We all talk about the change that is needed in this world, yet why does it seem so hard to change. I often wonder if this stems from fear or just plain laziness. We feel guilty, yet also feel impotent to do anything about it. Why does it seem so hard to do that which we know is right?
I now believe that the inherent impotence stems from looking outwards rather than inwards. We look to our leaders, politicians, society and individual communities to change, but don’t want to make that change for ourselves. This change must begin with each and everyone of us.
“You must be the change that you want to see in the world“, Mahatma Gandhi
What does this have to do with food? Well the answer is, everything! The following words in italics are not mine but of Will Tuttle, author of one of the most influential books on food I have ever read, titled, ‘The World Peace Diet “Eating for Spiritual Health and Social Harmony“. Not a diet as such, but a journey to discover hidden assumptions, fundamental truths and subtle realisations in order to create the peace that we long for. (I hope that I do not do the book an injustice in presenting it this way). This journey of discovery requires an open mind, a keen intellect and the ability to make connections.
It may come as a surprise to learn that we were born into a herding culture. The herding culture values are inherited from birth and run so deep that even the very mention of them causes people to turn a blind eye, rather than question values or fundamental choices that they themselves did not make. It started in the middle east about 5000 years ago and continues to this day. The shift was profound, changing from a plant based way of eating to one of dominating animals and in turn each other. This changed not only our diets but our entire psyche gradually switching from a feminine value based system (of hunting and gathering – in touch with natural life cycles) to a masculine one (of domination and oppression).
The Power of Food
Food is actually our most intimidate and telling connection both with the natural order and with our living cultural heritage. If we are to mature spiritually and morally and if we are to nourish within us the seeds of intelligence, compassion, and freedom we must practise questioning the underlying assumptions of the family and culture into which we are born.
We are not predatory in nature, but we’ve been taught that we are, in the most potent way possible: we’ve been raised from birth to eat like predators. We’ve thus been initiated into a predatory culture and been forced to see ourselves at the deepest level as predators. Farming animals is simply a refined and perverse form of predation in which the animals are confined before being attacked and killed. It doesn’t stop with animals however. As well all know in our bones there is a predatory quality to our economic system and competition underlies our institutions. We pray upon each other. It may not be obvious from within our planets dominant society, but our culture and our corporations and other institutions act in ways that can only be described as predatory, vis a vis those who are less industrialised, less wealthy and less able to protect themselves. As we prey upon and harvest animals, we use and prey upon people, employing euphemisms according to the situation as “foreign aid, privatisation, advertising, spreading the gospel, capitalism, education, Free Trade, lending, fighting terrorism, development,” and countless other agreeable expressions. The heart of our true non predatory nature is troubled by all this, but it shines unceasingly, and though it’s perhaps covered over by our conditioning, it nevertheless inspires the selfless giving, compassion and enlightenment that our spiritual traditions expound.
The renowned ethologist, Konrad Lorenz once remarked that anyone that couldn’t see the difference between chopping up a dog and chopping up a lettuce should commit suicide for the benefit of society.
A Real Revolution – The Switch
The spiritual and cultural revolution that calls us must begin with our food. Food is our primary connection with the earth and her mysteries and with our culture. It is the foundation of economy and is the central inner spiritual metaphor of our lives. There is no way to overstate the magnitude of the collective spiritual transformation that will occur when we shift from food of violent oppression to food of gentleness and compassion. The key to veganism is that it is lived. No one can be a vegetarian in theory. Unlike many religious teachings that are primarily theoretical and internal, veganism is solidly practical. The motivation of veganism is compassion. It is not at all about personal purity or individual health or salvation, except as these bless others. It is concrete, visible way of living that flows from, and reinforces a sense of caring and connectedness.
Subtle Transformations Cultivating Compassion
As our hearts open to a deeper understanding, our circle of compassion naturally enlarges and spontaneously begins to include more and more ‘others’ not just of our own tribe, sect, nation, race, but all human beings, and not just humans, but other mammals, birds, fish, forests and the whole beautifully interwoven tapestry of living pulsing creation. All beings, all of us.
Intelligence and Making Connections
Systems theory basically says that all self organising systems are seen as having intelligence and these systems interrelate with each other in complex ways that promote life. Intelligence is the ability of any system to make connections that are meaningful and helpful for that system in relation to other systems.
We couldn’t exactly say that the human species as a ‘system’ promotes life in all it’s forms. So by this definition it becomes clear that we aren’t as intelligent as we think we are! What we do to one strand in the web of life boomerangs back in ways we never thought possible (as we have only recently began to discover). What we eat is not only fundamental to our own health, but to the planet as a whole. Making these connections we see eating meat is simply unsustainable causing untold destruction on the natural environment boomeranging back on ourselves. Everything is connected, deforestation, climate change, desertification, sediment and nutrient run-off, carbon emissions, energy usage (primarily in large quantities of fossil fuels), water, land use, health, disease all the way through our social customs and values. It is all there, all we need to do is make these connections.
Reductionist Science and Religion
Rooted in the Cartesian split between mind and matter, conventional reductionist science blatantly denies the existence of any reality beyond what can be physically quantified. The materialist mythos ignores spirituality and the mysterious adventure of consciousness, and tends to reduce both animals and humans to mere survival machines propelled by genetic and chemical forces. In stripping away the inherent meaning and worth of animals and nature and reducing life to material processes, genetic programming and operant conditioning, our own meaning, our worth and our status are redefined in terms of how efficiently we serve the end of the economic/political context. On a deeper level, reductionist science enslaves us by legitimising only knowledge that is based on logical positivism and a fundamental disconnection between the self and the world. Like science, conventional reductionist western religion insist of the primary dualism between creator and creation, god and the world. This basic disconnection between the divine and all of us reinforces the illusion of separateness that is also propagated by reductionist science.
Plant Based Eating
When we are drawn toward a plant based way of eating, it is no way a limitation on us, rather it is the harmonious fulfilment of our own inner seeing (intuition). At first we think it’s an option we can choose, but with time (and by making these connections) we see that it’s not a choice at all but the free expression of the truth that we are. It is not an ethic that we have to police from outside, but our own radiant love spontaneously expressing, both for ourselves and for our world. Caring is born of this earth and lives through us, as us, and it’s not anything for which we can personally take credit. It is nothing to be proud of. Refraining from eating and using animals is the natural result of seeing that is no longer chained within the dark and rigid dungeon of narrow self interest. From the outside it may look and be called ‘veganism’ but it is simply an awareness and the expression of our sense of interconnectedness. It manifests naturally as inclusiveness and caring. It is no big deal because it is the normal functioning of our original nature, which unfailingly sees beings rather than things when it looks at our neighbours on this earth.
To awaken from the cultural trance of omnivorism we need only to remember who we are. We have neither the psychology nor the physiology for predation and killing, but due to the culturally indoctrinated mentality required by our daily meals we eat like predators. We become desensitised, exclusivist and materialistic, forgetting that we are essentially consciousness manifesting in time and space. As consciousness we are eternal, free and benevolent. We are interconnected with all other manifestations of consciousness and at a deep level we are all united because we share the same source. This source is the infinite intelligence and consciousness that permeates and manifests as phenomenal reality. To free the animals we are abusing, we must free ourselves from the delusion or essential separateness, doing both the outer work of education, sharing and helping others, and the inner work of uncovering our true nature.
Our Inner Nature
Metaphorically we are all part of the movie of life on earth and while we may appear to be the images on the screen, at a deep level we share a common heritage â€“ we are all the light that makes the movie possible. This light is consciousness, and it is our fundamental nature emanating from an infinite and inconceivable source. Just as waves manifestations of the ocean and inseparable from it, we are both the light that make the movie possible and the images on the screen illuminated by that light, each of us unique, contributing our voice, our passion and spirit to the unfolding story. With this understanding we can live to help and bless others with both a sense of urgency (which is required and appropriate) and a sense of spaciousness that doesn’t blame others or fight with them. Blaming and fighting only generate resistance and reinforce the delusion of separateness. Our human spiritual evolution is calling to liberate ourselves and the animals we hold in bondage. It is found upon recognising the unity of cause and effect: whatever seeds we sow in our consciousness we will reap in our lives. The ancient teaching holds true: ‘Hatred ceases not by hatred but by love.’ This is the everlasting law.
Listening to and Cultivating Intuition
Intuition is direct knowing, un-mediated by the illusion of an essentially separate self, and it is knowing that brings healing, for it sees the larger whole that the self, through logical analysis alone, can never see. Analysis and rationality rely on dividing and comparing, and are helpful tools only when the subordinated wisdom and compassion are (aligned with) the direct knowing of intuition. Without intuition, rationality and analysis become profoundly irrational, they become tools of exploration and conflict, agents of confused self destruction. Not surprisingly, rationality and analysis are prized in our academic and educational institutions while intuition is ignored and repressed. Intuition liberates, connects and illumes and threatens our herding cultures underlying paradigm of violent oppression of animals and the feminine. Intuition sees the shadow clearly, and disarms it by embracing it and not feeding it.
Becoming vegan is not so much a decision made with our intellect as it is a natural consequence of our own inner ripening. While it’s certainly helpful to comprehend intellectually the vast mandala of negative consequences of eating animal foods, we find that we are propelled into veganism by our intuition. As our intuitive hearts open, it opens to understanding our connection with others and to include them into our sphere of concern.
The Call to Evolve
Evolution is the essence of life. All beings are evolving, growing, transforming and so the urge to evolve permeates our being. We thrive on opportunities to grow emotionally, artistically, intellectually and spiritually. Our life is precious because it is such an opportunity. Our lives have meaning to the degree we answer the universal and undeniable call to evolve, the call to love. Evolution implies not only change but also transformation. In world mythology, when heroes refuse the call to leave home, they become sick. For our culture it is the same. We must shake the old stagnation and comfortable disconnections and embrace the evolutionary urge within us to awaken compassion and intuitive wisdom and live our lives in accord with the truth that we are all connected intimately with all living beings.
The Journey that is Required
The song of our necessary evolution is awakening and calling. Achieving the deeper understanding this song requires lies in uncovering connections and relationships that have been hidden or chronically ignored. A journey is required and this is the adventure of discover that beckons.