“The sages, knowing Me as the ultimate purpose of all sacrifices and austerities, the Supreme Lord of all planets and demigods and the benefactor and well-wisher of all living entities, attain peace from the pangs of material miseries.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 5.29)
ज्ञात्वा मां शान्तिम् ऋच्छति
jñātvā māṁ śāntim ṛcchati
Someone may question why followers of Krishna do not eat animal flesh. Depending on the part of the world in which the question is asked, the prevailing practice might be the complete opposite. Every meaningful activity will be based on consuming alcohol and animal flesh, for instance.
The big football game has the preceding tailgate party in the parking lot. The television broadcast of the game features advertisements to visit various restaurants in the neighborhood. Their appeal is the freshness of the meat they serve and the abundance of alcoholic beverages available to their patrons.
The more a person earns, the more expensive their meals. Grains, fruits, and vegetables are rather inexpensive. A person could eat like a king while on a budget. There is no reason to go broke while being satisfied with a simple meal of rice and beans.
The follower of Krishna has a difficult time in such an environment, as even the simplest meal from a local street vendor has the high likelihood of contamination through animal flesh. It might be difficult to observe the vow, as passed down by parampara, but there are several justifications for doing so.
1. Simple living and high thinking
The rule for avoidance is but a minor component to an overall lifestyle, which values contemplation, meditation, consideration, deliberation, and focus on the highest goal possible. This goal is ideal for the human being, but it is the same in every species.
The fundamental truth of the spiritual science is that living beings are the same at their core. Though dispersed across various species, the individual inside is of the same quality. They can be found in the air, on land, or in the sea. They can be moving or nonmoving. Some have hands and some do not. Some have four legs, while others have two.
Reaching the human birth is like a culmination from a lengthy reformatory period. The goal is entirely different. High thinking brings a tremendous benefit. Those who are able to think properly can attain higher goals than those who live like the animals.
The simpler a person lives, the higher they can reach in the potential for intelligence. Societies already acknowledge this in a subtle way. Treatment facilities and rehabilitation centers are for helping those with addiction to drugs and alcohol. Overindulgence can ruin lives.
Taking things a step further, the follower of Krishna tries to remain sober in thought. The Sanskrit word is dhira. The dhira individual is not bewildered by the changing body.
देहिनो ऽस्मिन् यथा देहे
कौमारं यौवनं जरा
धीरस् तत्र न मुह्यति
dehino ‘smin yathā dehe
kaumāraṁ yauvanaṁ jarā
dhīras tatra na muhyati
“As the embodied soul continually passes, in this body, from boyhood to youth to old age, the soul similarly passes into another body at death. The self-realized soul is not bewildered by such a change.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 2.13)
2. Intelligence in the human species
The argument can be made that animals are not so compassionate towards their fellow creatures. The tiger lives off flesh. It otherwise cannot survive. Cut open a fish snatched from the sea and you will find many other fish inside, consumed as part of the regular eating process.
फल्गूनि तत्र महतां
जीवो जीवस्य जीवनम्
phalgūni tatra mahatāṁ
jīvo jīvasya jīvanam
“Those who are devoid of hands are prey for those who have hands; those devoid of legs are prey for the four-legged. The weak are the subsistence of the strong, and the general rule holds that one living being is food for another.” (Shrimad Bhagavatam, 1.13.47)
Shrimad Bhagavatam acknowledges this truth of life. Long before modern science stumbled upon the concept of a food chain, the Vedic tradition had already presented it. Every living being survives off another living being. There is no way to avoid this, as even the vegetarian participates through consuming plants.
The human being has higher intelligence. Just because animals follow a certain way does not mean that we have to. Even the meat-eater has limits. They tend to avoid cats and dogs. If anyone should harm such an animal, there will be outrage within society.
The proper use of intelligence is to extend this compassion out. The physical appearance of an animal does not make them any more or less worthy of being killed and eaten. To apply such discrimination in that fashion is foolishness.
3. Karma considerations
Another reason to avoid animal flesh is the impact on karma. This is fruitive activity. This is action and reaction. This is realizing the results from making choices. Karma explains why someone is born with certain physical abilities and another person is not. Karma explains the placement within family, country, religion, culture, and so forth.
Karma only applies to the human species. As soon as the human being kills a defenseless animal, there is the potential for a reaction in the next life. That slain animal, who is a spirit soul, has the right to come back in the next life and return the favor.
4. Krishna does not ask for animal flesh
Followers of Krishna worship out of a sense of love and attachment. They view God in His personal manifestation, where He is separate and distinct, but also like us in many ways. Krishna is kind enough to leave behind direct words of instruction, which have been preserved in the original language they were spoken.
पत्रं पुष्पं फलं तोयं
यो मे भक्त्या प्रयच्छति
तद् अहं भक्त्य्-उपहृतम्
patraṁ puṣpaṁ phalaṁ toyaṁ
yo me bhaktyā prayacchati
tad ahaṁ bhakty-upahṛtam
“If one offers Me with love and devotion a leaf, a flower, fruit or water, I will accept it.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 9.26)
Understanding that the dharma of the individual is to serve, Krishna provides a list of potential items to be offered to Him. He is not in need. Krishna is not poor. As Narayana, He is the husband of the goddess of fortune. No one has more wealth than Him.
He is kind enough to accept offerings and create a tradition of worship for the benefit of the living beings. Animal flesh is not included in the list of items to be offered. There are animal byproducts, for sure, such as milk, yogurt, and ghee, but this only underscores the importance of certain animals within society.
5. Krishna is the well-wisher to every living entity
This justification is only logical. If Krishna were God, He would have to love everyone. We see sometimes that people take a wrong turn in life and end up involved in criminal behavior. When apprehended by the authorities, they might face the punishment of going to prison.
Just because they did something bad does not make them any less of a person. They are still a fallible human being. There might be compassion flowing from society, friends, and family members. The punishment is appropriate, but the love is always there.
In the same way, no matter how far a living being has fallen in the material world, Krishna is always there with them. He is always wishing them well. This means that He would never want them to be killed prematurely or without proper justification.
From disposition to tell,
How Krishna wishing them well.
Then why needlessly to kill?
When plenty for stomach to fill.
Like plants, grains, and fruit,
Where consciousness not to pollute.
That initial offering turned,
As prasadam returned.
Categories: the five