Jainism Hinduism Buddhism karmic freedom
HinduismIs one of the world's oldest religions. There are many sub-traditions within Hinduism, but there are two beliefs about humans which seem to dominate the religion's view on animals. The first belief recognises that humans exist on a continuum with the rest of life and that we are not completely separated from other animals. The second belief says that humans are what life should be like, giving us a status superior to that of any other animal.
The concept of karma is central to Hinduism. Karma says that a being will be reborn (or reincarnated) as a particular life form depending on their past deeds. According to Hinduism, if a human lives a life of bad deeds they will be born as an animal. This suggests, by definition, that every animal that exists must have led an immoral life. Therefore, animals are seen as being inferior to humans.
However, the belief that humans are on a continuum with animals can also lead to a more positive outlook. The Hindu tradition also claims that all animals have souls like humans and this relates to the concept of ahimsa (a principle of non-harm or non-violence). It is a principle which says animals have their own life, their own interests and their own ability to feel pain – we should therefore not harm them or kill them. The moral status of animals is also suggested by the fact that the cow is considered a sacred animal. It is also suggested by the fact that the gods Rama and Krishna were reincarnated as a cow and a monkey respectively. You also have gods like Ganesha (the elephant-headed god) and Hanuman (the monkey god) who have long been worshipped in the Hindu tradition.
The Hindu American Foundation (HAF) says that the ethical treatment of animals is fundamental to the core of Hindu belief. In the Hindu epic, Mahabarat, Lord Krishna tells his cousin that, “Humans should take from this planet only that which is necessary for our survival” which many Hindus see as an argument against killing animals for meat. According to Hinduism, there can be serious karmic repercussions for taking an innocent life, causing suffering to another animal or supporting it in some way. Someone can receive negative karma not only for slaughtering a cow, but so can someone who consumes beef, since they are funding the slaughter. Vegetarianism is a common practice among Hindus, with Hindus making up the largest percentage of vegetarians in the world. Spiritual leaders such as swamis, sadhus and gurus are almost always strictly vegetarian, and most Hindu temples do not allow meat products on the premises.
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