Towards a Compassionate Civilization


“We grow when we allow changes to change us”

— Neetal Parekh

I wake up every morning and meditate for an hour before beginning my day. That hour-long meditation grounds me and makes me more effective in my work throughout the day.

I consider my work as that of a fire fighter. The Earth is on fire, literally so in places like California. The ultra conservative UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has estimated that if we continue with business as usual, then within the next 11 years, by 2030, we will likely have triggered catastrophic climate change. The World Wildlife Fund’s Living Planet Reports show that if we continue with business as usual, then within the next 7 years, by 2026, we will have killed virtually all wild animals on Earth. Dr. Kim Williams, the former President of the American College of Cardiology, has estimated that if we continue with business as usual, then the American health care system, which operates on a disease promotion and maintenance model rather than a disease prevention model, will likely be bankrupt within the next 7 years, by 2026.

After twelve years of intensive study, I have come to the conclusion that only compassion can quench the Earth’s fire. The widespread adoption of compassion will automatically reduce our demands on the Earth and channel our daily efforts to alleviate the suffering of other beings. To become compassionate is to come home to who we really are, which is nothing to be afraid of. Indeed, an incredibly joyful transformation lies ahead of us, when we find the courage to make that journey home collectively.

Truth is sustainable. Lies are not. Therefore, in order to become sustainable, we must face up to all the lies that we have been telling ourselves, our societal and personal denials. The most consequential of all such denials is not climate denial as the mainstream media would have us believe, but the denial of our own compassion. Compassion denial is the denial of the suffering of other beings and the suppression of our natural urge to alleviate that suffering. This is the denial of our own true selves, which is pure compassion.

Compassion for all life is at the core of all religious teachings because compassion for all life is infinitely sustainable! Conversely, deliberate institutionalized cruelty to any part of life is unsustainable. The fact that we are leading unsustainable lives implies that such deliberate, institutionalized cruelty is fueling our current lifestyles. To become sustainable, we need to engineer a truly Compassionate Civilization in which such institutionalized cruelty is absent. Furthermore, we have to engineer and adopt this Compassionate Civilization within the next 7 years or face dire consequences.

Just as I begin each day with an hour of meditation, rest and reflection, I begin each year with a week of rest and reflection, resolving to grow more into my true, compassionate self during the course of the year. I started doing this last year, thanks to Dr. Shelley Ostroff, who introduced me to her brilliant “7 Days of Rest and Reflection” initiative. I truly believe that this made me more effective in my work during the year 2018. Such effectiveness is especially needed over the next 7 years, when we, as a species, are being called upon to mature quickly from our adolescent to adult selves, from our caterpillar phase to our butterfly phase and create a Vegan World by 2026. The start of a New Year is the perfect time to reflect on the limits we place on our compassion and to widen our circle of compassion until it embraces all life.

For 2019, Dr. Ostroff asks us to take stock of our relationship with the Earth, Water, Fire, Air, Climate, Biodiversity and the Web of Life, respectively, during the first 7 days of January, and to resolve to do better in the coming year.

On Jan 1, let us reflect on our relationship with the Earth, specifically, the critters in the soil, and resolve to nurture them with love and respect. Without their tireless work, we would not have nourishing food to eat. Let us reflect on our relationship with the farmed land animals who are exploited mercilessly and slaughtered. Let us reflect on our relationship with wild animals who are driven away from their forest homes and killed so that we can consume more meat and dairy. Let’s resolve to go Vegan and end these cruel practices.

On Jan 2, let us reflect on our relationship with Water, specifically, the algae, plankton, frogs, fishes and whales in streams, rivers and the ocean. Let us resolve to go Vegan and put an end to their institutionalized killing with satellite geo-location, Big Data software and miles long drag net technologies. Let us resolve to clean up our plastic and chemical pollution of their aquatic homes.

On Jan 3, let us reflect on our relationship with Fire (Energy), specifically, our fellow humans and pets, whom we embrace to give and receive warmth. Let us reflect on the deliberate cruelty we inflict upon our fellow humans in the form of poverty and the institutionalized promotion of well known artery clogging, diabetes inducing, Group 1 carcinogens as food. Let us reflect on the deliberate cruelty we inflict on our pets in animal shelters and science experiments. Let us seek and bestow forgiveness to heal our relationships with them. Let us also resolve to be truly mindful of the energy we use during the course of the year.

On Jan 4, let us reflect on our relationship with Air, specifically the insects and birds who pollinate the flowers and spread seeds far and wide. Let us resolve to stop using insecticides which kill the insects which kill the birds who feed on those insects. Let us reflect on the chickens, ducks and turkeys who live short miserable lives in our factory farms, before meeting the butcher’s knife. Let’s resolve to go Vegan and end this cruel practice.

On Jan 5, let us reflect on our relationship with the Earth’s climate and the immense responsibility we shoulder as the “Thermostat Species” to maintain it for all life. As any climate scientist can tell you, there are only three things we can do to alleviate climate change which don’t have negative consequences in other respects:

1) Go Vegan;
2) Rewild the land that’s freed up from animal agriculture; and
3) Burn less fossil fuels

Let’s resolve to take these three steps and reverse global warming without any further delay.

On Jan 6, let us reflect on our relationship with the incredible Biodiversity on our planet and how it is being devastated by our actions. The number of species that have gone extinct already will require a few million years to reappear in other forms to fill the ecological niches they left behind. It is well past time for us to halt the extinction of species and to nurture the species that still remain. And the best way to do that is to Go Vegan.

Finally, on Jan 7, let us reflect on our relationship with the Web of Life on which we depend entirely for our own lives. The web supplies us with all that is nourishing, food, water, oxygen and makes possible the lives of all the other species we are co-dependent on. And for that we should be truly grateful!


Year 2019: The Tipping Point for Vegan World 2026
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Sailesh Rao

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