The Call of Spirituality

Originally published in The Quest Magazine, July 2001

Dr. Will Tuttle, Ph.D.

Since the decision to become a vegan is at its core an ethical one, spirituality, which is the foundation of ethics, must be the foundation of veganism as well. We must, though, make a clear distinction between spirituality, which is inner, and religion, which is outer.

Spirituality grows through direct experience of the truth of our being, realizing that we are not fixed and isolated objects but are manifestations of a vast, benevolent intelligence that is infinitely inclusive and creative. Religions, as the outward expressions of spirituality, are meant to help provide access to this direct experience that promotes spirituality. They often do the opposite, however. Spirituality recognizes that we are not basically separate from others, despite appearances and conditioned beliefs, but that we are all deeply interconnected. This spiritual element within us encourages us not to harm others, but to express love and practice compassion. Compassion brings the intuition of spiritual awareness into daily life as actions that serve to help and bless others. Veganism is clearly a vital expression of this compassion that springs from our felt sense of connectedness with others. While it may not necessarily be religious, at its core, veganism is spiritual, and it is an expression of love. It is a concrete way that we can all be lovers.

Veganism is, I’ve found, a litmus test of religious teachings and religious teachers. To the degree that religious teachings do not explicitly encourage veganism, which is the practice of nonviolence and lovingkindness, to that same degree these teachings are hypocritical and disconnected from their spiritual source. Our right relationship with the created world is always of prime concern to spirituality, and if it is ignored by a religious teaching, then the religion is ignoring Spirit and is furthering spiritual ignorance. The spiritual drive within us humans, while it can be suppressed, is fundamental, and it pushes us always toward finding meaning and authentic connectedness. This unfolds as compassion, wisdom, peace, joy, and freedom in our lives.

During these times, many seem to be searching to find the root of human violence and suffering, and its cure. I believe this root is our ritualized eating of vulnerable and sensitive beings. It is completely unnecessary and causes an inner emotional numbing to the suffering of others that encourages violence and prevents us from accessing the inner spiritual fountains of wisdom and love. What goes around comes around. We must as a species stop the violence that is inherent in our meat habit. This should be of paramount importance for all religious movements and teachers. It is the call of spirituality. If our religions don’t hear this call, we must revitalize them or create new ones that do.

Will Tuttle, Ph.D., composer, pianist, Zen priest, and author of The World Peace Diet, is cofounder of Karuna Music & Art and of the Prayer Circle for Animals and Circle of Compassion ministry.

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