Sunday, July 27, 2008

On Purity & Pollution

In London, on July 26,1973, Srila Prabhupada gave a class on Bhagavad-gita. In the class, Prabhupada gives a very clear argument against animal killing:

"So we should not think like that, that animals or trees or birds and beasts, they are other than ourself. They are our brothers. Because the seed-giving father is Krsna, and the mother is material nature. So we have got the same father and same mother. So if we have got the same father and mother, they are all our brothers.

"So unless one is advanced in spiritual consciousness, how he can think of universal brotherhood? This is nonsense. There is no possibility. The so-called universal brotherhood is possible when he is Krsna conscious, when one knows that Krsna is the common father of everyone. The father will not tolerate. Suppose father has got ten sons. Out of them one or two sons are useless. So those who are very capable sons, if they say to the father, "My dear father, these two sons of yours, they are useless. So let us cut their throat and eat." So father will say, "Yes, you do that"? No. Father will never say. The father will say, "Let them be useless, but let them live at my cost. Why...? You have no right to infringe on their rights." This is common sense.

"But these rascals, they think that animals are to be killed for the satisfaction of the tongue of the human being. No sense. No sense. And still they are passing on as religious heads. Such type of cheating religion is completely kicked out from this Bhagavata religion. Dharmah projjhita-kaitavo atra paramo nirmatsaranam vastavah vastu vedyam atra [SB 1.1.2]. It is meant for, this Bhagavat-dharma. Krsna consciousness movement is meant for the paramo nirmatsaranam those who are not envious. How they can be envious? Paramahamsa, one who has understood what is this creation, who is the creator, what are these living entities, one who has got this knowledge, he is called paramahamsa."

Later that afternoon, a world renowned economist, Dr. E.F. Shumacher, visited with Srila Prabhupada. Schumacher was a respected economist who worked with J.M. Keynes and J.K. Galbraith. He was one of the intellectual fathers of the environmental and ecology movements. He wrote that single-minded concentration on technology was dehumanizing. Schumacher proposed the idea of "smallness within bigness." He had spent time in Burmese villages, and developed what he called "Buddhist economics." He wrote a book titled "Small is Beautiful" in 1973 that made him famous. A few quotes from his book:

"The less toil there is, the more time and strength is left for artistic creativity. Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity."

"It is clear, therefore, that Buddhist economics must be very different from the economics of modern materialism, since the Buddhist sees the essence of civilisation not in a multiplication of wants but in the purification of human character. Character, at the same time, is formed primarily by a man's work. And work, properly conducted in conditions of human dignity and freedom, blesses those who do it and equally their products."

"Ever bigger machines, entailing ever bigger concentrations of economic power and exerting ever greater violence against the environment, do not represent progress: they are a denial of wisdom. Wisdom demands a new orientation of science and technology towards the organic, the gentle, the non-violent, the elegant and beautiful."

Shumacher was one of the first economists to recognize that dependence on oil would become self-destructive, as it's a finite resource and is also highly polluting. In his way, he foretold the dangers of global warming before science had identified it.

Here are some excerpts from the conversation between Shumacher and Prabhupada.

Prabhupada: Thank you very much for your coming. I have read some of your ideas. So from your writing it appears you are nice, thoughtful man. Muni, the Sanskrit word is muni. Just like Narada Muni. They are very thoughtful....I was just reading this article, "Cars, Profits and Pollution." So this one side, we make profit, another side, we make pollution. This is the material, result of material activities. Whatever you do. Anything you do material, it is same. In one side, you see, "Oh, there is so much profit," and another side, you'll see so much pollution. Therefore the remedy is to act for spiritual realization. Then you will avoid pollution.

Just for example, that in the Ten Commandments, the first Commandment is "Thou shall not kill." So when I ask any Christian gentleman, "Then why you are killing?" they cannot give me any satisfactory answer.

Revatinandana: How does the, how does the process of animal slaughter in the slaughterhouse as we find it today, how does it fit in your philosophy for, say, changing the society? Where do you put that in your philosophy?

Schumacher: Well, I think one should try and do without it. You can't everywhere do without it. It's like all nonviolence. It's a direction of movement, to try to do your utmost to go as far as...

Revatinandana: So wherever possible, the slaughtering business should not go on.

Schumacher: That's right. But the Eskimos, for instance...

Prabhupada: That is another thing.

Schumacher: That's what I was saying, you see.

Prabhupada: When there is no food, so human life is more important than animal life. So the human life should be saved at the sacrifice of animals. That is another question. But where there is complete facilities to get very nice, nutritious food, why these poor animals should be killed?

Revatinandana: But in the last week we've had a Jesuit priest, a Black Friar's monk, several other theologically inclined Christian gentlemen have been here, and not one of them has assented to that statement. They do not agree. They think that...

Prabhupada: They do not agree that animal killing is sinful. They do not agree.

Schumacher: It's a very long question, isn't it. I mean...

Prabhupada: No, it is a simple question. Killing, do you think killing is very good business? Then why it is forbidden, "Thou shall not kill."

Schumacher: No, but sometimes protection is necessary.

Prabhupada: That is another thing. Generally, you should not kill. But when there is absolute necessity, that is another thing. But generally, this killing process you cannot support, and at the same time, you want to make the society purified. You commit sinful activities; at the same time, you want to purify. How it is possible?

Schumacher: I think a society can survive, and spirituality can survive, even among meat-eaters. It's much more difficult, I imagine, that a society can survive which has animal factories.....I mean there is the ruling assumption that you need it, which I challenge and you challenge....
The Buddhists have got a good, a good formula on this, and...

Prabhupada: It is not the question of Buddhist, Christian or Hindu. It is common sense philosophy.

Schumacher: The Buddhists have a good compromise on this. They say you can eat meat...

Prabhupada: No, no strict Buddhist will say.

Schumacher: ...but because you're not allowed to kill animals for eating meat.

Prabhupada: What is this?

Schumacher: So they let the Muslims kill the animals.

Prabhupada: Eight kinds of criminals. In killing animals, there are eight kinds of criminals. One who is killing, one who is ordering, one who is purchasing, one who is eating, one who is cooking, in this way... Just like if a man is killed. If a man is killed and there are so many persons implicated, it does not mean that only one who has killed, he becomes criminal. All others who are implicated in that killing business, they are criminals. This is pollution....

God consciousness cannot be achieved without being pure. In the Bhagavad-gita it is said, param brahma param dhama pavitram paramam bhavan [Bg. 10.12]. God is the supreme pure. You cannot approach God, you cannot understand God, in impure condition. And without God consciousness, there cannot be any purification. You try to understand this simple fact, that without God consciousness, you may prescribe so many things -- they will be all failure, all failure. And God consciousness cannot be achieved without being pure. This is the problem. Now you can think over it.

Schumacher: I agree with that.

Prabhupada: Yes. You can defend your theory but that will not help purification of the society. That will not help. Take it for granted. You can make so many theories but if you remain impure, if you are not God conscious, all these theories will be useless. Harav abhaktasya kuto mahad-guna mano-rathe... [SB 5.18.12]. This is simply mental speculation. Mano-rathena, hovering on the mental plane, you can jump from this to that, but that will not solve the problem. Mano-rathenasati dhavato bahih. So we do not act on mental speculation. It may be our credit or discredit. That is different thing. We simply follow the standard policy. That is Krsna consciousness. Now, everything is described in the Bhagavad-gita, how to become a brahmana, how to become a ksatriya, how to become a vaisya, how to become a sudra, or how to remain less important than the sudras. The societies must be divided in different divisions. They should work conjointly...


Carlo said...

Very nice quotes from Prabhupada. Uncompromisingly convincing. "Small is Beautiful" should be required reading for anyone aspiring to leadership and only a leader of society who puts its principles in practice is worthy of the name.

Babhru das said...

Somehow I missed the fact that Srila Prabhupada met with Schumacher. His ideas still live, and there's an E. F. Schumacher Society. I always liked the subtitle of his book: Economics as If People Mattered.

Thanks, Nava.

Billy said...

Well - Jesus said; "It is not that which goes into the mouth that defiles a man, it is that that which comes out of the mouth that defiles a man." As you know, I have been a vegetarian to honor God - but I have also eaten animals to honor God. And one's heart and motivation is arguably core to spiritual practice and faith.

It is worth pointing out that in the Judeo Christian tradition, there is more than a "common sense" imperative regarding a non-vegetarian diet. In the "Old Testament Age" the Creator gave specific Commandments regarding what may and may not be eaten, and how what could be eaten should be prepared. In the "New Testament Age" these laws were in fact liberalized. But in neither instance did the Creator prohibit meat eating, rather meat eating was clearly an approved diet. And burnt offerings of Cattle, Sheep, etc. - which requires killing - was a requirement for believers in the Old Testament age.

In the New Testament Age God commanded St. Paul, and Christian Scriptures draw a paradigm between the liberalizing/ending of Kosher Laws and the reaching out and embracing of all of Humanity with the Holy Spirit. It is written "That which I have made clean (by the Holy Spirit), thou shalt not declare unclean." Meaning it is an affront to God that those sanctified by the Spirit should be considered unclean or defiled for reasons of Race, culture - or diet either. And since even sinners receive grace, we should of course be careful in our condemnation of others.

The problem is of course, the belief that human beings and sheep/cattle/dogs etc. are spiritually equivalent, and that we could be reincarnated as a frog if we live badly. I believe there is something just like reincarnation, but that as humankind was originally intended to reach spiritual perfection in just one lifetime (before "The Fall Of Man"), the whole idea of coming back as animals is really just a teaching aid for compassion. There would be no need to return to this plane at all after one successful life here, had our original ancestors achieved perfection as was intended.

The returning of spirits here is because we need the foundation of a physical body to grow our spiritual self. But we do not take on a new body of our own, rather we work with/help other people on earth and share the spiritual benefit of their advancement. This is the equivalent - on the human plane - of reincarnation, and explains references often cited as "Biblical Proof" of the phenomena. This also explains why often people find in "Past Life regression" that their "past lives" have overlapping timelines. They are sharing someone else's memory, somehow who is closely participating in their own life journey.

Sorry for the long post.

jauvana said...

Well, you made two points. First about animal killing in the Bible and about reincarnation. We all know about the Genesis verse in the Old Testament that specifics herbs and grasses. It does not mention animals.

And the reference Srila Prabhupada used in this conversation and in many discussions on this topic, is the Ten Commandments. God did not say 'thou shall not murder (which implies killing other human beings). He said, don't kill which is pretty universal, wouldn't you say? Of course the Old and New Testaments are also products of the Judeo-Christian culture, where meat eating has always been prominent. We cannot discount the effect of culture and socialization on religious doctrine.

There are some scholars who claim that Jesus was an Essenne (spelling?) and they were in fact, vegetarians. Also, the Aramaic language that much of the teachings of Jesus were written down in, was distorted by the Greeks and the Romans. Then there is the story of the infamous meeting in Constantinople, where politics trumped Christian theology and many say, concepts similar to reincarnation were changed to suit the political needs of the time.

Anyway, as many scholars, as many opinions. Prabhupada's final point in the conversation i quoted with Shumacher is that the devotees follow the words of Krishna in the Gita and the Vedas. For better or worse, they don't follow the path of mental speculation. They follow the path of submitting their intelligence to a higher intelligence. And this submission requires a large degree of purification. And purity comes from actions that are directly connected with the divine, such as prayer, chanting, hearing about God and following his guidelines. Without purification we cannot experience God, and without God we cannot become purified. So both are needed if we want to become liberated from material consciousness.

By the way, i sent you 2 cds today by mail. hope they arrive soon. namaste

Billy said...

Thanks Jau.

Well, it is hardly exclusive to the followers of ACBSP to believe in purification through love, devotion and surrender. Even though Brahma did not require Jews or Christians be Vegetarian, they did in fact have to adhere to strict rules that required submission, including dietary rules. Jews demonstrated obedience by following the Kosher Laws, not eating shrimp, preparing meat a certain way, not serving milk and beef together, not serving chicken and eggs together etc. Later,Jews showed submission in the Christian Age by abandoning those same Kosher laws - and by worshipping with uncircumcised non-Jews. This was a big deal for them.

To go to the next higher level , God asked the Jewish followers of Jesus to abandon many external restrictions and customs of Faith they had practiced for thousands of years. And probably an attendant/associated sense of spiritual superiority as well, with practices that were not even a challenge anymore. God commanded St, Paul to eat non-Kosher shellfish and cloven hoofed animals, saying what God had made clean he should not call unclean. This was a paradigm for inclusion of non-Jews in the new Faith, but it's also true Christians were not required to follow Kosher or be circumsized either.

So is it the devotional submission itself, or the actual practices and customs that purify and justifiy one before God? In the Judeo-Christian tradition the answer is clear. I would suggest the path of Faith is the same for all Believers, but the external requirements by which we demonstrate faith and show devotion changes according to what the Providential purpose of God wills for us.

Really it is a very untenable argument that the Commandment "Thou Shalt Not Kill" meant Israel should not eat animals - or wage War for that matter. There are simply too many instances of instructions from the same Law Giver to the contrary. Better I think, to simply acknowledge that perhaps God has given divergent guidance to different people, in different places, and at different times.

As for the effect of time and corrupt human nature on scriptures/religion, should the pot really be calling the kettle black? Given the problems in your own Parent movement can you really claim with absolute certainty that there have been no deviations in meanings, word and practice over the last some 6000 years? The Vedas and Upanishads have been hand written and copied a lot longer than other religious texts have been. Do you really think this is the first instance of religious institutions and practice being corrupted in your Religion's - or any Religion's history?

I would claim the contrary, that the fallibility of man is the norm, not the exception - *especially* in Institutions of organized religion (or disorganized religion, as the case may be.)

Anyway Schumacher was being extremely deferential to Sri Prabupada, not really pressing the issues. I would likely have done the same thing, because it is better to build bridges than walls, because of my respect for Sri Prabupada as a man of God, and because this is so delicate an issue for followers of Lord Chaitanya. When people have issues they cannot freely discuss - often referred to as "sacred cows", are they not? - can there be a full exchange of ideas? Makes it hard, I think, and such a transcription less than comprehensive.

Nonetheless I am being frank with you and your friends however, - I guess because I love you guys, I feel we have a lot in common as Americans who rejected material values at a certain time, setting out on the spiritual "Road To Find Out". And I am truly sorry for the troubles that have befallen your movement. Perhaps why such things happen can someday be clarified for every seeker. An inoculation against future misfortunes, perhaps, that will likely continue to recur until we confront and resolve them in some future incarnation of the same old story.


jauvana said...

I edited the exchange between Shumacher and Prabhupada. Several times in the actual conversation, Shumacher told Prabhupada that he (Shumacher) was a vegetarian himself. So it was not a personal argument between them. Prabhupada was very clear about how animal killing was against the wishes of God the Father, unless it was necessary (as it well may have been for the ancient Jews in Israel or Muslims in Saudi Arabia) because of natural conditions. Prabhupada bases this on the common sense argument that God is the father, nature is the mother, so all creatures are brothers. What father would authorize one son to kill another unless there was a compelling reason??

We don't live in Bibical times, or in the desert. We have access to Whole Foods and supermarkets overflowing with veggies and grains and fish and meat (no one is a vegetarian or an omnivore out of economic necessity).

My somewhat rambling point is, it's always better to follow a saint than a book, even if that book is the Bible or the Gita. I would be very surprised if Jesus ate a lot of meat. And even more surprised if he supported slaughter houses, which are barbaric concentration camps for animals.

And i was not trying to belittle Christianity with those examples about language and politics. Of course it happens to all religions. It is happening in front of our eyes in Iskcon. That's what i'm writing about in many of my posts. I don't care for religion. I care about the living process that will help free us from our conditioning so we can reawaken our dormant love for God. No, that does not require any particular ritual, or any particular doctrine or diet. But it does require absolute sincerity about our purpose, and detachment from our mental concepts of like/dislike; good/bad, in favor of surrendering to the will of God. That is not between you and me. It's between you and God, and me and God.

Billy said...

Well, during the interview it is mentioned that there had been many recent interfaith discussions, and there was a clear sense of wonderment that Christians do not consider meat eating in any way a sin. I am trying to further understanding, this is because God's Commandments - not to you - but to Jews and later Christians are pretty explicit on such matters.

For example -

Leviticus, Chapter 11
1 The LORD said to Moses and Aaron,
2 "Speak to the Israelites and tell them: Of all land animals these are the ones
you may eat:
3 any animal that has hoofs you may eat, provided it is cloven-footed and chews the cud.
4 But you shall not eat any of the following that only chew the cud or only have
hoofs: the camel, which indeed chews the cud, but does not have hoofs and is
therefore unclean for you;
5 the rock badger, which indeed chews the cud, but does not have hoofs and is
therefore unclean for you;
6 the hare, which indeed chews the cud, but does not have hoofs and is therefore
unclean for you; and the pig,
7 which does indeed have hoofs and is cloven-footed, but does not chew the cud
and is therefore unclean for you.
8 Their flesh you shall not eat, and their dead bodies you shall not touch; they
are unclean for you.

In the New Testament, these rules were entirely superceded.

Matthew 15:10-11
"Jesus called the crowd to him and said, "Listen and understand. What
goes into a man's mouth does not make him 'unclean,' but what comes
out of his mouth, that is what makes him 'unclean.'

Matthew 15:16-20
""Are you still so dull?" Jesus asked them. "Don't you see that
whatever enters the mouth goes into the stomach and then out of the body? But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart,
and these make a man 'unclean.' For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what make a man 'unclean';..."

And I messed up when I attributed this to St. Paul, actually is was the Peter the Apostle whom God commanded, "kill, and eat"..

Acts 11:4-10
4 Peter began and explained everything to them precisely as it had happened:
5 "I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision. I saw
something like a large sheet being let down from heaven by its four corners,
and it came down to where I was.
6 I looked into it and saw four-footed animals
of the earth, wild beasts, reptiles, and birds of the air.
7 Then I heard a voice telling me, 'Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.'
8 "I replied, 'Surely not, Lord! Nothing impure or unclean has ever entered my mouth.'
9 "The voice spoke from heaven a second time, 'Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.'
10 This happened three times, and then it was all pulled up to heaven again."

Only what was clean could be offered on the altar as a sacrifice. And only what was clean could be eaten as well. Now God said he was making all things clean. And this was a major controversy and headache in the early Church - but not because people _wanted_ to eat pork and shrimp. Not a lot of Chinese takeout in Rome in those days....

But one's choice of food is considered in no way a matter that enhances - or diminishes - one spiritual status. Christianity's core teaching is that matters of the heart are the focus of the work to restore man's spiritual status.

Not that I am a big fan of slaughterhouses or uncritical of much of the food processing industry! But truth be told, are not plants sentient beings as well? Even rocks have consciousness.


jauvana said...

Well, Bill, I sure don't think Slaughterhouses, where the screams of millions of His creatures are heard by Him every day, and where their blood runs mercilessly every day, are "clean." I cannot imagine a God who sanctions that. And if He does, then i become an atheist again!

The quotes you gave from the Old and New Testament cannot trump the words that Jesus spoke on the Mount above the Sea of Galilee:

1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him.
2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
3 "Blessed are the poor in spirit,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
4 Blessed are those who mourn,
For they shall be comforted.
5 Blessed are the meek,
For they shall inherit the earth.
6 Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
For they shall be filled.
7 Blessed are the merciful,
For they shall obtain mercy.
8 Blessed are the pure in heart,
For they shall see God.
9 Blessed are the peacemakers,
For they shall be called sons of God.
10 Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Yes, the merciful are blessed. Not the cruel. The peacemakers shall see God, not the butchers.

Billy said...

Well of course, please follow your heart and traditions Jauvana. Changing one's customs of Faith creates problems for people, and it is hardly a trivial matter for any person to do so.

Our traditions are in fact very similar. Like in your Faith, Jews could only eat what God would accept as an offering on the altar. This is true for Christians too. And in your faith and mine, the process of self purification and spiritual education requires surrender, not merely following one's own way of thinking, and observing what Scripture teaches us. It's just that in the light of the Old and New testament covenant Christians observe, it *would* be substituting one's own personal reasoning to imply any kind of sin in the killing of animals for food. That there is hunger at all in the world, now that is consider a "sin of omission".

We are not required of course, to eat of animals. But we are taught that doing so will not cause a spiritual separation from our Creator either. In fact we offer our meals, and God accepts the offering, and we eat together with our Creator of that which he has made.

It is the experience in my life of faith, that God does accept our offerings so made. I am sure though, that to follow our way would cause problems in your life of faith and in your conscience, and I would be the last to suggest you do so.