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I have been told many a times that I shouldn't eat beef because I am a Hindu by religion. Even though I have never worshiped a cow in my life or interacted with any on more than exotic basis, I find it hard to understand the logistics behind not eating beef.

My argument against this logic has been the same as many others who choose to do those things which may or may not be explicitly forbidden in Hinduism. For instance the consumption of alcohol is a controversial subject in Hinduism.

As a country India does not sell beef so I haven't been exposed to it earlier, but traveling often increased my curiosity and now I tend to not mind eating it.

Are there any specific logical or better arguments or textual facts which suggest that eating beef is explicitly forbidden in Hinduism and why except the idea of worshiping cows?

  • Im a Hindu, but I had meat. When first time i was eating it I was feeling very upset from inside. And later after time passed i realized its cus i was raised to be so.. – STEEL Jun 19 '14 at 5:54
  • For every religion there is a holy animal. for example, christians have easter bunny (I don't know what muslims have but I am sure there is one). Like that hindus have cow. – Mr_Green Jun 19 '14 at 9:51
  • @Mr_Green Christians don't eat bunnies? -_- – Aditya Somani Jun 19 '14 at 9:52
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    @AdityaSomani they eat everything I presume. but christians !== Hindus.. right? – Mr_Green Jun 19 '14 at 9:53
  • @Mr_Green Indeed, but then the holy animal point is rendered invalid because as you mentioned Christianity has a holy animal but still eats it, which tells me that holy animal is not the reason we don't eat cows. Correlation not equal to causation. – Aditya Somani Jun 19 '14 at 9:56
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Not just beef, eating any kind of meat is by default prohibited in Hinduism. Consider the following statements from the primary Hindu book of law:

  1. Meat can never be obtained without injury to living creatures, and injury to sentient beings is detrimental to (the attainment of) heavenly bliss; let him therefore shun (the use of) meat. [Manu Smriti - 5.48]
  2. Having well considered the (disgusting) origin of flesh and the (cruelty of) fettering and slaying corporeal beings, let him entirely abstain from eating flesh. [Manu Smriti - 5.49]
  3. He who permits (the slaughter of an animal), he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells (meat), he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, (must all be considered as) the slayers (of the animal). [Manu Smriti - 5.51]
  4. There is no greater sinner than that (man) who, though not worshipping the gods or the manes, seeks to increase (the bulk of) his own flesh by the flesh of other (beings). [Manu Smriti - 5.52]
  5. He who during a hundred years annually offers a horse-sacrifice, and he who entirely abstains from meat, obtain the same reward for their meritorious (conduct). [Manu Smriti - 5.53]
  6. By subsisting on pure fruit and roots, and by eating food fit for ascetics (in the forest), one does not gain (so great) a reward as by entirely avoiding (the use of) flesh. [Manu Smriti - 5.54]

All these statements convey one and one fact only, abstaining from eating meat as it causes pain and suffering to other animals. Now consider the following two statements:

  1. One may eat meat when it has been sprinkled with water, while Mantras were recited, when Brahmanas desire (one's doing it), when one is engaged (in the performance of a rite) according to the law, and when one's life is in danger. [Manu Smriti - 5.27]
  2. He who eats meat, when he honours the gods and manes, commits no sin, whether he has bought it, or himself has killed (the animal), or has received it as a present from others. [Manu Smriti - 5.32]

So this is the thing regarding Hinduism, there is no one strict law. Every thing depends upon the context and intention. Hinduism informs you what to do and not do, but it doesn't command you to do anything in particular. The system of Karma takes care of all. Do whatever you want to do, but be ready to reap the corresponding result. This is the doctrine of Hinduism.

As many hairs as the slain beast has, so often indeed will he who killed it without a (lawful) reason suffer a violent death in future
births. [Manu Smriti - 5.38]

Depending upon the context and intention, Hinduism even allows actions that are generally forbidden. So the question you should ask yourself is whether you are eating beef out of rigid necessity. Is there no other food available for you to eat? Are you eating it because it tastes good? Ask yourself such questions and then decide. Listen to what your heart says, not what logic says. If everyone is doing the wrong things, should you do them as well? Would you like to be killed and eaten by others if you were a cow or any other animal?

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    My brain forces me to contradict with some logic here. For instance, "He who during a hundred years annually offers a horse-sacrifice, and he who entirely abstains from meat, obtain the same reward for their meritorious (conduct)." Why is it okay to sacrifice horses but not eat horses? – Aditya Somani Jun 19 '14 at 9:54
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    Sacrifice of horses is meant not for the purpose of enjoying its meat. See the point no 4 [5.52] – Be Happy Jun 19 '14 at 10:21
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    But the animal still gets killed? What is the purpose behind killing the animal? – Aditya Somani Jun 19 '14 at 10:22
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    If you go into detail, then horse sacrifice is done for a yajnya known as Aswamedha. In sacrifices when the animal is killed it obtains a higher birth and also it's offered as food to some gods or goddesses, but not when its done for the purpose of eating. So even the action is the same, the intention and karma involved is different. Killing is just an action, it's intention that defines the nature of the action. – Be Happy Jun 19 '14 at 10:27
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    Also how is manusmriti 5 citation about not eating meat but killing a horse is good? – Yogi Nov 16 '15 at 12:47
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Adding to the answer of @jabahar, "Ahimsa Paramo Dharma"...It can be considered as the greatest contribution of Sanathana Dharma to the entire world. Upanishads are having great role in defining the life of a Hindu. The importance of Ahimsa is mentioned in Chandogya Upanishad, one of the oldest Upanishad.

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    Can you quote the actual verse from Chandogya Upanishad? This hindupedia.com article makes no mention of any Upanishad. – sv. Nov 9 '15 at 16:24
  • hindupedia.com/en/Ahimsa_in_Scriptures#cite_note-34 : Chandogya Upanishad 8.15. May be the actual verse is different which emphasize on the importance of Ahimsa, not these exact verse. – user11 Nov 16 '15 at 10:15
  • @sv. The whole thing says "ahimsa Parma dharma, dharma hinsa yathaiva cha" violence for religion is allowed (including yajnas and swadharma) – Anubhav Jha Feb 27 '18 at 8:13
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According to Hindu dharma it is allowed to kill some animal species, but only if it is done in accordance with the strict regulations of the scriptures, as in the sacrifices, as indicated in Manu-smriti and other scriptures. However cows is explicitly forbidden to kill! There are explicit statements in the scriptures about it:

ācāryaṃ ca pravaktāraṃ pitaraṃ mātaraṃ gurum /

na hiṃsyād brāhmaṇān gāś ca sarvāṃś caiva tapasvinaḥ

Let him never offend (or injure) the teacher who initiated him, nor him who explained the Veda, nor his father and mother, nor (any other) Guru, nor cows, nor Brahmanas, nor any men performing austerities. (Manu smriti 4.162)

In the above quotation from the Manu-smriti expression na hiṃsyād is translated as "never offend" or "never injure". So this verse is an evidence from the scriptures that killing of cows is not allowed!

There is a prayer in the Vishnu Purana 1.19.65:

namo brahmaṇya-devāya go-brāhmaṇa-hitāya ca

My Lord Krishna, You are the well-wisher of the cows and the Brahmanas.

In this verse cows and Brahmanas stand out as especially favored by the Lord, and thus they are especially sacred. Compare this with the above Manu-smriti verse where it is said that some people (Guru, father and mother, teacher who explained the Veda, Brahmanas), and cows should never be killed, and that is because of their special holiness.

It is said in the Bhagavad gita 18.44:

kṛṣi-go-rakṣya-vāṇijyaḿ

vaiśya-karma svabhāva-jam

Farming, cow protection and business are the natural work for the vaiśyas.

In this verse phrase go-rakṣya was used, which means "cow protection". As we can see from this verse, in the varnashrama dharma cow protection is one of the primary activities. We are not supposed to kill those who we should protect! Right?

It is said in the Srimad Bhagavatam (Bhagavata Purana) 8.19.43 that in time of danger one should be engaged in go-brāhmaṇa-arthe "protecting cows and brahminical culture" (paraphrased).

In the Bhagavatam cows and Brahmanas again stand out in the canto 10, chapter 24 "Worshiping Govardhana Hill" where Lord Krishna encourages his father to perform a sacrifice:

http://vedabase.com/sb/10/24/en

SB 10.24.25: Therefore may a sacrifice for the pleasure of the cows, the brāhmaṇas and Govardhana Hill begin! With all the paraphernalia collected for worshiping Indra, let this sacrifice be performed instead. ... ...

...

SB 10.24.29: After everyone has eaten to his satisfaction, you should all dress and decorate yourselves handsomely, smear your bodies with sandalwood paste and then circumambulate the cows, the brāhmaṇas, the sacrificial fires and Govardhana Hill.

SB 10.24.30: This is My idea, O father, and you may carry it out if it appeals to you. Such a sacrifice will be very dear to the cows, the brāhmaṇas and Govardhana Hill, and also to Me.

In the above verses we see that the Vedic sacrifice should be done for the pleasure of the Lord Krishna, cows, Govardhana Hill, and Brahmanas! All of them must be that much especially sacred then.

There are many such verses in the scriptures that speak of a particular sanctity of cows and Brahmanas.

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    How would you interpret this chapter of the Shatapatha Brahmana of the Yajur Veda then? sacred-texts.com/hin/sbr/sbe26/sbe2661.htm – Keshav Srinivasan Apr 13 '15 at 15:02
  • Besides what is said in the texts, OP asks: Are there any specific logical or better arguments or textual facts which suggest that eating beef is explicitly forbidden in Hinduism and why except the idea of worshiping cows? ... he wants to know "why" apart from the "what". I think your answer addressed the what part. – sv. Oct 23 '15 at 20:32
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The Sanskrit word for cow is go. The word go stands both for cow and rays of the sun.

Kine – rays of the sun

In respect of the prosperity and the growth that kine confer, in the matter also of the protection that kine grant unto all creatures of the earth, kine are equal to the very rays of the sun that fall on the earth. The word that signifies the cow stands also for the rays of the sun. The giver of a cow becomes the progenitor of a very large race that extends over a large part of the earth. Hence, he that gives a cow shines like a second sun in resplendence.

Mahabharata, Anusasana Parva, Section LXXI

In Hinduism light is usually a metaphor for spiritual illumination. Thus a cow is a symbol of the spiritual light within us. Just as the sun supports entire life on Earth similarly the spiritual light within gives us consciousness,i.e., makes conscious life possible. It is in this sense that a cow is a holy animal. Not killing a cow simply means not doing any immoral act that dims that spiritual light.

  • If cow represents sun rays, why is it slaughtered on the arrival of an important guest? The Sanskrit word 'goghna' means 'guest' / 'one for whom a cow is killed'. – sv. Feb 27 '18 at 14:12
  • I can only guess at the answer. It is possible that Hindus initially used to interpret not killing a cow in a spiritual sense. This explains why Mahabharata mentions a King Rantideva killing lots of cows to feed the guests.Later on Hindus began to take 'not killing a cow' literally and the spiritual view was either downplayed or even forgotten. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Feb 27 '18 at 14:35
  • @sv. In brahmanams, in samhitas go does mean sun. Samhitas symbolize rituals unlike brahmanams. – Anubhav Jha Feb 27 '18 at 14:46
  • It's ray of sun or that of knowledge? i think it's JyAna rasmi? @PradipGangopadhyay – Rickross Feb 27 '18 at 14:49
  • @Rickross Sri K.M.Ganguli translates the text as ray of sun. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Feb 27 '18 at 14:52
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Hindu taboo of eating beef is a cultural and got itself associated with the religion. None of the scriptures impose the restriction. It is a self-imposed ban by Hindus. This blog post talks about it along with other self-imposed taboos by Hindus. An excerpt from that blog post:

..historicity of culture and evolution of certain traditions which sometimes are misconstrued as "roots". The ultra veneration of cow is one of them. There are many other instances. The fact that fanatic veneration of cow led to other 6 famous "restrictions" on an Indic mind ...

The famous 7 restrictions (Sapta-Bandi) are ...

6 . Cow veneration - killing of cow and consumption of beef are "Mahaapaatakas" without any prayaschitta. ...

The myth I've heard is that it was done since cattle population was declining steeply and they needed some measure to stop it and hence adopted such a stance. Some also blame the Muslim invaders for indiscriminately killing cattle which made the Hindus adopt such a stance. I don't have sources for these as there are word of mouth folk-lore.

While the scriptures do not impose ban on beef consumption, it does not also endorse eating beef. The Rig veda translation of Griffith & many others were mistranslated to mean that Vedic Hindus consumed beef. This blog post talks about the mistranslations regarding Vedic Hindus eating beef.

Killing a cow causes as much himsa and bad karma as killing any other animal.

  • Since you mentioned himsa and negative karma towards killing any animal, does it promote vegetarianism? – Aditya Somani Jun 19 '14 at 2:56
  • Can you add a short summary/excerpt from the links you provided in order to indicate the focus behind what you want to convey? – Aditya Somani Jun 19 '14 at 2:59
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    Dharma is contextual. One rule does not apply to everyone. If you are a practicing Brahmana or involved in spiritual activity, killing/consuming meat would cause bad karma. If you are warrior fighting a war or a laborer toiling hard lifting heavy weights, it'd require eating meat & hence wouldn't cause bad karma as it's part of doing one's duty. Some complains that Hinduism itself is Brahminical & forces vegetarianism on everyone is a wrong assertion. – Bharat Jun 19 '14 at 3:00
  • Added excerpt for the first link. For the 2nd there is a lots. You could search the page for 'beef' and you'd get to it. – Bharat Jun 19 '14 at 3:06
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    All Dharmic traditions/religions not just Hinduism at their root agree on Cows being "sacred" and explicitly forbid killing of Cows – Akhil Apr 11 '18 at 20:56
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Cow is not worshipped as per canonical scriptures, in some Godly sense. If somebody worships his mother, it does not mean she is God/creator/Divine being, it only means that he gives her as much respect as the divine.

Some pantheistic sect of hinduism may even worship cow too in obscure literal sense, just as they worship tree deity etc. But uniformly across all the sects, the common thread is something like below:

Cow is actually given respect as cultural symbol. Even in Arya samaj sect, which only worships one God and does not worship idols and does not believe in Avataras; that sect also revers Cow, they also explicitly treat her as cultural symbol of Vedic Hinduism.

Just like saluting the indian flag, does not mean you are saluting that piece of cloth(of which flag is made). Saluting the flag means you are respecting the national symbol , which represents the nation and its ideal. If somebody puts the national flag under his shoes, then people may react negatively to it. In the same sense, people are also attached to the cultural symbol. There is no scientific "logic" in why that particular piece of cloth should be treated as worthy of salute, or no scientific "logic" why only that particular combination of color only should be treated as national symbol and no other particular combination. The only thing which matters is that once it was decided that tricolor will be our symbol/flag, then over a period our emotions and respect have got attached to that symbol. In the same way, the cultural symbols have history of respect of thousands of years.


Even sankhya followers, who are atheistic; they also give respect to cow and do not eat beef. So when they altogether do not beleive in God, so there is no question of worshipping anybody. So there is no question of worshipping cow. But still cultural symbol of reverence of cow is there in dharmic atheistic philosophies too.

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All Dharmic traditions without exception both Astik (believers in vedas) and Nastik (those who reject Vedas ... Buddhists, Jains etc) revere Cows (GoMata).

Meat eating though not recommended is allowed by many traditions, but Cow meat is forbidden and violations are punished.

Atharva Veda says:

  1. Anago hatya vai bheema kritye. Maa no gaamashvam purusham vadheeh. (Atharva Veda 10.1.29)

It is definitely a great sin to kill innocents. Do not kill our cows, horses and people.

In Agamas there is specific rituals that need to be performed to GoMata (Cow). The milk of those cows as tremendous healing power including cancer.

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