When consciousness is your only hope, your only liberator,
How can you kill consciousness wherever it is?
If you are the body, then your real benefit lies in appeasing the body.
But if you are the mind that is crying out for liberation,
Then you must be very clear on where your real benefits lie.
Questioner (Q): Do you recommend people to stop consuming milk and eggs along with other non-vegetarian food?
Acharya Prashant (AP): The aim is peace—fundamentals first, right? The aim is peace.
And your hope is the deepening of consciousness. That’s what will bring peace to you. Consciousness is your liberator. Deep-deep consciousness, not shallow consciousness of the kind you witness everywhere. Deep-deep consciousness. Which then means that the only thing worth respecting is depth of consciousness—that’s what you worship, right? Consciousness, realization, consciousness, realization—that’s your only hope, right? And if that hope does not materialize, then you remain in bondage. And then life is wasted.
If consciousness is your hope, then you won’t kill a Buddha, would you? Why won’t you kill a Buddha? Because he is the epitome of consciousness, and he is your hope—you don’t kill your liberator, do you? If you kill your liberator, who suffers? You suffer, right? For your own liberation, you won’t kill consciousness. You won’t kill the one at the vanguard of the consciousness; you won’t kill a Buddha. And that is why the scriptures in India are so very particular about ‘Brahma Hatya’ . They say that all crimes can be forgiven but Brahma Hatya cannot be. What is Brahma Hatya ?
Q: Killing a Brahmin who is a keeper of the knowledge.
AP: Now, there is nothing special about a Brahmin except that his presence, his memory, his help—if he is really a Brahmin, not one of the thugs; if he is really a Brahmin—can liberate many others as well. So, when you kill a Brahmin it is considered unpardonable, obnoxious. You don’t kill a Buddha, you don’t kill a Brahmin, because they have high and deep consciousness.
Now, why don’t you kill a human being? So, I said a Buddha, I said a Brahmin—now I am saying a human being. Why don’t you kill a human being? You would have guessed by now. Because the level of consciousness in a human being is high, at least similar to your levels. And if there is one thing that is worth respecting, then it is consciousness. And that is why for your own sake it is important that you do not kill conscious beings. Because if you can kill one conscious being, then you can kill other conscious beings as well. Even if you don’t materially kill them, you’ll start lacking in respect for them.
When consciousness is your only hope, your only liberator, how can you kill consciousness—wherever it is? How can you kill an animal? How can you even kill a plant? But if it comes to choosing between an animal and a plant, and if it’s about essential biological survival, then which one do you choose? A plant. Why?
Q: Lower level of consciousness. But given the techniques of modern agriculture, there’s just too many connective threads. If you want to irrigate the field, you have to set up a dam which does so much damage to the biodiversity. So, all our hands are tainted in that.
AP: True. But then, is it the same level of crime to steal hundred rupees and to kill someone? All hands are tainted. All are guilty. But then, crimes have their various levels. It’s a relative thing. You see, in the sense of the absolute, it does not really matter who gets killed and who survives. It’s all a game. In the great infinite canvas of the absolute, nothing is a crime, and nothing is a virtue. Things are good or bad relative to you—and you must figure out what is right and wrong for you.
If you are not full of great respect towards conscious beings, then you won’t be able to respect even the Prophet or the Buddha. Because it’s not their flesh that is respectable; it is their consciousness. And if their consciousness is respectable, the same consciousness is present in a rabbit as well. Obviously, it is present in a tree as well, but it is expressed to a lesser extent. To the extent it is possible, don’t kill even trees. To the extent it is possible, you don’t even need agriculture for survival. Live on fruits. There is no violence in living on fruits and leaves. It’s not a method of ethics or morality. Your nature, your heart, craves for peace. You are essentially non-violent. You are essentially someone who cannot tolerate bondages. And it’s not a matter of having pity on the animal—in your own self-interest, don’t kill. And if you want to kill, then tell me why shouldn’t you eat human flesh? Why do you draw the line there?
If you can have animal meat, tell me why can’t you have human meat? Tell me why you draw the line there? Go into the logic. Why do you draw the line there? Because the human being is conscious. So, the line is anyway being drawn. Draw the line at a more appropriate place. It’s a relative thing, you are drawing the line somewhere, right? Even meat eaters are not cannibals. They draw the line somewhere, don’t they? They do keep something out of their zone of consumption. A few things remain out of bounds and a few things don’t.
If you can draw the line here, you can also draw the line here (pointing at two different places) . Obviously, you’ll have to eat something, which means a line will have to be drawn—better draw the line at a place that is more beneficial to you. For that you must figure out what your real benefits are. If you are the body, then your real benefit lies in appeasing the body. Then you may as well say that “I will have a lot of meat because I’m the body and the body loves meat.” But if you are the mind that is crying out for liberation, then you must be very clear on where your real benefits lie.
Your real benefits then lie in drawing the line as compassionately as possible, compassion for your own sake. You may even call it selfish compassion, enlightened selfishness.
Meat eaters must answer this one question: if meat is good, then why not human meat as well? And then they will realize that they don’t eat human meat because human beings have a certain level of consciousness. Then respect the consciousness of the animal as well and the plant as well.
To the greatest extent possible, don’t hack down trees. If you are cultivating a rice plant just so that one day you may kill it, then that too is violence. But that is a lower degree of violence compared to the violence involved in killing an animal.
Respect consciousness because that is your only hope. Be full of gratitude towards all forms of consciousness. If you cannot be full of gratitude towards a rabbit, you’ll also not be full of gratitude towards a Buddha because flesh-wise they are the same. Look at the flesh of a rabbit, look at the flesh of a saint—flesh-wise they are the same. What separates them?
Q: Level of consciousness.
AP: Level of consciousness. So, it’s not the flesh that you respect when you say that “here comes a saint, and we respect him.” What is it that you are respecting? The flesh? The consciousness. And the consciousness of the saint is your only hope. If you can respect consciousness wherever it shines, then you will also respect your own consciousness. And if you’ll respect your own consciousness, then you will live life in a way that is consciousness centric. Then your central driver and central aim both will be consciousness. Whereas, if you live for the sake of meat, then your life will be body centric. That will also tell you about my position on milk and eggs.
If I respect the Buddha, then will I exploit him? I will refuse to exploit any conscious being. When you are drawing milk from a mammal, don’t you know it is sheer exploitation? When you are using a hen just to have eggs, you know what it is, right? If you can exploit others, you will end up exploiting yourself as well. It’s not a matter of just being good to others.
I’m repeating this: it’s a matter of being good to yourself. Besides, the milk of the buffalo is suitable only for the kid of a buffalo. The kid drinks the buffalo milk and becomes a big buffalo—if you drink the buffalo milk, what will you become?
Don’t you see that the milk of the buffalo is different from the milk of the rabbit, different from the milk of a camel, different from the milk of a lion? All these milks are different. Have you never wondered why different species have different constitutions of their milk?
Q: To meet the needs of their cubs.
AP: To meet the needs of their species. And each species has its precise needs. The needs of a human infant can be met only by the milk of the human mother—not by drinking buffalo milk. That’s why we have so many buffalos walking around as humans. A lot of milk they have consumed and are still consuming. And milk, and butter, and ghee, and paneer, and cheese—all the time only buffalo stuff. Besides, for how long does the kid of any species need milk?
Q: One year.
AP: Not even one year. These terrible ones—by the time they are one year old, they are grandparents. Do you think they are consuming milk even till the age of one? Only humans keep on drinking milk even when they are seventy-year-old.
Q: Why does our medical science say that you have to keep…
AP: It is not medical science; it is the food industry. Don’t you have any common sense? Do you really need milk at the age of fifty? What kind of needs do you have? And had you really needed milk till the age of fifty, then mothers would have produced milk all their life so that kids can be breastfed and sixty years old would have been breastfed.
Prakriti knows very well that only for six months or so does the kid need the mother’s milk. So, for that duration, the mother does lactate. But then the food industry says, “you keep on having milk.” Why? And it’s not human milk that you are having. If humans must have milk, then let them have human milk. Have we ever looked at a bull, for how long has it had milk? For how many months has a bull had a cow’s milk?
Q: Six months.
AP: Six months. And see what kind of burly bull it is. Is it still drinking milk? But look at its shape, size and figure. Or look at an elephant. Elephants too are mammals. An elephant kid too must have had milk—for how many months? For how many months—two months, six months, one year? And look at the shape of an elephant. Has the shape been gained because of the milk consumption? No. Milk was needed only for the first few months, and thereafter you don’t need milk. And you are still a big elephant. And human beings have bought into the idea that unless they drink milk, they will remain dwarfs.
They don’t even look at the elephants and ask: “but this one has never been drinking milk—how has it grown big?” Even whales are mammals you know. How does a whale grow so big? By drinking milk? Whale too must have had milk I suppose, but for how long? Few months, if at all.
And here all kinds of old ones, young ones, sick ones, big ones, small ones, wrestling ones…
Q: How will you be a wrestler unless you have milk?
AP: Will you go and search for the list of vegan athletes from around the world? Do that right now: ‘vegan athletes’—and you will find some big names there. How are they competing? No milk, no milk products at all. And they are competing big time.
A wrestler might be a drunkard as well. Does it mean that he has succeeded because of the liquor? Yes? How do you know that the wrestler is succeeding because of the milk? How do you know that?
Q: I believe that the thing is that scientific evidences are there, it just can be substituted with different things. It has things in condensed form like meat has more protein, but yes, it can be substituted with different alternatives.
AP: It has more protein. Do you need that protein? It may have this or that, but do you need that?—the question is this. And when I say I need that, who is this ‘I’ that is talking? The body or the consciousness?
AP: Your body might need twenty things but if they are detrimental to the growth of your consciousness, would you have them? In fact, if you have my meat in dinner today, it would be a very sumptuous dinner, won’t it be? The body will love it. Kill me and have my meat as dinner tonight. And the body will say: “yep, finger licking dinner this is!” Do that. You have to decide who you are. If you are the body, then kill me and eat my meat. I tell you it’s delicious. But if you define yourself as a mind craving for freedom, then save me. Because I’m your hope.
Q: It is the same with the cow’s milk, so why Lord Krishna used to take cow’s milk?
AP: He had sixteen thousand wives!
You could do anything—why are we talking of that? How many wives can you have and satisfy? About that you will not talk. He also went into the Yamuna and danced on the head of the great snake demon. You remember Kalia Sarp? Go ahead and do that first and then talk of Krishna. You want to emulate Krishna only in one sense: “he used to drink milk, I too will drink milk.” All the other things you will not do! He authored the Gita, and you can’t even understand the Gita, but you want to copy him in other respects. If you can manage two wives, then talk to me. He could manage sixteen thousand, do you understand that?—sixteen thousand!
Q: I surrender.
Actually, in news channels, they bring all these ‘Babas’ (referring to the so-called spiritual teachers) for weekly talks and they actually say that drink the buttermilk as it is Lord Krishna’s food.
AP: These ‘Babas’, are they wearing mukut and morepankhs (referring to the crown and peacock’s feather that Krishna used to wear on his head) ? Why not? Ask them: “why don’t you emulate Krishna in this respect? Why don’t you wear a mukut and a morepankh ?” And ask Babaji to go and steal clothes of bathing women and then let’s see what happens to them. Krishna was an expert at doing that, you know that right? The gopis would be taking a bath and then he would go and then runaway with their clothes and sit atop of a tree and he would tease them. Now, let Babaji try that.
The essence of Krishna is the Bhagavad Gita—why don’t you first go to the Gita? Why don’t you respect the Gita? Why don’t you devote yourself to the Gita? Why talk of all the peripheral things? Krishna could lift an entire mountain. Do that first.
Q: Practically with veganism, what I have seen is—you can’t eat out. You have to prepare your food.
AP: You can eat out, but you’ll have to be very particular with your orders. But things are changing; there are many eateries now that serve tofu dishes. Ghee is the problem if you ask them for a preparation that does not have ghee (clarified butter) . Then there is cheese, paneer—they are easily avoidable. Shakes are avoidable, ice-creams are avoidable. Milk is avoidable. Ghee—that’s what I have encountered. Because ghee is not detectable. Once the dish comes to you then only you realize that “oh! Ghee is there”—and then you are helpless, what do you do?
Q: Chocolates will have to be avoided.
AP: No, chocolates are there. Milk-free chocolates are there. Dark chocolates are there. Ask me, I will tell you everything. I will also tell you where to get them from. All is possible—the problem is ghee. If you ask this fellow— “ghee hai isme (is there clarified butter in this)?” he will say, “Na na, desi ghee hai (no, no, it’s the original Indian clarified butter).” He takes this as something to be burnished. “Na! desi ghee hai bhai (repeats: no, it’s the original Indian clarified butter).” And then you stare at him. And he will say, *“ghee nahi hai (you are asking if there is no clarified butter in this)?*—what kind of delinquent are you? You don’t want ghee?”
Q: What is Halal then?
AP: Halal is a way of killing, slaughtering. Will you be happier if I kill you in one go compared to if I kill you slowly? How does it matter? Hindus and Sikhs say Jhatka , Muslims say Halal, the animal says, ‘I’m gone!’ Jews, they say Kosher—you know, that’s their way of slaughtering.
Q: So, becoming vegan means all sweets are gone?
AP: No, you still can have *Sooji ka halwa, Sonpapdi*—ask me, I’ll tell you— Laddoos without ghee (be cautious) . But then you know, that opens the possibilities of many-many kinds of oils. Once you turn vegan, you then discover what great diversity of oils are available. And most of them are very healthy. But you have to hunt for them; they are not very easily available. Online is a great solution. Order stuff online.
What I can say is, my health has improved after quitting milk. I’m quite sure there are a lot of diseases that are due to milk. It doesn’t matter what is mixed in the milk; milk itself is not good for your body. And I’m not talking of the chemicals mixed there.