Edited by Marco Ferrini
A person who has started the journey on the path of self-realization is at the very least respectful to all beings. Respect is the basis of trust and love and without an attitude that is at least respectful we cannot build anything in life. Being respectful does not mean paying homage here and there, or behaving in reverent or obsequious way; it rather means being able to listen and to recognize the value, giving the proper consideration to what we are told: thoughts, words, opinions of others, without prejudice, without expecting to dominate and to be always right.
Respect is a virtue that is seriously lacking today, like the other virtues, since early childhood. It constitutes the first category of all forms of education and it is learned by example. A child will never be able to grow respectful if he has not seen genuine respect practiced by his parents. If love and affection are optional, at least up to a certain level of our evolution, respect is a must, we owe it to everyone because it is about recognizing a high potential to each individual, about recognizing the other person as a divine expansion that merits at least our consideration if not our devotion.
Those who are not respectful generally do not have ahimsa, non-violent behavior; on the contrary they are usually aggressive, arrogant, authoritarian, and this type of attitude obstructs all forms of dialogue and exchange that is required for personal growth. True respect is for all creatures, not only for humans. Even when we are sitting at the table we should remember that all living entities have the right to live, but the rules that govern the physical world often appear to be cruel. Jivo jivasya jivanam: each living being is food for another. This is a pragmatic, inevitable principle.
However, respect does not mean starving to death by taking the principle of respect to its extreme consequences; a respectful person should also be intelligent and understand that the application of the rule consists in causing the least possible damage, for example by eating those forms of life that have a less developed nervous system and perception ability, for example the plants. In all times scriptures, sages and philosophers have demonstrated that there is a rich and varied way to eat without having to attack or kill beings that are already high on the evolutionary scale; especially and possibly one should avoid eating meat, fish and eggs.
As we have said, obviously respect is not limited to not eating other creatures or not killing; it is an attitude of openness and generosity towards life and all beings that are recognized and therefore appreciated as sparks of God and integral parts of the creation.