On the day of our Vegan Karma Kitchen, we set a theme of compassion and non-violence to underscore the values behind both the vegan menu and the gift-economy experience. One of the diners at Vegan Karma Kitchen took the time to write the following thoughts on Compassion and Non-violence. I find myself referring to these thoughts as I reflect on the holidays that just passed:
- Give gifts for the sake of giving
- Letting people know you care/love
- Learning to keep your emotions in check. Learning where such strong emotions come from and trying to understand where such strong emotions come from. Trying to understand and recognize when these emotions stem from love, ultimately avoiding violence.
I (Jina) spent the holidays with 25 of my extended family over the holidays. Most of the family is non-vegan, but our host family, headed by the cousin that is closest to me in age and whose wife and small children gave their time and space exeedingly generously, accomodated all of well and there was an abundance of food. They followed the first two points of our diners’ notes above!
One evening after my cousins prepared an exceptionally tasty dinner of tofu saag, vegan tofu kofta and masala naan, my host cousin, who I so appreciated and respect, engaged me in a challenging debate. He invoked arguments that many vegan Jains have heard before, regarding the lack of an authoritative figure in Jain leadership to give authenticity to the claim that dairy and egg production constitute himsa or violence. He stated that veganism is not Jain. And so here i was trying to do what the diner suggested in the last bullet point.
I found myself trying to stay calm and walking that line between hammering my points home (which i believe are in support of compassion and nonviolence to animals!) versus being sensitive to the people around me in that home (which would be compassionate to those around me!). I found unexpected support from some of my older relatives. When some folks wandered over into the next room where an equally lively discussion was occurring about meditation practices, I worried that I had driven some of these family members away. I think the trickiest practice is using non-violent communication and really coming from a place of love to address the emotions that underly such arguments against veganism.
So what are underlying emotions/attitudes? My cousin really respects this tradition called Jainism and the leaders that currently teach it. He does apprecatiate the value of nonviolence and clearly is already showing love, compassion and generosity towards his family. I tended to focus internally on the resistance to change that he voiced, which which I have been frustrated in many other Jains. I think this may have hurt us. While he and I ended the discussion amicably, with some family continuing to talk as I checked out the meditation discussion, we didn’t connect in a heart centered way. Fortunately, I will have other opportunities to talk with him, since our relationship will continue! So I continue to work on myself …. and as time goes on, I hope I can more consistently behave with love and nonviolence.
Happy New Year everyone!