The act of regularly eating foods derived from confined and brutalized animals forces us to become somewhat emotionally desensitized, and this numbing and inner armoring make it possible for us as a culture to devastate the earth, slaughter people in wars, and support oppressive social structures without feeling remorse.
By going vegan, we‚Äôre taking responsibility for the effects of our actions on vulnerable beings and we‚Äôre resensitizing ourselves. We‚Äôre becoming more alive, and more able to feel both grief and joy. Kahlil Gibran points out in The Prophet that unless we are able to feel our grief and weep our tears, we will not be able to laugh our laughter, either. Turning our pain and outrage into action on behalf of vulnerable beings will bring healing to us and to our world.
Photo: Farm Sanctuary
As vegans, we‚Äôre a force for healing and compassion every day and at every meal. Our way of living exemplifies mercy and promotes freedom, and offers opportunities to unfold wisdom and help heal our world. These are true causes for an abiding sense of joy. Even in the midst of grief and outrage at our culture‚Äôs cruelty, we can be glad that our ability to feel is reawakening.
As vegans, we may feel sad, bitter, misunderstood, and isolated by the apparently oblivious attitudes of our culture, friends, and families. What can we do?
In a few words, we can cultivate a sense of joy and thankfulness. In the face of our culture‚Äôs unrelenting pressure to view animals as mere food commodities, going vegan is a victory for peace, a real spiritual breakthrough.
From the viewpoint of its deepest and most eternal and universal teachings‚Äîto love God, and to love our neighbor as ourself‚Äîthe Bible unequivocally condemns animal slavery just as it condemns human slavery. We must stop using the Bible to justify animal abuse, but rather use it to guide us in our quest for peace and justice for all beings.
Photo: At Farm Sanctuary
What goes around comes around. We must as a species stop the violence that is inherent in our meat habit. This should be of paramount importance for all religious movements and teachers. It is the call of spirituality. If our religions don‚Äôt hear this call, we must revitalize them or create new ones that do.
Since the decision to become a vegan is at its core an ethical one, spirituality, which is the foundation of ethics, must be the foundation of veganism as well.
The spiritual element within us encourages us not to harm others, but to express love and practice compassion. Compassion brings the intuition of spiritual awareness into daily life as actions that serve to help and bless others. Veganism is clearly a vital expression of this compassion that springs from our felt sense of connectedness with others. While it may not necessarily be religious, at its core, veganism is spiritual, and it is an expression of love. It is a concrete way that we can all be lovers.
Photo: Briana Franco
Veganism is, I‚Äôve found, a litmus test of religious teachings and religious teachers. To the degree that religious teachings do not explicitly encourage veganism, which is the practice of nonviolence and lovingkindness, to that same degree these teachings are hypocritical and disconnected from their spiritual source.
Photo: Ania Blazejewska
Each of us is radically and profoundly interconnected with all other living beings, and by blessing and encouraging and seeing the best in others, we help everyone, and by condemning or turning away from others, we harm everyone, including ourselves. Shining compassion to everyone, even our apparent opponents, is the essence of the benevolent revolution that is veganism.
And not only that, going vegan‚Äôs a practical contribution to the energy crisis, hunger, and climate change. So keep building that connection to the inner sun and shine!
Looking around, we can see the tremendous urgency in the task required of us: to do all we can to influence our culture to evolve and embrace the vegan ideals of interconnectedness, freedom, and caring.
The same urgency is required in our inner lives as well. Going vegan is much more than minimizing the cruelty and suffering we cause others; it is awakening the heart of loving inclusiveness and realizing that there are, ultimately, no separate selves. We are all connected.
When we come to this earth, we find ourselves in a culture that is at its very core organized around confining and killing animals for food. We are forced virtually from birth to look at beings as mere commodities and to treat them as such by eating them in the most powerful daily rituals we engage in: our meals.
All cultures naturally propagate themselves through their various institutions, and ours is no different. Our scientific, religious, governmental, educational, and economic institutions all reflect the same underlying mentality and reinforce it, which is why veganism is so strenuously resisted, and also why it is so urgently needed as well.
Fortunately, as we awaken and stop disconnecting from the suffering we cause others by our choices, we resensitize ourselves and begin to be a force for kindness and respect that can impact others, and we can work through our culture‚Äôs institutions to raise consciousness and spread the light of inclusiveness. The more clearly the inner light shines in us, the more clearly we can shine it into the world.