Jain ascetics are increasingly recognizing the violence inherent in dairy products and speaking out.
In this video, Sadhvi Vaibhavshree discusses the question “Being a Jain and a follower of nonviolence, should I consume milk or not? I am confused as my family and I do want to drink milk and I am not sure what to do.” Her talk is in Hindi. Thanks to Prof. Pankaj Jain for rendering the translation (to which i have made minimal changes, including re-ordering her ideas to emphasize her “big reveal”).
You will be surprised today. I am going to reveal a big truth for the Jain society. In the Jain sutras, dairy products are called vigai and are prohibited in our shastras. Even root vegetables are actually not prohibited in our texts. In the 16th and 17th chapters of Uttaradhyayan, Sthananga Sutra, dairy products are prohibited. It is mentioned that such products cause sexual desires so a spiritual seeker should avoid them. An ascetic consuming milk or yogurt cannot remain an ascetic and will become sinful. However, today, our Jain society does not renounce milk that is a product of five-sensed beings but some of us do renounce root vegetables that are products of one-sensed beings. We should prioritize avoiding the violence to five-sensed beings before worrying about violence to one-sensed beings. We make excuses about nonviolence but refuse to change our habits of consuming dairy products. I am sorry to say this. If one wants to practice nonviolence, start from self, be free from attachments and aversions, and avoid the stress. When we commit violence to ourselves, we also commit violence to the entire universe, according to Lord Mahavira in Acharang Sutra. Violence to one is violence to all.
There are a few points to consider.
First, people in earlier times used to advise that whenever there is a question to eat or not to eat, not to eat is always a better choice. If one is tempted to one’s favorite food, that is exactly what is to be renounced. There is no will power needed to renounce a thing that is already disliked because we try to avoid that already. There should not be any dilemma to stop consuming milk. The number of cattle is decreasing while the number of consumers of the milk is increasing. This causes cruelty to them, with 100% certainty.
Second, the cow’s milk is for her calf but the calf does not get it and humans take it away for their consumption. Thirdly, the cows are milked using artificial means that is totally wrong. The cows are also conscious beings and have souls just like humans. She also has emotions. On the one hand, we call cow our mother and on the other hand, we milk her using machines. Today, in the large dairy farms, we all know the truth of what is happening there. Next, the milk that reaches our homes, is not the real pure milk. The milk powder is stored and later mixed with water to sell. The real milk cannot survive more than a few hours but this artificial milk is packed in plastic bags and lasts much longer. This artificial milk increases obesity but has no real nutrition.
Why do we drink milk? For protein and calcium? Not really. If your mothers feed you any food with protein and calcium but without any taste, you will not consume it. But we drink milk just because of our old habits since childhood. Our mothers force us to drink milk in our childhood. They would wake us up and force us to drink milk. If we do not drink milk, our breakfasts seem incomplete. Before bedtime, similarly, we tend to drink milk to get good sleep. These are all our old habits. There is no other animal in the world that drinks milk after growing up. As long as we needed the milk in our childhood, we received the natural milk from our biological mothers. When our bodies stopped needing it, we stopped receiving it also. The amount that our bones needed, we got it. All the extra is a surplus that we continue to consume it.
In earlier times, the milk was a rare commodity and was available only at the homes that used to keep cows such as farmers. Even without milk, people used to live comfortably, consuming simple millet based bread and vegetables. They did not have any lack of protein, calcium, or vitamins. We did not even know such words. Today, we suffer from different kinds of diseases because our food is artificial. Not just Jains, everybody should stop drinking milk. Today, in the West, veganism is spreading fast. People are stopping to eat meat and even becoming vegan. They do not consume any dairy product.
We are in stress, tension, depression, and anger so we are not nonviolent. We must identify our violence to liberate us from violence. How do we commit violence to our friends? We remain angry with our family members. Somebody cooked food for you with love but if it does not match your taste or interest, you reject that food and cause pain to that person. This is violence. We behave whimsically with others and do not even respond to others if we don’t feel like. It is easy to raise slogans for nonviolence but we must practice it first. Do practice nonviolence for 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 sensed-beings but look at ourselves first. Why consume any food that is not necessary. We can easily survive without milk so why consume it? Be fully vegan ideally, if not, at least reduce your consumption to as less as possible. We should discipline ourselves and limit our consumption. Ascetics practice full prohibition, lay people should at least limit their consumption. Live an aware life with this discipline.
We buy all the latest cars. But we should also take care of our animals and raise cattle. It should be okay to consume some milk from such animals whom we treat as our family members and keep them with us as our pet animals.
Today we are losing the sensitivity towards our cattle and even for our own biological mother. We are losing our love, compassion, dedication, and respect to both our mothers who nourish us with their milk because we are not raising our food in our surroundings. We are losing our understanding of our environment because we are living a “packaged,” “fast food” and “artificial” life. We are losing the consciousness and our souls are shrinking. Only our minds are developing but our hearts and emotions are becoming selfish because our food is not proper. Become vegan or at least be disciplined. We like some food a lot because our taste buds are conditioned about them since childhood. Can we break such habits? Yes, we should.”