Originally published in VegNews Magazine, March 2007
By Will Tuttle, Ph.D.
Back when Ronald Reagan was president, I heard a provocative joke: There was an energy shortage, and Reagan went to his advisors with what he thought was a brilliant solution: “We’ll build a pipeline straight to the sun and pipe the energy in directly to the earth.”
His advisors discussed his idea at length and then responded, “Sorry, sir, your idea unfortunately won’t work; when we get close to the sun, the heat will melt the pipe. We have nothing that can withstand that enormous heat.” Reagan had already solved that problem in his mind and said triumphantly, “Then we’ll build the pipe at night!”
Sometimes it seems we forget this, and on a cloudy day or at night we’ll say the sun’s not shining. Yet the sun is constantly shining and in the same way, the sun of our true nature continually radiates wisdom and compassion into our life and consciousness. Its healing and inspiring light may be blocked by the clouds of our conditioned thinking and the turning away we learn in our culture.
When we come to this earth, we find ourselves in a culture that is at its very core organized around confining and killing animals for food. We are forced virtually from birth to look at beings as mere commodities and to treat them as such by eating them in the most powerful daily rituals we engage in: our meals. Through years of daily practice, we inherit the mentality of our culture, which is a mentality of exclusion, privilege, competition, and disconnection. We unconsciously imbibe this mentality from childhood and it forces us to disconnect from our ever-shining inner wisdom and compassion. We become desensitized consumers and forget that our welfare is ultimately completely interconnected with the welfare of others.
All cultures naturally propagate themselves through their various institutions, and ours is no different. Our scientific, religious, governmental, educational, and economic institutions all reflect the same underlying mentality and reinforce it, which is why veganism is so strenuously resisted, and also why it is so urgently needed as well. Science and religion, for example, both work in their own ways to propagate our culture’s underlying mentality that animals are inferior to us and are “ours” to use as we like.
Fortunately, as we awaken and stop disconnecting from the suffering we cause others by our choices, we resensitize ourselves and begin to be a force for kindness and respect that can impact others, and we can work through our culture’s institutions to raise consciousness and spread the light of inclusiveness. The more clearly the inner light shines in us, the more clearly we can shine it into the world.
Looking around, we can see the tremendous urgency in the task required of us: to do all we can to influence our culture to evolve and embrace the vegan ideals of interconnectedness, freedom, and caring.
The same urgency is required in our inner lives as well. Going vegan is much more than minimizing the cruelty and suffering we cause others; it is awakening the heart of loving inclusiveness and realizing that there are, ultimately, no separate selves. Each of us is radically and profoundly interconnected with all other living beings, and by blessing and encouraging and seeing the best in others, we help everyone, and by condemning or turning away from others, we harm everyone, including ourselves. Shining compassion to everyone, even our apparent opponents, is the essence of the benevolent revolution that is veganism.
And not only that, going vegan’s a practical contribution to the energy crisis, hunger, and global warming. So build that pipe to the inner sun and shine!
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.