Question Six: Are Hindus forbidden to eat meat?A: Hindus teach vegetarianism as a way to live with a minimum of hurt to other beings. But in today's world not all Hindus are vegetarians.Longer answer:
Our religion does not lay down rigid "do's and don'ts." There are no commandments. Hinduism gives us the wisdom to make up our own mind on what we put in our body, for it is the only one we have—in this life, at least. Vegetarians are more numerous in the South of India than in the North. This is because of the North's cooler climactic conditions and past Islamic influence. Priests and religious leaders are definitely vegetarian, so as to maintain a high level of purity and spiritual consciousness to fulfill their responsibilities, and to awaken the refined areas of their nature. Soldiers and law-enforcement officers are generally not vegetarians, because they have to keep alive their aggressive forces in order to perform their work. To practice yoga and be successful in meditation, it is mandatory to be vegetarian. It is a matter of wisdom—the application of knowledge at any given moment. Today, about twenty percent of all Hindus are vegetarians.Elaboration:
This can be a touchy subject. There are several ways to respond, depending on who is asking and the background in which he was raised. But the overlying principle that defines the Hindu answer to this query is ahimsa—refraining from injuring, physically, mentally or emotionally, anyone or any living creature. The Hindu who wishes to strictly follow the path of noninjury naturally adopts a vegetarian diet. It's a matter of conscience more than anything else.
When we eat meat, fish, fowl and eggs, we absorb the vibration of the instinctive creatures into our nerve system. This chemically alters our consciousness and amplifies our lower nature, which is prone to fear, anger, jealousy, confusion, resentment and the like. Many Hindu swamis advise followers to be well-established vegetarians prior to initiation into mantra, and to remain vegetarian thereafter. But most do not insist upon vegetarianism for those not seeking initiation. Swamis have learned that families who are vegetarian have fewer problems than those who are not. Poignant scriptural citations counsel against eating meat. The Yajur Veda (36.18) calls for kindliness toward all creatures living on the Earth, in the air and in the water. The Tirukural, a 2,200-year-old masterpiece of ethics, states, "When a man realizes that meat is the butchered flesh of another creature, he will abstain from eating it" (257). The Manu Dharma Shastras state, "Having well considered the origin of flesh and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let one entirely abstain from eating flesh," and "When the diet is pure, the mind and heart are pure." For guidance in this and all matters, Hindus also rely on their own guru, community elders, their own conscience and their knowledge of the benefits of abstaining from meat and enjoying a wholesome vegetarian diet. Of course, there are good Hindus who eat meat, and there are not-so-good Hindus who are vegetarians.
Today in America and Europe millions of people are vegetarians because they want to live a long time and be healthy. Many feel a moral obligation to shun the mentality of violence to which meat-eating gives rise. There are good books on vegetarianism, such as Diet for a New America. There is also a fine magazine called Vegetarian Times. Click here to read the booklet. "How to Win an Argument with a Meat-Eate" online.
• Question 1: Why does Hinduism have so many Gods?
• Question 2: Do Hindus believe in reincarnation?
• Question 3: What is karma?
• Question 4: Why do Hindus worship the cow?
• Question 5: Are Hindus idol worshipers?
• Question 6: Are Hindus forbidden to eat meat?
• Question 7: Do Hindus have a Bible?
• Question 8: Why do many Hindus wear a dot on their forehead?
• Question 9: Are the Gods of Hinduism really married?
• Question 10: What about caste and untouchability?
• Question 11: Is Yoga a Hindu Practice?
• Question 12: How do Hindus view other religions?
• Question 13: Why do some Hindu Gods have animal features?
• Question 14: Why do Hindus cremate the dead?