Should Hindus Be Vegan?
Case Study: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)
Here Are Quotes on Ahimsa or Nonviolence, from the Hindu Scriptures
“You must not use your God-given body for killing God’s creatures, whether
they are human, animal or whatever.”
--Yajur Veda 12.32
“One should be considered dear, even by the animal kingdom.”
--Atharva Veda 17.1.4
“Those noble souls who practice meditation and other yogic ways, who are ever careful about all beings, who protect all animals, are the ones who are actually serious about spiritual practices.”
--Atharva Veda 19.48.5
“By not killing any living being, one becomes eligible for salvation.”
“The purchaser of flesh performs himsa (violence) by his wealth; he who eats flesh does so by enjoying its taste; the killer does himsa by actually tying and killing the animal. Thus, there are three forms of killing. He who brings flesh or sends for it, he who cuts off the limbs of an animal, and he who purchases, sells, or cooks flesh and eats it—all of these are considered meat-eaters.”
--Mahabharata, Anu. 115.40
“He who desires to augment his own flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures lives in misery in whatever species he may take his birth.”
--Mahabharata, Anu. 115.47
“Ahimsa (nonviolence) is the highest duty.”
--Padma Purana 1.31.27
According to contemporary Hindu scholar Satyaraja dasa (Steven Rosen):
“Ahimsa loosely translates as ‘nonviolence.’ In the Vedic tradition, however, the word possesses a much broader meaning: ‘Having no ill feeling for any living being, in all manners possible and for all times is called ahimsa, and it should be the desired goal of all seekers.’ (Patanjali Yoga Sutras, 2.30).
“The Manusmriti, one of India’s earliest sacred texts, says: ‘Without the killing of living beings, meat cannot be made available, and since killing is contrary to the principles of ahimsa, one must give up eating meat.’
“The Vedas (Hindu scriptures) condemn more, however, than just those who eat meat. Equally guilty, they say, is anyone assisting in animal slaughter, sanctioning it, anyone who cuts the flesh, buys, sells, or even serves it. Only those who have not participated in any of these activities can be considered true practitioners of ahimsa."
Hindu spiritual masters like Srila Prabhupada have similarly taught that if one wishes to eat cow’s flesh (or the flesh of any other animal for that matter), one should wait until the animal dies of natural causes, rather than take the life of a fellow creature. This indicates that Krishna devotees are vegetarian first and foremost out of nonviolence toward and compassion for animals, rather than because the supposed intent is merely following “dietary laws.”
Lord Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486 - 1534) adopted the guise of an advaita sannyassi, because the followers of advaita-vedanta were in civic control of West Bengal, five hundred years ago. Yogindra-vandana dasa, temple president of the New Talavan farm community in Mississippi, similarly wrote about Bir Krishna Goswami becoming a vegan:
"I don't agree that everyone in this movement has to do the same thing... I protect cows on a most practical level and I am not vegan. Bir Krishna preaches about cow protection but we are probably the only temple in his zone that protects cows. He is vegan for preaching purposes."