The Mahabharata Home
"Vaisampayana said, 'After this, king Yudhishthira, endued with great energy, and the foremost of eloquent men, addressed his grandsire lying on his bed of arrows, in the following words.'
"Yudhishthira said, 'O thou of great intelligence, the Rishis and Brahmanas and the deities, led by the authority of the Vedas, all applaud that religion which has compassion for its indication. But, O king, whet I ask thee is this: how does a man, who has perpetrated acts of injury to others in word, thought and deed, succeed in cleansing himself from misery?'
"Bhishma said, 'Utterers of Brahma have said that there are four kinds of compassion or abstention from injury. If even one of those four kinds be not observed, the religion of compassion, it is said, is not observed. As all four-footed animals are incapable of standing on three legs, even so the religion of compassion cannot stand if any of those four divisions or parts be wanting. As the footprints of all other animals are engulfed in those of the elephant, even so all other religions are said to be comprehended in that of compassion. A person becomes guilty of injury through acts, words and thoughts 1. Discarding it mentally at the outset, one should next discard in word and thought. He who, according to this rule, abstains from eating meat is said to be cleansed in a threefold way. It is heard that utterers of Brahma ascribe to three causes (the sin of eating meat). That sin may attach to the mind, to words, and to acts. It is for this reason that men of wisdom who are endued with penances refrain from eating meat. Listen to me, O king, as I tell thee what the faults are that attach to the eating of meat. The meat of other animals is like the flesh of one's son. That foolish person, stupefied by folly, who eats meat is regarded as the vilest of human beings. The union of father and mother produces an offspring. After the same manner, the cruelty that a helpless and sinful wretch commits, produces its progeny of repeated rebirths fraught with great misery. As the tongue is the cause of the knowledge or sensation of taste, so the scriptures declare, attachment proceeds from taste. 2 Well-dressed, cooked with salt or without salt, meat, in whatever form one may take it, gradually attracts the mind and enslaves it. How will those foolish men that subsist upon meat succeed in listening to the sweet music of (celestial) drums and cymbals and lyres and harps? They who eat meat applaud it highly, suffering themselves to be stupefied by its taste which they pronounce to be something inconceivable, undescribable, and unimaginable. Such praise even of meat is fraught with demerit. In former days, many righteous men, by giving the flesh of their own bodies, protected the flesh of other creatures and as a consequence of such acts of merit, have proceeded to heaven. In this way, O monarch
the religion of compassion is surrounded by four considerations. I have thus declared to thee that religion which comprises all other religions within it.'"
236:1 By committing a slaughter, one becomes guilty of it. By inciting others to it one becomes guilty. By mentally committing an act of slaughter, one becomes guilty of it.
236:2 i.e. by eating meat, one feels the desire for meat increasing. A taste or predilection for meat is thus created. Hence, the best course is total abstinence.
Next: Section CXV