My friends who eat non veg say that fruits and vegetables also have life. So eating them is also killing and thus a sin. They argue with me that eating plants is same as eating animals. How can I answer them?
(Radhika Potdar)
Our Reply: We agree that both plants and animals have life, but the animals have a well developed nervous system which the plants lack. Because of this nervous system animals, like humans, feel pain when they are hurt. On the other hand the plants don't feel pain when they are cut and many times subsisting on them may not involve killing  for example while eating fruits, leaves etc. Therefore, killing animals involves a heavier karma then killing plants. ]ivo jivasya jivanam, one living being is food for another (Bhag 1.13.47). For survival we depend on other living entities but we have the choice to obtain our food with minimum violence. A cursory visit to a slaughterhouse is enough to give a glimpse of the pain involved in non vegetarian food. Following the instructions of Lord Krsna in Bhagavad Gita 3.13, Hare Krsna devotees offer food without onion and garlic to Lord Krsna and then partake of the remnants. This sanctified food, also called prasadam, is free from all bad karma of violence.
This is in reference to the letter of Prahlada Priya Dasa (March 2008). He asked about the effect of the song 'Bhool bhulaiya' in which Hare Krsna Hare Rama is sung. In reply to the question I read that since a mundane person had sung this song the names here are not holy, so it will therefore have no good effect as we may do by chanting the names of God. This answer contradicts with another write up in page no. 14 of the same issue (Nectarean Verses) in which it is written: 'One who chants the holy name of the Lord is immediately freed from the reactions of unlimited sins, even if he chants indirectly [to indicate something else], jokingly, for musical entertainment, or even neglectfully. This is accepted by all the learned scholars of the scriptures.' S.B 6.2.14. Kindly clear this doubt.
(Gaurav Singh,New Delhi.)
Our Reply: The glories of the holy name as mentioned in the scriptures are true in all respects. At the same time Srila Prabhupada writes: "One may receive a published mantra anywhere, but unless it is accepted through the chain of disciplic succession, the mantra does not act. It is said by authoritative sources that any mantra chanted without having been received from the disciplic succession has no efficacy." (S.B 4.S.53 Purport)
He stresses this point again in purport to SrimadBhagavatam 4.24.31-32: "Lord Siva personally chanted the mantra so that the mantra would be more powerful. When a mantra is chanted by a great devotee, the mantra becomes more powerful. Although the Hare Krsna maha mantra is powerful in itself, a disciple upon initiation receives the mantra from his spiritual master, for when the mantra is chanted by the spiritual master, it becomes more powerful.
The drawbacks of hearing the mantra from professional singers is described in Sri Caitanya caritdmrta Antya lila 1.101: "Srila Sanatana Gosvami has forbidden us to hear the holy name of Krsna chanted by non Vaisnavas, such as professional actors and singers, for it will have no effect. It is like milk touched by the lips of a serpent."
The conclusion is that the singers in the movies may sing Hare Krsna Hare Rama, but their words have no power to ch ange the h eart.
Answers to the questions were written by Murari Gupta Dasa.