Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Printable Version

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Hinduism And Bio-ethics - ramana - 01-11-2006

I would like members to discuss the issues of Bio-Ethics from a Hindu prespective. The topics are the status of Stem cell research and an immediate view about trans-genic food crops- eg pest resistant vegetables using BT gene and others to increase crop yield etc.
How does one be a Hindu and deal with advances in Bio- Technology?
A google search yielded book reviews about this subject from a prof in Hawaii but what is the opinion from India?
Amazon review: Hindu Bioethics for the 21 century

Eg: Google search on Hindu opionion on BioEthics

Where do the Shankaracharyas stand on this?

My own view on the latter question as posted in BRF is
<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->A***, What is needed is a re-interpretation of the Dhrama Shastras in light of bio-engineering. Its really a question of bio-ethics globally.

One way is to say that the Shastras injunctions on animal consumption relate to animals which were live at one time. When genetic material is fused into plant matter it looses its primary animal origins. Also if plant genes are introduced into animal matter the plant genes also loose their vegetarain nature. In other words the primary genetic material is the driver. But then this is a topic far beyond BRF's ken.<!--QuoteEnd--><!--QuoteEEnd-->

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - ramana - 01-11-2006

A Canadian doctor's views in CMAJ: Bioethics for clinicians: 19. Hinduism and Sikhism Coward and Singh

Deals with ethical issues for medical patients of Hindu and Sikh origin. Not really about transgenics etc.

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 01-12-2006

Here is my opinion on this:

1. First stem cell research.

Stems cells are acquired from aborted fetuses.

According to Manusmrti abortion is a great pApam equal to go-hatyA (cow killing) or brahma-hatyA (killing a brAhmana). Further the mother, father and the doctor who does the abortion will sink into naraka loka after death.

Now a certain percentage of births get aborted naturally. In these cases scientists can collect the stem cells and do research on it.

But killing any fetus is a crime and should be banned.

2. Bio-engineering

The case where animal genes are infused into plants to create new genetically engineered plants is not against Dharma at all.

No animal is actually being killed here.

The Hindu classification of food is not vegetarian/non-veg. It is 3 fold, namely SAtvika, rAjasika and tAmasika.

So Yogis should do research on what effect these new foods have on the mind and classify them accordingly.

Onions and garlic are tAmasika, whereas chicken meat is rAjasika. So chicken is ranked higher than onions or garlic.

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 01-12-2006

Reason to avoid non-vegetarian food was to have Satvik mind or way of life or how to nourish ones soul. Combine Satvik and tAmasik should change person’s genetic makeup. New bio-eng food will affect future generation.

Mad Cow disease is a good example.

Regarding stem cell I agree with mitradena.
Purpose of religion is to bind community together and establish rules and way to lead righteous life.
I am afraid of human cloning, what it will do the society. None will worry about death or birth or how to lead life because it will not matter. If soul exist, what will happen to soul.

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - gangajal - 01-12-2006

It is true that killing embryos is wrong in general. The situation regarding stem cell research is, however, different. There the stem cells could eventually save millions of lives. In this kind of situation I do not see anything wrong with such research. It may be necessary to tolerate some harm in order to do immense good.


Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 01-12-2006

Re: Stem Cells:
The research is very important, as it may allow one to regenrate organs that fail. Currently, translplants are the only solution which requires a donor, and associated problems of scarcity as well as risks of rejection etc. If succesful, this will allow people to live longer and healthier. Not a bad bargain.

Currently stem-cells are derived from foetuses. But it doesn't have to be so. Currently we don't know enough about the stem-cells, so a primary source in foetuses is needed. But when the research matures it may become possible to bypass that stage. For example a recent Harvard Med School study showed that stem cells can possibly be grown and multiplied.

Re: Cloning:
A cloned baby will share the same genotype as the orignator. But the baby's phenotype will still be shaped by his environment. There are a lot of things that happen in physical bodies during development that are determined by the type of life led, nutrition, environment, emotional nurturing, intellectual stimulation, education etc. When grown up, a cloned baby is likely to be very different from the originator in personality,. Even though physical traits may have a lot of similaroties but they areare also affected by how a child was nurtured, food, habits etc.

Regarding "souls", a soul has nothing to do with bodies. Two bodies may have identical genetic make-up, but why should that impact souls. I can easily see different souls occupying genetically identical bodies. There is nothing in hinduism that brings any concerns regarding that aspect. A cloned baby will have a separate soul and will be his/her own person, not a carbon copy of the originator.

People forget that cloning is not much different from sexual-reproduction. In cloning no admixture of new genes happens. While in sexual-reproduction, genes of mother & father mix together. A new baby in either case doesn't have brand new genes completely different from the existing genetic pool. It has the same old genes that existed in the genetic pool, although in sexual reproduction, the genes get swapped around a bit. If concerns for "souls" can arise regarding clones, then they should also arise with respect to sexually-reproduced babies. Does a sexually reproduced baby carry half the father's soul and half the mother's?

A cloned baby will still take as many years to grow as a sexually reproduced baby. Looking into future I can imagine families with some sexually-reproduced children and maybe one or two cloned one. <!--emo&Tongue--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/tongue.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='tongue.gif' /><!--endemo--> It doesn't shock me. Perhaps similar to the idea of Moon being used as a trash-can for dumping toxic wastes for an overpopulated and overdeveloped earth, which shocks many, but not me.

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Hauma Hamiddha - 01-12-2006

Just as a biological aside (not really to do with the Hindu part): There are hardly any eukaryotic organisms (That includes us) which can really go without sex. Clonal reproduction is far cheaper, safer and more effective than sexual reproduction in terms of the basic biological factor: increasing fitness (=reproductive success). Yet it appears that most lineages that lost sex became extinct rapidly, and sex is preserved in eukaryotes overriding the other costs. So what ever the case clonal reproduction is not here to stay as a long term reproductive strategy. We also do not clearly if certain issues such as chromosomal defects and epigenetic problems subtly affect the fitness of clones. I also fail to see if cloning will ever be a better choice over regular gene therapy for obtaining desirable traits in offspring.

Hence, I think cloning is good for therapeutic purposes, but it is not a great idea for reproduction.

Mythologically the Hindu system has imagined cloning (the dhArtarAshTras), spare organs outside the body (ahi-rAvana), and artificial insemination for superior offspring (vasiShTha). So I believe there is nothing out of the way for Hindus to accept these matters. Given that many hindus believe in a non-material Atman, its decoupling with embryogenesis and the like, there may also not be any issues with stem cells.

Would anyone feel that the Japanese humanoid robot will have an Atman?

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 01-12-2006

The biggest plus point of sexual reproduction is that it is intimately tied up with natural selection. If environmental conditions change sverely then many genetic combination will be eliminated by natural selction. While new combinations that can survive the environmental shock will gain advantage and proliferate. This is possible only if genes can be mixed around, as in sexual reproduction. Cloning is a dead end as far as natural selection is concerned. And the "technology" for sexual-reproduction is extremely widespread, simpler and cheaper compared to cloning anyday. <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo--> So, as far as natural slection is concerned sexual-reproduction will hold the sway. [P.S. Hauma, cloning is "cheaper" for nature as compared to sexual reproduction. But as far as humans are concerned, sexual-reproduction will always be much cheaper to cloning. ]

But in case such environmental shocks are not imminent, and humans have perfected the technology to clone, then cloning will happen. May be the husband loves his wife so much that he wants someone "like" her to survive even after her. So they decide to get a daughter cloned after the mother. I can imagine similar "emotional" reasons. People who depend strongly on physical appearance and physical prowess for success, such as movie stars and athletes, may be especially tempted to try cloning.

I am sure there will be some kind of genetic copyright legislation, that gives an individual all rights on his/her genetic material. One possible use/abuse could be that geneticall well endowed people "selling" their cells for cloning purposes. But is that that much different from the present society where rich people often manage to effectively "buy" genetically well endowed partners for sexual reproduction.

Future Japanese Robots will surely perform many roles, such as assistant, maid, spouse ... One kind of zombies the future society will have to deal with will be the people that stay completely separated from other humans, living in their own virtual world with internet and robots for company.

Robots obviously have a sensory system, an observation & analysis apparatus, and a motor system. So they do possess, senses, mind and action organs. As far as sAMkhya is concerned, manas, buddhi, ahamkara, j~Nana and karma indriyas are all material. So no conflict there. But will a robot ever have a "purusha", the witness consciousness? I think not in the near future. But I think in far enough future it may become possible. If "consciousness" is as immanent as we see scattered around in all sorts of life forms, then I don't see why it can't get manifested ina robot too. Science will have to gain a thorough understanding of consciousness for this to happen. Current understanding is very limited, but I don't think there is an upper bound.

So, I think robots can eventually have "consciousness". But is that identical to having a "soul" or jIva? I don't think so.

A "soul" is about what survives even after the death of thephysical body. A "consciousness" is a about present tense. An entity that is aware of its surroundings and responds as a single cohesive entity can be called conscious. Many species are believed to be conscious but supposedly don't have "souls" in the sense that nothing like a jIva survives after the death.

As far as I am concerned,an electron is conscious too. It senses (or observes) electro-magnetic , weak and graviatational forces and responds as a single entity. But a collection of electrons is normally not 'conscious' as a single entity. Although collective quantum phenomena exist such as superconductivity where, a collection of electron-pairs start behaving as "one" entity. In many situations, a collection of humans starts showing a distinct and cohesive personality too. In such situations I would call the collective entity conscious too. Japanese have to just manage to get the their robot's silicon neurons to learn to behave in some collective phenomena a-la Quantum mechanics. May be then the robot as a whole could be considered conscious.

In hinduism, jIva is intimately tied up with concept of karma and karma-phala, reincarnation etc. That is a big organizational machinery supposedly run by the ethics committes of the Lord(s) of Karma (karma-phaleSHu-juSHTAm ). <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo--> May be japanese can develop such organizational machinery for robots too, but I doubt it. <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 01-12-2006

Re: Food classifications:

Apart from the classification based on guNa (sAttvika, rAjasika and tAmasika) or nature of the food, the other classification is sAmiSha and nirAmiSha, based on the process through which the food is acquired.

<b>sAmiSha</b> = food that is obtained through violence upon a living being

<b>nirAmiSha</b> = food obtained without violence

Therefore milk is nirAmiSha, but meat is sAmiSha. Eggs are embryos and therfore are sAmiSha. Vegetables, fruits and grains are nirAmiSha. One can argue that even fruits, vegetables and grains involve some violence. But taking the fruits, vegetables, grains etc doesn't kill the plant/tree. And in many cases plants and trees voluntarily drop fruits and seeds etc anyway. Meat-eating is in another ballpark as no living animal voluntarily drops its body parts. Milking the cow is considered nirAmiSha as it doesn't do violence to the cow. Only violence could be to the calf who may be denied his food. But calves are allowed some milk and they are fed otherwise. So milk may be considered quite nirAmiSha.

That is the reason milk is non-vegetarian in western countries, but considered "vegetarian" in India. The problem is that English lacks the sAmiSha/nirAmiSha kind of classification, so Indians make do with "vegetarin/non-vegetarian" classification.

Therefore a so called "vegtarian" hindu is not really vegetarian, but nirAmiSha.

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 01-12-2006


When looked through the prism of sAmiSha/nirAmiSha, the concerns mentioned by you in the first post get diluted significantly.

Hinduism is not stuck on vegetable/animal classifcation. The paramount importance is given to "violence" or lack of it. It is connected with karma theory as violence and its fruits build up bad karma. For spiritual practices, where one is trying to dissolve as many karmas as possible, an strict adherence to ahiMsA is required which requires nirAmiSha food.

In that sense growing foetuses for the express purpose of stem cell research is an extreme order of hiMsA/violence, as Mitradena also mentioned.. And the traditional hindu view will be thoroughly opposed to it. In Hindu smR^itis, killing an embryo (bhrUNa-hatyA) is considered an extremely grave sin.

Use of dead embryos is alright as no hiMsA is involved.

In the same vein using transgenic plants is fine, as no violence is involved. As Mudy mentioned, valid concerns can still be present regarding guNa (sattvika etc) of the food.

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 01-12-2006

Sorry for a flurry of posts. <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo--> One last one:

Hinduism shows remarkable philosophical depth about the nature of food. References to "anna" are scattered all over the philosophical texts. Just for an illustration, "taittirIya-upaniShad" ends with the mention of a "sAma" song that a realized soul sings:

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin--><i>haaavu haaavu haaavu</i>
<i>aham annam, aham annam, aham annam</i>
(I am the food, I am the food, I am the food)

<i>aham annado aham annado aham annadaH</i>
( I am the eater, I am the eater, I am the eater)

<i>aham shlokakR^it, aham shlokakR^it, aham shlokakR^it, </i>
( I am the connection (between food and eater), I am the connection, I am the connection)

<i>ahamasmi prathamajA R^itAsya</i>
(I am the first born truth of this all)

<i>pUrvam devebhyo amR^itasya nAbhAyi</i>
(even before the gods were born, the navel of immortality)

<i>yo mA dadAti sa ideva mAvAH</i>
(one who gives me away(as food), I am his)

<i>aham annam annam-adantam admi</i>
(I the food, eat the eater)

<i>aham vishvaM bhuvanam abhyabhavAm</i>
(I subdue this whole world)

<i>suvarNa jyotIH</i>
(The golden light)

<i>ya evam veda</i>
(One who knows thus (truly knows))

(End of the upaniShad)

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - ramana - 01-12-2006

Ashok, Are we ready to summarize and put in an article? There are so many Hindus in Biotechnology- left and right all over US and in India I just wanted some pointers for guidance. Is there any alteration to the above conclusions based on Sankara's teachings?

So genetic material acquired by benign (non-himsa) methods is niramisha. What do Jain and Buddhist teachings inform us?

Anybody watching TV serial Reth on ZEETV? It is raising some disturbing issues but getting glossed over.

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 01-13-2006


I don't think there are any alterations to these in Shankara's system. I think same is the case with Budhist and Jaina tradition. It will take me a couple of days to get the actual quotes though.

If you think an article is needed, then I will be happy to work on it.


Hinduism And Bio-ethics - ramana - 01-13-2006

Ashok, Yes please. There are so many Inndians in Bio Tech and were quite surprised that there could be a Hindu view of bioethics when I asked them. Atleast it puts something on the net for ref. Thanks, ramana.
Will be glad to review before it gets released.

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 01-13-2006

OK. I will put together something.


Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Shambhu - 01-14-2006

A little bit without any references to Dharma:

stem cell research

What the public calls "embryonic stem cells" are cells derived from a blastocyst, a *microscopic* ball of cells. Not a recognizable embryo with eyes and limbs and all.

And blastocysts are made in a petri dish, not in a human mother!

Though the source of the cells is human, and so the ethical point remains, but it is nowhere as repugnant as Pro-Life groups make it out to be!!

No one thinks of the masses cured by stem cell research. If you need a bone marrow to try to cure your leukemia, just go do it. No pro-lifer will ever stop to say "ooh, that's stem cell stuff!" How can u have BMT without stem cells?

I have personally had little old ladies come up to me and ask me to do stem cell research and find a cure fast for their/their relations diseases (when they ask me what I do and when I tell them that I am in medical research).

Abortions is a whole different deal. But stem cells? Leave them alone!!!

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - ramana - 05-18-2006

Ashok, Any chance of getting it out by this summer?

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 07-16-2006

Hello, everyone. My name is Michael, and I'm writing from the U.S.

Preface: (a.) I'm neither Indian nor a Hindu, though my belief system and philosophy is based upon what I've learned through various texts on Hinduism and yoga; (b.) I'm writing this because I'd like to connect with others who think like me. I found this forum through a Google search on "bhagavad silicon." Ask me if you'd like the details.

I'm surprised and pleased to see that other people think like I do. No one around me would have any idea about what you've been talking about, nor do I think they would be open to learning about it. For the past 10 years I've looked at most of my academic studies as well as contemplations on life through the lens of yoga philosophy. And for some reason, since age 18, I've had a fixation on India --- its culture, its food, its religions, its beautiful women, etc. The more I study the more I come to realize how intellectually and spiritually wealthy and advanced India has been and is. Until now I've felt so alone in my thinking. Reading your words makes me feel like I'm reading the words of long, lost relatives who actually "get it." I feel rather silly writing this in this forum since it's so off-topic and, possibly, unwelcome. I hope I haven't offended anyone here. It's just that I feel inspired to say at least *something* now that I've seen proof that there are like-minded people out there. I certainly hope that your kind of thinking, which seems to come so naturally to you, makes its way out into the rest of the world to such an extent that there is no question as to its validity. In other words, I can't wait until doctors in the West speak regularly about gunas and nadis and prakriti and the like. There is so much --- thousands of years of research! --- that India has to offer to the world. I one day hope to make it to India and live there.

I suppose I'll chime in on the topic while I'm here.

> If "consciousness" is as immanent as we see scattered around
> in all sorts of life forms, then I don't see why it can't get manifested ina robot too

I agree. Whether or not that will happen will have to be decided by higher beings/governments, I think.

> So, I think robots can eventually have "consciousness".

As I understand it, it already is consciousness. There is nothing but consciousness. Whether or not it can or will be made to internally reflect that consciousness and thus become self aware remains to be seen. Ultimately its not up to us; if god wants it to be so then so it will be.

> But is that identical to having a "soul" or jIva? I don't think so.

I don't know. If the human machine, which is nothing but manifested thought energies, can be dreamed up, I don't see why a soul couldn't be interfaced with the experience of robot-ness if karma could be dissolved through that kind of experience. There are many lokas. Who is to say that on/in one of them something like a robot does not exist for the benefit of the soul?

I hope I'll someday be able to live around people like you. I feel alienated and misunderstood here.

Thanks for reading if you've read this far. Again, I hope I haven't offended anyone or put anyone off by effectively interrupting this thread with an out-of-context post.


Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 08-21-2006

<b>A Hindu view on drug use</b>
<i>By David Frawley</i>

Hinduism And Bio-ethics - Guest - 08-21-2006

<!--QuoteBegin-syndetic+Jul 16 2006, 02:19 PM-->QUOTE(syndetic @ Jul 16 2006, 02:19 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Hello, everyone.  My name is Michael, and I'm writing from the U.S.

Preface: (a.) I'm neither Indian nor a Hindu, though my belief system and philosophy is based upon what I've learned through various texts on Hinduism and yoga; (b.) I'm writing this because I'd like to connect with others who think like me.  I found this forum through a Google search on "bhagavad silicon."  Ask me if you'd like the details.


Welcome Michael, <!--emo&Smile--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/smile.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='smile.gif' /><!--endemo-->
For the ones who think that killing an embrion is not a crime if is made in the first 6 months ,i say only this
Life doesnt begining,life continues.