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Wednesday, June 14, 2006

VEGETARIANISM -3- Consciousness


Let us go into a more philosophical discussion. The life should support life, which is divinity. In other words, consciousness supports consciousness. One very important aspect that we need to consider while eating or discussing food is consciousness.
Human Beings recognize and respect this consciousness. We can see that when somebody dies, we feel pain within our heart that s/he is gone and no longer has consciousness. The manifestation of consciousness is the one which a human being respects. It is only the human who respects and has the freed to give this respect to consciousness. When you pet an animal or a bird, since you are its master, you are recognized as divine by its consciousness. Even for the master, the wild animal is very obedient. They not only respect but also protect you. For example, a Shepherd dog protects his master and his belongings.
The human being respects consciousness and animals also, to some extent, recognize and respect this consciousness. Human beings have the freedom to kill or not kill an animal. He has the freedom to eat a bird, an animal, or to be vegetarian. He has this choice. He has the freedom to respect this consciousness and its manifestations or not to do so. He has the choice to eliminate his consciousness or not to eliminate it. Humans have the freedom to eat the consciousness which is in the form of plants or in the form of animals.
We wonder how a human can eat another human. Logically, this is not wrong. When animals can eat humans, why can’t humans eat each other? We have heard in history that some humans have actually eaten others. He could have survived without eating the human, but he did not see anything wrong with eating humans. I do not know how far this is true, but I have heard that in some cultures, illegal pregnancy and illegal abortion of babies, unwanted but premature babies, are preferred and have become highly desired and expensive cuisines. It sounds atrocious, but then some argue, when we can eat other forms of meat, why can’t we also eat humans when you know that fetus will not survive?
This would never be desired on earth. At once, our minds rebel as though it is far removed from spirituality. In the same way, people think that killing and eating an animal or a bird is far removed from spirituality. That concept of consciousness and its manifestation and spirituality vs. non-spirituality is very important and needs to be understood from a deeper perspective.
When we hear stories from Ramayana and Mahabharata, people normally think that people of high respect such as Krishna and Bheeshma have not eaten meat in their lifetime. However, in the story of Bakasura, Bheema appears to have eaten meat. In the famous movie ‘Mayabazar,’ the tribal king and Bheema’s son Ghatotkacha is portrayed eating highly sattvic vegetarian food and a variety of sophisticated dishes like puris, dhai vada, kheer, etc. Some even argue, how can one be a saint if he is not vegetarian? How can Jesus or Mohammed be a saint when they have eaten meat? But they forget that Vivekananda and Ramakrishna both ate fish. Vivekananda even ate meat. Saints like Guru Nanak also ate meat. You can never forget these things.
We can willfully alter mythology and history according to our preferences, but this is not right. Buddha eating meat, Jesus ate meat, or great saints like the Sufis would eat meat. These facts should not disturb us. But the question still remains, how can we explain and understand the connection between food and spirituality? Why in some areas is it spiritual to be vegetarian, while in others it is not? Simple explanations such as ahimsa, or non-violence, or life present in the animals and humans, do not solve this issue. We need to dig deeper.
This is my attempt to answer these questions. In my view, the ancient sages must have thought of it very deeply. So we have developed a vegetarian food pattern in India whereas in other places of the world people eat plants and animals. But the meat that they eat is proper processed and shows that the life process did not bother them. There are TV shows such as ‘Fear Factor’ where they show live insects which the participants have to swallow or animal parts that are ground and eaten raw. The rejection shows on their faces, however, they drink it as a challenge, or to get paid, or to prove themselves as unique. People crush their consciousness to perform such an act.

Manifested Consciousness:
The plants have manifested consciousness in the form of freedom. The object does not have freedom. In the objects, solids have the least amount of freedom. Whereas the liquids have more freedom in the way of conforming to the shape of the container it is in. Gases have an extraordinary freedom of form. All of these forms of matter cannot grow, whereas plants and animals can. They have the ability and freedom to grow. The plants do not have the freedom of locomotion, as do animals. Animals do not have the freedom of consciousness that humans have and are seen in organization. Animals, birds, and insects cannot organize. They may appear to be organizing a few things such as building a nest, etc, but their organization is based on instinct. This organization is programmed, not free.
The highest degree of its manifestations is in the human race and least in matter. Even animals recognize consciousness, and humans not only recognize it but respect it and its manifestations. Because he respects the consciousness, his survival is the survival of the highest form of consciousness. He has to survive and for this he goes from the least manifestation of degree of consciousness which is in matter. Once this exhausts, he goes to the higher level which is plants. Going to plants and not going to the next level, animals, is his respect to the consciousness which is innately there in the human being. So vegetarianism essentially has the meaning of respect for the consciousness rather than the consideration of himsa or ahmisa, or killing or not killing, because if it is plants or animals, the need to kill is there. Only the case when man is in such a place where the plants are not available that he goes to eat meat. That is how the description found in the Vedas and earlier texts, that people living in the hill regions where there is a lot of snow and the climate is not conducive to the growth of plants, that people ate meat.
The meat that they ate was also offered to God before eating it. People who are vegetarians, the cooking which is offered to God before they ate, the same way the meat is offered to God before consumption, it becomes sanctified.
This has come up in the form of what is called “Animal Sacrifice” or “Bali.” Actually in the true sense, Bali is not just to kill animals in the name of offering so that the God is favorable to you, but it is the food that you are going to take for your hunger that you will offer to the God prior to consumption. What has to be offered to God should be the food that we eat. Unfortunately, the whole concept has been mistaken and human beings, who normally do not eat meat, are made to kill animals in the form of Bali so that the Gods will grant them special favors.
And man will never eat another human because he is at the same level of consciousness. So that is why we can best stop at the level of animals and we can never go to the level of eating humans. A person, who does eat a human, does not respect the human race.

-to be continued...


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