. You can experience the taste of the transcendental at the Hare Krsna centre, Soho Street, (just off Oxford Street London W1).
The Krsna Consciousness Society is a preaching movement, and we preach by distributing prasadam and translated editions of the Vedic scriptures. The whole world is suffering from the miseries of birth, disease, old age and death, and Krsna consciousness solves all these problems. One of our prime objectives is to stop the ghastly slaughter of innocent animals.
Here is an extract from our Back to Godhead magazine, which our devotees distribute on the street to the tune of 3/4 million copies a month world-wide:
"The Vedic literatures acknowledge that in this material world one living being is food for another, but this does not allow for unrestricted violence or cannibalism or murder. Each living being has a quota allowed by God and he should not go beyond that. For example, if a tiger attacks a deer and kills it with his own claws, that is not considered a transgression of God's laws, but all the great scriptures of the world insist upon non-violence as standard for the human being. (Even if a human being takes his own life, that is a great sin and he has to suffer for it in his next life.) Humans should spare not only the lives of their fellow human beings but also the lives of animals.
"Even a vegetable is a form of life (though a lower one). So while complete non-violence may be impossible, violence should be kept to a minimum. The Vedic scriptures prescribe that a human being should avoid animal slaughter and eat only simple foods such as grains, fruit, milk products, and vegetables. Although the vegetarian is also taking life, if he makes an offering of his food to God, he is relieved from the karma (the sinful reaction). Otherwise, as Krsna says in Bhagavad-gita (3:13): "Those who eat food for personal sense enjoyment verily eat only sin."
Moreover, the cow, by nature's rule, gives milk to human society and is considered in Vedic science equally respectable as one's own mother. whose bodily produced milk is meant for her own offspring after birth. Therefore killing a cow is considered equivalent to killing one's own mother.
A broad, practical application of spiritual principles in our lives is now, more than ever, essential. We are faced with the prospect of imminent nuclear holocaust and collapse of the present economic-technological structure of the world has certainly begun. We must work for the dawning of a new age. The population must be taught the real meaning of human life; we must change the consciousness of our leaders, our teachers and ourselves and we must close the hellish slaughterhouses.