Question: Acharya Ji, what is the reason which made you go vegan?
Acharya Prashant Ji: The same reason that makes you ask these questions, and makes me answer them – Wisdom, Love, Truth.
One is fettered, one is shackled, and consciousness is one’s only hope – deep, deep consciousness that takes one so high that one can then escape away from consciousness. How then can one be full of disrespect for any sentient, any conscious being?
If you look into the eyes of an animal and do not see your own face, then you are a blind one, and blind ones are not supposed to reach destinations.
How would you be liberated if you do not have Compassion towards yourself? It is not enough to just theoretically or intellectually say that one wants to be liberated. One needs to have something in heart, for consciousness striving towards Liberation.
One has to look at himself and say, “I do not like that I am fettered.” One must have a certain love for himself, one must be able to touch himself gently, and only then will one be able to provide for one’s deepest need.
And if you can look at yourself and see that you are really-really eager to get Love, to get Freedom, to get security, how will you not see that when you look at other human beings or other conscious beings?
If you are violent towards other beings, it only means that you are violent towards yourself as well because you and the other being are essentially one, the differences are countless but worthless.
You look at yourself and you look at a parrot or a goat, or any small living being, these eyes as biological instruments will only show you differences between yourself and the other creature. But if you have Wisdom and Compassion, you will see a great similarity – both of you are hungry for Love and Liberation. And if you value your own hunger, how will you not value the other’s hunger?
You are supposed to liberate the other, in that lies your Liberation. You are not to annihilate the other. If in the other’s Liberation lies your Liberation, then surely in the other’s annihilation lies your annihilation. But to see this equation, first of all you need to have the sensitivity, the attention to clearly see that at a deep level you and the goat are one.
But if you are someone who accords a lot of value to culture, civilization, language, knowledge, intellect, clothes, names, labels, then you will say, “A goat is a goat, a man is a man, and the goat is such an inferior product of evolution,” and all that is so very foolhardy.
Yes the goat does appear inferior, but the inferiority is in a very inferior dimension. I do not deny that in the dimension of the intellect, the goat is inferior to the human being. But the dimension of intellect is itself an inferior dimension, because in this dimension you never gain Liberation. So how can it be a superior dimension?
In the existential dimension, you and the goat are one. In the existential dimension, all beings striving for Liberation are one. And is there a being that is not striving for Liberation? No, not at all.
To be existent is to be desirous of Liberation.
Otherwise why would you exist at all? We exist to be loved and liberated, and you cannot have liberation in isolation because as long as you are a believer in isolation, that itself is bondage.
Are you getting it?
To move towards your Liberation is to realize that nothing like isolation exists, your deepest desire is also the deepest desire of your neighbor. And the deepest desire of you and your neighbor is the same as that of the insect crawling in your neighbor’s lawn, and of the bird perched on your terrace.
Come close to a stranger, an insect, an animal, a bird, spend time with them without bias, and it will become very difficult for you to say that the animal is not a person.
The fundamental mistake that most human beings make is that – they only have images about consciousness. We never actually get close to the conscious beings that we kill and exploit for food or convenience, so we do not even have the basic respect, the courtesy, the decency to refer to animals properly.
We look at an elephant and say, “‘It’ is moving.” Is the elephant a machine?
We do not see that all sentient beings are actually persons like us. Mostly we do not see, and when we are compelled to see we pretend that we have not seen, because if we admit that we have seen, then we will have to mend our ways.
And that is inconvenient.
Those who are violent towards other living forms are fundamentally violent towards themselves. Do not turn vegetarian or vegan for reasons of mercy or pity, turn a vegan in your own self-interest. You’re not killing the other, you’re killing yourself. Don’t act as if you are doing a favor to the other by being nice. If you are decent to the other, then it is yourself you are helping.
Question 2: Acharya Ji, what is the relationship between Veganism and Spirituality?
Acharya Prashant Ji: You see, Spirituality is all about freedom from suffering. Is it not? If there is no suffering, there is no need for any kind of spiritual path or spiritual discipline.
So man is suffering. One has to start from there.
You look within yourself, or you look around yourself, you would find it hard to deny that there indeed is suffering. Man is suffering. And at the same time, suffering cannot be one’s utter destiny. Surely there is a way out, surely redemption is available.
And if redemption is available, and man is still suffering, it shows that man is somewhere making wrong choices. An exit out of the hell-hole does exist, but man seems to be trying at other places, knocking at false doors. When you are exploiting the other, it is for self-gratification not for self-liberation.
And if Liberation is your goal, then how can you spend your energy just pleasing yourself?
The prisoner who starts finding means of comfort and pleasure inside his prison cell will no doubt entertain himself for a while, will no doubt manage to keep himself in high spirits for a while, will no doubt appear to have cracked the code for a while, but one thing is certain – he would remain within the prison.
Within the prison, he might consider himself an achiever, and so might the others. But if the one and only worthy goal was to break out of the prison, then his life has been an utter failure.
Tell me why does man exploit man? Tell me why are we so insecure? Tell me why is cutting the best deal possible such an important thing with us? Tell me what is it that we mean by trying to make it big? We’re just trying to have a good time inside the prison cell.
And then there are the trees, the rivers, the mountains, the fish, the birds, the jungles, and you can eat them all up. See something alluring – snap it up, spit it out. And all of that within the prison.
And this game is continuing.
You look at a deer, you hunt it, you eat it up. A lion – “Ah!” An elephant – “Nice tusks.” A tree, a river – anything, anything, anything is there just to be exploited. All of man’s energy is flowing in a very foolish direction.
And Spirituality is Intelligence, so this has to be corrected.
One has to see why one wants to kill and consume at all. One wants to kill and consume because one is forgetting his Real intention, one is forgetting his Real need. One is forgetting why he exists at all.
The prisoner has no business getting too cozy inside his cell. He should remember that he is in an awkward position. He should constantly remember just one thing: Freedom, Freedom, and Freedom, not gratification.
And if you can remember the fact of your own bondage and your desire for your own Freedom, then you will become very-very sensitive to the fact of others’ bondage, and parallely others’ desire towards their Freedom.
If a prisoner in his cell is constantly remembering his Freedom, then he would pass on the same message to his fellow prisoners, to the other inmates. He would not tempt them or encourage them to just have a jolly time.
If you remember that you must fly free, you also clearly see that the others here too must fly free. Then you want it not only for yourself, you want it for others as well. And I repeat, the existential game is such that you cannot just plan it out for only yourself. You must have it in mind that that which you are demanding for yourself must reach others as well. Compassion and Spirituality are so very intimate. And in today’s time Veganism is the strongest name for compassion. You cannot be Spiritual and violent at the same time. You cannot be Spiritual and a flesh-eater at the same time.