Article by Purmeshri Dass | Note by D.K.M.
The use of flesh-meat is forbidden on the ground that it is animal food and the reasons against its use are manifold. Some of these reasons are given by Mrs. A. Kingsford, M.D., F.T.S.,1 and are intended most likely for the guidance of the general public—Fellows of the Society not being excepted. The prohibition is wholesale. It does not refer to the flesh of the diseased animals alone, but is general and extends to all flesh, whether of diseased or healthy quadrupeds or of birds. This being so, I do not see what sense the learned authoress intends to convey when she, at p. 108, column 2, para. 3, says:—”A vegetable dictary, to which we may add cheese, milk, butter and eggs, costs three tunes less than a mixed dietary of flesh and vegetables.” This sentence, when divested of its financial aspect, signifies in plain phraseology that we are justified in using vegetables, plus cheese, milk, butter and (most singularly) eggs, and that the arguments advanced against the use of flesh meat do not apply to eggs and to the other articles named with them. With due deference to the authoress, I may be permitted to say that I have not been able to follow her in her logic, inasmuch as the arguments which hold good against the use of flesh of quadrupeds and birds should equally hold good against the use of the milk and eggs of these quadrupeds and birds respectively, unless indeed there be some scientific reasons, unknown to me, for the exclusion of the specified articles from the prohibitory category.
Besides this, in proposing to the members of my Branch here the adoption, inter alia, of a rule or bye-law against the use of intoxicating liquors and flesh meat, I have been met with the following objection or criticism by a Brother-theosophist to the proposal made by me.
The use of flesh-meat being forbidden, there is no reason why the use of milk of animals should be held permissible to man and particularly to Theosophists, who, as a rule, are bound to cultivate and disseminate feelings of love and kindness not only towards human beings but also towards all lower animals. Observation and experience tell us that the quantity of milk in animals is not in excess of what is necessary for the support of their young ones. Of course the mammalia class only have milk and suckle their young while other classes do not. Now it is asked what right man has to justify him to appropriate to his use the milk of animals, which seems to be intended by nature for the support of their young ones. The only reason that is ordinarily put forward in justification of the practice is that the animals are domesticated and looked after by man, and the milk that is extracted from them is in return as a remuneration for the money and care bestowed on them by man. To this it is responded that the domestication of animals is not voluntary on their part, hut it is forced upon them to their deterioration for domesticated mammalia can in no case equal in point of health those in their wild state. The simple laws of nature are always safe guides. Nature teaches us that we have no right whatever to slaughter animals for the use of their flesh. The same nature teaches us that it is equally wrong on our part to milk cows and use the milk which is purely intended for the support of the calves. To deprive the calves of the quantity of their cow’s milk is potently a sin of omission only less atrocious than that of slaughter, which is a sin of commission. The difference is merely in the degree of atrocity.
It is sometimes urged that the natural quantity of milk in the animals is over and above that which is sufficient or necessary for tho support of their young ones. In other words, this excess, if any, is to be taken as creating a right in man to use the milk. To this it may be replied that a similar excess in wealth with a millionaire does in no part of the world entitle us to divest tho said millionnaire of the excess or of any part of it without incurring the culpability of crime and sin.
Up to this point we have born discussing about milk. The question of eggs is a question of a higher plane in as much as the deprivation of the young of animals of their milk does not result in their destruction, but the appropriation of eggs of birds by man to his own use; puts an immediate end to so many lives while on their upward way.
PURMESHRI DASS, F.T.S.
BARA-BANKI, February 10th, 1884.
Note.—I beg to remind my brother that Theosophy admits of no dogmatic assertion of the fitness of things; therefore no particular kind of food is ordered imperatively, neither is there any that is “forbidden” or “prohibited” in the strict sense of the terms. The Occultist, after careful investigation of all the facts and circumstances of the whole case and their impartial consideration with a broad and enlightened vision, recommends a certain course of action as the best. He always takes his stand in the middle, and, surveying the lines pointing to the extremities, comes to a decision. There are people who argue that destruction is the order of the universe, that everywhere we see one creature preying upon another, itself being the food of a third, and that it is therefore perfectly natural for people to kill animals for food. There are others who say that everywhere is to be seen in nature a feeling of love, an affection—the mother taking care of the children and so on. Therefore no life should be destroyed. There are not a few who say that they use animal food merely because they find animals already dead or killed, but that on no account would they allow slaughter intended solely for themselves. A dispassionate consideration of these three arguments is now necessary. The first class show that they have not risen above their animal nature. Otherwise they would see that this beastly tendency, this desire for the assimilation of animal food with their physical frames, has the effect of chaining them down to a physical plane from the meshes of which no rising is possible unless a more human feeling begins to assert itself. The latent spark of this noble feeling is inherent in animals too, for if they did not have it, they would not feel that tenderness towards their young which they manifest. This class, therefore, we must leave out of consideration for the present. The sophistry of the third class is self-evident. Our answer to them is that they must remember that an appreciable decrease in the number of flesh eaters must have the effect of lessening the number of slaughtered animals. If they use the flesh of dead animals, they may just as well be asked to follow the example of the Chinese who do not spare the flesh of dead persons. We must now divert our attention to the second class. If the theory that no life should be destroyed be carried to its legitimate extent, the very existence of man would become impossible, for even the air he breathes is full of animalculae, which he must inhale when the respiratory process is in operation. Nay—we can go still further: the ONE LIFE permeates all; each and every atom has latent life in it, and therefore every atom we displace in our movements is an injury to life. The great problem is how to get out of this difficulty. The Occultist recognises the important fact that everything in nature progresses gradually and nothing is achieved by starts or jumps. At the same time he realises that destruction and creation are relative and interchangeable terms, since destruction relates only to form—the substance remaining always permanent—and that the destruction of one form is the creation of another. These relative ideas therefore cease, when the phenomenal and the noumenal are blended together into THE ONE SUBSTANCE. The aim of the Occult Student is therefore to gradually progress on the path of perfection, so that he may get out of this world of forms and be merged into the ARUPI TOTALITY. This is not the work of a day, nor of a few years, but of ages. He therefore gradually by a special training induces in himself such conditions as would enable him to rise higher and higher on the path of perfection. He does nothing violently: he only anticipates, by his knowledge, the usually slow processes of Nature, and he conforms his mode of living to the then conditions of his existence, bearing also in mind that it is but temporary since a higher state of existence requires a better mode. The neophyte gradually leaves off eating until he reaches a stage where no food is necessary. And the ultimate stage is that where all relativity ceases and he identifies himself with the ABSOLUTE EXISTENCE. So long, therefore, as we are in the phenomenal world, we cannot but guide our actions by the law of relativity and have always to make a choice between two evils. A true philosopher, one who has put himself en-rapport with his Buddhi, makes the right choice. It is for this reason that Occult Science is useful. It gives its votaries a right sense of discrimination and enables them to adopt only that course which would not come in the way of progress, while ordinary humanity, engulfed in the trammels of Avidya, gropes in the dark and many a time does exactly the opposite of what may be conducive to progress. This should not be assumed to mean an occultist is infallible; but by his superior knowledge he is in a better position to do what is right than one whose perceptions are clouded by Maya. This explanation, I believe, is sufficient to show that no hard and fast rules can be laid down for general guidance. There is an infinite gradation of progress towards the ABSOLUTE, where alone all difference can come to an end. As regards the use of animal food, the answer to the first class of men under consideration covers the point.
D. K. M.
1. [see “The Best Food for Man”, Theosophist, December, 1883 & March, 1884.]