Some cultures chose vegetarianism based not solely on heritage but also their beliefs about humanity and moral strength.
For example, Mahatma Gandhi, an active voice for the Hindu religion, once said, “I do feel the spiritual progress does demand at some stage that we should cease to kill our fellow creatures for the satisfaction of our bodily wants.”
This leader not only serviced the voice of the Indian people during his time, but he also devoted his understandings of human will, ethics, religion and health to transpire greatness from within.
While some choose a plant-based diet for health or environmental reasons, deeply rooted spiritual beliefs tie vegetarianism to several world religions and cultures.
Although several modern interpretations of a vegetarian lifestyle exist, for many, vegetarianism’s origins lie profoundly in religion, spirituality, and nonviolence toward animals.
Religion and vegetarianism are strongly tied to faiths originating from ancient India. Hinduism, Buddhism and Jainism are three examples of Eastern religions that encourage or mandate that devotees follow a vegetarian diet.
Hindus and Buddhists are not universally vegetarian, but major paths in both faiths consider it ideal. Evident throughout Hindu text is a strong respect for animal life. Cows are particularly revered and even identified in certain scriptures as the mother of all civilization.
The esteemed cow provides milk and dairy foods, transportation and religious inspiration to millions of Hindus in India. Some sects abstain from eating meat, fish and fowl, as well as vegetables like onions, garlic, and mushrooms. Since these foods grow underground, they’re “in the mode of darkness” and therefore deemed undesirable.
Although there are no clear distinctions between forbidden and allowed foods, the primary figure of the Buddhist faith, Gautama Buddha, was one of the earliest prominent historical figures to speak about vegetarianism. Today, attitudes toward vegetarianism vary among the major branches or schools of Buddhism.