Vegetarianism and Religion

Many people in the world become vegetarian for a variety of reasons. One major reason people lead a vegetarian lifestyle is due to their religious practices. A variety of religious scriptures around the world preach that in order to live a happy life and come closer to God, a non-meat diet is a must. Some spiritual paths, like Buddhism, are more commonly recognized as preaching and practicing vegetarianism, than, for example,.Christianity, but nevertheless, the instructions to refrain from eating meat can be found in many different scriptures.

In Christianity, for example, it is often advertised that some “Christian” organizations are putting on a free sausage-sizzle and frying up flesh on a barbecue. But is this actual Christianity? Is it following the teachings and instructions laid down in the Holy Bible? Well, the most obvious quote in the Bible is “Thou shalt not kill.” This is a pretty straight forward teaching, however, many so-called Christians believe this only refers to not killing humans. In fact, some so-called Christians want to change this quote to “Thou shalt not murder,” changing the word of God to suit their own lusty desires for blood. So does this phrase refer to all creatures or just to humans? Well, in the original text of the Old Testament (Hebrew), this phrase is ‘lo tirtzach.’ In classical Hebrew, the word ‘tirtzach’ refers to the killing of all flesh, not just human beings. ‘Zach’ means flesh; ‘tirt’ means non-kill or not to kill and ‘lo’ means man in the plural sense (thou). So the original Hebrew texts in the Ten Commandments is ‘lo titrzach’, “Thou shalt not kill.”

In Genesis (1:29), it is stated by God, “Behold! I have given you every herb-bearing tree, with the fruit of the tree and the tree yielding seed, to you it shall be for meat.” Also in Genesis (9:4) it is stated “But flesh with the life thereof, which is the blood thereof, shall ye not eat.” Further, it is stated in Romans (14:20-21, 23), “Do not destroy God’s creatures for the sake of food. It is not good to either eat meat or drink wine or do anything else to offendeth God’s creatures or make them weak or cause them to stumble. And he that eatith is damned because he eatith not in the faith of God, but verily he eatith only sin.”

More references in the Holy Bible to abstaining from meat are found in Leviticus 3:17, where it is stated “It shall be a perpetual statute for your generations throughout all your dwellings, that ye eat neither fat nor blood.” Also found in Leviticus (7:23), “. . . Ye shall eat no manner of fat, of ox, or of sheep, or of goat” and “Therefore I said unto the children of Israel No soul of you shall eat blood, neither shall any stranger that sojourneth among you eat blood” (17:12). Acts (15:28-29), also refer to avoiding flesh: “For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay you no greater burden than these necessary things, that ye abstain from meat offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled and from fornication: from which if you keep yourselves, ye shall do well. Fare ye well.”

Despite these scriptural teachings, many so-called Christians will try and tell us “Well Jesus ate meat,” but this is not a fact. A close analysis of the original Greek manuscripts of the New Testament shows the words translated as ‘meat’ are ‘trophe brone,’ which simply means food or nourishment, or eating in the broadest sense. Another example of poor translation of the Bible is in the Gospel of Saint Luke (8:55), in which we read that Jesus raised a woman from the dead and commanded that she be given meat. But in the original Greek text of this verse the word ‘phago’ is used which means only ‘to eat.’
There are other words in the Bible which are translated as being meat, which actually have no reference to meat. ‘Broma’ appears four times in the Bible and is translated as being meat, but in Greek actually just means ‘food.’ Similarly, ‘Brosis’ appears four times in the Bible and is translated as being meat, but actually means ‘the act of eating food’; ‘Brosimas’ appears once and is translated as being meat, but actually means ‘that which may be eaten.’ ‘Prosphagon’ appears once also and is similarly translated as meaning meat, but actually means ‘anything to eat.’ The Greek word for meat is ‘kreas,’ which means ‘flesh’ and is never used in connection with Christ.

Before Jesus Christ appeared in this world, the Prophet Isaiah said, “Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Emmanuel (Jesus’ birth name). Butter and honey (no body parts!) shall he eat so that man may know to refuse the evil and choose the good.” The Prophet Isaiah also stated (Isaiah 66:3), “He that killeth an ox is as if he slew a man; he that sacrificeth a lamb, as if he cut off a dog’s neck.”

In Buddhism, a very similar statement to the one above can be found in Lord Buddha’s teachings. In the Lankavatara sutra, Buddha is quoted as saying, “If there was no-one eating meat, then no killing would happen. So eating meat and killing living beings are of the same sin.” The first of Buddhism’s Ten Precepts is, “Refrain from destroying life.” Some people who call themselves Buddhists do eat meat however, saying that they are taking the middle path, that they are not extremists. They may eat meat if it is given to them when begging for food, saying that it is okay to eat as long as the animal was not killed especially for them. Is this correct though? Is this living as an actual Buddhist, a follower of Lord Buddha’s teachings? This same scenario can be found in the Mahatarinirvana sutra, where there is a conversation between one of Lord Buddha’s followers, Mahakasyata, and Lord Buddha Himself. Mahakasyata asked Buddha: “When we beg and are given vegetables mixed with meat, can we eat this food? How can we clean this food?” Buddha replied: “One should clean it with water and separate the vegetables from the meat, then one can eat it.” So it is obvious from the teachings of Lord Buddha that eating meat is not acceptable, even if it is obtained from begging.

If we now take a look at ancient Vedic scriptures, we find in the Bhagavad Gita (“The Song of God”), the Lord states that nonviolence, compassion for all living entities and gentleness are transcendental qualities that belong to godly men endowed with divine nature (BG 16.1). The Lord, Sri Krishna, also states “If one offers me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, a fruit or water, I will accept it” (BG 9.26). He does not say, “if one offers me a blood-drenched piece of rotting corpse I’ll think it’s the best thing in the world.”

In the Mahabharata, we find the following verse, “Those who kill and eat cows will rot in hell for as many years as there are hairs on the slaughtered cow.” We also find in the Mahabharata, “What greater cruelty and selfishness than to increase the flesh of one’s body by eating the flesh of innocent creatures?”

So in order to develop spiritually and come closer to God, mankind must avoid eating the flesh of other living creatures. The Supreme Lord lets us know why He does not like us to sacrifice other living creatures for the sake of tasting blood. God states in the Bhagavad Gita, “It is to be understood that all species of life, O son of Kunti, are made possible by birth in this material nature, and that I am the seed-giving father.” (BG 14.14). So, as the father of all living beings (not just humans), God does not like to see any of his children suffer. The goal of life is to be pleasing to our Father. How pleased would you be if your eldest son slit the throat of his little brother and drank his blood? You wouldn’t be very pleased I’m sure. So does this mean all living creatures are of the same essence? Is there no essential difference between a living being embodied in the form of a human and a living being embodied in the form of a cow or a chicken? The Supreme Lord, in the Bhagavad Gita, states that it is possible for a person to leave the human form (at death) and take birth in the animal kingdom: “When one dies in the mode of goodness, he attains to the pure higher planets of the great sages. When one dies in the mode of passion, he takes birth among those engaged in furtive activities; and when one dies in the mode of ignorance, he takes his birth in the animal kingdom” (BG 14.14-15). So what foodstuffs can lead one to live in the mode of ignorance? “Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness” (BG 17.10). Sounds like a typical butchers shop.

In so many ways, the Supreme Father of all living beings lets us know, either personally or via His representatives, that eating the flesh of animals is not pleasing to Him. How is it possible for any of us, who are minute sparks or children of the Lord, to be truly happy if we are displeasing to Him? Even if you are not convinced that it is wrong to be indulging in eating flesh, or may not even be aware that God really exists, it will still do you no harm to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. In fact, it will benefit you in many ways spiritually, physically and mentally. And of course the Supreme Lord will be pleased with you, and I have no doubt His children in the form of cows, pigs, fish, chickens, goats, etc. will also very much appreciate your change to a compassionate and caring lifestyle.

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