“Real ahimsa means not checking anyone’s progressive life. The animals are also making progress in their evolutionary life by transmigrating from one category of animal life to another. If a particular animal is killed, then his progress is checked.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 16.1-3 Purport)
Friend1: Do you notice that people tend to disproportionately focus on the vegetarian thing when introduced to bhakti-yoga?
Friend2: I do. The first thing they concern themselves with is “what am I not allowed to do?” It’s like they’re about to enter prison or something.
Friend1: That’s a good comparison. They’re really asking you, “So how bad is it? Is it something I can tolerate?” And meanwhile, life right now is already so bad. They tolerate much worse, and they’re not getting anything in return.
Friend2: Exactly. Bhakti-yoga is for finding true happiness. It’s for answering the questions that material life has failed to address. It’s being completely honest about everything instead of trying to forget.
Friend1: You know, it’s interesting that you say that. I’ve realized that so much in life is procrastination. Like when I had a big paper due in college, I would keep myself occupied in so many ways just so I wouldn’t think about the assignment. I would take naps, watch television, talk to friends – any excuse to not deal with the issue at hand.
Friend2: In material life it’s so easy to do that. In youth you have school. That’s a ton of pressure. Then when you’re finished you have to get a job. Finding one is difficult, and then there is no guarantee you will keep it going forward.
Friend1: Then you have to get married. Marriage means family. Then you have to focus on the same cycle through life for your dependents. You’re correct. There is plenty to distract the mind.
Friend2: From birth to death.
Friend1: Anyway, getting back to the vegetarian thing – for people who have been eating meat their whole lives, it’s a little difficult to understand.
Friend2: Not just them, but everyone around them too. It’s ingrained in the culture. Bhaktivinoda Thakura says that when you start sinful life, it becomes easier to follow as the generations pass. When so many people participate, you gradually turn adharma into dharma.
Friend1: Wrong becomes right. The obvious argument against it is that eating meat is not so big a deal. These are lesser life forms anyway. Human beings have dominion.
Friend2: Well, there is a counter for each argument that can be discussed for hours, but I heard something interesting recently from His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada that was right to the point. He compared animal killing to forced entry into someone’s apartment.
Friend1: Oh, like breaking and entering? Like what a thief does?
Friend2: Well, go one step beyond the thief. Imagine if the burglar entered and then forced you to leave the apartment.
Friend1: Like they overtook your place of residence?
Friend2: Right. The swami compared that to animal killing. Basically, the law of karma gives the living entities a particular body. You can’t kill the soul. That must be acknowledged. Yet by needlessly killing the animal, you’re forcing it to leave the place of residence assigned to it by the higher forces of nature.
Friend1: I see. Yeah, that seems logical enough.
Friend2: It goes against basic decency. In the Bhagavad-gita Shri Krishna says that a person who doesn’t cause harm to others is dear to Him. You don’t need to read that famous work to understand why that would be the case. Any sober person realizes that God is the father of the entire creation. He would never condone needless violence.
Friend1: Okay, but I could see a counter argument. The meat eater would say that it’s not needless. They need to kill the animal in order to survive.
Friend2: Yeah, that’s just nonsense. You can take today’s many diet fads as proof. People go on fasts where they consume nothing but fruit and vegetable juice for weeks. Others don’t eat any grains.
Friend1: Yeah, there’s the zero carb one as well.
Friend2: Right, and these people all survive. They lose weight in the process. It’s debatable if these diets are good for your health, but survival is still there. So no one is going to die of malnutrition if they stop eating meat. Every nutrient is available in other sources.
Friend1: And millions of people around the world, even from the past, have survived without eating meat.
Friend2: That’s true. It should be acknowledged that this is not a competition of vegetarian versus non-vegetarian. The restriction on meat eating is for helping advance the consciousness. It is not so much about nonviolence, either. If you follow the regulative principles in bhakti-yoga, you progress towards the ultimate end of a purified consciousness. When your consciousness is pure, you can be happy in any situation. Even if you are facing horrible people and troubling circumstances, you can stay connected to the Divine. Your strong consciousness maintains that connection through the chanting of the holy names: Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. When you’re always thinking of God the person, you automatically acquire good habits and traits like ahimsa.
Like burglar feet in home to set upon,
Then taking your stuff, demanding you’re gone.
Comparison to needless killing act,
Karma giving each creature body exact.
Fruits, grains and milk plenty on to survive,
Animal flesh not needed for human to thrive.
Aim of ahimsa for consciousness progressing,
Pious each creature with compassion addressing.