Written by: Madhusudanadas
More than often veganism is thought of as a special plant-based diet for health-conscious people and the philosophy underlining veganism is often misunderstood. Prem and ahimsa are two words the summarize a more accurate understanding of the vegan philosophy. Our well being is defined by the harmony and balance inside of us which in turn is connected to the well being of everything around us. Our actions, thoughts, words, food all have an impact on this harmony and balance.
The Hindi language has two words for Love. One is prem which is the unlimited, unconditional Divine Love and the other is pyar which is the limited conditional human love. Here we refer to prem. Himsa in Sanskrit means to cause injury or harm and so ahimsa means to do exactly opposite of that. It is the path of least possible harm to not only other humans but also to other living creatures and to the environment.
Let us look at what we put inside of our bodies in terms of food first. What does it mean to incorporate the principles of prem and ahimsa in the food we consume? The first step generally is between the choice of killing an animal for no other reason than to indulge our sense of taste with the flavour of flesh and the choice not to kill any creature, and so many people become or are vegetarians due to this choice. People fight passionately for lions and elephant poaching in our national parks or against inhumane treatment or cruelty to pets yet support the meat industry. What gives one the right to take the life of one type of animal and choose to protect the life of another? We need to shift our mindset from looking at one creature as part of the family and the other creature as food to the perspective of compassion and love towards all creatures. Energetically also one partakes in the fear, pain, and other such vibrations that are present in the body during slaughter.
We should also ask ourselves if just being vegetarian good enough or compassionate enough. Is it okay when commercial dairy industry cows are forcefully impregnated year after year not only reducing the natural lifespan of a cow to half but also their calves are taken away immediately at birth from the mother cows just for humans to have food intended for the calves (i.e. milk)? The calves are not even allowed to spend time with their mother at birth and both the mother and calf cry for days on end. The female calves are taken away and impregnated after a few months while they are still a ‘child’ and male calves because they serve no purpose to give milk are taken away and often starved to be sold as veal. Is this form of violence necessary? When done to humans, we call it rape and manslaughter. Humans must be the only species that has milk after 6 months of birth. Should we also focus on a vegan diet alone or extend it to a lifestyle and avoid leather shoes, belts and bags as well?
If we are honest with ourselves, we all know the answer to this.
Even in terms of the environment by going vegan you will contribute positively as much fewer crops will be needed to feed animals for the meat and dairy industry which can alternatively help reduce starvation in the world. Many forests are also cleared to create grazing land or grow animal feed.
Himsa or violence disguises itself well and also manifests in our actions, thoughts and words more often than we think it does. Examples include resentment, lack of forgiveness towards oneself and others, hatred, negative thinking about ourselves and others and so on. As soon as one becomes more mindful of one’s thoughts, the more easily can one calm and control the mind which in turn will result in the ability to listen less to the noise in our minds and to listen more to the love and compassion in our hearts. We then start to witness and observe our thoughts rather than reacting to them.
We all know that we should avoid violent words, thoughts or actions but often we don’t have the tools and techniques to be able to assist us with this. Embracing unconditional Love and opening our spiritual heart through the practice of Atma Kriya Yoga is a great way to improve the awareness of our words, thoughts and actions in our daily interactions. True yoga is actually a scientific process of the union of the body, mind and spirit and not just the physical exercise that it is so often portrayed to be. Practices like Atma Kriya Yoga have both physical and energetic techniques that work from deep within to enable us to transform ourselves so that we can perform our actions with the awareness of the soul and have a living experience of unconditional Love. Finding this Love within ourselves will, in turn, allow us to be in peace with the world and our interaction with others.
You can clearly see the link between a vegan lifestyle and true yoga, and the importance of the combination of both. The human species has the power of intellect to discriminate what is right from wrong. Animals or other creatures do not and are governed by instincts. You, however, can consciously make this choice of love over violence.
The question if it is easy or difficult can be answered entirely from the perspective one looks at it. Our journey of transformation is continuous and life-long in many small steps and cannot happen overnight. Challenges in life are big and small and will come and go. The type and variety of challenges we get in life may not be in our control, but how we choose to live our lives is. Our choices have consequences. The first step in this journey is however is to use our power of discrimination and make this choice towards a more loving, mindful and compassionate lifestyle.
You can choose to be a vegan Atma Kriya yogi. I have. Will you join me?