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


THE UNlTY OF THE SPIRITUAL AND THE SCIENTIFIC VALUES IN VEGETARIANISM
By Vaidya Ratna Pandit Shiv Sharma, Bombay

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
as he was, or his true followers, could bear the untold sufferings at the hands of their persecutors and still refuse to hate them, and continue to offer them only their
love in return.

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 himself.

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
cruelty. The only changes, call them progress if you like, have occurred in the means of satisfying them. Thus where the cave man contented himself by bashing the head of the man he hated, with his wooden club, his modern counterpart can kill him at a distance by just pressing a trigger of a neat little automatic firearm which he can carry in a small pocket of his family tailored suit. If this hatred is to be appeased on a gigantic scale, the whole community of the hated people can be wiped out by dropping a hydrogen bomb from a safe distance in the skies from a super-bomber, constituting the pride of modern scientific achievement. The primitive man courted his mate in the jungle under the sole protection of the shade of a tree or the roof of a cave. The modern man can take his mate high above the earth in a streamlined luxury airliner flying from one continent to another in a matter of hours. But all these changes are strictly confined to the means of satisfying human passions and urges. There has been no change whatsoever in the nature or the intensity of the basic passions themselves.

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.