Chapter 19: Where Nothing Is Right and Nothing Is Wrong
It cannot be anybody else because the description was of a Jaina monk. They were nude, and they ate only vegetables and fruits. It was very difficult for them to get food every day because they had to beg - the Jaina monk lives on begging. Sometimes some kind people would provide for them because they would say, “We cannot eat anything else.” So there is only one reference in Pythagoras, that he met three Jaina monks in Egypt; otherwise Jainas have never crossed the boundaries of India, for the simple reason, who is going to provide them with food? How are they going to live?
Buddhists also taught vegetarianism, but when they crossed India’s borders they all became non-vegetarian; they had to, there was no other way to survive.
A small section of Hindus, the highest class of Hindus, brahmins, are vegetarians - but not all brahmins. Kashmiri brahmins are non-vegetarians because they live in a community of Mohammedans: ninety-two percent Mohammedans, eight percent Hindus. It is very difficult for them to survive. They have to be in a certain harmony with the community where they are living. It is such a vast majority, and they have to depend on them for everything. If the Mohammedans simply boycott them they will die.
In Bengal the brahmins don’t eat any meat, but they eat fish, because in Bengal it is difficult to survive without eating fish; fish is the main food - fish and rice. In South India the brahmins eat fish because of the same problem: without fish the food is not enough.
So I cannot say that vegetarianism is something universally right. I am absolutely a non-fanatic person. About nothing am I fanatic. I try to see all the aspects of a thing, and I am utterly liberal, human. I don’t try to make any principle more valuable than humanity itself.
Nothing is above man.
Nothing should be above man.
So all these concepts of right and wrong are social, climatic. For example, in Tibet.. The holy book of the Tibetans says that one bath per year is absolutely necessary. In Tibet even that is a difficult job, and many must be trying to avoid it - even that one bath per year.
In India a person takes two baths every day, and there are people who take three baths every day; I myself used to take three baths every day. When a Tibetan monk was a guest with me, he could not believe it. He said, “You are wasting your whole life in taking baths! Morning, evening, and at night before you go to bed - three times! In Tibet once a year is enough.”
I said, “I know,” because one of my friends, a professor, Doctor Rajbali Pandey, was studying translations from Sanskrit into Tibetan. He was a scholar of Tibetan and Sanskrit, so he was working on this. He went to Tibet. I told him - he was a brahmin - “You are going to be in trouble.” And he was a very orthodox brahmin too: early in the morning, five o’clock, a cold bath; then the prayer, the religious ritual - only then can you take a cup of tea.
He went and came back. He remained only one day in Tibet, although it took him three months coming and going because he had to travel just on horseback. Three months he traveled just to stay one day in Tibet!
I said, “What happened?”