The practice of vegetarianism for spiritual and ethical reasons originates in Hinduism – the world’s oldest religion – where it is viewed as a fundamental and important. But what are some of the reasons for vegetarianism and the avoidance of meat eating being esteemed so highly by the Hindu religion, just as it also is by all the Indian religions?
Hinduism believes and teaches that all life is sacred, all life is precious, all life is divine. All life is the ONE Life and this One Life, this One Reality, called God or Brahman, is all and in all. So what gives us the right to take life and to snuff out the life of another living being, especially when there is absolutely no legitimate need to do so seeing as human beings can survive perfectly well and healthily without the consumption of meat? Non-duality and universal oneness is the very foundation of Hinduism and a person can hardly be considered to genuinely believe in the Oneness of all Life if they are happy for living beings to be slaughtered on their behalf just so they can satisfy their unnecessary appetites. The mass slaughter (“mass murder” would be equally as valid a phrase) of millions upon millions of animals every single day, in order that human beings can feast on their corpses, adds to the suffering of the world and the Karma of humanity in ways we can hardly imagine.
* “AHIMSA PARAMO DHARMA”
This Sanskrit phrase, which is considered to be the central value and spiritual/ethical/moral standpoint of Hinduism, translates as “The highest religion, the ultimate law of our being, is harmlessness.” Ahimsa means harmlessness, compassion, non-violence and non-aggression in thought, word, or deed. Hindus aim to live their lives consciously and harmlessly, ensuring that they never cause harm, hurt, or injury of any kind to any living being. This attitude of harmlessness and reverence towards all life is born out of the belief, mentioned above, in the absolute ONENESS of all life and the knowledge that every time we hurt another or cause another to be hurt, we are hurting ourselves and hurting the whole.
* THE ANIMALS OF TODAY ARE THE HUMANS OF THE FUTURE
Hinduism, along with other Indian religions such as Buddhism and Jainism, believed in and taught evolution thousands of years before Darwin came along but with one important difference, namely that the most important aspect of evolution is not the evolution of the outer material form but the constant gradual progression, development, and advancement of the inner life entity through a long series of changing physical forms and experiences, eventually working its way up to the human kingdom and beyond. In other words, inner evolution is much more important than outer evolution because ultimately only the inner is the real. In light of this belief, it stands to reason that we are interrupting and interfering with the evolution of an “inner life entity” – an inner spiritual being, a “divine spark,” a spark of the Divine, which will one day gain a human soul and embark upon a long journey of life in the human kingdom – when we kill an animal and cause its life to be ended prematurely. Who are we to do such a thing?
* MEAT EATING IS A HINDRANCE TO GREATER SPIRITUAL PROGRESS
The great spiritual Teachers and spiritual Masters of Hinduism have always taught that the consumption of meat has a deadening, heavying, detrimental effect on the inner system and spiritual capabilities of man and also that alcohol has the same effect, which is one reason why many Hindus also refrain from drinking alcohol. Not only do the “vibrations” of the fear and suffering of the slaughtered animal enter into our own system through its flesh but the consumption of meat has the effect of keeping many of our spiritual faculties “locked up” and unable to even begin to function, due to the impurity and pollution of our system from eating corpses, which is exactly what meat eating is. Not only do we need to be living our lives focussed and established in ahimsa if we want to be developing and advancing spiritually but we should also be living as purely, cleanly, and healthily as possible. Hinduism divides food into three main categories or types reflecting the Three Gunas which are the three inherent qualities and attributes in manifested Nature.
The Guna called Sattva, symbolised by the colour white, is the quality of spirituality, light, truth, desirelessness, wisdom and calm.
The Guna called Rajas, symbolised by the colour red, is the intermediate quality of worldliness, passion, desire, ambition and action.
The Guna called Tamas, symbolised by the colour black, is the quality of evil, darkness, inertia, indifference, ignorance and laziness.
Hindu scriptures teach that meat is tamasic food and has a tamasic effect on us, or at best rajasic, but certainly never sattvic. There comes a point in all of our lives where we have to give up meat and alcohol once and for all, if we are serious about wanting to continue making spiritual progress. Many who do so find that their spiritual life takes on a greater, more meaningful, more beautiful dimension than ever before.
There are of course a very small proportion of people who do have to eat meat due to medical reasons and who would literally not survive on a purely vegetarian diet. This is rare but it does happen and, as in all situations, Hinduism takes everything into account and never judges anyone about anything. Those who can be vegetarian, however, (and 95% of people can be) are encouraged in Hinduism to do so, for the reasons we’ve outlined here.
Source: Bliss of Hinduism