How practitioners of Hinduism feel about animals

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2018

20 Pages, Grade: 1,5



1 Introduction

2 About Emotions and Feelings
2.1 Emotion
2.2 Feeling

3 Hinduism
3.1 The Hindu Way of Life

4 Animals in Hinduism .
4.1 Status of Animals
4.2 Treatment of Animals
4.3 Sacred Animals in Hinduism: The Cow

5 Conclusion

6 Works cited

1 Introduction

The importance of animals in human lives differs greatly from one person to an- other, especially from one culture to the other (Silbajoris, 10). Animals of all kinds have always been omnipresent for mankind – for the purposes of domestication, as workers, as companions, as tools or as resources in the form of food for consuming (Cook, 170). They appear in ancient cave paintings, and nowadays on commercial farms. As long as humanity existed, animals have always played an important role and society could not have advanced to the point it has today (171).

Nevertheless, there are different perceptions of animals and how they are treat- ed. A popular instance is the case of dogs. In some cultures, like the United States or the United Kingdom, they are loved and considered a great pet to have with the fami- ly and at home. In other cultures, such as those where Islam is the majority religion, dogs may be perceived as dirty or dangerous. In China, milk-fed puppies are consid- ered a delicacy (Mc Lachlan, 124).

So why do human beings assign different levels of importance to animals? In Hinduism, every single living being possesses a soul, from the animals down to the insects and tiny organisms. In their belief system, like human beings, animals are al- so beings and subject to the cycle of birth and death and the laws of nature (Jayaram, 5). Hinduism is a compassionate religion and treats all living beings with great respect. This could be one explanation why animals occupy an important place in Hinduism.

According to that, Hindus have special feelings about animals and treat them in another way then people of other religions and cultures do. A widespread view of Jains, Buddhists and Hindus is that animals should not be used by humans as foodor for other purposes (Majupuria, 4). Differing attitudes and beliefs regarding the rela-tionship of humankind to other creatures lies in the inner motivation of how to see and treat them and is expressed in forms of emotions and feelings towards the ani- mals. Therefore, the human-animal-relationship, in a Hinduist way of life, depends on their belief system and hence emotions and feelings are coherent with that. Accord- ingly, faith determines how these people, who belong to the oldest religion in the world, feel about animals.

The purpose of this paper is to examine how Hindus feel about animals, where these feelings come from and how they are expressed in their treatment. We willlearn how animals are treated in Hinduism and what status they have. In particular, the cow will be examined more closely for the reason of being the most sacred ani- mal of the Hindus. Since the Hindu philosophy refers to a group of world views, a brief review of the history of Hinduism will be portrayed in chapter three. In order to understand the expression of emotions and feelings of Hindus towards animals, theterms emotion and feeling will be explained hereafter and brought together in context later on in the discussion of the significance of animals in Hinduism.

Just like Mahatma Gandhi once said “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated”.

2 About Emotions and Feelings

A Hindu carries a different way of how to see and treat an animal than people from other parts of the world which can be illustrated by the example of sacred ani- mals. “Animals came to be associated with gods and goddesses in many different ways. Man worships the gods and goddesses …” (Majupuria, 2). In order to express admiration, which is an emotion according to Plutchik’s wheel of emotions; and to feel honor for an animal, a person needs to build up a positive mindset. Feelings and emotions are two words used interchangeably, although there are distinct differences between them. Feelings happen in an individual’s brain and are an interpretation of emotion. Feelings assign meaning to emotion and can be learned; they are personal and biographical (Mesquita, 143). Emotions are static or a process; an expression of feelings and related to knowledge. Generally said, we can share our emotions and understand the language of feelings (Smith, 5).

Feelings and emotions are two sides of the same coin and highly interconnected, but two different things. By understanding the difference between these two terms and becoming aware of them, it will be easier to understand how Hindus navigate and experience the animal-human-relationship.

2.1 Emotion

In the Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary, the noun emo•tion is defined as a strong feeling such as love, fear or anger; the part of a person’s character that con- sists of feelings. The word emotion comes from the Latin word emovere and means to transfer one thing to another (Albert, 1204). Emotions are either static or a pro- cess. They are the expression and vehicle of feelings and often used to trigger ac-tions and decisions. As a tool, emotions navigate and make sense of the world; they are related to human’s knowledge (Solomon, 82). The author of “History of Emotions” Peter Stearns supports this claim by stating that emotions are changing with their cul- ture and are learnable. For instance accidie used to be a common emotion and a by- word for disgust and boredom of religious duties (Stearns). On the basis of the histo- ry and meaning of the expression emotion, an understanding of why people act in a certain way comes along and the fact that actions are based on emotions makes sense (Stearns).

According to “Are Emotions a Kind of Practice” by Monique Scheer, we do not only experience and have emotions, but manifest and do them. She argues that emo- tions are designed to function in a social context and are a tool to engage with the world and to respond to it (Scheer). In such way, emotions are linked to things which historically change (e.g social context, the environment) and thus are historical. If we do emotions she says, the emotional experience (inner manifestation) is something that happens in the brain as well as in our whole body and is expressed through ac- tivity (outer manifestation). The inner and outer manifestations are seen as two sepa- rate phenomena (Scheer, 100).

The Bourdieuian approach states that this experiencing body is a knowing body; a “mindful body” which processes and keeps information from past experiences and then contributes this knowledge to human activity and consciousness (Scheer). It becomes clear that it needs both - the body and the mind; as well as the social, cul- tural and historical context in which body and mind are situated in.

Assigning all of the above said to Hinduism, a manifestation and action taking process happens because of the social context Hindus find themselves in. They are guided through their body and mindset and perform certain emotional styles due toan internalized trait (Scheer, 100). “Emotional experience is culturally constructed” (Mesquite, 77) and explains why Hindus have and experience emotions differently than people of other religions do.

2.2 Feeling

Looking up the meaning in a dictionary, “feelings [are] a person’s emotion rather than their thoughts or ideas”. [A feeling is] “something that you feel through the mind or through senses” (Solomon, 566). Feelings are a result of processes within thebody and can be seen as bodily (physical) sensations; they are a reaction to emo- tions that are personal and acquired through experience (Cvetkovich). There are over 4000 feelings listed in the English language originating from emotional literacy which is defined as the ability to express feelings with specific feeling words, in 3 word sentences” (Solomon, 96), like for instance “I feel rejected”. “Two people can have the same feeling, walking on their own foot through a zoo, seeing a lion behind bars” (97) – feelings may range from curiosity to admiration or bitterness if they be- lieve lions should not be caged.

Silvan Tomkins states “we have argued… that affective responses [feelings] are the primary motives of human beings (Tomkins, 217). Further, the insight of a pro- fessor of neuroscience at the University of California and author of several books on this subject, is that “feelings are mental experiences of body states which arise as the brain interprets emotions, themselves physical states arising from the body’s re- sponses to external stimuli” (D’Amasio). Simply said, a feeling is an experience of emotions.

In order to move on with the subject of the treatment of animals in Hinduism, as well as their view about them, it is relevant to keep these clarifications in mind. However, in the context of this paper, the main focus will lie on the origin of the Hindu’s thoughts and feelings about animals, actions they take because of that and the results in their treatment of animals.


Excerpt out of 20 pages


How practitioners of Hinduism feel about animals
University of Tubingen  (Anglistik)
It's just Emotions? On the role of Affects and Emotions
Catalog Number
ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
Affects, emotions, animal, animals, hinduism, feelings, religion, practitioner, domestication, India
Quote paper
Janine Bergmeir (Author), 2018, How practitioners of Hinduism feel about animals, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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