Don't know if the results have reached St. Peter at his heavenly post yet, but People magazine has conducted a poll to find out what their readers consider a sin. Respondents rated a number of sins according to how guilty each made them feel, andPeople then compiled a list ranking the most sinful (murder) to the least sinful (taping off TV and radio). And the results indicate that Americans have a most peculiar conception of sin.

Sinner's Choice

The persons participating in this poll felt more guilty about misrepresenting what they're selling, for example, than they did about having an abortion. Laziness bothered them more than premarital sex. Cutting into lines ranked more sinful than either mercy killing or unwed parenthood. Reading or viewing pornography was more acceptable than overeating.

We may be amused by the novelty of such a poll (conducted at a time when people consider "sin" as outdated as petticoats), but we may also detect sobering evidence of America's ignorance of the basic laws of God. Even if everyone agrees that drinking alcohol is less sinful than neglecting the right to vote, how significant is our opinion? It's like going to the state penitentiary and polling the inmates to discern what constitutes a crime. You would probably get some interesting answers, but they would have no effect on the laws of the state. The courts would continue to sentence lawbreakers, regardless of the approval or disapproval of the criminal sector. Similarly, what does it matter what you or I think is sinful? The important consideration is what Godthinks.

Logically, we should turn to the scriptures to understand what God considers sin. Nowadays, however, even the teachings of the Bible are twisted to conform to the permissiveness of the times. In another section of the poll, People's readers ranked the Ten Commandments (remember those?) according to degree of difficulty. They found that the hardest commandment to keep is "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain." Apparently, even on the request of the Lord it is exceedingly difficult to honor His holy name. Most people don't even conceive of God as having a name they simply say "God," and even that is abused. The next most difficult commandment was observing Sabbath, followed by keeping one's eyes off one's neighbor's wife. It's not that people don't know that these things are wrong, but they feel it's too difficult for them to comply.

At the other end of the list were commandments that were the "easiest" to follow. Interestingly, the same group who rated "industrial spying" as more sinful than "atheism" cited "Thou shalt have no other Gods before Me" as the second easiest commandment to obey. Routinely, people worship material opulence with more reverence than they worship the Supreme Lord, finding it difficult to set aside one day a week, as they indicated in the poll, to observe the Sabbath. Do Americans honestly find having "no other Gods" an easy commandment to obey?

The commandment that received the honor of being the simplest to follow is "Thou shalt not kill." And on the surface that seems reasonable enough. Nearly everyone seems to abhor killing. Yet every week in America, millions of animals are slaughtered and their flesh roasted, garnished, and consumed by millions of Americans who feel that to kill is wrong. The profundity of God's instructions has been lost in superficial interpretations. God, however, sees all creatures as His own, and He is adamant that they all be protected.

Bewildered by the glitter of sensual attractions, cheated by ignorant political and religious leaders, and unable to perceive the higher purpose of life, today's blithe sinners have no understanding of the implications of their sins. The unpleasant results of sinful life come, however, regardless of one's opinions, just as fire burns a small child despite his ignorance of the danger. We are happier when we obey the laws of the Lord, peacefully submitting to His desires and relying on His protection. Lord Krsna promises that He cares for those souls surrendered to Him. The devotee's life is much more pleasant than a life of rebellious disregard for God's will; it is fueled by loving reciprocation with the Lord, who can bestow far greater happiness than we can even imagine.

Meat Hooked

by Kundali dasa

I had occasion recently to visit the home of a friend who is taking to Krsna consciousness. He wanted me to meet his mother and sister. My friend's sister was very favorably disposed toward his becoming Krsna conscious, but his mother was skeptical. She wanted me to know that she, being a Christian, could not encourage her son's commitment to Krsna consciousness.

When I explained to her that Krsna consciousness is like Christ consciousness because both Christ and Krsna taught devotion, service, and surrender to God above all other considerations, she agreed. She admitted seeing no contradiction between Christ's instruction "I am the son of God the Father; worship my Father" and Krsna's instruction "I am the Father, worship Me."

Meet Hooked

We talked for a while about the universality of Krsna consciousness. She voiced various doubts, and I responded to them with reason and scriptural evidence. More and more she was agreeing with the Krsna conscious outlook and was becoming pleased with the discussion. At one point she turned to her son and said, "He is someone I can really talk to," implying that their discussions had not gone as nicely as the one we were having.

After about an hour, she brought out her deepest doubt about Krsna consciousness. "One thing I can't accept," she said pointedly, "is your rule against meat-eating. I don't see what's so bad about eating meat. The Bible permits it. I don't eat a lot of meat myself, but I do believe we need to eat a little meat for health."

"Even if the Bible permits meat-eating," I said, "your scripture by no means considers it the ideal standard. The ideal is given in the Ten Commandments: 'Thou shalt not kill.' A faithful follower of Jesus Christ should try to abide by this. After all, Jesus did say, 'If you love me, then follow my commandments."'

"They say it means murder," she said.

"In Krsna consciousness, we are not whimsical about the scriptural statements. If God said 'kill' we take it that He meant 'kill,' not 'murder.'"

"What does Krsna say in your book?"

"In Bhagavad-gita, Krsna says, 'All living entities subsist on food grains.' He doesn't mention any meat or flesh foods, because even the flesh-eating animals must rely on grains that sustain their prey. Krsna further instructs us, 'All that you do, all that you eat, all that you offer and give away, should be done as an offering unto Me.' Since we are to eat only what's been offered to Krsna, and since He will not accept any offerings of flesh, we never touch meat, which is actually decaying, toxin-loaded carcasses."

"I don't know," she sighed. "It's hard for me to believe that for all these years they've been saying we need meat for nutrition and it's not true."

"Not only do we not need it," I said, "but meat is positively bad for your health. Colon cancer, the second most prevalent type of cancer, is fostered by the high fat and low fiber of the meat-eater's diet. And don't forget heart disease. Here, too, meat in the diet is a major culprit.

"With what we know about diet and so forth today, even if a person has no spiritual inclination whatsoever, meat-eating is still not justifiable; it's bad for our physical as well as our spiritual well-being."

"If meat is so bad for us, why do they allow it?"

"Because 'they' are the same materialistic people who tell us that the real men drink alcohol and that you've come a long way if you smoke cigarettes. People fall for it. Why should 'they' make an exception of meat? The point is that regardless of what 'they' may do, you have to decide: Are you determined to live at the cost of another's life? Personally, I don't find that a hard decision to make. Could you imagine Jesus, whom you consider the personification of compassion and mercy, at the corner grocery store trying to decide if he wants beef or veal for the weekend?"

"Honestly, no."

"Well, there's your answer."

We talked for a while longer, and I had to leave. My friend's mother thanked me for the nice discussion, but as I went out the front door, her parting words to me were, "I still have doubts about the meat, though."

On the drive home my friend wanted to know more about the effect of meat eating on spiritual life. "It's very difficult for a person who eats meat to make spiritual advancement," I told him. "Srila Prabhupada used to say that meat-eating is a sign of envy. One lives at the cost of another's well-being, takes another's life unnecessarily. That is envy, when we covet what another has."

"Isn't envy the very reason we fell from the spiritual world in the first place?"

"Yes. And meat-eating is a symptom that our envy is still there. On one level, a meat-eater simply wants to gratify his palate. On a deeper level, a meat-eater fancies that his power of life increases with the more life he consumes, that it makes him a more heroic man. Such a person has a difficult time making spiritual advancement. The Srimad-Bhagavatam says that such a hard-hearted killer of animals cannot appreciate Krsna consciousness."

We drove along in silence. Later that day, another friend came by to see me and brought a copy of The Journal of Health and Healing. He wanted me to see an article he had just read on the chemistry and electronics of the human brain.

The article explained how scientists at Loma Linda University discovered that guanine, found in pork, and xanthine, found in all flesh foods, can significantly impair the electronic functions of the brain because they depress the cortex, the upper brain. At the same time, meat increases the level of steroid hormones in the blood, thus chemically stimulating the hypothalamus, the lower brain. This upsets the delicate balance between these two sections of the brain. The result of this imbalance is an inefficient brain:

… mediocrity in discrimination, in problem definition, in poise, in judgement, in penetration, in intelligence….
On the other hand, fresh fruits, whole, vitamin-rich grains, mineral-rich vegetables, and the finest quality protein and fat available from nuts and seeds are designed to provide not only for adequacy, but purity. Pure food helps the body make pure blood, and pure blood helps the brain to function with clarity, efficiency, and excellence.

The article also mentioned that whole grains increase the ability of the cells to produce acetylcholine, a chemical transmitter that opens up the brain cells so that electronic waves can go through, thus facilitating the brain's work.

As I read this information, I remembered quoting Krsna's words that morning, "All living entities subsist on food grains." I also recalled that the Vedas state that by eating pure foodstuffs, our existence becomes purified; by purification of our existence, finer tissues in our memory become purified; when memory is purified, we can understand the meaning of the scriptures and make progress on the path of liberation.