As fate would have it, I lived summer of 2013 in an ashram in Kauai. Every morning, we welcomed the day hours before sunrise with mantra, pranayama, meditation, and asana; and every afternoon, we worked the ashram’s farm in silence. Day by day the routine peeled back my layers, and day by day I came to meet my true self.
Going vegan arose organically in this process.
I arrived at the Ashram a vegetarian. Without having thought much about it, at a gut level it simply felt wrong to eat the bodies of others. My time on the ashram gave me space to reflect on this decision. And the more I thought about it, the more right being vegetarian felt, and the more wrong eating animal products seemed.
A year later, I moved to India to begin Yoga studies at Benares Hindu University. In the process, the ancient and modern texts of yoga helped me to understand the gut feelings that compelled me to go vegan.
- Ahimsa, nonviolence, is the central principle of Yoga for good reason. As a soteriological science, Yoga outlines the path of spiritual salvation through union with God. Union with god requires us to sincerely see others as ourselves, and violence—especially the violence we justify upon farmed animals—prevents that.
- Satya, truth, is yoga’s second most important principle. The fundamental truth is our unity with all living beings. Thus, justifying their exploitation as food contributes to the ultimate lie.
- Asteya, non-stealing, is third. Stealing requires us to view another as separate and inferior, a mindset that leads away from spiritual truth. Killing animals for food entails stealing their life, and taking dairy/eggs/honey/etc. entails stealing their work (work that is dedicated to the wellbeing of their young).
(For a deeper dive into these topics, you can view this video).
While yoga’s philosophy convinced me of veganism’s merit, so too did it make me an activist. The Bhagavad Gita, a central Yogic text, talks at length about Karma Yoga—selfless service to others. Spiritual salvation, i.e., enlightenment, is developed through selfless service to others. And for me, the highest form of service comes in actively fighting the greatest source of violence—factory farms and industrial fishing.
My veganism and activism are inseparable from yoga. Rather, they are the central ways I practice it.
—Featured Yogi Nico Stubler