Meat eating is an impediment to spiritual life
In the sixth Commandment, God tells the Jewish people, “Thou shall not kill.” (Exodus 20:2–17 and Deuteronomy 5:6–21) The ten Commandments are the law of God given to the Jews to follow. In the Vedas also, it is said, dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam, (SB 6.3.19) – “Real religious principles are enacted by the Supreme Personality of Godhead. Although fully situated in the mode of goodness, even the great r?s?is who occupy the topmost planets cannot ascertain the real religious principles, nor can the demigods or the leaders of Siddhaloka, to say nothing of the asuras, ordinary human beings, Vidy?dharas and C?ran?as.”
Understanding the real import of scriptural instructions is a challenge for materialistically inclined people. Their desires for material success hinder their ability to understand the word of God purely. This is true in the Judeo-Christian, Islami, Buddhist and Vedic traditions.
Since Biblical times there has been a controversy about the translation from the Hebrew of “Thou shall not kill.” Some scholars say it should be “Thou shall not commit murder.” Others say it means. “Thou shall not kill.” The difference between the two meanings is enormous. Kill is very broad. It can mean not kill anything from humans to insects and even plants. Murder refers specifically to human beings. In a strict and literal sense, the exact meaning of the original Hebrew word is correctly translated as kill and not murder.
In fact, in Vedic times, when most people strictly followed the Vedas (over 5000 years ago), only qualified Brahmins were allowed to kill because they had the power to bring the dead body back to life. During a fire sacrifice, Brahmin priests demonstrated physical proof that their recitation of mantras and conduct of the sacrifice were potent. They would place an old cow into the blazing fire of the sacrifice and recite mantras (prayers). The cow would die and then be rejuvenated into a young calf on the spot. In other words, they were allowed to kill because they had the power to bring back to life a rejuvenated calf..
When Kali yuga (the age of hypocrisy and quarrel) began 5000 years ago such animal sacrifices were forbidden because the Brahmins no longer had the purity or power to bring the dead animals back to life rejuvenated. In spite of the restriction, Hindu Brahmins continued such animal sacrifices. When the cow or other animal died in the fire, the priests would claim that the barbecued body was maha prasadam (sanctified food) and distribute it to the people as a sacred remnant. This was not only a travesty of a sacred ritual, but a cause for the people to become degraded by consuming the carcass of a cow in the name of religion.
Lord Buddha noticed this and was disgusted with the fallen Hindu Brahmins of his time. He started the Buddhist religion based on the principle of ahimsa, nonviolence. He strictly forbade meat eating and other forms of violence against humans, animals and nature.
Five hundred years after Buddha, Jesus Christ also was disgusted with the prolific slaughter of animals in the Jewish temple built by King Solomon (the son of King David) in Jerusalem about 1000 years before Christ. The temple was destroyed and rebuilt. The animal sacrifices that took place in the temple are described in the Book of Leviticus of the Old Testament of the Bible. The animal sacrifices took place originally in the “temporary tent, the Tabernacle of Moses.” The first temple built by Solomon replaced the Tabernacle of Moses. After the destruction of the first temple, a second temple was built and it existed in the time of Jesus. The following is a quote from Leviticus to give you an idea of the horror that Jesus witnessed during His life.
“Leviticus 1 (New International Version, ©2010)
The Burnt Offering
1 The LORD called to Moses and spoke to him from the tent of meeting. He said, 2 “Speak to the Israelites and say to them: ‘When anyone among you brings an offering to the LORD, bring as your offering an animal from either the herd or the flock.
3 “‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the herd, you are to offer a male without defect. You must present it at the entrance to the tent of meeting so that it will be acceptable to the LORD. 4 You are to lay your hand on the head of the burnt offering, and it will be accepted on your behalf to make atonement for you. 5 You are to slaughter the young bull before the LORD, and then Aaron’s sons the priests shall bring the blood and splash it against the sides of the altar at the entrance to the tent of meeting. 6 You are to skin the burnt offering and cut it into pieces. 7 The sons of Aaron the priest are to put fire on the altar and arrange wood on the fire. 8 Then Aaron’s sons the priests shall arrange the pieces, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. 9 You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to burn all of it on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
10 “‘If the offering is a burnt offering from the flock, from either the sheep or the goats, you are to offer a male without defect. 11 You are to slaughter it at the north side of the altar before the LORD, and Aaron’s sons the priests shall splash its blood against the sides of the altar. 12 You are to cut it into pieces, and the priest shall arrange them, including the head and the fat, on the wood that is burning on the altar. 13 You are to wash the internal organs and the legs with water, and the priest is to bring all of them and burn them on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.
14 “‘If the offering to the LORD is a burnt offering of birds, you are to offer a dove or a young pigeon. 15 The priest shall bring it to the altar, wring off the head and burn it on the altar; its blood shall be drained out on the side of the altar. 16 He is to remove the crop and the feathers[a] and throw them down east of the altar where the ashes are. 17 He shall tear it open by the wings, not dividing it completely, and then the priest shall burn it on the wood that is burning on the altar. It is a burnt offering, a food offering, an aroma pleasing to the LORD.”
From the above verses in the Old Testament, you can understand that the Jewish temple or synagogue in Jerusalem was a place of blood and gore, a real slaughter house. When the first temple was completed by Solomon, it is said that 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep were slaughtered as an offering to God.
Jesus Christ revolted against such a travesty of religion and started the Christian religion to stop it. For this very reason and others, the Jews rejected Jesus as the prophesied Messiah and their priests convinced the Romans to crucify Him. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada validates this point in a lecture he gave on Buddha and Christ.
“So Lord Buddha appeared at a time where people were too much addicted to animal killing. Still it is going on. Kesava dhrta-buddha-sarira, jaya jagadisa hare. Sadaya-hrdaya darsita-pasu-ghatam. Pasu-ghatam. Any religion where pasu-ghatam is there, that is not religion. That is not religion. That is simply barbarianism, under the name of religion. So God Himself becomes so much disturbed that these rascals are simply killing. At that time, of course, the Buddha religion was not there. The so-called followers of the Vedic religion. In the Vedas there are sanction for killing animal in a special sacrifice, but people took it as general, and they began to kill animals like anything, under the protection of Veda. Therefore when Lord Buddha began to preach his philosophy, ahimsa, nonviolence, he did not accept the authority of Vedas. Because people will misuse it. Therefore he said that “I don’t care for your Vedas.” Just like Lord Jesus Christ rebelled against the Old Testament. He formulated his own testament, New Testament. Similarly, Lord Buddha also, he rejected Vedas and He presented his own philosophy: ahimsa, nonviolence. Ahimsa paramo dharmah. (Nonviolence is the superior principle of religion) Because he was very kind upon on the poor animals… Sadaya-hrdaya darsita-pasu-ghatam. Pasu-ghatam means animal killing. Nindasi yajna-vidher ahaha sruti-jatam. Sruti-jatam. Sruti means Veda. So in the Vedas, although there are, in particular cases, there are animal sacrifice… That is also very restricted. But we cannot say that there is no animal sacrifice. There is in some cases. So Lord Buddha, nindasi, He decried, “No, I don’t accept your Vedas.” Therefore Buddha religion is different from Vedic religion, because he rejected Vedas. And the Vedic followers, because he rejected Vedic principles, Vedic followers said that he, “You are nastika.” Nastika means unbeliever. (Class given on the verse Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.24, September 29, 1972, Los Angeles)
Five hundred years before Christ, Buddha decided not to try and convince the Brahmin-priests (Vedic priests) to stop their illicit animal sacrifices because he knew that they would adamantly refuse. Animal sacrifice was an important source of revenue for the brahmin-priests. Therefore, he started a new religion by rejecting the Vedas and brahminical sacrifices that are recommended in the Vedas. Jesus did virtually the same thing in His time. He rejected the Jewish system of religious observance with its animal sacrifices and started a new religion based on the revelation that He is the Son of God and the Messiah prophesied in the Old Testament of the Bible. He came to redeem all people of their sins by accepting to be crucified on the Cross by the will of His Father.
During the last supper, Jesus established a new covenant and broke with the Jewish Old Testament. The traditional Passover ceremony for Jews remembered how God spared the first born children of the Jews in Egypt. In the Book of Exodus, the Bible tells that God helped the Jews in Egypt escape slavery by inflicting ten plagues upon the Egyptians before Pharaoh would release his Israelite slaves. One of the plagues was that God would kill the newly born children in the kingdom of the Pharaoh. The Jews were instructed to mark the doorposts of their homes with the blood of a lamb and, upon seeing this, the spirit of the Lord passed over these homes, hence the term “passover.”. Apparently God passed over the homes of the Jews and only killed the new born children of the Egyptians. As a token of thanksgiving for God’s mercy, the Jews hold the Passover dinner and sacrifice a lamb to God.
The biblical regulations for the observance of the festival require that only unleavened bread be eaten along with bitter herbs. Also an unblemished lamb or goat is to be slaughtered without removal of its internal organs and eaten along with the unleavened bread and bitter herbs. Jesus used the Jewish Passover feast to establish a new covenant with mankind to replace the old covenant with the Jewish people. “Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us (Corinthians 5:7)
Jesus took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to His disciples, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And He took a cup, and when He had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it. And He said to them, ‘This is My blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.”
Jesus replaced the sacrificial lamb of the Jewish Passover with His own flesh and blood symbolized by the bread and wine. In other words, he stopped the slaughter of the innocent lamb by the Jews and instead offered His flesh and blood in the form of the sanctified bread and wine to be eaten for thanksgiving and purification. This point is verified by the following. Jesus was called “the Lamb of God” by John the Baptist (John 1:29, 36), and the New Testament amply verifies the symbolism. Paul, for example, wrote “Christ our Passover [lamb] is sacrificed for us” (I Corinthians 5:7).
We can say, therefore, that Jesus started a new religion to stop the wholesale slaughter of animals in the Jewish synagogues just as Buddha started a new religion to stop the unauthorized slaughter of animals in Hinduism.
Some people claim that Jesus ate fish and therefore He was not a vegetarian. In the Book of Matthew, the episode of Jesus feeding the multitudes is recorded.
Jesus Feeds the Four Thousand Matthew 15.29
29 “Jesus left there and went along the Sea of Galilee. Then he went up on a mountainside and sat down. 30 Great crowds came to him, bringing the lame, the blind, the crippled, the mute and many others, and laid them at his feet; and he healed them. 31 The people were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the crippled made well, the lame walking and the blind seeing. And they praised the God of Israel.
32 Jesus called his disciples to him and said, “I have compassion for these people; they have already been with me three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, or they may collapse on the way.”
33 His disciples answered, “Where could we get enough bread in this remote place to feed such a crowd?”
34 “How many loaves do you have?” Jesus asked.
“Seven,” they replied, “and a few small fish.”
35 He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. 36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people. 37 They all ate and were satisfied. Afterward the disciples picked up seven basket of broken pieces that were left over. 38 The number of those who ate was four thousand men, besides women and children. 39 After Jesus had sent the crowd away, he got into the boat and went to the vicinity of Magadan.”
Jesus performs several miracles such as healing the sick and miraculously multiplying seven loaves of bread and a couple of fish to feed four thousand people. Both miracles attest to Jesus possessing supernatural powers that no ordinary human being has. The fish and bread he multiplied were not ordinary fish and bread, but some miraculous substance that appeared like fish and bread. The fish and bread appeared by Jesus performing a miracle. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has commented on this in the following.
Prabhupada: “Now you were referring to the Vedic principle, but that does not mean you have to open slaughterhouse. But these rascals are opening slaughterhouse. You think it is Vedic principle? Suppose it is recommended that animals should be sacrificed in the Vedic ritualistic ceremony. Does it mean that you shall open regular slaughterhouse? Just as the Christians say that Jesus Christ ate fish, therefore they are right in opening big, big slaughterhouse? Maybe Lord Jesus Christ ate fish in some awkward circumstance, but that does not mean that he is recommending to open slaughterhouse. In the Ten Commandments he says, “Thou shalt not kill.” When there is absolute necessity, there is no other food, that is another thing, but if there is sufficient other foodstuff, why should you kill? They are not even human being, those who are animal killers. Vina pasughnat [SB 10.1.4]. Those who are animal killers, they are not even human being, what to speak of religious system. Nivrtta-tarsair upagiyamanad bhavausadhac chrotra-mano-’bhiramat ka uttamasloka-guna [SB 10.1.4]. If you are animal killer, your God consciousness is finished. You’ll never be able to understand what is God. Then your life is finished. This life is meant for understanding God, and if you are animal killer, then your God understanding is finished.” (Class given on the verse of the Srimad-Bhagavatam 1.3.24 on September 29, 1972, Los Angeles)
Further, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada has also commented that if you have the power of Jesus then you can also eat fish and meat. Just like Krishna danced with the gopis (cowherd girls). But, first He was able to life the mountain of named Govardhana. So if you can lift the Govardhana mountain, then you can dance with the gopis or marry sixteen thousand women. Because we do not have such power, we should not dare to imitate God or His empowered servants. We should, however, follow God’s instructions given to us in the Bhagavad-gita. He says to Arjuna, “Offer Me with love and devotion a leaf, water, fruit and flower and I will accept it.” (Bg 9.26) Therefore, Krishna ordains for us the following foods that we can offer Him and then receive it back as His Mercy or Prasad: cereals, grains, fruits, nuts, vegetables, and milk.
If a person likes the taste of meat, then he can cook all vegetarian food in pure ghee which is made from cow’s milk and cream. The milk and cream is made from cow’s blood without killing the cow. Then people will have virtually the same succulent taste of meat without committing any violence. This is nonviolent eating which favors a peaceful spiritual life.
Study the history of the ancient Jews right up to modern times. Their history is full of violence and trouble. The same is true of all meat eating cultures including the Armenians. There is a direct correlation between meat eating and violence.