Like a good many Hindus I am a vegetarian. I try to observe the principle of ahimsa in its many forms, and non-meat-eating, for me, is one of them. So whenever there is a “pizza party” I put in a request for a cheese pizza. This I did today for a send-off we had for a co-worker’s last day at the company. Only it was a half-and-half pizza so one half was pepperoni and I did not notice this while digging in. Thick cheese plus thin pepperoni concealed underneath thick cheese equals me noticing halfway into my second slice that I’d been eating pepperoni. Not having had pepperoni in a few years, it might be understandable why I did not recognize the flavor/texture. Though I guess I should have noticed that something was amiss. But I didn’t. Anyway, a colleague saw me lifting up the cheese and finding the pepperoni. She told me to just set that slice aside and just get a slice of the cheese-only variety. I began to keep eating, saying “Well I guess it won’t kill me at this point.”
I am very conflicted when situations like this arise. I have accidentally eaten meat before since becoming Hindu/vegetarian and I usually just pick out the meat I find and set it on the side of the plate, and continue to eat, so as to at least show thankfulness to those who prepared the food.
The problem is this: The food gets eaten (for the most part) but the meat still lays aside, wasted. Today I thought about finishing the slice I was working on (all of it) because like many vegetarians, since it is a moral life-choice, I don’t want a life to have “gone to waste” if that slice, or just the pepperoni is thrown in the garbage. But I also don’t eat meat because of the tamasic qualities one might ingest having consumed a slaughtered animal. To complicate things more, I finally decided I would set the half-eaten slice of pepperoni pizza aside because I knew that I had been nauseous on other occasions after eating meat. What it came down to was I didn’t think that putting my system through that was the proper way to honor the pig in question. Sounds like a bit of self-interest when I think about it too much.
Anyroad, that is how I justified my conclusion today, quick thinking though it was. I know that all of it is a matter of personal moral conviction. Just wonder what others who are vegetarian think of situations like the above.
While I am on the general subject, how do I make loved ones understand that, “No I don’t think I am going to anger God, No I am not going to Hell, and No I do not have to do penance” after having eaten meat? I can only tell them that so much. But it still leaves the question open “Then what is the problem?, if it is a religious conviction?” How do I explain it in not so many words?