> A last question : is vegetarianism mandatory in the vedic
> conception of life ?
The Vedic conception of life is very broad, and there are allowances for all kinds of people. For those seriously trying to make spiritual progress, vegetarianism is mandatory, but it goes beyond that even. In the Bhagavad Gita and other texts eating is considered a spiritual meditation, and part of the meditation is to offer what one eats to the supreme conscious being who is the provider of all that. In the Bhakti school of Vedic thought and practice, love and devotion are part of eating. So if you are offering a meal to a friend you love, you usually will not offer something you know your friend does not like. So in making offerings to the supreme being, one takes the likings of the the supreme being into account, and in the texts of the bhakti school, it is said that the supreme being prefers offerings of a vegetarian kind. After such vegetarian things have been prepared and offered to the supreme being, they are considered spiritualized, and karma free. The Sanskrit word for such food is prasada, which means mercy. If you go to Vishnu or Krishna temples throughout India you will see that there are very elaborate offerings made to the temple deities, after which the food is distributed as prasada to pilgrims and worshipers. Some reflection of this may be seen in other spiritual traditions as well, where some food and meals are seen as sacred. But in the Vedic tradition, every meal should be seen like that.
However, the Vedic tradition, being broad, does make allowances for people to eat meat. The allowance may be seen as a kind of restricted license, which is actually directed at controlling the urge to eat meat. There are certain rituals by which certain animals (usually goats, but definitely not cows) can be killed, and their flesh can be offered to certain demigods, and then the flesh can be consumed. So in the traditional Vedic culture that allowance is there. But there is no allowance for big slaughterhouses, and unrestricted meat eating. Certain classes of people, such as warriors of a certain kind, were also allowed to consume the flesh of wild animals they killed in the forests. If you go carefully through all the Vedic texts, you can even find some allowance, in very special circumstances, for the consumption of cow meat. But the general practice for those trying to make rapid spiritual advancement is to take only vegetarian foods first offered in sacrifice to the supreme being. There are analogies to this in other spiritual traditions.
Michael A. Cremo