This book presents Practical Vedanta as a spiritual revolution, which can also lead to sociocultural revolution. The book is in two parts.
Part I entitled, "Essays on Practical Vedanta and Veganism" presents materials from the Mahabharata and well-known scholars to demonstrate some of the advantages of a joint implementation of Practical Vedanta and Veganism.
Part I also gives an inspiring account of fifty years of progress in Auroville — the dream city of Sri Aurobindo, where citizens from more than fifty countries live in harmony.
Part II has been written in Hindi and English, presenting original writings that evoke the reader to arise, awake, and move on from spirituality to social welfare in one's own everyday actions.
SATYA P. AGARWAL and URMILA AGARWAL acquired expertise in social science research, at U.S. Universities, in the 1950's. After nearly four decades of interdisciplinary study and applied research at the global level, they brought out the award-winning book "The Social Role of the Gita: How and Why." Thus, began a series of innovative research publications, based on Sanskrit and Hindi texts. The present publication is No. 17 in the series.
As I began the task of writing the foreword for this much needed and thoughtful book on the link between Vedanta and service to humankind, my father shared with me three guiding principles that have informed his own writing and the compilation of essays in this book. These three principles are core values of the Practical Vedanta Movement, coined by Swami Vivekananda: "An empty stomach is no good for religion", "Serve the poor, seeing God in them"; and "Science and religion will meet and shake hands". Together, these words remind us why this book is necessary. The purpose behind the essays contained in this book is to remind us why it is critical in today's world that humankind adopt a more benign attitude towards both human life with a love for peace, and also, animal life, with the adoption of a plant-based diet.
Compelling scientific arguments aside, there are also profound ethical and moral arguments that favor a world in which dignity of both human and animal life is respected and preserved equally for the good of all. A prominent voice among the spiritual leaders of the last 150 years was Swami Vivekananda, whose teachings and lessons on love, life and spirituality continue to set life goals for people across generations, all over the world. Today's world is facing unprecedented levels of hunger and poverty, yet the world is producing enough grain to feed two times as many people as there are in the world. Numerous scholars have stipulated for some time now minimizing the use of water, topsoil, land and energy, to raise animals (for the consumption of livestock or animal based products) - "would feed more people more nutritiously and with more efficient use of their resources, improving in the process, long-term soil fertility, create economic opportunities and break the vicious cycle of poverty and hunger for a vast number of the world's poor" (see: Dr. Oppenlander: The World Hunger - Food Choice Connection, 2019).
The question of whether animal life, and indeed all living beings, should be valued as emanations of the divine or a higher order, was also debated in ancient Greek philosophy, where philosophers fiercely debated the subjects of the uniqueness of human life and the status of animals as living beings, notions of justice, the humane treatment of animals and whether they should be killed and eaten. Pythagoras (570-495 BCE), known in the West for his contributions to mathematics, music, science and philosophy) considered that all animals, as well as humans, possessed immortal and reincarnated "souls" and that therefore killing and eating animals was not only unhealthy and made humans more belligerent, but also corrupted the soul and was an impediment to union with a higher form of reality. Later, Plato (427-347 BCE), also had his philosopher character, Socrates, claim that the ideal state was one founded on the principle of vegetarianism since consumption of meat was a luxury leading to decadence, injustice and war. However, it is interesting that western philosophy and religions (the Abrahamic religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam) were not influenced so much by these Greek notions concerning vegetarianism and justice for all living beings but, with rare exceptions, followed Plato's disciple, Aristotle, in the declaration that because only human beings had the capacity of rationality -- and therefore possessed souls -- mankind were masters of creation and could therefore dominate and use animals for their benefit, including killing them for food.
"Ahimsa" is an important ancient philosophy, dating back to the Vedas, and has at its core the idea that all life is Divine, and all are equal in the eyes of God. Through the power of this understanding, all obstacles can be overcome, appealing to the common humanity of all and through preservation of all life as one. This philosophy has been applied in modern times by global leaders, particularly Mahatma Gandhi who secured India's freedom from British rule, and by Martin Luther King, who fought for the emancipation of the downtrodden in America against the injustice of the majority and an unwavering appeal for the equal dignity of all people. Gandhi strengthened the Practical Vedanta Movement by his compelling formulation of the Ahimsa- based technique of social action, which he called "Satyagraha". His pioneering use of "Satyagraha" for the cause of human rights in South Africa, and ultimately through his Rishi-like struggle for India's freedom from British Rule, are well-known. The prevailing concept of "ahimsa", is based on a foundational theory of justice and peace. International human rights missions, such as the "Education for All" movement begun and strengthened by the United Nations, are also founded on this concept of equality and equal opportunity for all, particularly girls and the marginalized, with respect and dignity for all in the eyes of God. The Nobel laureate Amartya Sen has extended this idea, deeply influenced by the analysis of "justice as fairness" by John Rawls, in his profoundly explicated freedom-based approach that argues that although people are not "all created equal" (in terms of age, gender, talents, physical abilities, material advantages and social background, etc.) we are compelled to regard them through the lens of more basic universal values: freedom to achieve objectives of freedoms and capabilities, i.e. development as freedom. Chapter 1.12 of this book further elaborates on the various initiatives of the United Nations that support these ideas in the Gita.
Lokasamgraha is the original expression used in the Gita; Vivekananda used a simple synonym, Jagat-Hita (Welfare of the World). The full meaning and understanding of the term Lokasamgraha is beautifully, and thoroughly explained by my father Dr. Satya P. Agarwal, through his scholarly work of forty plus years, where he elaborates on this concept in his sixteen books. My mother, Urmila Agarwal, has also explained this concept through her poetic writings, which have been included in earlier publications, and again in this book.
**Contents and Sample Pages**
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