In the Vegan Sage Series, seasoned vegans share what being vegan means to them and offer advice for nascent vegans. Our guest today is Dr. Will Tuttle, a visionary speaker, educator, author, and musician. A former Zen monk with a Ph.D. from U.C., Berkeley, and a vegan since 1980, his writings, music, and presentations focus on compassion, creativity, intuition, and the interconnectedness of social justice, animal liberation, and environmental, health, spiritual, and peace issues. He is a recipient of the Courage of Conscience Award and the Empty Cages Award.
What does being vegan mean to you?
Being vegan is making an effort to awaken from the cultural desensitization that harms all of us. It is opening my mind and heart to the consequences of my actions and jumping into the adventure of authentic living. It is learning to trust inner guidance rather than being a cog in a machine of destruction.
Being vegan is a healing journey that blesses not just my own body, mind, and spirit, but other animals, ecosystems, future generations, workers, hungry people, and the whole interconnected web of life on this bountiful Earth. It is the most profound action possible in an industrialized herding society based on exploitation, because it is both a practice of non-cooperation with systems of oppression and at the same time it is also a practice of cooperation with others who are working to build a world where peace, freedom, justice, sustainability, and radiant health are possible.
Nothing is more helpful to creating a future world of harmony than moving to a plant-based way of living for ethical reasons, and sharing this vision by making an ongoing daily effort to embody vegan values. These values are loving kindness and respect for other animals, both human and nonhuman, in all our relationships. So ultimately, being vegan is an insistent call to positive personal transformation at the very core of our being, so that the life expressed exemplifies the world we would like to see. Vegan living is our future and more evolved selves calling us home. We can all awaken from the trance imposed upon us against our will from infancy by our culture’s meal rituals, and as we do so, we liberate animals and ourselves.
What advice would you give a new vegan?
The main advice I’d give to new vegans is to keep learning and questioning everything our culture tells us about pretty much everything. I’ve found it essential to continue exploring and contemplating the devastating effects of animal agriculture on the other animals directly enslaved in the current system, as well as the harm caused to ecosystems, to free-living animals, to indigenous people, to hungry people, to workers, to all of us and all beings. I wrote The World Peace Diet to help us understand both the massive destruction and trauma caused by animal agriculture, and its history and social psychology, as well as understand and appreciate the profoundly liberating and empowering joy, freedom, health, and harmony that are available to us as we embrace kindness and respect for others in our daily life choices.
I have found it essential to take time daily to practice meditation, a time of inner listening and cultivating stillness and receptivity to the essential nature of being, returning to the space of consciousness that exists beyond the disappointments, demands, and distractions of daily living. It’s also been helpful to connect with the fundamentals of healthy vegan eating, being sure to eat a whole-foods, organic, plant-based diet, with plenty of vegetables and fruits for nutrients and starches for energy. For me, this is coupled with consciously cultivating an awareness of the power of spiritual healing and that we need not rely on prevailing medical theories, but that we can rely on our understanding that what we are is a harmonious expression of life, and that we have a purpose for this life, to unfold the best we have to give and to grow in wisdom and compassion for the benefit of all.
Additionally, it’s important to cultivate vegan community as best we can, and through this to help share the vegan message with others in a way that is meaningful for us. There is a spiritual principle, “right association,” which refers to developing friendships and communities of like-minded people to strengthen resolve, understanding, and commitment in the ways that we would like to grow. It’s important as new vegans that we find mentors, both through physical friendships and communities, as well as through books, films, online social networking, and other less direct connections. And of course, as we mature in our understanding, we can help mentor others as well.
Finally, to consciously cultivate an inner environment of gratitude and joy, because we are, as vegans, the future of humanity, if humanity and our Earth are to have a future, and to practice gratitude daily for another opportunity to grow in understanding and to share and embody this message. We are all on this Earth for just a few decades, and we can use our precious life as best we can as a manifestation of our yearning to awaken, love, grow, heal, give, and bless. Vegan living is exactly the vehicle for bringing about a fundamental positive social and personal transformation and if we have ripened to the point that we are vegan in our outer life, we are blessed indeed, and we can take the journey further, to deepen the vegan transformation so that every thought and gesture reflects loving kindness and respect for all. We have all been injured by our herding culture’s programming, and vegan living is the ongoing process of healing these injuries, and being part of humanity’s awakening so that we can lovingly celebrate our lives on this beautiful Earth as we are intended.
Thank you to Dr. Tuttle for these beautiful words of wisdom. For more information on Dr. Will Tuttle and his amazing book, The World Peace Diet, visit his website, www.worldpeacediet.com.