(Five stanzas on the Human Quality of Mercy)
The five principles of Dharma are ahimsa (non-violence), satyam (truth), astheyam (non-stealing), avyabhicharam (unadultery), and madyavarjanam (abstemiousness). The last four principles are in fact a form of non-violence, because any action that violates these principles hurts the other person. Therefore the Dharma-sastra extols ahimsa as “Ahimsa paramo dharma”- ie “Ahimsa is the utmost righteousness”. Guru has covered this principle of ahimsa in this work.
This work deals with the subject of killing animals and eating their meat. All that really exists in this world is ONE Supreme Being (Paramatma). The scriptures say “Sarvam Khalvidam Brahma”- Everything (that exists) is, indeed, Brahman. All creatures are considered as brethren since they are created by One Supreme Being. From that angle, killing a living being is like killing one’s own brother (or sister). So both killing an animal and eating it can be considered as an act of sin.
The law of karma says “You reap, what you sow”. There is another adage- “Those who live by the sword shall perish by it”. If this is true, the killer will ultimately be killed. Therefore, to avoid being killed, one has to desist from killing one’s fellow beings. Dharma-sastra rests on the principle of Ahimsa, based on the law of Dharma/karma. In other words, every action should be Dharmic by itself.
Is it not correct to say that we are all fellow beings under one brotherhood? If we think on these lines, how can we kill and eat animals, having no mercy. What we see as creations is the Creator Himself. This concept has been lucidly introduced in Daiva-dasakam, stanza 5.
The Supreme Being dwells in all animate and inanimate objects. Thus all of us are brothers-in-atman. As such, we have to consider the killing of a creature, as equivalent to killing one’s own brother. One who eats his own fellow being, is really consuming sin.
You may come across people who claim that “I don’t kill, I only consume the killed’. Guru says that instead of proclaiming or taking a vow, that I shall not kill, it is nobler to take a vow, that I shall not eat meat. It is the meat's consumer who encourages or persuades the killer to act.
“Thou shalt not kill” is one of the ten commandments in Christianity. It means one should not hurt any living being through one’s thoughts, speech, or actions. Even ‘hurting’, without killing, can be considered as an act of violence.
Islam permits killing of animals. Vegetables, grains and fruits do not grow in the desert areas. Hence some amount of killing of animals for their meat is unavoidable, for them for survival. Thus that religion permits this form of ‘violence’, when needed.
Yet all religions accept the law of karma that “As you sow, so shall you reap”. There are people who make pronouncements like this “The sin of killing is countered by the act of eating (the meat)”. Some even claim and propagate that confession (in the church) is an atonement for one’s sin, and one is pardoned and then continue sinning. The law of karma does not accept this argument.
When it comes to one’s own self, who likes to be killed? Thinking a step further who likes such a sinful action? O! The learned ones, is it not proper to say that, whatever is done in the righteous way should be beneficial to both the doer and the receiver. In other words, an action becomes dharmic, when it brings good to both the performer and the affected person. Even if the performer benefits, and not the person affected by his action, then it becomes a non-righteous (adharmic) action. This is further elaborated in stanza 25 of Atmopadesa-satakam.
If there were no consumers of meat, there would be no suppliers who slaughter animals to provide the meat. If there are no takers for his produce, the killer will be forced to consume it himself. The one who eats is making others to slaughter animals for his sake and thus commit a sin. This sin is worse than ‘killing’ to make a ‘living’. Guru has attempted in this stanza to refute the argument of meat-eaters who say “I only eat, I don’t kill”.
A person who leads a life adhering to principles of ahimsa is a noble individual. Otherwise, he can be equated to an animal. (Even animals kill only to satisfy their hunger, and for survival). The killer has no room for salvation. Being a killer even others cannot take refuge in him.
It is observed that non-vegetarians are more prone to diseases than others, who don’t consume meat. Blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular diseases and premature death are more common in non-vegetarians. This is something that we witness everyday. There are more people dying by consuming the wrong food, than from starvation. When one violates Dharma (non-violence), it can result in loss of health, wealth and respect. In extreme cases such people even lose their lives prematurely. Therefore, one should have greater awareness about one’s food habits, and have a diet that does not harm other creatures.
In Indian culture and tradition, the emphasis is on “Ayurarogyam”. In other words, life and health are considered as one entity, and not as separate issues. When modern science tries to improve health by neglecting dharma, premature death haunts man more and more. Let this work of Gurudeva become the instrument and eye opener to those devotees interested in long and healthy lives.
We can see Buddha's mythri (brother hood) and karuna (compassion) in this work.