From “Earthlings” to Ahimsa, An American Journey to Jainism

by Kenny F.

I was born in the state of North Carolina in the US. Every meal I had up until about four years ago had body parts, animal secretions or both in them. This is still seen as normal, especially in the south of the
country. You see, in the south, there is a whole culture, one where people proudly display stickers andlicense plates on their cars and trucks with pictures of happy pigs along with the word “barbeque”.
There are billboards on the sides of roads advertising things like steak, cheeseburgers, chicken, tacos, fish, milkshakes… On and on it goes, billboard after billboard after billboard, all of them screaming out to
us, “In the name of our profits and your desires, participate in this violence!”. The same message over and over again one after the other. Not only do we have billboards screaming these messages at us, but,
for some reason, the advertisers seem to think the more body parts and secretions they put between two slices of bread, the better these things they are advertising will be to those that consume them. In actuality, there is a culture of more (more violence/more harm) equals better, and many restaurants in the country are cashing in because of it.

About four years ago I went vegan. Why? I saw footage from a
film called “Earthlings”. This film is not for the faint of heart, as it dives deep into the dark details,showing us what goes on in the hidden places that the meat industry, dairy industry, and fishing industry
need to thrive. By the way, a little sidenote here about the dairy industry, something that is important to know: the meat industry and dairy industry are tied together, not exactly two separate industries as
many seem to think, they are pretty much one and the same. More here on that.

Now, back to the film… What changed my heart, the thing that went deep into me, was seeing a cow in a slaughter chute on her way into the area of the slaughterhouse where they put a bolt through her skull. Can you
imagine the fear she was experiencing, the trauma? I couldn’t help but think of the smells, the sounds, the things she saw, what was happening inside her mind and body because of all this. I didn’t know what
to do with what I was deeply experiencing due to this, so I did the only thing I knew to do, I paced the floor. Back and forth. Back and forth. Back and forth. My whole body felt like it was quaking. That day I
made the decision to never participate in any of these things again, and I never did. Fast forward to the year 2020. This is where Jainism enters the picture.

I had been a spiritual person in some sense of what that word means to people for the past 25 years or so. I experimented with many spiritual paths
through those years, things like Christianity, Buddhism, Unitarian Universalist, even calling myself an Indie Spiritualist at one point. The thing that started bothering me most after becoming vegan was the
lack of consistency I saw among people on these various paths. They would gather together and talk about things like love, compassion, mercy, peace and empathy and then go eat chicken for lunch. It just didn’t seem to fit, not for me anyway, not anymore. I started wondering if there even was a spiritual path that took non-harm (nonviolence) seriously. I started asking myself this one single question: “Spiritually speaking, what does it mean to be in right relationship with myself, with other humans, with
nonhumans, and with the planet itself?” This, of course, after much research, lead me to Jainism, a path that I have fallen in love with, a more holistic and consistent spiritual path, from my perspective anyway.
For this, I am incredibly thankful.

The teachings of Lord Mahavira can be heard in every scream from each and every animal that is being tortured in the name of meeting the various desires of human beings. Listen closely to the cries of those being experimented on in laboratories, to those on trucks on
their way to slaughterhouses, to those crowded together in cages, to those trembling in fear as they wait to enter the slaughterhouse, to those whose babies are being ripped away from them in the name of humans wanting cheese, yogurt, butter, and milkshakes. Listen to all of them. Listen closely for Lord Mahavira’s teachings. They are there. They are crystal clear. “Do not kill. Do not let others kill. Find whatever means possible to protect life.” We are that in the flesh, those of us trying our best to follow
the teachings. Let’s be that. More and more every single day, let us become these words, not only for ourselves, but for every living being on the planet. Ahimsa. What a beautiful thing this is!

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