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Article LXIV: Ahimsa and Vegetarianism

Ahimsa can be translated as non-violence or non-injury. Ahimsa is considered to be a crucial part of Hinduism. From a Vedantic perspective, all life is a manifestation of Brahman (Supreme Existence-Consciousness-Bliss), therefore, Hindus have respect for the Divine in all living beings. However, there are situations, in which the application of ahimsa is unclear. For example, in the epic war of the Mahabharata, Arjuna was the leader of the army representing righteousness, and he was instructed to fight by Krishna, the Divine Incarnation of God. War and death are part of our existence, and they are included in Hindu symbolism, such as the image of Mother Kali.

To clarify the concept of ahimsa, Vedantins give the classic example of the action of slashing a blade through a man's chest. When done by a malicious thief with murderous intent, the action is clearly unrighteous. However, when done by a surgeon for the purpose of operating, the same action is clearly righteous. Hence, the intent of an action and one's dharma is of great importance when considering ahimsa and righteousness. One must search within and follow the guidance of the Divine Self, or Atman within. The orientation to the Divine will allow one to follow the path of righteousness.

It is debatable whether it is absolutely necessary for Hindus to be vegetarian in accordance with ahimsa and the scriptures. Depending on family and tradition, Hindus have a wide variety of eating habits, which may or may not include eggs, fish, beef, or any meat at all. It would be incorrect to say that one Hindu is more spiritual than another simply because of the fact that one is vegetarian. However, most spiritual leaders of Hinduism will assert that vegetarianism is preferred. Although ahimsa is a Hindu belief, the application to life can be quite personal and dependent on one's dharma, or duty.

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