To me, the greatest joy and sense of wonder flows from opening to the beauty, power, intricacy, and magnificent abundance of our Earth. Swimming in lakes and streams, wandering through forests and mountains, snorkeling around coral reefs, watching birds, fish, and other animals soaring, darting, and celebrating their lives, camping in remote regions and sleeping on the living earth, gazing into the night sky, and contemplating the tiny wings of flies, delicate veins in leaves and the ordered symmetry of flower petals and pine cones—I am aware of being in the presence of an overwhelmingly intelligent and benevolent force and presence. I sense that the outer world is a manifestation of a consciousness that is of the essence of creative exuberance, ecstatic joy, and what can only be called a vast love that dwarfs all efforts to conceptualize or grasp by intellectual means. “It” is ever-present and ever beckoning.
Looking around at the other humans, young and old, with whom I share this Earth, I see beautiful manifestations of this same life-source. The overwhelming tragedy of our world today is how deeply we have disconnected from our sense of belonging to a benevolent universe, and how we’ve turned this abundant paradise into a realm of fear, lack, competition, and an ongoing violence that blinds us to the truth that is ever-present.
We are all born into a culture of routine and utterly unnecessary violence toward animals, and are injected with the basic behaviors and mentality that feeds a massive industrial slavery and death machine that in the U.S. alone is murdering 75 million animals daily for food. We are destroying over an acre per second of irreplaceable rainforest, devastating the oceans with overfishing, and polluting water, land, air, and genetic integrity with toxins and technologies that attack and undermine the living fabric of life on this beautiful planet.
How can we be not only so blind, but so impervious to intelligence? How can we willfully refuse to awaken even the most basic level of awareness, of compassion for others, and of appreciation for the precious web of life here? How have we been so severely wounded that we bumble along in a frenzy of activity that is completely contrary to our best interests?
We are growing enough food to feed between twelve and fifteen billion people, and there are only seven billion of us on this Earth, and yet about 1.2 billion of us suffer from chronic hunger and malnutrition while about 15-20,000 starve to death every day. And about 1.2 billion suffer from diseases of excess—feeding enormous amounts of grain (and land, petroleum, fertilizer, pesticides, and water) to imprisoned animals who are then used for meat, milk, and eggs that lead predictably to the epidemics of cancer, diabetes, heart disease, kidney and liver disease, osteoporosis, autoimmune disease, arthritis, and obesity that cripple us physically, and to the depression, stress, anxiety, and low self-esteem that cripple us mentally.
We live on a beautiful and abundant planet! There is easily plenty to feed, house, and clothe all of us on a fraction of the land and resources we are currently using. There is absolutely nothing stopping us from celebrating our lives in joy, harmony, and wisdom on this Earth, except one thing—the culturally-imposed relentless violence of imprisoning our fellow Earthlings and killing them for food, and the mentality of disconnectedness and reductionism that this behavior requires. Thinking that we can have a world of peace, justice, and freedom for ourselves while we savagely destroy the peace and freedom of other sentient beings exposes a disconnect that is so obvious and yet so manically repressed that it renders all our efforts ironic and absurd. By enslaving animals remorselessly, and stealing their purposes, we create precisely the social structures and inequities that force us into war, hunger, disease, and enslavement. If we open the eye of our heart, we can see it happening all around us.
There is nothing more loving and wise that any human being can do today than to undertake the adventure of understanding the massive ramifications of our food choices, questioning the enforced mentality and official stories that drive the devastating practice of eating animal-sourced foods, and moving toward a completely plant-based diet for ethical reasons, and encouraging others by our example to do the same. The door is open! The beautiful Earth is calling us! Will we hear her call and stop giving the order of destruction when we take out our wallets and pay for and eat the official and traditional foods of our culture and serve them to our children? Will we become flowing people again?
Veganism is nothing to be proud of—it is simply leaving the prison and returning home to our hearts and looking with our natural eyes of radical inclusion, and seeing beings when we see beings, rather than reducing them, as we’ve been taught, to mere commodities to be used. And veganism is just the first tiny step in a vast journey of spiritual awakening that I believe beckons all of us.
The boundless joy that accompanies leaving the prison of delusion draws us irresistibly, and this joy is ultimately inevitable for everyone. Veganism is love for all, expressed as respect and kindness, and is both the path and the goal of spiritual life. It leads, when practiced mindfully, to the awakening that there is no fundamentally separate self at all. We are all infinitely interconnected manifestations of boundless, radiant love, and we are here to discover and offer our unique gifts, and allow this love to shine and flow through us, as the lives we live.
From this awareness there arises a spontaneous sense of gratitude and of generosity—and understanding that we are at home not just on this beautiful and abundant Earth, but in the underlying eternal reality that gives rise to all of this, which we can grow to understand and serve more fully every day. This is the ancient message of thanksgiving, generosity, and return of the light that we remember intuitively, beyond the superfluity, dogma, and hype, as the living core of the holiday season.
Image Source: Beverly/Flickr