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What God Wants

I've been vegetarian since 1982. Where are all the vegetarian women? 

In the late '80s, San Diego Animal Advocates (a chapter of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, or PETA, before they dissolved the chapter system for legal purposes) had a booth at Koby's Swap Meet (a kind of flea market). We had volunteers staffing a booth, selling t-shirts, buttons, and bumper stickers with pro-animal and pro-environmental messages or logos. We had petitions to sign and graphic photos of animals being experimented upon, etc. 

Kids would come by, and ask smart-alec questions, like, "Are the donations *really* going to the animals?" or make references to the Smiths' album Meat Is Murder. 

If there were any couples passing by, it was always the women, moved by the sight of animal cruelty, who would respond, and come over to sign petitions, purchase animal paraphernalia, etc., while the men tried to act tough, as if they weren't affected by the graphic photos. 

In the late '80s, Vegetarian Times reported that women are five times as likely than men to go vegetarian. 

I'm surprised you're asking, "Would a vegan date a hunter or a fisherman?" 

Where are all the vegetarian women? They all seem to have meat-eating husbands or boyfriends!

****

In 1995 I was traveling with a group of activists protesting the Republicans' "Contract ON America." One activist referred to Salt Lake City as one of the most conservative cities in America, but in Utah you could even find veg items like "rasta pasta" in the supermarkets. Boulder, Colorado, a university town, on the other hand, was like an oasis of liberalism in a sea of rednecks.

Mauro Dossena writes: "By the way... I live in the Italian countryside... The mere thought that here hunting season opens in two weeks drives me crazy." 

When the secular animal rights movement started making headlines in the 1980s, Krishna devotees took it as a sign that their book distribution, mission, and preaching were influencing mainstream secular American society. 

In the mid-'80s, Vaishnavas, devotees or worshippers of Lord Vishnu (or Krishna, who is considered the eighth incarnation of Vishnu), members of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) joined forces with animal activists in Italy, circulating petitions for a ban on hunting! 

When the Smith's album Meat Is Murder was climbing the charts in England, the ISKCON World Review reported it, saying, "Hit Song Blasts Cow Slaughter." 

An initiated (ordained) woman in our clergy wrote an editorial in the ISKCON World Review around that time: "Animal Rights: the Answer to a Vaishnava's Prayer." 

The animal rights video "We Are All Noah" (animal rights activists courting the religious community for inspiration, blessings, and support) was shown in Krishna temples as well, even though (as you can guess from the title) the video was clearly aimed at members of the Abrahamic faiths... rather than trying to convince Hindus to become strictly vegan (instead of lacto-vegetarian), because of the cruelty of the dairy industry. 

And Govinda's Restaurant in San Diego, CA served as a regular meeting place for members of San Diego Animal Advocates. Dhruva dasa, a bramachari or Hindu monk, spoke favorably of Sally Mackler for having singlehandedly started San Diego Animal Advocates. Haribol!
****
Gerwyn asks Alyssa, "...why would a vegetarian have a problem with alcohol and cigarettes?" 

Depends on your reason for being a vegetarian! 

For some, vegetarianism is part of a religious regimen, like celibacy or semi-celibacy (sex only in marriage with the deliberate intent of procreation), like our initiated (ordained) clergy in Krishna Consciousness: a regimen which includes abstinence from all mind-altering substances, including alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, praying the rosary, and abstinence from gambling. 

For others, vegetarianism is part of a health-supporting regimen. Dr. John MacDougall advocates a strictly vegan diet with no oils nor salt, and abstinence from all mind-altering substances, including alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine, in his 1983 book, The MacDougall Plan. 

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), a secular organization, has Victoria's Secret models posing nude, saying, "We'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur!" 

My friend Anantarupa dasa took his present birth in Ireland and came to Krishna Consciousness from an Irish Catholic background. He spent a number of years traveling on pilgrimage through India as a wandering monk or mendicant. 

Anantarupa said he let his membership in PETA lapse when PETA began campaigns like "We'd Rather Go Naked Than Wear Fur!" 

(Anantarupa is now married, and serving as a lay person in Krishna Consciousness.) 

For those of us who go vegetarian or go vegan FOR THE ANIMALS, nutritional debates over soy, wheat gluten, etc. aren't even an issue. 

Meat and dairy analogs provide us with familiar tastes -- without the cruelty! 

But a health-supporting lifestyle helps the animals, too: 

“Isn't man an amazing animal? He kills wildlife - birds, kangaroos, deer, all kinds of cats, coyotes, beavers, groundhogs, mice, foxes and dingos - by the millions in order to protect his domestic animals and their feed. Then he kills domestic animals by the billions and eats them. 

"This in turn kills man by the millions, because eating animals leads to degenerative - and fatal - health conditions like heart disease, kidney disease, and cancer. 

"So then man tortures and kills millions more animals to look for cures for these diseases.

"Elsewhere, millions of other human beings are being killed by hunger and malnutrition because food they could eat is being used to fatten domestic animals. 

"Meanwhile, some people are dying of sad laughter at the absurdity of man, who kills so easily and so violently, and once a year, sends out cards praying for Peace on Earth.” 

--David Coats 

In his 1984 book, The Philosophy of Vegetarianism, professor Daniel Dombrowski writes that the philosophers of ancient Greece and Rome (Pythagoreans and the Platonists) might similarly wonder about modern man: 

...inflicting all kinds of degenerative diseases upon himself through diet and lifestyle, and then torturing and killing millions animals through medical research (vivisection) to find cures for these diseases! 

"Well, yeah," said my friend John Antypas, a biology major in 1986, who felt vivisection was medically necessary, but admitted eating meat isn't. "If you want a cure for lung cancer, stop smoking!" 

On a San Diego talk show, Third Thursday, in 1990, a teenage girl similarly asked a panel of medical "experts": since we know nearly all of the degenerative diseases plaguing the affluent West are caused by diet and lifestyle, why should animals be made to suffer and die unnecessarily? 

My friend Dave Browning (1959 - 2007), a conservative pro-life Republican in San Diego, responded: America is all about freedom. 

Huh?! Lots of people justify abortion as "freedom of choice," too! 

The number of animals killed for food in the United States is nearly 75 times larger than the number of animals killed in laboratories, 30 times larger than the number killed by hunters and trappers, and 500 times larger than the number of animals killed in pounds.

****

Alyssa Powell writes: "Gerwyn, that's a good question. It is not 'why would a (any) vegetarian have a problem with alcohol and cigarettes?' but why do (I) have a problem with alcohol and cigarettes as a vegetarian...and i did answer that question... I stated it is disrespectful to the body." 

In 1994, my brother visited India with my mother to attend my cousin Kumar's wedding. Kumar was born in 1968, and it was an arranged marriage. My cousin Sekhar (Kumar's younger brother, born in 1972), was amazed to see my brother abstaining not just from meat, but from alcohol and cigarettes, and chanting japa (a Hindu rosary). 

Sekhar said with amazement, "...he's more Indian than we are!" and offered respects to my mother, thinking she was the one who instilled religious values in him. 

Even some conservative Christians concede meat, like alcohol and cigarettes, is "disrespectful to the body," as Alyssa Powell writes. 

Around 1987, there was some discussion on animal rights in Vegetarian Times. One woman wrote in saying she finally understood animal issues, but asked how can animal rights activists remain silent about abortion? 

A Christian man wrote in saying that he's vegetarian because the body is a temple of God and is meant to be honored and not defiled, but didn't understand talk about animal rights, saying, "An animal is just an animal." 

Our material desires keep us bound to the cycle of repeated birth and death. The Bhagavad-gita teaches that the way out of this existential dilemma is that we do nothing for our own personal sense gratification, but rather in God's service, for the pleasure of God. 

Commentators on some translations of the Bhagavad-gita (e.g., the Penguin edition) have tried to compare Lord Krishna's words in the Gita ("all that you do... should be done as an offering unto Me") with the apostle Paul's words in Corinthians, "...whether you eat or drink, do all for the glory of God..." 

However, you need a living tradition of checks and balances: of sadhu (saints, holy men), sastra (scripture) and guru (spiritual master), otherwise you might not know if your activities are pleasing to God. (According to Vaishnava tradition, for example, even some vegetarian foods, like onions, garlic and mushrooms, caffeine, alcohol, ganja, etc. cannot be offered to the Lord.) 
Satyaraja dasa (Steven Rosen) made this point during the course of interfaith discussion with Reverend Alvin Hart, an Episcopal priest, telling him the pitfalls of sola scriptura, or relying solely on scripture, as taught in Protestant Christianity:
"You use scripture to prove Jesus was the messiah. The Jews use it just as effectively to prove Jesus could not possibly have been the messiah."
I quoted scholars and theologians saying Paul deviated from Jesus' teachings:
The Reverend J. Todd Ferrier, founder of the Order of the Cross, an informal mystical Christian order, believing in reincarnation and abstaining from meat and wine, wrote in 1903: 
"But Paul, great and noble man as he was, never was one of the recognized heads at Jerusalem. He had been a Pharisee of the Pharisees...He strove to be all things to all men that he might gain some. And we admire him for his strenuous endeavors to win the world for Christ. But no one could be all things to all men without running the great risks of most disastrous results...

"But here as a further thought in connection with the teaching of the great Apostle an important question is forced upon our attention, which one of these days must receive the due consideration from biblical scholars that it deserves. It is this:
"How is it that the gospel of Paul is more to many people than the gospel of those privileged souls who sat at the feet of Jesus and heard His secrets in the Upper Room?" 
Christian theologian Dr. Upton Clary Ewing writes: “With all due respect for the integrity of Paul, he was not one of the Twelve Apostles… Paul never knew Jesus in life.

He never walked and prayed with Him as He went from place to place, teaching the word of God.”

The great theologian Soren Kirkegaard, writing in the Journals, echoes the above sentiment: “In the teachings of Christ, religion is completely present tense:  Jesus is the prototype and our task is to imitate him, become a disciple.  But then through Paul came a basic alteration.  Paul draws attention away from imitating Christ and fixes attention on the death of Christ, The Atoner.  What Martin Luther, in his reformation, failed to realize is that even before Catholicism, Christianity had become degenerate at the hands of Paul.  Paul made Christianity the religion of Paul, not of Christ.  Paul threw the Christianity of Christ away, completely, turning it upside down, making it just the opposite of the original proclamation of Christ.”

The eminent theologian Ferdinand Christian Baur, in his Church History of the First Three Centuries, wrote: “What kind of authority can there be for an ‘apostle’ who, unlike the other apostles, had never been prepared for the apostolic office in Jesus’ own school but had only later dared to claim the apostolic office on the basis on his own authority?  The only question comes to be how the apostle Paul appears in his Epistles to be so indifferent to the historical facts of the life of Jesus…He bears himself but little like a disciple who has received the doctrines and the principles which he preaches from the Master whose name he bears.”

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, winner of the 1952 Nobel Peace Prize, wrote in his Quest for the Historical Jesus and his Mysticism of Paul: “Paul…did not desire to know Christ…Paul shows us with what complete indifference the earthly life of Jesus was regarded…What is the significance for our faith and for our religious life, the fact that the Gospel of Paul is different from the Gospel of Jesus?…The attitude which Paul himself takes up towards the Gospel of Jesus is that he does not repeat it in the words of Jesus, and does not appeal to its authority…The fateful thing is that the Greek, the Catholic, and the Protestant theologies all contain the Gospel of Paul in a form which does not continue the Gospel of Jesus, but displaces it.” 
 
William Wrede, in his excellent book Paul, informs us: “The obvious contradictions in the three accounts (given by Paul in regard to his conversion) are enough to arouse distrust…The moral majesty of Jesus, his purity and piety, his ministry among his people, his manner as a prophet, the whole concrete ethical-religious content of his earthly life, signifies for Paul’s Christology nothing whatever…The name ‘disciple of Jesus’ has little applicability to Paul…Jesus or Paul:  this alternative characterizes, at least in part, the religious and theological warfare of the present day.” 
 
Rudolf Bultman, one of the most respected theologians of the 20th century, wrote in his Significance of the Historical Jesus for the Theology of Paul: 
 
“It is most obvious that Paul does not appeal to the words of the Lord in support of his… views.  When the essential Pauline conceptions are considered, it is clear that Paul is not dependent on Jesus.  Jesus’ teaching is—to all intents and purposes—irrelevant for Paul.”

This prompted Brother David Sherman (Bhakti Ananda Goswami) a Catholic hermit and Hindu sannyassi (monk) living in Coquille, Oregon, to wonder:

...you'll take the opinions of scholars and theologians nearly 2,000 years after Jesus' ministry rather than follow a living tradition of sadhu (saints, or holy men), sastra (scripture) and guru (spiritual master) which began with Jesus' ministry?

But that's the point! Paul contradicted the Old Testament tradition of sadhu, sastra and guru: the Law and the prophets; the Jesus of the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), a rabbi who repeatedly upheld the Law; as well as the other apostles, who were direct disciples of Jesus.

Was Paul part of an earlier existing tradition, or was he an apostate, deviating from it, and founding his own religion?

Even theologically conservative Christian scholars rely on the Jewish tradition to determine if a theological doctrine or gospel is false:

There are all kinds of fictitious "gospels" floating around, for example, like the Aquarian Gospel, the Gospel of the Holy Twelve, the Essene Gospel of Peace, etc. Some of these "gospels" depict Jesus as a vegetarian, others say he traveled to India, or that he taught reincarnation (I believe reincarnation IS compatible with Christianity--on an abstract, theological level).  

Mainline churches aren't about to take these "gospels" seriously. And with good reason.
Swedish New Testament scholar, Per Beskow wrote an entire book on the subject, entitled Strange Tales About Jesus, where he effectively debunks these "gospels."

The Gospel of the Holy Twelve, for example, describes Jesus and his apostles en route to Jerusalem,encountering a man with a pack of hunting dogs. Along the lines of a belief in karma and reincarnation, Jesus exclaims, "Woe unto the hunters, for they shall be hunted!"

Per Beskow comments that this incident sounds like 19th century England, rather than first century Palestine, and that the Gospel of the Holy Twelve was, in fact, received through seances and mediums in 19th century England!

Similarly, the Essene Gospel of Peace has Jesus advocating a raw food diet and speaking to his disciples about their Heavenly Father and their Earthly Mother, which Per Beskow says contradicts first century Judaic monotheism. 

(So does the traditional Christian belief in a Trinity, which did not arise until centuries after Jesus, and is, therefore, arguably pagan in origin.)

Contemporary Hindu spiritual master Ravindra-svarupa dasa (Dr. William Deadwyler), writes about speaking before Christian students:

"I knew (these Christians) would view me as espousing the error of Pelagius, the heresy that man can save himself by his own efforts. Enough evangelicals had approached me in the streets to announce, 'I don't have to work for my salvation,' to let me know that the party line on us was out. 

"This charge had two sources. First of all, they saw any sort of regimen as smacking of works. Second of all, they believed that every religion but Christianity, no matter what its particular practices was Pelagian.

"To be more precise, all religions were Pelagian, but Christianity, strictly speaking, was not a religion. Religion they defined as the vain attempts of man to reach God on his own; all such attempts are tainted by man's inherent sinfulness and so inevitably fail. Christianity, on the other hand, is God's own reaching out to man. It is not, of course, tainted by sinfulness."

In Vaishnavaite Hinduism it is taught that souls in this material world have fallen from grace. We've come to this world to forget God. A leap of faith, therefore, is required as the first step in our relationship with God. Man cannot know God by his own efforts. God must make Himself known to man. God is known not by speculation, but by revelation. Both the Vaishnavaite Hindu tradition and Christianity are in agreement on the point that God must first reach out to man.

The ancient Sanskrit literatures state further that in this Age of Kali (our current age of quarrel and hypocrisy, which began 5,100 years ago), the sacred books are no longer revered, and civilization lacks any kind of divine guidance.

When I told Lalita dasi (Leona Oster), a disciple of A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, for example, that Dixie Mahy, president of the San Francisco Vegetarian Society (SFVS) was involved with the neo-Essene Church (followers of Dr. Edmond Bordeaux Szekely, founder of the International Biogenic Society), and that Dixie thought about becoming ordained in their Church, but it would require strictly following a raw food diet, Lalita immediately exclaimed:

"Man-made religion!" (a symptom of the Age of Kali.)

Dixie says she was raised a Mormon before eventually joining the neo-Essene Church, but Per Beskow debunks the Book of Mormon, too!

Without a living tradition of sadhu (saints, or holy men), sastra (scripture), and guru (spiritual master), it's uncertain, relying sola scriptura, or on scripture alone, to know what God wants.

("What God Wants" sings Roger Waters of Pink Floyd fame in his 1993 song, claiming at one point, "God wants chain stores!") 

Hence, we see thousands of differing Protestant denominations, at odds with one another, and each claiming to have a monopoly on the Absolute Truth.

Remember, too, some of the worst crimes in history were committed in the name of religion! I would refer you to Rage Against the Machine's 1992 song, "Killing in the Name" in this regard. 

My friend John Antypas saw my point, during a friendly discussion on religion in 1985. He said there was a woman calling herself a "stripper for Jesus." 

Gopisvara dasa (Tom Dudek) told me in 1997 that when he met with a couple of Mormon missionaries, he similarly told them they haven't got a living tradition to follow: their spiritual master has been gone for nearly 2,000 years! 

And, he said, you need a living tradition to know what is pleasing to God. 

Gopisvara gave an example to the Mormon missionaries, telling them: without proper understanding, I might offer you a beer! 

Gopisvara later told me one of the missionaries, an older woman, could appreciate that we were representing an ancient religious tradition, whereas Mormonism is fairly recent (19th century America). 

I told John Antypas the Christians have the right idea in wanting to do all for the pleasure of God rather than one's own personal sense gratification: e.g., listening to Christian music instead of secular music, etc. 

One of our spiritual masters in disciplic succession, Tamal Krishna Goswami, studied theology at Southern Methodist University. When interviewed on a Sunday morning Christian television broadcast, he said, "You'll have a hard time convincing me that when someone's lighting up a cigarette, he's doing that for God."

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