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Chapter 115

Mahabharata English - ANUSASANA PARVA

“Yudhishthira said, ‘Thou hast told it many times that abstention frominjury is the highest religion. In Sraddhas, however, that are performedin honour of the Pitris, persons for their own good should make offeringsof diverse kinds of meat. Thou hast said so while discoursing formerlyupon the ordinances in respect of Sraddhas. How can meat, however, beprocured without slaying a living creature? Thy declarations, therefore,seem to me to be contradictory. A doubt has, therefore, arisen in ourmind respecting the duty of abstaining from meat. What are the faultsthat one incurs by eating meat, and what are the merits that one wins?What are the demerits of him who eats meat by himself killing a livingcreature? What are the merits of him who eats the meat of animals killedby others? What the merits and demerits of him who kills a livingcreature for another? Or of him who eats meat buying it of others? Idesire, O sinless one, that thou shouldst discourse to me on this topicin detail. I desire to ascertain this eternal religion with certainty.How does one attain to longevity? How does one acquire strength? How doesone attain to faultlessness of limbs? Indeed, how does one become enduedwith excellent indications?

“Bhishma said, ‘Listen to me, O, scion of Kuru’s race, what the merit isthat attaches to abstention from meat. Listen to me as I declare to theewhat the excellent ordinances, in truth, are on this head. Thosehigh-souled persons who desire beauty, faultlessness of limbs, long life,understanding, mental and physical strength, and memory, should abstainfrom acts of injury. On this topic, O scion of Kuru’s race, innumerablediscourses took place between the Rishis. Listen, O Yudhishthira, whattheir opinion was. The merit acquired by that person, O Yudhishthira,who, with the steadiness of a vow, adores the deities every month inhorse-sacrifices, is equal to his who discards honey and meat. The sevencelestial Rishis, the Valakhilyas, and those Rishis who drink the rays ofthe sun, endued with great wisdom, applaud abstention from meat. TheSelf-born Manu has said that that man who does not eat meat, or who doesnot slay living creatures, or who does not cause them to be slain, is afriend of all creatures. Such a man is incapable of being oppressed byany creature. He enjoys the confidence of all living beings. He alwaysenjoys, besides, the approbation and commendation of the righteous. Therighteous-souled Narada has said that that man who wishes to increase hisown flesh by eating the flesh of other creatures, meets with calamity.Vrihaspati has said that that man who abstains from honey and meatacquires the merit of gifts and sacrifices and penances. In myestimation, these two persons are equal, viz., he who adores the deitiesevery month in a horse-sacrifice for a space of hundred years and he whoabstains from honey and meat. In consequence of abstention from meat onecomes to be regarded as one who always adores the deities in sacrifices,or as one who always makes gifts to others, or as one who alwaysundergoes the severest austerities. That man who having eaten meat givesit up afterwards, acquires merit by such an act that is so great that astudy of all the Vedas or a performance, O Bharata, of all thesacrifices, cannot bestow its like. It is exceedingly difficult to giveup meat after one has become acquainted with its taste. Indeed, it isexceedingly difficult for such a person to observe the high vow ofabstention from meat, a vow that assures every creature by dispelling allfear. That learned person who giveth to all living creatures the Dakshinaof complete assurance comes to be regarded, without doubt, as the giverof life-breaths in this world.[524] Even this is the high religion whichmen of wisdom applaud. The life-breaths of other creatures are as dear tothem as those of one’s to one’s own self. Men endued with intelligenceand cleansed souls should always behave towards other creatures after themanner of that behaviour which they like others to observe towardsthemselves. It is seen that even those men who are possessed of learningand who seek to achieve the highest good in the form of Emancipation, arenot free from the fear of death. What need there be said of thoseinnocent and healthy creatures endued with love of life, when they aresought to be slain by sinful wretches subsisting by slaughter? For thisreason, O monarch, know that the discarding of meat is the highest refugeof religion, of heaven, and of happiness. Abstention from injury is thehighest religion. It is, again, the highest penance. It is also thehighest truths from which all duty proceeds. Flesh cannot be had fromgrass or wood or stone. Unless a living creature is slain, it cannot behad. Hence is the fault in eating flesh. The deities who subsist uponSwaha, Swadha, and nectar, are devoted to truth and sincerity. Thosepersons, however, who are for gratifying the sensation of taste, shouldbe known as Rakshasas wedded to the attribute of Passion. That man whoabstains from meat, is never put in fear, O king, by any creature,wherever he may be, viz., in terrible wildernesses or inaccessiblefastnesses, by day or by night, or at the two twilights, in the opensquares of towns or in assemblies of men, from upraised weapons or inplaces where there is great fright from wild animals or snakes. Allcreatures seek his protection. He is an object of confidence with allcreatures. He never causes any anxiety in others, and himself has neverto become anxious. If there were nobody who ate flesh there would then benobody to kill living creatures. The man who kills living creatures killthem for the sake of the person who eats flesh. If flesh were regarded asinedible, there would then be no slaughter of living creatures. It is forthe sake of the eater that the slaughter of living creatures goes on inthe world. Since, O thou of great splendour, the period of life isshortened of persons who slaughter living creatures or cause them to beslaughtered, it is clear that the person who wishes his own good shouldgive up meat entirely. Those fierce persons who are engaged in slaughterof living creatures, never find protectors when they are in need. Suchpersons should always be molested and persecuted even as beasts of prey.Through cupidity or stupefaction of the understanding, for the sake ofstrength and energy, or through association with the sinful, thedisposition manifests itself in men for sinning. That man who seeks toincrease his own flesh by (eating) the flesh of others, has to live inthis world in great anxiety and after death has to take birth inindifferent races and families. High Rishis devoted to the observance ofvows and self-restraint have said that abstention from meat is worthy ofevery praise, productive of fame and Heaven, and a great propitiation byitself. This I heard in days of old, O son of Kunti, from Markandeya whenthat Rishi discoursed on the demerits of eating flesh. He who eats theflesh of animals that are desirous of living but that have been killed byeither himself or others, incurs the sin that attaches to the slaughterfor his this act of cruelty. He who purchases flesh slays livingcreatures through his wealth. He who eats flesh slays living creaturesthrough such act of eating. He who binds or seizes and actually killsliving creatures is the slaughterer. Those are the three kinds ofslaughter, each of these three acts being so. He who does not himself eatflesh but approves of an act of slaughter becomes stained with the sin ofslaughter. By abstaining from meat and showing compassion to allcreatures one becomes incapable of being molested by any creature, andacquires a long life, perfect health, and happiness. The merit that isacquired by a person by abstaining from meat, we have heard, is superiorto that of one who makes presents of gold, of kine, and of land. Oneshould never eat meat of animals not dedicated in sacrifices and thatare, therefore, slain for nothing, and that has not been offered to thegods and Pitris with the aid of the ordinances. There is not theslightest doubt that a person by eating such meat goes to Hell. If oneeats the meat that has been sanctified in consequence of its having beenprocured from animals dedicated in sacrifices and that have been slainfor the purpose of feeding Brahmanas, one incurs a little fault. Bybehaving otherwise, one becomes stained with sin. That wretch among menwho slays living creatures for the sake of those who would eat them,incurs great demerit. The eater’s demerit is not so great. That wretchamong men who, following the path of religious rites and sacrifices laiddown in the Vedas, would kill a living creature from desire of eating itsflesh, would certainly become a resident of hell. That man who havingeaten flesh abstains from it afterwards, attains to great merit inconsequence of such abstention from sin. He who arranges for obtainingflesh, he who approves of those arrangements, he who slays, he who buysor sells, he who cooks, and he who eats, are all regarded as eaters offlesh. I shall now cite another authority, depending upon that wasdeclared by the ordainer himself, and established in the Vedas. It hasbeen said that that religion which has acts for its indications has beenordained for householders, O chief of kings, and not for those men whoare desirous of emancipation. Mann himself has said that meat which issanctified with mantras and properly dedicated, according to theordinances of the Vedas, in rites performed in honour of the Pitris, ispure. All other meat falls under the class of what is obtained by uselessslaughter, and is, therefore, uneatable, and leads to Hell and infamy.One should never eat, O chief of Bharata’s race, like a Rakshasa, anymeat that has been obtained by means not sanctioned by the ordinance.Indeed, one should never eat flesh obtained from useless slaughter andthat has not been sanctified by the ordinance. That man who wishes toavoid calamity of every kind should abstain from the meat of every livingcreature. It is heard that in the ancient Kalpa, persons, desirous ofattaining to regions of merit hereafter, performed sacrifices with seeds,regarding such animals as dedicated by them. Filled with doubtsrespecting the propriety of eating flesh, the Rishis asked Vasu the rulerof the Chedis for solving them. King Vasu, knowing that flesh isinedible, answered that is was edible, O monarch. From that moment Vasufell down from the firmament on the earth. After this he once morerepeated his opinion, with the result that he had to sink below the earthfor it. Desirous of benefiting all men, the high-souled Agastya, by theaid of his penances, dedicated, once for all, all wild animals of thedeer species to the deities. Hence, there is no longer any necessity ofsanctifying those animals for offering them to the deities and thePitris. Served with flesh according to the ordinance, the Pitris becomegratified. Listen to me, O king of kings, as I tell thee this, O sinlessone. There is complete happiness in abstaining from meat, O monarch. Hethat undergoes severe austerities for a hundred years and he thatabstains from meat, are both equal in point of merit. Even this is myopinion, In the lighted fortnight of the month of Karttika in especial,one should abstain from honey and meat. In this, it has been ordained,there is great merit. He who abstains from meat for the four months ofthe rains acquires the four valued blessings of achievements, longevity,fame and might. He who abstains for the whole month of Karttika from meatof every kind, transcends all kinds of woe and lives in completehappiness. They who abstain from flesh by either months or fortnights ata stretch have the region of Brahma ordained for them in consequence oftheir abstention from cruelty. Many kings in ancient days, O son ofPritha, who had constituted themselves the souls of all creatures and whowere conversant with the truths of all things, viz., Soul and Not-soul,had abstained from flesh either for the whole of the month of Karttika orfor the whole of the lighted fortnight in that month. They were Nabhagaand Amvarisha and the high-souled Gaya and Ayu and Anaranya and Dilipaand Raghu and Puru and Kartavirya and Aniruddha and Nahusha and Yayatiand Nrigas and Vishwaksena and Sasavindu and Yuvanaswa and Sivi, the sonof Usinara, and Muchukunda and Mandhatri, and Harischandra. Do thoualways speak the truth. Never speak an untruth. Truth is an eternal duty.It is by truth that Harischandra roves through heaven like a secondChandramas. These other kings also, viz., Syenachitra, O monarch, andSomaka and Vrika and Raivata and Rantideva and Vasu and Srinjaya, andDushmanta and Karushma and Rama and Alarka and Nala, and Virupaswa andNimi and Janaka of great intelligence, and Aila and Prithu and Virasena,and Ikshvaku, and Sambhu, and Sweta, and Sagara, and Aja and Dhundhu andSuvahu, and Haryaswa and Kshupa and Bharata, O monarch, did not eat fleshfor the month of Karttika and as the consequence thereof attained toheaven, and endued with prosperity, blazed forth with effulgence in theregion of Brahman, adored by Gandharvas and surrounded by thousanddamsels of great beauty. Those high-souled men who practise thisexcellent religion which is characterised by abstention from injurysucceed in attaining to a residence in heaven. These righteous men who,from the time of birth, abstain from honey and meat and wine, areregarded as Munis. That man who practises this religion consisting ofabstention from meat or who recites it for causing others to hear it,will never have to go to hell even if he be exceedingly wicked in conductin other respects. He, O king, who (often-times) reads these ordinancesabout abstention from meat, that are sacred and adored by the Rishis, orhears it read, becomes cleansed of every sin and attains to greatfelicity in consequence of the fruition of every wish. Without doubt, heattains also to a position of eminence among kinsmen. When afflicted withcalamity, he readily transcends it. When obstructed with impediments, hesucceeds in freeing himself from them with the utmost ease. When ill withdisease, he becomes cured speedily, and afflicted with sorrow he becomesliberated from it with greatest ease. Such a man has never to take birthin the intermediate order of animals or birds. Born in the order ofhumanity, he attains to great beauty of person. Endued with greatprosperity, O chief of Kuru’s race, he acquires great fame as well. Ihave thus told thee, O king, all that should be said on the subject ofabstention from meat, together with the ordinances respecting both thereligion of Pravritti and Nivritti as framed by the Rishis.”

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