Conversation with Cardinal Danielou
"Thou Shalt Not Kill" or "Thou Shalt Not
At a monastic retreat near Paris, in July of 1973, Srila Prabhupada
talked with Cardinal Jean Danielou: "... the Bible does
not simply say, `Do not kill the human being.' It says broadly,
`Thou shalt not kill.'... why do you interpret this to suit your
Srila Prabhupada: Jesus Christ said, "Thou shalt
not kill." So why is it that the Christian people are engaged
in animal killing?
Cardinal Danielou: Certainly in Christianity it
is forbidden to kill, but we believe that there is a difference
between the life of a human being and the life of the beasts.
The life of a human being is sacred because man is made in the
image of God; therefore, to kill a human being is forbidden.
Srila Prabhupada: But the Bible does not simply say, "Do
not kill the human being." It says broadly, "Thou shalt
Cardinal Danielou: We believe that only human life
Srila Prabhupada: That is your interpretation. The commandment
is "Thou shalt not kill."
Cardinal Danielou: It is necessary for man to kill
animals in order to have food to eat.
Srila Prabhupada: No. Man can eat grains, vegetables,
fruits, and milk.
Cardinal Danielou: No flesh?
Srila Prabhupada: No. Human beings are meant to eat vegetarian
food. The tiger does not come to eat your fruits. His prescribed
food is animal flesh. But man's food is vegetables, fruits, grains,
and milk products. So how can you say that animal killing is
not a sin?
Cardinal Danielou: We believe it is a question
of motivation. If the killing of an animal is for giving food
to the hungry, then it is justified.
Srila Prabhupada: But consider the cow: we drink her milk;
therefore, she is our mother. Do you agree?
Cardinal Danielou: Yes, surely.
Srila Prabhupada: So if the cow is your mother, how can
you support killing her? You take the milk from her, and when
she's old and cannot give you milk, you cut her throat. Is that
a very humane proposal? In India those who are meat-eaters are
advised to kill some lower animals like goats, pigs, or even
buffalo. But cow killing is the greatest sin. In preaching Krsna
consciousness we ask people not to eat any kind of meat, and
my disciples strictly follow this principle. But if, under certain
circumstances, others are obliged to eat meat, then they should
eat the flesh of some lower animal. Don't kill cows. It is the
greatest sin. And as long as a man is sinful, he cannot understand
God. The human being's main business is to understand God and
to love Him. But if you remain sinful, you will never be able
to understand God-what to speak of loving Him.
Cardinal Danielou: I think that perhaps this is
not an essential point. The important thing is to love God. The
practical commandments can vary from one religion to the next.
Srila Prabhupada: So, in the Bible God's practical commandment
is that you cannot kill; therefore killing cows is a sin for
Cardinal Danielou: God says to the Indians that
killing is not good, and he says to the Jews that...
Srila Prabhupada: No, no. Jesus Christ taught, "Thou
shalt not kill." Why do you interpret this to suit your
Cardinal Danielou: But Jesus allowed the sacrifice
of the Paschal Lamb.
Srila Prabhupada: But he never maintained a slaughterhouse.
Cardinal Danielou: [Laughs.] No, but he did eat
Srila Prabhupada: When there is no other food, someone
may eat meat in order to keep from starving. That is another
thing. But it is most sinful to regularly maintain slaughterhouses
just to satisfy your tongue. Actually, you will not even have
a human society until this cruel practice of maintaining slaughterhouses
is stopped. And although animal killing may sometimes be necessary
for survival, at least the mother animal, the cow, should not
be killed. That is simply human decency. In the Krsna consciousness
movement our practice is that we don't allow the killing of any
animals. Krsna says, patram puspam phalam toyam yo me bhaktya
prayacchati: "Vegetables, fruits, milk, and grains should
be offered to Me in devotion." (Bhagavad-gita 9.26) We take
only the remnants of Krsna's food (prasadam). The trees offer
us many varieties of fruits, but the trees are not killed. Of
course, one living entity is food for another living entity,
but that does not mean you can kill your mother for food. Cows
are innocent; they give us milk. You take their milk-and then
kill them in the slaughterhouse. This is sinful.
Student: Srila Prabhupada, Christianity's sanction
of meat-eating is based on the view that lower species of life
do not have a soul like the human being's.
Srila Prabhupada: That is foolishness. First of all, we
have to understand the evidence of the soul's presence within
the body. Then we can see whether the human being has a soul
and the cow does not. What are the different characteristics
of the cow and the man? If we find a difference in characteristics,
then we can say that in the animal there is no soul. But if we
see that the animal and the human being have the same characteristics,
then how can you say that the animal has no soul? The general
symptoms are that the animal eats, you eat; the animal sleeps,
you sleep; the animal mates, you mate; the animal defends, and
you defend. Where is the difference?
Cardinal Danielou: We admit that in the animal
there may be the same type of biological existence as in men,
but there is no soul. We believe that the soul is a human soul.
Srila Prabhupada: Our Bhagavad-gita says sarva-yonisu,
"In all species of life the soul exists." The body
is like a suit of clothes. You have black clothes; I am dressed
in saffron clothes. But within the dress you are a human being,
and I am also a human being. Similarly, the bodies of the different
species are just like different types of dress. There are soul,
a part and parcel of God. Suppose a man has two sons, not equally
meritorious. One may be a Supreme Court judge and the other may
be a common laborer, but the father claims both as his sons.
He does not make the distinction that the son who is a judge
is very important and the worker-son is not important. And if
the judge-son says, "My dear father, your other son is useless;
let me cut him up and eat him," will the father allow this?
Cardinal Danielou: Certainly not, but the idea
that all life is part of the life of God is difficult for us
to admit. There is a great difference between human life and
Srila Prabhupada: That difference is due to the development
of consciousness. In the human body there is developed consciousness.
Even a tree has a soul, but a tree's consciousness is not very
developed. If you cut a tree it does not resist. Actually, it
does resist, but only to a very small degree. There is a scientist
named Jagadish Chandra Bose who has made a machine which shows
that trees and plants are able to feel pain when they are cut.
And we can see directly that when someone comes to kill an animal,
it resists, it cries, it makes a horrible sound. So it is a matter
of the development of consciousness. But the soul is there within
all living beings.
Cardinal Danielou: But metaphysically, the life
of man is sacred. Human beings think on a higher platform than
the animals do.
Srila Prabhupada: What is that higher platform? The animal
eats to maintain his body, and you also eat in order to maintain
your body. The cow eats grass in the field, and the human being
eats meat from a huge slaughterhouse full of modern machines.
But just because you have big machines and a ghastly scene, while
the animal simply eats grass, this does not mean that you are
so advanced that only within your body is there a soul and that
there is not a soul within the body of the animal. That is illogical.
We can see that the basic characteristics are the same in the
animal and the human being.
Cardinal Danielou: But only in human beings do
we find a metaphysical search for the meaning of life.
Srila Prabhupada: Yes. So metaphysically search out why
you believe that there is no soul within the animal-that is metaphysics.
If you are thinking metaphysically, that's all right. But if
you are thinking like an animal, then what is the use of your
metaphysical study? Metaphysical means "above the physical"
or, in other words, "spiritual." In the Bhagavad-gita
Krsna says, sarva-yonisu kaunteya: "In every living being
there is a spirit soul." That is metaphysical understanding.
Now either you accept Krsna's teachings as metaphysical, or you'll
have to take a third-class fool's opinion as metaphysical. Which
do you accept?
Cardinal Danielou: But why does God create some
animals who eat other animals? There is a fault in the creation,
Srila Prabhupada: It is not a fault. God is very kind.
If you want to eat animals, then He'll give you full facility.
God will give you the body of a tiger in your next life so that
you can eat flesh very freely. "Why are you maintaining
slaughterhouses? I'll give you fangs and claws. Now eat."
So the meat-eaters are awaiting such punishment. The animal-eaters
become tigers, wolves, cats, and dogs in their next life-to get