An Indian Civilizational Perspective

Vegetarianism and West's discovery of India

The vegetarianism is not a new phenomenon! It was there for thousands of years in India. This is a book by Tristram Stuart called “The Bloodless Revolution: Radical Vegetarians and the Discovery of India” where he talks of how the discovery of India brought the West in touch with the benefits of vegetarianism!!

Although the word “vegetarian” was not coined until the 1840s, as long ago as the sixth century BC Pythagoras propounded a theory of immortality that entailed the transmigration of the soul between living creatures “ and thus the immorality of eating the flesh of any of them. Pythagoras was thought to have encountered this theory while travelling in Egypt, to which country it was believed to have been introduced by philosophers from India. His doctrines were later advocated by such philosophical giants as Socrates, Diogenes and Plato and would become a seminal part of the Hellenistic philosophical tradition. Pythagoras may not have visited India himself, but Alexander the Great certainly did; and when Alexander arrived in Taxila (now in Pakistan) in 326 BC and encountered Brahmin, Jain and Buddhist ascetics (he called them “gymnosophists”) who also believed in reincarnation and non-violence and therefore did not eat meat, the link with (if not “the Discovery of”) India was confirmed. Just as this evidence of an early and exotic provenance lent credibility to Greek philosophy, so the existence of a culture that had survived “ even thrived “ for so long on a meat-free diet has inspired the vegetarian movement ever since.


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