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Jains and meat-eating
Lord Mahavira was not a meat-eater

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.

Bal Patil
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: ).

(15-31 March 2003)

See also:

Nationwide ban on cow slaughter mooted 
Jains and meat-eating apology and clarification
Mr Bal Patil's rejoinder

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