"At the outset and with deepest respect, my views are based upon a life of personal dietary experiment, observation and research, and are not meant as judgment against anyone for their particular choices or beliefs." -Arran Stephens
I remember Arran Stephens from my early vegetarian hippy days in Vancouver, B. C., Canada. He was in his mid-twenties, a devotee of Kirpal Singh, with the Light of God shining out of his eyes and newly married to Ratana, a lovely young Indian woman who was expecting their first child.
Arran owned The Golden Lotus, a vegetarian restaurant and small grocery store, the first of its kind in Vancouver. Both responded to a growing demand, and were wildly successful - the beginnings of his present food business, Nature's Path Organic.
I remember speaking with Arran Stephens at his Lifestream natural food store, on the subject of food and spirituality. He was quietly definite that spirituality came first, food followed. It was more important to focus on self-realization than on a specific diet (such as macrobiotics, which I was into then). Being a new meditator and new vegetarian, I was awed by his consciousness. And I still am.
The Compassionate Diet: How What You Eat Can Change Your Life and Save the Planet is a short, beautifully written book which lays out very simply and clearly all the reasons why it's best for humans to be vegetarian. It skillfully and gently rebuts all the baseless arguments FOR a meat based diet. The book is valuable for that alone.
All the hot topics related to vegetarian diet are included: health and longevity, ethics, animals and environment, organic and non-gmo, with many quotes from authoritative sources.
The first four chapters give a clear picture of the reasons for and benefits of adopting a vegetarian diet, without overwhelming us with statistics or horrifying & shaming us with heavy doses of reality. Those elements are present and necessary for the complete picture, but the overall effect is encouraging and uplifting.
The second part of the book, Vegetarianism and World Religions, contains the core message of the book, the compassionate part, which is often neglected by exponents of a vegetarian diet. It's not that they don't have compassion. Of course they do!
But Arran Stephens mentions the growth of world consciousness several times in the book, as the basis for the growth of interest in vegetarian and vegan diets.
Consciousness underlies the ethical and practical values of vegetarianism, and it's essential compassion. When someone becomes conscious of the sacred nature and interconnectedness of all things, it's not possible to continue inflicting pain and suffering just for the sake of food. From there, the vegetarian or vegan journey begins.
Every world religion, and spiritual discipline has as its basis the development of consciousness. The Compassionate Diet briefly examines various religions, showing how they all, at least in the beginning, teach compassion toward all living things. Since I was raised a Christian, I was most interested in the information about Early Christianity, the life of Jesus and quotes from Old and New Testaments concerning diet and treatment of other creatures.
The introduction to Chapter 5 of The Compassionate Diet states: "Unfortunately, over time, original teachings are often diluted, altered, or rationalized away. Krishna, Buddha, Mahavir, Guru Nanak, Kabir Sahib, Jewish Prophets, and many early Christian leaders all expounded the vegetarian ideal."
"Contrary to contemporary popular opinion, eary sources indicate that Jesus of Nazareth, who espoused a radically nonviolent way of life, also followed and taught the vegetarian way."
Before the conversion of the Emperor Constantine, "Vegetarianism among many Christian groups was the norm. It was only when Christianity became the official reliigon of the Roman Empire in the 4th century A.D. that a meat-eating interpretation became the prevailing creed. At the Council of Nicea in 325 CE, politicians and priests altered the texts to fit the new orthodoxy."
"Many changes were made to passages concerned with the eating of flesh and the taking of strong drink to make the new religion more acceptable to the masses. During the reign of Emperor Constantine, vegetarian Christians had to practice their diet in secrecy: if found out, they were put to death for heresy."
Things have not changed much. Vegetarians are no longer put to death, but they are ridiculed, harassed, ostracized and marginalized. The Dept of Homeland Security lists vegetarians as a terrorist suspect group. The meat and dairy industries spend a lot of money on propogating anti-vegetarian propoganda, spreading doubt and suspicion about vgetarian diet.
That's why The Compassionate Diet is a delightful, refreshing, enlightening and necessary book. It lets vegetarians and would-be vegetarians know, clearly, simply and lovingly, "Oh yes, I am on the right path. Vegetarian diet is the compassionate, sane, and healthy way to go, for me, for the animals, for the planet."