|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Giving up Meat-eating is Essential Aspect of Ahimsa
ACHARYA VINOBHA BHAVE
Till now we saw the one aspect of ahimsa, that is, how a non-violent
man defends himself against the attacks of the violent. how ahimsa
has evolved in the struggles between individuals. But there is also
a conflict between man and animal. Man has not yet been able to put
an end to conflict between human beings, and halves by filling his stomach
with the flesh of animals.
Men cannot stop fighting with each other even now ; nor can they live
without eating helpless lower animals which also live. Though he has
existed for thousands of years, man has not yet learnt how to live.
He cannot yet live like a man.
But now even in this matter there is progress. There was a time when
man lived on animals only. But oven then, the more intelligent, the
nobler ones, did not like this. They laid down a restriction that, if
they had to eat meat, they would eat only the flesh of animals offered
in sacrifice. The intention behind this was to limit violence. Many
people gave up meat altogether ; but those who could not do so were
permitted to offer it to the Lord in sacrifice, do a little penance,
and then eat it.
It was thought then that, as a result of this condition, if one could
eat meat only in a yajna, a sacrifice, violence would be controlled.
But later on yajnas became common, and whoever felt like it performed
a sacrifice and ate the meat.
Then the Lord Buddha went a step further. He said, "If you want
to eat meat eat it. But don't bring the name of God into it." The
aim of both these statements is the same, that violence could be controlled,
that somehow people should be drawn into the path of self control. Both
from the performance of yajnas and from nonperformance of them,
we learnt to give up meat. Thus, little by little, we gave up eating
In the history of the world it is only in India that this great experiment
has been attempted. Millions of people here have given up meat-eating.
If today we do not eat meat; it is no mark of our greatness. Because
of the merit of our ancestors, we have got used to this. Why, we are
surprised when we hear or read that the Rishis of old ate meat.
We say, "What nonsense ! How could Rishis eat meat? It's
On the other hand, their greatness is that, though used to taking meat,
they had self-control enough to give it up. We do not have to go through
all that trouble now. We have: without effort on our part, inherited
The fact that they ate meat in ancient times, and that we don't do it now, does not mean that we are better than they. The fruit of their experience has come to us easily. We should now progress further. We should make an effort to give up even milk altogether. It is degrading for men to drink the milk of other animals.
Ten thousand years hence the men of the future will say of us, "Why
did our ancestors have to take a solemn vow not to drink milk? Ram-Ram!
How could they bring themselves to drink milk? Were they such savages?
"We should fearlessly and humbly make experiments and progress
steadily. The tree of truth should throw out new branches. There is
plenty of room for development. No quality has as yet evolved to its
We should develop the divine tendencies and keep away from the demonic. The Lord describes in this chapter the demonic qualities, so that we may keep away from them... The Lord. ...exhorts us to give up the demonic and acquire the divine qualities. Come let us make the effort!