Live is not Radical

I am a Raw Vegan .. going on nine years now; not consecutively, mind you.  I was a Raw Vegan for seven years during the 1980s, when I was in my twenties.  For my fiftieth birthday I decided to gift myself with two things: Jata (Sanskrit, “matted hair”, commonly known as ‘dreads’ or ‘locks’), and Raw Veganism.

It has been an interesting experience, re-visiting a live food lifestyle.

And now .. hold on for a lot of history!

My practice of Yoga began when I was eleven, when I first laid hands on The Complete Illustrated Book of Yoga, by Swami Vishnudevananda.  I still have this book, the original 1960 hardcopy with jacket.  It changed my life .. literally.  One of the ways it did this was my desire to become a vegetarian.  My mother did not like this idea, and so the battle began: me not eating meat, her growing increasingly angrier at me and “that book”.

When I was thirteen I came upon another book that changed my life: Love Your Body, or How to be a Live Food Lover, by Viktoras Kulvinskas.  Likewise, I still have this book (the 1972 paperback).  Needless to say, I kept this one hid from my mother and her ever growing concern that I was making myself sick by not eating meat, and “doing that yoga”.

I left home at sixteen, finished school while staying with friends, and immediately after graduation found my way to an ashram (Sanskrit, “place of striving”, a hermitage, a holy sanctuary, a residence and teaching center).  In this heart center of “hippies and Hindus” I met others who had not only read ‘my’ two books, but were living them.  This was where I first heard about “sustainability” as both an ecology and a spiritual practice.  And it was here that I learned simplicity, for this was a place devoid of religious dogma, a place where the “prayer room” was adorned with but a single candle, a place with no designated teacher or guru, but where we were encouraged to explore our inner and outer reality.

By twenty I was living in Colorado, working and living with a group of like-minded friends.  Our lovely home, in ‘The Springs’, was a mini-ashram.  We each rose early for meditation, shared vegetarian meals, practiced Yoga, and contributed financially towards our communal lifestyle.  Then by twenty-three I was in Texas.  I attended the grand opening of Whole Foods Market, in Austin, on September 20, 1980.  I was also there for the clean-up and repair after the ‘Texas Flood’ that destroyed the same.

So it was, that at the age of twenty-one, I had yet to meet a “radical vegetarian”.  In fact, I had never heard the term, or met anyone who was; but then, PETA had yet to be launched.  When it was, the idea of “animal rights” – which is rooted in Hindu ahimsa (“non-harming), and established during the late 18th century and early l9th in England and America (with the ‘anti-cruelty laws’) – was already a familiar idea; yet had little influence in the reasons why people became vegetarians.

For example, the primary topics at healthfood stores – either as casual conversation or lectures – remained the same; namely, discussions on Ann Wigmore’s Rising Sun Christianity, the benefits of wheatgrass, rejuvelac and detoxing, or the wonders of George Ohsawa’s macrobiotics.  Also popular were talks on Native American cancer cures, of healing herbs, of fermentation, and the Budwig Protocol.  Many of us were influenced by the examples of the Findhorn Community, of Yoga and the Hari Krishnas, Transcendental Meditation, and all the exciting things taking place in Fairfield, Iowa.  Everyone you met was well versed in these topics, equally as they were with Arnold Ehret, the Gerson Therapy, of Fruitarians and Breatharians, about Ital and Livity, of Vegans, Vegetarians and Raw Foodists.  Yet, not a one of us was radical.  We simply relished our lifestyle, were joyed in our discovery of it, and sharing that with others.

Back then, the ‘70s and early ‘80s, healthfood stores had two departments – produce and bulk – and one not only brought their own grocery bags and cardboard boxes, but mason jars to hold nuts, honey, grains and the like.  Back then, when it came to the philosophy of food, everyone talked about Plato and Pythagoras, the Orphics and Jesus, Diogenes of Sinope and Buddha, Ashoka and Mazdak, Gandhi and St. Francis, about Gandhi and Thoreau, da Vinci and Descartes.  Equally, we were inspired Nietzsche, Hesse, Kahlil Gibran and Rudolf Steiner, Swami’s Sivananda and Vivekananda, by Kerouac and Leary, Shankaracharya and Patanjali, by Shaw and by Schweitzer.  No one yelled or screamed or otherwise demanded that anyone stop eating meat, or ranted about their lifestyle choice, let alone splattered people with blood while asserting their cause through shock value.

For me, I simply chose the vegetarian lifestyle based on reading a book, one that deeply and profoundly moved me.  It was from this book that I learned about the Sakahara, and the spirituality of this idea (Sakahara, Sanskrit for “vegetarian diet”; saka, “vegetable”, and ahara, “eating, taking food”.)    And from a Hindu perspective, sakahari’s are lacto-vegetarians (include dairy products).  From the Manu Dharma Shastra, 5.55:

“The learned declare that the meaning of mansa (flesh) is, ‘he (sa) will eat me (mam) in the other world whose flesh I eat here.’”

So that over 2,000 years ago (when this shastra was written), the idea of punarjanma (‘rebirth’) and ahimsa (non-harming) included the idea of harmonious living with other life forms.  And elsewhere in the shastra, the idea that a spiritual practice requires a minimal consumption of natural resources.  At eleven years of age I was organically drawn towards such ideas, and the books I read assisted in nurturing the seeds of compassion and simplicity.  So that even now, over these many years, with uncountable new ideas upon my tapas, I remain firmly rooted to peace and loving kindness towards myself and others.

In all, for me, food is consciousness.  The very source of the body’s chemistry is what we eat and drink.  Therefore, if one chooses the course of higher consciousness – of compassion and simplicity – one must exclude meat, fish, shellfish, fowl and eggs, for when one takes in the chemistries of animals, one remains an animal.  Therefore, to awaken a higher realm of being – to even touch the peripheral edge of the Uttarachakras (the ‘Higher Chakras’) – one must not engage or promote the killing of animals.

Nowhere does Sakahara mention, let alone imply, that one must be self-righteous and/or moralizing, that one must strive to make others feel bad about how they were taught to eat from childhood, let alone try to convert them into radicals who must debase anyone not like themselves.  Nor, from the history that I lived through, was it ever what I experienced.

From my very first contact with vegetarians, to today – some 40+ years later – let me explain what a “real vegetarian” is.  First, they are grownups, mature enough to be content in their life choices while allowing others to be the same.  They are regular people, from every walk of life and every age, who eat a wide and wondrous array of fruits and vegetables, of nuts and seeds, of pulses and grains, of seaweeds and other fun, delicious, nutritious foods bursting with lifeforce energy.  They also recognize that their diet is a lifestyle choice, and that includes a spiritual practice. In all they do, myself and those I know, strive to live in peace and harmony, gladly and joyfully balancing our material with our spiritual life and aspiration.


Shanti and Metta!

Yogini Valarie Devi


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Keri Frank
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 04:53:23

    Love it! Very inspiring.


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