I attended a session of a priest. He described how eating non-veg food is disfavoured in Hinduism. He told us that a verse of Bhagavad-Gita says that eating non-veg food is evil.

Priest: If you eat non-veg food, you share the karma of killing an innocent animal.

Me: Plants are also living beings. Eating them should also be equally bad.

Priest: Yes, thats why you should only eat food offered to Krishna, so the Karma on it is removed.

Later on, a thought came to me which confused me:

Why can't I just offer animal flesh to Krishna and then eat it?

I am not asking "why is non-veg forbidden" but rather "why is there a difference between eating plants and eating animals?".

P.S. I am strictly vegetarian.

  • 4
    Have a look at answers in the hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/67/eating-beef-as-a-hindu/… – AksharRoop Jun 19 '14 at 6:57
  • 5
    Ahimsa Paramo Dharma.. – user11 Jun 19 '14 at 7:52
  • 3
    AFAIK, A hindu can eat non-veg. I think so because of Ashwamedha yagna. But again, in some other theories, hindus can eat fruits from plants when they fell off on the ground. They are not allowed to pluck and eat. There are more theories to consider but no correct answer. to me atleast. – Mr_Green Jun 19 '14 at 9:37
  • 3
    @AwalGarg It would be best if you clarified your question - you are not actually asking "why is non-veg forbidden" but rather "why is there a difference between eating plants and eating animals?". I agree that this is a different question than the "eating beef" question, but it doesn't look like that at first glance. – senshin Jun 19 '14 at 16:34
  • 2
    Check one good explanation here :Karma and the vegetable diet – Damodaran Jun 22 '14 at 16:27

12 Answers 12

up vote 68 down vote accepted

I am going to give the answer from a different perspective. The conception of Guna (property).

There are Three types of Guna

  1. Sattva (the quality of goodness): Sattva is Calm, Saintly. Its brings up quality that allows spiritual holiness, forgiveness and submission to God. Foods dear to those in the mode of goodness increase the duration of life, purify one’s existence and give strength, health, happiness and satisfaction. Such foods are juicy, fatty, wholesome, and pleasing to the heart. (BG 17.8)

  2. Raja (the quality of passion): Foods that are too bitter, too sour, salty, hot, pungent, dry and burning are dear to those in the mode of passion. Such foods cause distress, misery and disease. Onions and garlic fall into this category. (BG 17.9)

  3. Tamas (the quality of ignorance): Food prepared more than three hours before being eaten, food that is tasteless, decomposed and putrid, and food consisting of remnants and untouchable things is dear to those in the mode of darkness. (BG 17.10)

We are what we eat, so you see. When you see the whole picture from the Gunas' perspective it will start making sense altogether. Why we can't eat certain types of foods, why we do not use some types of food in our Pujas (rituals or worship).

In order to be a saint/God's servant, humans must suppress raja and tamas guna, and eating sattvic food is a large part of that.


EDIT:

In Bhagavad Gita, Krishna states what should be used to worship him with Patram (leafs), Puspam (flowers), Falam (fruits), Toyom (water). So, god didn't say worship me with meat. The priest meant to say the same. Krishna only takes Sattvic foods from us. See the Bhagavad Gita 9.26 quote here.

Is it true that if we eat vegetables, we are still taking lives, therefore we're guilty?

Unfortunately, yes. The only way to mitigate this is to offer the food first for sacrifice. This is supported in Bhagavad Gita 3.13:

The devotees of the Lord are released from all kinds of sins because they eat food which is offered first for sacrifice. Others, who prepare food for personal sense enjoyment, verily eat only sin.

There is also a difference in picking fruits or greens from a plant, which does not always kill the plant. Regardless, the food must be offered to get free from negative karma.


There are five types of people who gets equal share of sin of killing an animal.

  1. Person who kills it.
  2. Person who sells the meat.
  3. Person who carries it to home
  4. Person who cooks it.
  5. Person who eats.

Edit

Request to anyone edit this answer If you want to relate science with religion please post your own answer. The answer given is strictly theoretical (how concepts is described in scriptures).

  • 2
    Can you please tell me if the info given by that priest is valid or not? And how? – Awal Garg Jun 19 '14 at 8:19
  • 5
    @AwalGarg Yes, it's valid. To summarize Sisir's answer, yes, killing plants is also violence, but offering them to Lord Visnu removes that karma. You can only offer foods in the mode of goodness to Visnu, therefore the offerings are limited to grains, fruits, vegetables and milk. Why can we only offer foods in the mode of goodness? Because Krishna says so in Bhagavad Gita: 9.26 – cheenbabes Jun 19 '14 at 21:41
  • 4
    it is different also because to eat an animal you have to kill it, the equivalent in plan would be cat a tree ... pick up a fruit is not exactly killing a plant – WonderLand Jun 20 '14 at 7:59
  • @Sisir, I'm not with your answer completely, things which we eat, mostly are fruits, vegetables, roots and grains. Fruits,vegetables are part of plants reproductive system, and they grow to be eaten, roots ie. potato, are only chopped after the plant is fully grown up and also the part of plants reproductive system, where as grains are only chopped down when they see there death,ie. browned from green. There is no killing ever of any plant unless you are eating a half grown plant and that too full. – Mr. K Aug 23 '14 at 6:59
  • I am setting this as community wiki as this answer doesn't looks like what i had answered and edited so much. – Sisir Aug 24 '14 at 11:51

It is because eating non-movable things has been allowed by Prajapati (Brahma or the lord of the beings).

As per the scripture:

What is sthavara (immovable i.e. vegetables, plants, etc.) is the food of jangama (movable i.e. animals) [Manu. Smrt. - 5.29]

Why it is so? Because, if we don't eat something then we will die. Scriptures allow eating anything whether it's movable(animals) or immovable (plants) when life is in danger:

One can eat meat when his life is in danger. (i.e. if the condition is such that if you don't eat meat you will die.) [Manu. Smrt. - 5.27]

For the sustenance of life Prajapati created everything. So both movable and immovable are the food of prana (life force) [Manu. Smrt. - 5.28]

Having stated that, the scripture has heavily instructed in the favor of not eating meat as it includes causing pain to animals please see here. Now, because we can't eat meat, only plant food is left. So to sustain our lives we have to eat plant food anyway.

Now the question is, don't plants feel pain when they are uprooted or their fruits, leaves, vegetables are plucked? Well, may be they do. But in case of plants, the pain, suffering and self identification is certainly less than the animals. So it involves less karma.

Why can't I just offer animal flesh to Krishna and then eat it?

Your priest is partially right. You can certainly offer meat to gods and eat it (Manu 5.27), but this doesn't mean offering to Krishna. This means offering it to certain higher beings like manes and demigods (in the mode of tamas). In that case proper rite and ritual must be done with proper mantras. Simple mental offering wouldn't work.

Krishna being God Himself doesn't need any kind of food or offering for His sustenance. Whatever a devotee offers Him as a token of love and devotion He accepts it. But other demigods and manes being another form of existence need certain things for their satisfaction which can be offered to them through yajna or sacrifice. Eating meat by offering to them in that way has been accepted:

Irrespective of whether one has bought the meat, killed the animal himself or has received from another person, there is no fault in eating meat when it has been offered to the gods and the manes. [Manu - 5.32]

But anyway, offering food to God before eating it is certainly a good habit because food may contain many other faults apart from it being veg or non-veg.

Edit: the answer has been updated as the question has changed

  • 3
    From science :) To feel pain nervous system is required and plants don't have any. But in spiritualism everything is considered to have a spirit, hence generally it's told that they suffer when fruit if plucked. – Be Happy Jun 19 '14 at 9:20
  • 13
    If you go into science then you will find that experiments have been done to find out whether plants have nervous system, feelings, etc. Jagdish Bose from India conducted researches and found out that they feel pain, affection etc. But I have already mentioned in the answer that their level of pain and suffering is lesser compared to animals, hence less karma is involved in eating plants. If you take much care about not causing anyone pain, then you yourself will die with pain without having anything to eat :) Won't that be killing an innocent good animal? ;) – Be Happy Jun 19 '14 at 9:32
  • 1
    Hehe, good point. I think a lot of microbes and bacterias are also killed every day inside our body itself just because of the daily metabolic activities! – Awal Garg Jun 19 '14 at 9:40
  • 3
    @AwalGarg Plants may feel pain when plucking their fruits but that is what they want. Fruit's purpose is to attract animals to eat it & disperse the seed. It's the tree's dharma(natural law). Leave science out for a while and look at Swadharma of the being. Tree's Swadharma is to have it's fruits be dispersed by other being by plucking it. – Bharat Jun 20 '14 at 15:27
  • 1
    this is the most amazing answer :) totally agree with this. It is said that when one is saturated with Love of God, then he/she needs no food to survive, but the bliss itself sustains him/her. :) – Sai Sep 11 '14 at 13:51

Killing of both ANIMALS and PLANTS is prohibited.

In the Vedic age, AGRICULTURE was not in vogue. People used to PLUCK fruits and vegetables from the naturally growing plants which does not amount to killing the plants.

Even the CEREALS, PULSES, OIL SEEDS which were withered from the plants were collected and used - which again does not amount to killing the plants.

Killing of Plants started with the introduction of Agriculture as means of food production when man used to cultivate food items of his choice.

Our forefathers & RISHIS were so sensitive to the feelings of the plants - that they generated VEDIC HYMNS to appease the plants before plucking their products - even though plucking does not harm the plants,

  • very good answer. Shows you really understood life deeply. I hope you are involved in agriculture in some way. Shubhamastu – user4592 Jan 26 '16 at 4:18
  • 1
    I agree with your explanation above. In case of plants/trees etc if we don't pluck them the fruits, vegetables etc will fall off naturally so that the new ones can grow in the next cycle and it's a repetitive process but that's not the case with animals, once killed they are gone. Yes we can use by-products like milk (cows,goats etc) but can't kill them. – Just_Do_It Sep 8 '17 at 19:51
  • Even today most of the time CEREALS, PULSES, OIL SEEDS and FRUITS etc. are collected and used only when their life cycle is completed. Because if they are collected before the right time then, no oil from oil seeds can be produced and FRUITS taste will not be good... – YDS Oct 21 '17 at 7:12

Killing of 'living' being always happens. Every moment the anti-bodies in us are killing microorganisms. But being a human we possess the the unique quality of rationality. Hence rationally we need to choose a path of least destruction/least himsa.

Refer to this video where Rajiv Malothra excellently explains this concept:

Core belief of Hinduism is always to be Sattvik, respect balance. Be least supportive to the increasing "entropy" around.

Supposes the current generation of ALL Humans get vanished, by some magic, from the face of earth. What will happen? A most amazing thing. Whole world would eventually reach the state of equilibrium.

Yeah! its us, Humans who are the "Kshetragya" of this Kshetra of Mother Earth. Exactly like, YamaRaj is of Yamloka, Indra is of SwargaLoka. Its ONLY us that can maintain or disturb the balance of the earthly system. Its ONLY us who will face the consequences too. AND this our ancient sages knew VERY WELL!

So whats the point here?

Its this. When by removing the chaotic West-influenced society on Earth, Earth's Harmony can be retained, what if we CHOOSE to live on earth, BUT DISTURBING IT TO THE LEAST!!

For pleasure of tongue, a man-turned animal kills another animal, changes happen. It happens too, when he kills a bacteria, or even a Tree or Plant. A STUPID would say, "Killing is killing, what if its of an animal, insect, bacteria or a plant". But actually the "changes" caused by these killing are different and can be arranged from least to most. These "changes" are NOT just on physical paradigm, but also on psychic, emotional etc. level too.

Being a veggie you contribute LEAST in increasing the "Entropy" of the earthly system. And this has NOTHING to do with what you offer to your deity. Its for your own good, not for God, that is BOTH in the Killer and the Killed.

The exact reason is: mercy (dayā). The human society depends on 4 qualities: cleanliness(purity), mercy, austerity and truthfulness [Bhagavata purana 1.17.24]. Meat-eating destroys mercy, as a result the human society degrades into a flock of 2-legged animals. Meat-eating is also the principal cause of all the wars, because it cultivates hatred. The amassed hatred needs some escape, therefore it erupts into the wars.

The answers about gunas are not entirely correct,

because plants have more tamas than animals, and also make the eater tamasic (e.g. mushrooms, asafoetida), but are still allowed. The principal difference is that it is the divinely-appointed service of plants to be eaten by man (or rather, to be used in sacrifice: BG 3.13), and they advance spiritually by being used. Animals used in sacrifice are supposed to be revived by the priest in a new, reformed body, but current day priests don't have the power, or don't even know the mantras or neglect the process entirely. And by just being killed, most animals don't make progress. The exception is snakes and scorpions, so you can kill them for eating, if you want.

Answering a comment: as the soul transmigrates through 8.4 million species, some species are progressive (prepare the soul for more freedom in higher species) and some are regressive (limit the freedom due to bad qualities). Snakes an scorpions are very envious by nature and can never progress towards a higher form until they get killed.

On the other hand, cows and bulls are the most advanced animals by their character, next to human, therefore their abuse (killing) is especially sinful (creates misery for people).

  • 1
    How plants have more tamas guna than animals ? How snakes and scorpions are an exception? – swapnesh Jul 17 '14 at 17:34
  • Most Plants are NOT Tamasik. Broadly speaking, Whatever happens by the virtue of Inertia is Tamsik. And ONLY Mushrooms grow that way. – Hindu Oct 10 '14 at 6:17

This is because plants come at the lowest level of evolution and hence eating them is least sinful, while living animals have already evolved from that level to based upon their Karmas. This is explained in various puranas like Bhagwat and Vishnu Puran. This is from Vishnu Puran.

The various stages of existence, Maitreya, are inanimate things(like trees and plants), fish, birds, animals, men, holy men (Brahmins and saints), gods, and liberated spirits; each in succession a thousand degrees superior to that which precedes it: and through these stages the beings that are either in heaven or in hell are destined to proceed, until final emancipation (Kaivalya Moksha) be obtained.

Isopanishad says:

īśāvāsyam idam sarvaṁ
yat kiñca jagatyāṁ jagat
tena tyaktena bhuñjīthā
mā gṛdhaḥ kasya svid dhanam

Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.

The quota mentioned above is also decided as per Hindu Dharma.

Kings are allowed to eat meat. Lord Rama ate deer meat. Sita cooked it as per Ramayana. Sage Agasthya ate meat during a ritual where Pitru Karma is performed. During Pitru Karma or performing rituals of the dead, eating meat was allowed in olden days but not in kaliyuga. That's way when sage Agasthya ate meat he digested Vatapi with his saying "Jeernam Jeernam Vatapi Jeernam". Likewise dharma varies based on the time and period. It has to be taken wisely to eat meat or not. So it depends on time and period and based on one's conscience. Now a days it is very tough for people to give proper dharma on eating non veg in this Kaliyuga. But it is very much advisable to avoid it.

  • Ram did not eat meat see stephen-knapp.com/… – Aditya K Apr 17 '15 at 14:29
  • 1
    @AdityaK Here is the verse from Ramayana that Rama left eating meat for 14 years. चतुर्दश हि वर्षाणि वत्स्यामि विजने वने | मधु मूल फलैः जीवन् हित्वा मुनिवद् आमिषम् || २-२०-२९ "I shall live in a solitary forest like a sage for fourteen years, leaving off meat and living with roots, fruits and honey". Lord Rama Chandra, even being a kind, stood on his oath and left eating non-veg for 14 years. So I think, our hindu's should learn from it to avoid eating non-veg as there is no more a system of kind ruling a kingdom. Exception should be only for a few like soldiers, sports persons and labors etc – Naga Vemprala Apr 18 '15 at 3:17
  • @AdityaK The reference you gave is saying about a phrase from Sundarakanda. Hanuma is telling Sita and she is listening with a lot of happiness filled in her eyes. I am writing here with utmost respect towards Rama Chandra prabhu. Hanuma is telling about the current the then condition of Rama as न मांसं राघवो भुङ्क्ते न चापि मधुसेवते | वन्यं सुविहितं नित्यं भक्तमश्नाति पञ्चमम् || ५-३६-४१ Meaning: He is not eating meat anymore, nor indulging in liquor (not even spiritual liquor) and he is just eating the fruits available from forest which are well arranged for him. – Naga Vemprala Apr 18 '15 at 3:23
  • Perhaps you should look at hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/2002/… and contribute your thoughts there – Aditya K Apr 20 '15 at 8:49

Hinduism supports vegetarianism because it is ethical, healthy and environmentally good:

The debate on 'why it is good to be a vegetarian' has long been settled. The internet is full of information on why eating meat is not good for both one's own health or the environment. For example, according to US Department of Agriculture, 70 per cent of food poisoning is caused by meat, including exposure to arsenic. Another research says production of one kilogram of beef is responsible for as much carbon dioxide emission as by driving 250 km in a car.

There is plenty of disturbing footage also available on what treatment animals are subject to in slaughterhouses, like the documentary 'Meet your Meat'. They are injected with hormones so that they grow faster and add more bulk. All these chemicals then end up in the bodies of people who eat this meat. But their system cannot take these chemicals and they eventually turn into cancers and other immune system disorders. The milk from these animals is also toxic and is rejected by the consumers' biology. In fact, large number of cases of lactose intolerance and diseases among meat eaters was what gave birth to the vegan movement.

The human body is designed for a vegetarian diet. Our teeth are not pointed and our intestines are much longer than our bodies, very much like herbivores. Carnivores have short intestines through which meat passes easily. It passes through our intestines much more slowly and is very heavy to digest, sometimes taking up to 72 hours. In this time, it rots and ferments in our bodies. Vegetarian food, on the other hand, is digested within a few hours.

So, ethically, environmentally and health-wise, it is a wise choice to be a vegetarian. It is even better to eat organic fruits and vegetables, which have no chemicals and fertilisers.

The only reason that people still continue to eat meat is that they are driven by cultural habit or craving for taste. The way to overcome this craving is to make small time-bound commitments in the beginning and then gradually increasing it, like deciding not to have meat for a week, then two weeks and so on. People have also found ways to use tofu and other forms of soya to cook 'mock meat' which tastes identical to real meat. We have also observed that with the practice of meditation and pranayama, one's taste changes on its own and the body begins to ask for food that is conducive to keep it light and moves away from foods that make it otherwise. Many people have become vegetarian on their own after doing our workshops.

However, today with a massive global consumer base, producing meat is a highly profitable business. So, there is a big lobby that does not want people to be educated on the harmful effects of meat and become vegetarian. In India, the issue of vegetarianism also assumes religious connotations and therefore, becomes political.

Food being an essential part of any lifestyle, people would like to have the right to exercise their freedom in making a choice; arguing or forcing anyone will not work. The right way is to make people aware and then let them choose for themselves. It may take some time but everybody realises sooner or later that short term gratification is not worth the long term troubles it brings. Quality of life is enhanced when we make choices that are life supporting.Being vegetarian does not just helps one's own life flourish but also that of other beings.

From an article by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar: http://www.speakingtree.in/article/the-smart-choice-is-to-be-vegetarian

Non vegetarian food was a norm during Vedic period. The only restriction was not to eat animals having 'five nails' since the time of smritis.

The difference in veg and non-veg might have been introduced in Hinduism from Buddhism in which killing/eating of 'sentient' being is forbidden.

  • I think Hindu attitude towards non-veg food was influenced by Jainism. According to Mahabharata Pandavas were voracious meat eaters. – Pradip Gangopadhyay Jul 31 '14 at 15:25
  • @PradipGangopadhyay that's an interesting info about pandavas been meat eaters. Could you pkease site the reference? – gaj Aug 1 '14 at 2:48
  • 2
    You will find Pandava's prodigious meat eating in Mahabharata, Vana Parva, Section CCLVI. Some deer appeared to Yudhisthira in his dream and requested him to move to a different part of the forest to save the total extinction of deer where Pandavas were located. Yudhisthira says there, 'We aught to feel pity for dwellers of the forest. We have been feeding on them for a year together and eight months....' – Pradip Gangopadhyay Aug 1 '14 at 15:47
  • 2
    Plz Don't propagate the BS added in Hindu scriptures by Christian rulers of the past. – Hindu Oct 10 '14 at 5:21
  • 2
    @Hindu, how does one go about finding what was "added"? – Emacs User Feb 5 '16 at 16:58

To sustain life food is essential. Only an organic source can be considered as food for Animals and Humans. Plants derive their food known as nutrients directly from the 5 Elements of Nature-Space, Air, Fire (Sunlight), Water and Earth. Plants have the least intelligence among the created living organisms and rooted to earth remaining immobile. Plants replenish the oxygen supply in the atmosphere by absorbing carbon-di-oxide from air during its lifetime in a process called photosynthesis and help keeping the balance of the eco-system of the earth. The plants during their lifetime blooms giving leaves, flowers, fruits, nuts and roots only to procreate and multiply its species and not to use them as food for themselves. So, the entire plant kingdom is meant to be the self-sustaining sacrificial living beings. God/nature has thus specific purpose for the existence of plants-to serve basically as the principal source of food for the other living beings such as animals and humans as they cannot convert the elements of nature into food. Animals are bestowed with higher intelligence than the plants and also are ambulatory. Animals are of two kinds by nature in their food habits- Herbivorous (Vegetarian) and Carnivorous (non-vegetarian). The reason for creating the bifurcation of food preference in the animal kingdom is to preserve the availability of food from the plant kingdom from being over-consumed by the un-restrained growth of animal population. So, the animal kingdom has natural food cycle conservation through a predator/victim selection for food. The humans that are on the higher pedestal in the intelligence scale than both plants and the animals and are fundamentally designed to be vegetarians deriving their staple food from plant kingdom and only milk from the Herbivorous animals. However, man being ever greedy and megalomaniac in nature transgressed all the natural laws of food cycle prescribed in god’s creation and indiscriminately violated the food discipline of Nature and assumed proprietary over the entire planet’s living stock. For performing all the prescribed duties of life, man has adequate nutritional resources in plant kingdom augmented by the milk from the domestic animals such as cows, buffaloes, goats etc. While the human beings can grow plantation through agriculture to produce his own food, he cannot produce animal stock on their own. His denture and digestive system are not capable of eating the plants or the animals without cooking them. It is simply the vanity and penchant for satisfying the wildly varying inconsistent taste preferences, man has changed his food habits in the most atrocious and unnatural manner. So, from a natural vegetarian man degenerated to a non-vegetarian by forcing himself omnivorously adept eating any organism that moves around! It is well known in Vedic religion that only the humans are expected to abide by Shastras and the plants and animals are not. Accordingly the scriptures recommend for the humans to practice least harm to fellow living beings (Ahimsa) while discharging their Karmic duties. This includes their activities that involve choosing the right food to satisfy hunger and to have adequate energy to discharge his normal duties of life.

Some of the information contained in this post requires additional references. Please edit to add citations to reliable sources that support the assertions made here. Unsourced material may be disputed or deleted.

  • 2
    Please cite sources to support your statements - 1) the humans ... are fundamentally designed to be vegetarians and 2) Accordingly the scriptures recommend for the humans to practice least harm - preferably from Hindu scriptures. Also, for readability, you might want to logically split your answers (this and others) into paragraphs. Thanks. – sv. Dec 29 '15 at 21:09

Simple, animals can feel pain. Plants do not feel pain. I'm not saying that cutting a plant is OK. As per Dharma, it is OK to cut so that you can eat it to live, but you shouldn't be living to cut them and eat. To clarify on sin about eating meat, it is hard to give a clear cut answer. Patients may need to take fish oil, lactating mothers may need more protein/creatine. In these cases, is it a sin if you are responsible for killing an animal?!! May be not, only God knows. If a father is buying meat so that the son can be happy, I don't think the father gets the sin. He is just doing his duty. At the same time, meat eating shouldn't be for building muscles and please your palate. That is a sin.

You must log in to answer this question.

protected by Sarvabhouma Mar 9 at 8:48

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality or spam answers that had to be removed, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site (the association bonus does not count).

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .