Life Feeds on Life: The Consideration of the Jain Diet

By: Dylan Rodgers

Cries of impending doom rose from the soil...  These are the cries of the carrots.

                                                                            -Maynard James Keenan

Vegetarianism and veganism are drastically different with plenty of sub-sects of varying intensity. Many vegetarians outwardly concerned with the harm caused in animal slaughter argue that fish may or may not be excluded from their concern (probably the lack of eyelids) and the fact that plants don't have a face.  With so many schools of thought, where exactly would you draw the line-that is if you find yourself considering such a life changing pursuit?

Consider this: scientifically plants, animals, fungi, bacteria, and viruses are all legitimate forms of life.  One key element to the definition of life is its response to external stimuli; it reacts when poked.  So this suggests that plants and all other life feel in one way or another.  The question arises:  if compassion is the driving force behind your choice, then how deep does this rabbit hole of passivism go?

Jainism, or the Jain Religion, is an order of nonviolent individuals bent on causing the least amount of harm possible, and their motto is not taken lightly.  Jains believe in the equality of souls and that all forms of life contain them.  Therefore digging a hole would be considered harmful to grass, worms, and insects; the same goes for antibacterial soap (Kills 99.9 percent of germs. HA! In your dreams!).

Jains acknowledge that yogurt is full of bacteria, excluding it from their diets.  Kombucha, the fermented tea with active yeast and bacteria, is definitely out.  Onions, potatoes, beets, carrots, and other root vegetables cannot be harvested without killing the plants.  Even severing a bell pepper from its stem is considered harmful, but this much cannot be avoided for survival's sake.  Life feeds on life-no matter what way you spin it.

Jainism may sound extreme to most people, even those who ascribe to the doctrines of Veganism, though a passivist's stance can't be defined clearly without an open consideration of the Jain principles.  Preaching of dietary compassion for all living things and eating peanut butter (you don't want to know the life forms processed into that stuff!) is having a foot in both worlds, a double-standard, without a certain degree of circumspection.

Don't get me wrong; I personally consider myself more of a tiger than a deer; I eat meat and love it.  It is immensely important, though, to explore one's feelings on the subject of killing and consuming other life.  Jainism is rooted in over 5000 years of practice and study-an ethos worthy of attention.  As a society that defaces lunch meats and ostracizes fish and insects from our loving compassion, we are skillful mentalists able to avoid acknowledging the connection between sausage and its origin.  Taking a closer look could only clear up our own ambiguities; a noble cause to say the least, because knowing who you are is the first step towards knowing where you're going.

Dylan Rodgers is a writer with dreams of existential understanding and lyrical nonsense.  Share with him in the well of human experience

Photo: Mellagi

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