If aquatics are lower than plants in the Vedic evolutionary scale then why is eating aquatics forbidden and eating plants allowed?
From geetanjali nath
In “Back to Godhead” Nov 2011, there was a cover story by you , titled “ Who fixed the match of our life?”. In this article there is a photo feature of “The evolutionary scale”. In this particular photo the evolutionary scale is in descending order and ‘Aquatics’ are shown below the “non-moving living entities”. One of the regulatory principles is “no meat eating”. Honoring only vegetarian prasad is permitted . As we see in this evolutionary scale that the aquatics are below the plants ,in descending order of evolution , does it indicate that the consciousness level in aquatics is less than in plants and vegetables? If true, then why are we permitted to take only vegetarian prasad and not the aquatics which is less conscious than the plants.
ANSWER : The evolutionary scale is not necessarily in terms of development of consciousness, it is more in terms of the proximity or possibility of eventual full development of consciousness. If we look at it from the point of view of modern science there are certain aquatics like dolphins which are knows to have quite advanced consciousness. They are said to have moods, we are talking from the scientific perspective now, and they are among the most advanced aquatics, of course they are mammals. So they are not literally aquatic, not exactly fish, in terms of their full body structure, they are remarkably similar to other fish and they are quite similar to advanced mammals among whom humans are also there. So this classification is primarily, as I said , is according to the potentiality and possibility of spiritual advancement. So if you want to know the potentiality of , if we want to classify the species according to the level of consciousness, then there is another classification that is given by Chaitanya Mahaprabhu to Rupa Goswami in Chaitanya charitamrta where he classifies the living being as sthavar and janama , moving and non- moving, and then among the moving, he classifies, it goes on and then animals and humans , and among humans there are those who are civilized and those who are uncivilized , among who are civilized there are karmakandis, jyana kandis, Among gyana kandis there are those who come to the end of gyan by understanding the eternal absolute truth, and among them are bhaktas. and then among them there are pure devotees. And this hierarchy is once summarized in Srimad Bhagvatam, sixth canto, ‘durlabha prasanta atama…………………………, so even among muktas the devotees are extremely rare, so this was just one part of the hierarchy that Chaitanya Mahaprabhu has described, that was in terms of evolution of consciousnes. Here the hierarchy is primarily described in terms of the proximity and potential to the source of enlightenment, this is both literal and metaphorically. Metaphorically the sun , is the source of light, those living beings who live under water such as aquatics, they are considered to be further away from the sun, from the source of illumination and from the source of enlightenment. So that is figuratively speaking and literally speaking also the potentiality for self realization and spiritual advancement culminating into devotional service, is much more on the land than in the ocean. All the temples all the devotees all the scriptures, all yatras, all these take place on land, they do not take place under water. so in that sense, it is not that the aquatics have less consciousness than plants rather they are situated in a physical local where potentiality for development of consciousness is less. So that’s why the evolutionary scale is not according to the present level of consciousness, it is according to the potential for the development of consciousness, and that potential is more for trees than for aquatics, generally speaking. So that’s why Shri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, to Haridas Thakur, in the discussion that when the holy name is chanted in the echo is heard, so Haridas thakura is saying that it is not the echo , it is the trees that are responding to the chanting of the holy name. point here is that the trees are also able to hear the chanting of the holy name. So this classification is according to the potential for the future development of consciousness that is there. Certainly Krishna indicates that on what may be taken as diet is , patram, pushpam, phalam toyam. The very fact that he does not include, He includes plants over there, He includes fruits, includes water, but He does not include fish over there, indicating that, there is also that fish are not a part of the human diet, the implicit acknowledgement at a higher level of consciousness. So people who eat fish are called fishte tarien , they are normally vegetarian but they eat fish, so that is something which is actually a deviation from the vedic norms, and the vedic norm as we pointed out is primarily to be vegetarian, which basically includes the plants foods which is first offered to the Lord and then taken as prasad. So we recognize that fist also has advanced consciousness which we can see from the very fact that they are able to move and Chaitanya Mahaprabhu classifies living beings following the vedic tradition assthanama, chara chara in BG thireenth chapter, there He mentions this that asthavar and jangamam. If you want to look at consciousness then expression of consciousness is at various levels , firstly motion, so fish move whereas plants don’t and that’s why it is said to be more consciousness, and they also express emotion more than the plants, even from the biological point of view, the nervous system, fish has a more developed nervous system than plants. According from the biological or physiological point of view they can experience pain much more than the plants and that’s why it is prohibited in the vedic literature as far as the eating food is concerned.