In my humble opinion: Vegetarianism is the best. I am a very strict vegetarian. I am born in a vegetarian family and married into a vegetarian family. Hence vegetarianism is natural to me. But I know many Hindus who struggle to give up their non-veg habit. I think a true Hindu should not unnecessarily criticize four habits of others ‘ahara, nidra, bhaya, maidhuna’. (Eating habits, Sleeping Habits, Phobias, Sexual habits).
आहार-निद्रा-भय-मैथुनं च समानमेतत्पशुभिर्नराणाम् ।
धर्मो हि तेषामधिको विशेषो धर्मेण हीनाः पशुभिः समानाः ॥
AhAra nidrA bhaya maithunam cha samAnam etat pashubhirnarANAm |
dharmo hi teShAm adhiko visheSho dharmeNa hInAH pashubhiH samAnAH||
food, sleep, fear and mating, these acts of humans are similar to animals’ | of them (humans), dharma (right conduct) is the only special thing, without dharma humans are also animals ||
This original verse was attributed to Sage Yaajnavalkya (founder of Sukla Yajurveda and the teacher of Janaka, The writer of Yaajnavalkya smiriti – Hindu Law ). Acharya Chanakya gave great importance to this verse. He was trying to write his famous treatise ‘ArthaSastra’ (Hindu Economics). A kingdom consists of people with different habits. So should a king go on imposing what he thinks as right on others? if so is there anything that the king must tolerate?! where should we draw the line in the law?! This was a dilemma. Acharya Chanakya felt that is it a King’s prerogative to bring all these people together and offer them a satisfactory life. If the King imposes strict vegetarian rule then half of the kingdom will revolt! So Chanakya used this verse as a locus but replaced the word “Dharma” with “Vidya” (Right Education).
Our Hindu Seers view has been that “beings follow their nature what can restraint do!”: prakṛtiḿ yānti bhūtāni nigrahaḥ kiḿ kariṣyati (Gita 3.33). Humans by their initial primitive nature are understood as animals. This is the reason they behave “samskarastu” as per their inner nature “Prakriti” (Gita 3.33). Ahara, Nidra, Bhaya, Maidhuna are very much a part of nature! This nature and habits associated with it gets refined as beings progress in their life.
Only humans are capable of changing their nature. That is why our Hindu Seers said that taking birth as a human is a rare opportunity! The aim of SanatanaDharma (Hinduism) is to offer this inner refinement though a proven path. The paths are many and we follow the best of paths laid out by our ancestors.
शृतिर्विभिन्ना स्मृतयश्च भिन्नाः नैको ऋषिर्यस्य वचः प्रमाणम् ।
धर्मस्य तत्वं निहितं गुहायाम् महाजनो येन गतः स पन्थाः ॥
There are different vedas; different law books (manu dharma, yaajnavaklya dharma, gautama dharma etc.,) There are too many Seers whose words should we follow? The nature of Dharma is mystic. That is why what the great people (mahajana) followed that path should be taken.
Our Hindus aim is to use the opportunity of human birth, follow the Dharmic path laid out by our Seers and steadily progress. This progress in the path of refinement is called ‘Sadhana’ in Sanatanadharma.
We do not criticize a child for not running in a running race. Because we know the capability of the child. This kind of natural feeling towards fellow beings is called as empathy. I think empathy towards a less-able being is called compassion. Therefore a true Hindu must cultivate the habit of both empathy and compassion towards other beings. When we do not discriminate the food habits of a Tiger, then why should we discriminate the food habits of a Human? Belief in reincarnation is a fundamental tenet of Hinduism. Perhaps that was a tiger in his previous life and he may still be struggling to get rid of the non-veg habit! In any case, who are we to judge others?!!! A Hindu must encourage others to progress in their life, to see the unity in diversity. Honestly, I think that Hindus should not pick fights with other religions on silly issues such as eating habits! We can do much better than that!
vidya-vinaya-sampanne brahmane gavi hastini
suni caiva sva-pake ca panditah sama-darsinah || Bhagawad Gita 5.18
The humble [HINDU] sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a dog meat eater