“After heavy rain showers, the fields and forests in all directions appear green and healthy. Thus they resemble a man who has undergone severe austerities for some material gain and has achieved his end, for such a man is strong, hearty, and good-looking.”-Light of the Bhagavata, Verse Four
“All of life, from the universe as a whole down to the individual trees and seeds, every living creature and the very earth beneath our feet, expresses the inspiration of the souls that dwell within it and ultimately of the Great Composer whose creation it is.
If we can understand the divine purpose that animates the world, we will know how we are to live in it and how best to use it. Scientific knowledge has advances in many fields in the last two hundred years, making it possible for us to manipulate nature and produce material benefits our predecessors could not have dreamed of. However, the Vedic scriptures advise that knowledge of matter, namely science, must be cultivated alongside knowledge of spirit if it is to benefit humanity.”- Vedic Ecology by Ranchor Prime
By Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, Food For Thought
Humans are funny birds. We get so wrapped up in habits, comfort zones, and traditions that sometimes we forget who we are, what we care about, and why we even do what we do. Thanksgiving is one such instance, sadly exemplified by its alternative name: “Turkey Day.” Thanksgiving is meant to be a day when we celebrate the bounty of the harvest, pause in gratitude for the abundance most of us experience, and share what we have with others. Most people don’t stop to think about the nearly 300 million birds that are killed each year in the U.S., just to satisfy our taste buds. Of this number, 45 million are killed for Thanksgiving alone.
As someone who teaches vegetarian cooking classes, I’ve seen many people turn away from meat, dairy, and eggs and embrace the array of delicious, nutritious plant-based foods available to us. I’ve also seen them change the lens through which they view the world, which I think is critical for shedding the comfort zones of the past and creating new ones. Some people have a real fear that they will no longer have satisfying, filling meals – especially on Thanksgiving. I can say with confidence that they can put their fears to rest.
Our Thanksgiving feast every year is full of comfort foods galore, prepared with organic ingredients from local farms: mashed potatoes with mushroom gravy, bread & nut stuffing, mashed rutabagas, cranberries with pecans and cranberries, stuffed acorn squash, corn bread, Brussels sprouts, corn, peas, pumpkin pie with cashew cream, and apple pie. This was our menu last year, and I’m sure I’ve left something out. Indeed, there is no dearth of food on our table on this special day, as we share it with our closest friends and family.
For those who have never met them, turkeys are magnificent animals, full of spunk and spark and affection, with individual personalities and charms. These animals, who have been abused and discarded by human beings, whose beaks and toes have been mutilated, and whose genetically overgrown bodies are susceptible to heart disease and leg deformities, still display immense affection towards humans. They are incredibly curious and follow you wherever you go, and their wonderful vocalizations include an array of clucks, purrs, coos, and cackles.
Turkeys love to be caressed, and people often remark that they respond just like their own dogs and cats. Turkeys even make a purring sound when they are content, and not until you’ve had a hen fall asleep under your arm have you lived. She will literally melt under your touch, relax her body, and begin to close her eyes, softly clucking all the while. It’s a sight to see, and I’m moved every time I have the privilege to witness it.
Some individuals are more affectionate than others, climbing into your lap and making themselves as comfortable as can be. At an animal sanctuary I frequent, a particularly friendly turkey became infamous for her propensity to hug. As soon as you crouched down, she would run over to you, press her body against yours, and crane her head over your shoulders, clucking all the while. It’s amazing how so generous a hug can be given by someone with no arms.
They’re not all saints, but some are heroes. One turkey became my personal protector when I was trying to clean a barn and was continually accosted by a particularly rude and aggressive bird. Each time the aggressor would begin to close in on me, my hero would waddle over and get between me and his barn-mate. It was remarkable, and it happened over and over (turkeys are very persistent). What made this scene even more touching was the fact that these toms suffered from bumble foot, an occurrence of abscesses on the footpads that resemble corns, a common occurrence in domesticated turkeys. Between their grotesquely large breasts and inflamed feet, turkeys walk very awkwardly and with a lot of effort. I was very touched that such an effort was made on my behalf.
I grew up eating turkeys’ breasts, turkeys’ legs, and turkeys’ wings, and I’m still making amends to these extraordinary animals. I believe we’re able to mutilate certain animals for our gustatory pleasure because we don’t have relationships with them. We never meet them face to face. Once I met a turkey, I was never the same again. Once I began to celebrate Thanksgiving as turkey-free holiday, I learned for the first time what “Happy Turkey Day” really means.
“Attracted by electricity throughout the sky and driven by forceful winds, clouds gradually cover the surface of the earth to satisfy the needy people by supplying water, which is the substance of their life. The clouds bestow rains upon man as the mercy of the Lord, who is always kind to the needy living being.”-Light of the Bhagavata, Verse Three
Bhagavad-gītā As It Is (14.1)
by A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada
The result of pious action is pure and is said to be in the mode of goodness. But action done in the mode of passion results in misery, and action performed in the mode of ignorance results in foolishness.
The result of pious activities in the mode of goodness is pure. Therefore the sages, who are free from all illusion, are situated in happiness. But activities in the mode of passion are simply miserable. Any activity for material happiness is bound to be defeated. If, for example, one wants to have a skyscraper, so much human misery has to be undergone before a big skyscraper can be built. The financier has to take much trouble to earn a mass of wealth, and those who are slaving to construct the building have to render physical toil. The miseries are there. Thus Bhagavad-gita says that in any activity performed under the spell of the mode of passion, there is definitely great misery. There may be a little so-called mental happiness — “I have this house or this money” — but this is not actual happiness.
As far as the mode of ignorance is concerned, the performer is without knowledge, and therefore all his activities result in present misery, and afterwards he will go on toward animal life. Animal life is always miserable, although, under the spell of the illusory energy,maya , the animals do not understand this. Slaughtering poor animals is also due to the mode of ignorance. The animal killers do not know that in the future the animal will have a body suitable to kill them. That is the law of nature. In human society, if one kills a man he has to be hanged. That is the law of the state. Because of ignorance, people do not perceive that there is a complete state controlled by the Supreme Lord. Every living creature is a son of the Supreme Lord, and He does not tolerate even an ant’s being killed. One has to pay for it. So indulgence in animal killing for the taste of the tongue is the grossest kind of ignorance. A human being has no need to kill animals, because God has supplied so many nice things. If one indulges in meat-eating anyway, it is to be understood that he is acting in ignorance and is making his future very dark. Of all kinds of animal killing, the killing of cows is most vicious because the cow gives us all kinds of pleasure by supplying milk. Cow slaughter is an act of the grossest type of ignorance. In the Vedic literature (Ṛg Veda 9.4.64) the words gobhih prīṇita-matsaram indicate that one who, being fully satisfied by milk, is desirous of killing the cow is in the grossest ignorance. There is also a prayer in the Vedic literature that states:
govindāya namo namaḥ
“My Lord, You are the well-wisher of the cows and the brāhmaṇas, and You are the well-wisher of the entire human society and world.” (Viṣṇu Purāṇa 1.19.65) The purport is that special mention is given in that prayer for the protection of the cows and the brāhmaṇas. Brāhmaṇas are the symbol of spiritual education, and cows are the symbol of the most valuable food; these two living creatures, the brāhmaṇas and the cows, must be given all protection — that is real advancement of civilization. In modern human society, spiritual knowledge is neglected, and cow killing is encouraged. It is to be understood, then, that human society is advancing in the wrong direction and is clearing the path to its own condemnation. A civilization which guides the citizens to become animals in their next lives is certainly not a human civilization. The present human civilization is, of course, grossly misled by the modes of passion and ignorance. It is a very dangerous age, and all nations should take care to provide the easiest process,Krishna consciousness, to save humanity from the greatest danger.
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“A good example of a teaching that has been passed over by Western civilization is the theory of reincarnation. It regards the self as an indestructible being that journeys through many bodies and many species one after another. It does not support a human-centered culture that exploits animals and dominates nature, or that accumulates as much of the world’s resources as it can with only one lifetime in which to do it all. Instead, it values all life forms as expressions of the spirit and stresses qualities such as patience and compassion. It looks beyond the transience of material pleasures to lasting happiness and fulfilment arising from inner peace and tranquility.”-Vedic Ecology by Ranchor Prime
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“The scorching heat of the sun evaporates water from the seas, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, and there is little water anywhere. The people become thirsty and always look overhead for rain, but in despair. Yet just at the right moment, torrents of rain begin to fall everywhere in the land, even on the hard stones, and the land becomes overflooded.”-Light of the Bhagavata, Verse Two