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Vegetarianism and the Major World Religions A Presentation by Sandpoint Vegetarians June 13, 2010 Etymology Spiritual : comes from Latin spiritus meaning “ breath ”, “ vigor ”, or “ life ” Vegetarian : comes from Greek vegetas meaning “full of the breath of life ”

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Vegetarianism and the Major World Religions

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vegetarianism and the major world religions

Vegetarianism and the Major World Religions

A Presentation by Sandpoint Vegetarians

June 13, 2010

  • Spiritual: comes from Latin spiritus meaning “breath”, “vigor”, or “life”
  • Vegetarian: comes from Greek vegetas meaning “full of the breath of life”
  • Carnal & Carnivorous: come from Latin carnis meaning “flesh”
  • In Hebrew meat (basar) stems from shame (bet), corruption (sin) and worms (resh)
  • In Sanskrit pashu-ghna can apply to both “meat-eater” and “one who commits suicide”

Almost all world religions emphasize spiritual growth over the world of flesh

at the heart of religions
At The Heart of Religions
  • Love, mercy and compassion are the avowed spiritual goals of all major religious traditions
  • Vegetarianism is NOT advocated because of purity or dietary considerations but because of mercy and compassion for all living beings
  • The older the religion the closer it is to advocacy of vegetarianism
religion and animal sacrifice
Religion and Animal Sacrifice

Animal sacrifice, a true depravity, became a convenient vehicle for people to circumvent the religious prohibitions against killing animals and to indulge their desire to eat flesh.

  • “I am full of the burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fed beasts, and I delight not in the blood of bullocks, or of lambs, or of the goats…” – Isaiah 1.11
  • “I will have mercy and not sacrifice.” – Hosea 6.6, Matthew 9:13, Matthew 12:7
  • “Maim not the brute beasts.” – Prophet Muhammed
  • “Because he has pity on every living creature, therefore a person is called holy.” – Dhammapada
  • "In this Age of Kali, five acts are forbidden: the offering of a horse in sacrifice, the offering of a cow in sacrifice,…” – CC Adi 17.164
eastern religions
Eastern Religions

“Ahimsa is the highest duty”. – Padma Purana 1.31.27

  • Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Zoroastrianism
  • Based on the Vedas from 3000 B.C.
  • Not necessarily monotheistic
  • Common theme is universal ahimsa (nonviolence)
  • They condemn not only those who eat meat but those who assist in slaughtering, buying, selling and even those who serve meat

"All breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away. This is the pure unchangeable law."– Sutrakritanga Sutra

  • Vegetarianism is integral to Jains whose cardinal teaching is ahimsa (nonviolence) and believe it is wrong to kill or harm any living being. All Jains are strict vegetarians
  • Jains comprise less than 1% of India’s population but contribute more than half of all the money donated in India to provide medical and other social assistance to India’s poor
  • Jains are also famous for their animal hospitals

“Having well considered the origin of flesh-foods, and the cruelty of fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let humans entirely abstain from eating flesh”. – Manusmriti 5.49

  • Universal compassion abundantly found in Vedic literature
  • Vedas promote devotion to the good of all creatures over devotion to the good of humanity
  • Eating meat involves killing and leads to karmic bondage
  • A notion of the equality of souls and the soul is the same no matter what body it inhabits (contrast: dogs as pets versus pigs as food)
  • Vegetarianism from the Vedas is the awareness that all living beings are spiritually equal

“The eating of meat extinguishes the seed of great compassion.” – Mahaparinirvana Sutra

  • Buddhism was a response to the central purpose of the Vedas which was devotion to the supreme being and not the mass slaughter of animals in sacrifice
  • Buddha extended compassion to everything that lives
  • The first precept of Buddhism is: “ Do not kill but rather preserve and cherish all life.”
  • The bodhisattva (enlightened soul) should refrain from eating flesh – born of blood and dying in terror
  • When intent superceded action then meat eating became acceptable among Buddhists (“it was already killed so I ate it”)
  • In Japan the deeply religious still consider meat-eating to be a lower activity

“I have just three things to teach: simplicity, patience, compassion. These three are your greatest treasures.”– Lao Tzu

  • Taoism holds nature as sacred
  • The Tao Te Ching teaches that simplicity promotes peace and protects nature
  • The production of meat is too yang (too aggressive) it involves extreme and unnecessary impact on nature
  • Taoist simplicity encourages a diet of vegetables, grain and fruit
  • Famous Taoist Master Li Han-Kung prohibited “those who consume meat” from his holy mountain
abrahamic religions
Abrahamic Religions

“Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food. And to every beast of the Earth, and to every fowl of the air, and to everything that creepeth upon the Earth, wherein there is a living soul, I have given every green herb for meat” – Genesis 1:29

  • Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Baha’i Faith
  • Monotheistic having origins in Judaism
  • Foundational event is the covenant with Abram
  • They all portray an all powerful, all loving God who holds Earth and all its Life as a good and holy Creation

“You who have compassion for a lamb shall be the shepherd of my people Israel” – Exodus Rabbah 2, Midrash

  • From Adam to Noah the people of Israel were vegan
  • Midrash has many Jewish heroes and heroines being chosen by God because they showed compassion to animals
  • There are numerous injunctions on the proper treatment of animals and causing them the least pain and harm
  • The original kosher laws were formed to cause animals as little pain as possible – vegetarianism is a logical extension
  • Jewish dietary laws only apply to animal foods – all fruits, vegetables, and unprocessed grains are kosher
  • It is literally impossible to remove blood from meat (= not kosher)
  • On Yom Kippur no leather shoes are allowed in the synagogue
  • Many Jewish thinkers have adopted vegetarianism in preparation for a return of the Messiah and a return to an Edenic state

“Thou shalt not kill” – Exodus 20:13

  • The original injunction in Eden was for a vegan diet
  • A second attempt was made with the Manna diet when fleeing Egypt
  • The Spirit of God is in all living beings: “When you hide your face, they are terrified; when you take away their breath, they die and return to the dust. When you send your Spirit, they are created, and you renew the face of the earth.” – Psalm 104 29:30
  • That Jesus ever ate meat is questionable and disputed
  • Christian tradition is replete with vegetarian followers, saints and vegetarian orders: James the apostle, the Desert Fathers, Clement of Alexandria, St. John Chrysostom, Tertullian, Origen, Cathars, Trappists, Benedictines, Carthusians, Franciscans, Ellen White (7th Day Adventists), John Wesley (Methodists), the Booths, Mister Rogers☺
christianity contd
Christianity (contd.)

“Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God.” – Luke 12:6

  • Very strong advocacy of vegetarianism among early Christians such as Ebionites, Essenes (Gospel of Peace), Gnostics, Nazarenes (The Gospel of the Holy Twelve)
  • In contemporary Christian traditions the Seventh Day Adventist church recommends vegetarianism and requires adherence to kosher laws
  • Mormonism condemns killing animals unless absolutely necessary and even then flesh is to be consumed sparingly
  • The Bible envisions a return to vegan Eden: “The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.” – Isaiah 11:6 (plus a little something about swords being beaten into ploughshares)

“There is not an animal on the Earth, nor a flying creature flying on two wings, but they are peoples like unto you.” – Koran, Surah 6:38

  • 113 of the Koran’s 114 chapters begin with “Allah is merciful and compassionate”
  • It’s instructive that when on pilgrimage to Mecca, after donning the shroud, there is absolutely no killing of any living creature allowed (not even mosquitoes!)
  • Mohammed preferred vegetarian foods. He even instructed those who eat meat to wash out their mouths before going to pray.
  • The prophet often entreated his followers to show kindness to animals
  • Like Judaism the Islamic dietary laws (halaal) serve only to curtail the eating of flesh – halaal is also practically impossible
  • Sufi mystic, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen spoke about the slaughterer of animals, “He has to look into the animal’s eyes, he has to watch the tears of the animal, and he has to watch the animal’s eyes until it dies – hopefully his heart will change”.
  • The imperative is that Muslims seek compassion and mercy by first minimizing the number of animals killed and then give it up altogether
baha i faith
Baha’i Faith

“You must not only have kind and merciful feelings for humankind, but you should also exercise the utmost kindness towards every living creature.” – Abdu’l-Baha

  • Reverence for and protection of nature is a central Baha’i tenet
  • Abdu’l-Baha also said, “Truly, the killing of animals and the eating of their meat is contrary to pity and compassion, and if one can content oneself with cereals, fruit, oil and nuts… it would undoubtedly be better and more pleasing”.
the golden rule
The Golden Rule
  • Vedas:This is the sum of duty: Do naught unto others which would cause you pain if done to you(Mahabharata 5.1517)
  • Buddhism:Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful(Udana-Varga 5.18)
  • Confucianism:Surely it is the maxim of loving kindness: Do not unto others that which you would not have them do unto you(Analects 15.23)
  • Judaism:What is hateful to you, do not to your fellow men(Talmud, Shabbat, 31a)
  • Christianity:So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets(Matthew 7:12)
  • Islam:No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself(Sunnah, Hadith)
a vision for world peace
A Vision For World Peace
  • “By not killing any living being, one becomes fit for salvation” – Manusmriti, 6.60
  • “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be measured by the way in which its animals are treated”. – Mahatma Gandhi
  • “For behold, I create new Heavens and a new Earth and the former shall not be remembered… and they shall plan vineyards and eat the fruit of them… the wolf and the lamb shall feed together and the lion shall eat straw like the bullock. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain.” – Isaiah 65:17-25

God Owns Earth!

“The earth is the LORD's, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it.”– Psalm 24:1


earth must become heaven so that god can find a home here meister eckhart 13 th century mystic
“Earth must become Heaven So That God Can Find A Home Here.”– Meister Eckhart, 13th Century Mystic

The Peaceable Kingdom