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Religion and Vegetarianism
How to Win an Argument with a Meat Eater
Satguru Sivaya Subramuniyaswami


9. Scriptures Against Killing and Meat-Eating

Hindu scripture speaks clearly and forcefully on nonkilling and vegetarianism. In the ancient Rig Veda, we read: "O vegetable, be succulent, wholesome, strengthening; and thus, body, be fully grown." The Yajur Veda summarily dictates: "Do not injure the beings living on the earth, in the air and in the water." The beautiful Tirukural, a widely-read 2,000-year-old masterpiece of ethics, speaks of conscience: "When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh of another creature, he must abstain from eating it." The Manu Samhita advises: "Having well considered the origin of flesh and the cruelty of fettering and slaying of corporeal beings, let one entirely abstain from eating flesh." In the yoga-infused verses of the Tirumantiram, warning is given of how meat-eating holds the mind in gross, adharmic states: "The ignoble ones who eat flesh, death's agents bind them fast and push them quick into the fiery jaws of hell (Naraka, lower consciousness)." The roots of noninjury, nonkilling and nonconsumption of meat are found in the Vedas, agamas, Upanishads, Dharma Shastras, Tirumurai, Yoga Sutras and dozens of other sacred texts of Hinduism. Here is a select collection.

Vedas and agamas, Hinduism's Revealed Scriptures

LET YOUR AIMS BE COMMON, and your hearts be of one accord, and all of you be of one mind, so you may live well together.
Rig Veda Samhita 10.191

Protect both our species, two-legged and four-legged. Both food and water for their needs supply. May they with us increase in stature and strength. Save us from hurt all our days, O Powers!
Rig Veda Samhita 10.37.11. VE, 319

One who partakes of human flesh, the flesh of a horse or of another animal, and deprives others of milk by slaughtering cows, O King, if such a fiend does not desist by other means, then you should not hesitate to cut off his head.
Rig Veda Samhita, 10.87.16, FS 90

Peaceful be the earth, peaceful the ether, peaceful heaven, peaceful the waters, peaceful the herbs, peaceful the trees. May all Gods bring me peace. May there be peace through these invocations of peace. With these invocations of peace which appease everything, I render peaceful whatever here is terrible, whatever here is cruel, whatever here is sinful. Let it become auspicious, let everything be beneficial to us.
Atharva Veda Samhita 10. 191. 4

Those noble souls who practice meditation and other yogic ways, who are ever careful about all beings, who protect all animals, are the ones who are actually serious about spiritual practices.
Atharva Veda Samhita 19.48.5. FS, 90

If we have injured space, the earth or heaven, or if we have offended mother or father, from that may Agni, fire of the house, absolve us and guide us safely to the world of goodness.

Atharva Veda Samhita 6.120.1. VE, 636

You must not use your God-given body for killing God's creatures, whether they are human, animal or whatever.
Yajur Veda Samhita 12.32. FS, 90

May all beings look at me with a friendly eye. May I do likewise, and may we all look on each other with the eyes of a friend.
Yajur Veda 36.18.

Nonviolence is all the offerings. Renunciation is the priestly honorarium. The final purification is death. Thus all the Divinities are established in this body.
Krishna Yajur Veda, Prana Upanishad 46-8. VE, 413-14

To the heavens be peace, to the sky and the earth; to the waters be peace, to plants and all trees; to the Gods be peace, to Brahman be peace, to all men be peace, again and again-peace also to me! O earthen vessel, strengthen me. May all beings regard me with friendly eyes! May I look upon all creatures with friendly eyes! With a friend's eye may we regard each other!
Shukla Yajur Veda Samhita 36.17-18. VE, 306; 342

No pain should be caused to any created being or thing.
Devikalottara agama, JAV 69-79. RM, 116

The Mahabharata and Bhagavad Gita, Epic History

The very name of the cows is aghnya, indicating that they should never be slaughtered. Who, then could slay them? Surely, one who kills a cow or a bull commits the most heinous crime.
Mahabharata, Shantiparva 262.47. FS,pg. 94

The purchaser of flesh performs himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing: he who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells or cooks flesh and eats it -all of these are to be considered meat-eaters.
Mahabharata, Anu. 115.40. FS, pg 90

He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures lives in misery in whatever species he may take his birth.
Mahabharata, Anu. 115.47. FS, pg. 90

One should never do that to another which one regards as injurious to one's own self. This, in brief, is the rule of dharma. Yielding to desire and acting differently, one becomes guilty of adharma.
Mahabharata 18.113.8.

Those high-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life, understanding, mental and physical strength and memory should abstain from acts of injury.
Mahabharata 18.115.8.

Ahimsa is the highest dharma. Ahimsa is the best tapas. Ahimsa is the greatest gift. Ahimsa is the highest self-control. Ahimsa is the highest sacrifice. Ahimsa is the highest power. Ahimsa is the highest friend. Ahimsa is the highest truth. Ahimsa is the highest teaching.
Mahabharata 18.116.37-41.

He who sees that the Lord of all is ever the same in all that is-immortal in the field of mortality-he sees the truth. And when a man sees that the God in himself is the same God in all that is, he hurts not himself by hurting others. Then he goes, indeed, to the highest path.
Bhagavad Gita 13. 27-28. BgM, pg. 101

Nonviolence, truth, freedom from anger, renunciation, serenity, aversion to fault-finding, sympathy for all beings, peace from greedy cravings, gentleness, modesty, steadiness, energy, forgiveness, fortitude, purity, a good will, freedom from pride-these belong to a man who is born for heaven.
Bhagavad Gita 16.2-3. BGM, pg. 109

Tirumantiram and other Scriptures

Many are the lovely flowers of worship offered to the Guru, but none lovelier than non-killing. Respect for life is the highest worship, the bright lamp, the sweet garland and unwavering devotion.
Tirumantiram 197

SPIRITUAL MERIT and sin are our own making. The killer of other lives is an outcast. Match your words with your conduct. Steal not, kill not, indulge not in self-praise, condemn not others to their face.
Lingayat Vachanas

AHIMSA IS NOT CAUSING pain to any living being at any time through the actions of one's mind, speech or body. Sandilya UpanishadWhen mindstuff is firmly based in waves of ahimsa, all living beings cease their enmity in the presence of such a person.
Yoga Sutras 2.35. YP, pg. 205

Those who are ignorant of real dharma and, though wicked and haughty, account themselves virtuous, kill animals without any feeling of remorse or fear of punishment. Further, in their next lives, such sinful persons will be eaten by the same creatures they have killed in this world.
Shrimad Bhagavatam 11.5.4. FS, pg, 90

The Tirukural, Preeminent Ethical Scripture

Perhaps nowhere is the principle of nonmeat-eating so fully and eloquently expressed as in the Tirukural, written in the Tamil language by a simple weaver saint in a village near Madras over 2,000 years ago. Considered the world's greatest ethical scripture, it is sworn on in South Indian courts of law.

It is the principle of the pure in heart never to injure others, even when they themselves have been hatefully injured. What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin.
312; 321, TW

Harming others, even enemies who harmed you unprovoked, assures incessant sorrow. The supreme principle is this: never knowingly harm any one at any time in any way.
313; 317, TW

What is the good way? It is the path that reflects on how it may avoid killing any living creature. Refrain from taking precious life from any living being, even to save your own life.
324; 327, TW

How can he practice true compassion Who eats the flesh of an animal to fatten his own flesh?
TK 251, TW

Riches cannot be found in the hands of the thriftless. Nor can compassion be found in the hearts of those who eat meat.
TK 252, TW

Goodness is never one with the minds of these two: one who wields a weapon and one who feasts on a creature's flesh.
TK 253, TW

If you ask, "What is kindness and what is unkind?" it is not killing and killing. Thus, eating flesh is never virtuous.
TK 254, TW

Life is perpetuated by not eating meat.The clenched jaws of hell hold those who do.
TK 255, TW

If the world did not purchase and consume meat, there would be none to slaughter and offer meat for sale.
TK 256, TW

When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh of another creature, he must abstain from eating it.
TK 257, TW

Perceptive souls who have abandoned passion will not feed on flesh abandoned by life.
TK 258, TW

Greater than a thousand ghee offerings consumed in sacrificial fires is to not sacrifice and consume any living creature.
TK 259, TW

All that lives will press palms together in prayerful adoration of those who refuse to slaughter and savor meat.
TK 260, TW

How to Win an Argument with a Meat Eater -Index