Ahimsa And Vegetarianism

Ahimsa And VegetarianismHindus advocate the practice of ahimsa (non-violence) and respect for all life because divinity is believed to permeate all beings, including plants and non-human animals. The term ahimsa appears in the Upanishads, the epic Mahabharata and Ahimsa is the first of the five Yamas, vows of self-restraint.

In accordance with ahimsa, many Hindus embrace vegetarianism to respect higher forms of life. While vegetarianism is not a requirement, it is recommended for purifying lifestyle. The food habits vary with the community and region, for example some castes having fewer vegetarians and coastal populations relying on seafood. Some Hindus avoid onion and garlic, which are regarded as rajasic foods. Some avoid meat on specific holy days.

Observant Hindus who do eat meat almost always abstain from beef. The Vedic people and subsequent generations relied heavily on the cow for protein-rich milk and dairy products, tilling of fields and as a provider of fuel and fertilizer. Thus it was identified as a caretaker and a maternal figure. Hindu society honors the cow as a symbol of unselfish giving. Cow-slaughter is legally banned in almost all states of India.

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