You are in grief even when somebody disrespects you.
In fact, you are in grief the moment somebody is not loving towards you.
So, Veganism is, in its true sense, Love.
Questioner (Q): What is spirituality? How would you explain it to someone who knows nothing about it? How is self-awareness related to it?
Acharya Prashant (AP): Spirituality is very simple and straightforward, obvious and direct. We all live. We all are going through life as we say! Spirituality is to know what is going on, to be fearlessly in touch with the facts of one’s life. And because one’s life is always in context of the world, so to know the relationship between oneself and the world, the people one relates to, the things that one is after, the thoughts that one remains occupied in, one’s relationship with the mountains, rivers, animals, trees, insects, technology, everything.
Spirituality is simply about not being dumb. To know is to be Spiritual. The more one knows, the more connected one feels, because only in illusion about the other is there alienation. Then one feels like an alien. If I do not know you, then it is very difficult to be comfortable. And one wants to live comfortably. Hence, one must know.
So, not to sleepwalk through life—that is Spirituality. Most of us unfortunately live in some kind of deep unawareness, in some kind of deep unconsciousness. To wake up from that, to live with one’s eyes open—that is Spirituality.
Q: Is compassion related to it?
AP: Compassion is not a part of spirituality. Compassion is Spirituality itself. Spirituality is not a field consisting of different parts, though it appears so. One talks of Truth, Love, Compassion, Non-violence, Equanimity, and several of these do not at least apparently directly relate to each other.
For example, when one is talking of Truth and when one is talking of Love, there might be a lot of underlying dissonance between the two talks. When one is talking of right action, when one is talking of detachment, and when one is talking of non-violence, again there might be contradictions. As long as we take Spirituality to be a sum total of parts, there are bound to be contradictions.
Compassion is not a part. Compassion is Truth. Compassion is Love. Compassion is everything that wisdom stands for. Hence, compassion is not what we think it to be because if compassion is our concept of compassion, then every concept is limited, every concept is bound to be at odds with several other concepts. To have compassion is to know that really, deeply, not just theoretically, we all are one. We all are one and to not to suffer is our nature. Nobody likes suffering.
And when you combine these two statements, what we get is that we all want welfare, basic inner health, joy. And if I want that for myself, then I have to ensure it for others also, because I and the other are not really distinct. So, compassion is an absence of ‘otherness’. If I want good for myself, good to the other is a definite precondition. That is compassion.
Compassion then also means that individual good is a huge illusion. At the personal level and also at the level of aggregate mankind, we often live believing that something nice can happen to us even as the lights keep getting blown out elsewhere. We believe in our personal illumination. We even believe in personal enlightenment. No good can happen to a single person. We all are not only tied together; we all are just one.
Anything wrong—and when I say wrong, the only wrong is ‘suffering’—any suffering that befalls on any creature of any consciousness anywhere, is one’s own personal suffering. To think that one can live in a secluded and isolated way is to just live wishfully. Facts will not bear that out.
The earth, the grass, the air, water; we arise from all of these. We are organically linked to all of these. If grass suffers, it is impossible that we won’t suffer. If the moon suffers, it is impossible that we won’t suffer. Our fate is linked to the fate of the moon. If any human being, or an insect, or a bird, or an animal receives suffering anywhere in this universe, his tears are going to be our own tears. We may not consciously know that. We may keep sleeping. We may even keep with our excitement and our phony celebrations.
You look at these birds. What I am saying right now is coming from the health of these birds chirping around. If they stop chirping, I will have to stop speaking. Their voice is my voice—this is compassion.
For my own individual good, I must also let my entire system know what the birds are to me, because there is no personal or individual good or welfare. It’s either you, me, him, her, everybody and the birds together, or it’s none of us.
Q: So, we do have a responsibility for our actions. If our actions are affecting our surroundings or others, if our actions are making someone suffer, we are responsible for that.
AP: Yes, but our actions will keep becoming causes of suffering as long as we keep believing in otherness. You see, this is the point we start from. We say this is me and that is you and you are an ‘other’. And now, me being me and you being you, which is separate and distinct and distant, I must take care of you. That is not possible. The intention is good, but that won’t happen.
Otherness itself is the mother culprit.
As long as we talk of responsibility with respect to others, it would always be a taught responsibility, it would always be a conditioned responsibility.
Real responsibility is not with respect to others. Real responsibility does not even think of others. At this moment I am talking to you. Apparently, I am responsible to you. I must talk sense. I must not waste your time. I must say something that is useful to you. But the fact of the matter is that I am not even thinking of you.
And that is how real responsibility operates. If I think of you, then I have made you into a separate person, because thought is dualistic. Whatever is the object of thought is necessarily an alien, an ‘other’. So, as I speak to you, the mark of my love is that I must not think of you. Because if I think of you, then, I repeat, I have separated you.
If one thinks that one is responsible towards the environment, towards the animals, towards himself, his kids, wife, society, anybody, then one would proceed to an extent and stop there, because all responsibility of the mind stops.
Only the responsibility of the heart is unlimited. And in the heart, there is no separation. In the mind, there is only separation.
Mind will say, ‘I am responsible to him, to him, to him’, and that responsibility will be a pattern-based responsibility, a pre-decided responsibility. Beyond that you won’t operate. The Police is responsible towards you, but it won’t cross the Rubicon. Your friends have responsibility towards you, but even that responsibility meets a line somewhere, a boundary somewhere. You are responsible towards your loved ones, but even that responsibility is not infinite. So, with all his apparently good intentions, man will keep on hurting and harming himself and the so-called others as long as he operates through a concept of responsibility. Responsibility has to be a thing of the heart. It has to be a direct and pure love.
So, I do not really enjoy the word responsibility, because it stands basically for dualistic separation. Love is the word. If I am in love with the insect there and if I really know what love is, then do I have to be responsible? Then do I have to learn from others how far I can go with that insect? Then I will know. Then I will really know. And from where will that knowledge arise? That one doesn’t know. But one just knows. One just knows.
You meet a cow on the road and you just know. You just know. You meet a small puppy, or you may even meet a snake or a lion. You just know. Right now, I am limiting this to sentient beings for the purpose of this conversation, but I may even extend this to insentient beings. One knows what one has to be with respect to a mountain, because a mountain is not just a mountain; the mountain is my right arm. I cannot denude the mountain.
Q: So, one who is completely self-aware of themselves—they cannot consciously hurt someone?
AP: Not even unconsciously! See, consciously most people do not try to hurt. But that is the thing about consciousness. It is so little, so false, and so delusive. Intentionally, consciously, who wants to hurt anybody? Except, let’s say, a handful of people. Most people are moralistic. Most people have been taught by their education, family, society, media, etc., to not to be hurtful or vengeful. It is not at all about consciousness. I repeat this, and it is a very important point that one must understand:
Love, responsibility, etc., cannot be a matter of consciousness, of thoughts. They cannot be a matter of conclusions.
As long as you try to be good to somebody by framing a thoughtful pattern of responsibility towards that person, you will fail in your attempts. And you will not even know why you are failing. You will say, “I am doing everything that I can do. I am doing all my duties. I am doing everything that a loving person is supposed to do, and yet it is not working out. I can still see a lot of suffering.” That suffering will be there because you are operating from your mind. When I say consciousness, I mean the conscious mind. You are operating from the mind. You are not operating from the heart. Operating from the mind, you will always be considering your own benefits first. You will say, “I must do good to the river because if I do not do good to the river, from where will I get drinking water?” Now, that’s not Love. That’s give and take. Keep the river clean, maintain the ecosystem for your own personal welfare. The day you discover that your own personal welfare can be had even without the upkeep of the river, you will abandon the river.
Love and responsibility have to be reasonless. They have to be mad.
One has to be crazy enough to put in everything for a seemingly trivial creature. I don’t know whether you have heard this story from the life of the Buddha. One man was carrying a goat to slaughter, and the Buddha meets him. Buddha says: “Kindly leave her. Look at her face, look at her eyes. You really want to kill?” The man says, “I understand what you are saying, even I know a little bit of the scriptures, even I am trained in formal religion. I know it is bad to kill. And when you say, look at the face of the goat, look at her eyes, feel her, do you still want to kill , I know all of that. But I have a family to support and my responsibility is towards my family also.”
See, this is what responsibility does. It is always a give and take, something of calculation, something of compromise. So, responsibility in one dimension, in one side, becomes cruelty to somebody else. I have a responsibility towards my family, towards my kids, hence this goat must go. Unless the meat is sold off, how will my kids survive?
Now, the Buddha didn’t have any money. Buddhas usually don’t end up with money. So, he said, “How much flesh are you going to derive from this little creature?” He said, “so many pounds.” The Buddha said: “Fine. Take that much of flesh from my body. Extract as much as you want from my thighs. Leave her.”
This is crazy. Is it not? The life of a Buddha is precious. If you were some kind of a management consultant you would go to the Buddha and tell him, “If you survive, then you will be able to save a million such goats. So, for the sake of compassion itself, do not save this particular goat. If you save this one, then so many other goats are gone. Further, even if you save this one, this man still remains a killer. He will find some other goat to kill. His greed is not going to be killed. So, it’s no point making this expensive trade-off.” And the more you think, the more insane the Buddha’s offer will appear to you.
That is Love. That is responsibility.
Responsibility is not a cold word. Responsibility is not something that can arise from your calculations. Responsibility is not something that you can sit and talk over a coffee table. Responsibility is when you are really going mad trying to save a little inconsequential goat. You do not discuss responsibility in a seminar or in a conference where international speakers are flowing in and very gravely, they are discoursing over responsibility.
Responsibility is when you are away from all of that and fighting your own little thing. And what are you doing? You are probably putting everything at stake for one irrelevant kid who may not necessarily be your own kid. That is responsibility. That does not ‘look’ like responsibility. That will look like ‘lack of responsibility.’ People will accuse you. They will say, “You know what, you abandoned that conference and that conference was about this or that grave issue facing the earth and instead you chose to go to that kid, that animal, to that river, or to yourself, or to that woman and you wasted your time there. That’s so irresponsible of you.” That’s the shape and form of responsibility. It follows no mental patterns.
We won’t be able to do anything. We won’t be able to save ourselves. We won’t be able to save the animals. We won’t be able to do anything about the exploitation of mulch cattle, about all those people who are slaughtering in the name of diet, about all the people who are hell bent that unless you consume meat your dietary requirements will not be met. We won’t be able to do anything about them, unless there is insanity about general living. If your life from morning till evening does not have that element of madness, then you will never be mad enough to be sane. Never.
The things that are required, the mind that is required, to save ourselves and to ensure that these birds keep on chirping, is not the same mind with which we live from morning till evening.
Veganism or compassion towards animals—is it just about ensuring that they are not killed or that they are kept in humane conditions or that they are not exploited for fur and milk? The way we live—I mean, look at the chair you are sitting on. Look at this stuff I am sitting on. None of this is conducive to the ‘Sahaj’ flow of this entire ecosystem. Even when we don’t kill animals, what happens to the birds and the insects in the area where you set up an iron and steel plant? And most of them are set up besides rivers. One takes a flight to a particular conference on Veganism. Does one know what one is doing? And one is bound to take a flight because one is accustomed to flying. Do you know where that much of steel has come from? Do you know how much has it killed? And even if it has not killed, it has maimed. It has caused immense grief. Even if that grief is not physical, it is psychological. You know how an animal feels when you disturb its ecosystem? You know how a fish feels when you divert a river or block a river? It’s not just about eating the fish. Are you in grief only when somebody eats you? You are in grief even when somebody disrespects you. In fact, you are in grief the moment somebody is not loving towards you.
So, veganism is, in its true sense, is love.
Do you have love for the fish? If you have love for the fish, how will you fly so often? Now, that’s dangerous, because we don’t think of it this way. We never think that it has to do with our entire lifestyle. Iron and steel consumption are considered one of the important benchmarks of a nation’s progress. In fact, if you want to measure how a nation is doing, you look at the steel consumption, you look at the coal consumption, you look at the electricity consumption, and then you say, “Oh! The nation is doing well. 15% year on year growth in steel consumption, in electricity.” What’s going on?
With so much of electricity, with so much of steel, with so much of other chemicals and materials, how are you ever going to be truly compassionate?
Q: India being the largest producer of milk and India being the largest exporter of beef, there’s still this hypocrisy where we believe that cow is our holy mother and we are still doing all these primitive measures of artificial insemination where people use their bare hands and inseminate the cow, our holy mother, or the bull, to make them pregnant so that it can start giving milk again. Then we use oxytocin to make the cow give milk. Generally, a cow is supposed to live for 20 years, but we make her live just 2-3 years because of this overexploitation, because of these inhumane conditions we make them live in. We as Indians respect our mothers and we consider cow as our mother. Why then this hypocrisy? Why don’t we realize this which is right in front of us?
AP: Because we look only at the little and we are very comfortable looking only at the little. If all those who oppose cow and beef slaughter would really know that the beef industry and the dairy industry are deeply interrelated, would they still be milk lovers?
The majority of opposition to beef in India comes from those who love milk. That’s very very strange. Look at all those who are demonstrating on the roads against beef. In one of the important states, Maharashtra, beef has just been recently banned. So, if you are found slaughtering a cow in Maharashtra, you would be jailed and fined or both. That’s wonderful but stupid. Because you do not know that the beef comes from the same cattle that was previously used to fulfill your milk needs and farm needs. The cattle that are slaughtered do not drop from the sky; they are the same cattle that were previously there in the dairies or in the fields for the sake of human welfare and human consumption. We consume the cow twice. Firstly, when we use it for milk, for energy in the farm, the bull that is, the ox. And secondly, when it can no more provide us with labor or milk, then we sell it off so that it may get slaughtered. When there was a ban on beef slaughter, there was a major opposition by a segment of farmers. They said that “If we cannot sell the oxen for slaughter, what do we do with them? Because they are not useful in the fields as they are old now. And after 12 or 13 years of age, the animal is no more useful in the fields. So, what to do with it? Keep it and feed it? And if we feed it, then our children will starve. So, we have to sell it to the butcher. We have to sell it to the one who would help us exploit it a little more.”
Krishna is Gita. Krishna is idea-less action. Krishna is Nishkaama karma . Krishna is the height of spirituality. But unfortunately, in this land of Krishna, the image of Krishna has been manipulated to stand mostly as a cowherd; as someone who would relish his milk, his curd, his butter. India hardly understands the Gita, but uses the metaphor, the image, the justification of Krishna, to keep consuming milk, ghee, butter and the rest of these things. You go to someone and ask, “Why are you so insistent on milk?”, and they would say, “Why? Even our very Lord was a milk lover! He was born in a family of dairymen and he would tend the cows all day and then milk them and that was an expression of his love for the cows.” Ask them, “Have you read the Gita? Do you know what love is? And if you really know what love is, would you stick to this particular image of Krishna?” But going to the Krishna of Gita is dangerous, very dangerous. So, one goes to the Krishna of the mythical stories. That Krishna is suitable. That Krishna helps one consume.
It’s extremely unfortunate that religion and spirituality in India have become synonymous with milk usage. So, you have women coming over and dressing and bathing the Shiva-Ling with milk. They call it dugdhabhishek , which is so very nonsensical. Do you know what Shiva stands for? Have you read the Shiva sutras? Have you any real respect for Shiva? Do you really love Shiva? Shiva stands for total love. Shiva stands for dissolution of all that which is personal, and that is called Pralay . Shiva does not stand for the exploitation of the animal. But you go to the religious types and they will say, “We do not exploit the cow. We love the cow! That is why we have chained her in our little gaushala, and we provide her with food and nourishment.” You ask them, “What if you are chained by your neck in the same way and provided good nourishment, and you are made to have sex with a stranger, just as the cow is made to have, and you are forcibly made to bear children because somebody wants you to reproduce because your progeny is going to be useful as a farm resource—is that love, really?” Unfortunately, this great land of love, India, has just forgotten love. And the worst symbol of our cruelty, and the worst recipient of our cruelty, is the cow. The world has been cruel to the entire vast ecosystem. But India in particular has not been crueler to any animal than the cow. And most of that happens in the name of love and religion. If cows could speak and if they were to be asked, which country would you want to escape from, they would say India. Indians have been so unfair to the cows.
I was with an acquaintance and I do not touch milk products, that’s known. So, he wanted to sort this out with me. He said, “You know what, if the cow is not milked, then it faces physical discomfort. The milk must be drawn out of her breasts. Otherwise, it’s a burden.” I said, “Does that happen with beings of any other species? And has existence nominated human beings as the caretakers of cows in particular?” And when we say caretaker, we mean taking care of their milk, nothing more than that. What about cows in the jungle? Who goes to them to relieve them of their milk? What about other mammals? Who relieves them of their milk? Nature has its own intelligence. Nature knows how much milk to give to a female. The lioness has only as much milk as the lion cub needs. The she-camel only has as much milk as the baby camel needs. And a little bit here and there is well within the scope of nature. Nature will take care of that adjustment.
But look at the stupid and dangerous justification. It is the same justification as when people say that unless we eat chicken, chicken will proliferate so much that they will take over the world. “There would be chicken republics and chicken armies and chicken governments! You see, they breed so much, so it is our holy responsibility to kill and eat chicken.” The fools don’t even know that chicken is produced in de-facto factories; they don’t drop from the skies.
Q: We as humans consider ourselves to be the most superior species than all other species of plants, animals, or anything around us. Does this make us the most superior species?
AP: You see, this one thing coming from many religious sources has wreaked havoc on the consciousness of mankind, this misplaced feeling of superiority. And I do not know how and why this has happened. But many religions actually provide their sanction to this. It’s another matter that when you go deeply into them, then you find that this conclusion is baseless—the conclusion that man is the finest product of existence. But apparently, it is there in many religious texts, especially the Abrahamic religious texts. It is there, one cannot deny. This is foolish.
You see, as the world is, man is in fact inferior to animals if a comparison has to be made. Look at the worst acts of unholiness, cruelty, insensitivity—they were not perpetrated by animals. Man is responsible for them! In my talks I attack this notion very-very frequently. I like to share with my audience that if they can rise up to the level of a dog, then their life has been fulfilled. A dog never falls below a dog. Man falls much below man. Man is much worse than a dog. It is another matter that man also has the potentiality to rise. But that potentiality is realized in one in a thousand cases. In 999 cases, man falls. And man is definitely worse than animals.
You want to see some innocence? You won’t see it in a human being’s eyes, at least not in a mature adult human being’s eyes. For innocence, you will have to go to animals; you will have to look into the eyes of a cow, or a dog, or even a crocodile; even there you will see innocence. But you cannot find innocence in the eyes of the metropolitan man or a woman. It is very difficult. At most, you will find it in the eyes of human kids. But anybody who is beyond the age of 15 would have fallen below the level of a dog. So, this concept that man is superior to animals is highly misplaced. One has to ask, what is the yardstick? How are you making the comparison? Superior or inferior has to be decided on the scale of value. Which value are you measuring? Really, the true values that determine the worth of any being are simplicity, innocence, truthfulness, ability to love. You decide on your own whether human beings have it or whether animals have it.
We were there yesterday, and a small pup started following us for no reason whatsoever. Now, you look at the size of that pup and you look at the loneliness of the pup. It’s a single being following a group of 10 grownups of another species. A little dog is following 10 large human beings. Not only is there a separation in terms of size and age, there is also vast separation in terms of the species you belong to. And still, the dog has faith, still the dog is following. Not only is it following, it is actually coming and offering itself. Any of the grown-ups could have just kicked it. And one hard hit might even be enough to finish the little pup off. But it doesn’t bother.
So, I ask, can a human being do this? Can one little human being, for example, follow a group of 10 large lions, with faith, with trust? Not only follow them, actually go and embrace them? The pup was wanting to climb all over us. Can human beings do that? Forget about lions! If there are 6 or 7 burley dogs, would a human being dare to go near them? So, if you want to see trust, if you want to see simple love, go to animals.
Now, how do you say that man is superior to animals? When man has very little love as compared to animals, when man has very little innocence compared to animals, when man is far more destructive compared to animals and far more violent as compared to animals, how do you claim that man is superior to animals? Please bring on those religious masters who are hell bent on saying that god created animals for human consumption. Are texts of animals saying that? These are human texts written for human convenience, so obviously they will say that all the animals are there so that you may consume them, exploit them. If dogs were to write a holy text, would they say that we are inferior to humans? If chicken were to write a Bible of their own, would they say that we exist so that we may be slaughtered in factories and packed? If such texts are claiming such rubbish, it is a proof that they are not holy at all, that they are just an ugly invention of human mind to keep justifying its own excesses.
Q: So, it’s not possible to be an enlightened being or self-aware and still eat meat?
AP: Of course, not possible.
Q: So, these masters or gurus, they are not really enlightened?
AP: Of course not! How can you teach compassion while cutting some flesh on your plate? How is it possible? Forget about enlightened masters or gurus, they are anyway very few in number. Even those who claim to be enlightened, their number might at most run into a few thousands. Right now, I want to talk of the general human being. I want to talk of the mother who claims that she is a loving mother. On one hand, you are breastfeeding your kid; on one hand, you are saying that even a small blemish on the kid’s face is unacceptable to you. On the other hand, you have no qualms in slaughtering a little lamb. What kind of a mother are you? And how will you have any love for your own kid when you don’t have love for the kid of the goat?
So, it’s not only upon the so-called enlightened masters. I want to ask this to anybody and everybody who has ever claimed to be in love. How can you love your man and woman while meeting for a date at Kentucky’s Fried Chicken? And I have seen couples meet in love at KFC—what supreme nonsense is this!
Would you give raw flesh to your valentine on the 14th of Feb? Would you? That’s as gross as that.
Q: So, when we are going into the path of spirituality or when you are looking for self-realization or freedom, all these good qualities like compassion that are inherent in us, should we cultivate these or we should just focus on our self-awareness, and after that all the good qualities will come? Like, for beings like us who are on the path of self-awareness or spirituality, shall we cultivate these qualities or are they going to show up automatically?
AP: It is not possible to cultivate them. You see, this depraved state of ours has come from cultivation. What are schools? They are centres of cultivation. What is religion? What are all these temples, churches? They are places of cultivation! What are our offices or community centres? They are places of cultivation. So, one has already cultivated enough. One need not cultivate anything more. One rather needs to watch. If you can watch a squirrel, you will know what it means to play around. Then you don’t have to cultivate playfulness. Have you ever watched a squirrel with its tail up? When it goes around up the tree, down the tree? Two squirrels meet, they do something to each other, talk, communicate, groom, and off they go. If you can watch a monkey, you will know what it means to have insane fun. If you can watch a dog, you will know what it means to relate to a human being. If you can watch the mountains, if you can watch the mountain stream, you will know what it means to flow without inhibition. Watch. Don’t cultivate. That watching will result in a lot of de-cultivation.
Q: But sometimes we are born in a culture, or a country, where it is very normal to consume even meat or dairy, and sometimes people are not aware of what is behind all this. So, is it good that we watch these online videos and see this cruelty and then change? Or should we avoid seeing these kinds of things?
AP: You should watch these certainly, even if those videos appear distasteful to you. You must see what actually goes on inside a slaughter factory. You must see what is the life cycle of a hen or a chicken. You must see what happens to a calf since the moment of its inception. You must see all those things, because they are a part of living. You must know where the food on your plate is coming from. It’s nicely packaged, the packet shines. So, you do not know the cruelty that is contained inside. You do not know that if the packet could speak, it would actually scream and weep.
So, these things must be seen, when so many people have quit flesh altogether after seeing where the flesh comes from. And especially kids must be shown all these! The kid will face a little bit of trauma initially, the kid will remain in shock for two days, but that will ensure that the kid is hit by collective sorrow for the collective acts of entire humanity.
You talked about countries where it is prevalent in the culture itself to consume meat. You see, there is so much that is prevalent in the culture! And do we keep justifying it? In India it was a thing of culture to have the custom of Sati. You know what Sati is? The woman would go along with the husband in the most inhumane way possible. On the funeral pyre, on the burning wood, the living woman would be made to sit. Sometimes with her own approval. Man can be so much conditioned that the woman can, on her own accord, go and sit on burning wood. That was taken as part of culture. Now, was that not eliminated? Was that justified and continued in the name of culture? No, it was not. We saw that it must go, so it went.
Similarly, there were so many things in Europe before the renaissance that were simply discontinued. They appeared senseless and stupid. Once man’s mind woke up, it could see that all this that is happening, the confinement of women, and the dominance of religion over state, the way certain women were castigated as witches and beaten and burnt—does that still happen in the name of culture? So, culture can be purified. When man wakes up, when the mind gets some light, culture has to change. Man does not live for the sake of culture. Culture flows from man, man is first. So, man must change, culture is secondary.
Q: People don’t really know about the impact of animal husbandry on the environment. If I tell someone that 51% of global greenhouse gas emission is caused by cows or rearing of these animals or because of the population of these animals on earth, and to give more light on it, India has the largest number of this cattle population in the whole world; it is around almost 600 million, which is almost half the population of India. And apart from this, the space which all these cattle require is taking up at least 30-40% of the total land area which could be used to grow or used for many other purposes. The water, which is being used, the usable water which people can drink, has been used for the processing of meat, processing of milk, processing of all the animal derived products. If only people could know about this—you think people would change? With more awareness on these topics, would people change?
AP: Of course. In fact, I repeat that this knowledge should first and foremost go to kids, because they are where they have not yet been fully corrupted. They have not yet been fully conditioned in the name of habit or all that. If you can really bring the facts of our living and our relationship with animals and environment to the kids, we can have a new world. We must include kids as one of the most important recipients of this work. If you go to a 40-50-year-old, you are likely to face a lot of resistance. I meet that resistance daily, so I know. Go to kids. Tell them. Kids have a natural affinity for animals, and animals also have a natural affinity for kids. If grownups are playing, it is a little difficult that a calf or a cow would come to them. But observe; where kids are playing, animals are very easily attracted. And animals usually do not like to harm kids unless they are irritated, psyched out, or in some kind of trauma. Kids and animals, they have something in common. Both are not yet socially conditioned. So, focus there.
Q: So, people who are on the spiritual path must be vegan?
AP: It is a natural outcome. It is as natural as the fruit appearing on a tree. If the tree is healthy, the fruit will appear. If one is seated in the heart, if one is living in an innocent way, compassion is bound to be there. Both come from the same root. They are not different.
Q: Can you say something about Ahimsa (non-violence) coming from the holy books?
AP: See, all scriptures are fundamentally about oneness, about non-duality. ‘Hinsa’ (violence) means otherness. Where there is other, there is violence—that is the definition of ‘Hinsa’ . If there is other, there is bound to be violence, because you will have a boundary and that boundary will be the boundary of your self-interest. Outside your boundary, your self-interest cannot continue. Otherwise, what is the need for the boundary? So, as long as there is the other, there is bound to be ‘Hinsa’ . So, Ahimsa means non-duality, Advait . For Hinsa to go, Dvait (duality) must go. The moment there are two, violence starts. So, religious scriptures all are anyway pertaining to non-duality, that non-duality is non-violence, but it has to be spelled out that way. Somebody has to come and forcefully show that non-duality is non-violence. You cannot say that you believe in non-duality and still be found sipping your milk coffee.
Q: Lastly, a message for everyone to get to know more about this and be aware may be, try to make some small actions of changes in our daily lifestyle which will help them be more inclined towards the environment and be more compassionate.
AP: The animal is your baby. Don’t be so stupid. You bring up an animal, the animal will bring you up. You raise a cat, and you find that the cat is raising you. Just don’t be stupid. When you throw a stone at a dog, you are throwing a stone at yourself. When you slaughter a lamb, you are slaughtering yourself. In fact, that particular lamb is gone; it will face no more suffering. What about you? You will survive to bear the consequences of what you have just done. So, don’t be stupid towards yourself. If I talk about mercy towards animals, I will be ignored. I am saying: Be a little merciful towards your own self-interest. It’s not the animal that you are killing.
And I am especially appealing to the kids and to the mothers. Kids for their innocence and mothers for what they call as their love. You know what it means to love a baby, you must know what it means to love an animal. And when I say animal, I also mean the little inconsequential insect. By animal I don't only mean the cute pup or the lovely peacock, I also mean the unseemly bug. They all are your babies. If you relish your motherhood so much, if you really are full of nurturing and life, then really give life. Please be a mother to the entire universe.