I am aghast and appalled at
the utterly ignorant and presumptuous statement by Danish A Khan in his
article "Nationwide ban on cow-slaughter mooted" (MG, 16-31
August, 2002. However, we received the rejoinder on February 24, 2003)
that : "Followers of Jain religion and a sect of Buddhists are known
to propagate the teachings of non-violence and strictly avoid eating meat.
But, the fact is that even their founders could not exempt themselves from
devouring meat. Gautama Buddha, founder of Buddhist religion, is known to
have eaten beef and pork. Vardhmana Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, is
said to have consumed the meat of a cockerel."
I strongly protest at the tendentious, off the cuff remarks made by Mr
Khan, which is deeply injurious to the basic religious faith of the Jain
community as per the universally propagated principle by Jainism: ahimsa
paramo dharmah, that non-violence is the greatest religion, that
"Vardhamana Mahavira, the founder of Jainism, is said to have
consumed the meat of a cockerel."
I may mention that I happen to be a Member of the Maharashtra State
Minorities Commission representing the Jain minority community in
the state. I am also for the last ten years pursuing the question of
inclusion of the Jain community as a minority community.
Mr Khan's assertion is irresponsible, absurd and ridiculous. It needs a
categorical repudiation as such.
The principle of ahimsa and the prescription of strict vegetarianism
are the prime and unique characteristics of Jain religion and ethics. They
could not have developed in Vedic-Brahmanic so-called Aryan culture.
There is ample evidence to show that meat eating was not a taboo to
immigrant Aryans. That the concept of ahimsa was foreign to Vedic culture
is confirmed by the eminent Indologist Prof W Norman Brown.
The principle of strict vegetarianism and ahimsa is so meticulously
observed in Jainism that eating of certain vegetables like Brinjal,
Garlic and Onion is taboo. It is in this context of irrefutable
historic evolution of Jainism and ahimsa which are almost treated
synonymously it is scandalous that Danish Khan should have indulged in
such comments attributing meat-eating to Vardhamana Mahavira.
Prof Alsdorf notes: "Cow-flesh originally belongs to the most
favoured kinds of flesh prescribed for the sraddha-meal and thus consumed
by the Brahmanas invited to this meal." Cow was a most
important possession of the Aryans.
There is also testimony of cow-flesh consumption in the well-known medical
text-book Susruta-Samhita. In an important chapter on the articles of food
and their medical qualities and therapeutic worth flesh plays a very big
role. The cow comes after horse and mule, before ass, camel, goat, sheep.
Stotra 89 enjoins: "Cow-flesh is good for asthma, cough, catarrh,
chronic fever, exhaustion and for quick digestion; it is holy (pavitra)
and alleviates the wind."
I have attempted to give my reasoned rejoinder and a rational perspective
on the cow slaughter ban issue which the VHP and the Sangh Parivar
is raising with devastating consequences for the secular fabric, or
whatever remains of it, of the nation. At the same time I reiterate my
unqualified condemnation of Danish Khan's irresponsible and totally
unfounded statement regarding Mahavira's meat-eating. I do hope you
will publish my letter.
Member, Maharashtra State Minorities Commission, Government of Maharashtra,
Convenor, Jain Minority Status Committee, Dakshin Bharat Jain Sabha, INDIA,
Co-Author: JAINISM (Macmillan Co). with Colette Caillat, (ex-Rector, Sorbonne University, Paris,)
& A.N. Upadhye, (ex-President, All-India Oriental Conference,)
54, Patil Estate, 278, Javji Dadaji Road, Mumbai-400007. INDIA
Tele: 91 022 3861068
Fax: 91 022 3893030
Danish A Khan writes:
I did not intend to hurt the religious feelings of Jains, Buddhists or
Hindus. I only wanted to put the record straight on the issue of ban on
cow slaughter. I quoted from "Paradox of the Indian Cow: Attitudes to
Beef Eating in Early India" by DN Jha, renowned historian. (See: http://www.ercwilcom.net/indoindow/sad/godown/history/dnjha.htm
(15-31 March 2003)
Nationwide ban on cow slaughter mooted
Jains and meat-eating — apology and clarification
Mr Bal Patil's rejoinder