Hindus and Meat

Hindus and Meat

Radhika Sekar has a PhD in religious studies and taught Hinduism at Carleton University. She is a disciple of the Sri Ramakrishna Mission and this article on Hindus and Meat is in answer to the question “Is it a virtue not to eat meat?”

There are many reasons why Hindus would refrain from eating meat. Orthodox Hindus view meat, fish, eggs, onions and garlic as profane foods, i.e., ritually impure, and therefore unacceptable as religious offering, except in certain Tantric rites.

Thus meats are not permitted on temple premises or at religious functions, and the orthodox, especially officiating priests, shun them. Many meat eaters abstain from these foods at least once a week as a religious discipline.

You are what you eat! Certain emotions are linked to various foods and meat is believed to stimulate rajasic (passion, restlessness) and tamasic (indolent) tendencies. Thus those seeking mental serenity avoid meat. Some give up meat for health reasons.

Then there is the appeal of nonviolence. Ahimsa (non-violence) is an important tenet of Indian religions (Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism), and the killing of animals and the eating of meat is somewhat contrary to this.

Yet, except for Jainism, these faiths do not expressly forbid eating meat. The Buddha deemed it acceptable to eat meat so long as animals are not slaughtered specifically to feed the eater. And surprisingly, Swami Vivekananda admitted to enjoying meat and advocated it for those involved in manual activity.

Mahatma Gandhi regarded the killing of animals for food as immoral. However, he emphasized that religious merit should not be summed up in terms of diet. Vegetarianism should, he said, be a conscious ethical choice and not mere adherence to culture or tradition.

Thus it seems that while not eating meat has merit, vegetarianism is not virtuous unless it is morally inspired and progresses towards compassion and non-violence in all spheres of activity, physical, vocal and mental, towards all Gods creatures.

Religious Opinion

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