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Does Ahimsa Mean I Can't Eat Meat?

Veganism in itself has deep roots in religious structures, and arguably grew out of a mixture of eastern thought and Christian practice. As the Christian Church was struggling with the revelations of Darwinism, Schweitzer argued that in a stark material reality, humankind must create new morals based upon respect for all life; the acceptance that, as we will-to-live, so do other, non-human, animals.


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Other people found veganism through an extension of the commandment not to kill, and through other biblical passages referencing pacifism, animal welfare, and human stewardship over non-human animals. I am often surprised by the distinct lack of mainstream discourses on animal rights within Christianity.

This is a real issue within veganism, some vegans would not dream of eating egg, but would happily, although most probably unthinkingly, go and by a T-shirt produced in sweat shop. Ahimsa is a concept in Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism; and is given varying importance in each system. Ahimsa is a central tenet of Jainism, where veganism or lacto-vegetarianism eating dairy but not eggs is pretty much mandatory, where monks can be seen brushing small insects off pavements to avoid people stepping on them. For Jains, hunting and killing animals is strictly banned, they take steps to reduce harm to plants, and eating honey is outlawed as it is seen as committing violence against bees.

The basis for Ahimsa in these three eastern religions is that in a world where all is united in absolute reality, and where your thoughts and actions have consequences for your resent and future lives, violence against others can only be considered violence against yourself.

The Hindu Ethic of Non-Violence

Hindus, like Buddhists, follow the tenets of Ahimsa to a less radical conclusion; for which Jains have been traditionally critical. The text Manu Smriti strongly condemns animal slaughter and meat eating, but the Mahabharata permits hunting for the Kshatriya warrior-ruler class.

Gandhi, the Indian political and spiritual leader, based his spiritual teaching and civil disobedience on the concept of Ahimsa. The vegetarian movement in the United States, which had peaked several decades earlier and by that time was declining, was founded strictly on health considerations.

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It wholly embraced, and continues to embrace, the principles of its British predecessor, advocating a strictly plant-based diet and lifestyle free of animal products. In other words, in order to practice veganism it's not sufficient to simply avoid specific foods and products; it's necessary to actively participate in beneficial selfless action as well. In fact, previously to be a full member of the American Vegan Society, it was required that you not only were vegan in diet but also excluded animal products from your clothing, cosmetics, toiletries, household goods, and everyday commodities.

Today membership is open to both vegans and those who simply are vegan-curious. Contrary to popular belief, people who eliminate all animal-based foods from their diets but continue to wear nonvegan clothing or use nonvegan products are technically not vegan; they are total vegetarians. It does not necessitate doing anything; it merely involves avoidance. This is an imperfect world, and we are an imperfect species.

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However, aspiring to do our best, to ceaselessly reach for compassionate solutions, to strive to attain justice for all life human and nonhuman , to live honestly and respectfully, and to lovingly care for our planet are far more realistic and reasonable pursuits than dwelling on impractical concerns over perfection. When people choose veganism, they make an ethical commitment to bettering themselves and the world around them. This is a pledge not to be taken lightly, as it requires us to seriously examine all facets of ours lives.

Worldwide, there are about 10 million Jain adherents. In North America there are an estimated , Jains. Most Jains are from India and speak Hindi and Gujarati. They are fully integrated into American way of living. Only monks are distinguished by wearing dhoti Indian loin cloth and shawls.

Jains are strict vegetarians, eliminating meat, poultry, eggs, seafood and alcohol. There is no central Jain religious authority. One does not need an intermediary to pray and worship God. The spiritual guide of the Jain community is the High priest, Gurudev pastor. Among his many duties are those of teacher, leader of services, and interpreter of religious laws and family counselor.

He reached his qualifications after long dedication and deep religious studies with a devout and experienced teacher. The teacher has the final approval of the fitness of the Gurudev to teach. As part of his commitment to asceticism, the Gurudev is not paid; his needs are fulfilled by the Jain community. Other congregational expenses are covered by donations and holy day collections.

What Is Ahimsa? | Yoga's Yamas and Niyamas

They are observed with worship and fasting. It is observed with worship and gatherings and celebrated with cultural dances and dramas.

Special food is prepared along with homemade breads, sweets and beans.