Author: Gopal Singh (Toronto, Ontario, Canada)
O what an interesting discussion is taking place on “Meat Eating”!
Now if we look at this historically, we find that Human Beings inhabited the earth approximately one million years ago. But the history of civilization starts from the time of the Rg Veda, the oldest unwritten book of the world. (At that time people could not write), fifteen thousand years ago. With regard to civilization, there has been little progress during the long span of nine hundred and eighty-five thousand years. Humans invented pictorial letters less than seven thousand years ago. A full-fledged civilization, with the four symbols of advancement – agriculture, the wheel, dress and script – started seven thousand years ago. When the Vedas were first composed, they were passed down from guru to disciple through memorization because script had not yet been invented and so no written record of them could be made. The Vedas are also called “Shruti.” (During the time of the Rg Veda there was no script). It became a dogma not to write down the Vedas, and a great portion of the Vedas were lost due to this dogma. Out of nearly 100 Rks, most were lost. Despite this the scholars of Kashmir were the first ones to write the Vedas down, and they wrote them in Sáradá script. They also wrote the Atharva Veda.
Nárada was the script used in the southwest of Allahabad up to the Gulf of Kachh, north of Bombay. It was invented by the Nágar Brahmins of Gujarat, therefore it is also called Nágrii script. Nágrii script derived its name from the Nágar Brahmins. These Brahmins started writing Saḿskrta, that is, Devbhása, in Nágrii, so this script was called Devanágarii. Thus Devanágarii script came from Gujarat and not from Uttar Pradesh. Gujaratii is written in a simple way without a line over the letters. When Saḿskrta was written in this script, lines were also drawn over the letters. This script came to be known as Devanágarii script, a specific type of Nágrii.
Now let me not get off track here.
In the animal kingdom, there are varied animals and some have some special characteristics. On the basis of these characteristics, different categories of animals came to be. For example, some animals are carnivorous and others are graminivorous. Carnivorous animals eat meat, fish and eggs. According to the laws of nature, canine teeth are necessary for chewing meat properly. Carnivorous animals such as cats, dogs, tigers and lions possess canine teeth, but cows, monkeys, elephants, and people, etc. do not possess canine teeth. Nature did not design us to eat meat.
After much recent study and research, scientists have concluded that our early ancestors were vegetarians who ate no meat except during periods of extreme crisis. lt was only during the last ice Age, when their normal diet of fruits, nuts and vegetables was unavailable that the early humans had to start eating animal flesh in order to survive. Unfortunately the custom of eating meat continued after the Ice Age, either by necessity, like the Eskimos and tribes who live in the far north, through habit, through conditioning, or through lack of proper knowledge. However throughout history there have been many individuals and groups of people who have remained vegetarians. Scientists have stated that the diet of any animal corresponds to its physiological structure. Human physiology, bodily functions, and digestive system are completely different from those of carnivorous animals, (to digest fibrous tissue and bones).
According to diet we can divide vertebrate animals into three groups: meat eaters, grass and leaf eaters, and fruit eaters. Let us look closely at each and see where humanity fits in. Carnivorous animals, including lions, dogs, wolves, cats etc., have many unique characteristics which set them apart from all other members of the animal kingdom. For example, they all possess a very simple and short digestive system only three times the length of their bodies. This is because flesh decays very rapidly and the products of this decay can quickly poison the bloodstream if they remain too long in the body. So a short digestive tract was evolved for rapid expulsion of putrefactive bacteria from decomposing flesh, and a stomach lining that secretes almost ten times as much hydrochloric acid as non-carnivorous animals to digest fibrous tissue and bones. In addition, meat eating animals that hunt in the cool of the night and sleep during the day when it is hot, do not need sweat glands to cool their bodies, so they therefore do not perspire through their skins. Instead theys weat through their tongues. On the other hand, vegetarian animals, such as the cow, horse etc. spend much of their time in the sun gathering their food, and they freely perspire through their skin to cool their bodies. But the most significant difference between the natural meat eaters and other animals is their teeth. They tend to have long sharp claws, with which they capture their prey and hold it. Also all meat eaters, since they have to kill their prey mainly with their teeth, possess powerful jaws and pointed, elongated, canine teeth to pierce tough hide to tear flesh. They do not have molars (flat teeth in the back of the jaw), which vegetarian animals need for grinding their food. Unlike grains, flesh does not need to be chewed in the mouth to predigest it. It is digested mostly in the stomach and the intestines.
Grass and leaf eating animals such as elephants, cows etc. live on grass, herbs, and other plants, much of which is coarse and bulky. Digestion of this type of food starts in the mouth with the enzyme ptyalin in the saliva. These foods must be chewed well and thoroughly mixed with ptyalin in order to be broken down. For this reason, grass, and, leaf eaters have 24 special molar teeth and a slight side-to-side motion to grind their food, as opposed to the exclusively up and down motion of carnivores.
Grass and leaf eaters have a much longer digestive system, usually about 10 times the length of their body. The reason for this is that the food of the grass and leaf eaters takes a longer time for the food to be broken down and it’s nutrients extracted, before the waste is expelled. So if these animals (include humans), were to consume meat products of any kind, it will remain for a much much longer time in the digestive system. Pathogenic bacteria being allowed to stay in a semi solid/watery environment will proliferate in the small and large intestines, and the colon. It may significantly interfere with digestion of food and absorption of nutrients, primarily by damaging the cells lining the small bowel (the mucosa). Additionally, this damage to the small bowel mucosa can lead to leaky gut (when the intestinal barrier becomes permeable, allowing large protein molecules to escape into the bloodstream), which is known to have a number of potential complications including immune reactions that cause food allergies or sensitivities, generalized inflammation, and autoimmune diseases.
Human characteristics are in every way like the fruit eaters, and very similar to the grass eaters, and very unlike the meat eaters. The human digestive system, teeth and jaw structure, and bodily functions are completely different from carnivorous animals. As in the case of the anthropoid apes, the human digestive system is twelve times the length of the body. Our skin has millions of tiny pores to evaporate water and cool the body by sweating. We also drink water by suction like all other vegetarian animals. Our teeth and jaw structure is that of vegetarians and our saliva is alkaline and contains ptyalin for predigestion of grains. So we can see that human beings clearly are not carnivores by physiology and design, and our anatomy and digestive system show that we must have evolved for many thousands of years living on fruits, nuts, grains and vegetables. Furthermore, it is obvious that our natural instincts are non-carnivorous. Most people have other people kill their meat for them and would be sickened if they had to do the killing themselves. Instead of eating raw meat as all flesh-eating animals do, humans boil, bake or fry it and disguise it with all kinds of sauces and spices so that it bears no resemblance to its raw state.
In prehistoric days, human beings did not know about fire. Prehistoric human beings used to live on fruits, roots, tender green leaves and raw meat.
At last they discovered fire. The discovery of fire, or better to say, the invention of fire, marked the most significant day in human history. After the invention of fire, people began to use it. It took a few more centuries to refine the uses of fire. Gradually, people learned to use fire properly. They learned to eat roasted meat instead of raw meat.
Under the influence of avidyá, people become so infatuated that they forget the difference between pure and impure; and so greedy that they eat rotten meat, choose to forget that alcohol is bad for health, and even try to prove the unholy as being holy by force of logic. Some people claim that eating meat and drinking alcohol are a part of dharma sádhaná; and some state they eat meat to maintain their health and strength.
Lost in blind pursuit for finite objects, people fail to realize that the pleasure they derive will actually bring more sorrow in the future. An alcoholic does not understand that heavy drinking severely damages the liver: an opium addict does not understand that the temporary pleasure derived from the drug gradually benumbs the nervous system. This mistaking pain to be pleasure is caused by the influence of avidyá. Those who succumb to this influence can be likened to a dog chewing on a dry bone in a burial ground. The dog thinks that the blood oozing out of its jaws comes from the dry bones and greedily bites even harder, further damaging its jaws. The poor animal wrongly thinks sorrow is happiness.
So rather than debating whether our ancestors eat meat, wrote about meat in some texts or other, we should look at ourselves now, and plan our lives so that we can forge ahead. We are to look ahead; we are to look forward. If we look back, if we look behind, we are wasting our valuable time. Fools, not wise people, act like this. The nature of us, human beings, is to think of the so-called “sweet” memories of the past; one thinks more of the past and less of the future. But spiritual aspirants think of the Lord Who is their goal. When they start thinking of the endpoint of life, the very goal of life, the Supreme Consciousness, then the past with all its glory becomes pale. The ordinary person is one who thinks of the past and also of the future. Higher than that is the one who thinks only of the future. But the perfect person is the one who thinks neither of the past nor of the future. S/he thinks only of the Supreme Consciousness – the Lord.
So even if, in the past, we were sinners, forget it. Remember that from this very moment, I am the neat and clean son, I am the neat and clean child, of the Supreme Father. So we must not look back and think I am a sinner. For a spiritual aspirant, there must not be any complex. Be free from all complexes, and move along the path of righteousness with a balanced mind, with mental equilibrium and mental equipoise. A bright future awaits us, whether our forefathers ate meat or not.
Gopal — with Kishore Harcharan.