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Home » editorials

Eat, Pray, Kill: The Basic Brutality of Eating

Submitted by on August 2, 2018 – 12:33 am40 Comments

By Beatrice Marovich, originally published at Religion Dispatches.

Some humans are deeply passionate about their meat. They love it, they gnash their teeth for it. In her 2006 spiritual travelogue Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert confessed a kind of affinity with the sensual Tuscan culture of meat. Shop windows in the Italian town, she writes, are loaded with sausages “stuffed like ladies’ legs into provocative stockings” or the “lusty buttocks” of ham. The net effect, she suggests, is the emanation of a “you know you want it” kind of sensuality. Make no mistake. Meat—the flesh of non-human animals—is a force of desire in human life.

But is there an ethical argument in favor of flesh consumption? That is, can a meat-eating human find solid moral ground for her more carnivorous appetites? Is there a soul-cure for the stomachache that comes from eating the body of another sentient creature? Are these questions that the vast storehouses of religious traditions can help us navigate?

In a culture where plates are piled high with the spoils of profligate factory farming, it would seem that the growing surge of vegans and vegetarians have claim to the moral high ground. One might even make the argument that religious vegetarianism is one of the few things that makes modern religions look good. But not everyone is satisfied with this solution. “Ethically speaking, vegetables get all the glory,” Ariel Kaminer lamented in the New York Times, playing the role of the paper’s esteemed Ethicist. And so, in an attempt to buck this trend the paper launched an essay contest in March of this year: in search of the ethical argument for meat.

Essays were judged by a star-studded panel that included vocal vegetarians like Peter Singer and Jonathan Safran Foer as well as more cautiously omnivorous foodies such as Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman. Controversy ensued over the fact that the panel was comprised entirely of men. But, gender issues be damned, results were published in late April. Six essays made the cut. The final stage was to give Times readers four days to vote on their personal favorite. Almost 40 percent of voters appeared to favor the ethical argument in favor of in vitro meat. “Aside from accidental roadkill or the fish washed up dead on the shore, it is perhaps the only ethical meat,” essayist Ingrid Newkirk baldly proffered.

If Peas Can Talk…

The argument that stirred me most, however, was one of the lower-scoring essays—earning a mere 10 percent of voter approval. Interestingly, it wasn’t really an argument in favor of meat at all, so much as it was an attempt to dramatize the moral stakes of the practice.

“We would be foolish to deny that there are strong moral considerations against eating meat,” philosophy professor Bob Fischer begins. Eating meat is clearly, from an ethical perspective, “wrong” on several counts. But morality is an ideal, he notes, something we aim for, and fall short of. This makes the moral world “tragic,” as he puts it. Moral work is a tragedy, played out on a cosmic stage. Rather than wallow in remorse, he sees this as a reason to be suspicious of “any proposal that would steer us through these complexities too quickly.”

When it comes to the consumption of meat, in other words, our human hands have long been dirty. This isn’t a discouragement to stop striving for the good. But a moral proposal that promises to wash our filthy fingers spotlessly clean—in seconds flat—is suspect. Because they will still be dirty. The pressing moral question, of meat, becomes: given that human hands are obviously soiled, what can be done with these polluted tools?

The easy answer, most often, is: go vegetarian. If it feels wrong to eat meat, then stop eating it. Why waste time, really? Just go vegan. Start cleaning your hands by refusing to eat your fellow creatures. The ethical argument for meat, in other words, is an impossibility. Ending flesh consumption is one step in the right direction, toward a kinder future. Some might argue, however, that the argument from empathy is a slippery slope argument. Vegetarians will surely protest. But philosopher Michael Marder, writing recently for the Times, points to research on pea plant communication as evidence of a kind of plant subjectivity. The title of his column begs the incendiary question: “If peas can talk, should we eat them?”

There are, perhaps, some practitioners of the Jain tradition who would give a resounding “no.” Strict ascetic practices in Jainism disavow not only the consumption of meat, but the practice of farming—because of the damage that agricultural tools to do the earth. The consumption of root vegetables may be prohibited (as you would be yanking the vegetable to its death), as well as the consumption of a living pea shoot, which can (as Marder suggests)talk.

These practices find their basis in ahimsa—the Sanskrit term that describes a posture of nonviolence toward all living creatures. The power of ahimsa can be genealogically traced into the vegetarian strains and variants of Hinduism, Jainism, and Buddhism. Is it when we turn to the wisdom of religious traditions that we finally find the spiritual purity we’re looking for? The sort that can clean our dirty hands from the inside out, starting with our nasty and brutish souls?

A Screaming Silence

My own thinking around religion and animals, particularly around the conundrum of eating them, was complexified at a recent conference, put on by the Graduate Student’s Association in Columbia’s Religion Department. The consumption of animal flesh was not the primary subject matter of “Pray, Eat, Kill: Relating to Animals Across Religious Traditions,” but it was perhaps the most absorbing. It was also the subject of Wendy Doniger’s keynote address. The legendary scholar of myth and religion dipped back into ancient text, citing myriad strange injunctions regarding the consumption of food in The Laws of Manu. What she finds, in these codes, is not only an attempt to deal with the old, and apparently always agonizing, moral pain of eating animal flesh. She also spoke of references, in these ancient texts, to the “screaming silence” of vegetables.

Doniger finds, in other words, a long history of reflection on the basic brutality of eating, rooted in a reflection on this concept of ahimsa. But, interestingly, what she finds is that this sympathy and compassion for animals did not always lead to the condemnation of eating animal flesh.

The fact is, religious ethics are practices that are crafted in conversation with culture and geography. There have been times when the meaning of ahimsa, or practices of animal compassion, have taken a backseat to necessity. Geoff Barstow, for example, spoke of the 18th-century Tibetan Buddhist Jigme Lingpa who displayed an extreme form of compassion for animals (addressing them as his mother). He believed that meat was a poison that bore a heavy karmic burden. But he stopped just sort of commending vegetarianism. Meat was, as Barstow put it, a kind of “necessary evil.” Was this in recognition of the fact that there simply aren’t a lot of vegetables to be had in the mountainous regions of Tibet?

Is the purity (or the arid ethical high ground) we might be aiming for a myth, itself? Is it possible to both consume and remain morally chaste? Doniger suggests that, perhaps, the most common and lasting effect we can see—as reverent humans attempt to deal with the moral ambivalence of eating meat—is that they make lists. They attempt to rationalize this ambivalence, to find a way of controlling its power. The Laws of Manu are filled with long lists of things you can and cannot eat (mushrooms, solitary animals), things you can and cannot do with animals (sacrifice is good, unlawful slaughter is bad).

Such lists are not unique to the Hindu tradition. Indeed, we see both simple and complex dietary regulations in a host of traditions and cultures. Even here in the U.S., we have “secular” regulations that prevent us from eating dogs. Many of us follow our own little personal hodgepodge of injunctions that (we believe) contributes to a more sustainable form of life or a healthy planet.

In a larger sense, the thicket of little rules and regulations seems absurd. The “real” question, it seems, is whether or not to eat animals at all—whether to have all or nothing, flesh or no flesh. But such universal injunctions seem problematic to me. Human history is littered with smaller lists, smaller injunctions, created in ethical conversation within a particular context.

When we look back at the stages set by the history, via religion, I think we will see this moral drama—the encounter of human and non-human animal—played out in many different ways. In the messy, violent, ambivalence this encounter generates, and the stopgap measures put in place to resolve it, we see thousands of small (often contradictory, often bizarre) solutions. We might read thousands of lists! But this is not a sign of our human failure. Rather, I think we can see it as an encouragement to keep making those small lists.

Morality is a messy business—why should we expect its rules to be singular, or simple?

40 Comments »

  • Brajasundari

    Nice article! It reminds me of my own dillemmas with regard to vegetarianism. I never liked meat and I wanted to stop eating it. But I was thinking how hypocritical would be to eat the plants who also can feel pain so I hesitated for few years. And finely I decided I have to start somewhere so I became vegetarian with my aim to go frutarian at some point.
    Then I met the devotees and frutarianism was forgotten. 😉 Still I try to value plants lives and not waist food if possible.

  • Gauravani dasa

    Interesting article. My Christian wife and I talk about how genuine spiritual paths will at least advocate ahimsa. From there, how one defines the “self” will determine how deep ahimsa goes.

    The author asks, “Is it possible to both consume and remain morally chaste?” I think this is a good question and forces us to reconsider the idea that we have to consume to survive. We might then ask, “If we passively stop harming others, what actions can we take to actively help them?”

    If we consider that question we have to again consider the nature of the “self” that can be harmed or helped. And I think this exercise of identifying the self is the root of unspoken, underlying “moral drama” the author mentions.

  • Goloka Dasa

    I also liked this article and will try to read the 6 actual essays next. I dont think the picture they painted of Jainism is completely accurate though. I have several Jain friends and went to a jain temple for some time when I was younger. The idea of ahimsa is one of the strongest points in their faith but the article makes it sound like they live off air like a breatharian. Jains do traditionally farm and modern jains will simply wash off their vegetables to protect the invisible living beings and pour the water into the earth to ensure their survival. But if a pea were to talk I think we would all stop eating them!

  • Kula-pavana

    I think it is worth noting, that lots of people in this world do not have the luxury of a purely vegetarian diet. They eat whatever they can to survive. Even in India many Vaishnavas eat fish for that reason. I would dare to say that the consciousness of eating is at least as important as the type of food we eat. In the Gita (3.13) Krsna says: “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.”

    • You raise an interesting point. But your example may not be the best. I am not sure Bengal suffers for lack of grains, milk, fruits, and vegetables. Then again, there are lots of hungry people there.

  • Auarya-lila

    I’ve heard it argued that you can’t get around violence to animals even with a vegetarian diet. When consuming mass produced foods that is certainly true, but the level of violence may be much lower. Voles, rats, snakes, lizards, gophers – all are species that meet with some level of trajedy due to human farming endeavors. Peoples desire for foods that are out of season locally require food to be transported long distances and, thus, requires a large amount of fossil fuel comsumption. Transportation over large distances also causes a certain amount of animal fatalties. No matter where you turn violence abounds. If you factor in as many variables as you can, it may be quite possible to make a sound argument that consuming locally raised, free range organic animals as part of ones overall diet is less detrimental environmentally and possibly even less violent than being a vegetarian.

    I think the issue raised, which is pertinent to all, is the lust behind consumption which also causes callousness. When we change our orientation from taking to giving, then the whole equation changes. As devotees we cook and offer vegetarian foods to Krsna and we say it’s because he likes that and asks for that, which is certainly true – but what Krsna really wants and accepts in this sacrifical offering is our love.

    I personaly do think it is possible to be a person with a giving orientation and be a thoughtful consumer and still come out on the side of meat eating. I don’t think the argument is as simple or black and white as most devotees seem to think it is. Of course, for devotees meat eating is not an option, but that doesn’t mean that their diets are necessarily the most environmentally friendly or non-violent. I do believe that devotees should care more about those issues and within the context of being vegetarian strive to consume in an environmentally responsible manner and look to find ways to do so with as little negative impact on other living beings as possible.

    • Nrsinghadev

      I’ve heard it argued that you can’t get around violence to animals even with a vegetarian diet. When consuming mass produced foods that is certainly true, but the level of violence may be much lower. Voles, rats, snakes, lizards, gophers – all are species that meet with some level of trajedy due to human farming endeavors. Peoples desire for foods that are out of season locally require food to be transported long distances and, thus, requires a large amount of fossil fuel comsumption. Transportation over large distances also causes a certain amount of animal fatalties. No matter where you turn violence abounds. If you factor in as many variables as you can, it may be quite possible to make a sound argument that consuming locally raised, free range organic animals as part of ones overall diet is less detrimental environmentally and possibly even less violent than being a vegetarian.

      Dandavat pranam,
      First of all, it is a fact that any kind of food is obtained by some form of violence to another living being. One living being is food for another, this is stated in sastra .
      ahastāni sahastānām
      apadāni catuṣ-padām
      phalgūni tatra mahatāṁ
      jīvo jīvasya jīvanam

      (SB 1.13.47)

      Sridhar Maharaja said that every particle of this universe is endowed with consciousness, even stone and air, so there must be killing. There are also gradations of consciousness however, and that is why the killing of plant life is naturally considered to be less reprehensible than the killing of a dog, and the killing of a dog is considered less reprehensible than the killing of a man.
      Your above argument is not very sound however, since all the ‘collateral damage’ from mass produced foods you list here also apply to the meat consumers. In other words, on top of directly ordering the death of animals, which they do as soon as they buy meat from anywhere, they also buy and consume all the things vegetarians consume. There is no meat eater who literally only eats meat. So if you break it down to a simple sum: vegetarian diet = meat eater’s diet – meat.
      That always leaves the vegetarian diet with a one-up on the meat-eaters, not only because of the above mentioned reasons, but also because the animals meat eaters consume also first eat plants, and on the whole, the whole meat system as it is provides mother earth and everyone on it with a killer blow in terms of environmental impact, which is another heavy karma creating aspect.
      So you see that there is absolutely never a sound argument that the diet of a meat eater, be it free range, organic or what-not, can be less violent than a vegetarian diet. Another reason is that a vegetarian never directly orders the death of an animal. I may buy wheat from a field where a mouse accidentally got killed by a harvester, but there is no vegetarian who is ordering ‘death by harvester’ for the mouse. The same cannot be said for a meat eater; when he buys meat, there is a direct implication with the death of the animal in question.
      The killing of an animal also cannot be trivialized by the animal having had a good life, i.e., not being stuck in pens and cages en mass, pumped full of antibiotics and growth hormones etc., without ever seeing sunlight, because in the end, it still gets killed. The killing is what counts. There is no such thing as ‘humane killing’. If I treat you nicely and give you all comfort and then kill you after that, will you be okay with it? I doubt it. This “Hansel & Gretel” approach to animal slaughter still results in the killing of the animal, even when it gets sugar coated.

      I personaly do think it is possible to be a person with a giving orientation and be a thoughtful consumer and still come out on the side of meat eating. I don’t think the argument is as simple or black and white as most devotees seem to think it is.

      It is possible to think so if one is in ignorance. Someone in that mode may indeed be genuinely giving, and invite everyone over for some steak or turkey etc., thinking they’re doing a great and generous thing. From their perspective that may indeed seem so, but from a higher perspective it is easily observed that this is actually not very good. Any ‘thoughtful’ consumer that still comes out on the side of meat eating, is simply in ignorance, and thus not as ‘thoughtful’ a consumer as they think they are.

      Of course, for devotees meat eating is not an option, but that doesn’t mean that their diets are necessarily the most environmentally friendly or non-violent. I do believe that devotees should care more about those issues and within the context of being vegetarian strive to consume in an environmentally responsible manner and look to find ways to do so with as little negative impact on other living beings as possible.

      Certainly not, although from some of the responses I’ve been reading on this website, there seem to be people who are trying to make a case for it, by questioning the words of the acaryas in favor of a few speculators wielding PhD degrees.
      Although the vegetarian diet is always less violent than that of a meat consumer (as already pointed out in the first part of my post), I definitely agree with you that devotees should be a lot more concerned about the food products they buy, and the implications involved, particularly when milk is concerned. I personally buy everything organic, (even though it’s more expensive), from local farms or homegrown when possible, always being careful to leave an as minimal as possible environmental/karmic footprint in my consumer behavior, and it hurts to see the majority of the devotees in my area buying factory farmed milk and like products without giving it a second thought, simply because they are cheaper than their organic counterparts. Not only do I think they should apply this line of thinking to the foodstuff they obtain, but to any aspect of living. For example, it is horrible to see plastic plates being handed out at public devotee festivals such as Ratha Yatra, when they could easily have been of a biodegradable version.
      As for the article under discussion, I don’t like what it’s suggesting; it attempts to trivialize, or ‘humanize’, morality by asserting that it actually has no real basis and exists merely on an individual level, wavering per era, time and circumstance, and differentiated per each personality. In other words, the leitmotiv of the article is that there is no absolute platform on which morality is based. Now, there may indeed be countless of such concocted versions of morality around the world, but that does not mean that there is no supreme morality, established by a Supreme Person. When such a ‘list’ is composed by Krishna, it doesn’t matter that there are thousands of lists full of differing moral codes. Dharma and moral codes go hand in hand, and in Srimad Bhagavad-gita Krishna describes those codes, very straightforward, and very simple. But without faith in Sri Guru and Bhagavan one will always remain on the speculative platform, writing articles without ever reaching a conclusive answer.

      Hare Krishna

      • brahma dasa

        Here some “food” for thought.

        Prabhupada called Manu the Lawbook for mankind and there are many references to meat eating in Manu and other Dharma sastras. According to Manu meat eating under certain circumstances is acceptable and not considered sinful.

        Plants are the food of all moving creatures; animals without fangs are the food of those with fangs, those without hands of those who possess hands, and the timid of the bold. Manu 5:29.

        The porcupine, the hedgehog, the iguana, the rhinoceros, the tortoise, and the hare they declare to be edible; likewise those domestic animals that have teeth in one jaw only, excepting camels. Manu 5:18.

        The eater who daily even devours those destined to be his food, commits no offence; for the creator himself created both the eaters and those who are to be eaten for those special purposes. Manu 5:30.

        One who eats meat, during ceremonies to the gods and ancestors, commits no sin, whether one purchases it [from the butchery], or personally kills the animal, or has received it as a present from others. Manu 5:32.

        But a priest who, being duly engaged to officiate or to dine at a sacred rite, refuses to eat meat, becomes after death an animal during twenty-one existences. Manu 5:35.

        A priest must never eat meat which has not been consecrated by Mantras; but, obedient to the eternal Dharma, he may eat it, consecrated with Vedic texts. Manu 5:36.

        Svayambhu [the Self-existent] himself created animals for the sake of sacrifices; sacrifices [have been instituted] for the good of this whole [world]; hence the slaughtering [of beasts] for sacrifices is not slaughtering [in the ordinary sense of the word]. Manu 5:39.

        Herbs, trees, cattle, birds, and [other] animals that have been destroyed for sacrifices, receive [being reborn] higher existences. Manu 5:40.

        And for the everyday resident of Kali Yuga the following may the most appropriate of Manu’s injunctions.

        Manu 5:41.There is actually no sin in eating meat, in taking intoxication, and in sexual activity, for that is the natural way of created beings, but abstention from these brings great benefit. Manu 5:56.

        • Nrsinghadev

          brahma dasa says:
          May 28, 2012 at 2:13 pm

          Here some “food” for thought.

          Prabhupada called Manu the Lawbook for mankind and there are many references to meat eating in Manu and other Dharma sastras. According to Manu meat eating under certain circumstances is acceptable and not considered sinful.

          And for the everyday resident of Kali Yuga the following may the most appropriate of Manu’s injunctions.

          Manu 5:41.There is actually no sin in eating meat, in taking intoxication, and in sexual activity, for that is the natural way of created beings, but abstention from these brings great benefit. Manu 5:56.

          Hare Krishna,

          ‘food’ for thought, or simply quotes taken out of context?

          Srimad-Bhagavatam clearly delineates the four pillars of sinful life as being: meat-eating, illicit sex, gambling and intoxication, the abstinence of which constitute our basic regulative principles. Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja may have called Manu smrti the law book of mankind, but he also continuously condemned meat eating as sinful and clearly pointed out under what tight circumstances meat eating was allowed and for what kind of people. This is what he says in his purport to CC.17.159:

          “In the Vedic scriptures there are concessions for meat-eaters. It is said that if one wants to eat meat, he should kill a goat before the goddess Kali and then eat its meat. Meat-eaters are not allowed to purchase meat or flesh from a market or slaughterhouse. There are no sanctions for maintaining regular slaughterhouses to satisfy the tongues of meat-eaters. As far as cow-killing is concerned, it is completely forbidden. Since the cow is considered a mother, how could the Vedas allow cow-killing? Sri Caitainya Mahaprabhu pointed out that the Kazi’s statement was faulty. In the Bhagavad-gita (18.44) there is a clear injunction that cows should be protected: krsi-gorakṣya-vanijyam vaisya-karma svabhava-jam. “The duty of vaisyas is to produce agricultural products, trade and give protection to cows.” Therefore it is a false statement that the Vedic scriptures contain injunctions permitting cow-killing.”

          So, if you compare the tight concessions under which meat eating is regulated according to sastra to the overabundant and unbridled sense-gratifying meat eating as it happens today, you will find that to even try and find a similarity is utter folly. No sastra ever approves of this; there is no ‘grey area’ or ‘trickiness’ about that.

          Further, Mahaprabhu Has personally provided the explanation for Vedic animal rituals in Caitanya Caritamrta (CC. Adi-lila, 17.159-165) by saying to the Chand Kazi, who was speaking of animal slaughter being prescribed in Vedic literature:

          “The Vedas clearly enjoin that cows should not be killed. Therefore any Hindu, whoever he may be, does not indulge in cow killing. In the Vedas and Puranas there are injunctions declaring that if one can revive a living being, he can kill it for experimental purposes [in the ritual]. Therefore the great sages sometimes killed old animals, and by chanting Vedic hymns they again brought them to life for protection. The killing and rejuvenation of such old and invalid animals was not truly killing but an act of great benefit. Formerly there were great powerful brahmanas who could make such experiments using Vedic hymns, but now, because of Kali-yuga, brahmanas are not so powerful. Therefore the killing of cows and bulls for rejuvenation is forbidden. ‘In this age of Kali, five acts are forbidden: the offering of a horse in sacrifice, the offering of a cow in sacrifice, the acceptance of the [renounced] order of sannyasa, the offering of oblations of flesh to the forefathers, and a man’s begetting children in his brother’s wife.’ Since you Mohammedans [and others] cannot bring killed animals back to life, you are responsible for killing them. Therefore you are going to hell; there is no way for your deliverance.”

          As evident from the above quote, there are a lot of variables to be taken into account when consulting an ancient scripture such as Manu samhita , variables of which the casual reader may not be aware. Like I said, the time and circumstances when Manu smrti was composed does not apply at all to the situation as it exists today, as confirmed by Srila Swami Maharaja’s purport to Caitanya Caritamrta , Adi-lila, sloka 17.159. These injunctions were written at a time when varnasrama dharma was still relatively intact and there still were mostly dharmika persons living in India. Presently however, there is hardly a meat-eating person on this earth who abides by sastra , not even in India, what to speak of other countries, so all these apparent exemptions for meat eating do not apply to the people of today. I rather think the sloka from Srimad-Bhagavatam is the more appropriate injunction for the people of Kali yuga, since they are all outside of varna and dharma :

          “Those who are ignorant of real dharma and, though wicked and haughty, account themselves virtuous, kill animals without any feeling of remorse or fear of punishment. Further, in their next lives, such sinful persons will be eaten by the same creatures they have killed in this world.” (S.B. 11.5.14)

          Furthermore, Srila Bhaktivinoda Thakura also mentions in his Sri Caitanya Siksamrta that around the time the degradation of varnasrama dharma was in full swing, the caste brahmana’s interpolated this very same Manu smrti to suit their whims, so its authority is not beyond any doubt. Many scriptures have been interpolated of course, which is why it’s so important to have the living scripture as well: the bona fide acarya .

          It is easy to pick and choose a few selected quotes out of context and make it seem like meat eating is not condemned. However, when weighed against other authoritative scriptures and the words of the bona fide acaryas and avataras, the ultimate conclusion can be drawn, and a context can be provided for the verses that at face value do not corroborate with the other authoritative scriptures.

          For example, the following sloka (the one which you quoted and commented upon to make it seem like Manu Samhita was generously encouraging mankind to freely engage in all sinful activities) is a perfect example of a sloka that out of context does not corroborate with other authoritative scriptures:

          “Manu 5:41.There is actually no sin in eating meat, in taking intoxication, and in sexual activity, for that is the natural way of created beings, but abstention from these brings great benefit. Manu 5:56.”

          Yet Manu-samhita also concludes:

          “However, it is not simply the person who eats the meat that becomes implicated by eating the dead animal, but also those who assist in the process. “He who permits the slaughter of an animal, he who cuts it up, he who kills it, he who buys or sells meat, he who cooks it, he who serves it up, and he who eats it, must all be considered as the slayers of the animal. There is no greater sinner than that man who though not worshiping the gods or the ancestors, seeks to increase the bulk of his own flesh by the flesh of other beings. (5.51-52)”

          The last line clearly indicates that there is no greater sinner than the meat eater who does not worship the devi-devatas. This is in direct contradiction to sloka 5.41, which autonomously appears to indicate there is no sin in eating meat, period, even if you don’t worship the devi-devatas
          .
          I also cannot find any corroboration of the quote from Manu Samhita 5.41 in other bona fide scriptures. I can, however, effortlessly find numerous quotes from sastra such as Mahabharata where the sinfulness of meat eating is confirmed and expressed. A few examples:

          “The sins generated by violence curtail the life of the perpetrator. Therefore, even those who are anxious for their own welfare should abstain from meat-eating.” (Mahabharata, Anu.115.33)

          “He who purchases flesh, kills living creatures through his money. He who eats flesh, kills living beings through his eating. He who binds or seizes and actually kills living creatures is the slaughterer. These are the three sorts of slaughter through each of these acts. He who does not himself eat flesh but approves of an act of slaughter, becomes stained with the sin of slaughter. (115.38-39)

          “The meat eater who kills an animal in the name of Vedic Yajna or tells that it is a requirement of the Yajna is a sinner and he will be a person who will dwell in hell.” (Mahabharata, Adi Parva 115.43)

          Without turning this into citation slugfest, the moral of the story is that, when there is a case of contradicting elements within the same scripture, you have to weigh the quotes in question against tattva and the instructions given by the bona fide acaryas. The outcome of this will provide you with the proper answer.

          If one starts to peruse scriptures such as Manu Smrti on his own accord, without the guidance of a spiritual master, he will certainly draw erroneous conclusions. Only tattva-darsi acaryas can say what is right or wrong, no amount of PhD degrees will be able to help someone in his autonomous research of scriptures. This is proved by mundane Indian professors, some of whom are eagerly quoted and linked to in other articles on this website, publishing articles that the cow is in fact not holy and beef eating is very much allowed.

          Haribol!

          • Gaura-Vijaya

            Unfortunately, Narsinghdeva, reality is not so simple as u make out to be by throwing Prabhupada’s quotes.
            Moral-social values are evolving, so to base them on a book does not work. Whatever, you think is moral now was not moral according to previous times. Anyway, I have some points that you can read. I don’t know things either, but I am not sure those who claim to do so actually know either.
            1) Having said that, I do want to also mention that you would get a somewhat different answer if you read the root texts in some detail, independent of such overall theological arguments which are somewhat abstract, and developed later in time in response to the new questions raised by philosophers. For example, in the Mahabharata, it is mentioned that there was a time prior to which it was not sinful for women to be unfaithful to their husbands, and the practice of being faithful to one husband was established by a brahmana Shvetaketu:

            http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01123.htm

            In this case, the rightness or wrongness of an act is the “effect” of the injunction of a person with some power (not a god in this case, but a Brahmana). This person brings about a new moral law, and in that sense, it appears that his pronouncement is what “makes” that law. So the answer given to the Euthyphro question here would be that faithfulness to the husband is morally right and lack of faithfulness morally wrong because Shvetaketu said so, and not “Shvetaketu said so because faithfulness to the husband is morally right and lack of faithfulness morally wrong”. His action inverts the law at some point in time.

            http://www.sacred-texts.com/hin/m01/m01126.htm. Rise up, O Madri, and yield me his body. Rear thou these children.’ Madri replied, saying, ‘I do clasp our lord yet, and have not allowed him to depart; therefore, I shall follow him. My appetite hath not been appeased. Thou art my older sister, O let me have thy sanction. This foremost one of the Bharata princes had approached me, desiring to have intercourse. His appetite unsatiated, shall I not follow him in the region of Yama to gratify him? O revered one, if I survive thee, it is certain I shall not be able to rear thy children as if they were mine. Will not sin touch me on that account? But, thou, O Kunti, shall be able to bring my sons up as if they were thine. The king, in seeking me wishfully, hath gone to the region of spirits; therefore, my body should be burnt with his. O revered sister, withhold not thy sanction to this which is agreeable to me. Thou wilt certainly bring up the children carefully. That indeed, would be very agreeable to me. I have no other direction to give!’
            2) “Strategies of Conversion: The Emergence of Vegetarianism in Post-Vedic India” Read this article to see how even vegetarianism is a recent evolution in morality. http://www.rci.rutgers.edu/~edbryant/articles.html
            3) Even with alcohol use. Indeed, in the Mahabharata, great acaryas occasionally declare a new dharma, an example being the injunction of Sukracarya that brahmanas were no longer allowed to drink liquor (Mahabharata, 1.71.52-5), or that of Svetaketu that women must …be monogamous (Mahabharata, 1.113.15-20).”
            This indicates brahmanas used to take liquor. Otherwise being not allowed to take liquor does not make sense.

            4) The yuga doctrine is an essential part of all Vedantic traditions. However, if we take all the accounts of the yugas and their time-scales literally, they conflict with empirical evidence. It is very unlikely that advanced civilizations with cities existed millions of years ago in Treta Yuga in present day India. I will just refer you to a few summary articles pointing to the empirical evidence:
            (a) This summary article suggests that agriculture is about 20,000 years old. http://www.cof.orst.edu/cof/teach/agbio2010/Other%20Readings/Plant%20domestication%20Balter%20Science%202007.pdf
            Without agriculture, it would have been hard for advanced urban centers to have existed at the time of the Ramayana in Treta Yuga.
            (b) This is one among several articles that indicate that most of the ancestors of current humans lived in Africa 250,000 years ago http://www.pnas.org/content/102/44/15942.short and it is very unlikely that advanced humans inhabited the Indian subcontinent millions of years ago.
            If we ignore this evidence and want to accept the yuga theory, it would be a leap of faith similar to what Christians have to take in there 6,000 year old theory. At least we have to admit that there is high uncertainty involved in this claim and we are making a leap of faith. Another interesting article on the idea of yuga cycles appearing in Vedic scriptural cannon is given here http://www.safarmer.com/CosmicCycles.pdf

          • brahma dasa

            I think Narsingadev wrote a good essay on the Gaudiya doctrine against meat eating.

            However, the quote I posted saying that sex, meat eating, and intoxication was natural and not sinful was not taken out of context

            (see for yourself–check chapter 5)

            Laws of Manu
            http://oaks.nvg.org/pv6bk4.html#5

            Is it an Interpolation? It could be but who’s to say?

            Much of the chapter is about animal sacrifice and there is ample evidence that such sacrifice and meat eating were common in ancient India. Indeed Gaudiya doctrine teaches that the Buddha avatar appeared to turn people away from the meat eating and animal sacrifice that had become common and were supposedly condoned by the Vedas.

            In any case, while the dates may be in question there is no argument that Manu samhita predates the Bhagavatam.

            So while Manu under certain circumstances permits meat eating and animal sacrifice the Bhagavatam (the New Testament of Hinduism) abhors it.

            Seems like spiritual evolution to me.

  • Citta Hari dasa

    Jivo jivasya jivanam: regardless of what one eats there is some violence in the act somewhere along the way, as Audarya-lila pointed out–even for vegetarians. Since by the nature of nature we MUST do damage to something or someone to maintain our physical forms it seems the question is how to do the least amount of damage. As Kula-pavana suggested the real violence may be not in what we eat but the attitude we have when we eat it, which would lend considerable weight to the argument in favor of eating as a sacrament as opposed to eating to satisfy one’s palate. It gets tricky there, though, because what one scripture declares to be kosher or hallal or otherwise officially sanctioned others declare to be off limits except in direst necessity. And atheists will agree with neither (at least on the basis of religion) so where does that leave them? Feasting on road kill, perhaps?

    • Gaura-Vijaya

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GYYNY2oKVWU
      Don’t know if u can just brush away atheists like that. Here Peter Singer explains the merits of vegetarian diet and Dawkins also agrees. Discussion involves other complex issues as well. When halal and kosher were banned in Holland, http://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/world/europe/Dutch-approve-ban-on-kosher-and-halal-animal-slaughter/articleshow/9028454.cms, as usual the always right religious people who have absolute positions on everything were the ones opposing the ban (1 million of them)

      • Ritesh

        Gaura-Vijaya, it seems you are stuck a lot with historicity of events. Does intent matter more over historicity of whether a certain event happened or not? You bring in the Mahabharata to establish your point that social and moral codes are evolving – but elsewhere the Mahabharata will contradict the position established by you in topics as diverse as meat-eating, caste system, your take on Manu etc.
        This aside, Shri Puttige Swami in the sampradaya of Madhvacarya gives a very enlightening answer as to why meat based diet is best avoided in this age-

        Q. 3) Is it true that in olden days, sages used to eat meat? There is an incident of ‘Agasthya’ eating meat in ” Vathapi – Ilvala” story.

        SWAMIJI: Yes, we can see some mention about such things in very old stories. We need to understand clearly why and under what circumstances they used to consume meat. Firstly they used to take meat, not as their regular food. The animal would be offered to ‘yajna’, the sacred fire and then the sages, having high yogic power would consume the meat as prasad of the yajna. Due to this auspicious activity, the animal would go to heaven. In the story of ‘Augusthya’, when he said ‘ Vathapi jirno bhava’, he got digested immediately. Such was the power in those days.

        But now meat is not approved to Brahmins. First we need to understand why we consume food. It is to have good health. Health means not only the physical health. The mental health plays a very important role. That’s why in Sanskrit it is known as “swasthya” means mental peace, purity and health. Meat or non-vegetarian food improves body and but not the mind. So for those people, who need to have physical strength, like solders, meat is not prohibited. Solders need not have any thinking power. They have to fight like machines. But for Brahmins, mental power is more important. We need to have peace and purity of mind, stability and concentration of mind. So for us meat is prohibited. Since ages our ancestors were having vegetarian food and so Brahmins are generally considered as soft, kind hearted, stable and intelligent people. If we start consuming meat, slowly we will loose all these good qualities. We will not see the changes overnight. It takes time and we will see the changes in the later generations.

        Q. 4) There are many noble laureates who are meat eaters. What we can say for that?

        SWAMIJI: Getting a noble prize is not at all a yardstick to measure the peace and purity, stability and concentration of mind. It is known that suicide rate is high in scientists too. Actually scientists are more disturbed in their mind. Due to this, they get activated and get involved deeply in something and come out with some new things. For their success, the basic reason is not the peaceful mind, but disturbed mind. Generally Brahmins who is suppose to have the mental capacity to understand ‘ Brahma’, need to have very good concentration power for ‘japa’ and ‘tapa’. and they are supposed to be mentally not disturbed people. In olden days even if they consume meat, they used to keep up their mental stability and peace of mind, due to their yogic power or ‘thapas’. But now in ‘Kaliyuga’, as such our mental powers and concentration powers are getting reduced. We are loosing our purity and peace of mind due to various reasons. As such the ‘satvic’ atmosphere and ‘satvic’ qualities are reducing because we are not doing enough ‘japa’, ‘tapa’ etc. So if we start consuming meat we will loose all our good mental qualities soon. So in ‘kaliyuga’, meat is strictly prohibited for Brahmins. It is also sinful as said in previous answers.

        • Gaura-Vijaya

          It is exactly what I tried to say and the acarya in Madhva sampradaya does have to take an indirect route (animals were all going to heaven and it was all prasad when some quotes do contradict this position). Even if you read Edwin Bryant’s article carefully, it speaks about the evolution of morality and conflicting opinions about different issues as time evolved. In doing so, I never defended eating meat. I am a vegetarian myself and would have liked to find out that everyone in the enlightened ages of the past were vegetarian themselves and how bad this kali yuga was. However, I had to accept the black swan event that it was not the case. In your case, no black swan event can shake your faith in any belief of the tradition. However, scientists have to wait for the black swan events that will prove everything in one tradition right. Just as much for some Christians no black swan event can shake their faith in the fact that earth is 6000 years old.

  • Ishan das

    People may have different opinions about different subjets. But some things are beyond dispute. Birth, old age, disease and death. Secular science and medicine are engaged in a war to counteract these miseries. And the public at large turns to these scientists and doctors as their high priests in the hope that these calamities can be overcome.

    Well, they can be overcome. The proverb says that one can lead the horse to water, but we can’t make him drink. People can indulge in “I think”, “Maybe….”, and “Perhaps……” until death ends the discussion.

    There is simply no religion or spiritual path on earth that is as explicit, as detailed, as comprehensive, and as beautiful in its process and in its conclusions as Gaudiya vaishnavism. And ultimately, no one can advance along this path without accepting authority. This includes instruction on what we eat and how we eat.

    But if someone is more interested in endless speculation than in solving the real problems of life, and even more-so, graduating to a sublime calibre of existence – then what can done? Even the front end of the horse can drink water. But the back end simply can’t.

  • Ishan das

    There is a way to end all violence. And that is to qualify ourselves for leaving this realm. If we sincerely take this up, there is no longer any need to ponder such questions because the conumdrum is solved. If we are really concerned about such issues, the solution is at hand.

  • Brajasundari

    In reply to Gaura Vijaya- yes, moral laws change. Personally I see them as manifestation of certain aspects of truth according to time and circumstances.
    Not so long ago Christians believed women and black pleople had no souls. Pedophilia was OK in ancient times. And even in Europe 10 years old girls getting married were OK. Corporal punishment for children was a norm (based on the Bible!)

    What did change? Our understanding. And moral and civil laws followed it. But this understaning is not given for ever and not to everyone. So in modern times it is more and more acknowledged that animals have emotions similar to humans. Intelligent people just cannot ignore it without moral dillemas.

    And with regards to civilizations existing million years ago- we cannot say they did not exist. Archeologists use mostly their imagination where written evidence is not available. Just imagine archeologists in a year 6000 AC. What would they think about dinosaur skeletons in the builings and dog cementaries? Whould they not assume that CDs were some kind of ornament and that XXI century civilization if ever existed was illiterate (all our books are made from paper and won`t last that long).

    Why even think in such a long term. Imagine that our civilization has collapsed and you are trying to explain to your grandgrandchildren what was internet, television, airplans, Xrays… Once civilization is lost, it remains as mythology. And mythology is the proof.

    • Gaura-Vijaya

      Braja,
      Thanks for ur reply. Just that it is equally likely that earth is only 6000 years old as spoken in the bible because no empirical evidence will be taken as authoritative anyway.
      Brahma,
      Manu Smriti is a scripture with a mixed bag of rules, some of which are pretty difficult to imagine following. For example, pouring molten iron into the years of a sudra who hears the vedas etc etc. So we have to cherry pick the rules according to our innate moral sensibilities.
      Some selections from Manu Smriti that are unacceptable to my innate moral convictions:

      Here are some selections:
      I – 91. “One occupation only the Lord prescribed to the shudra – to serve meekly even these other three castes.”
      I – 93. “As the Brahmana sprang from (Prajapati’s i.e. God’s) mouth, as he was first-born, and as he possesses the veda, he is by right the lord of this whole creation.”
      II – 31. “Let (the first part of ) a brahmin’s (denote) something auspicious, a kshatriya’s name be connected with power and a vaishya’s with wealth, but a Shudra’s (express something) contemptible.”
      II – 100. “Whatever exists in the world is the property of the Brahmana; on account of the excellence of his origin the Brahmana is indeed, entitled to it all.”
      VIII – 37. “When a learned Brahmin has found treasure, deposited in former (times), he may take even the whole (of it); for he is the master of everything.”
      VIII – 270. “A shudra who insults a twice born man with gross invective, shall have his tongue cut out; for he is of low origin.”
      VIII – 271. “If he mentions names and castes of the (twice born) with contumely, an iron nail, ten fingers, shall be thrust red hot into his mouth.”
      IX – 189. “The property of a Brahmana must never be taken by the king, that is a settled rule; but (the property of men) of other castes the king may take on failure of all (heirs).”
      IX – 317. “A Brahmin, whether learned or ignorant, is a powerful divinity.”
      X – 129. “No collection of wealth must be made by a shudra even though he be able to do it; for a shudra who has acquired wealth gives pain to Brahmana.”
      XI – 261-62. “A Brahmana who has killed even the peoples of the three worlds, is completely freed from all sins on reciting three times the Rig, Yajur or Sama- Veda with the Upanishad.”
      XII. 4. “If the shudra intentionally listens for committing to memory the veda, then his ears should be filled with (molten) lead and lac; if he utters the veda, then his tongue should be cut off; if he has mastered the veda his body should be cut to pieces.”

      • Braja,
        Thanks for ur reply. Just that it is equally likely that earth is only 6000 years old as spoken in the bible because no empirical evidence will be taken as authoritative anyway

        I do not think that Braja said that no empirical evidence will be taken as authoritative, but rather that she thinks there are limits to the attempt to arrive at an accurate human history through archeology.

        At any rate, Michael Cremo (Drutakarma das) has probably done more research on the subject than most. Here is his approach to the subject:

        “The standard traditional Christian view is that time is linear and progressive. There is a single Creation of the universe. Then God creates the animals. Then God creates the humans. Then there is a salvation history. And finally there is a Last Judgement. And that is it. Many modern Western scientists try to distance themselves from traditional Christian cosmogony, but in reality they have retained the basic linear perspective of the traditional Christian worldview. They have just secularized it. They believe there is a single creation event–Big Bang, then the animals evolve, then the humans, then science saves humanity with technology, and in the end there is a Big Crunch, the universe collapses on itself. So that linear view has influenced archeology. Archeologists and other scientists, see humans appearing once, rather late, in the course of linear, progressive time, and they edit the archeological record to conform to that view.”

        I have not read any of his books on the subject. They get mixed reviews from academia, probably mostly bad ones. But from what I can tell, he seems to try to make everything in the puranas a literal empirically valid point. That is a sure recipe for failure. But with regard to the age of human history, I am not sure that all the facts are on the table.

        Indologist Alain Danielou has also questioned modern archeology’s ability to arrive a conclusive account of human history. He and others also consider the yuga cycles to be much shorter than Krsnadasa Kaviraja did. And this has helped them make what some consider a more credible case for empirically valid yuga cycles.

        But overall I do not think the yuga concept needs to be empirically validated. One can live in a puranic world of sorts within a life of liturgy and bahajana. And Gaudiyas can live liturgically in the Gaurabda era, where meaningful time begins with the advent of Sri Caitanya. Hindu time is concerned with different issues from that of modern science. The two are not in competition point for point, but rather in a broader sense in terms of which is more enriching to human society, which offers a more meaningful life. One can look at the Hindu yuga cycles as part of a powerful puranic metaphor aimed at revealing the of non physical nature of consciousness and its potential for love, and this may have the power to bring us much closer to truth than today’s myth of an arrow of infinite and ongoing progress aimed at a target of material acquisition.

        • Vikram Ramsoondur

          I have not read any of his books on the subject.

          Maharaja, I’m well aware of Cremo’s work and have not only read, but actually own copies of several of his books. He not just evinces extreme scepticism vis-à-vis modern scientific conclusions, but also seems to accept unquestioningly the literal truth of every last detail there is in the Hindu fables, including the existence of ten-headed demons, thousand-armed demons, giant humans in earlier ages, 330 million superhuman gods in ‘higher realms,’ etc.

          They get mixed reviews from academia, probably mostly bad ones.

          That’s an understatement, to say the least. Physical anthropologists such as Jonathan Marks and Colin Groves, to name two well-known figures from academia, have excoriated his (mis)reading of the evidence he uses to formulate his dodgy hypotheses – in very certain terms. In fact, I know of no mainstream scholar who as much as looks at what he writes nowadays, much less takes it seriously.

          • Nrsinghadev

            “Hindu fables”? Wow, such an anti-devotional statement. My pranam from afar, this is not good association.

  • Vikram Ramsoondur

    And with regards to civilizations existing million years ago- we cannot say they did not exist. Archeologists use mostly their imagination where written evidence is not available.

    Not true. We can assert with a high degree of confidence, not to say near certainty, that modern homo sapiens do not go back much more than about 200,000 years ago. The question of human civilisations antedating that epoch hardly therefore arises. Those familiar with the palaeo-anthropological evidence underpinning this conclusion (whether derived from the hominid fossil record, genetic/DNA analysis, archaeological research etc) will know what I’m talking of.

    • Brajasundari

      Maybe they were not “modern” homo sapiens? But anyway after such long period of time almost nothing remains. Archeology is fascinating but can you deny it is to much degree just fantasy based on few remaining bones and stones?

      And even 200 000 years is enough time for many civilizations to come and go. we will never know them all. And future generations of archeologists will have even more complicated task considering how much people nowadays move around the world and how they dig out all the skeletons and put them in other places. who knows if we are the first ones to do it?

      • Vikram Ramsoondur

        By modern homo sapiens, I meant humans anatomically like us. In any event, the consensus amongst the overwhelming majority of specialists trained in the various fields of knowledge concerned with unravelling the human past is pretty clear, and little doubt persists in regard to the broad path that the species has travelled along, since it first appeared. Details will continue to crop up and cause theories to be revised and fine-tuned surely, but the major, pivotal dots figuring on the graph are well-evidenced, thoroughly documented and agreed upon. If I am to ever alter my fundamental position on these matters, it’ll solely be if, and only if, these many experts recant their present stance/s. Of course, it goes without saying that you’re fully entitled to favour the paradigm you feel more comfortable with.

    • Kula-pavana

      While I’m quite familiar with the paleo-anthropological evidence you refer to, I’m not quite sure I share your conclusion. All ancient civilizations we know speak of even more ancient and advanced civilizations. Perhaps we misunderstand both shastra and modern science in that regard.

    • Ritesh

      High degree of confidence. But you cannot entirely rule out the possibility that civilizations might have existed even millions of years back. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence! We might have a “Black Swan” archeological event data which might turn up and shock archaeologists(and you?)

  • Brajasundari

    Scientists discovered how to grow meat in vitro. Seems very ethical even in compare to eating plants. But can organic mater remain “alive” without a soul behind it?

  • Nrsinghadev

    Dear Gaura-Vijaya,

    As there was no possibility to reply to your comment directly, I’m doing it this way. Actually, your reply to my post is a testimony to all the points I have been making so far. I am ‘throwing’ Prabhupada quotes because he actually is an authority on the subject matter, unlike the sources you are quoting from. I would suggest that you read the following commentary by Srila Swami Maharaja on S.B. 3.9.10:

    Not only in this age, but formerly also, there were many sages who tried to invent their own systems of religion without reference to devotional service to the Supreme Lord, but there cannot be any religious principle without devotional service to the Lord. …. Therefore, there cannot be any religion or system of genuine philosophy for the advancement of the living entities without the principle of devotional service…no one can manufacture any system of religion without the principle of devotional service to the Lord. As we find in the Sixth Canto of Srimad-Bhagavatam, the initiator of religious principles is the Lord Himself. In Bhagavad-gita also we find that the Lord condemns all forms of religion other than that which entails the process of surrendering unto the Supreme…

    The principles of religion are not open to any ordinary living entity. They are just to bring the human being onto the platform of morality. Nonviolence, etc., are necessary for misguided persons because unless one is moral and nonviolent one cannot understand the principles of religion. To understand what is actually religion is very difficult even if one is situated in the principles of morality and nonviolence. It is very confidential because as soon as one is conversant with the real principles of religion, he is at once liberated to the eternal life of bliss and knowledge.

    There are different interpretations of the word morality. The one I am speaking of is that morality which arises from sanatana dharma. There is also yuga-dharma, which differs per yuga, but sanatana dharma is always the same, otherwise it would not be called sanatana, eternal. Varnasrama dharma is time and again being established and re-established by Sri Krishna, therefore varnasrama-dharma and its moral implications also have to be considered eternal. Morality established separately from Krishna, such as the morality invented by society, does not have the purpose of lifting the baddha-jivas from bondage, and can from that point of view not be considered as good or beneficial. Morality implies humanity, but when Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu asked Ramananda Raya what the basic principle of human life was, he answered that human civilization begins when varnasrama-dharma is accepted, so any morality established outside of at least varnasrama-dharma is ultimately useless and non-eternal. This is why Krishna says to Arjuna (B.G. 16.24):

    tasmac chastram pramanam te
    karyakarya-vyavasthitau
    jnatva sastra-vidhanoktam
    karma kartum iharhasi

    “One should therefore understand what is duty and what is not duty by the regulations of the scriptures. Knowing such rules and regulations, one should act so that he may gradually be elevated.”

    PURPORT
    As stated in the Fifteenth Chapter, all the rules and regulations of the Vedas are meant for knowing Krsna. If one understands from the Bhagavad-gita and becomes situated in Krsna consciousness, engaging himself in devotional service, he has reached the highest perfection of knowledge offered by the Vedic literature… One who is directly engaged in all these devotional activities is to be understood as having studied all Vedic literature. He has come to the conclusion perfectly. Of course, for the ordinary persons who are not in Krsna consciousness or who are not engaged in devotional service, what is to be done and what is not to be done must be decided by the injunctions of the Vedas. One should act accordingly, without argument. That is called following the principles of sastra, or scripture. Sastra is without the four principal defects that are visible in the conditioned soul: imperfect senses, the propensity for cheating, certainty of committing mistakes, and certainty of being illusioned. These four principal defects in conditioned life disqualify one from putting forth rules and regulations. Therefore, the rules and regulations as described in the sastra— being above these defects — are accepted without alteration by all great saints, acaryas and great souls.

    In India there are many parties of spiritual understanding, generally classified as two: the impersonalist and the personalist. Both of them, however, lead their lives according to the principles of the Vedas…

    In human society, aversion to the principles of understanding the Supreme Personality of Godhead is the cause of all falldowns. That is the greatest offense of human life… One has to raise himself at least to the mode of goodness before the path to understanding the Supreme Lord can be opened. Without raising oneself to the standard of the mode of goodness, one remains in ignorance and passion, which are the cause of demoniac life. Those in the modes of passion and ignorance deride the scriptures, deride the holy man, and deride the proper understanding of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. They disobey the instructions of the spiritual master, and they do not care for the regulations of the scriptures. In spite of hearing the glories of devotional service, they are not attracted. Thus they manufacture their own way of elevation. These are some of the defects of human society which lead to the demoniac status of life. If, however, one is able to be guided by a proper and bona fide spiritual master, who can lead one to the path of elevation, to the higher stage, then one’s life becomes successful.

    Gaura-Vijaya says:
    May 31, 2012 at 1:00 am
    Unfortunately, Narsinghdeva, reality is not so simple as u make out to be by throwing Prabhupada’s quotes.

    So, given the above statement, actually, that reality is quite straightforward, unless you are mistaking maya for reality of course. Sastra is eternal, and the tattva-darsi guru is delivering its message as it is, unadulterated. The overall tone of your post, unfortunately, hints at a lack of faith in either. Another recommended sloka and purport to study for you would be S.B. 6.16.43.

    Moral-social values are evolving, so to base them on a book does not work. Whatever, you think is moral now was not moral according to previous times.

    I wouldn’t quite say they are evolving, since that tends to implicate an improvement on the previous, but I do agree they are changing. However, that change is not for the better; au contraire, it is nothing but a testament to the degradation of the perfect and eternal varnasrama-dharma and sanatana-dharma as established and re-established by Krishna since time immemorial. This degradation of dharma is obviously also occurring time and again, otherwise Krishna wouldn’t have stated in B.G. 4.2 that this great science was lost in due course of time:

    evam parampara-praptam
    imam rajarsayo viduh
    sa kaleneha mahata
    yogo nastah parantapa

    “This supreme science was thus received through the chain of disciplic succession, and the saintly kings understood it in that way. But in course of time the succession was broken, and therefore the science as it is appears to be lost.”

    Further, it is not just “a book” I am basing my argument on, this is sastra, not some fairy tale or otherwise cooked up story. But, one needs to have faith in sastra, otherwise there is no faith in its authority.

    Anyway, I have some points that you can read. I don’t know things either, but I am not sure those who claim to do so actually know either.

    And that is exactly why I am referring to need for a tattva-darsi maha bhagavata. Of course, faith in such persons is required. Most unfortunately, again it appears from what you say here that such faith is lacking. In any case, I may not know, but he knows sastra, and he has seen the truth, so his word is authoritative. Therefore, if I take his word and spread that word in an unadulterated fashion, it also becomes authoritative.

    1) Having said that, I do want to also mention that you would get a somewhat different answer if you read the root texts in some detail, independent of such overall theological arguments which are somewhat abstract, and developed later in time in response to the new questions raised by philosophers.

    Again, you are making an example of the point I was making earlier. Here you mention you will get a different answer when you read sastra independent of theological arguments. This should surprise no one, and I agree completely with that, because if a witless boy picks up sastra and starts reading it, he will naturally come to different conclusions than when a realized soul reads it.

    For example: If an expert engineer explains to me the process of a certain device he created, then I, the recipient of this information, may be a complete layman on the subject matter, but the knowledge the engineer is giving me is authoritative, because the person giving me the information is an authority on the subject matter. If, on the other hand, I start to dissect and investigate the device on my own accord, I will be baffled in my efforts and draw faulty conclusions.

    For example, in the Mahabharata, it is mentioned that there was a time prior to which it was not sinful for women to be unfaithful to their husbands, and the practice of being faithful to one husband was established by a brahmana Shvetaketu: In this case, the rightness or wrongness of an act is the “effect” of the injunction of a person with some power (not a god in this case, but a Brahmana). This person brings about a new moral law, and in that sense, it appears that his pronouncement is what “makes” that law. So the answer given to the Euthyphro question here would be that faithfulness to the husband is morally right and lack of faithfulness morally wrong because Shvetaketu said so, and not “Shvetaketu said so because faithfulness to the husband is morally right and lack of faithfulness morally wrong”. His action inverts the law at some point in time.

    In the Sixth Canto of Srimad Bhagavatam we find the following statements of Yamaraja, the controller of all unfaithful living entities:

    dharmam tu saksad bhagavat-pranitam

    yam jnatvamrtam asnute

    “The principles of religion are initiated by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and “no one else, including the sages and demigods, can manufacture any such principles. Since even great sages and demigods are unauthorized to inaugurate such principles of religion, what to speak of others — the so-called mystics, demons, human beings, Vidyādharas and Cāraṇas living in the lower planets? Twelve personalities — Brahma, Narada, Lord Siva, Kumara, Kapila, Manu, Prahlada Maharaja, Janaka Maharaja, Bhisma, Bali, Sukadeva Gosvami and Yamaraja — are agents of the Lord authorized to speak and propagate the principles of religion.” (S.B. 6.3.19-21)

    So, in the case of Svetaketu, it appears you are viewing him as a person establishing some moral code independent of God, but this is not the case. All of these histories from the Puranas and Maharbharata are related to acquiring knowledge of Bhagavan in all its varieties; the instances may appear as separate, but they all have a part in establishing knowledge of Bhagavan. So if Svetaketu did something, it was not something he did outside of bhagavat-dharma; in other words, he established something which previously already had been established but had been lost over time. Mahabharata is ultimately knowledge of Bhagavan Sri Krishna for the less intelligent masses, as confirmed by Srila Swami Maharaja in the following letter:

    “This Vedic knowledge was stated in the Atharva Veda. Later on, just on the beginning of this millennium, the Kali yuga, Vyasadeva, who is the supreme authority of Vedic knowledge, considering the degraded condition of men in this age, divided the whole Veda into departmental knowledge and some of his disciples were entrusted with a particular type of departmental knowledge. In this way the whole Vedic knowledge developed into four Vedas, 108 Upanisads, 18 Puranas, then summarized in Vedanta Sutra, and then again to benefit the less intelligent class of men like women, workers, and the degraded descendants of the higher class he made another fifth Veda known as Mahabharata or the great history of India.”
    (Letter to: Unknown – Los Angeles 12 April, 1970 – 70-04-12)

    All the histories collected in the Puranas and Mahabharata are the recollecting the most important things that happened in those ancient times. They all somehow provide teachings of the Absolute. As such, the case of Svetaketu cannot be viewed isolated from bhagavata-dharma and thus does not contradict my points. Svetaketu was not some baddha-jiva outside of varnasrama dharma; he was following varnasrama dharma. If Svetaketu was just a regular brahmana he would not have been featured in sastra. “The principles of religion are initiated by the Supreme Personality of Godhead, and no one else, including the sages and demigods, can manufacture any such principles (S.B. 6.3.19-21).” Therefore it must be concluded that Svetaketu did not in fact introduce any new principle, but rather, he re-introduced the old principle that was established by Bhagavan.

    So, Svetaketu did not invent a new moral code. That there was moral degradation at that time is not surprising either. Why do you think Krsna came? There are many reasons as you may know, and this is one of them:

    yada yada hi dharmasya
    glanir bhavati bharata
    abhyutthanam adharmasya
    tadatmanam srjamy aham

    “Whenever and wherever there is a decline in religious practice, O descendant of Bharata, and a predominant rise of irreligion — at that time I descend Myself.”

    And thus Krishna appeared in that time and again re-established the same eternal codes He had already once established but were degraded. This sloka implicates that there indeed is a change, but it is not one for the better. Differences are always there, but ultimately there is the one unchanging sanatana-dharma, from which flows the same morality. There may be morality created outside of religion, or theism without morality, but sanatana dharma never changes. This is what Mahaprabhu says about scriptures and sages in C.C. Madhya 17.184:

    prabhu kahe sruti smrti yata rsi-gana
    sabe eka-mata nahe bhinna bhinna dharma

    “Sri Caitanya Mahaprabhu replied, “The Vedas, Puranas and great learned sages are not always in agreement with one another. Consequently there are different religious principles.”

    PURPORT
    Unless one comes to the Absolute Truth, there is no possibility of agreement…. On the material platform, there is no possibility of agreement; therefore there are different kinds of religious systems. But the Absolute Truth is one, and when one is situated in the Absolute Truth, there is no disagreement. … On the absolute platform, the worshipful Deity is one, and the process of worship is also one. That process is bhakti.
    There are many different religions throughout the world because they are not all on the absolute platform of devotional service. As confirmed in the Bhagavad-gita (18.66): sarva-dharman paritjajya mam ekam saranam vraja. The word ekam means “one,” Krsna. On this platform, there are no different religious systems. According to Srimad-Bhagavatam (1.1.2.), dharmah projjhita-kaitavo tra. On the material platform, religious systems are different. Srimad-Bhagavatam describes them from the very beginning as dharmah kaitavah, cheating religions. None of these religions is actually genuine. The genuine religious system is that which enables one to become a lover of the Supreme Personality of Godhead. In the words of Srimad-Bhagavatam/em (1.2.6):

    sa vai pumsam paro dharmo yato bhaktir adhoksaje
    ahaituky apratihata yayatma suprasidati

    “The supreme occupation [dharma] for all humanity is that by which men can attain to loving devotional service unto the transcendent Lord. Such devotional service must be unmotivated and uninterrupted in order to completely satisfy the self.”

    On this platform there is nothing but the service of the Lord. When a person has no ulterior motive, there is certainly oneness and agreement of principles. Since everyone has a different body and mind, different types of religions are needed. But when one is situated on the spiritual platform, there are no bodily and mental differences. Consequently on the absolute platform there is oneness in religion.

    2) “Strategies of Conversion: The Emergence of Vegetarianism in Post-Vedic India” Read this article to see how even vegetarianism is a recent evolution in morality

    Again, you exemplify some of the points I made in my previous post by posting this link. What is the value of this study? These people do not understand sastra, they have no basis in it. Furthermore, they are taking some faulty translation or rendition of the Vedic canon as the basis of their study, but most of all, they are not under the guidance of a pure devotee, so what is the authority of their study? Simply useless speculation under a PhD banner. Their conclusions may impress an ignorant crowd, because of their scholarly qualifications, but this is like the example Srila Swami Maharaja gives about all the animals of the forest that all praise the lion as king of the forest, but don’t know man. It is also comparable to a professor in biophysics writing a thesis on quantum mechanics. What these two have in common is that they both share the same lexicon, but the biophysics professor is no authority in the field of quantum mechanics, so faulty speculation is the result.

    Krishna appeared well over 5000 years ago in ancient India, and He never ate meat, so from the first page of this study which claims vegetarianism only began around the Common Era one can immediately discard this study as concocted nonsense. Not only that, but it also disregards why Buddha came, and completely overlooks the fact that the so-called brahmanas of before that Era were already deviating from dharma and abusing the Vedic instructions regarding animal yajnas only to satisfy their tongues. So whatever those brahmanas did in those times was already against bhagavata-dharma. What they label as post-Vedic is actually a re-establishment of Vedic civilization, and what they label as Vedic is actually non-Vedic.

    3) Even with alcohol use. Indeed, in the Mahabharata, great acaryas occasionally declare a new dharma, an example being the injunction of Sukracarya that brahmanas were no longer allowed to drink liquor (Mahabharata, 1.71.52-5), or that of Svetaketu that women must …be monogamous (Mahabharata, 1.113.15-20).”
    This indicates brahmanas used to take liquor. Otherwise being not allowed to take liquor does not make sense.

    Again, same principle; nothing new is being established, it’s just a re-establishing of the original dharma. But when reading these texts without the authoritative purport by the tattva-darsi guru, any wild conclusion can be drawn. Another thing is that one may question who has translated this into English like this. Many Sanskrit words have no proper English equivalent, so who is to say the choice of words was right in this case? A tattva-darsi guru can tell you however.

    4) The yuga doctrine is an essential part of all Vedantic traditions. However, if we take all the accounts of the yugas and their time-scales literally, they conflict with empirical evidence. It is very unlikely that advanced civilizations with cities existed millions of years ago in Treta Yuga in present day India. I will just refer you to a few summary articles pointing to the empirical evidence:
    (a) This summary article suggests that agriculture is about 20,000 years old. Without agriculture, it would have been hard for advanced urban centers to have existed at the time of the Ramayana in Treta Yuga.
    (b) This is one among several articles that indicate that most of the ancestors of current humans lived in Africa 250,000 years and it is very unlikely that advanced humans inhabited the Indian subcontinent millions of years ago.
    If we ignore this evidence and want to accept the yuga theory, it would be a leap of faith similar to what Christians have to take in there 6,000 year old theory. At least we have to admit that there is high uncertainty involved in this claim and we are making a leap of faith. Another interesting article on the idea of yuga cycles appearing in Vedic scriptural cannon is given

    Again you display the knack to give more credence to secular speculative knowledge which passes for rational scholarship, rather than accepting the word of Krishna, sastra and His pure devotee. The next thing you’re going to tell me is that you also believe in the Aryan invasion myth. It is typical that you grant such immediate credence to these so-called neutral empirical sources that you link to, yet are skeptical of Krishna’s words, sastric conclusions and the words of His pure devotees. Of course, it’s possible for a non-devotee to come and visit and comment on this site, but I assume that you are a devotee since your name says Gaura-vijaya. Anyway, first of all, why should you not take the accounts of the yugas and their time scales literally? There are so many factors that have to be taken into account where empirical evidence is concerned. Regarding point (a): Why would the early civilization require to have the same make up as the current civilization? You are applying the current model to an ancient civilization that may well have been completely different in its make up. This kind of reasoning is equivalent to the atheist asking the question whether or not God can make a stone He cannot lift. He cannot fathom anything outside the confines of his own reasoning and therefore regards it as impossible. Regarding (b), this out of Africa theory is nothing but the current fad in archeology land. There have been plentiful discoveries of modern human remains in parts all over the world from much earlier times (a recent find in Israel revealed human remains of about 400.000 years old) that have destroyed this theory, but are swept under the rug because they do not align with the current accepted model. The book, ‘Forbidden Archeology’ has brought so many examples to light, and its follow-up, ‘Forbidden Archeology’s Impact’, provides a good further insight into the inner workings of the academic world. The documentary ‘Expelled: no intelligence allowed’, regardless of its topic, is another documentary which exposes a perpetration of academic bias. Ironically, the ridicule and spite it generated on a global scale is evidence of the point it is making in the documentary.

    Srila Swami Maharaja states: “Foolish rascals are described in the Bhagavad-gita as mayayapahrta-jnanah, which indicates that although they are superficially educated, maya has taken their real knowledge away. Such people are presently leading human society. In Srimad-Bhagavatam they are described as andha yathandhair upaniyamanah. These rascals are themselves blind, and yet they are leading others who are blind. When people follow such leaders, they suffer unlimited pains in the future. Despite so-called advancement, all this is happening. Who is safe? Who is happy? Who is without anxiety?”

    Haribol

    • Srila Prabhupada has also instructed us thus:

      “So there are sometimes allegorical explanations. So there are many things which do not corroborate with the so-called modern science, because they are explained in that way. But where is the guarantee that modern science is also correct? So we are concerned with Krishna Consciousness, and even though there is some difference of opinion between modern science and allegorical explanation in the Bhagavat, we have to take the essence of Srimad-Bhagavatam and utilize it for our higher benefit, without bothering about the correctness of the modern science or the allegorical explanation sometimes made in Srimad-Bhagavatam. ”

      And we find Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja creatively explaining the idea the life span in the yugas thus:
      “As long as a man’s bones exist, that is how long he will live. Along with the longevity of the bones, the life will be there. In Treta-yuga, life may be maintained by the nervous system; but it is stated that in Kali-yuga, kalav annagatah pranah – one’s longevity depends on food.”

      Here he is saying that the long lifespan in satya yuga mentioned in sastra may be interpreted to mean that as long as one’s bones remained one was considered alive, and this on the basis of the idea that yogis could live in their bones. Thus whatever one thinks about this particular interpretation, it is clear that the 100,000 year life span of satya yuga was, in the opinion of Pujyapada Sridhara Maharaja, something that need not be taken literally and thereby be in direct competition with modern science point for point. In other words, he is suggesting an allegorical reading is plausible and not a symptom of faithlessness.

      Again, rather than a point for point debate, the real debate concerns the nature of consciousness and its potential to love. This is the debate framed in the Bhavavatam: Is consciousness proper reducible to matter, or is it an irreducible first person reality?” And if it is irreducible, what is its potential to love?” The Bhagavata of course makes the case that consciousness is unto itself and unlike any thing of the objective world. Being so, it is irreducible. And its potential to love is realized in light of the divine dispensation of Kali-yuga pavana Sri Caitanya. To describe him as such—anarpita carim citrat karunayavatirnah kalau—as Sri Rupa has, is to emphasize the rare opportunity his teaching presents us with. Argue for this, for taking advantage of his divine dispensation.

      • Nrsinghadev

        Dandavats maharaja,

        we are digressing from the topic at hand, but nonetheless,I would like to say that to take liberty with which statements from the Bhagavatam are allegory and which are not seems to me like threading a dangerous course. Of course we have to take the essence of the Bhagavatam like Srila Prabhupada said, but that statement does not mean we get a license to decide ad libitum which part of sastra is allegory and which part is not. If none of the great acaryas from our rupanuga-guru-varga have clearly declared something from sastra as being allegory then it is best not to speculate upon it.

        As for faith and the tendency to give more credence to science, as often seems to be the case here among people replying, it may not imply faithlessness, but it does at least imply that there is more faith in science. For a devotee, more faith in science than in sastra means trying to adjust sastra to fit the current scientific model, and more faith in sastra than in science means trying to adjust the scientific model to fit sastra. Trying to adjust sastra to match the ruling scientific model cannot be considered a very stable precedent for devotional life. A bigger question would be: are you prepared to die for science, or are you prepared to die for Krishna? If the answer is the latter, which I sincerely hope, then you must be prepared to let go of any pre-established conceptions that have shaped your view of the world and those of others absent Krishna.

        In your citation of Srila Prabhupada he mentions that sometimes there are allegorical explanations, and there indeed are such explanations. These however, do not include the yuga cycles, which are very clearly defined. I have never heard any acarya speak of them as being allegorical, let alone be subject to interpretation. In fact, when Srila Bhaktisiddhanta wrote the Surya-siddhanta he himself defined these time periods.

        These time periods have also been clearly defined by your gurudeva on numerous occasions, as in his commentary on Srimad-Bhagavatam (canto 3, chapter 11) and in Sri Caitanya Caritamrta:

        “Thinking thus, the Personality of Godhead, Sri Krsna Himself, descended at Nadia early in the Age of Kali.”

        PURPORT
        The prathama-sandhya is the beginning of the age. According to astronomical calculation, the age is divided into twelve parts. The first of these twelve divisions is known as the prathama-sandhya. The prathama-sandhya and sesa-sandhya, the last division of the preceding age, form the junction of the two ages. According to the Surya-siddhanta, the prathama-sandhya of Kali-yuga lasts 36,000 solar years. Lord Caitanya appeared in the prathama-sandhya after 4,586 solar years of Kali-yuga had passed.

        Clearly, there is no room for allegory here.
        And with all due respect, I also have to disagree with the purport you are deriving from the words of Srila Sridhar Maharaja, in that he was being creative in his explanation of the lifespans per yugas. For one, the words “it is stated that kalav annagatah pranah, life is depending on food in Kali yuga”, clearly indicate a source. His statement of life being maintained differently throughout the 4 yugas is accepted among different Hinduistic traditions: Satya-yuga – life maintained in the bones; Treta-yuga – life maintained in nervous system; Dvapara-yuga – life maintained in the blood; Kali-yuga – life maintained by food. Also, if one’s life always depended on food, regardless of the yuga, there would be no need to specifically state that one’s life depended on food intake in Kali-yuga. Furthermore, as you also mentioned there are examples in sastra that corroborate his statements. After all, both Valmiki Muni and Hiranyakasipu were doing tapasya until nothing but their bones remained:

        Lord Brahma told Hiranyakasipu (S.B. 7.3.18):

        “I have been very much astonished to see your endurance. In spite of being eaten and bitten by all kinds of worms and ants, you are keeping your life air circulating within your bones. Certainly this is wonderful.”

        When you put all these cases together I find it odd to conclude it was a creative explanation by Sridhar Maharaja which would allow for the yuga time periods to be placed into the realm of allegory. Srila Prabhupada also mentioned many times the long lifespan of people in Satya-yuga, never stating it as allegorical. These things may be unimaginable to us, now, due to our modern conditioning, but that does not infer that it automatically must have been an impossibility in that age as well. In this case, we should not let that modern conditioning affect or influence our acceptance of sastric statements. In case my way of bringing these subject matters to light is interpreted in a certain way, below are some citations of acaryas that are in line with what I’m attempting to convey:

        Srila Sridhar Maharaja said, “God works wonders. His ways are filled with miracles. We should be prepared for that. We should be prepared that all the knowledge of this world, all our experience, will prove to be wrong.”

        Srila Sridhar Maharaja also said:

        “Apprehension and uncertainty are always troubling you; you must cross beyond them, go up, and you will find sivam – no apprehension, but the positive life.”

        “Faith is the only capital by which we can make our journey towards the Infinite.”

        “We should have an immovable connection with reality, an absolute conception of reality. Such a stable position is necessary.”

        Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Thakura stated in his upadesavali:

        “If we desire to follow an auspicious course in life, then disregarding the theories of even countless people we should hear instructions only from a transcendental source.”

        And the following statement of Bhaktisiddhanta Prabhupada:

        “If I were to desist from lecturing about the Absolute Truth due to being fearful that some listeners may be displeased, I would be deviating from the path of Vedic truth and accepting the path of untruth. I would become one who is inimical to the Vedas, an atheist, and would no longer possess faith in Bhagavan, the very embodiment of Truth.”

        • I would like to say that to take liberty with which statements from the Bhagavatam are allegory and which are not seems to me like threading a dangerous course. Of course we have to take the essence of the Bhagavatam like Srila Prabhupada said, but that statement does not mean we get a license to decide ad libitum which part of sastra is allegory and which part is not. If none of the great acaryas from our rupanuga-guru-varga have clearly declared something from sastra as being allegory then it is best not to speculate upon it.

          What if one of our present or future acarays says something in SB can be taken allegorically that others have not commented so about?

          That aside, in our own Bhaktivinoda parivara we have the prominent example of BVT himself. The example, that is, of dealing with modernity in relation to the Bhagavata. He took a moderate and reasonable position. For example, when faced with considerable observable evidence for the SB having been written in the 6th century, he did not militantly oppose it with articles of faith as if such articles were logically capable of overturning observable evidence. Instead he suggested that such scientific evidence might be correct, and then again it might not and new evidence might come to light. But in any case his position was that the essential message of the SB must be considered. Pujyapada Sridhara Deva Goswami taught me told me that the commentaries of the Goswamis on SB were written for kanistha adhikaris and that I should read Sri Krsna-samhita of BVT and embrace the madhyama approach to the text that BVT writes about. And he wanted me to teach others. That does not mean other explanations of the Bhagavatam are wrong. They have their place in time and circumstances. Prabhupada took a different approach and experienced success in his time.

          But overall I would suggest that if passages of SB trouble one too much because of the extent to which they contradict observable evidence, any devotee is at the liberty to think of them in less than literal sense, if that helps such a devotee to continue to pursue prema prayojana within
          the context of the acintya bhedabheda meta narrative (this is the key) the text arises out of. Indeed that is exactly what Prabhupada is saying in the quote I posted.

          We drifted into discussion of the yuga cycles. This concept arises out of the Bhagavata’s cosmology, which very much deals with time. Its cosmology is mapped with an entirely different intent that that of modern cosmology. Even the descriptions of the fifth canto are arguably not depicting literal observable facts, but rather VCT writes that Sukadeva’s description was for mystic yogis who were in the in the audience, not for devotees: “Pariksit asks about the structure of the universe, not for himself, but at the request of bhakti-misra-yogis present
          at the gathering who desired to concentrate their minds.” Thus it constitutes a yogic, subtle descriptive picture of the world for a particular type of transcendentalist in order that they might effectively meditate on God by meditating on it.

          So as I wrote earlier, the Bhagavata cosmology is not in point for point competition with the cosmology of modern science. It is in competition with it in terms of an overall approach to life. I can live in Kali-yuga as much as I live in my atma graced by Bhagavan with bhakti. This is the land of all possibilities. The observable world is another thing altogether We call it “maya.” But I am not saying here that Kali-yuga is true and modern archeology is false. I am saying something more subtle, more nuanced. The two are worlds apart.

        • “If I were to desist from lecturing about the Absolute Truth due to being fearful that some listeners may be displeased, I would be deviating from the path of Vedic truth and accepting the path of untruth. I would become one who is inimical to the Vedas, an atheist, and would no longer possess faith in Bhagavan, the very embodiment of Truth.”

          Yes, I agree. And I follow this, but my audience is largely devotees.

        • The prathama-sandhya is the beginning of the age. According to astronomical calculation, the age is divided into twelve parts. The first of these twelve divisions is known as the prathama-sandhya. The prathama-sandhya and sesa-sandhya, the last division of the preceding age, form the junction of the two ages. According to the Surya-siddhanta, the prathama-sandhya of Kali-yuga lasts 36,000 solar years. Lord Caitanya appeared in the prathama-sandhya after 4,586 solar years of Kali-yuga had passed.

          By citing this as evidence for an empirically observable Kali-yuga you miss my point. Such statements merely speak of an empirical calculation as to when the Kali-yuga of puranic time occurs in today’s world. It says nothing about the literal, empirical veracity of the concept, nor does it speak of yuga cycles competing point for point with modern science’s sense of the antiquity of human civilization. But I agree, Caitnaya Mahaprabhu appears in the puranic Kali-yuga, a time that corresponds with the the 20th century.

          At the same time, puranic “history” has little to do with measurable, historical continuity, and the Bhagavata itself never claims to be a history in the contemporary sense of the term. It retells narratives found in other Puranas and Itihasas from its own perspective to make its own points—krsnas tu bhagavan svayam, and so on. Given this fact about its composition and purpose, I see no reason to insist upon a literal interpretation of the yuga cycles of the text. Although to make the case for a literal interpretation may have its value in certain circumstances and may even be deemed necessary in the eyes of some acaryas for an entrance level kanistha orientation to the Bhagavata’s world.

          But in turn we see that the Bhagavata leaves the literal world of history, authorship, and linear narrative and takes a liminal position, representing that place where time and eternity meet momentarily, inviting us to quickly cross over the threshold on which it rests between the two worlds—from measurement to the immeasurable. The Bhagavata invites us to live in another world beyond measurement, in the world of the measurer—consciousness and its source. It prods us to leave the small and mean spirited world of measurement—the myth of maya. It asks us to literally leave the shadow of maya and enter the sun of Krsna consciousness. And it implores us to do so now—at this very moment—with its emphasis not only on Kali-yuga, but a particular Kali-yuga and the rare, golden opportunity it affords us.

    • Gaura-Vijaya

      Alright Narsingha ji, you did nothing to address my points. And we can agree to disagree. I unlike you don’t think that Prabhupada is right in everything he said. So the basic disagreement comes from there.

      • Nrsinghadev

        Dear Gaura-vijaya,

        I actually addressed all of your points one by one, but if you concluded that it did not do so after reading it, than I’m sorry, and nothing else can be done. I don’t think that Srila Prabhupada is right in everything (although I do agree with him on almost everything), but certainly in terms of sastra he was always correct.

        • Gaura-Vijaya

          You did not address the points. I just showed you that morality is a moving flag (from the Mahabharata and the article from the Bhagavatam where quotes from the scriptures are given on morality and u) You just put quotes from Prabhupada and dismiss everything what I said. Anyway, Christians also have faith that earth is 6000 years old according to the Bible and they have to believe in that in spite of evidence. Everyone can believe their scripture on every little detail is true and go on. Muslims can believe their version of Jesus’s death is correct and Christians can believe their version is correct and dismiss anyone who does not believe that version as stupid and faithless.

    • Gaura-Vijaya

      2) “Strategies of Conversion: The Emergence of Vegetarianism in Post-Vedic India” Read this article to see how even vegetarianism is a recent evolution in morality

      Again, you exemplify some of the points I made in my previous post by posting this link. What is the value of this study? These people do not understand sastra, they have no basis in it. Furthermore, they are taking some faulty translation or rendition of the Vedic canon as the basis of their study, but most of all, they are not under the guidance of a pure devotee, so what is the authority of their study? Simply useless speculation under a PhD banner. Their conclusions may impress an ignorant crowd, because of their scholarly qualifications, but this is like the example Srila Swami Maharaja gives about all the animals of the forest that all praise the lion as king of the forest, but don’t know man. It is also comparable to a professor in biophysics writing a thesis on quantum mechanics. What these two have in common is that they both share the same lexicon, but the biophysics professor is no authority in the field of quantum mechanics, so faulty speculation is the result.

      The person who you are referring to is Edwin Bryant who is a respected scholar and practitioner and know as such in the the Gaudiya devotee community. However, if you want to just dismiss everything he said because it conflicts with your predefined axioms I cannot help it. I also would have wanted to believe exactly like you and dismiss everything that went against the literal understanding. It was hard for me to do so maybe because I am not as faithful as you. Yes, I should remove the devotee tag from myself, in case that helps you to bracket me in the demonaic class. I have no problem with that. If Krsna only wants people like you to come to him, I am in no hurry to reach him.

      • Nrsinghadev

        That’s alright, devotee or not, by academic approach or on one’s own one can never hope to penetrate sastra, nor extract its actual meaning. Srila Sanatana Gosvami was also an expert on Sanskrit among other things, but when he approached Mahaprabhu he introduced himself as foolish. I already told that no matter how many PhD degrees in no matter how many fields one may wield, if one is not a tattva-darsi acarya he will not be able to extract the meaning of sastra.

        Srila Bhaktivedanta Swami Maharaja also states in his work “In Search of the Ultimate Goal of Life”:

        Educated Means Atheist
        The advancement of material education has produced many graduates, postgraduates, professors, and many other so-called enlightened people in this age of Kali, but most of them are being wrongly educated. The result is that the more people are educated, the more they become immoral and atheistic. Moreover, wrongly educated people have practically no faith in the scriptural injunctions. They have no respect for the self-realized sages who have left behind many valuable literary works, which are considered the treasure chest of spiritual cultivation.

  • Vik Ramsoondur

    The person who you are referring to is Edwin Bryant who is a respected scholar and practitioner and know as such in the the Gaudiya devotee community.

    Vivek, you could have pointed out that his initiation name is in fact Advaita Das, and also that, other than being a man of great academic valour concurrently with being a full-time practitioner of the Chaitanyaite tradition, Mr Bryant is an accomplished Sanskritist.

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