Describe Hindu belief in respect for all living creatures.
Shaan Bhatnagar R.S Course Work
RS GCSE Coursework
Describe Hindu belief in respect for all living creatures.
In the Hindu scripts, Hindus strongly believe that all living forms should be respected they also believe in the sacredness of all life, whether in animal, plant or human kind. The reasons for these beliefs are that Hindus believe that Brahman, the universal spirit is present everywhere in the universe, therefore it is considered to be highly respected. The Upanishads contain these teachings,
“His being is the source of all beings, the seed of all things are in this life have their life. He is God hidden in all beings, their inmost soul. He lives in all things and watches all things.” This is taken from the Svetasvatara Upanishad teaching respect for all life.
According to Hindus, both living and non-living objects, (eg - mountains), was put there for a reason, by God. They also believe that all human beings need one and other to live, and it is all a chain. In the Bhagavad Gita it quotes,
“Thus joy supreme comes to the yogi whose heart is still, whose passions are peace, who is pure from sin, who is one with Brahman with God…He who sees the oneness of love, loves me in whatever he sees. Wherever this man may live, in truth this man lives in me.”
Since Hindus believe in samsara (the cycle of life and death), they believe that in some way, everyone is related to one another.
Hindus believe that Brahman is present in the soul (Atman). Hindus say that your soul never dies, but your body does as it just a cover for the soul. Hindus believe in reincarnation, which is the re birth of your atman but in a different form or shape. The atman within ones self is explained in many different ways in the Upanishads. The Chandogya Upanishad 6:3-18, explains the link between Atman and Brahmin.
Svetaketu’s father requested of him to bring him a fig. Svetaketu obeyed his father and brought him a fig. He was told to cut it open and to tell his father what he could see. Svetaketu replied saying he could seethe tiny fig seeds. So the father asked him to cut one of the fig seeds in half and tell him what he could see. Svetaketu did as he was told but after close-examination he claimed that he could see nothing. His father said, ‘My son, you are not able to perceive the very essence from which the fig tree grows. That essence is reality. This whole universe has sprung from it. That essence is atman and you Svetaketu, are also that essence.’
This explains that even thought you cannot see Atman, but it is still present. Non dualist believe each atman goes through a series of lives until it’s liberated from the cycle of death and re birth. Maya is an illusion, some thing that does not exist and yet mysteriously makes it presence. Another story that tells us about the salt being dissolved in water, and eventually you can’t see it. This is like the atman and Brahmin, as you can’t see them, but they are right in front of you, but you can’t see them because you want to understand the essence of life and death. Karma are the good deeds you do in through out your life, which determine whether or not you achieve moksha, and set your atman free to become one with Brahmin. The individual atman is the same as the atman within the universe itself.
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Analyse and explain the role of non-violence in the life of M K Gandhi.
Mohandas Gandhi was one of the most famous leaders of the first non-violent movement who opposed the British rule in India during the twentieth century. Gandhi based his life on the Hindu principle of ahimsa. Gandhi came from a very religious family. Whenever a religious person visited the home, they were invited to stay the night, no matter what faith they were and their views and preaching's were carefully listened to.
Gandhi spent his early years working as a lawyer in South Africa. In South Africa he soon realised there was racism in the world. His first real experience was on a train journey, as he had purchased a first class ticket, but during the journey a ticket inspector threw him off the train for refusing to leave first class due to his racial background.
In 1915 when Gandhi returned to India he reorganised the Indian National Congress Party. In reorganising the Congress Party, Gandhi declared that he was prepared to die for the cause, which was the removal of the British, but not prepared to kill. Gandhi stated in his move to disobeying the unjust laws that were set upon them,
“They may torture my body, they may break my bones, they may even kill me, then they will have my dead body, but not my obedience.”
However, some of his methods were torn to pieces like in Amritsar in 1919, an unarmed crowd full of peaceful protestors of men women and children were fired at by British troops. Even thought this action was immediately demoralising, the anti-British movement in India reached new levels of intensity.
Gandhi and his followers made a salt strike. This angered the salt mine owner who approached him with several men and horses. Gandhi did not resort to violence, he ordered his men to lie on the ground so that the horses could not proceed. Gandhi also encouraged the Indian population to burn all their clothing that was made from the mills in Britain as another protest to British occupation
After a lot of Gandhi’s success, some violence broke out throughout the whole country which made him take on the entire country, this annoyed Gandhi as he believed violence was wrong therefore he fasted until the violence stopped and until death in order to remind the Indians of their sense and honour and duty.
Gandhi was influenced mostly by the teachings of Jainism.
In Jainism, the principle of Ahimsa is taken very seriously, and they even wipe their seat before sitting down to remove any living organisms to prevent their death under pressure.
Gandhi was also inspired by the words of Jesus in the Sermon of the Mount where he recited,
“Blessed the peacemakers for they shall be called the children of God.”
Gandhi died by being shot by a Hindu assassin after his daily prayers. His last words were ‘Hai Ram’ which showed he was not angry with the man whom shot him, but was reciting holly words. These were his last words, which showed faith to his religion and his methods of non – violence (ahisma).
Explain the significance of cow protection and vegetarianism in Hinduism.
Hindus adopt many practices of cow-protection and are mostly vegetarian. The main reasons for Hindus not eating beef are mostly religious ones. It is a clear sign of religious purity and caste status not to eat any kind of meat.
Many Hindus believe that eating meat is unhealthy because it may contain preservatives and poisons. Hindus believe that meat arouses the passions of anger and sex. They believe that when you eat meat, your breath becomes contaminated, and it shouldn’t be when the sacred mantras from the Vedas are said.
Many Hindus follow the law of dharma, and their dharma may be to follow the rule of ahimsa. The rule of ahimsa is, non-harming, non-injury, non-violence, and respect for life. This is a key obligation for many Hindus.
Hindus also believe in the law of karma, that all actions have consequences. If we inflict injury or pain, we will experience the same suffering in the future.
Hence, if we needlessly kill animals we will have to be slaughtered and eaten in our next lives.
Hindus believe that “you are what you eat.” If you want to live in the highest
status of spiritual consciousness, then you must eat appropriate foods. You can do this by eating “sattva” foods. This is one of the three “Gunas.” Food with sattva brings goodness and kindness. Eating foods such as fruits, vegetables and rice will bring these qualities. The other two Gunas are Rajas and Tamas. Rajas are energy and passion. Eating cakes and sweets will bring this. Tamas is darkness and sleepiness. Eating meats brings this.
Hindus may be vegetarian because of health reasons. Research suggests that a vegetarian diet may be healthier. It is easier to digest, and provides a wide
range of nutrients. It suggests that vegetarians may live longer.
Hindus may choose to be vegetarian for ecological reason too. The land used for raising animals for consumption is damaging the ecosystem. This is because it is removing forest and adding waste products to the environment. For example, cows produce methane leads to air pollution.
Not all Hindus are vegetarian. Some eat mutton and chicken. Sometimes red foods such as beetroot, carrots, red watermelon and red wine are not eaten. This is because red is the colour of blood.
Many Hindus take vows to abstain periodically from meat and other foods. Some do so on particular days of the week. Sometimes Hindus fast for religious or health reasons. This is done in honour of the gods, and is thought to bring religious merit and to improve self-control and physical well-being. Women for the benefit of their husbands and families often undergo fasting.
The earliest Hindu literature is found in the four books of Vedas. When the
Vedas were written animal sacrifice was an important element in religious life.
The most sacred animal to Hindus is the cow, and reverence for it is an
expression of gratitude for life. The cow is of great value in India. It is a
great source of nourishment and a giver of life to village people in India. Not
only does it provide food through milk, butter and yoghurt, but also it is
essential for drawing carts and ploughs. The dung is valued as manure and as fuel it is also used for plastering floors. The products of a cow, butter,
cream, and milk made up a ritual offering called Ida.
In the Vedic period, cows could be killed for the solemn sacrifice to the gods.
It was believed that a person offering the animal for sacrifice might achieve
his ascension to heaven.
The cow is regarded as being sacred because of many reasons. In ancient Hindu society the priest had a unique role. He understood the Vedas and by performing the sacrifices helped to maintain order in the world. It was thought important to respect and protect the priest and his cow.
From a religious point of view, the cow’s special status is understandable. The cow is essential to the ritual sacrifice.
From an economic perspective, the cow’s special status is understandable. It was very valuable and produced many essential products.
“For me the cow represents the totality of the sub-human world. Through it human beings are made aware of their identity with all living things. To protect the cow is to protect all in the divine creation which is not endowed with the word.”
This was said by Gandhi, supporting the reasons why the cow is seen as being sacred.
The bull is the animal on which Shiva rides. Bulls are often dedicated to
temples of Shiva as an act of piety or in fulfillment of a vow. Stories of
Krishna shows him milking cows and playing with them. The cow is deeply sacred to devout Hindus. In secular India today, the killing of cows is banned in some
Indian states. There are also some special retirement homes for elderly animals, of which are mainly cows, called Gowshalas. Gandhi revived these in 1921. He believed that because cows give so much, it is vital that Hindus protect them and set an example for the rest of the world.
He said, “In its finer or spiritual sense, the term “cow-protection” means the
protection of every living creature.”
There are many cow protection schemes among Hindus in India and around the world. When mad cow disease broke out in England, some rich Hindu businessmen offered to have some of them shipped over to India to be looked after in once of these homes, to avoid them being slaughtered.
‘The principle of Ahimsa is Hinduism’s greatest gift to the world.’
Ahimsa means literally, "non-violence" and a respect and love for all living creatures. In this world the greatest thing a person can do is to love one another, and therefore I believe Ahimsa is the greatest gift to the world because it teaches aspects of love and not harming each other.
Ahimsa, in effect the amount of slaughters of animals has reduced. This in turn has turned many Hindu’s in to complete vegetarians as a sign of devotion to Hinduism. Part of ahimsa is showing respect for all living things, so to be against vegetarianism in Hinduism is turning its back on the principle of Ahimsa and in turn, the religion itself. Ahimsa can develop into the protection of animals and helps towards our ever-depleting environment. Farm animals such as cows or sheep are grown until they are ready enough to be slaughtered for food, if they are not slaughtered they are kept so that their skin or fur can be used or if not this then they milked.
The principle Ahimsa is based on the Hindu teaching of Atman. Hindus believe that every person has an Atman, which is not only a soul but also a true, eternal, perfect self within a body. Atman is the holy part of a human or living being it is often related back to Brahman as they both can not be seen but are the key factors of life. I agree with this statement as Ahimsa is a great gift because it makes people acknowledge that living beings are holy and should not be harmed.
I believe that all things in the world can be resolved without the need of violence. Hindu’s as many other religions do, condemn killings of any kind. Ahimsa has taught and inspired many people to respect living things and to set about things in a peaceful approach.
If you were to disagree you could have a valid reason, as Hinduism isn’t al about non-violence, as in the Bhagavad Gita, it tells of a story where Arjuna is preparing to fight his own cousins in the terrible war. When the armies lined up to face each other, Arjuna is suddenly hit by the fact that he may be killing his own relatives. Krishna gives advice to Arjuna who turns out to be Arjuna’s charioteer in disguise. Krishna tells Arjuna he must fight in order to fulfill his dharma (caste). Some aspects of Hinduism are more important than the principle of Ahimsa and non-violence, otherwise some duties cannot be completed when strictly taking on Ahimsa as a primary principle. Bhakti is personal devotion to God; this must accord with your Dharma. Therefore if your Dharma is to fight then you cannot follow Ahimsa as well as fight. Moksha is the greatest thing a Hindu must strive for and if Ahimsa is to be ignored to achieve this
In the modern day it has saved millions of animals in India and all around the world, and also helps to bring about world peace, so I strongly believe that ahisma is Hinduisms greatest gift to the world, as it preaches the idea of non-violence, like Gandhi did, who was a great follower of ahisma. Ahimsa is a principle, which would last a lifetime, and therefore it has greater value than Gandhi.
I conclude by saying that Ahimsa is a great gift since it teaches the use of non-violence instead of disturbing life to solve problems.