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.

6 comments on “The Way of Vegan Part Two of Four

  • “On being a “cruelty-free vegan.” You do understand, of course that no diet is cruelty free. Simply because you do not kill the worms, insects and other life forms that are inevitably killed when growing crops, does not mean that no life was destroyed in the processing of your food. If you do not acknowledge this, then why even bother being a vegan? Most folks who eat meat do not kill the animal in question themselves. To say there is a difference only means that find the lives of larger animals to be more important than countless smaller ones. Perhaps you should think deeper on this matter before considering writing a book on the subject. Personally, I find the life of an earth worm just as important as that as a cow, a chicken, or a pig – perhaps even more so if I happen to be interacting with the worm in question. This is my understanding of the matter at this point time – it is based not just on compassion, but logic as well.

  • M: Many thanks for your message. I take your point about vegan living still causing others to be harmed and die; however, the numbers involved are significantly less than on a non-vegan diet. It is unclear to me whether you use your argument in support of being vegan or as an excuse not to be one. Kim

  • Kim, You have your numbers all wrong. Hundreds or even thousands of beings can be killed in producing a packet of tofu (worms and insects at the place where items are grown as well as insects and other animals that are killed in transportation and finally animals and insects that are killed where the product is sold (mouse traps and bug sprays etc.). Now then compare this to one cow that is killed by say one large Amish family living on their farm that keeps them in calories for some time. I’d say in this instance, the tofu eater has killed far more animals then the all the folks who have benefited by the death of one single being. Perhaps the precepts of the Owl-Headed Dakini would be of interest to you.

  • P.S. I would say that a vegan or a vegetarian diet might be a good exercise in mindfulness or compassion, but it really does not result in any fewer beings being killed than a diet of an omnivore as per the reasons I’ve already stated… and I haven’t even mentioned the clearing of land, the diversion of water and the damming of rivers – all for the purpose of growing of crops.

  • I do find it odd that vegans will get into a tallying of the number of animals killed with me. If this is the rational for one’s diet then one should kill one sperm whale, freeze it and eat it for the rest of one’s life. Basically most urban folks have no idea how food is grown. I’m out it the country. From my property I can see natural land, crop land and grazing land. The natural land of course has the least amount of negative human impact happening to it. Then comes the grazing land, a wonderful pastoral scene of cattle grazing on grass and clover. Then comes the crop land, turned over each year, planted, sprayed, fertilized, cultivated, and then the whole process starts over again. From my perspective, I see countless numbers of beings being killed to produce corn and soy. To an urban vegan unaware of the process, lives are being saved. Go figure!

  • The long and the short of it is, if you drink anything but water you are needlessly killing vast amounts of sentient beings as land is altered and farmed to grow tea, sugar, coffee and fruit trees, etc. It is a choice to drink these elective beverages that kill so many, and yet, vegans who are so quick to point their self-righteous finger at their omnivorous brethren never consider the deadly consequences of their elective beverage consumption. Dat makes me sad! 🙁

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *