International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India


BUDDHA AND VEGETARIANISM THE
PATH TO NON-VIOLENCE
S. H. JHABVALA
(Extracted and collated from a pamphlet published on the occasion of the 2500th Buddha Jayanti Celebrations by the Bombay Humanitarian League.)

When Lord Buddha was breathing his last breath, He asked His followers to persist in Ahimsa. His last words were : "Now then, O Monks, I address you. Teach humanity the doctrine of Ahimsa. Subject to decay are compound things. Strive with earnestness." No nobler message to humanity than this can be given on his 2500th Anniversary.

The killing of such victors as Alexander, Xerxes, Ghazni. Changhizkhan, Napoleon, and Hitler, has left behind a stench of evil. But the good resulting from the Principle of Non-killing, the First of Lord Buddha's Five Precepts, spreads the fervent odour of spiritual joy that is limitless like the ocean below and the sky above.

"What ye cannot give, how can ye take?" Non-Killing is the central virtue of the creed of the Buddha." Not for our life would we ever intentionally kill a living being." In this highly dynamic age when the atom bomb is holding the breath of humanity in its lustful hand, the world's civilization is sustained on this teaching of Lord Buddha. Though every time on the brink of war, the world refuses to descend the precipice of war, for the unfailing teachings of Buddha have penetrated the mind of the thinking man. Christ, Lao Tze, Confucius, master minds have battled against killing in any form.. ..But Buddha holds the virtue of non-killing as a unique aspect of living itself. Lord Buddha succinctly has stated that without the practice of the Precept of Non-Killing, there was no Nirvana possible, no Moksha, no Deliverance. The Buddha maintains : "Whoso killeth even a wild beast like the antlered deer or a creeping snake, distrusteth God, who out of mercy hath created this all and preserveth this all."

Buddha. immersed in the Ocean of Non-Violence said :

"Creatures without feet have my love.
And likewise those that have two feet ;
And those that have four feet I love,
And those, too, that have many feet.

"Let creatures all, all things that live,
All beings of whatever kind,
See nothing that will bode them ill.
May naught of evil come to them."

Humanitarianism leads to the lessening of the passions of cruelty. Vegetarianism is the twin sister of Humanitarianism. .. India, where Buddha meditated and formulated the holy creed of of Ahimsa, has laid out a programme of non-killing, cow-protection, and animal security through recognized institutions - India, the land just recovered to spiritual proof of a State advancing to moral peace and economic prosperity purely due to observance of Buddha's principle of Ahimsa.

ASOKA - THE WORLD FAMED EXEMPLAR OF BUDDHISM

Asoka who unified all India into one mighty Land incarnating the principle of Harmlessness is a Royal Exemplar of Lord Buddha's teaching of Compassion.

H. G. Wells says of him "Amidst the lines of thousand of names of monarchs that crowd the columns of history - 'their majesties, their graciousnesses, their serenities, and royal highnesses,' and the like the name Asoka shines and shines alone as a star; from the Volga to Japan, his name is still honoured. China, Tibet and even India, though it has left his doctrine, preserve the tradition of his greatness. More living men cherish his memory today than even have heard the name of Constantine or Charlemagne."

The Rev. H. Heras, S.J., terms him a "philosopher rather than a sovereign. He was a teacher of morals rather than an administrator." Yet adds, "Asoka's Dharma is purely practical. 'What does morality include?' questions Asoka. 'It includes few sins (no sins), many virtuous deeds.' The ethics of Asoka contain egative and positive principles, viz., prohibitions and exhortations. "This progress of morality among men,' says he himself ' has been promoted by me only in two ways, viz., by moral restrictions and conversions.' Moreover he distinguishes between the efficiency of both. 'But among these two,' he continues 'those moral restrictions are of little consequence. By conversion the progress of morality among men has been promoted more considerably, because it leads to abstention from hunting living beings, and to abstention from killing animals, and eating flesh-foods."

Asoka's prohibition, comments the Reverend Father, "includes even the sacrificial animals", and he informs us that this abstention is meritorious ... Asoka himself was the first in stopping the slaughter of animals in the royal kitchen. ' Formerly in the kitchen of King Devanampriya Priyadarsin, many hundred thousands of animals mere killed for the sake of curry. But now this rescript of morality is written, only three animals are being killed daily for the sake of curry, viz., two peacocks and one deer. Even these three shall not be killed in future.'

"Asoka even published a catalogue of animals he declared as absolutely inviolable, with a strict regulation against hunting them even indirectly. 'Living animals must not be fed with other living animals. Fish are inviolable and must not be sold.' This was his last step in his policy of compassion towards animals.