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


India Welcomes
The Fifteenth - World Vegetarian Congress

SRIMATI RUKMINI DEVI
(President of the All-India Reception Committee)

In India's reawakening, there has to be a consciousness of the fundamental basis of Indian life. There is no use of building large buildings and factories or even of mass education unless we are clear as to the end and purpose of it all. To become a wealthy or a prosperous nation with a high standard of living but without a moral structure or backbone will only lead to the ultimate misery of the very human beings we want to serve, Such a rebuilding will not have anything of India in it except the brown skin and the geographic location.

If the world pays heed to India's voice or admires India it is because of the great traditions and spiritual atmosphere of the past. Whatever may have been the weaknesses in our past the essential part of it was a glorious development of philosophy and culture. The greatest teaching in India has been the understanding that all Creation is part of One Life. This concept has been given many varied expressions, it has been taught in many ways by many teachers. The full realization that there is One Life behind all lives brought to the foreground the spirit of reverence, reverence to all life and benevolent regard for all living things.

When the history of modern India is written I feel sure that this World Vegetarian Congress held in India in the year 1957 will be something of a landmark. Throughout centuries and even thousands of years vegetarianism has been known in India as part of a way of life yet once again old traditions that are of eternal value have to be re-emphasized and the time has come once again to remind Indians of the truth of spiritual life. Vegetarian food is not merely food for the body but food for the soul as well. It has always been understood in India that when one wants to take up spiritual life, vegetarian food must replace meat and other carnivorous food. We still find that in India many widows, sannyasis, priests,and others intending to live a spiritual life will take only such food.

Compassion in everyday living has been the teaching and example of India's greatest teachers from Mahavira down to Gandhiji. No teaching can have value unless it is accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of love and compassion to every living creature, human and animal. While still a young prince, the Buddha said:

"For now I know, by what within me stirs,
That I shall teach compassion unto men
And be a speechless world's interpreter,
Abating this accursed flood of woe,
Not man's alone; . . ."

Bhishma says in the Mamabarata that Ahimsa is the highest Dharma. He also said, "Know that discarding of meat is the highest refuge of religion, of heaven and of happiness." Many great teachers of different religions have proclaimed that tenderness and compassion to all living things is the ultimate expression of spiritual life. For me compassion is not an expression of religion but it is a religion in itself.

The modern God is Science, but the science of the mind is insufficient, even dangerous, without the science of the Heart. Fortunately it is possible to combine these two.

In this Congress, that is exactly what we intend to do. Vegetarianism itself is such a combination, for the developed mind and heart both point to the vegetarian way of life, whatever the religion, race or country. This Congress brings together people from all over the world, scientists and humanitarians people of different races, religions and cultures. The International Vegetarian Union has done good work in many countries, and Madame Clarence Gasque its President and great supporters, to be congratulated on the excellent work done so far, and thanked for agreeing to hold this year's Congress in India

There is no intention in such work for vegetarianism to convert unwilling people or force opinions on others; it an educational work, an attempt to make available to all the information which dispels ignorance. Nor is there a sense of superiority. Meat-eating is often due to habit and ignorance. So is there is also a habit among many in India, not a result of understanding; and there is also ignorance displayed in the kind of vegetarian food most people eat. A vegetarian is not necessarily a superior person, but surely a vegetarianism is a superior way of life. We hope that this Congress will be able to bring understanding to the open-minded, particularly the younger generation, and that as more and more people begin to lead a clean life, in body, mind and spirit, India will become a healthier and happier nation, with more and better food for all her citizens. As a result of this Congress, I hope that the Indian Government will come to realize that the encouragement of a balanced vegetarian diet will go a long way in helping to solve problems of health and food scarcity.

Strangely, the West comes to the East, the land of Ahimsa, to help us teach, modern terms, the Eternal Dharma . Whichever way it comes and from whomever it comes, we are grateful, and to each Delegate who comes from far and near I extend my warmest welcome on behalf of the All India Reception Committee. I feel convinced that this Congress will not end at the close of many successful sessions; on the contrary, its influence will expand in space and time and we look to the Congress as the beginning of far-reaching results of permanent value.