In 1986, it was proposed that November 25, Sadhu Vaswani's Birthday be celebrated as an International Meatless Day. The campaign has met with considerable success in that, millions of individuals send their pledges to the Sadhu Vaswani Mission to go meatless on this day. Four state governments in India - Maharashtra, Gujarat, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh - have issued instructions for the closure of slaughter-houses as well as butchers' shops on 25th November every year, in their respective states.
In order to create an awareness in the minds of citizens about the Meatless Day campaign, Peace Marches are held in Pune and other cities in November, every year. Thousands of students from city schools and colleges march through the streets propagating the idea of Meatless Day and reverence for all life, as the first step to World Peace. Meatless day Newsletters are also issued between August and November every year to propagate vegetarianism and the Meatless Day.
WHY YOU DON'T NEED MEAT
- DADA J.P. VASWANI
There was a time when vegetarianism was tolerated as a 'cult of the crazy'. It became the butt of many jokes. One of them concerned a man who suffered from insomnia, sleeplessness. The doctor advised him to induce sleep by counting sheep.
The man answered: 'I can't do that because I am a vegetarian.'
The doctor said: 'Then count carrots.' Today the tide has turned. An ever increasing number of people all over the world are turning to vegetarianism as a 'way of life' which leads to health and strength of the body, mind and soul.
Heart disease continues to be the number one killer of humanity. It is strongly linked with high blood levels of cholesterol. Cholesterol is found largely in animal products. And the people are beginning to realize, more and more, the health benefits of a low-fat, vegetarian, diet.
Heart disease is linked with high blood pressure. Research studies have shown that people, who eat vegetarian diet, tend to have not only lower levels of blood cholesterol but also lower blood pressure than those consuming food of violence (flesh, fish, fowl, etc.). Animal products, it has been proved, contain high saturated fat, which the body converts into cholesterol.
Recent researches have also indicated that a low fat vegetarian diet helps cure as well as prevent heart and other diseases, including cancers of the breast, colon and prostate.
A number of people are under the impression that they and their children cannot be strong unless they eat food of violence. Meat gives strength to the body, they say. Without meat, the body becomes weak and a prey to many diseases.
As an answer to this query, the example is given of the elephant which is one of the biggest and strongest animals in the world: and the elephant is a pure vegetarian. What of the lion? Someone will ask. The elephant cannot match his strength against that of the lion. True, but the lion has destructive strength – the strength that destroys and kills. The elephant has constructive strength – the strength that can be used in the service of humanity. The elephant carries huge logs of wood from one place to another. Can you make a lion do likewise? Perhaps yes, but at the risk of your own life. It was Shakespeare who said: 'O, it is excellent to have a giant's strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.'
A question which has been put to me, time and again, is: 'If it is cruel to kill animals, how is it that some of the great world religions have sanctioned meat-eating? Even Jesus, on of the most compassionate of men, ate meat!'
There is growing evidence pointing to the fact that Jesus and his immediate followers abstained from food of violence and were vegetarians. The version that we have of Jesus is the one given in the New Testament. There are several other versions of Jesus not as popular but worth considering. The New Testament was written several years after the crucifixion of Jesus and by those who had not come into personal contact with him. The most ancient gospel in existence is the Gospel, according to the Ebionities. It tells us that both Jesus and John the Baptist were vegetarians. Also James the Just, who was either a cousin or brother of Jesus, and who was his successor in Jerusalem, was a staunch vegetarian. The early church historian, Hegesippus, writing about 160 A.D., says that James ' drank no wine or strong drink, nor ate animal food.'
The Essene Gospel of Peace tells us that one day the disciples asked Jesus:- 'What are the sins we must shun, that we may never more see disease?' And Jesus answered: 'It was said to them of old time, 'Honor thy Heavenly Father and thy earthly mother and do their commandments, that their days may be long upon the earth.' And next afterwards which God has given, let not man take away. For I tell you truly, he who kills, kills himself, and who eats the flesh of slain beasts, eats the body of death…'
Then another (disciple) said:- 'Moses, the greatest in Israel, suffered our forefathers to eat the flesh of clean beasts, and forbade the flesh of unclean beasts. Why, therefore, do you forbid us the flesh of all beasts? Which law comes from God? That of Moses or your law?'… And Jesus continued, 'God commanded your forefathers: 'Thou shalt not kill,' but their heart was hardened and they killed. Then Moses desired at least they should not kill men, and he suffered them to kill beasts. And then the heart of your forefathers was hardened yet more, and they killed men and beasts likewise. But I say to you: kill neither men nor beasts… so eat always from the table of God: the fruits of the trees, the grain and grasses of the field, the mile of beasts, and the honey of bees. For everything beyond these is Satan, and leads by the way of sins and of diseases unto death…'
It is for scholars to determine which version (of Jesus) is the correct one. I love to think of Jesus as a Master of Compassion and Mercy.
Centuries before the message of Jesus was accepted by Western nations, there appeared Pythagoras, the Sage who impressed on his Brotherhood the rule, 'Not to kill nor injure any creature'. Flesh diet he condemned as 'sinful food'. Listen to his words of wisdom:- 'Beware, O mortals, of defiling your bodies with sinful food! There are cereals, there are fruits, bending the branches down by their weight, and the luxurious grapes on the vines. There are sweet vegetables and mellow. Nor are you denied milk, nor honey, fragrant of the aroma of the thyme flower. The beautiful earth offers you an abundance of pure food and provides for meals obtainable without slaughter and bloodshed.'
In the very first chapter of the Bible, we read:- 'And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb-bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in which is the fruit of a tree-yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.'
Gautama Buddha said to his dear, devoted disciple, Ananda: 'Therefore, Ananda, next to teaching the people of the last Kalpa to put away all sexual lust, you must teach them to put an end to killing and brutal cruelty. If one is trying to practice dhyana and is still eating meat, he would be like a man closing his ears and shouting loudly and then asserting that he heard nothing…'
In the Qur'an, we have the words: 'Beasts and birds are a people like you and to their Lord shall they return.' And Prophet Muhammad said: 'Creation is a family.'
In the Laws of Manu are the following words: 'Meat cannot be obtained without injury to animals, and the slaughter of animals obstructs the way to Heaven; let him, therefore, shun the use of meat.'
Today, man stands on a planet of limitless promise. He has set foot on the moon. His rockets go flying past the distant planets. He has stationed to his real being and purpose. His mind is agitated: his heart is troubled and unsure: his anger flares easily. He is become a slave to his appetites, cravings, desires. And the civilization he has built, and of which he is so proud, is already crumbling beneath the burden of its own weight. What is the reason?
Man has alienated himself from God's creation. He has lost his sense of at-one-ment with Nature, with Life. All Nature is one, All Life is one! And if a new civilization is to be built, if man is to grow in the peace that passeth understanding and the joy that no ending knows, he must make friends with all birds and animals, trees, flowers, streams, and stars, with all that lives. Unless man becomes the guardian and protector of creatures that breathe the breath of life, the earth will fight back at the greatest destroyer of nature and life, viz. man. There will be droughts and floods, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. And the tilting of the earth and the melting of the ice caps will change the very face of the earth.
The ancient Rishi of the Ishopanishad sang: 'Ishavasyam idam sarvam.' 'All that is, is the vesture of the Lord!' God comes to us, putting on different vestures, different garments. Clad in different garbs, the Lord comes to us to test us, to find out if we truly love Him, as we say we do. Alas! We slay the Lord. We handle Him roughly, we treat Him harshly. We offer Him worship in temples and churches: we chant hymns to His glory. But out in the street we are cruel to Him. We slay Him and eat His flesh. For we forget that the animal, too, is an image of God!
Much on earth is masked. But there is a strange, a mystic sense of our fellowship with all that is. This is what makes every life sacred. The roots of our being are in the One Reality that breathes out benedictions on every man and bird and animal, river and rock, stream and star. For all, all is a part of God! From Him we come, unto Him we must return.
Vegetarianism is not an end in itself. It is only a means to an end. The end, the goal is the Vision of the One-in-all.
As the Bhagavad Gita says:-
Who sees the separate lives Of all creatures of the earth
Of men and birds and beasts, And of the worms that creep,
And the fish that swim in the watery deep
Who sees them all united In the Spirit,
the one Eternal God
Sees them brought forth from Him, His hidden depths
- He sees, indeed!