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Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Daoist Views on Animals as Sentient Beings

Hindu, Buddhist, Jain, and Daoist Views on Animals as Sentient Beings


For many years, people from different religious faith have taught, spoken and written passionately on the social, physical, spiritual and mental harmfulness on feeding on the flesh of animals. This has resulted to several philosophies among different religious traditions. Ahimsa is a common term used by most religious traditions including Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism which is a rule that means do no harm and is against the injury and killing of any living being.

Although there have been several debates over the years on the way to apply this law to non-human and the non-violence idea has strong connections to the violence karmic consequences against another. Ahimsa which is common in most Indians religions makes one of the cardinal virtues and is a significant tent of the main Indian religions which include Jain, Buddhist, Daoist and Hindu.

Ahimsa is viewed as a multidimensional concept that is inspired by all living beings premise in the way such beings have the divine spiritual energy spark and this means that hurting another being is like hurting oneself. Ahimsa has also been associated to the idea that such violence on living beings has karmic consequences. While the Hinduism ancient scholars pioneered and with time perfected the Ahimsa principle, the concept managed to attain an extra ordinary status in the Jainism ethical philosophy. Most of the popular Mahatma Gandhi believed strongly in the ahimsa principle.

The precept of Ahimsa of cause no injury includes the deeds of a person, thoughts and words. Hinduism classical literature like Ramayana and Mahabharata, in addition to modern scholars argues about the Ahimsa principles when an individual is faced with war hence needs to defense himself. The Indians’ historic literatures as well as modern discussions have resulted to the Just War theories and theories on self-defense appropriation.


In Hindu tradition, eating and cooking are forms of worship and the body is regarded as a divine temple. Their philosophy suggests that food should be a source of life and love and should be able to promote the efforts of developing a pure body. But more to this philosophy, vegetarianism has remained central to the Hindu living principles and this is because of a number of reasons which include;

The breath and fear as they believe that animals will face extreme fear in the process of being shipped and undergoing the slaughtering experience, which in turn leads in the release of bio-chemicals such as dopamine and adrenalin into their bodies. Such chemicals are then passed along to the bodies of humans, resulting in the same feelings of fear. Fearful animals such as carnivores tend to have shallow and short breathing and this is associated with the tension as well as the anxiety and unpleasant breath. Vegetarians on the other hand as well as other herbivores take slow, deep and peaceful breaths and have pleasant breaths (Regan 105).

In relation to the process of digestion, human beings unlike carnivores animals which have a short but powerful intestinal tracks that reduce the absorption of toxic substances from the flesh they consume, have a long  digestion system that is more suitable for eating vegetarian diets. Vegetables that are consumed by human beings travel through their digestive tract as they are broken down naturally but on the other hand, when human beings consume meat, during the long journey down following the lengthy digestive tract, the meat putrefies and rots.

In relation to vital energy, plants located bellow the food chain placing them close to solar energy source, are close to the vital energy source. Dead foods which include meat are regarded as tamasic foods as they are decaying, old and distasteful. With the exception of maybe the Jainism, the way the Hindu regard animals as sentient beings making them worthy of  stewardship and dignity, make vegetarianism to run most strongly in its traditions. It does not only form part of the perspective when it comes to faith and belief but also it has over the years become a significant aspect of their culture.

According to the Hindu, ahimsa is considered as an ethical concept that evolves in their Vedic texts.  The Vedic texts are the oldest scripts in the Hindu religion that date back before 1700 BC, which  includes discussions on ritual animal sacrifices and mentions ahimsa in directly (Regan 105). The Hindu scripts over the years has been revised in relation to the ahimsa concept and ritual practices and has increasingly emphasized and refines their position on ahimsa  to make the  concept represent the highest virtue as per the latest Vedic era.

The term ahimsa is found in the Taittiriya Shakha text of the Yajurveda as it refers to doing no harm or injury to the sacrificer. It appears severally in the Shatapatha Brahmana in the non-injury sense without any moral connotation. The doctrine of Ahmisa is a viewed as a late development when it comes to Brahmanival culture. The initial reference to the non-violence idea to animals, in a moral sense, is evident in the Yajurvedas’ Kapisthala Katha Samhita, which is believed to have been written approximately 8th century BCE (Narveson 170).

Several scholars have written about Ahimsa like Kaneda who lists examples of the ahimsa found in Upanishads, Bowker who states that the word rarely appeared in the principle Upanishads. Some of the scholars have suggested that this concept has evolved in the Vedes and has over the years become an increasingly main concept in Upanishads. The Chandoya Upanisad is regarded as the oldest among the Upanishads dating to the 7th or 8th century BCE and contains evidence of the presence of the word Ahmisa in the sense that is familiar with a code of conduct in Hinduism (Midgley 71).

The scripture bars any form of violence against any creature and ahimsa in particular in escaping from the metempsychosis cycle. Some scholars have argued that this concept was only recognized in the Hinduism mainstream, after it was first and exclusively advocated by Buddhism and Jainism. The Sandilya Upanishad mentions ten forbearances in the Hinduism faith with Ahimsa being one of them. The term Ahimsa represented a significant spiritual doctrine that is shared by Jainism, Buddhism and Hinduism. With the literal meaning to mean non-killing or non-injury, it implies that Hindus should totally avoid any form of harm on living creatures by deeds, thoughts and words.


Jainism represents one of the oldest religious traditions in history originating from India. It is a belief system which focuses on the idea that all souls both in human beings and animals are device and therefore are able of achieving God’s consciousness. The Jains believe that the compassion for any kind of life, both non-human and human, is of great importance.  All Jain laity and monks are expected to be vegetarians in relation to how they regard animals.

Some of the Jains believe that Jainism started as a strong influence in the vegetarians’ acceptance as a common practice is some of the Hinduism strains. They go further than most of the faith traditions in the beliefs with regards to food. They believe that nonviolence is crucial in the choice of the type of food to consume as well as refuse any type of food that has been obtained using unnecessary cruelty. This belief has most Jains practice veganism in an effort to avoid any form of cruel practices that is common in conventional and large scale farming.

One of the out standing things about Jainism is its long nonviolence tradition. Ahimsa is a common practice in their tradition which has been developed from recognizing the spiritual value of man. Hatred, greed, intolerance and attachment give way spirit and mind that is compassionate, open, sensitive to life and benevolent. Jaina literature has stories and legendary, which demonstrate how Ahimsa serves as a power for peace.

The Jaina monks and Tirthankaras have been leading in their effort to create a world that is devoid of violence (Rebecca 34). Several episodes in the Parsvanatha record strong opposition to any kind of violence. He is remembered for countering hostile efforts upon his life in response to Ahimsa. He once saved a snake when it was about to be burnt by a sacrificial fire mendicant. This shows that he could not allow violence on animals even for religious purposes.

In the past, the prominence of Ahimsa sounded idealistic but today it is necessary. The traditional practical ethics that justified killing contradicts the true human fulfillment and also over estimates the violence power against nonviolence. This pacifism principle, which surfaces off and on in the human race ethical consciousness, is found to be rooted deeply in Jaina religion both in practice and principle.

Ahimsa in its fullest ramifications is more than just pacifism as it is viewed by some of the religious beliefs. Nonviolence in Jainasm is regarded as the principle of life that goes beyond the life of human beings to include animals, birds and the rest of the living things. Jaina laymen remain obligated to the Jivadaya practice which means showing mercy to all living creatures. This vow brought the saints of Jaina faith to conflict with the Vedic animal sacrifices practices.

Literature in Jaina religious beliefs has several examples of animal rescue. It is said that Tirthankara demonstrated a nonviolent move through sacrificing his own nuptial pleasure so as to save helpless animals that had been kept in cages for his marriage occasion (LaFollette 120) According to Jainism, man is the eldest son of nature and he is expected to use his superior powers in caring and protecting beings that are less endowed.

Man should not act as if the world was created only for him and that animals exist as objects for human sport or food. Ahimsa in the Jainism traditional belief is both a natural and social value and considers nonviolence to be applied to all kinds of animals both nonvisible and visible. Vegetarianism is regarded as an important part of Ahimsa. It’s a life’s attitude which is against enjoying any pleasure at the cost of the pain of another living being.

It is the policy of interacting at peace with every living being as much as possible. It is regarded as a more radical innovation more than any existing modern sciences that are out to raise the man’s cultural level. The rational vegetarianism conclusion is that man is expected to refuse anything which involves the slaughtering of animals, even leather goods or medicine.

The ancient vegetarianism advocacy in the Jainism traditional beliefs is currently receiving world wide attention following the severe food shortages as well as the scientific community researches. A part from the traditional beliefs, vegetarianism is now considered as a viable answer to the increased hunger situation globally considering the scarcity of resources.


The five main Buddhism beautiful precepts in relation to the conduct ethical code for all Buddhists is that they have to take the precept to keep off from destroying any living creature. This means that they cannot kill and as much as possible be part of any killing. Metta, which is the compassion practice and loving kindness to every being without any personal attachment , is viewed as another strong Buddhists motivation to refuse having meat in their diets (Kheel 65)

Although the Buddha did not expect his followers to be vegetarians, in an effort to reduce harm to all living beings as well in the spirit of bestowing on their life and to have as much joy as possible, he strongly encouraged his followers to abstain from eating meat. Despite the attitudes toward being vegetarianism differ quite widely from one sect to the other within the Buddhism tradition faith, some of the traditions look at it as an importance individual choice.

Buddhism is often viewed as being more reasonalble in the way it views animals considering that most animal exploitation in Buddhism faith are against their fundamental teaching. However, most Buddists do not involve themelves in activities that include killing of  animals. Some of the religions that strongly advocate for animal life sancity are the Vaesnava and  Jians (Frey 126)

The two religions espouse the aviodance of intentiuonal harm to any living being and are expected  vegetarians. The Tibetan Buddhism doctrine has imposed restrictions on the killing of animals and value their existentila value. This invokes stewardship concept, in the sense that human beings are charged with the responsibility of preserving the intergrity and welfare of the natural world including animals. Such aspects are also asserted in relation to Christianity and Judaism.

Buddhism asimilates the customes and laws of host cultures. Animal treatemnt and rights are culturally inconsistent as some Buddhists eat meat while others do not. A common case is when beavers blocked mountaim  stearms in the Catskill Mountains (DeGrazia 102). The Buddhist  leaders decided to kill the beavers as they consideered the streams as essential to overall watershed and nature. However, there were protests coming from the newer Buddists who remained compassionate for all living beings considering the Buddhist teachings. Buddhists respect all their religoius traditions, yet accept religion customs and laws


Looking at the Chinese history, animals have taken a central position, especially when it comes to ritual offering and slaughetring of flesh, but its not clear how animals were treated or the kind of slaughter practices were used. It addition, it remians abstract the way animals were catergorised as food as it imparts itself to the neglect of specific animals lives as well as their corresponding fates.  Before Daosim globalization srtated in the late 20th century, Daoism was an indigenous Chineese religion that was deeply rooted in traditional culture of the Chinese and mostly practsed by Ham ethincity people (Cohen 867)

This meant the Daoist communities as well as the Daosit mostly embraced traditional Chinese cultural practices and values, which included dietary traditions.  At the time they departed or modiefied the traditions they had received from the Chinese, they  were at odds with what was the dominant society. Such modifications needed justification, mostly in the form of alternatives soteriologies, theologies and value systems.

Consoderig the position taken by animals in Daosim traditional beliefs, the Daosist practices associated with animals, esopecially dietary and ritualistic practices show that they were concerned with the welfare of animals and this concern has remained a miniroty position in the Daists history.

The Diasts pre-modern society was populated by several domestic animals which included dogs, chickens, horses, oxen, pigs and goats, which pork meat standing out as the preferred choices in this tradition. This was so much the case as the Chinese general character for home which consisted of a pig under a roof, while the men character showed the traditioanl doorways which allowed pigs to exit and enter without opening them (Cavalieri 67).

Wild animals were also  present including diverse species of bear, birds, fish, deer, monkeys, fox, turtiles, and tigers. These animals formed part of Nature both in earth and heaven  and were encountered in wild landscapes. Some of the wild animals were hunted and killed for consumption as food. Some of the animals were used in imperial sacrifice and medicine. However, very little is  known when it comes to how the Diasts treated and were concerened about the welfare of animals.


Religious beliefs across the globe tell stories that are compelling on how people should live their lives. What people should eat is no different and as it is evident in most societies, there are countless philosophies with regards to base of vegetarianism choice, regardless of an individuals’ faith perspective. Such admonishments should try encouraging people to live lives free from violent which celebrate the joy of living together with the rest of the earthly creatures.

While the option of having a diet that is free from meat may not come from the mainstream authorities of every religious tradition, if people allow themselves to examine their faith texts as well as their oral histories from a new light perspective, they may just discover that advocating such kind of a lifestyle choice can be a means of committing themselves as people of faith but at the same time a fulfilling of a life-affirming change.






Works Cited

Cavalieri, Paola. The Animal Question: Why Non-Human Animals Deserve Human Rights. Translated by Catherine Woollard. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. Print

Cohen, Carl. “The Case for the Use of Animals in Biomedical Research.” New England Journal of Medicine 2006, 315 (14): 865–70.

DeGrazia, David. Taking Animals Seriously: Mental Life and Moral Status. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006. Print

Frey, R. G.  “Moral Community and Animal Research in Medicine.” Ethics and Behaviorm. 2007 7 (2): 123–36

Kheel, Marti. “Ecofeminism and Deep Ecology: Reflections on Identity and Difference.” Trumpeter. 2007, 8 (2): 62–72.

LaFollette, Hugh, and Niall Shanks. “Animal Models in Biomedical Research: Some Epistemological Worries.” Public Affairs Quarterly. 2003, 7 (2): 113–30.

Midgley, Mary. Animals and Why They Matter. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 2007. Print

Narveson, Jan. “Animal Rights.” Canadian Journal of Philosophy. 2007, 7 (1): 161–78.

Rebecca Dresser; et al. The Human Use of Animals: Case Studies in Ethical Choice. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009. Print

Regan, Tom. “The Rights of Humans and Other Animals.” Ethics and Behavior. 2007. 7 (2): 103–11

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