“The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater [outcaste].” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.18)
ब्राह्मणे गवि हस्तिनि
शुनि चैव श्व-पाके च
brāhmaṇe gavi hastini
śuni caiva śva-pāke ca
1. The tiger is following its nature
It doesn’t have to pray. Actually, it wouldn’t know how to. No understanding of a higher authority, commanding control over the material nature and its intricate workings. The tiger doesn’t even know what a tiger is.
It does know the four basic activities of an animal: eating, sleeping, mating and defending. To eat, there is enough available. The tiger survives by killing other animals. It is not a vegetarian. The tiger does not know how to maintain slaughterhouses and neither is such a scheme required.
The tiger kills, eats and then lives off of that energy until the next time hunger arrives. It cannot be blamed for its behavior, since it is simply acting based on the nature assumed at the time of birth.
2. The fish is doing the same
In his youth, one of the founding fathers of the United States dabbled for a period with what he called an “all-vegetable diet.” He had read a book by Thomas Tryon inspiring the idea. The concept was novel for the time and place; certainly not as popular as it is today.
The experiment was short-lived. He one day discovered that the inside of the fish had so many other living organisms. In other words, fish lived off other creatures. If they were not following non-violence, why should the people who desired to eat them?
Benjamin Franklin later poked fun at himself for using this justification for returning to meat-eating. In truth, the fish was acting like the tiger. It is in the nature of fish to eat other living things within the water.
3. The nature of the human being is to discriminate
Should the human beings imitate the animals? Are we not part of nature, as well? If we consume animal flesh, is that not based on instinct?
The key distinction is that it is in the nature of the human being to discriminate. That is to say we have more influence over our actions than other species do over theirs. We can choose to accept a thirty-day no-carb challenge, for instance.
We decide which animals to respect and which ones to keep as pets. We choose whether to get married or remain single throughout adulthood. We choose what kind of car to drive and where to live.
Most importantly, we can discriminate between right and wrong. The corresponding terms in Sanskrit are punya and papa or guna and dosha. Piety and sin. Punya is the right way to do something, collecting meritorious credits. Papa is the wrong way, carrying justifiable punishment to the degree of the error, set to arrive at the appropriate time.
The conscious human being can make a rational decision on diet. More important is the treatment of other living entities. It is the law of nature that one living entity subsists off another, but is it necessary to kill on such a large scale, when there is sufficient food available from the plants and the milk provided by cows?
These are questions the rational human being asks when considering their fate, when taking the collective of an existence into account. These teachings are fundamental to the Vedic science, which aims at self-realization. Seeing the animating spark within and how it is not different from species to species.
The wise person sees that the elephant, the cow, the dog, the tiger, and the intelligent scholar are all the same on the inside. Not that they necessarily warrant the same treatment, but the understanding should be there of the distinction between body and spirit.
This is a stepping-stone, a launching pad, to the higher realization of Supreme Spirit. All living things emanate from Him, after all. While there is no sin for the animals, as they act off nature, the human beings have a choice. The best one they can make is towards the Divine light, which brings an accompanying way of life that automatically gives respect to others and their right to live.
Tiger off its nature acting,
And not for higher scheme enacting.
Same for fish and other creatures too,
But discrimination in me and you.
A choice in which way to go,
And of future consequences to know.
That both body and spirit freeing,
And respect for every living being.
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