|International Vegetarian Union (IVU)|
Vegetarian World Forum
ADDRESS OF WELCOME AT PATNA
THE history and traditions of Bihar can be traced back from the earliest dawn of human civilisation. The inspiring relics of its glorious past can be seen, even to-day, in different parts of the State. This blessed land of saints and seers, which led the ancient world in political as well as cultural and spiritual activities, was the scene of the life-work of two great religious teachers of the world, Gautama Buddha and Vardhamana Mahavira, the founders of Buddhism and Jainism, respectively. The Mahabodhi temple of Bodh Gaya, the venerated Jam shrines of Pawapuri, the excavations of the monastery and the world-renowned University of Nalanda, the remains of Vaisali, "the large city" of the Lichehavi Rulers of the powerful Vajjian Confederacy, which is also the sacred birth-place of Lord Mahavira; the cyclopean walls and the Saptaparni cave of the hill-girt city of Rajgriha, the virtuous land of Mithila, the Kingdom of Rajarshi Janaka, and, above all, the ancient metropolis of Pataliputra (modern Patna), where we are assembled to-day, eloquently remind us of the unique importance of this historic place in the olden days. In fact, the history of India was virtually the history of Bihar for about a thousand years from the 6th century B.C. to the 5th century A.D. It was from this famous city of Pataliputra that the process of political unification was started by Priyadarshi Ashoka with the laudable object of knitting the then civilised world under the Law of Piety.
Apart from its ancient glories, the State of Bihar has had an important role to play even in the modern times. Bihar's contribution to the first struggle for Indian freedom, under the valiant leadership of Sri Kuer Singh, about a century ago, was, indeed, very significant. It was in Champaran, a district of this State, that Mahatma Gandhi, the Father of the Nation, successfully carried on about four decades ago his first Experiment of Truth, i.e., Satyagraha, which ultimately resulted in the attainment of our national independence, thirty years later, under his inspiring and distinguished leadership.
Bihar has also the proud privilege of being the home-State of our revered Rashtrapati, Desharatna Dr. Rajendra Prasaci, who has been closely associated with the vegetarian cult and who was graciously pleased to inaugurate the opening session of this 15th World Vegetarian Congress, at Bombay, about two weeks earlier. As such, we are naturally very happy to have this rare opportunity of welcoming particularly the delegates of this international assemblage hailing from different distant lands, who have very kindly taken the trouble of visiting our humble home, and we are beholden to them for the same.
Coming to the subject-matter of this Congress, which aims at the ideal of propagating "the vegetarian way of life for physical health and true relationship between the human and creative kingdoms-without exploitation and cruelty, and thus to point the way to world harmony and the art of cultured living in peace - so that spiritual growth may become possible," I would like, at the outset, to invite your kind attention to the third discourse of Lord Krishna, contained in his Eternal Song, i.e., the Gita, in the course of which, while dealing with the science of Karma Yoga, the Lord remarked as follows: "from food springs all life; from rain is born food; from sacrifice comes rain and sacrifice is the result of action." Thus, discussing the nature and the spirit of right action, the Lord clearly emphasised the great importance of food for human life. Evidently, therefore, the selection of right type of food for the desired growth and evolution of human life is essential.
DWELLING upon the different kinds of food and its reactions on human life, the Lord uttered in the seventeenth discourse of the Gita as follows: "three-fold is the faith of men, an expression of their nature in each case; it is Sattvika, Rajasa or Tamasa. Sattvika persons worship the gods, Rajasca ones the Yakshas and Rakshasas; and others - men of Tamas - worship manes and spirits."
According to the aforesaid three kinds of men, the Lord also indicated three varieties of food and said as follows: "of three kinds again is the food that is dear to each'; so also are sacrifice, austerity and charity. Hear how they differ. Victuals that add to one's years, vitality, strength, health, happiness and appetite and are savoury, rich, substantial and inviting, are dear to the Sattvika. Victuals that are bitter, sour, salty, over-hot, spicy, dry, burning and causing pain, bitterness and disease, are dear to the Rajasa. Food which has become cold, insipid, putrid, stale, discarded and unfit for sacrifice is dear to the Tamasa."
Following the underlying spirit of the aforesaid classification of food given by Lord Krishna in the Gita, in the modern context, it may well be stated that the distinction between the vegetarian and the non-vegetarian kinds of food broadly resembles the distinction between the Sattvika food on the one hand and the Rajasa and the Tamasa combined on the other.
In other words, the vegetarian food may be considered to be that of the Sattavika variety, which add to one's years, vitality, strength, health and happiness; while the non-vegetarian food should be classed as that of the Rajasa cum Tamasa variety, which is bitter, over-hot, spicy and burning and which causes pain, bitterness, disease, etc. Thus, it is obvious that the essential purpose of food can be served only by the former, viz., the vegetarian food, and not the latter, viz., the non-vegetarian food. I am glad to find that this humble view of mine is being supported by a large number of scientists, doctors and specialists on dietary.
As very appropriately suggested by our accredited national leader and the President of the Indian Union, Deshratna Dr. Rajendra Prasad, in the course of his inaugural, address delivered at the Bombay Session of this Congress, all our ancient sciences and scriptures look upon life as an integrated whole and emphasise the co-ordination of our different activities in such a way as to fit in with the natural process of evolution and uplift of man in all respects. This ideal can be achieved only by adhering strictly to the principle of truth and non-violence, as enunciated and propagated by Gandhiji. It implies also the development of the innate spirit of tolerance for others and true relationship between the human and creature kingdoms. The vegetarian movement is principally based on this noble ideal, and, as such, it deserves universal support.
FROM the point of view of the desired economic and political emancipation of mankind as well, the vegetarian movement is very important. To-day, there is world-wide talk of international unity, and co-operation in different spheres of life and activity, e.g., social, cultural, political and economic, and numerous organised efforts are being made incessantly in the direction, on different fronts. But, it is, indeed, regrettable that a vast majority among the protagonists of the aforesaid world-wide movements and activities do not properly appreciate the basic importance of vegetarianism for the realisation of their respective ideals. In my humble opinion, if the rational philosophy of vegetarianism is adopted by the leaders of political, cultural, social, economic and various such other movements in the world aiming at universal peace, prosperity and happiness, their onerous tasks will be certainly rendered easy.
The noble ideal of Universal Brotherhood, for the attainment of which repeated efforts have been made by man, in different ages, ever since the inception of humanity, also demands that the vegetarian movement should be effectively supported in all the countries of the world and by all the sections of their population. Unless the principle of "live and let live" is followed universally, through the medium of vegetarianism, the desired Universal Brotherhood will remain only a Utopia.
With these observations, I, once again, extend my most cordial welcome, on behalf of the Bihar Reception Committee, and fervently hope that you will generously forgive us for the numerous drawbacks and shortcomings that might have been noticed in our arrangements for your reception. It is my earnest wish and prayer that the deliberations at this session of the Congress may usher in a new era in the life of the people inhabiting this part of the country and, thereby, enable them to emulate the lofty ideal of vegetarianism with the desired success.