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Should Hindus Be Vegan?
Case Study: The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON)


Part 1
Why study ISKCON?

1. Dr. A.L. Basham, Author of The Wonder That was India, Explains His Partiality Towards ISKCON Over the Numerous Yoga Societies in the West.
 
"The numerous organizations in the past which have brought Indian ideas to the western world -- organizations like the Ramakrishna Mission, the  Theosophical Society and so on -- while having certain religious characteristics, have essentially been societies of people interested in mysticism, gnosticism, and so on, mostly middle-aged people who met together once a week and listened to the local swami lecturing to them, and then went back and carried on with their conventional, secular lives. 
 
"But the Hare Krishna movement demands a significant change in one's way of life... I don't think anything like it has occurred in the European context since the days of the Roman Empire when Christianity, Judaism, Mithraism, and other religions made numerous converts in the West...
 
"One can trace the steadily increasing influence  of mystical gnosis in the western world almost from the end of the eighteenth-century onwards when the Bhagavad-gita was first translated into a European language by Charles Wilkins. Indian ideas circulated rapidly among the intelligentsia not only in the English-speaking world, but also in other parts of Europe.
 
"They certainly had an effect on people throughout the western world -- Germans like Schlegel, Deussen, and Schopenhauer, Americans like Thoreau and Emerson, Englishmen like Max Mueller (an Englishman by adoption) and Aldous Huxley, Frenchmen such as Romain Rolland, and Russians like Tolstoy. 
 
"But these people were in no sense thoroughgoing Hindus and they were impressed primarily by the mysticism of the Upanishads and of the Bhagavad-gita. This movement was strengthened through various developments such as the Theosophical Society, and the publication of Sir Edwin Arnold's The Light of Asia in the 1870's, a book which had a significant effect on quite a number of people in developing a sympathetic attitude towards Buddhism.
 
"It is the simple Indian bhakti (devotion) which you have brought into the western world and not the mystical, other-worldly Upanishadic doctrines which you may accept in theory, at least, but which do not mean as much to you as these simple, straightforward practices.
 
"'Streamlined swamis' is a facetious phrase which I invented myself... I intend it as a reference to the doctrines and teaching which various Indian swamis put forth, a streamlined kind of Hindu mysticism designed to appeal to modern, jet-age disciples: levitation in a few months or even weeks, moksha (liberation) in a few easy lessons -- a Hinduism without class, without worship, without rigid taboos, and so forth.  At the opposite extreme from your form of Indian religion and mysticism, we have for example, Transcendental Meditation. 
 
"Now, I don't want to disparage Transcendental Meditation because I know it's done people some good. It relaxes them. So I'm not unduly critical of Transcendental Meditation, but it is a typically 'streamlined' form of Hinduism. It's scarcely Hinduism at all.
 
"In fact, we're told by the Transcendental Meditationists that you can be a member of their organization -- you can follow their various practices, their yogic meditations and so on -- and yet you don't have to give up anything you already believe in.
 
"You can belong to a church and participate in the Eucharist, have your children baptized, or you can remain an unbeliever and an atheist. Transcendental Meditation seems to have dropped all its theological and even philosophical trappings. It's just a method of mental and psychic training. 
 
"That is one extreme. Yours is the other. You appropriate an Indian religious sect -- its beliefs, its practices, all its taboos, and so on -- root and branch and  import it into the West. In between these extremes we have all sorts of variations...
 
"You've done more than the swamis of the Ramakrishna Mission and others, because they propagate a form of Hinduism in which the devotional, theistic aspect is almost entirely ignored.
 
"Yours, you see, is the straightforward Hinduism of the common man, and the best for of it... if nothing else, you have a great educational function in explaining and exemplifying these things, by living example, to the people of the western world."
 
2. The Founder of the Hare Krishna Movement, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is India's Greatest Scholar, Philosopher, Cultural Ambassador, Author, and Spiritual Leader.
 
From 1966 to 1977, Srila Prabhupada established more than 100 spiritual centers, temples, rural communities, schools, publishing firms and institutes. He circled the globe 14 times on lecture tours on six continents, and still found time to write prolifically. Srila Prabhupada wrote more than 72 books, constituting a comprehensive library of Vedic philosophy, religion, literature, and culture.

"Srila Prabhupada’s works reveal profound scholarship...His translations of the verses are exceptionally lucid and reveal the real spirit of the original..." wrote Dr. Ranjan Borra of the United States Library of Congress. "His books are a veritable encyclopedia of Indian philosophy, religion, and culture."
 
The Encyclopedia Britannica Book of the Year, 1976, reported: "In the period from October 1968 to November 1975, His Divine Grace A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami astonished academic and literary communities worldwide by writing and publishing 52 books on the ancient Vedic culture."

Complete sets of Srila Prabhupada’s books have been purchased by the libraries and professors of most major universities around the world, including Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Oxford, Cambridge, and the Sorbonne. Srila Prabhupada has some ten thousand disciples worldwide and a congregational following in the millions.
 
3. ISKCON's Success in Promoting Vegetarianism and Distributing Vegetarian Food ito the Masses is Unparalleled. 
 
"The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) has contributed tremendously to the growth of vegetarianism in the U.S. and elsewhere, and for that... it deserves the gratitude and respect of the civilized world." 
--Dr. Alex Hershaft, Farm Animal Reform Movement (FARM)
 
"The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) is doing a superb job of letting people know that vegetarian food is healthful, delicious, and pleasing to the eye." 
--Scott Smith, Associate Editor, Vegetarian Times 
 
In his 2004 book, Holy Cow: the Hare Krishna Contribution to Vegetarianism and Animal Rights, when describing the Hare Krishna Food For Life program, Steven Rosen (Satyaraja dasa) quotes Srila Prabhupada as having said: "To distribute prasadam (sanctified vegetarian food offered to the Lord) to millions of hungry people hankering for spiritual emancipation. This is the mission of the Krishna consciousness movement." (Srimad Bhagavatam 1.13.9 purport)
 
According to Steven Rosen, A Nigerian radio station compared the Hare Krishna Food For Life program with "the second coming of Jesus, because just as he fed the masses, so the Hare Krishnas were feeding thousands of people."

Go on to: Part 2, The Doctrine of Ahimsa or Nonviolence is Central to Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism

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