From: ridgerunner (socks.xmission.com)
Subject: My 4 Awakenings
Date: July 8, 2003 at 7:29 pm PST
Wake up call #1 - Thou shall not kill!
In 1972 at age 15, I got my first job as a dishwasher at a YMCA summer camp up in the mountains. From Monday through Friday, campers (kids - boys one week, girls the next) would stay, singing camp songs, going horseback riding through the woods, eating S'mores and so on. As dishwasher, I had to clean up all the cafeteria messes and take out the garbage. Well, the garbage pile outside, which I knew well, attracted and supported a population of rodents or "potguts" which were considered to be pests by the camp management (they're actually prairie dogs). On weekends, the campers were gone and most employees, myself included, would go back to the city, but the employees who stayed would go on "pest removal detail" with .22 rifles. One weekend I decided that I would stay and partake in the potgut hunt. Up until this point I had never killed any animal other than insects. But there I was one sunny Saturday morning taking aim on a warm blooded furry mammal. I pulled the trigger and shot. When I walked over to the body, I saw that it was not yet dead and was still writhing around in agony with its guts hanging out. At this moment, my conscience kicked in big time and a dark cloak of remorse enveloped me. I had KILLED for no good reason and it was WRONG! it was BAD! it was EVIL! I had committed a wicked SIN! I didn't need a book or a person or any other outside thing to tell me this was bad, the truth came from within: "THOU SHALL NOT KILL!". (Duhhh!) Looking down at the poor creature still in agony, I shot it once more to put it out of its misery, but I knew from that moment on that I would never again willfully kill one of God's creatures for no good reason. I apologized to the little fellow that I had just murdered and wondered why I hadn't seen this (now obvious) truth long ago. Since that time I have not knowingly and willfully killed any beings except for a few particularly nasty mosquitoes and horseflies. Normally, I won't kill even the most annoying bugs (I have a capture and release policy in my house), but a select few have caught me at a weak moment and in a bad mood and have paid the price. But none recently.
Wake up call #2 - Meat is Murder!
In 1977 at the age of 20, I had discovered Buddhism and was traveling alone across India to seek enlightenment and to "find myself". I had always wanted to go trekking in the Himalayas and in October had landed myself in Katmandu, Nepal but I was very low on funds. I met a native lad (named "Krishna") who said he would be my guide for free under one condition: We must first travel to his home village so that he could visit his family. He had recently left his home in the mountains to seek his fortune in the "Big City". (Note: I have never met a human being who projected so much positive energy as this 15 year old lad - e.g. while walking down a busy street or riding on a crowded bus he would spontaneously burst into joyful song at the top of his lungs for all to hear.) After a couple days of hiking up and down mountainsides and fording rivers (that had no bridges) we reached his home located high up on the side of a mountain. The view was spectacular with the deep valley below and the high peaks above. I got to meet his entire extended family of brothers, sisters, aunts, uncles, parents and grandparents... and his pet cow (or rather, companion animal). I can't remember the cow's name, but I do remember that she did in fact have a name. When I witnessed the obvious love shared between this boy and his cow, the light bulb went off over my head - "Cows are people too!" I realized that the juicy steak I had recently eaten back in Katmandu might have been someone's friend! How could I have been so blind not to see the connection between meat and the unnecessary killing of a living, breathing creature? So from that moment on, I vowed to stop eating the flesh of all warm blooded animals. (I did not know then that fish could feel pain and I was also under the impression that humans required animal protein for health. Thus I continued to allow myself to eat fish on a once or twice per month basis.) In today's terminology, I had technically become a lacto-ovo-pescetarian and not a true vegetarian, but at the time I considered myself to be a "vegetarian". And for many years, I was the only one I knew.
Wake up call #3 - Got Ignorance?
From late 1977 I ate no meat but continued to eat eggs, honey and dairy (cause you don't have to kill any animals, right?) and an occasional piece of fish (humans require animal protein for health, right?). Then early in 2001 while channel surfing on TV, I ran across a cable news show where Ingrid Newkirk was being interviewed about the recent controversial PETA anti-milk campaign (the one where the mayor of New York was presented with a milk-mustache and "Got Prostate Cancer?"). The interviewers were less than polite (to put it mildly) and made fun of her position, but they did let her speak... and I listened (causing another light bulb to go off over my head). After doing a little research on the internet, I found out that milk does cause suffering and is most certainly NOT nature's perfect food! Fish DO feel pain! The human body does NOT need animal protein at all! I learned about the term "vegan" (and became one). But best of all - I discovered that I'm NOT alone! There are a bunch of other veggies out there and a wide variety of groups who support the move towards a plant based diet. Hooray! I read a few books (Eisnitz, Robbins, Lyman and Marcus) and did a lot more research and discovered many interesting things, including; many of my long time heroes supported the veggie lifestyle: Pythagoras, Newton, Da Vinci, Franklin, Paine, Van Gogh, Edison, Muir, Darwin, Einstein, etc. The more I learned about the meat, egg and dairy industries, the more my (now vegan) convictions become resolute.
Wake up call #4 - Eat to Live!
In '77 I went lacto-ovo-pesce-vegetarian. In '01 I went vegan. Both times, I made the change for ethical reasons. I had never really considered or cared about the health aspects of a veggie diet. For me, it was always the "thou shall not kill" or "cause unnecessary suffering" argument that drove animal products from my lifestyle. During the web research that led me to becoming a vegan, I learned a lot and discovered many vegetarian sites and a wide variety of veg*n attitudes. My favorite site of all, hands down, is here at VegSource where "all are welcome" and an inclusive, non-judgmental attitude prevails. It was here at VegSource, earlier this year, that I received my most recent major "wake up call". There was (and still is) a book review of "Eat to Live" (E2L) by Dr. Joel Fuhrman which started me down yet another journey of awakening. After reading the review, I immediately ordered the E2L book (along with the "Greatest Diet on Earth" video and his other book "Fasting and Eating for Health" as a package deal from Dr. F's website). I read E2L and the fasting book and was simply amazed. As it turns out, a proper, vegetable based, vegan diet is the best possible diet in the world! And fasting is nature's way of healing what ails you! However, the book cast a light into the dark nutrition-less corners of my own dietary habits (which obviously needed immediate attention! - can you say "partially hydrogenated"!?). To make a long story short, I've gone on a couple fasts and have been following the E2L plan (unlimited greens, beans and fruits with limited nuts, starchy vegs and grains and very limited sweets, oils and processed foods) more or less for six months now and have never felt better. I used to suffer from depression, asthma, and skin problems but since switching to vegan all of these have disappeared (the E2L diet fixed the bipolar/depression - can you say "omega 3"). I now have much more respect for my own body and what I'm putting into it. I've quit all drugs and have been medication free for over a year now. I had for many years abstained from meat for the benefit of the animals, but now I am eating a true vegetablarian diet for the benefit of my own self! Thank you VegSource for shining so brightly!
When I went out searching for the truth and to "find myself", I did finally get an answer - from the movie: "Buckaroo Banzai - Adventures in the eighth dimension"...
"No matter where you go, there you are!"
peace to all, ridgerunner
p.s. I recently discovered a real live Buddha who lived in America during our lifetime: Peace Pilgrim. She walked a 25,000 mile, 28 year pilgrimage for peace on earth. Check her out! Her message is yet another wake up call that is changing my life, but that's another story... Sorry about the long post!
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