Vasu Murti

The Writings of Vasu Murti

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Religions and Nonviolence

(1) "The Indian sub-continent has always had a large variety of related religious philosophies and practices flourishing, but it was not until the 19th century that the British classified them all together under the term 'Hinduism.'” 
Dr. Huston Smith, author of The Religions of Man, points out that Hinduism, like Buddhism, represents a *family* of different religious traditions.
(2) "There is a claim that 'Hin,' related to Himsa, means violence, and 'Du,' related to Dur, means 'far from,' so that 'Hindu' means 'far from violence.' is asserted by Hindus who believe that a true Hindu practices thorough-going nonviolence."
I've never heard this before! I'm skeptical of such a claim, even if made by devout Hindus.
(3) "Firmly establishing karma and reincarnation further rigidified the caste system, with the idea that people had earned their current circumstances by what they had done in past lives."
No, the twin doctrines of karma and reincarnation mean that one's caste or status in society is a temporary material condition.
According to Hinduism's most sacred scripture, the Bhagavad-gita (5.18), "the humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog-eater." 
(In the traditional Indian caste system, brahmins are considered the highest group of humans, while "dog-eaters" are a group of humans deemed so inferior that they are placed outside the caste system.) 
Social ills such as racism, sexism, nationalism, caste-ism, and speciesism arise because souls falsely identify with their temporary bodies. On the spiritual platform, all are equal. 
(Compare this to the Christian teaching: "In Christ there is no Greek or Jew, slave or free" [Colossians 3:11].)
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada said: "In the Bhagavad-gita [4.13] it is stated, catur-varnyam maya srishtam guna-karma-vibhagasah.  'These four orders of brahmanas, kshatriyas, vaishyas, and sudras were created by Me according to quality (guna) and work or activities (karma).'  There is no mention of birth (janma)."
A Western text, India: Yesterday and Today, also reports that "the four orders... of Hindu society... were classes in the Western sense rather than castes in the Indian manner."
(4) "Throughout Hindu history, there has been much advocacy for ahimsa in lifestyles, and persuasion of others to do so. For example:
"Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (fifteenth to sixteenth centuries) . . . converted many cruel people who later became compassionate beings. The story is told that once Chaitanya Mahaprabhu heard that hundreds of cows and bulls were killed every year to feed the Muslim ruler of his area. He was saddened about the slaughter of innocent animals so he went to the court and met the Muslim ruler to explain the significance of nonviolence. He said that cows give us milk so they are like our mother. He said that bulls help to plow fields to produce food grains so they are like our father. Killing these cows and bulls to eat meat is like killing our mother and father and eating their meat. The Muslim ruler was convinced by Mahaprabhu’s argument and ordered no more killing of cows and bulls and became an ardent practitioner of nonviolence. Mahaprabhu also converted many criminals and dangerous bandits of his time into great devotees of the Lord. They became compassionate beings. His way of nonviolence attracted thousands of followers. (Shastri & Shastri, 1998, p. 82)"
Followers of Chaitanya Mahaprabhu are to follow Mahaprabhu's example, and bring up the subject of vegetarianism with people of other faiths.
(5) "Note that this is the most basic and easiest form of nonviolence: persuading others to participate. This is always the first thing to try, and it serves as an ideal we all aspire to.  It solves all kinds of problems when it works, and it works quite a bit – there is more power in it than many people realize. Were it to become universal, peace would be achieved.
"Nevertheless, many people refuse to be persuaded and do not merely ignore the pleas to be nonviolent, but react with violence to those making the pleas – horrific violence. In some cases, of course, the pleas are being made not on behalf of others but by the victims themselves, so it is easily predicted that being assertive rather than acquiescing will bring on more violence against the victims."
Pro-choicers have similarly said that the mission of the pro-life movement should be *education* rather than arm-twisting: to convince the majority of Americans to extend rights to the unborn. Anti-abortionists don't seem to appreciate or understand friendly moral persuasion. All they seem to understand is coercion, force, and violence: bombing clinics, killing doctors, etc.!
(6) "Ritual human sacrifice to please, placate, or bargain with divinity was practiced early on but stopped being prevalent millennia ago. As a fringe activity and primarily to the goddess Kali, individual instances in India are still making the news and are legally treated as murders.
"Ritual animal sacrifice was found in the Vedas but disapproved in the Upanishads. It is currently not common and is especially frowned on by those with vegetarian practice, but does happen, primarily goats sacrificed to the goddess Kali."
What, then, are we to make of the ancient practice of sacrificing animals? 
In his purport (commentary) on the Bhagavata Purana 5.26.25, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada writes: 
"The word dambha-yajñeṣu in this verse is significant. If one violates the Vedic (Hindu) instructions while performing yajña (sacrifice) and simply makes a show of sacrifice for the purpose of killing animals, he is punishable after death (in hell). In Calcutta there are many slaughterhouses where animal flesh is sold that has supposedly been offered in sacrifice before the goddess Kālī. The śāstras (scriptures) enjoin that one can sacrifice a small goat before the goddess Kālī once a month (the original intent of animal sacrifices in the world religions is to curtail, limit, and restrict the killing of animals). Nowhere is it said that one can maintain a slaughterhouse in the name of temple worship and daily kill animals unnecessarily. Those who do so receive the punishments (in hell) described herein." 
Bhagavata Purana 7.15.24, Purport: 
"By practice, one should avoid eating in such a way that other living entities will be disturbed and suffer. Since I suffer when pinched or killed by others, I should not attempt to pinch or kill any other living entity. People do not know that because of killing innocent animals they themselves will have to suffer severe (karmic) reactions from material nature. Any country where people indulge in unnecessary killing of animals will have to suffer from wars and pestilence imposed by material nature. Comparing one's own suffering to the suffering of others, therefore, one should be kind to all living entities."
In his excellent A Guide to the Misled, Rabbi Shmuel Golding explains the orthodox Jewish position concerning animal sacrifices:  "When G-d gave our ancestors permission to make sacrifices to Him, it was a concession, just as when He allowed us to have a king (I Samuel 8), but He gave us a whole set of rules and regulations concerning sacrifice that, when followed, would be superior to and distinct from the sacrificial system of the heathens."
Some biblical passages denounce animal sacrifice (Isaiah 1:11,15; Amos 5:21-25).  Other passages state that animal sacrifices, not necessarily incurring God's wrath, are unnecessary (I Kings 15:22; Jeremiah 7:21-22; Hosea 6:6; Hosea 8:13; Micah 6:6-8; Psalm 50:1-14; Psalm 40:6; Proverbs 21:3; Ecclesiastes 5:1).
Sometimes meat-eating Christians foolishly cite Isaiah 1:11, where God says, "I am full of the burnt offerings..."  These Christians claim the word "full" implies God accepted the sacrifices.  However, in Isaiah 43:23-24, God says:  "You have not honored Me with your sacrifices... rather you have burdened Me with your sins, you have wearied Me with your iniquities."  This suggests, as Moses Maimonides taught and Rabbi Shmuel Golding confirms above, that "the sacrifices were a concession to barbarism."
With the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem by the Romans in 70 AD, the sacrificial system of the Hebrews came to an end. Since the killing of animals outside of sacrifice was forbidden (Leviticus 17:3-4), many Jews gave up meat-eating altogether. Meat consumption virtually died out at the time. In the Talmud (Tracte Babba Bathra 60b), Rabbi Yishmael is quoted as saying, "From the day that the holy Temple was destroyed, it would have been right to have imposed upon ourselves the law prohibiting the eating of flesh."
A complicated set of dietary laws and ritual slaughter evolved to replace the sacrificial system as a means of atonement for killing God’s innocent creatures. The process of slaughter is strictly regulated. The procedures are described in the Talmud. The slaughterers must be specially-trained, God-fearing, observant Jews. The knife used in killing the animals must be sharper than a razor, with no indentation.
The killing involves cutting the esophagus and the trachea, severing the jugular vein and carotid arteries. This is intended to cause virtually instantaneous unconsciousness. The only pain the animal is intended to experience is the cutting of its skin—a pain minimized by the sharpness of the knife. "Humane slaughter," an oxymoron, is the intention behind such ritual killing.
In "Kashruth and Civil Kosher Law Enforcement," Sol Friedman explains the meaning behind ritual slaughter: "In Judaism, the act of animal slaying is not viewed as a step in the business of meat-preparation. It is a deed charged with religious import. It is felt that the flame of animal life partakes of the sacred, and may be extinguished only by the sanction of religion, and only at the hands of one of its sensitive and reverential servants."
On the one hand, it would seem that talmudic law discourages killing animals and eating their flesh, by surrounding the practice with all sorts of prohibitions and taboos. Conversely, one could also argue that the dietary laws facilitate flesh-eating by ritually undoing a moral wrong—the killing of a living creature—with acts of atonement to make eating the corpses of animals fitting for a holy people; a people worshipping a God who has mercy on everything that lives.
The inconsistency in Judaism’s sanctioning the slaughter of animals while worshipping a God who has mercy on all His creatures is dealt with in Rabbi Jacob Cohen’s The Royal Table, an outline of the Jewish dietary laws. His book begins: "In the perfect world originally designed by God, man was meant to be a vegetarian." The same page also quotes from Sifre: "Insomuch as all animals possess a certain degree of intelligence and consciousness, it is a waste of this divine gift, and an irreparable damage to destroy them."
During the 1970s, Rabbi Everett Gendler and his wife studied talmudic attitudes towards animals, and came to "the conclusion that vegetarianism was the logical next step after kashrut—the proper extension of the laws against cruelty to animals." After becoming a vegetarian, a rabbinical student in the Midwest said, "Now I feel I have achieved the ultimate state of kashrut."
In their book, The Nine Questions People Ask About Judaism, Dennis Prager and Rabbi Telushkin explain: "Keeping kosher is Judaism’s compromise with its ideal vegetarianism. Ideally, according to Judaism, man would confine his eating to fruits and vegetables and not kill animals for food."
“The dietary laws are intended to teach us compassion and lead us gently [back] to vegetarianism.” 
---Rabbi Shlomo Raskin 
“A higher form of being kosher is vegetarianism.”
---Rabbi Daniel Jezer 
“If you do not eat meat, you are certainly kosher… And I believe that is what we should tell our fellow rabbis.”
---Rabbi Shear Yashuv Cohen, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Haifa, Israel 
It can similarly be argued from biblical tradition that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets, but only the institution of animal sacrifice.
Jesus repeatedly spoke of God's tender care for the nonhuman creation (Matthew 6:26-30, 10:29-31; Luke 12:6-7, 24-28).   Jesus taught that God desires "mercy and not sacrifice."  (Matthew 9:10-13, 12:6-7; Mark 2:15-17; Luke 5:29-32)  The epistle to the Hebrews 10:5-10 suggests that Jesus did not come to abolish the Law and the prophets (which Paul, and not Jesus, regarded as "so much garbage"), but only the institution of animal sacrifice, as does Jesus' cleansing the Temple of those who were buying and selling animals for sacrifice and his overturning the tables of the moneychangers in the Temple.  (Matthew 21:12-14; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46; John 2:14-17)  
Jesus not only repeatedly upheld Mosaic Law (Matthew 5:17-19; Mark 10:17-22; Luke 16:17), as did his apostles (see chapters 10, 15, and 21 of Acts), he justified his healing on the Sabbath by referring to commandments calling for the humane treatment of animals.  
When teaching in one of the synagogues on the Sabbath, Jesus healed a woman who had been ill for eighteen years.  He justified his healing work on the Sabbath by referring to biblical passages calling for the humane treatment of animals as well as their rest on the Sabbath.  "So ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham... be loosed from this bond on the Sabbath?" Jesus asked.  (Luke 13:10-16)
On another occasion, Jesus again referred to Torah teaching on "tsa'ar ba'alei chayim" or compassion for animals to justify healing on the Sabbath.  "Which of you, having a donkey or an ox that has fallen into a pit, will not immediately pull him out on the Sabbath day?"  (Luke 14:1-5)
Jesus compared saving sinners who had gone astray from God's kingdom to rescuing lost sheep.  He recalled a Jewish legend about Moses' compassion as a shepherd for his flock.  
"For the Son of Man has come to save that which was lost.  What do you think?  Who among you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?
"And when he has found it," Jesus continued, "he lays it on his shoulders, rejoicing.  And when he comes home, he calls together his friends and neighbors saying to them, 'Rejoice with me, for I have found my sheep which was lost!'
"I say to you, likewise there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine just persons who need no repentance...there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner who repents."  (Matthew 18:11-13; Luke 15:3-7,10)
"The compassionate, sensitive heart for animals is inseparable from the proclamation of the Christian gospel," writes the Reverend Andrew Linzey in Love the Animals.  "We have lived so long with the gospel stories of Jesus that we frequently fail to see how his life and ministry identified with animals at almost every point.
"His birth, if tradition is to be believed, takes place in the home of sheep and oxen.  His ministry begins, according to St. Mark, in the wilderness 'with the wild beasts' (1:13). His triumphal entry into Jerusalem involves riding on a 'humble' ass (Matthew 21).  According to Jesus, it is lawful to 'do good' on the Sabbath, which includes the rescuing of an animal fallen into a pit (Matthew 12).  Even the sparrows, literally sold for a few pennies in his day, are not 'forgotten before God.'  God's providence extends to the entire created order, and the glory of Solomon and all his works cannot be compared to that of the lilies of the field (Luke 12:27).
"God so cares for His creation that even 'foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.'  (Luke 9:58)  It is 'the merciful' who are 'blessed' in God's sight and what we do to 'the least' of all we do to him.  (Matthew 5:7, 25:45-46)  Jesus literally overturns the already questionable practice of animal sacrifice.  Those who sell pigeons have their tables overturned and are put out of the Temple (Mark 11:15-16).  It is the scribe who sees the spiritual bankruptcy of animal sacrifice and the supremacy of sacrificial love that Jesus commends as being 'not far from the Kingdom of God.'  (Mark 12:32-34)
"It is a loving heart which is required by God, and not the needless bloodletting of God's creatures," concludes Reverend Linzey.  "We can see the same prophetic and radical challenge to tradition in Jesus' remarks about the 'good shepherd' who, unlike many in his day, 'lays down his life for the sheep.'  (John 10:11)"
Mohammed did not directly forbid the killing of animals for food, but he taught that such killing should be done as humanely as possible. "If you must kill," he conceded, "kill without torture." The laws governing the "humane slaughter" of animals for food in Islam are similar to those found in Judaism.
a) The knife must be "razor sharp," to cause as little pain to the animal as possible;
b) The knife should not be sharpened in the presence of the animal about to be killed;
c) An animal must not be slaughtered in the presence of other animals;
d) In order to prevent harm to an animal that may still be alive, it is forbidden to skin or slice an animal carcass until it is cold, i.e., when rigor mortis has set in;
The Koran clearly evokes compassion and mercy towards animals. Islamic mystics, such as the Sufis, regard vegetarianism as a high spiritual ideal. One contemporary Sufi master, Bawa Muhaiyaddeen, explains, "If you understand the ‘qurban’ (ritual slaughter and Islamic dietary laws) from within with wisdom, its purpose is to reduce this killing. But if you look at it from outside, it is meant to supply desire with food, to supply the craving of the base desires..."
Writer Steven Rosen observes: "Vegetarians have no problem with Koranic dietary laws. Scriptural food laws, then, appear to be a deliberate burden upon meat-eating believers. They, and not their vegetarian brothers, must observe very strict dietary laws that serve only to curtail a flesh-eating regimen."
Rosen states further, "As in Judaism, sacrificial animal slaughter is a detailed process for Muslims. And the whole procedure… is meant to minimize the killing of animals."
(7) "The Vedas declare liberation (mukti) to be the universal ultimate goal, and slavery is contrary to this. A sutra from the Maha Nirvana Tantra (Method of Great Liberation) says: “the human body is the receptacle of piety, wealth, desires, and final liberation. It should therefore never be the subject of purchase; and such a purchase is by reason of my commands invalid.
"However, using 'debt bondage' and similar mechanisms as a way of forcing labor or sex has occurred throughout Indian history, as elsewhere, and is currently an urgent problem for nonviolent activists to address."
In his 1969 book, Aryatarangini, Hindu historian A. Kalyanaraman writes that in comparison to other parts of the world, slavery was virtually nonexistent. There did exist various forms of indentured servitude, he admits, but none as brutal as in the West.
(8) "In the wide range of Hindu thought, the teaching of ahimsa would preclude war, but those in the warrior caste, the Kshatriyas, were duty-bound to practice it as protection of others.  Rules of war are set in the Rig Veda 6-75:15, with those breaking told they will go to hell. Several of the normal just-war rules are in place with the idea that sincere dialog for peace should be practiced where it can be."
The Bhagavad-gita (Hinduism's main scripture) was spoken on a battlefield, and the Gita itself is contained in the Mahabharata, ancient India's epic poem of heroism, tragedy, and divine intervention, in which it is clearly indicated that war is fought only as a last resort, when all attempts at peace have failed. According to the Mahabharata, Lord Krishna Himself went to the opposing party, the Kauravas, to propose a peace plan!
(Secular scholar Dr. Martin A. Larson notes that according to Hindu, Buddhist, and Pythagorean doctrine, hell itself is actually a kind of purgatory, as it is a place where souls are temporarily punished before being reborn as a plant, animal, or human being. There is no eternal damnation, according to the reincarnationist religions.)
(9) "There is no hierarchy in Hinduism to decide the matter, and there are arguments about whether or not Hinduism supports the death penalty. Jagdish Muni summarized it this way:
"'The scriptures speak both for and against the system of capital punishment. The scriptures give the ruler or the government the power to use capital punishment. However, the saints and mahatmas do not believe in capital punishment. They believe in reforming people. There are a large number of instances in which saints have reformed criminals, in some cases so much so that the reformed people themselves became saints. (Muni, 2006).'
"India still has the death penalty, but the Indian Supreme Court has ruled it should be in only rare cases and there are few executions occurring."
Presidential candidate John Kerry similarly said in 2004 that he was opposed to the death penalty except for terrorists.
Hayagriva dasa (Professor Howard Wheeler) reports a conversation between A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Mr. McIntyre, a Wheeling, WV lawyer who has been helping Hrishikesh dasa obtain ministerial status in order to avoid the draft call in Vietnam. He describes Mr. McIntyre as "liberal," but by today's standards, Mr. McIntyre would be considered a conservative Democrat:
"Mr. McIntyre is young, active, liberal, and already prominent in the local law field. He has read Prabhupada's Bhagavad-gita.
"Prabhupada explains varnashrama-dharma (the Vedic social system, or class system). Brahmanas, he points out, are never meant to fight. That is the work of kshatriyas, warriors like Lord Krishna's disciple Arjuna. By fighting, Arjuna could attain perfection, but not by pursuing the dharma of a brahmana (priest). Each caste has its own work. Now Hrishikesh has just received his brahminical thread, so he must ask for exemption from the battlefield.
"Mr. McIntyre agrees. 'For all intents and purposes, he's a monk.'
"Prabhupada begins discussing Vedic law, which was set down thousands of years ago in the Manu-samhita.
"'There it is stated that a murderer should be condemned to death so that in his next life he will not have to suffer the karma of his sins. Therefore when the king hangs the murderer, he is benefitting him.'
"Mr. McIntyre points out that throughout history, official violence has been the standard way of administering justice. 'An eye for an eye.'
"'But that isn't real violence,' Prabhupada corrects. 'The soul cannot be killed. For the administration of justice, so-called violence is permitted. Of course, we cannot kill whimsically. Personally, we don't have the right to kill even an ant. And in any case, that is no work for brahmanas. Now this business in Vietnam is simply dog eat dog. No religious principle is involved. This is typical Kali-yuga fighting.'
"Mr. McIntyre says that many Americans consider the war in Vietnam to be in the pursuit of justice and therefore honorable. 
"'And what is this pursuit of justice?' Prabhupada asks. 'We call justice karma. You don't have to pursue justice. It is automatically there. Do good, you reap good results. Do evil, you suffer. We don't have to inflict the suffering. Material nature will do that effectively enough. Of course, to maintain order, the state must administer justice to the people -- reward and punishment. But the state is fallible. Perhaps a criminal goes unpunished, or they punish the wrong man...
"'...It is impossible to escape the fruits of karma. Live like a dog, and for your next life, nature gives you a dog's body. Eat meat, next life a tiger's body. Sex life? All right, become a pigeon or rabbit. Chant Hare Krishna, you get an eternal blissful body like Krishna's. So you may pursue justice, but actually justice is already there.'"
Capital punishment, therefore, is NOT "vengeance," but rather *justice*: it is more merciful than life imprisonment, as a murderer will be absolved of the karma and not have to suffer for it in the next life.
On the issue of capital punishment, some Hindus are wary of imperfect humans attempting to administer perfect justice. My friend Anantarupa dasa said on the issue of capital punishment that he doesn't think we humans should be doing what the Yamadutas (servants of Lord Yama, who punishes sinners in hell) will be doing.  
(Again, secular scholar Dr. Martin A. Larson notes that according to Hindu, Buddhist, and Pythagorean doctrine, hell itself is actually a kind of purgatory, as it is a place where souls are temporarily punished before being reborn as a plant, animal, or human being. There is no eternal damnation, according to the reincarnationist religions.)
(10) "Infanticide and feticide have been practiced throughout the history of Hinduism. Targeted primarily against girl babies, both are still widespread in India today. Ultrasound technology allows for ascertaining gender before birth, and advertisements for the technique advise it as a cost saving over paying a dowry later. Though sex-selection in abortions is illegal while abortion for other reasons is allowed, and infanticide is currently illegal, the practice of eliminating baby girls is widespread enough to cause a severe gender imbalance in the population. This happens despite the fact that several Hindu texts understand abortion as killing a human being, and Mohandas Gandhi said, 'It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime.' (Gandhi, 1980, p. 150).
Hindu scriptures and tradition have from the earliest of times condemned the practice of abortion, except when the life of the mother is in danger. Hinduism teaches that the fetus is a living, conscious person needing and deserving protection. 
Hindu scriptures refer to abortion as garha-batta (womb killing) and bhroona hathya (killing the undeveloped soul). A hymn in the Rig Veda (7.36.9, RvP, 2469) begs for protection of fetuses. The Kaushitaki Upanishad (3.1 UpR, 774) draws a parallel between abortion and the killing of one's parents. The Atharva Veda (6.113.2 HE, 43) remarks that the fetus slayer, or brunaghni, is among the greatest of sinners (6.113.2). 
These verses, along with others, are listed on the Dancing With Siva Lexicon Page at
In modern times, India's greatest apostle of nonviolence, Mohandas Gandhi, has written: "It seems to me clear as daylight that abortion would be a crime." 
Mohandas Gandhi, All Men Are Brothers, Autobiographical Reflections (New York: Continuum, 1980), 150.
The international periodical Hinduism Today acknowledges: "Across the board, Hindu religious leaders perceive abortion at any stage of fetal development as killing (some say murder)...and as an act that has serious karmic repercussions." For example, Swami Kamalatmananda of the Ramakrishna Monastery in Madras, India, has said: "No human being has the right to destroy the fetus. If having a baby is economically and socially problematic, one can very well take precautions to avoid such unwanted birth rather than killing the baby. Precaution is better than destruction."
Hinduism Today, March 1986.
Swami Kamalatmananda's words are the closest endorsement of contraception from a recognized Hindu spiritual master. 
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada wrote to a Canadian heart surgeon, Dr. Wilfred Bigelow, in 1972:
"Contraception deteriorates the womb so that it no longer is a good place for the soul. That is against the order of God. By the order of God, a soul is sent to a particular womb, but by this contraceptive he is denied that womb and has to be placed in another. That is disobedience to the Supreme. For example, take a man who is supposed to live in a particular apartment. If the situation there is so disturbed that he cannot enter the apartment, then he is put at a great disadvantage. That is illegal interference and is punishable."
Our material desires keep us bound to the physical world, forcing us to accept material bodies, life after life. According to the Bhagavad-gita ("The Lord's Song"), the solution to this existential dilemma is to do all as an offering to the Lord, rather than for our own personal sense gratification, and in this way, we're liberated from the cycle of repeated birth and death.
Similarly, in a room conversation with a Jesuit priest in Melbourne, Australia in 1975, the following exchange took place:
Srila Prabhupada: "So sex life is not bad, provided it is under the religious system."
Jesuit priest: "I thought you were saying sex in itself is bad... There have been people in the history of the world, like the Manicheans..."
Srila Prabhupada: "No, just you can have sex for begetting nice children but not for sense gratification."
Jesuit priest: "But suppose they can't have children. Would you say they can still have sex?"
Srila Prabhupada: "No. That is not allowed. That is illicit sex. If you cannot produce children, and still have sex, that is illicit sex."
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada and Mother Teresa are perhaps the only spiritual leaders who have equated contraception with abortion. This either indicates how "spiritually evolved" they are, or how out of touch with reality they are. Out of respect for Srila Prabhupada, I'll say I'm not sure which it is!
That being said, birth control has been in place in India for decades. Over thirty years ago, there were contraceptive ads appearing in Indian newspapers (albeit, aimed only at *married* couples!).
Gandhi was celibate, religious, studying the Bhagavad-gita, opposed birth control (and was at odds with Margaret Sanger over this one!), and wanted India to remain an agrarian nation of 700,000 villages, etc.
Nehru, by contrast, was an extremely shy aristocrat, but through public speaking became a skilled orator and politician. He wrote several books while imprisoned by the British, he encouraged industrialization and the emancipation of Indian women.
He advocated birth control programs, made Hindu marriage monogamous, established divorce procedures, outlawed the practice of dowry, and introduced laws that gave daughters an equal share in family estates. He despised the superstition, ritualism, and mysticism in religion.
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada is India's greatest scholar, philosopher, cultural ambassador, author, and spiritual leader. His teachings on the subject of abortion are very clear:
"They are killing the baby in the womb. How cruel! In this age of unwanted population, man is losing his compassion. When you kill a living entity, even an ant, you are interfering with its spiritual evolution, its progress. That living entity must again take on that same life form to complete its designated life term in that body. And the killer must return to pay for damages."
Hayagriva dasa, The Hare Krishna Explosion (San Francisco: Palace Press, 1985), 43.
Elsewhere Srila Prabhupada has written:
"You are killing innocent cows and other animals--nature will take revenge. Just wait. As soon as the time is right, nature will gather all these rascals and slaughter them. Finished. They'll fight among themselves. It is going on. Why? This is nature's law. Tit for tat. You have killed. Now you kill yourselves.
"They are sending animals to the slaughterhouse, and now they'll create their own slaughterhouse....This is nature's law. It's not necessary that you be sent to the ordinary slaughterhouse. You'll make a slaughterhouse at home. You'll kill your own child--abortion. This is nature's law.
"Who are these children being killed? They are these meat-eaters. They enjoyed themselves when so many animals were killed, and now they're being killed by their mothers.
"People do not know how nature is working. If you kill, you must be killed. If you kill the cow who is your mother, then in some future lifetime your mother will kill you. Yes. The mother becomes the child, and the child becomes the mother." 
A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, "Slaughterhouse Civilization," Back to Godhead 14:9 (Los Angeles: Bhaktivedanta Book Trust, 1979).
Abortion and war are the karma for killing animals! The pro-life and peace movements will never succeed until we first shut down the slaughterhouses. No practicing Hindu, believing in karma and reincarnation, will ever take "meat-eating pro-lifers" nor "meat-eating pacifists" seriously! Educating others about animal issues IS pro-life activism.
(11) "As with early Christians like Origen dealing with the violence of the Old Testament, Gandhi saw allegory. The battlefield is actually the human body where the struggle over right and wrong continues, as we all experience daily.  In this case, there is another instance of this interpretation:  Abhinavagupta , well-known Indian scholar and scripture commentator, born around 950 C.E."
A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada criticized Mohandas Gandhi for interpreting the Bhagavad-gita allegorically. He said that the Bhagavad-gita and other ancient Sanskrit texts are meant to be taken literally; that there really IS a place in Northern India called Kurukshetra where the battle occurred; that Krishna really IS an incarnation of God who spoke the Bhagavad-gita to His disciple Arjuna in 3138 BC; that Krishna WAS exhorting Arjuna to fight...
...even devout pacifists must acknowledge the need for a police force to protect innocent citizens from the criminal element! And the Vedas say violence in self-defense is acceptable.
(12) "Vivekananda referred to Jews escaping to India from the destruction of the Temple, which occurred in 70 C.E. The Cochin Jews (named after the Indian kingdom to which they fled) also have legends of a previous wave of Jews coming to India as traders as far back as the days of King Solomon, 500s B.C.E. Other small waves of immigrants came and settled in other areas. The Jewish community in India has always been quite small, but all signs are that it has gotten along well with its neighbors and never suffered the anti-Semitism prevalent in other areas of the world."
The phrase "always been" is anti-semitic, but the Anti-Defamation League reports that India has a long history of religious tolerance, and it's the only country where Jews were never persecuted.
(13) "Sikhism arose out of the two streams of Hinduism and Islam, having a series of gurus that took what they understood to be the best and most true during a historical period in an area when the Hinduism and Islam were co-existing but frequently in conflict. They are currently concentrated in the Punjab district of India and actively participate in the life of the country."
Sikhs are closer to Hindus than to Muslims, and even in past decades, interfaith marriages between Hindus and Sikhs were common. Devout Hindus claim the recent strife between Hindus and Sikhs is due to politicians stirring up conflict. "You will find the bigger piggies, stirring up the dirt..." sings George Harrison.

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