Human Eating Meat ?

Courtesy: Sh. Gyan Rajhans

Since it is a very sensitive subject, I would like to be factual.  In Hinduism there are no commandments.  In other words there are no rigid “do’s and don’ts.”  Hinduism gives us the wisdom to make up our own mind on what we put in our body except there is a firm prohibition of eating cow meat (beef).  All Hindu scriptures including the Vedas, Upnishads and the Gita tell us, “You are what you eat.”  They further state that the food we eat determines the temperament we possess.  Accordingly, they divide food into three categories: Sattvic (pure), Rajasic (energizing) and Tamsic (dull).  The sattvic foods produce calmness and serenity of mind and include plants, vegetables, nuts, fruits, grains, pulses and milk products.  The rajasic foods contribute to the restlessness of mind and include onions, garlic, peppers, spices and sour and bitter foods. The tamsic foods lead to the degeneration of the human nature and include meat, alcoholic beverages, and stale food. 

Scriptural Quotes 

I can give you many scriptural quotes that counsel Hindus not to eat meat.  Their main arguments are that when we eat meat, fish, chicken and eggs, we absorb the vibration of the instinctive creatures into our nerve system and this amplifies our own lower nature.  Our lower nature is prone to fear, anger, jealousy, confusion, resentment and the like.  Steven Rosen, in his famous book ‘Food for the Spirit, Vegetarianism and the World Religion’ says: 

“Despite popular knowledge of meat-eating’s adverse effects, the non vegetarian diet became increasingly widespread among Hindus after two major invasions by foreign powers, first the Muslim and later the British.  With them came the desire to be ‘civilized,’ to eat, as did the sahib.  Those actually trained in Vedic knowledge, however, never adopted a meal-oriented diet, and the pious Hindu still observes vegetarian principles as a matter of religious duty.”  

That vegetarianism has always been widespread in India is clear from the earliest Vedic texts.  This was observed by Megasthenes, the ancient Greek historian and diplomat, author of an account of India, the Indica, in four books and also by Fa-hsien, a Chinese Buddhist monk who, in the fifth century, traveled to India in order to obtain authentic copies of the Scriptures. 

These scriptures unambiguously support the meatless way of life. In the Mahabharata, for instance, the great warrior Bhishma explains to Yudhishtira, eldest of the Pandava princes that the foolish person who eats the meat of animals must be considered the vilest of human beings [Mahabharata, Anu 114.11].  The eating of ‘dirty’ food, it warns, is not as terrible as the eating of flesh [Mahabharata, Shanti. 141.88] 

Similarly, the Manusmriti declares that one should ‘refrain from eating all kinds of meat,’ for such eating involves killing and leads to karmic bondage [Manusmriti, 5.49].  Elsewhere in the Hindu Scriptures, the last of the great Vedic kings, Maharajah Parikshit, is quoted as saying ‘only the animal-killer cannot relish the message of the Absolute Truth [Shrimad Bhagvatam, 10.1.4]. 

Plants and Vegetables have life too 

On several occasions I have been confronted with the argument that even the plants we eat have life and if “non-violence” is one of the arguments against eating meat then we should not even eat plants and vegetables.  My answer to this argument has been: 

 “There is essential violence and there is non-essential violence.  To live in this world we must destroy some life.  The simple process of ordinary breathing involves the killing of bacteria that have life.  Killing a bird or an animal for food and plucking a vegetable in a garden do not involve the same level of violence, pain and agony.  Why?  Because the roots, vegetables and fruit do not possess the four senses responsible for feeling the pain.  Thus our sages concluded that as long as living involves the destruction of life, the killing of roots, vegetables and fruits involves the least pain and agony therefore, this type of food is recommended for the healthy growth of the body, mind and intellect.  No one can survive by eating sand.  This being the case, there is a wide spectrum of life forms that one can eat.”           


Hinduism expects a human being to exercise compassion in deciding what he/she should or should not eat.  Certain sects of Hinduism are known to perform excessive animal sacrifices because their level of compassion diminished to the lowest point.  Similarly some Vedic people were also meat-eaters.  Thus depending upon the level of compassion, one may select certain foods and reject others. 

Reasons for Vegetarianism  

Although there is no direct scriptural reference in Hindu religion against meat eating, other than the injunction against eating cow meat (beef), a majority of Hindus are vegetarians because of the following reasons:       

1.                             The Law of non-injury (Ahimsa):  It is the Hindu’s first duty in fulfillment of his religious obligations to god and god’s creation as defined by the Vedic scripture. 

2.                             The Law of Karma:  Since Hinduism believes that all our actions including our choice of food have “karmic” consequences; one must in the future experience the same amount of suffering inflicted on the creatures, even indirectly by eating their meat. 

3.                         � �  The Law of Spiritual Progress:  What we ingest affects our consciousness, emotions and experiential patterns.  By ingesting animal meat, one introduces into the body and mind anger, jealousy, fear, anxiety, suspicion and terrible fear of death, all of which are locked into the flesh of butchered creatures. 

4.                             The Law of Good Health:  It has been proven by medical studies that vegetarians are less susceptible to all the major diseases that affect contemporary humanity and thus live longer, healthier, more productive lives.  They have fewer physical complaints, less frequent visits to the doctor and fewer dental problems.  Their immune system is stronger, their bodies are purer, more refined and skin more beautiful. 

5.                             The Law of Ecological Balance:  Many of the world’s massive ecological problems e.g. global warming, less of topsoil, loss of rain forests and species extinctions have been traced to the single fact of meat in the human diet.  Raising livestock for their meat is a very inefficient way of generating food.  Pound for pound, far more resources must be expanded to produce meat than to produce grains, fruits and vegetables.  To keep up with U.S. consumption, 300 million pounds of meat are imported annually from Central and South America.  This economic incentive impels these nations to cut down their forests to make more pasture land.  The short-term gain ignores the long-term irreplaceable harm to the earth’s ecosystem.