Are we really different from other life-forms?
“A human being is part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space We experience ourselves, our thoughts and feelings as something separate from the rest. A kind of optical delusion of consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from the prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty… The true value of a human being is determined primarily by the measure and the sense in which they have obtained liberation from the self…We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if humanity is to survive”. — (Albert Einstein, 1954)
Physicist, engineer, one of the greatest inventors and a practicing vegetarian, Nikola Tesla (1846-1943) pointed out that “On general principles the raising of cattle as a means of providing food is objectionable.. Many races living almost exclusively on vegetables are of superior physique and strength.. every effort should be made to stop the wanton, cruel slaughter of animals, which must be destructive to our morals”.
Plainly and simply, at least as far as past and present gurus, yogis, free mystics and enlightened beings of India such as — Buddha, Mahavira, Rama, Krishna, Saint Kabir, Guru Nanak, Vivekananda — or a striving perfectionist like Gandhi are concerned, the quest for The Ultimate Truth or God, is futile without a vegetarian lifestyle. That’s how these great but humble people lived in the East.
“(Vegetarianism has a) powerful influence upon the mind and its action, as well as upon the health and vigor of the body. Until we stop harming all other living beings, we are still savages”. — (Thomas Edison)
In the Christian tradition, as well, Saint Matthew and Saint John (who are historical narrators of The Gospels) were, not without a reason, vegetarians. So, also, were Saint MartÃn de Porres, Saint Richard, Saint John de Brito, Saint Angela de Merici, Saint Francis of Paola, Saint Hilarion, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Francis of Assisi. One might ask, would they have been the pure vegetarians they were, if they believed Christianity allowed the killing of innocent animals simply to cater to their taste buds? Some past and modern-day scholars contend that Jesus belonged to theEssenes, a Jewish sect of prehistoric times; which considered spiritually indefensible and illegal to sacrifice animals or partaking of non-vegetarian food.
The Laws of Manu, one of the sacred texts of Hinduism, states that“Without the killing of living beings, meat cannot be made available, and since killing is contrary to the principles of AHINSA (Non-Violence), one must give up eating meat”.
Why did Sufi Saints, such as Rabia Basri, Ibn Arabi, Al Ghazali, Nizamudin Aulia, Moinyundin Chisti, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, and other such gentle souls from meat-eating Islamic backgrounds, live a humble, vegetarian life in their quest for God? For what reason are Jewish spiritualists like Rabbi David Cohen, Rabbi She’ar Y Cohen, and Nobel Laureate Shmuel Yosef Afgnon vegetarians? How many of us know that Martin Luther, the German Church reformer and founder of Protestantism, was a vegetarian?
And what is it that made Confucius a vegetarian?
Perhaps the words of the Buddha offer a clue to the connection between spirituality and vegetarianism:
“’Why is it that the Thus Come One does not allow eating meat?’ The Buddha replied, ‘It is because meat-eating cuts off the seeds of great compassion”.
It is no secret that ancient yogis, as also modern day scientists, uphold the idea that all existence is One Indivisible Reality. Mystics arrive at this conclusion by a route similar to, but more circuitous, than the one followed by the scientific fraternity. Their search is within, while the scientists’ is in the external world. For the spiritualist, the search for The End Reality or God, is deeply personal; for the scientist, it is integrally impersonal. Yet, somehow, modern-day science and ancient mystic traditions have arrived at the same conclusion. It is that this world, as perceived from its deepest ground, is but One Inseparable Whole in The Ultimate Reality. Quantum Physics and Enlightened Mystics agree on this point.
The Sacredness of All Life
“ There is no kind of framework within which we can find consciousness in the plural; this is simply something we construct because of the temporal plurality of individuals, but it is a false construction”. — (Erwin Schrodinger, 1933 Nobel Prize Physicist)
“I regard consciousness as fundamental. I regard MATTER AS DERIVATIVE FROM CONSCIOUSNESS”. — (Max Planck, Nobel Prize in Physics, 1918)
Much in a similar vein and wisdom, Nikola Tesla seconded this scientific opinion of Planck, In fact, he theorized that:
One day humanity would learn to sustain itself directly by making use of the universal energy field.
Yet, some scientists, even now, view the oneness in nature as an insentient phenomenon. Spiritualists, however, see it as One Life that is sentient and alive in all phenomena. Today, scientists tend to see all life as some molecular nothing, spiritualists view everything as awash with life. A further difference, moreover, is that, while scientists have only now started seeing the oneness and unity of everything that is, free mystics have seen it since the beginning of time. At least, this is true of Indian yogis.
“He who sees that the Lord of All is ever the same in all that is— immortal in the field of mortality—he sees the truth. And when a man sees that the God in himself is the same God in all that is, he hurts not himself by hurting others. Then he goes, indeed, to the highest path.”. — (Bhagwad Gita)
Somewhere in the depth of their mind and soul, great thinkers know the truthfulness and sagacity of this basic, fundamental and primordial spiritual and mystic concept. From Socrates to Plato, Hesiod to Horace, Pythagoras to Leonardo da Vinci, Voltaire to Vincent Van Gogh, Plutarch to Plotinus, Virgil to William Blake, Leo Tolstoy to George Bernard Shaw, Milton to Shelly, Abraham Lincoln to Nobel Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore: all these high and mighty creators, remaining humble in their humanity, both postulated and followed a vegetarian diet for a healthy, wealthy, and wise life.
“What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin”. — (Thirukural, 2-3 BC)
In India, millions follow such a diktat. At the same time, of course, many millions in the world, including Indians, do not. Most adherents of the Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, find it sanctioned by tradition, acceptable to conscience by their followers, and, in some cases, even an act of holy sacrifice, to mercilessly butcher and eat anything that dares to move—except, of course, for a pig here or a crow there. In Korea and China, dogs—beloved pets in much of the world—are considered a delicacy to be skinned alive, salivated over, and savored.
It is interesting to note that a number of renowned scientists have been vegetarians. They include Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, and, as mentioned earlier, Nikola Tesla.
Albert Einstein said:
“Nothing will benefit human health and increase chances for survival of life on earth as much as the evolution to a vegetarian diet”.
Such “religious” respect for all life is inherent in every sensitized human being, whether agnostic or even an atheist. Einstein, perhaps the greatest scientist humankind has ever known, was no believer in God, but godliness permeated his beautiful soul. His view on the sacredness of all life was more than seconded by the theologian and Nobel Prize winner, Albert Schweitzer.
Leonardo da Vinci declared: “One day the world will look upon research upon animals as it now looks upon research on human beings”.
And Leo Tolstoy was of the view that “A human can be healthy without killing animals for food. Therefore, if he eats meat, he participates in taking animal life merely for the sake of his appetite”.
Other well-known citizens of the world who were vegetarians include Franz Kafka, Sir Edwin Arnold, Charlotte Bronte, Henry David Thoreau, R.W. Emerson, Nobel Laureate Isaac Bashevis Singer, humorist Mark Twain, H.G. Wells, industrialist Henry Ford, and the late Steve Jobs. Today, along with numerous Hollywood celebrities, these luminaries are joined by many kindred souls who, for reasons of humanity and humaneness, are also pursuing a vegetarian lifestyle. Examples include Dr. Abdul Kalam (Ex-President and Nuclear Scientist of India), Paul McCartney, Reshma (Muslim Pakistani Folk Singer), Amitabh Bachchan, and world-class athletes Carl Lewis and Mike Tyson.
Yet, meat eating does not stop. We continue with our mayhem. Westerners have their scriptures to quote to continue doing what they have been doing over thousands of years. And millions of non-vegetarian Buddhists and other Easterners do not even have their scriptures to support them — yet, cannot stop themselves.
“The thinking man must oppose all cruel customs, no matter how deeply rooted in tradition and surrounded by a halo. When we have a choice, we must avoid bringing torment and injury into the life of another, even the lowliest creature; but to do so is to renounce our manhood and shoulder a guilt which nothing justifies”. — (Albert Schweitzer)
It is true, of course. that some people are becoming vegetarians or vegans for health reasons. In fact, medical science is today providing more than enough data to encourage even “non-spiritual” people to give up their meat-based diets in favor of the benefits that accrue to a vegetarian lifestyle.
Spiritual people, however, need no scientific evidence to follow a vegetarian diet. For anyone who knows the “Oneness of All That Is” as his or her own life and soul “stuff”, adopting a vegetarian diet is not an option. It’s a sine qua non.
“Only the animal-killer cannot relish the message of The Absolute Truth”. It is thus emphasized in Srimad Bhagvtam.
“For as long as man continues to be the ruthless destroyer of lower living beings, he will never know health or peace. For as long as men massacre animals, they will kill each other. Indeed, he who sows the seeds of murder and pain cannot reap joy and love”.— (Pythagoras)
Sadly, however,it’s a fact of life that there’s no one holy cow for both the elitist whole and the hoi polloi.
Born a a beast, we remain brutes.