My spiritual connection with veganism is with Buddhism and Engaged Buddhism. So, my spiritual approach to being vegan is material or, rather, my material vegan lifestyle is influenced by the spiritual message of Buddhism. Can I please be a secular-non-practicing-Buddhist-spiritual-grumpy-vegan?
This is why I find myself writing about the Way of Vegan, which is inspired by my learning about the Way of the Buddha. So, being vegan today is more than the material veganism of my past. But it has not become a spiritual practice either. My material cruelty-free vegan lifestyle is now influenced by my understanding and interpretation of the practical ethics within the practice of Buddhism. I want to keep one foot in the material vegan world and reach over with my other foot to touch with my toe a new world, the secular, ethical Buddhist vegan world. This is important to me today because I wish to infuse my life with my key values of truth, compassion, nonviolence and interbeing. It is not because I want an enlightened spirituality tomorrow.
The Way of the Buddha is the Middle Path taught by the Buddha to develop equally compassion (karuna) and wisdom (panna). The Middle Path inspires, in part, my commitment to achieving the moral and legal rights for animals by balancing the utopian vision of animal rights with the pragmatic politics of animal welfare. Buddhism inspires my animal advocacy practice because it offers important insight into understanding suffering. All suffering is my concern but it is how we treat animals that I particularly care about. We have already seen how the animal industrial complex is responsible for the exploitation of billions of animals annually. We are, of course, complicit with this exploitation because it is our consumerism which drives the consumption of animals that the animal industrial complex provides. Ourselves and the animal industrial complex are to blame for animal exploitation. But there is more to understand about animal exploitation than this view of it as a market place phenomena, with all its attendant issues of the alternative vegan lifestyle and animal advocacy.
The deeper understanding I sought about why we treat animals the way we do inspired me to read books about Buddhism, which lead me to also discover Engaged Buddhism, the application of Buddhism to the advancement of social justice. It was intriguing to learn, for example, the Buddha asked, What is suffering? What causes it? Is it possible to stop suffering? And, if so, how do we prevent suffering from occurring?
Learn more about my forthcoming book, Animal Dharma, here.