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Re: himsa versus ahimsa

From: Malolan Cadambi (
Date: Sat Jul 07 2001 - 16:04:13 PDT


Dear Sriman Mani and Sriman Venkat,

There is a divergence in understanding ahmisa from the "aasthika darshanam"
(includes Vedanta) and the "nAsthika darshana" (cArvaka, lokAyata, jAina and

The principle of ahmisa in the nAsthika darshana (especially in the jAina
and bowdha traditions) is borrowed from the Aasthika darshanam. But this is
only to a certain extent. Ahimsa as understood by the present generation is
mainly based on how ahimsa is understood by the jAina traditions and how
Mahatma Gandhi preached non-violence(ahimsa).

Here are certain points which we should consider:

1.) Plants (sasya) are living entities (This is affirmed by the prasthana
trayam and more lately, re-affirmed by Sir J C Bose)

2.)  Hurting Animals which die a natural death is not ahimsa. The body of
the animals is made up of the achetana elements (air, oxygen, nitrogen) and
get back into prakrithi (nature).


1.) Giitacharyan has told us in Giita that the Sadhaka, during his course of
Sadhana should try to avoid things that stimulate rajO guna and tamO guna.
Complete Control of the mind takes place only when there is maximum flow of
blood in the brain.

We feel sleepy after a heavy meal. This is because most of the blood is
pumped into the walls of the small intestine which helps in absorbing the
nutrients and there by feeding us. We feel sleepy because there is a very
limited flow of blood into our brain which makes us feel drowsy, after a
heavy meal. I learnt this in High School Biology Class, simple concept
isn't it :-)

Therefore, the Sadhaka should have complete control of senses (mind) during
the course of Sadhana. To have complete control of the mind, there should be
constant and rich flow of blood into the brain. To achieve a rich flow of
blood, our purvAcharyas recommended yogA-bhaysam. Advaita Vedanta emphasizes
on yogA-bhaysam for development of chitta-shuddhi. Only after chitta-suddhi,
one can try to contemplate on Aatham sakshatkaram (self consciousness).

Here comes the effect of non-vegetarian food on the Sadhaka.

1.) Non vegetarians foods contain more fat which means, the digestion will
take longer than usual. This restricts the flow of blood to a considerable
extent there for affecting Sadhana.

2.) Consider the high level of cholesterol in non veg foods.( and consider
what a restraint it puts on the stomach)

Varna and Ahara Niyamam:

1.) Please note that Niyamam (Protocols) for different Varnas are not the
same. Every Varna has a unique niyama prescribed.
A Kshatriya may have to eat meat to develop that extra muscle required to
fight. A Vaishya may have to consume foods nourish for a long time since he
is in the process of trading and cannot afford to waste time. Vaishyas may
consume fish for aharam since it was easily available in the trade routes
which was the sea.

Therefore Ahmisa is the vedantic tradition is like a self-adaptive computer
programme. The Niyamas are different for each varna.

Present Day Generations vis-a-vis the olden (golden) days

1.) These days we have many people in the varnas of others. This does *not*
mean that they stray away from the prescribed Niyamas. They must *at the
best of their ability* try to stick to their prescribed Niyama. For Example,
you were in Florida for a vacation and were hungry, the closest to you is
McDonalds. But a little further away is a Chinese Restaurant where you know
you can get vegetarian fried rice, you must try to stick to the Chinese
restaurant instead of ordering a Big Mac, saying you are too hungry to drive
just another 2-3 miles.

Deer Charma used by Yogis and Sadhus:

1.) Many people ask if ahimsa is the primary principle, why do yogis and
Sadhus meditate sitting on deer charma?

Answer: The Deer Charma is obtained from a dead deer. There fore the deer
charma is just achetana (or a material). Hence there is no contradiction

UpAsana and dhyAna (Meditation)

1.) People may ask, in the present day we have hardly any one who meditates.
Then what is the use for ahara niyams to be followed?

Answer: The interested Sadhaka should try best to practice UpAsana and
DhyAna (Meditation and Contemplation). Those who are not interested are left
to their own free will. There is no need to force any one, it is only out of

If the Sadhaka is not able to find time for UpAsana and DhyAna, then he/she
should try best to have the quality of concentration to the maximum extent
and should have the qualities of fore-berance. The seeker(sadhaka) has to be
with requisite qualifications - qualities such as patience, ability to focus
one's concentration in an intense manner. (Extracted from the FAQs answered
by Sri Vidyasankar Sundaresan)

In conclusion,

1.)Ahmisa as understood in the vedantic tradition is very much different
from the ahimsa preached by Mahavira (the jAina thirthankara) and by Mahtama
Gandhi. But, the nAsthika traditions have borrowed a lot from the aasthika

2.) Ahara and Ahmisa are related. Being a vegetarian and citing ahimsa as an
excuse is not valid.

Niyamam(Protocols) for Sri Vaishnavas:

There are prescribed protocols to be followed by Sri Vaishnavas. They are:

1.) Giitacharya's advice in Srimad Bhagavad Giitam
2.) Aahara Niyamam of Swami Vedanta Desikan.

An English Translation of Aahara Niyamam is in the archives of the Bhakti
Here is the link for the same:

Best Wishes,

Malolan Cadambi
"annat bhavanti bhUtAni" - Srimad Bhagavad Giitam

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