Why is the connection between yoga and veganism so important? Because yoga is all about connection and practices that heal the disconnection between self and other. What is realized in the yogic state of enlightenment (Samadhi) is the Oneness of being—that realization of ultimate connectedness is the goal of yoga. The obstacle to that realization is to perceive others as disconnected from you: for example, to see a dog or a cow as an animal and you as a superior human being and certainly not an animal! The only way that someone could treat other animals, fellow earthlings, with such casual cruelty and disrespect as they are being treated at this time, is if they where in the grip of ignorance (avidya) which deluded them into thinking that animals are “other,” nothing more than soulless automatons devoid of consciousness, language, reasoning and feeling, existing only to be slaves for human beings. The yoga practice helps to dehypnotize us from such Descartian cultural conditioning and prejudice. In the future when my great grandchildren, nieces and nephews ask me what I was doing during the animal holocaust—when 75 million animals were being murdered every day, I don’t want to say, “Oh me?—uh… I guess I was eating hamburgers along with everyone else.” No! I want to be able to say that I was an animal rights activist and dared to care. Veganism is a positive political statement that says change happens from within. If we want to be free, which is what the term Jivamukti means, then we cannot cause or contribute to enslaving others. A lot of people view veganism as a dietary preference, equal to like when people prefer chocolate over vanilla. But eating meat and dairy products is way more serious than that. Besides enslaving, degrading, torturing, raping and slaughtering billions of animals, it is at the basis of most all of the important problems that we face today from global warming to fossil fuel shortage to cancer to heart disease to diabetes to poverty and to starvation. The fact is we don’t need to be cruel to be happy, successful and healthy; in fact kindness will help us to achieve those goals very quickly. Patanjali says maitri adishu balani (PYS III.24 ), which means “through friendliness, kindness and compassion, strength and success will come.”
Do you think more people are realizing this connection?
Yes, more and more. Just in my lifetime, just in the 27 years I have been vegan and involved with yoga, I have seen huge changes in the way people regard animals. Students tell me all the time, I read your book, or I took one yoga class and now I get it—and I’m vegan. My goodness last Tuesday night on the Oxygen Channel, “Running Russell Simmons”—a reality show based on Russell’s life—presented a whole episode centered around his assistant participating in a PETA demonstration and Russell’s vegan and anti-fur support. Wow!…that’s progress for mainstream TV!
Where are some of your favorite places to eat in NYC?
The Jivamuktea Café of course is my favorite—the food is vegan, organic, prepared with love and offered with mantras. And since I created the recipes I know I can always get something I love to eat! And there’s always coconut green tea!
Favorite getaways when you leave the city?
When I am not on the road touring I spend my time at home in Woodstock New York—a 120 acre Wild Forest Sanctuary, where we live with cats, bears, deer, turkeys, foxes, raccoons, opossums, birds, snakes, lots of old tree people and many delightful fairies.
What does the "mind/body/green" connection mean to you?