Dietary Taboo of Religious People

There are many theories proposed to explain why Jews, Muslims and some of the pious Christians cannot consume pork or pig products. Reasons such as pigs are filthy, pork are extremely contaminated, pig is the object of worship in the Abrahamic religions, etc are frequently given. But you should not listen to any of these because all of them are not correct.

The correct reason is very simple: because this is an order directly from God. For Muslims, this order can be found in Al-Baqarah (سورة البقرة) Verse 173. And for Jews and Christians, the order is explicitly mentioned in Leviticus Chapter 11 Verse 7.

Accordingly, an animal is edible if only it is clean. And a clean animal fulfills two criteria: it chews cud and has split hoof. In Leviticus 11:4 to 11:7, God mentioned Moses and Aaron, four examples which fail His criteria. Because cows and goats fulfill the two criteria, beef and mutton are considered clean for consumption.

However, because the above Mosaic dietary criteria have been refuted many times in the New Testament (e.g. Matthew 11:4 - 10). Modern Christians can now eat anything they like, including pork. But the Muslims and Jews still stick to the old instruction.

While cow is considered perfectly ok to eat for Abrahamists, it is a taboo food in Hinduism because the Hindus believe that cow is a sacred animal and it is a grave sin to consume it. In fact, devout adherents of religions of Indian origin like Hindus, Jains and Buddhists consume only vegetables and reject all types of meat products because they practice the principle of Ahimsa (अहिंसा, Sanskrit word for non-violence). Interpreted plainly, Ahimsa could mean "do not kill". Accordingly, this principle must be observed strictly in order to achieve enlightenment.

When Buddhism was introduced in China during the Eastern Han Dynasty, it faced fierce competition from the newly formed Daoism by Zhang Ling (张陵). Thus, many of its original rules was reinterpreted, reformulated and relaxed in order to suit the local norm and to win more devotees.

So, it became acceptable for some of the Chinese Buddhists to practice Ahimsa only on certain days of the month (e.g. 1st and 15th). And for some other Chinese Buddhists (e.g. devotees of Avalokitesvara अवलोकितेश्वर or Guanyin 观音), all meat products are allowable except for beef. It is believed that cow is reincarnation of Guanyin's father and it is not very proper to eat her father.


Popular posts from this blog

The Mathematics of Honeycomb: Part I


The Mathematics of Honeycomb: Part II