On October 24th, Radhanath Swami spoke on ‘Honoring the Sacredness of Life’ during a lecture series organized by The Vegetarian Society in Mumbai.

The Mumbai chapter of The Vegetarian Society was started in June 1983 for promotion of vegetarianism as a means of advancing the physical, mental, moral, spiritual and economic improvement of mankind. Since its inception, the society has been inviting speakers that include Sri Satyanarayana Goenka and many other prominent citizens from various spiritual paths and walks of life.

Radhanath Swami began his talk by stating how the concept of vegetarianism is universal rather than sectarian. “Ahimsa is a universal sacred principle within many of the great religions, spiritual paths and paths of yoga. What is very import for us to explore is the spirit of ahimsa—to not cause harm directly or indirectly to any living being, as far as possible, with one’s actions, words or thoughts.”

Quoting Gandhi and Leonardo da Vinci, both advocates of vegetarianism, Radhanath Swami emphasized that the level of consciousness of society can be evaluated by how animals are treated. “If we cannot honor the sacredness of life in these helpless people (the animals), then there won’t be much depth in our actual compassion for each other.”

Sharing profusely from his personal experience, he narrated how he personally took to vegetarianism and how he helped many take to vegetarianism, especially through the vegetarian cooking classes that he held in North American universities in the early 1980s.

“Almost 98% of the people attending were non-vegetarians who came simply because the food was good.” Congratulating India for her wonderful vegetarian recipes, he said that this was a great way by which people could be attracted to a vegetarian diet. “But when they actually understand the ecological advantages, the environmental advantages, moral, ethical, humane, compassionate advantages, the aesthetic advantages, then they cannot eat animals again.”

In the spiritual tradition I follow, Vaishnavism, we base our teachings on the Bhagavad-gita. There Krishna tells us aham bija prada pita—that the one supreme truth, the one supreme Lord of all living beings, of all religions, is the father and mother of every living being. Mamaivamsho jiva loke jiva bhuta sanatana—that the source of life, that person who is seeing through the eyes and hearing through the ears, who’s feeling and experiencing, who’s animating the body, that living force is a part of God, and that living force is sacred. To the degree we actually come into contact with our own spiritual essence, our own real self, then naturally we will feel concern for all living beings. It’s not just a matter of intellectual understanding; reverence for life comes from the heart. Because, in fact, we are all connected.

The audience went through several emotional experiences as Radhanath Swami narrated stories of compassion, one after another. The climax was when he narrated how his guru Srila Prabhupada showed compassion even to a little insect.

Present on the occasion were several members of the managing council, the Chairman Justice Dr. S. Radhakrishnan, Joint Treasurer Pankaj Shah and General Secretary Deepak Shah.