Satyagraha: The Magic Button

By Dr. Will Tuttle

It seems that at a certain point, every vegan yearns to discover the magic button that they can push that will light up the consciousness of their non-vegan friends and family members, and transform them into vegans. For vegans, it seems completely anti-rational, self-destructive and untenable that their acquaintances—upon hearing of the devastating effects of animal agriculture on innocent animals, as well as on ecosystems, wildlife, hungry people, and human health—nevertheless continue to take out their wallets and vote for animal-sourced foods and consume them and feed them to their unsuspecting children. “I see it, why don’t they?” “I care, why don’t they?” “I changed, why can’t I get them to see, to care, to change?”

           As vegans, we desperately yearn to find the magic phrase, or image, or set of ideas, memes, gestures, and vocal intonations that would be able to reliably pierce the armor of indoctrination and soften the hearts and open the eyes and minds of the people with whom we share our world. We eventually realize that the search for this magic button is like the search for the fabled fountain of youth or the mythical wish-fulfilling jewel. The fountain of youth and the wish-fulfilling jewel are actually within ourselves, and to transform the world we are called to transform ourselves.

We understand gradually that we are all wounded by being born and raised in a herding culture organized at its core around enslaving, mutilating, raping, and killing billions of animals every day, and eating them and using them as mere objects for products and other uses. As infants, we are all born into this, and it wounds us on every level. Not only is our physical health harmed, and our society and our Earth, but at a deeper level, we are harmed psychologically and also spiritually and morally. This ethical harm is perhaps the most serious wound. Relentlessly stealing the purposes as well as the physical and mental integrity of billions of animals, we collectively lose our purposes and our integrity, and co-create systems of human exploitation, waste, and injustice that are destroying the web of life and our basic cultural sanity. We begin to realize that the violence and conflict we experience as humans is both a direct and secondary result of the abuse that we perpetrate on animals. The animals and our violence toward them are made invisible by our herding culture’s established traditions, language, institutions, and assumptions. We are collectively wounded by our indoctrination, and blinded to the devastating consequences of our daily actions.

            As vegans, we are healing these physical, psychological, and moral wounds both in ourselves and in our world. Our task is to nurture and deepen this healing in ourselves, and also to become increasingly adept as healers to other people who have been similarly wounded and are still trapped in the cages of conformism into which they were forced from infancy. As vegans, we are healers and light-bearers. To the degree that we are authentically healing our inner wounds and opening to the light of inner truth, we are able to help others heal and to awaken from the dark trance of violence that is the essence of our culture, which is animal agriculture in all its forms. Liberating animals is the direct path to human liberation, peace, and justice.

The light that heals and liberates is the light of truth. The truth that all of us, vegans or not, know in our bones is that animals suffer as we do. We also understand that our lives and our welfare are interconnected, and that all life is interdependent.

The ancient Sanskrit word for truth is satya, and graha means insistence or force. Satyagraha, or truth-force, was a central tenet of Gandhi’s approach to social change. Satyagraha can be seen as the magic button that we can discover within and that we can all use to help transform our world. When we speak our truth with respect and kindness, we are fulfilling our mission as light-bearers and healers, and as world-transformers. The hardest part is to uncover this inner truth and to articulate it clearly and without judgment or trying to manipulate others to change.

Sometimes people ask me what the most effective formulation of this underlying truth might be. For example, if we’re in an elevator and only have a half-minute or so, what words could we say to convey the essence of healing truth to another person? What seeds of truth could we sow in their mind and heart? The good news is that even though it’s counterproductive and wrong-headed to try to change others, and reliably prompts them to resist, defend, and fight back, we can nevertheless plant seeds of positive change in others through our words, actions, creative expressions, and example. By deeply and fully embodying vegan values of kindness and respect, our words, gestures, and actions become congruent, and we can plant seeds of truth with effectiveness. Congruence is the key, and with it, satyagraha, truth-force, works through us.

So, in a nutshell, these are the words that we can speak and embody: “I am deeply grateful that I discovered that the only reason I was eating animal foods for all the years that I did was because I was just following orders. Fortunately, I realized that those orders were not in my best interest, or in the interest of our world, and so I’m not doing it anymore, and it’s fantastic.”

That’s it. When we express this truth, in our own words of course as befits the occasion, on an elevator or anywhere else, we are conveying a simple and basic set of transformative ideas, which is our truth. Usually it’s best not to say a lot more, and to let go and let the seed we have planted germinate and grow organically.

Done with respect and without any underlying motivation to manipulate others, we plant a depth-charge, as it were, a potent seed of light, truth, and healing in the consciousness of the person. It will sprout and grow and help them to heal as well, because that is what truth-power does. Basically, our experience is all the same growing up in this herding culture, and our personal truth is also a universal truth.

The only reason any of us eats animal foods is because we’re just following orders, and we all know this deep down and also understand that it’s not in our best interest. When any of us articulates and embodies this fundamental, world-transforming truth, and then follows up with how fantastic it is to be free of this indoctrination, we are essentially opening the door to the invisible cage that keeps human beings imprisoned in destructive, anti-rational behavior. At our core, none of us wants to be a mere automaton blindly following toxic and destructive orders. We can point out that we have discovered this for ourselves and how liberating it is, and this is non-threatening to others and beckons them out of the prison into which they’ve been born.

If we do it well, the person will forget us and the conversation, and yet the seed we planted in a seemingly casual way is alive deep inside them, growing every day, and propelling them to awakening and freedom. It is their own wisdom and compassion that are actually growing, and when they go vegan, it will not be because they are being shamed into it or pushed, but because their own inner caring and basic intelligence is liberated and activated. An inspired, creative, empowered vegan is born.

  So even though there is no outer magic button, we do have within us the capacity to be an instrument of satyagraha, and to speak our truth, which is a universal truth, planting seeds that will positively transform our world:

“I am deeply grateful that I discovered that the only reason I was eating animal foods for all the years that I did was because I was just following orders. Fortunately, I realized that those orders were not in my best interest, or in the interest of our world, and so I’m not doing it anymore, and it’s fantastic.”

This embodied truth is an unstoppable force for awakening humanity, and each of us can strive to ever more fully discover and express it, and to live and celebrate it, for the benefit of all.

16 Responses to Satyagraha: The Magic Button

  • Gerald Anderson says:

    Following orders is a quick and simple way to express instead of saying cultural indoctrination.
    I like this too because there comes a time when each one of us owns every bit of responsibility of what we choose to fork into our mouth.

  • Thanks Will! So very true how LIBERATING it is to awaken and blossom into a vegan way of living and to share it with others as lovingly and respectfully as possible.

  • Cathy Johnston says:

    Love this! Thank you for your work!

  • Eric Triffin says:

    You can lead a horse to water but not make them drink. But if you give them pretzels…! When the motivating seed is within you already.
    Although we can lead a person to plant based foods we cannot make them eat. But give them aromas and flavors to savor…

  • jo schechinger says:

    Thx Will Sharing. You were the first vegan I ever met. I was 55 at the time. You live your truth, that was and is apparent. Only regret? I did not get vegan sooner.

  • Beautiful, wise, and compassionate, as always! Thank you!

  • Lisa Spencer says:

    What an easy and lovely way to voice our indoctrination. This is a simple conversation we can all have with people. Thank you.

  • Rosemary Foos says:

    Thank you ❤️

  • Chris Rogers says:

    Wonderful article and couldn’t have been more perfectly timed. I’ve shared it with several vegan friends and they’ve all said the same thing and have also felt relief in reading that there is no magic phrase! Planting seeds or depth charges though, now that can definitely be done. Will, thank you for your tireless efforts and your voice in this movement.

  • Brenda Glasgow says:

    Thank you Will, for this wise and refreshing article. I have been Vegan for many
    decades and have endeavoured to reach other members of my family and friends
    with minimal success. Maybe have planted a few seeds , as a few relatives have
    become strongly aware of the vegan message and are living plant based lives.
    Your World Peace Book has become my bible and thank you so much for your
    Continuing inspiration and Madelaine’s beautiful artwork.

  • Mary Rubin says:

    I’m crying tears of gratitude…grief and gratitude. Thank you.

  • Don Paden says:

    This is guidance I have been in need of. Thank you.

  • Barb says:

    ‘I am deeply grateful’ ….such powerful and beautiful words.
    Breaking free of indoctrination is powerful and you articulate this perfectly.
    Gratitude and being grateful can be elusive. I think it’s interesting that most vegans I know have a natural disposition to gratitude, it comes with growth and knowledge…
    Teaching gratitude, acknowledging what is good in our lives, being thankful… I think these character traits almost always have to be awakened to allow that depth charger to do its work.
    Sadly I see people who do not know how to practice gratitude, and it is also here that seeds and depth chargers need to be sown.

  • Mary Hill says:

    I was in awe of meeting you recently in Houston at The Loving Hut, and found myself speechless, but just had to be in your presence; your darling wife’s too. You are heroic examples, and I thank you for helping me articulate the message, though at times my impatience gets the better of my expressions. Am trying to take better care of myself so I can be up to the challenges. Thank you for your boundless energy!

  • Judy Carman says:

    This is so beautifully and clearly written, Will. Thank you. We especially need this now as it is more urgent than ever to create a vegan world gently, and with satyagraha, confidence in ourselves, and love and respect for those to whom we are speaking. It is so true that defensiveness is a very natural reaction to anyone with different ideas, so your phrase is just perfect. Along with that, as you said, we need to have the patience of a gardener knowing we may not see a bloom on the same day, but that we have planted a very special seed. And yes, we all still have a lot of inner healing to do. Blessings to all.

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