Friday, 17 October 2008

Non Vegetarian Food Permitted in Hinduism?

Today i got one doubt whether really hinduism permitted eating non-vegetarian food and yes i found that it indeed permitted.

To be frank as i am a born Brahmin and naturally i donot like eating non-vegetarian food but i donot criticize any one eating non-vegetarian food.

Few Facts about hinduism and especially about food.

I thought this link and also this link are good to know few basics and my points refer to those articles only.

1) What is Hinduism ? When was Hinduism founded ?
The name 'Hinduism' is of a much recent origin, coined by the Greeks and Arabians to refer to the religion of the people living around and to the East of the river Indus. The earliest records of this religion are in the Rig Veda, the oldest known human literature. Some portions of the Rig Veda have been dated to before 6000 BC. This implies that the religion was in vogue atleast a few centuries earlier than that. Hinduism has been gaining increasing popularity due to its high philosophy, broad outlook and non-dogmatic approach. Hinduism is different from many other religions in that it does not have a founder and does not claim exclusivity. It explicitly accepts all religions as valid.

2) How has Hinduism survived for so long ? Is the Hinduism practised today the same as that practiced a few millenia ago ?

Hinduism has stood the test of time much more effectively than any other religion of the world. This is mainly because of its clear separation of the essentials from the non-essentials. Every religion has a few principles, which are independant of the cultural context of the followers, and a few practices which need to vary with time, place and cultural background. Hinduism has clearly separated these two right since its known history. The principles are presented in texts classified as 'Sruthis', which primarily comprise the part of the Vedas called Upanisads. The changable texts are classified as 'Smritis', which include various texts on etiquette, moral and ethical codes of conduct, law and justice. The former form the universal principles and the latter form their culture-dependant implementation. The essential principles of Hinduism are the same as they were concieved of by the sages who lived during the Vedic period. Even the Vedas have come down to the present day unaltered. The Vedas are being chanted even today with the same melody and rhythm as they were chanted during the Vedic age. The social customs and values have changed to cater to the needs and to utilize the means of changing times and culture, without altering the basic principles and goals.

3) Does Hinduism consider monastic life better ?
No. During the course of Indian history, late Buddhism brought in this idea, which led to the downfall of India. The genius of Sri Sankara converted this downfall into the "downfall of Buddhism in India" and put the society back onto the progressive track. Hinduism considers the householders and monastics as two wings of the bird called society. Whether to chose the life of a householder or a monastic depends on the individual temperament. The aim of life - God realization - can be achieved in both the ways of life. Just as there are various duties to various people in the society, the monastics also have their role and duties. The monks are the repositories of religious knowledge and are teachers of religious life. The respect given to their position is a psychological necessity to derive maximum benefit from their knowledge. Also, they are supposed to expressedly and explicitly follow the virtues like service, sacrifice and nobility which the householders are supposed to implicitly follow. This way they are role models for the rest of the society. But this does not mean that the monatic way of life is better than the householders. The same virtues are expected in both.

4) Does Hinduism consider vegetarianism better ?
No. The concept of vegetarianism is recent (less than 2000 years old). The historical accounts recorded in the Ramayana, Mahabharata and the Puranas depict people as non-vegetarian. Hinduism accepts the law of nature that one life is the food for another. However, Hinduism accepts that just as the mind affects the body (you want to lift your hand and your body does it), the body also affects the mind. The food eaten affects the organization and type of thoughts. For example, eating stolen food has been found to make the mind morally weak. Similarly, different types of food cause different effects in the mind. Non-vegetarian diet has been found to cause a condition called "rajotamas" - a mixture of delusion and hyperactivity. This is an undesirable condition for aspirants of God. A vegetarian diet aids control of the mind and religious study. For this reason, modern Hinduism advises a vegetarian diet to most spiritual aspirants.

5) What does Hinduism say about conversion ?
There is no concept of conversion in Hinduism. Hinduism believes in one God. If you read the Bible, you can see expressions like "God of the Egyptians", "God of Israelites", etc. Hinduism does not believe in many Gods like this. Hinduism believes in one God, whom everyone of every religion call by various names and worship in their own way. It is said in the Vedas that "God is one. The wise men call Him by various names." You should note here that the people who call God by various names are called "wise men". In the Bhagavat Gita, it is said that in whatever way a man worships God, God being Omniscient, knows that He is being worshipped and responds to the sincerity of the worshipper. Hinduism accepts diversity of religions and accepts the validity if several paths, and so there is no concept of conversion.
Hinduism cares only about vertical conversion. Hinduism encourages and helps a Christian to be a better Christian and a Muslim to be a better Muslim. Any Hindu saint will ask a Christian to have faith in Christ and go to Church regularly. He will ask a Muslim to have faith in Allah and perform the religious duties ordained in the Koran sincerely. Hinduism does not support horizontal conversion from one faith to another.

Hindus consider claims that "if you do not believe in Christ, you will be doomed" as a disparaging remark on Christ. Christ is a personification of selflessness. His love is unconditional. Putting conditions like this on Him is blasphemy.

6) How is man reborn ? Why do bad things happen to good people ?
According to the doctrine of Karma, every situation we face in life is the result of our past aspirations and actions. Actions are mere expressions of aspirations. Also, they are reflective. To put it crudely, if you wish that a dog should get hit, then it sows seed for you to become a dog and get hit. If you wish and do good to others, you will see all good people around you helping you when you are in need.
During the course of our life, we think and do so many things. Every thought and action has to bear fruit. Some of our thoughts and actions may be such that it is not possible for them to bear fruit in this life itself. This necessitates a subsequent life.

Bad things happen even to people who think and do good in life as the result of their thoughts and action in a previous life. So calamities in life should not discourage a person to sever from the path of virtue.

Now the question is, since we think and do things till the last breath, how is it possible to get out of this cycle of birth and death. The answer is that thoughts and actions are binding only when there is a sense of doership. Actions done for the sake of action, without a sense of reward or doership do not bind, and do not force personal effects.

7) What is the aim of life ?
The aim of life is to realize the freedom of the Self from all limitations. In reality, the Subject - the real Self - is totally free from the apparent bondage and limitations imposed by the mind. The concept of individuality, world and their interaction are all in the mind only and do not affect the real Subject. When the person realizes this, he is no longer subject to sorrow and other psychological problems and inconveniences. His leads life in a very natural and harmonious manner. The aim of life is to achieve this freedom.

8) What is the use of all this theory ?
All this ultimately tells you three things:

The world is only a creation of the mind.
And so is the individuality.
Brahman alone is real, which appears as all these.
From this you need to draw a practical philosophy of living. Otherwise it serves no purpose. This practical philosophy can be based on Jnana or Bhakti, both are the same. Jnana culminates in Bhakti and Bhakti culminates in Jnana.

Basically do all your duties, but be unattached. An easy way to do this is to surrender to God. It is God who has become everything and everything happens by his wish. So everything will be for your good in the long run. Whereever the Lord places you, do whatever is expected of you and do not worry about the results and do not be attached to the doership. Every work is God's work. You are not indispensable. You only a medium through which God gets work done. It is ultimately He doing the work. Take whatever results that come as His prasad. Do not have preferences. If you are given a choice exercise it intelligently, but if you are not given a choice, accept whatever you get. Forget that you are interacting with the world. You are really interacting with God in various forms and roles. Approaching the world with this attitude will not bind you. Also do not take more than you need from the world. The world may thrust wealth in your hand. It is really the Lord's wealth. It has been given to you for proper disimbursement. Look upon yourself as a manager, while the wealth really belongs to God. Put the Lord in the position of an Employer and do every work as an offering to Him. Do not assume ownership of any possessions. Once you start doing this, all the details of this path will fall in their place. The path will become clear as you walk along it with the lantern of Faith in your hands. There is nothing to be anxious about. You have the zeal. You add faith to it. This chemistry will work wonders.

9) Regarding Non-Vegetarian food i found out that Hindu scriptures give permission to have non-vegetarian food

There are many Hindus who are strictly vegetarian. They think it is against their religion to consume non-vegetarian food. But the true fact is that the Hindu scriptures permit a person to have meat. The scriptures mention Hindu sages and saints consuming non-vegetarian food.

It is mentioned in Manu Smruti, the law book of Hindus, in chapter 5 verse 30

"The eater who eats the flesh of those to be eaten does nothing bad, even if he does it day after day, for God himself created some to be eaten and some to be eater."

Again next verse of Manu Smruti, that is, chapter 5 verse 31 says

"Eating meat is right for the sacrifice, this is traditionally known as a rule of the gods."

Further in Manu Smruti chapter 5 verse 39 and 40 says

"God himself created sacrificial animals for sacrifice, ...., therefore killing in a sacrifice is not killing."

Mahabharata Anushashan Parva chapter 88 narrates the discussion between Dharmaraj Yudhishthira and Pitamah Bhishma about what food one should offer to Pitris (ancestors) during the Shraddha (ceremony of dead) to keep them satisfied. Paragraph reads as follows:

"Yudhishthira said, "O thou of great puissance, tell me what that object is which, if dedicated to the Pitiris (dead ancestors), become inexhaustible! What Havi, again, (if offered) lasts for all time? What, indeed, is that which (if presented) becomes eternal?"

"Bhishma said, "Listen to me, O Yudhishthira, what those Havis are which persons conversant with the rituals of the Shraddha (the ceremony of dead) regard as suitable in view of Shraddha and what the fruits are that attach to each. With sesame seeds and rice and barely and Masha and water and roots and fruits, if given at Shraddhas, the pitris, O king, remain gratified for the period of a month. With fishes offered at Shraddhas, the pitris remain gratified for a period of two months. With the mutton they remain gratified for three months and with the hare for four months, with the flesh of the goat for five months, with the bacon (meat of pig) for six months, and with the flesh of birds for seven. With venison obtained from those deer that are called Prishata, they remaingratified for eight months, and with that obtained from the Ruru for nine months, and with the meat of Gavaya for ten months, With the meat of the bufffalo their gratification lasts for eleven months. With beef presented at the Shraddha, their gratification, it is said , lasts for a full year. Payasa mixed with ghee is as much acceptable to the pitris as beef. With the meat of Vadhrinasa (a large bull) the gratification of pitris lasts for twelve years. The flesh of rhinoceros, offered to the pitris on anniversaries of the lunar days on which they died, becomes inexhaustible. The potherb called Kalaska, the petals of kanchana flower, and meat of (red) goat also, thus offered, prove inexhaustible.

So but natural if you want to keep your ancestors satisfied forever, you should serve them the meat of red goat.

Though Hindu Scriptures permit its followers to have non-vegetarian food, many Hindus adopted the vegetarian system because they were influenced by other religions like Jainism.

Certain religions have adopted pure vegetarianism as a dietary law because they are totally against the killing of living creatures. If a person can survive without killing any living creature, I would be the first person to adopt such a way of life. In the past people thought plants were lifeless. Today it is a universal fact that even plants have life. Thus their logic of not killing living creatures is not fulfilled even by being a pure vegetarian.

They further argue that plants cannot feel pain, therefore killing a plant is a lesser crime as compared to killing an animal. Today science tells us that even plants can feel pain. But the cry of the plant cannot be heard by the human being. This is due to the inability of the human ear to hear sounds that are not in the audible range i.e. 20 Hertz to 20,000 Hertz. Anything below and above this range cannot be heard by a human being. A dog can hear up to 40,000 Hertz. Thus there are silent dog whistles that have a frequency of more than 20,000 Hertz and less than 40,000 Hertz. These whistles are only heard by dogs and not by human beings. The dog recognizes the masters whistle and comes to the master. There was research done by a farmer in U.S.A. who invented an instrument which converted the cry of the plant so that it could be heard by human beings. He was able to realize immediately when the plant itself cried for water. Latest researches show that the plants can even feel happy and sad. It can also cry.


cnap389 said...

Nice post prashant. it is interesting that you got doubt whether hinduism permits non-veg food. I think the real question you should be asking is if hinduism permits brahmins to eat non-veg food. becoz non-brahmin hindus have always been eating non-veg and even today we know this is true.

further questions are if brahmins always vegetarians or did they eat non-veg sometime in the past? and if they ate non-veg in the past, why did they stop eating and become vegetarians?

again, your question about hinduism allowing non-veg is irrelevant becoz if hinduism prohibited it, then how can kshatriyas, vysyas and sudras be allowed to eat non-veg? and if hinduism permits it, why are brahmins not allowed to eat non-veg?

- a fellow brahmin

Prashant Jalasutram said...


Thanks for your comments.

I agree with you that my post would have been titled as you suggested.

I believe brahmins in the past in vedic times did eat non-veg food as mentioned in my last question and answer section acc to vedas.

anyhow good that we learned quickly it is wrong from other scriptures and beliefs.


cnap389 said...

hi prashant, i am interested in your conclusion that brahmins were always vegetarian. can you point me to the specific location you mention? can u post the link?

also, if hinduism permits eating non-veg, why brahmins don't follow hinduism? brahmins are part of hinduism, correct?

thanks again for your comments.

Prashant Jalasutram said...


Thanks once again for your comments.

I think we are in little confusion.

I never mentioned that brahmins are always vegetarians in my entire post.Infact i mentioned clearly that people in vedic times did eat non-veg.

I think as i said earlier that may be brahmins were also non-vegetarians but may be we are influenced from janism /buddism etc.

cnap389 said...

thank you prashant for clarifying. i read your comment incorrectly, my mistake. sorry.

so, looks like brahmins converted to vegetarianism influenced by jainism/buddhism. and our scriptures do not explicitly say that brahmins should not eat non-veg.

this means that a brahmin who eats non-veg should not feel he or she is violating the hindu scriptures.

Prashant Jalasutram said...


Good point.

Ideally who ever does not eat cow's meat is following bhagawad gita.

But it is suggested that we should stop eating even other meat though not a compulsion.

BTW,i won't eat any meat :-)

Cnap, somehow we both are sharing same views i feel what do you say?


Mayank said...

just this link for you

abdul saboor Khan said...

hi, nice post dear very informative. do u have any information that non veg food allowed in vedas also. if so let me have the information

Ankit swarankar said...


Anonymous said...

It is said in Manusmruti,

न मांसभक्षणे दोषो न मद्ये न च मैथुने ।
प्रवृत्तिरेषा भूतानां निवृत्तिस्‍तु महाफला ।। - मनुस्‍मृति, अध्‍याय ५, श्‍लोक ५६

Go through the link Prashant. You yourself is a Vaidik Brahmin and blog kind of this is just unexpected. May be this is a influence of the Christian culture in south India and might they taught you people like this. Those who are practicing this evil are today's muslim and Christians. Don't try to confuse people with this kind of blog okay.

jyoaadarsh said...

The Brahmins of Vedic ages ate non-vegetarian food occasionally - sacrifical days
Modern times with so many people around, it looks cruel to kill animals for sacrifice. So they stopped eating non-vegetarian food.
It is harder also to eat non-veg food occasionally than to eat it regularly.
I am a vegetarian, who eats eggs. I have eaten some meat in this lifetime.
With Love!