|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
From The Vegetarian, Jan-Feb, 1958:
Welcome Address by Rukmini Devi Arundale M.P.
History is being made in India on this auspicious day when the first President of the Indian Republic, Dr. Rajendra Prasad, is inaugurating the first World Vegetarian Congress to be held in India. I cannot think of a greater occasion nor of a more appropriate person to inaugurate this Congress. Dr. Rajendra Prasad has been a vegetarian all his life and is a true representative of the ideal of Ahimsa, which is so vital a part of this country's tradition, preached and practised by our greatest Teachers such as the Buddha, Mahavira, Guru Nanak and others. He has also lived and worked in close association with Gandhiji who declared many times that he would rather die than promote his well-being through cruelty to any living creature. Therefore, he is supremely fitted to perform the function he is doing this evening. On behalf of the All India Reception Committee, and on my own behalf, I warmly and gratefully welcome him in our midst. I pray that the work begun today will bear fruit and will be far-reaching in its effects on this country and on the world. It gives me great pleasure to thank him for his graciousness and for accepting our invitation to inaugurate this Fifteenth World Vegetarian Congress.
Our warmest welcome is offered to the President of the Congress, Madame Clarence Gasque. She is the President of the International Vegetarian Union and it is due to her encouragement and enthusiasm that this Congress as well as similar Congresses in the past have been made possible. Under her direction, the International Vegetarian Union has been giving magnificent service to the world. I am fortunate in having known her for many years and I know she combines the rare virtues of compassion and generosity. In her acceptance of the ideal of brotherhood she includes not only human beings but also the animal kingdom. This has inspired her to give support and leadership to a cause which is the real founda-tion of health and happiness for all. It is difficult to express in words our gratitude to her for taking so much trouble to guide the work of the Congress and for coming such a long way to preside on this occasion. India welcomes her and it is our hope that she will visit this country often as we consider this Congress to be only the beginning of greater work to follow.
I welcome most heartily, the delegates who have come from so many countries. They come to this land like messengers of peace. Today in India, we wait to hear, in new terms and in new languages, what our sages, saints and teachers have taught through the centuries. As this teaching spread far and wide in many lands in the past, so does it now find its way back to us through our friends from abroad. We are indeed fortunate to receive such distinguished persons, many of whom have sacrificed so much for this cause. We in India are accustomed to vegetarians and vegetarianism and little realize the pioneering, uphill work which is the portion of vegetarian workers in the West. I can only say to them that there are many here who have been eagerly awaiting their visit so that together we can bring to modern India a realization of the superiority of vegetarianism as a way of life as well as of its many advantages. For this reason and in order to further this cause everywhere, delegates have also gathered here from all parts of India and I welcome each one of them. I look forward to splendid sessions of useful work together.
My welcome goes out equally to the numerous visitors who have come to listen to our deliberations. With the support of all who are assembled here, I hope active work will be undertaken to continue what we have begun today.
Questions have been asked as to the necessity of having a Congress such as this in India where vegetarianism is a well estab-lished way of life. It is true that some millions of our people do not eat meat. We have a larger proportion of vegetarians to the population in this country than anywhere else in the world. It is also true that our great Teachers as well as the ordinary men have accepted the superiority of vegetarianism to all other methods of supporting life. Therefore, we should be in a position to teach rather than be taught. Yet, strangely enough, at the present moment, we need friends from afar to help us to re-discover our ancient ideals and to put them into practice with a greater convic-tion and knowledge than ever before. In the recent past, India has had a system of education alien to this country providing a definite break with our old traditions. As a result of this, a large number of people, especially among the young, even in families hereditarily vegetarian, do not know why they are vegetarians. Many of them consider it to be an outworn habit, born of an old-fashioned super-stition. This lack of knowledge and proper education, whether in the home or in the schools, has led to a new materialistic attitude that is spreading all over India. In trying to keep in line with the rest of the world, we have come to believe that only by copying the Western outlook and by accepting Western scientific concepts can India achieve a place of distinction in a highly competitive world. Indians who bold such a belief have yet to discover that there are great pioneers in all countries, in all fields of thought, including science and medicine, who are presenting a new way based on harmlessness.
I am specially glad that among our delegates are many outstand-ing
doctors and dieticians, for we need to know not only "why vegetarianism",
but what is right vegetarianism. Our ancient systems of medicine such
as Ayurveda taught right diet and the women of earlier generations had
a very good knowledge of food values. Today, that knowledge stands in
danger of being lost and even if we eat food that is not the product
of the cruelty of slaughter, we still do not eat healthy food. This
has added strength to the arguments of the meat-eater that vegetarian
food does not give strength. Therefore they argue, meat-eating must
be promoted. and more people are finding it necessary to take injections,
swallow vitamin pills and to find cures for ailments in pharmacies rather
than in the gardens and in the kitchens as our grandmothers This is
the trend to-day in India and I am certain that only a scientific understanding
of nutrition based both on Western and Eastern knowledge will save the
health of our people. In this context, it is deeply distressing to read
I hope, as a result of this Congress, Government itself will be convinced of the necessity of promoting vegetarian diet at least from the nutritional and economic point of view, if not for humanitarian reasons, though I believe that the Government of a people who call Gandhiji the Father of the Nation should be happy to govern in the light shed by his principles. Two of our greatest leaders, Dr. Annie Besant, who was my own Guru, and Gandhiji, were of the opinion that they would rather not live than kill an animal, bird or fish for food.
Surely, the highest ideal in life is to avoid giving pain. By living unselfishly, we sow everywhere, the seeds of unselfishness and generosity. It is selfishness alone that brings suffering to other creatures and to ourselves. It is selfishness that is the root cause of war and the written treaties of peace that are signed are abrogated when selfishness and cruelty are allowed to dominate civil life. With the very food we eat, we can build up the strength of our bodies and equally build a peace that will be sustained by a belief in and a practice of harmlessness. India's voice carries strength in the Assembly of Nations because she stands for a policy of non-violence. But India's non-violence must not only be a policy we advocate as between nations, it must be a policy dictated and directed by the everyday life we lead in our homes as a people. The food we eat, the many medicines we take orally or by injection directly involve us in the slaughter that goes on daily for our sakes. All creatures try to protect themselves, for life is precious to all and though we do not see their tears or hear their cry, the very atmosphere around us is saturated with the pain and agony of other kingdoms of Nature. The only remedy we can offer is to live as harmlessly as we can. Perhaps, we cannot avoid giving pain altogether so long as we are born on the earth. But the amount of suffering we inflict can be reduced a thousandfold. Even so-called humane slaughter can never be humane because every creature is sensitive to its doom. It knows when its best friend, who has fed it, petted it and loved it, finally betrays its confidence and sells it to a butcher. At best, humane slaughter can only be the last resort of the humanitarian who recog-nizes that as long as there is this massacre, it would be well to make it as painless as possible.
Even the vegetarian depends too much on animals for milk, butter, ghee and other diary products. Often the cow that gives milk and, most certainly, the bull, end up in the slaughter house I hope, therefore, this Congress will help India to discover other nutriment that will have the same value as milk products. If breeding is allowed on a mass scale, the slaughter house becomes an inevitable concomitant. All these interrelated questions present us with a vast problem, but if the heart and willingness are there, all problems are easily solved. I pray that the voices of the Great which have rung down the ages in our country will once again be heard by the people and that our hearts will be moved to live more purely, simply and cleanly. The demands of science and what is called scientific Progress bid fair to destroy in us all our finer sensibilities. When one reads of the animals that are to be sent up in the next satellite that will invade space to circle our globe and of the monkeys that are being shot up into the stratosphere in rockets, it is obvious that this direction which applied science has taken can never play a part in building a lasting peace, because it stultifies those sentiments in the human heart on the basis of which alone such a peace can be built. Peace cannot result from callousness nor can love come from hate. Only the higher science of love can produce men and women of compassion who will unite the nations of the world. With my whole heart I pray for the Blessing of the Saviours of humanity so that They may find in this Congress the first few rain drops that will nourish this land and the world with Their compassion and wisdom.
With this hope we have planned this Congress so that it holds sessions not only in one place but also in other cities in this vast country. I also wish to say that this Congress is not the work of any religious group. It is composed of people belonging to all religions and even to no religion at all who believe in vegetarianism. Distinguished men and women belonging to all religions are taking part in its proceedings. The conscience of the world is more awake today than it has ever been and is more unified. What was practice confined to one area in the past is now a matter for universal exami-nation, acceptance or rejection. Vegetarianism is such a practice the conscience of humanity everywhere is becoming aware of essential reasonableness. Everywhere, man is beginning to see senseless cruelty in slaughter, irrespective of his religion or country.
We have chosen Bombay, Delhi, Benares, Patna, Calcutta and Madras for holding the sessions of the Congress. In each city, influential Reception Committees have been formed and we are fortunate that persons of such distinction as Sirdar Mohan Singh in Delhi, the Maharaja of Kasi in Banaras, Sri Jagat Narain Lal, Minister of Animal Husbandry in Patna, Sri Shanti Prasad Jain in Calcutta and and Sri M. Bhaktavatsalam, Home Minister in Madras have agreed to become Chairmen of the Reception Committees in their cities and have taken enthusiastic interest in the work. Eminent Indians such as Sri C. Rajagopalachari, Dr. C. P. Ramaswami Aiyar, His Highness Sri Jayachamaraja Wodeyar of Mysore, Shri Sri Prakasa, Sri Morarji Desai and Sri Anantasayanam Ayyangar are taking active part in the various sessions. I cannot thank them sufficiently nor can I be grateful enough to those who have become Patrons of the Congress thus investing it with the strength of their approval and support. I would like to thank each one of them by name:
Dr. Rajendra Prasad, President, Union of India; Dr. S. Radha-krishnan,
Vice-President, Union of India; Sri C. Rajagopalachari; Ex-Governor
General of India; Shri Sri Prakasa, Governor of Bombay; H. H. Sri Jayachamaraja
Wodeyar, Governor of Mysore,
In order to mark this great event we have published a Souvenir volume to which I would like to draw your attention. An editorial board including eminent writers headed by Sri S. R. Venkataraman of the Servants of India Society, ably assisted by Srimati A. P. Siitaa Devii, has been responsible for this volume. It spite of great handicaps, the Souvenir has been a magnificent piece of work. It contains articles from eminent personages like the Prime Minister of Burma, and I wish to thank all the distinguished contributors who have sent us articles.
Exhibitions of educative value are being arranged in centres. I am deeply grateful to all the committees for the splendid work they have been doing. I must specially thank Srimati Lilavathi Munshi and the All India Women's Food Council and Dr Subra-maniam of the National Food Research Laboratory, Mysore, who have given so much help in this connection. In each centre, the organizers and their staff have had work to do beyond their strength and only their devotion to the cause has made it possible for them to do it.
Finally, I am unable to find words sufficient to express my gratitude to all my colleagues of the All India Reception Committee. Sri Jayantilal Mankar has untiringly travelled many times through-out India, organizing committees, smoothing out difficulties and collecting funds from the beginning of the year. Without him, this Congress in India would not have been possible. Sri Dasturji Bode has run the office of the All India Committee efficiently and has made it possible for us to have so many delegates from abroad. He and his wife started this work from their office in Los Angeles and immediately after returning to India took charge of this office. I can equally say that without him also none of this stupendous work may have been possible. My hope is that all will go well for the duration of the Congress and that every delegate will feel it has been worth his or her while to come all this way in order to participate in the Congress. I know they will forgive any small inconveniences that may occur in spite of our best efforts and I pray they may be given strength to go through the very strenuous programme ahead.
I must now close this address with a thankful heart that such a great event takes place in India. It must be understood that these Congresses are not arranged with a view to convert but to convince. They are not actuated by a superior attitude nor by a feeling that all vegetarians are superior beings. I know that many meat-eaters are Kind, indeed more kind than many vegetarians; but I am also convinced that while a vegetarian is not necessarily a better person, vegetarianism is a better way of life in every possible respect. This Congress has taken the support of many non-vegetarians who are sympathetic to our objects. It is planned to educate and re-educate the citizens of India to live a life, spiritually, morally and physically than one which involves the slaughter of creatures. The visit of great experts and the exhibitions will show how it is possible to live according to our ideals of non-violence providing at the same time for the citizens of this country, food which has a better nutrition-al value. It is an act of service to humanity everywhere, to our own motherland and to the citizens of other kingdoms of Nature. It is therefore, offered and dedicated to the Highest, in humility, reverence and love so that Brotherhood may once again reign supreme in the world.