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Milk and Honey

Keith Akers writes in A Vegetarian Sourcebook (1983):

"Forbidden to the Jains are meat, alcohol, honey...

"Vegetarians will be pleased to find that there is at least one major religion which unequivocally enjoins vegetarianism... Before vegetarians go out en masse and convert to Jainism, however, they should probably cast a casual glance at the rest of the Jain religion.

"The Jains are decidedly ascetic. Their vegetarianism does not arise as much from animals worth respect as from purifying the soul from its attachment to matter.

"This is not to say that they would not make an issue of kindness to animals -- undoubtedly they would. But the ultimate objective is purification of the soul, as a necessary step to win the soul's release from matter."

Our material desires keep us bound to the cycle of repeated birth and death in this material world. In Hinduism, the Bhagavad-gita teaches the solution to this existential dilemma is that we do all in the service of God, rather than for our own personal sense gratification.

This includes offering all of one's food to the Lord before eating, sex only in marriage only for procreation, etc.

In devotional service, we return to eternal life, beyond the cycle of repeated birth and death, to the spiritual world, the kingdom of God from where we fell from grace.

Vegetarianism or nonviolence to humans and animals alike (known in Sanskrit as ahimsa) is central to the Eastern religions (Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism), because of belief in karma and reincarnation, belief in risking rebirth in lower species as a punishment for sinning, etc... . It's like the conservative Christian opposition to abortion!

A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada himself, commenting on Bhagavad-gita, assuming dairy products could be obtained nonviolently, wrote, "Slaughter is the way of the subhumans."

In the summer of 1985, there was some discussion among devotees at the San Diego Krishna temple as to finding substitutes for white sugar, which many of the guests attending the weekly dinner program (often New Age and/or veg for health reasons), said was unhealthy. (Some of the guests were vegan, and would politely decline the dishes containing dairy.) Fructose and honey were suggested as alternatives to white sugar.

"Who cares what the karmis (nondevotees) think?" commented one female devotee. "We should please the Deities." (All food in the temple is offered to the Deities before eaten, and -- note that plural! -- we worship the images and expansions of a plural Godhead, like that of Trinitarian Christianity.)

Around that time, the temple kitchen was being renovated, and it was reported that Hindu spiritual master Srila Ramesvara Swami (Robert Grant) said Krishna does not accept food from an unclean kitchen... Wouldn't it logically follow then that Krishna does not accept milk or dairy products from factory farmed cows, subject to torture and abuse?

In 1987, Krishna devotees were informed about Sucanat, a sugar product which is strictly vegan and differed from white sugar (processed through animal bones, and thus isn't even vegetarian!). Ads for Sucanat appeared at the time in Clarion Call, a Krishna periodical out of the San Francisco Bay Area, aimed at New Age spiritual seekers.

In the '80s, I wondered why the Jains abstain from honey, which I naturally assumed at the time as an animal by-product (like dairy and/or eggs) would be cruelty-free and wouldn't involve taking the life of a fellow-creature.

One of initiated (ordained) devotees at the San Diego Krishna temple, Yudhistira dasa, understood the Jains' rationale as nonviolence toward other living entities, rather than as asceticism. He said bees are often killed in obtaining honey.

In 2000, Gaverick Matheny of Vegan Action told me that Vegan Action had started a campaign to have products in supermarkets labeled as vegan, but they weren't sure how to proceed with products containing white sugar, since white sugar is processed through animal bones, and thus isn't even vegetarian.

Gaverick said there was debate among the vegans as to whether or not honey (even if obtained humanely) could be labeled vegan (as an alternative to products containing white sugar), since honey is derived from insects.

My friend Anantarupa dasa, who took his present birth in Ireland, and came to Krishna Consciousness from an Irish Catholic background, commented, "Honey isn't vegan. Not by any stretch of the imagination."

Anantarupa, who had made his own soymilk before and was sympathetic to veganism, said around that time as well that it's doubtful if Krishna would accept milk or dairy products from factory farmed cows, subject to torture and abuse.

My friend Anantarupa dasa, sympathetic to veganism, still saw veganism in the late '90s and early '00s as an extreme form of vegetarianism (like fruitarianism!), rather than just being realistic about nonviolence.

When I told Anantarupa I wanted to sponsor a Sunday Feast at the Berkeley Krishna temple, but insisting it be a strictly vegan Feast, and invite SF Bay Area vegans to attend, so they could be purified...

(we believe anyone taking prasadam, food offered to the images of the Supreme Lord and His various incarnations and expansions, is blessed by the Lord with a human birth in his or her next life, and the opportunity to progress further in their relationship with the Lord)

...Anantarupa replied with mild sarcasm:

"Why not sponsor a raw food Sunday Feast, and invite all the raw food faddists, so they can be purified?"

In 2002, a Southern California judge ruled animal activists cannot claim to be exempt on moral grounds for refusing vaccines tested on animals...

(like pacifists or conscientious objectors during wartime, or pro-lifers refusing vaccines containing aborted fetal cells)

...because, the judge ruled, veganism and animal rights are a secular moral philosophy (like democracy and representative government in place of monarchy and belief in the divine right of kings; the separation of church and state; the abolition of human slavery; the emancipation of women; birth control; the sexual revolution; LGBT rights, etc.) and not a religion!

"This country wasn't founded by Christians," said Ron McClellan (Sarva Satya dasa), a fallen Prabhupada disciple who really ought to just step down and serve in FOLK ("Friends Of Lord Krishna"), the laity.

Isn't the United States a secular society?!

Another reason animal activists should be courting the religious community for the inspiration, blessings and support of organized religion.

The judge's ruling has prompted some animal activists to now claim Jainism as their religion!

One animal activist reported that when he visited a Jain temple and was offered tea sweetened milk and honey, he politely declined, explaining even animal by-products cannot be obtained nonviolently.

The person wanting to serve him tea said, "You are a better Jain than I."

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