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The Yogic Path

man sitting on gray dock
We recently received a remarkable letter from a friend of ours, who became a vegetarian in 1974 and for the past 24 years has lived the vegan understanding. Paul, a doctor, sent a recording of a presentation advocating for spiritual veganism to “Tom” a highly qualified yoga instructor with decades of experience who had lived in India, and still makes annual month-long trips to further his studies. The reply he received is below, followed by Paul’s response, which we felt was so brilliant we simply had to share it.
Hi Paul, 
Thanks for the commentary. I listened to it and he quotes Patanjali* well. He did try to strengthen his view point using the yamas** but Patanjali actually says that ‘for most of us who are living in the normal world, there are exceptions to the yamas’. I agree though that we should make these personal vows and move towards higher consciousness. However, we need to be careful not to insist that everyone should be as saintly. This can actually create suffering for people, especially us poor Pitta ones who may not achieve perfection 24/7.
Mahalo and aloha.
* Patañjali is the compiler of the Yoga Sūtras, an important collection of aphorisms on Yoga practice.
** The Yamas represent a series of “right living” or ethical rules within Hinduism and Yoga. These are moral imperatives, commandments, rules or goals.
Paul’s response:

Hi “Tom,”

I sent you that piece as I thought it might be helpful for you in the next step of evolution; one that combines compassion, spiritual understanding and ecological sensitivity, as well as moral and ethical development, in a world that is anything but normal.

The suffering you describe is no mystery. One is either a willing participant in this normal world or one chooses to evolve and accepts the consequences, which are mostly and increasingly positive by the way, while being karmically preferable and entirely consistent with the yogic path.

Personally, I have seen or consulted with over 15,000 people who are suffering from NOT looking at their dietary options a few decades earlier and now face the reality of any number of chronic degenerative diseases, all of which are linked to animal foods, including the unavoidable endotoxins, or chemical and heavy metal accumulation from eating high on the food chain.

Oddly, so many of them also claim to be animal lovers.

One rarely avoids animal products to aspire to sainthood, but it may be true that saintliness is impossible to discuss without first cleansing the body and mind of needless suffering of sentient beings, which becomes internalized. Regardless of one’s current aspirations or motivations, it is still the best possible decision, since these will change and be modified over time anyway.

Truth be known, for me it has been a 35 year odyssey and my tolerance for others who don’t yet understand what was obvious to me three and a half decades ago is at an all time high, as is appropriate at this juncture in my evolution. Still, I criticize behaviors that are, though common, neither normal or desirable.

Let us aspire to higher order thinking and forget normalcy or the common thoughts of man as they are nothing except impediments to personal evolution…

All the best,


Photo by Simon Migaj