Category Archives: Jain Philosophy

Profiles of Vegan Jains: Gurudev Chitrabhanuji

Gurudev Chitrabhanu describes the karmic consequences of consuming hinsic dairy in engaging and thorough fashion.

“These selfish acts perpetrated by human beings, due to their greed, result in the following three consequences:

1. When we take the milk which belongs to the off-spring of the cow, the suffering vibrations of the cow and the calf would boomerang on us and might create some separation in our lives.  As we plant the pain in others, the vibrations received would result, as a ‘karmic’ consequence, into separation from our dear ones.

 2. The cow’s normal life span is twenty-five years.  Humans reduce this longevity by slaughter or use in veal industry.  The ‘karma’ of taking away the longevity of a living being influences our life span and results in reduction of our own life span or of our dear ones.  Also the end of the life may not be natural and it may be by accident or some permanent disability may take place.

3. We snatch away or steal the off-spring from the cow, as well as its milk for the calf.  The milk and the child are taken away ruthlessly by us without the permission of the cow.  This is ‘adattā dān’.  This is a charity not done by the donor.  It is acquisition of someone’s belongings without consent.  One should therefore be ready to face consequences of losing one’s own property, wealth or dear ones.

As Bhagwan Mahavir had said, ‘Non-violence and kindness to living beings is kindness to oneself.  For thereby one’s own self is saved from various kinds of sins and resultant sufferings and is able to secure his own welfare. ‘    ”

For his full article on ahinsa in action please continue reading Continue reading

Chitrabhanuji and Thich Nhat Hanh among few vegan spiritual teachers

Dr. Will Tuttle writes here about why so few spiritual teachers are vegan and mentions the two that have influenced us, as the hosts of this blog, the most: Chitrabhanuji, our foremost teacher of Jainism in the US and Thich Nhat Hanh, a Buddhist monk teaching mindfulness with Westerners, Vietnamese and others around the globe.  See our other posts for more about both of these revered teachers and we would like to acknowledge, too, the teaching of Pramodaben Chitrabhanu, who continues spreading the message of veganism among Jains.

We know of the other vegan spiritual teachers that Dr. Tuttle mentions as well: we’ve eaten at the Loving Hut restaurants that Master Ching Hai inspires. We’ve also been amazed by the videos produced in multiple languages with vegan cooking lessons. And Dr. Gabriel Cousens has inspired  friends to run a program to reverse diabetes based on a raw vegan diet based on their experiences at his healing center.
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Happy 90th Birthday Gurudev Chitrabhanu

Today is the 90th birthday of one of the two Jain monks that brought Jainism to America. Gurudev has been instrumental in creating the environment that enabled Jains from India, such as my parents, their children born in the US, such as me, and Americans interested in Jainism, such as friends at the Jain Meditation International and Lighthouse Centers, to understand and practice this ancient  tradition with its timeless principle of ahimsa.

He is pictured  on the far right at one of the Pratishtas ( temple openings) that he attended.


Gurudev Chitrabhanu came to the US in 1971. I was one year old. As he travelled and authored books, founded Jain Meditation International and spoke to audiences, my parents and their friends founded the Jain Society of Chicago. He helped organize the association of Jain associations  called JAINA.   He wrote books prolifically, and my  mother bought them, kept them in our temple and as she prayed, I read them voraciously.   I grew up reading “Inspiring Anecdotes”, ” A Lotus Blooms” and later, his books about Jain meditation. I heard Gurudev speak at Jain centers and JAINA conferences. And then when I was 20, I went to Siddhachalam, the Jain ashram founded by Acharya Sushilmuniji, the other Jain monk that brought Jainism to America. I became vegan after attending a New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance Conference there. As I, along with  a cohort of Jains in my generation, went vegan, we were reassured that Gurudev and Pramodaben understood and promoted veganism, or pure vegetarianism to our Jain community. They have spoken about the need to remove dairy products from our rituals and our diets, eloquently and persistently.

There has been a remarkable resistance to giving up dairy. Some Jains argue that veganism is a religion separate from Jainism and that Mahavir was not vegan. Despite criticism, Gurudev, with the spiritual understanding borne of 5 years of silence with monks’ vows and a lifetime of practice, maintains the clarity of his message: Ahimsa Paramo Dharma. Non-violence is the supreme religion. Veganism is but one expression. One cannot consume milk and consider oneself a pure vegetarian, practicing ahimsa.

And his reply, as Pravin K. Shah wrote recently, to the question of how to respond to people that oppose veganism, continues to inspire me. These are lines from the song that he authored  Maitri Bhavana Pavitra Zharanu :

May I always be there to show the path  

To the pathless wanderers of life

Yet, if they should not hearken to me,

May I bide in patience.

Is it time for Jains to give leather the boot?

This post is contributed by Sagar Kirit Shah,   member of the Jain Vegans in the UK.


In a world dominated by greed and materialism, the Jain community are leaders when it comes to demonstrating how to live a peaceful, low himsa lifestyle.  For thousands of years, Jains have followed a strict vegetarian diet and lived in harmony with nature.  And Jain monks and nuns illustrate how it is possible to live an empowering and fulfilling life without material possessions.

Jains in the West continue to try to live by traditional principles.  We try to lead modest lifestyles and participate in charitable activities when we can. We steer clear of activities and professions that involve violence or exploitation of other humans and animals.  Despite being confronted with a variety of temptations, large numbers of us have continued to follow a strict vegetarian diet.

While I’m tremendously proud of the example set by members of our community, I’ve always found it very difficult to understand why Jains, Hindus and other vegetarians seem to find it acceptable to wear leather.   As a young child, I often used to ask my mum why it was wrong to kill cows to eat them, yet acceptable to kill them for clothing.   My mum would explain to me that leather was taken from cows that were already dead. Continue reading


True Health and Beauty Arise from Compassion

Ajahn Guna of Berkeley Buddhist Monastery discusses how good health and beauty are not commodities but the consequences of generosity, compassion and virtue. Next to him is the producer of the documentary “Got the Facts on Milk?”, an informative and provocative film that we watched and discussed with a break for mindful walking, allowing for people to process the information they received with a fresh state of mind.

Lower Your Himsa Footprint

This thoughtful post is contributed by Mahersh Shah and the Jain Vegans Team, which moderates a web forum that is separate and complementary to this blog. I (drJina) was struck by the appropriateness of the term himsa footprint when I saw this term discussed in the web forum, and Mahersh graciously agreed to write more about it for our blog. Here’s his piece:

Most of us are familiar with the current-day concepts of “eco-footprint” and “carbon footprint” – these terms and concepts have become part of our everyday vocabulary and thought processes.Today, we are being encouraged to reduce our carbon footprints (to help slow down, if not reverse, human-induced global warming and climate change), and to minimise our eco-footprints in a bid to reduce our destructive impact on the environment.

At a Young Jains UK event in  Feb 2008 that started as a conversation about why a vegan rather than vegetarian diet would be consistent with Jain values with  keynote speaker and longtime US based vegan Saurabh Dalal,  the term himsa footprint spontaneously emerged.  The group that was to become the Jain Vegans team  discussed ahimsa and eco-footprints as a reason for going vegan.  Very soon, Kewal Shah shouted out the phrase himsa footprint as it simply appeared in his mind, and the Jain vegans have been using it extensively since.

So how does the term himsa footprint help us?  Well, the beauty of this neat and powerful expression is that it speaks volumes.  To me, when we talk about “lowering our himsa footprints”, we are speaking in a holistic sense, covering the direct and indirect himsa inflicted, by our actions, on all life around us. And by extension, this includes himsa on the environment, since harming or destroying life damages the environment, and damaging the environment harms or destroys life.  Thus, to me, the general concept of himsa footprint covers the more specific concepts of eco-footprint and carbon-footprint, for example, as well as many others.

Jains have a long and prominent tradition of embracing ahimsa (non-violence, compassion, peace).  In fact, the concept of ahimsa is at the very core of the Jain lifestyle.  For Jains, and others who believe in karma, practicing ahimsa is also a way of developing spiritually and purifying one’s atma (soul).  Therefore, lowering one’s himsa footprint would be an important activity for a Jain from a karmic standpoint too.  But even if one doesn’t believe in karma, leading life so as to consciously reduce one’s himsa footprint would surely bring about positive inner development, as well as benefiting all life and the environment around us.

Perhaps if we all begin to think in holistic terms of consciously and actively reducing our himsa footprints, then we’ll see many of the global issues facing us today being addressed in one go (e.g. human-induced climate change and other environmental issues).  Indeed, if most human societies, policy-makers and governments around the world started thinking in terms of himsa footprints, then we might even see a dramatic reduction in human-human conflict, bloodshed, war, abuses of human rights and animal rights, poverty, starvation and so on.

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A Diwali gift from PCRM: Vegan Kickstart for India!

OK, PCRM didn’t really time this for Diwali, our holiday celebrating the Nirvana of Mahavir Swami Tirthankar this Wednesday. But how nice that we have a 21 day program complete with Indian menus and a Kickstart program set for early November! Spread the word and check it out here.

Dr. Barnard gave a very nice, positive talk at JAINA last July which we have been meaning to post up.  One point that he made very well is how tastes can change;  many of the uncles and antis could identify with the way they are now able to enjoy fat free or low fat milk, when they used to like only full fat milk; similarly, tastes can change to enjoy even healthier soy, almond, rice and other types of non-dairy milks.

For those who follow a traditional Jain diet, the recipes on the Kickstart menu can be easily modified to eliminate root vegetables.  Just remember the 5 sensed beings that are harmed in our traditional dairy based diet and consider all the compassion you are showing by sparing the cows that suffering!

Happy Diwali, may the light of knowledge guide us towards enlightened action.

Prof Gary Francione’s talk at JAINA 2011

Here are the links for the first few segments of Prof. Francione’s discussion of veganism and ahimsa at JAINA.
Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Join the Jains going Vegan this Paryushan!

I caught up with an old friend a few days ago about an initiative in my city to block backyard slaughter of animals ( that post will go up next). In the course of our conversation, he told me he has made a tradition of going vegan during paryushan. And that’s how a number of people got started on their vegan diets…

Sagar posts on the Jain Vegan list-serv:

Please consider giving up dairy products this Paryushana
As most of you will know, Paryushana, the Jain festival of penance and forgiveness is due to begin at the end of August.

During this festival, members of the Jain faith traditionally fast and participate in pratikraman. For lay members, fasting often entails avoiding activities that are traditionally thought to cause more himsa than others, such as eating root vegetables.
In today’s complex society, the process of milk production causes far more suffering and killing than first meets the eye. Dairy cows are forcefully impregnated by means of artificial insemination to stimulate milk production.

They are immediately separated from their offspring at birth.  Male calves are killed within hours of birth or sold on to be reared for veal or beef (they are of no other value to a dairy farmer), and their sisters are forced to go through the same agony and suffering as their mothers.

A dairy cow will normally get killed before the age of 10, even though she could live up to 30 years if given the chance.  This is because her milk yield drops after about 5 lactations, and it is not does not make financial sense for a farmer to keep her alive when he is able to obtain milk from her younger (and more productive) daughters.

[My addition to Sagar’s post, with the photo above is to show how they are treated like machines. It is also easy to see how infections, such as mastitis, are likely to develop in these mama cows, adding to their suffering].
It is an unfortunate truth that our consumption of milk and dairy products contributes to the killing and suffering cows. In light of this, it seems natural that Jains (and all adherents of Ahimsa) should acknowledge and consider the suffering caused to cows in the milk production when undertaking pratikramana.
So, in addition to the other activities you undertake this Paryushana, why not also consider giving up dairy products?

For hints and tips on how to avoid dairy products, beyond the resources on this site, you are invited to  e-mail and/or visit the Vegan Society website.

Ahimsak Diet

Dr Jina gave a talk at the 11th anniversary of the Jain Center of Northern California on the Ahimsak Diet. The slides are available here:Ahimsak Diet and Nutrition and you can see the talk at the following YouTube links:

part 1:
part 2:
part 3:

For those who are interested in preventing diabetes by choosing healthy Indian foods, Asha Jain has provided some recommendations :

carbohydrate & Caloric Content of common Indian foods-JAIN 2011

Role_of_Food_in_Diabetes_Management (1)