|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
On the religious or the spiritual plane vegetarianism
represents the cult of non-violence based on renunciation of hurting
or killing even the humblest of God's creatures. It takes a form of
sacrifice for, or dedication to, the welfare and safety of the weak
and the defenceless elements of creation.
On the scientific plane, vegetarianism represents the
best form of human diet, being fully nutritious, non-toxic, and non-stimulant.
It ensures true health of the body and the mind, imparting to the former
the qualities of freshness, lightness, and endurance, and to the latter
the qualities of tranquility and control over the animal passions, ferocity,
fear, hatred, and cruelty.
These apparently distinctive and different planes, when
closely studied, will be found to be merging into each other. Actually,
so far as vegetarianism is concerned, the spiritual and the scientific
values are inter-dependent. In fact, they become identical.
Once a person dedicates himself to cause for the benefit
of others he sheds all cowardice and develops infinite courage, for
it is only the concern for one's own self that makes a person cowardly
or cruel. In the final analysis all cowardice and cruelty arise from
selfishness. It is very difficult for a coward or a tyrant to undergo
any suffering personally. But an individual, whose love flows for others
only, and not for himself, can undergo infinite suffering without turning
a hair. Therein lay the secret of Gandhiji's great spiritual strength.
Only a person so completely dedicated
It is not a matter of chance or coincidence that all such
men of courage, love and peace have avoided killing instinctively. They
refused to kill men and animals alike. For, once the seed of violence
is sown, involving even the most insignificant of creatures, it has
a habit to grow and take in its sweep all forms of life, including man
It is an irony that this aspect has not been fully grasped by the dominant nations who hold the future destiny of the world in their hands, with the result that, in spite of recording spectacular advances in technical and scientific knowledge, the world is no nearer peace, security, and happiness than it was in the days of Taimurlane and Changezkhan, or, more recently, in the days of the Nazis.
When we compare the man of today with the primitive caveman,
one fact emerges clearly that, through the millennia of his existence,
man has completely failed to change his basic passions: love and hatred,
generosity and greed. compassion and
In the chaotic interplay of turbulent forces of unconquerable hatred, the modern world, armed with scientific devices of unprecedented range and power, trembles helplessly on the brink of universal annihilation. The knowledge is there, but the corresponding wisdom and tolerance are lacking.
Just as a sword is a dangerous weapon in the hands of the madman or the brute but a source of security and protection in the hands of the brave and the compassionate knowledge is a blessing in the hands of the tolerant and the wise, and a weapon of destruction in the hands of the intolerant and the unwise.
It is obvious that finally true civilization shall not consist of mere improvement in the means of satisfying our passions and urges but in an improvement in the passions themselves. We have not been able to conquer fear and hate. We are not even on our way to do it. The hatred of the Nazis against the Jews as exemplified by the reported atrocities in Belsen, to mention only what is over, as I would like to avoid specific references to racial, colonial, and political suppressions and atrocities of our times, studied at close quarters, shall be found to be running a close parallel to the most cruel depredations of the barbarians of the earlier age.
In the study of the habits of the people whose hand has suppressed, maimed, and killed masses of humanity, one thing clearly stands out: it was never a hoard of vegetarians that carried death and destruction before it. There is only one instance of a great fight in recent times, by the non-killers, the one that Gandhiji and his followers fought against the foreign domination of India. There was hardly any bloodshed. The subject nations which are resorting to dynamiting, ambushing, or killing of their tormentors, howsoever justified their anger and their actions may be, have not demonstrated any greater success than Gandhiji has achieved. And what is extremely significant and important, the goodwill existing between India and England which is a great asset for world peace, is to a considerable extent a direct result of Gandhiji's non-violent approach to the question of Indian Independence. Such is the power which lies behind compassion and non-killing.
The salvation of humanity lies only in one direction.
If it is ever to have peace and security and undisturbed happiness within
its reach, it must cultivate compassion and universal love and abjure
hatred and violence. There are only two means to achieve it (1) a voluntary
abandonment of cruelty and killing of all sorts and (2) taking to a
diet which promotes these qualities, i.e., vegetarianism, Without adopting
these two essentials the march of civilization towards peace. prosperity,
and happiness is destined to end in failure.
In fact it is impossible to separate the two subjects
of compassion for the living creatures and vegetarianism, as in reality
they are complementary to each other. One is not possible without the
other. The question of diet. on a totally unemotional, totally non-religious,
and a strictly scientific front also requires that a man in the interests
of endurance and longevity, should avoid toxic and stimulant diet. We
have come out of the era of that prolonged and primitive disbelief,
in body-mind relationship which held sway among the scientists during
the 18th and the 19th centuries. Today, the ancient Ayurvedic concept
of psycho-somatic relationship has not only been fully recognized but
is holding an important place in the medical and the psycho-analytical
literature of the day. The great experiment of the division of humanity
into various types, another modern echo of the ancient tri-doshic
division of human constitution, is proceeding under Dr. Sheldon at the
Harvard University, It is only a matter of time before the articles
of diet also receive their proper study and are finally divided into
Sattvika, Rajasika and Tamasika categories. With the scientific approach
to the various types of dietary in its relation to unleashing or controlling
of the more anti-social of human passions, there will be a greater appreciation
of the Ayurvedic vegetarian approach to the building up of not only
a healthy, and enduring body but a truly healthy, intelligent, and compassionate
mind which would help the world to rid itself of the insecurity and
fear by which it is gripped at present.
In the ancient test of Susruta which was written about 3,000 years ago, there is a particular admonition to the physician that he should not treat and cure sinners and killers as, by letting them die, he will actually be protecting a much larger number of much better people from being killed by them. I cannot say how far we should accept this direction. But it should be borne in mind that this is a direction by people whose chief motto is expressed in the following test :
"Of all the gifts, the gift of life excels all."
Before I close I wish to say that it will be a form of violence in itself to violently criticize the people who do not held our views. But it must be stated that, considering everything unselfishly, humanely and even strictly scientifically, it is clear that the man, the higher man, is intended by nature to be a vegetarian and a nonkiller, and, if the non-vegetarian elements of the human race do not finish this world in the near future (1966 is the year fixed by the scientists of the two blocs for global war with the clean hydrogen bomb), and let humanity survive long enough to reach the higher goal, he is bound to progress towards peace and happiness as a member of a race of vegetarians and non-killers, a race of long-lived, healthy, loving and compassionate people.