After months of a general deprivation as a result of our vegan diet, in McLeod Ganj we finally ran into some really healthy and delicious food, particularly at a Santa Fe style community café called Khana Nirvana. Though soy milk was still nowhere in sight, we were able to eat actual tofu and pinto beans, and the food was most excellent!

chocolatecakeOne night, after seeing so many pastry shops around, Loveleen and I became particularly keen on finding dessert. We searched high and low and could find no dairyless, eggless treats.

Being vegan can often be a challenge in today’s world, particularly when you are dependent on eating out at restaurants. Before becoming vegan, I used to associate vegans with emaciation. I later learned that this correlation is not because of the diet itself; there are tons of amazing foods and even world champion weightlifters are vegan. Oftentimes, emaciation comes only because vegans too often have to skip meals due to lack of available options.

At the moment when we finally had to conclude that out of a whole town full of delicious options, there was nothing we would be able to eat, I said to Loveleen that it’s particularly important at times like these to connect with the reason why we have chosen to be vegan.

It’s easy to make a choice and then just follow it brainlessly, but there is actually a real reason behind our decision. Obviously, cows are born either male or female. Since nowadays, there is no real use for the males, they are all killed – either instantly or else after being cruelly turned into veal. This fact alone is a really powerful one. If your motivation for being vegetarian is compassion for other beings, or if it is to reduce violence, then the use of dairy is basically the same as eating meat – just with half of the harmful effect. The same is true with eating eggs.

lovecalfThere are many other reasons as well, such as the way the cows are mistreated, the way they are killed early, after their production goes down, etc. Even in India, where the cow is considered sacred, many of these abusive and violent conditions are the norm.

Loveleen and I, Mark, and many others, choose a world of compassion and love. We do not want our money to be supporting an industry designed around violence, and we don’t want to be consuming things that were taken in this way.

Both Loveleen and I love dairy. Butter, milk, ice cream, cheese, ghee, I mean come on! These are some of the greatest things on Earth. And all the things you make with dairy – chocolate, and chai, cakes and pizza. Who on Earth would be willing to stop eating all this? We did because the power of love by far trumps the sensory pleasures, no contest.

But at moments of acute sacrifice, it is important to reflect. With awareness, the intensity of the loss or sacrifice converts itself into fuel for an even stronger compassion, instead of adding sorrow to the saddened self.

In my life, I’ve very rarely preached to anyone about anything. I have developed my understandings, formulated my choices, and done my best to live true.

Recently, I had a second thought about this. I was walking on the street with a group of people. I was working carefully to avoid stepping on the ants. It occurred to me that although my two legs were working hard, the other 28 legs were aimlessly crushing ants at random. I thought about how my separation from others is really just a state of mind. At the core, we are all just one and with this perspective, all 30 legs are really my own. If I can communicate with others, then perhaps we can all grow together in empathy, and perhaps more effectively protect the ants.

My feelings about veganism are similar. Although I work hard to avoid ingesting anything with dairy or eggs, to be honest, I don’t really care. To me, milk is holy because it is food from a mother for its baby. I truly feel that it is sacred and it’s a privilege to ingest it. My true interest in avoiding animal products is in putting an end to the mistreatment of animals. What you put into your mouth has just as much of an impact as what I put into my mouth. Therefore, my real hope would be to share this feeling of empathy with others and have them work together with me to bring loving change.

bananaslug_1Tonight, Loveleen and I headed up to the Tushita meditation center to hear a translation of the Dalai Lama’s discourse. On our way up, we had to walk carefully because the ground was covered with large banana slugs after a recent downpour. After the discourse, the teacher said that it was time for one last question. Loveleen leaned over to me and said that we should leave because it was getting dark and it would be hard to see the slugs. I knew she was right, but also knew that a couple minutes wasn’t going to make much of a difference. I looked around the room and saw 80 or so people who would all soon be leaving – most of whom were interested in compassion, and who probably wouldn’t be looking downward.

I realized that a more effective way to protect the slugs would be to speak out, and in a rare move, I raised my hand and asked everyone to please be careful of the slugs as it was getting dark. People appreciated it and I got the feelings that the ripples would keep going. This was a highly valuable lesson for me.