What is Vegan Spirituality?
How can it help activists and animals?
Is Spirituality a Part of Your Life?
As an animal advocate, how would you react if asked, “Are you a spiritual person?” Some of you may have an immediate knee-jerk reaction against the word “spirituality,” which often brings to mind religion and churches. Most places of worship, as we are painfully aware, ignore the worldwide plight of animals and, in fact, openly exploit animals at potlucks, fishing and hunting outings, and other traditional “family” activities. Many of us have found ourselves frustrated when we tried to change their policies to be cruelty-free and animal friendly. We all know sincere people who consider themselves spiritual seekers but who participate in all the socially programmed rituals of animal abuse and killing. They may be exploring Buddhism, attending meditation retreats, practicing yoga, studying shamanism, or reading spiritual books. But they have not yet made the connection between their desire to become spiritual and the correlating need to live nonviolently, with kindness, respect, and compassion for all beings; not just the human ones.
Beyond the Mind
So why would I call you a spiritual person? Eckhart Tolle said, “All the things that truly matter—beauty, love, creativity, joy, inner peace—arise from beyond the mind.” Spirituality is what we feel and deeply know in our hearts and spirits, i.e., “beyond the mind.” The fact that you care about the suffering of animals, in spite of society’s pressure on you to ignore it, means you are in touch with your true heart and your true spirit. Spirituality is the unseen, but deeply felt, love that dwells in your heart. In that sense, you have truly been called by love to do what you can to help liberate animals from human violence, and you have answered the call.
The Two Most Revolutionary Ideas
The two most radical and revolutionary ideas ever conceived are the Golden Rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” and the profound counsel, “Love One Another.” In my book Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul, I explain how nearly every religion is rooted in those very concepts. While many religious people acknowledge that, indeed, their faith is based on that radical love, nevertheless religions tend to add on loopholes making it possible to rationalize not doing unto others (such as, animals, slaves, women, etc.) as you would have them do unto you. The Golden Rule is so revolutionary because it asks us to act from our spirit, which is unselfish, connected to all life, and free of cultural and religious dogma. It is the highest ideal for human behavior. If we evolve in that direction, we will become what I call “Homo Ahimsa”—the kind, compassionate, nonviolent human being we are destined to be. By taking the vow of ahimsa, of nonviolence and love, also known as veganism, you have demonstrated what it is to live a spiritual life—one in which your heartfelt beliefs are in synch with the way you live. You are demonstrating how to love one another, not just the human ones, but everyone. You are demonstrating what spirituality truly is.
Setting Your Spirit Free
We are dual-natured individuals. We have a survival nature that tells us to protect ourselves at the expense of others if necessary; and we have our other core nature–our spirit that longs to care for others, even at the expense of ourselves. Anyone who has committed themselves to be a voice for animals is demonstrating that they are spiritual, in the sense that they have allowed their spirits the freedom to express this most radical, unselfish love. It is this love and this spirituality that will transform the world into a place of freedom and peace for all beings. It is this love that stirs one to take action to help free animals from human domination and violence. Veganism at its core is the ultimate spiritual practice, for it is love in action for all life.
How Vegan Spirituality Helps Activists and Animals
The Prayer Circle for Animals (circleofcompassion.org), which I co-founded with Will and Madeleine Tuttle, states that by practicing vegan spirituality, we:
l) Create an energy field of compassion and caring for all beings of Earth
2) Hasten the transformation we are seeking for a world at peace
3) Strengthen us all for the work ahead
4) Elevate global consciousness to the awareness that all life is sacred and interconnected
and to the joyful acknowledgement of our kinship with every being
There is an endless well of peace and joy that comes from opening our hearts to animals. There is also grief, despair, loneliness, and even burnout from bearing witness to the endless sufferings they are enduring. A vegan spiritual community and access to spiritual tools can help us all stay strong and positive, showing the world how beautiful the vegan life can be.
The Physical and the Metaphysical—The Sanctuaries in Our Hearts
Through a combination of physical actions and metaphysical prayer, also known as focused thought, we greatly increase the chances that worldwide animal liberation will become a reality. There are physical sanctuaries for animals all over the world. As spiritual vegans, we also create sanctuaries in our hearts.
Focusing our thoughts on a clear vision, knowing it is true, and refusing to doubt it, can manifest that vision like a magnet. Holding the vision of a world in which no animals are exploited helps to bring that vision into reality. The more people who hold that intention, see it in their minds, imagine it, and feel the joy of it, the more power is generated to bring it into the tangible, visible world. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. All we need to do is get in synch with it.
Veganism—the Ultimate Spirituality
Many people are on a journey to live from the highest ethic, to discover their own true nature, to awaken in consciousness, to find lasting inner peace, to understand their soul’s mission on Earth, and to learn to live in a sacred and mindful manner on the Earth. When we understand what spirituality really means, it helps us to assist other spiritual seekers to see that veganism is an essential part of a spiritual path. There will always be a sense of incompleteness and numbness until one opens one’s heart to the animals and lives by the vegan ethic. Tina Volpe and I wrote The Missing Peace to demonstrate through the stories of many people that the ultimate inner peace is found when we give it to others—not just human others, but all others.
When we really think about it, veganism is the ultimate spirituality, the highest form of consciousness in which one realizes that all life is sacred. Through this practice of love, we can heal the world and liberate all living beings.
© 2014 Judy McCoy Carman, M.A. Author of Peace to All Beings: Veggie Soup for the Chicken’s Soul; co-author with Tina Volpe of The Missing Peace: The Hidden Power of our Kinship with Animals. Co-Founder with Will and Madeleine Tuttle of The Prayer Circle for Animals (www.circleofcompassion.org); Author of the Peace to All Beings website (www.peacetoallbeings.com) where you can find the Animal Prayer Flag project. Judy can be reached at [email protected].