Does Hinduism require one to be a vegetarian?
Recently two questions were asked –
Does Hinduism require one to believe in God?
Does Hinduism require one to be a vegetarian?
In a recent article, I have addressed the first question.
Here I will provides some thoughts for the second question.
In relation to the first question, I have discussed what Hinduism stands
for and who is truly a Hindu.
In essence, Hinduism is Sanatana Dharma,
and that Dharma is from time immemorial –
it involves pursuit for Moksha.
Therefore the one who is seeking for Moksha is a true Hindu,
Irrespective of the nationality, caste, creed or gender.
With that catholic
understanding, one can see that Hinduism becomes a way of life
because the pursuit of the essential purpose of life is
the goal of the Hindu life.
With that perspective, it is easier to analyze all other questions
including whether Hinduism requires one to be a vegetarian.
Since the purpose of life is securing liberation or Moksha,
until we reach that we need to live.
Only death is the death of the ego that happens in the
Hence, keeping the body alive by nourishment is
That means one has to eat to live
(not the other way – living for eating sake!)
Life lives on life. That is the law of nature.
Whether I eat an animal or plant I am destroying a life.
Among all life forms Man is different from the rest of the life kingdom.
He has the capability to discriminate the right from wrong.
That also gives him the freedom of choice.
Plants have just body and perhaps a rudimentary mind.
Animals have both body and mind to express
feelings and suffering, but rudimentary intellect.
Man has not only body, mind
but also well developed intellect to discriminate, decide and to choose.
He always has three choices –
Karthum sakhyam, akartum
sakhyam and anyathA karthum sakhyam –
he can choose to do,
not to do and
do it other way.
For animals and plants there is no freedom of choice.
They are instinctively driven.
Cow does not sit down before meals, and
inquire whether it should be a vegetarian or non-vegetarian.
So is a tiger.
For a Man the discriminative intellect is very evolved.
Plants and animals do not commit sin in their actions
because there is no will
involved in their actions.
For a human, the story is different.
You may wonder why I brought sin in the argument.
Let me explain.
Sin is nothing but agitations in the mind.
It is these agitations that
prevent me in my journey to Moksha.
Mind has to be pure
for me to see the truth as the truth.
To define sin more scientifically - it is the divergence
between the mind and intellect.
Intellect knows right from wrong –
but we feel like doing things even
though we know they are wrong –
that is, the intellect says something,
but mind which should be subservient to intellect rebels and
does whatever it feels like.
This divergence is sin.
After the action is performed -
there is a guilt feeling,
because intellect, although was overruled, does
not keep quiet, it keeps prodding
" I told you it is wrong.
Why did you do it?"
With peace of mind gone Man goes through a "Hell".
Man is not punished for the sin,
he is punished by the sin! –
Think about it.
All yogas, if you analyze clearly, are bringing this integration
Between the body, mind and intellect.
For a Yogi - What he thinks, what he speaks
and what he does are in perfect harmony or alignment
(Manasaa vAcha karmana).
In our case, we think something but have no guts to say
what we think, our lips says something
different from what are thinking –
if you watch the lips and the actions that follow,
they are again different! -
There is no integration anywhere.
We live a chaotic life.
Besides deceiving others,
most pathetic is we deceive ourselves,
and the worst thing is we don't even realize that.
Now, when a tiger kills and eats, it does not commit a sin.
Because its intellect is rudimentary,
and it does not go through any analysis
before it kills –
“should I kill or not to kill –
Should I be a non-vegetarian or
should I be vegetarian?".
When it is hungry, to fill the natures demand,
it kills it pray and eats what it needs and
leaves the rest when it is full.
It is not greedy either.
That is its Swadharma.
It follows a beautiful ecological system.
It is only man who destroys the ecology by being greedy.
"Should I be a vegetarian or non-vegetarian?"
is asked only by a man.
Why that question comes?
Because man has discriminative intellect,
and he does not want to
hurt others to fill his belly.
He learns what `hurt' means because
He surely does not want others to hurt him.
Plants are life forms too, should one hurt them?.
You may ask.
If one can live without hurting any life forms that is the best,
but that is not possible.
Life lives on life -that is the law of nature.
My role as a human being with discriminative intellect is
to do the least damage to the nature for keeping myself alive.
At least, I am not consciously aware of suffering of the plants.
That is why eating to live and not living to eat is
the determining factor.
In Bhagawad Geeta, Krishna emphatically says
that a Sadhaka (one who is in pursuit of Moksha)
should have a compassion for all forms of life –
Sarva Bhuta HitErathAha.
In the spiritual growth, one develops
subtler and subtler intellect
(Sukshma Bhuddhi in contrast to TeeKshna Buddhi, i.e.
That is, the mind is becoming quieter,
Your sensitivity to suffering of others also grows.
Hence it is advisable to be a vegetarian.
Even the traditional non-vegetarians repel against
eating dogs and cats or
other human beings! Why?
Meat is a meat after all!
But with familiarity grows a compassion.
There are many two legged animals in human form
with rudimentary intellect.
They behave like animals.
But in the evolutionary ladder one develops
subtler and subtler intellect,
then it is advisable to be a vegetarian –
only taking from nature what it needs to keep the body going.
One should not hurt any life forms
to satisfy the craving of one’s tongue.
Should Hindu be a vegetarian?
Since such a question already arose in your mind,
you have a degree of sensitivity not to hurt
other living forms to satisfy your belly.
Then you may be better off not eating meat and
You will be at peace with yourself.
Since you are sensitive to this your
intellect directing you one way and
your mind wants some baser pleasures
and directing you the other way.
When you go against your own intellect
you commit sin.
That is against your SWADHARMA as Krishna puts it.
Besides, now, even the traditional non-vegetarians
are choosing vegetarianism
not because of any compassion to other animals
but they are recognizing that it is not good for their health.
I have already mentioned that
Hinduism has no doos and don'ts,
but you determine your own doos and don'ts
based on your intellectual values,
culture, education and primary goal in life.
You will find that
Following your Swadharma makes you comfortable with yourself.
It is not others to judge, it is for you to judge.
If you are agitated, that means
you are loosing peace of mind for these and
that is a sin!
Imagine yourself that chicken or cow that you are eating.
Would you not advice the guy who is eating you
to be a vegetarian instead and spare its life?
Do not say you are not killing the animal yourself,
and killing will go on whether you eat or not.
If you don't eat, one animal is spared.
This is the demand and supply.
I may not be stealing myself,
but if I buy the stolen property knowing that it was stolen,
it is a crime!
Is it not?
Now there are imitation meats too –
so why the crave for a dead meet?
Why do you want your stomach
to be a burial ground for a dead animal?
Food for Thought:-
Manu Samhita says
5/51. He who permits (the slaughter of an animal), he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells (meat), he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, (must all be considered as) the slayers (of the animal).
5/52. There is no greater sinner than that (man) who, though not worshipping the gods or the manes, seeks to increase (the bulk of) his own flesh by the flesh of other (beings).