Thursday, January 14, 2010

Living in a liberated India, I was often chastised for why I still remained a vegan. Of course, it was due to the norms of my erstwhile clan that I at least remained one. I wondered when people asked me repeatedly about my food preferences and I had no definite answer except giving an off-the-cuff answer that I chose to be one. But candidly, my mouth did water when I saw some yummy meat (but abhorred it in raw). Few minutes back, I chanced upon a little book of Bapu: The Moral Basis of Vegetarianism. In it, he calls people to pick vegetarianism not due to the physical benefits but the moral consequences. He advises: “Become moderate; err on the side of less, rather than on the side of more.” Eating sparingly and controlling our appetite is what he means by the moral basis of staying vegan. Of course, killing a life and consuming it for us to live makes humans rise over other species; and this maybe the moral quandary that I would want to avoid. Living as much as possible in harmony with everything around is the first step towards a morally fulfilling life.

To illustrate this point more vividly, let me recount a story from the upanisads. Devatas, asuras and humans visit the supreme teacher, Prajapati for advice. Prajapati utters a single syllable, ‘da’ and asks his pupils if they got what he was pushing through. The devtas say: “Yes! Damyata. You want us to have self-control”. Devtas are pretty susceptible to sensual pleasures, with their chieftain Indra a standing example of such temptations. Then it is the turn of asuras, who say: “Yes! Dayadvam. Compassion.” Asuras understand that this is very much lacking in them. In one way, devtas are the good who lack strength and asuras are the strong who lack goodness. Hindu thought has no definite boundary between good and evil; it’s just that some features are lacking on both side and their coming together will complete the loop.

In any case, now the humans step forward and echo: “Yes! Datta. Giving”.
Actually, these three qualities are what’s thoroughly missing nowadays. Controlling our unbound appetite for things and practicing more compassion and giving are the moral values on which my vegetarianism rests.

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