What does practical compassion look like?
When a vegan wakes up in the morning, they are being given the gift of yet another day, a marvelous blessing that is granted to all of us who see the dawn breaking, to feel the world arising. Yet, when a vegan wakes up, they are being granted an additional blessing. In addition to the new day, they have been given the task to show compassion, mercy, and kindness to a world where many have yet to understand the truth about how we treat animals on a daily basis. Regardless of where one might be in their journey of practically showing love towards all creatures, this individual will certainly find themselves in an environment where they have an incredible opportunity to show the truth to those around them, whether that be family members, friends, co-workers, classmates, or complete strangers.
When people find out the truth behind our commonplace animal exploitation, a great deal experience life-changing moments of realization, which in turn leads them to being practicing a vegan lifestyle. Being vegan is not the starting point, in reality; it is the practical, tangible response to the injustice and cruelty in the world. When one discovers this unbelievable truth, they’re often compelled to share this new understanding with those around them. Yet too often, these new vegans find themselves confused and disappointed by the lack of interest from their friends and family, who have their own reasons for resisting the truth.
As people on a journey to discover the greater compassion within themselves, vegans often find themselves caught between warring emotions: their desire to share the truth with many in their social environments, and the desire to avoid alienating friends, family members, and co-workers due to their activism. It can be soul crushing to see others resist seeing the truth, and consequently avoiding making the changes that would help save animal’s life, improve their health, and help preserve our natural resources on this fragile planet that we share with so many living beings.
Despite these potential frustrations, those of us who are seeking to do as little harm as possible through a vegan lifestyle must always remember to express ourselves to all beings in a compassionate manner. The principle of “ahimsa” which is Sanskrit for “do no harm” is an idea that encourages all of us to not only to be kind to both other humans and animals, but to be kind to ourselves as well. As ethical vegans, we must remember to avoid integrating external negativity into our own consciousness, but instead we must practice showing kindness and mercy toward all who cross our path, for in doing so we will free ourselves in a myriad of ways.
Our veganism is a remarkable gift that we are blessed to share with the world at large, and it is truly the only path forward if we are to conserve our natural resources, heal the planet, save the multitude of species quickly going extinct, help to feed the starving and malnourished populations on the planet, as well as helping to heal our own souls. We live in an age where it is incredibly easy to disseminate life-changing information, and as vegans, we must use these incredible resources at our disposal. Whether we are sharing a film, a documentary, a book, a blog post, or an article, we must never lose sight of the understanding that our audience is not depraved; they are not evil people, and they do not enjoy practicing acts of cruelty for their own benefit. They simply do not yet have the understanding that we do, and it is both our joy and our pain to share the truth with them, so that they may be enlightened and begin to make compassionate choices that benefit the beautiful web of life that we all share on this incredible planet.
We must never lose sight of the fact that vegans and non-vegans are not on opposite sides, necessarily. We need not feel as if we are at war with one another. In fact, it would seem fairly safe to say that we all want a clean environment, a healthy population, and a future for our children and grandchildren that is full of promise. As vegans, we must show others, compassionately, that living a vegan lifestyle is the optimal way to achieve these goals.
When we look out into the world, we see a predominantly dismal picture. One billion people are starving and malnourished, and one billion of us are suffering and dying from diseases brought about by the consumption of an animal-based diet. We see massive factory farms, which not only create horrifying and painful conditions for the sentient beings within, but also create massive amounts of pollution which contaminates the groundwater and creates a variety of health issues for the local human population. We see how incredible amounts of grain are funneled into cattle to fatten them, when children around the planet starve to death on a daily basis. We see rain forests being leveled to make room for more acres of grain production, which leads to the extinction of incalculable amounts of species that protect the biodiversity of this planet. We watch, with broken hearts, as our loved ones suffer greatly with cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and other ailments brought about by the consumption of animal flesh. These are merely a few examples of the problems inherent within breeding animals for the sole purpose of consuming their bodies.
As rational beings, we are blessed with the cognitive capacity to understand when we’ve been misguided in our efforts, and to make changes accordingly that will bring us back to a path that is paved with a healthy well-being, kindness, joy, and compassion. As vegans, we know that this path is brought about by living according to a vegan ethic of compassion and non-violence. Being equipped with this knowledge, we are immensely privileged to go into the world and share this truth, regardless of the response. Will some be met with resistance? Of course. Even so, more will be met with interest, curiosity, and enthusiasm. For myself, it seems to me that every time someone writes to tell me that I’m wrong in my beliefs, I receive a message from someone else, telling me that the message I’m sharing have changed their lives for the better, and that they’ll continue to explore the lifestyle that offers compassion, health, and kindness. Ultimately, the world will have to shift towards living a plant-based lifestyle; due to the quickly dwindling resources such as water, fertile land, and fossil fuels, we will have no choice if we are to survive on this planet.
Since we’ve arrived at this understanding, vegans must recognize that we are at the forefront of this lifestyle that holds the key for optimal health, for humans, animals, and the planet. We must communicate this message lovingly, with mercy in our hearts and our external actions. In doing so, we can be vessels of a message that so many people are very willing to hear. If we are to have a positive impact on this planet, we must communicate this truth with a positive mindset, and a compassion for the audience. The animals, the earth, and the future of the human race depend on this. May we never lose sight of this incredible responsibility, and be encouraged by the ever-growing numbers of people who are beginning this journey for themselves, and experiencing the freedom that comes from practicing the principle of comprehensive compassion.