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Buddhism for Vegans: The Beginner’s Mind

June 6, 2014

What is the Beginner’s Mind?

Think back to a time when you were doing something for the first time. Here is an example:

Remember the day, that moment, when first you realized you would be vegan?  Your heightened state of awareness combined with the desire for a better world . . . and that feeling that you would do anything to create that world, but at that point not knowing exactly what to do to accomplish that goal.  Your mind was open, completely.

As time wears on the new vegan’s mind begins to close.  The more enlightened we think we are, the more closed the mind may become.  What is possible becomes replaced with what is probable.  Hope may be replaced with disappointment.  Bitterness or anger or judgement or frustration or any other number of negative states replace the original hopeful ‘eyes and mind wide open’ state.  As we become more ‘vegan’ or more ‘expert’ on the subject of veganism our eyes and minds may begin to close again.

We are losing your Beginner’s Mind.

“In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities, in the expert’s mind there are few.” Suzuki

When we lose this, our practice of veganism becomes less pure.

When your mind becomes demanding, when you long for something, you will end up violating your own precepts. ~ Suzuki

When our mind is compassionate it is boundless. ~ Suzuki

We must never say “I know what veganism is.  I have attained enlightenment.” for when we do this, we close the mind to further enlightenment and learning about what veganism is and in this we close ourselves off to others who are not vegan but they are the ones who need us the most. The secret is to always be a beginner.  In this way we hold onto that original enlightenment to compassion.  We do not allow our negative feelings that we indeed will have to confront about the world, our friends and even our family to replace our compassion for all and our wish for peace.  By keeping a Beginner’s Mind we do not close ourselves off to possibilities.  We do not lose hope.  We are not disappointed because all things are still possible because we have not yet been disappointed.

Most important:  we are able to treat every person in the way in which we originally treated them the first day we became vegan when it was still possible the person we were talking to would understand and become enlightened too.

We never let go of that original  hope that they too will ‘see’. The slate is wiped clean each day of the disappointments of the previous day. This causes our treatment of others to be in the pure vegan way, always: with compassion instead of anger or frustration.

Only our Beginner’s Mind contains our purest compassion for all who live.  And it is only our Beginner’s Mind that may connect with others for it has not yet separated itself from others.  No walls have been built yet.  We are still filled with humility about the way we have lived until that very moment we became vegan. We are still connected to our friends and family and to all people in the exact same way for we have not yet been disappointed by them. We have the knowledge that ‘If I can do it, anyone can”. And that knowledge is truth. But when we lose our Beginner’s Mind we lose sight of this truth.  We no longer see vegans and future vegans.  We only see ourselves as vegans in a world of hopelessness.  But the latter is not more true than the former.

Enlightenment is not some good feeling or some particular state of mind.  It is satisfaction with each moment. If you are not satisfied with each moment as a vegan when you engage with others then the problem is you, not the other person.  We are only in control of ourselves.  And the vegan self is the most compassionate self.  If you engage others in a less than compassionate way, you are not engaging them with the vegan self.  You are engaging them with your ego.

The ego must be set aside, gotten rid of, in order to be the purest vegan self. When we get rid of our egos we can access our compassion completely.  And only then will we be satisfied with every moment no matter who the other person is that we are engaging.  It is only in self-less-ness or without ego that we can be our most vegan self. It doesn’t matter how ‘vegan’ we are or for how long.  This does not make us an authority for every person is vegan inside and we must speak to them with this knowledge, with that humble and hopeful Beginner’s Mind treating each moment as the first in order to maintain our most compassionate self.

In order to be vegan we let go of “I’m vegan, you’re not”. The truth is that inside of everyone of us is the vegan self.

There are many vegan experts out there that many people look ‘up’ to. But is there really such a thing?

A return to the Beginner’s Mind every moment of every day is to return to veganism every moment of our lives and to keep the mind open, to be pure in your vegan thought and way of life and your advocacy.

It will work for you in many other areas of your life as well – a return to the first day you met your husband or wife, a return to your first day of college, the day your child was born, the first day you did anything when all things were possible.  They still are.

My motto:  Treat every person as if they are the one who is going to become a world leader for veganism and I have no idea who it is.  Take the stance that it is my fate that they will run into me and my treatment of them either sends them off in the right direction . . . or the wrong one.  In the right direction and this causes the world to change because of their influence.  In the wrong direction and I have missed the opportunity to have influenced that one person who really did have the power to change the whole world.  The next Martin Luther King Jr. or the next Gandhi . . . . slipped past me all because I did not treat them in the way that I should have.  I treated them the way I felt they deserved to be treated.  But the higher calling was to treat them in the way that I needed to for the animal’s sake.







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