Vegetarianism & Religion


Nearly all faiths prevalent in the world preach avoidance of meat as a part of religious practice. Some Egyptian priests were vegetarians, avoiding meat in order to help them maintain vows of celibacy. They also avoided eggs, which they called ‘liquid flesh’. In Genesis (1:29), we find God himself proclaiming, "Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in that which is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat. "In the beginning of creation as described in the Bible, it seems that not even the animals ate flesh. In Genesis (1:30), God says, "and to every beast of the earth, and to every foul of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the earth, wherein there is life, I have given every green herb fir meat; and it was so." Genesis (9:4) also directly forbids meat-eating: "But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat. And surely your blood of your lives will I require, at the hand of every beast will I require it. In the later books of the Bible, major prophets also condemn meat-eating. Issaiah (1:5) states, "Sayeth the Lord: I am full of the burnt offerings of rams, and the fat of fed beasts; and delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs or of the goats. When ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: when you make many prayers, I will not hear, for your hands are full of blood." According to Issaiah (66:3), the killing of cows is particularly abhorrent. "He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man." In the Bible, we also find the story of Daniel, who while imprisoned in Babylon refuse to eat meat offered by jailers, preferring instead simple vegetarian food.

Major stumbling blocks for many Christians are the belief that Christ ate meat and the many references to meat in the New Testament. But close study of the original Greek manuscripts shows that the vast majority of the words translated as ‘meat’ are trophe, brome, and other words that simply mean food or eating in the broad sense. For example, in the Gospel of St. Luke (8:55), we read that Jesus raised a woman from the dead and "commanded to give her meat." The original Greek word translated as meat is ‘phago’, which means only "to eat". So what Christ actually said was "Let her eat". The Greek word for meat is Kreas and it is never used in connection with Christ. Nowhere in the new Testament is ther any direct reference to Jesus eating meat.

Clement of Alexandria, an early Church father, recommended a flesh-less diet, citing the example of the Apostle Matthew, who "partook of seeds and nuts and vegetables, without flesh." The Seventh Day Adventist Church strongly recommends vegetarianism for its members. Although little known to public, the huge American breakfast cereals industry got its start at the Adventist health resort run by Dr. John H. Kellogg. He was constantly devising new varieties of vegetarian breakfast foods for the wealthy patients of his Battle Creek Sanatorium. One of popular inventions was corn flakes, which he later marketed world-wide. Over the course of time, he formed the company to manufacture corn flakes that still bears his name. The largest concentration of vegetarians in the world is found in India, the homeland of Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism.

It goes without saying that the great twentieth century apostle of non-violence, Mahatma Gandhi was a strict vegetarian. His parents being devout Hindus, never gave him meat, fish or eggs. Under the British rule, however, there was a great attack on the age-old principles of indian culture. Under such pressures, many Indians began to adopt meat-eating habits of the West. Even Gandhi fell victim to the advice of some school-friends, who urged him to eat meat because it would increase his strength and courage. But, later he resumed a vegetarian diet and wrote, "It is necessary to correct the error that vegetarianism has made us weak in mind, or passive or inert in action. He wrote five books on vegetarianism. His own daily diet included wheat sprouts, almond paste, greens, lemons and honey. He founded Tolstoy Farm, a community-based on vegetarian principles. Playwright Bernard Shaw first tried to become a vegetarian at the age of twenty-five. He wrote in his autobiography, "It was Shelly who opened my eyes to the savagery of my diet." Shaw’s doctors warned that the diet would kill him. When an old man, he was asked why he did not go back and show them what good it had done him. He replied, "I would, but they have all passed away years ago". Once someone asked him, how it was that he looked so youthful. "I don’t", Shaw retorted. "I look my age. It is the other people who look older than they are. What can you expect from people who eat corpses?" On the connection between flesh-eating and violence in human society,

Shaw Wrote :
We pray on Sundays that we may have light
To guide our foot steps on the path we tread;
We are sick of war, we don’t want to fight,
And yet we gorge ourselves upon the dead.



Courtesy : Bhaktivedanta Book Trust


Mail to : Ahimsa Foundation