"If you can't explain something simply, you don't know enough about it." [Albert Einstein]
Plainly and simply, at least as far as past and present gurus, yogis, free mystics and enlightened beings of India such as the Buddha, Mahavira, Rama, Krishna, Saint Kabir, Guru Nanak, Vivekananda and Gandhi are concerned, the quest for The Ultimate Truth, or God, is futile without a vegetarian lifestyle. That's how these great but humble people lived in the East.
In the Christian tradition, as well, Saint Matthew and Saint John (who are historical narrators of The Gospels) were, not without a reason, vegetarians. So, also, were Saint MartĂn de Porres, Saint Richard, Saint John de Brito, Saint Angela de Merici, Saint Francis of Paola, Saint Hilarion, Saint John Chrysostom, Saint Catherine of Siena, and Saint Francis of Assisi. One might ask, would they have been the pure vegetarians they were, if they believed Christianity allowed the killing of innocent animals simply to cater to their taste buds? Some modern-day scholars contend that Jesus himself belonged to the Essenes, a sect that shunned non-vegetarian food.
Why did Sufi Saints, such as Rabia Basri, Ibn Arabi, Al Ghazali, Nizamudin Aulia, Moinyundin Chisti, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, and other such gentle souls from meat-eating Islamic backgrounds, live a humble, vegetarian life in their quest for God? For what reason are Jewish spiritualists like Rabbi David Cohen, Rabbi She'ar Y Cohen, and Nobel Laureate Shmuel Yosef Afgnon vegetarians? How many of us know that Martin Luther, the German Church reformer and founder of Protestantism, was a vegetarian?
And what is it that made Confucius a vegetarian?
Perhaps the words of the Buddha offer a clue to the connection between spirituality and vegetarianism:
"'Why is it that the Thus Come One does not allow eating meat?' The Buddha replied, 'It is because meat-eating cuts off the seeds of great compassion.'" [Cherishing Life, II, 5]
It is no secret that ancient yogis, as also modern day scientists, uphold the idea that all existence is One Indivisible Reality. Mystics arrive at this conclusion by a route similar to, but more circuitous, than the one followed by the scientific fraternity. Their search is within, while the scientists' is in the external world. For the spiritualist, the search for The End Reality, or God, is deeply personal; for the scientist, it is integrally impersonal. Yet, somehow, modern-day science and ancient mystic traditions have arrived at the same conclusion. It is that this world, as perceived from its deepest ground, is but one inseparable whole in The Ultimate Reality. Quantum Physics and Enlightened Mystics agree on this point.
The Sacredness of All Life
Scientists may view the oneness in nature as an insentient phenomenon. Spiritualists, however, see it as One Life that is sentient and alive in all phenomena. Where scientists see all life as some molecular nothing, spiritualists view everything as awash with life. A further difference, moreover, is that, while scientists have only now started seeing the oneness and unity of everything that is, free mystics have seen it since the beginning of time. At least, this is true of Indian yogis.
The Bhagavad Gita [13.27-28] tells us:
"He who sees that the Lord of All is ever the same in all that is-- immortal in the field of mortality--he sees the truth. And when a man sees that the God in himself is the same God in all that is, he hurts not himself by hurting others. Then he goes, indeed, to the highest path."
Somewhere in the depth of their mind and soul, great thinkers know the truthfulness and sagacity of this basic, fundamental and primordial spiritual and mystic concept. From Socrates to Plato, Hesiod to Horace, Pythagoras to Leonardo da Vinci, Voltaire to Vincent Van Gogh, Plutarch to Plotinus, Virgil to William Blake, Leo Tolstoy to George Bernard Shaw, Milton to Shelly, Abraham Lincoln to Nobel Laureate Poet Rabindranath Tagore: all these high and mighty creators, remaining humble in their humanity, both postulated and followed a vegetarian diet for a healthy, wealthy, and wise life.
"What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin." [Thirukural, 2-3 B.C.]
millions follow such a diktat. At the same time, of course, many millions in the world, including Indians, do not. Most adherents of
the Abrahamic faiths, Christianity, Judaism and Islam, find it sanctioned by tradition, acceptable to conscience, and, in some cases, even an act of holy sacrifice, to mercilessly butcher and eat anything that dares to move--except, of course, for a pig here or a crow
there. In Korea and China, dogs--beloved pets in much of the world--are considered a delicacy to be
skinned alive, salivated over, and savored.
It is interesting to note that a
number of renowned scientists have been vegetarians. They include Isaac
Newton, Charles Darwin, Benjamin Franklin, and Nikola Tesla.