Zaufyshan Haseeb (f): Our next speaker is going to be Shankar and I'll tell you a little bit about him. Shankar Narayan is the founder-president of Indian Vegan Society. He is the regional coordinator for India, Southwest Asia International Vegetarian Union. He was a lacto-vegetarian since birth but has been a vegan for 10 years. He lived in Dubai for five years but presently he resides in rural India. And he's organized several events to spread the message of vegan living. So let's put our hands together for Shankar and he'd like to share his views.
Shankar Narayan(m): Good afternoon, everybody. I'm very thankful to the organizers for inviting me to be here and allowing me to share my experiences, or sharing my experiences as a vegan, life as a vegan. Mahatma Gandhiji, the father of India and my moral guru said, “Truth and nonviolence are as old as mountains. I have nothing new to tell the world.” Same is the case with me: I have nothing new to tell the world. If I say something, that is already existing. So, life as a vegan, this is the topic I'm asked to speak. And my life as a vegan for the last 10 years is very interesting. What is vegan? So “vegan” is a word derived from the word “vegetarian.” The original concept of vegetarianism or the essence of vegetarianism doesn't allow any animal products, at least in diet. So, vegetarian or dietary vegan is one who doesn't consume any animal products.
Then what's the difference between vegan and a vegetarian if vegetarian doesn't consume any animal products? Then who is vegetarian? Who is vegan? So, vegan is one who doesn't consume any animal products, including honey, and he doesn't use any animal products also - maybe leather, silk or wool - or going into circus, like services of animals, going on animals for a ride or entertainment or experimentation. Animals are as good as his own family members. There is no exploitation, no use of animals being a vegan, an Indian vegan.
See, according to the Vegan Society of the UK, that is the first vegan society in the world, they define veganism as such: “Veganism is a way of living that seeks to exclude as far as possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of and cruelty to animals for food, clothing or any other purpose.” It's all purposes included, so no animals as far as practical and possible. These two are conditional, so one can exempt themselves based on all these conditions.” This is defined as such by Vegan Society, UK.
The original intention of veganism is to prevent cruelty to animals by human actions, but later they added two more important aspects of veganism. That is for preservation or promotion of our own physical health and protection of environment. And now I'm telling you these aspects are gaining a lot of momentum because global warming and climate change, all these are caused by human activities, especially with regard to food. So, veganism is promoted for these three reasons: one is for prevention of cruelty to animals; second one is for human health; third one is for protection or promotion of better environmental conditions.
We have to eat some food, without eating any food we can't survive. If there is a possibility of surviving without eating any food, as Dr. B.M. Hegde was saying, we get energy from sun, I'll prefer to do that instead of eating plants also, because people argue that plants do have life. Why do you kill plants? So I can't survive without eating plants, so I have to eat plants. So we survive on 100% plant food. So we don't eat or use animals for any dietary purpose. And being happy and healthy is a second part of this, and that doesn't end our veganism.
The very important part of veganism for me derived from Mahatma Gandhi's life, derived from many other people, and derived from our own ancient teachings like Bhagavad Gita, these moral qualities. Nonviolence, or ahimsa, is the foundation of all principles. So ahimsa is another one, is a part of veganism. “Akkrod,” freedom from anger: if you get anger for valid reasons, sometimes we feel we are very angry because there is a reason to be angry, but you have to control anger. If you have a satvik (pure) food, satvik food which gives sobering effect on your body and mind, you cannot get anger. “Alobh” means non-greed. Gandhi again said, “Earth provides enough for man's needs, but not for greed.” That's where we are at this stage. We are always greedy: we want to accumulate more, we are not happy with what we have, we are not happy with what we earn. So we shouldn't have any greed, being part of this.
Next, “Aparigraha” - “Aparigraha” means non-possession. We always feel everything is mine, “So the whole world is mine to enjoy, everything belonging to me.” That kind of thinking we generate with more and more materialistic lifestyle. So we, being Indian vegan, we try to avoid that possession. We don't feel everything is mine. So, if someone takes, we don't feel very angry or we don't feel very depressed with that kind of activity, something happening to us. Then “Dana”, charity: charity is in everything, every culture, so when we have more, we should give that to someone who is in need.
So, giving it to someone who is in need, who is underprivileged, is part of Indian veganism and “Daya,” mercy. When someone is suffering, it's not just humans, it is for all sentient beings. All sentient beings who suffer need mercy. So when they are in need of some sympathy or help, we need to empathize and support them with our help. “Dharm,” righteousness: doing the right thing. So we have a thinking mind, we cannot just ignore just because it's inconvenient to us. If something is wrong, we shouldn't do; if something is right, we should do.
There was a saying, something which motivated me, “The world is not bad because of bad people. It is bad because of the inaction of good people.” If there is something to be done, which is righteousness to do and we have to do that, that is “Dharm” we say. Then the “Dheertha” - “Dheertha” means fortitude. In times of crisis, we should not lose our courage. And “Doordarshitha,” prudence: so you have to think, if not worry; we have to think about tomorrow. “Karuna,” compassion: sympathize with others. So there are so many values: forgiveness, cordiality, dietary moderation. Moderation, “Mithahar.” Splurging on too much is not good for us. Eating less is in fact good for us. Penance, equanimity, restraint, truth, physical discipline, faith, purity, good conduct, ascetism - ascetism means living with minimum resources.
Again our ancient rishis, ancient saints, were doing that. Even if we had more we won't use all those, because we can live with minimum resources. Patience, and in the modern world we lose patience at the pettiest reason, because having patience is very important. Renunciation, detachment, modesty - there are so many qualities which we need to focus and develop as far as possible, as far as practical. So this is the idealism we keep as things to practice. It may not be easy to practice at one go, if we have a focus on all these, it certainly helps us to go ahead in our life and improve our lifestyle.
So what are the positives of achieving or practicing all these ethos of Indian veganism? Calmness of mind. We cannot live without worry, so these kinds of practice of Indian veganism really help us get calmness of mind. When you're calm, you can think peacefully, you can do the right thing, you can do the appropriate thing. We talk about environment and what is the cause of environmental degradation: it is humans and the number of humans. When we go vegan, when you follow all these principles, we have a lesser burden of ourselves on the planet.
The world population is going to be 9 billion soon. When you have lesser eco footprint per person, we can have a number of people on this, or at least a large number of human population can survive being happy and healthy without causing much damage to the Earth. Then, less suffering, less suffering for humans, less suffering for fellow animals, less suffering for Earth, less suffering for everyone around. When you practice this kind of veganism, a better kind of veganism, we have a total painless living.
Shankar Narayan (m): When we stop being cruel to others, when we do stop being part of the cruelty others are doing, we do a justice for ourselves. We will be more happy; we reduce suffering for everyone. With physical health, I already touched upon that. Being a vegan, you need to be very conscious about your health. Nutrition experts say we need to take B12 supplements. There are doctors, there are nutritionists, taking their advice, you need to be healthy; you need to be very, very strong physically.
A lonely world, you have to be mentally very strong; otherwise you feel isolated in this world, you feel lonely, you feel depressed, you feel can't do anything in this world. But, think positive, think positive about the world, think positive about others. So, take everyone in your stride, empathize with others, understand others, live with others. When you do that, you don't feel lonely; everyone is with you, everyone can come with you. So mentally we can be very strong with that kind of attitude.
So with all these, whether it is worth it? Surely, I feel being vegan is worth it, because veganism harms none. We don't harm anyone, we don't feel ill of anyone, and it does a world of good. When you change yourself, as Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world.” When you see change in you, you see the change in the world. When you do certain good things, then that percolates to other activities also. Thank you very much for listening to me.
Zaufyshan Haseeb (f): Thank you so much, Shankar! Our next speaker, Thomas, I'd like to share a bit of information about him. Thomas has a Master's in Agriculture. He worked for five years for the German pioneer fair trade company GEPA, and for about 14 years he's been with IFOAM in different management functions, etc. So, please put your hands together for Thomas.
Mr Cierpka (m): First of all, I'd like to thank the team who is broadcasting this session to the world. I'm very much impressed to be on this stage, this is live-stream possible. And I thank all the volunteers doing that because I tried it myself for the International Federation of Organic Agriculture, where I am working for, to include a few members to our site event last Friday in Cancún, when we have been talking about the organic agriculture effects on climate change.
And it was quite difficult and the bandwidth was a problem, and I admire very much that this is possible here. So thank you very much for that. So why am I here? I'd like to bring the message to you, how your products are produced, where the fruits and vegetables come from matters. I'd like to speak a word for organic agriculture being the most sustainable method, and not only that, being even the most economic way of producing food - not only in the very future but also now.
So, the International Federation of Organic Agriculture movement exists now 38 years, and our mission is to make the world organic. And there are a few components which are important in this regard that is on three columns: ecology, social justice and economy. Those are the items which build the fundament and the background of organic, and that is why the method is the most sustainable agricultural method and even lifestyle in the world.
Organic agriculture is a production system that sustains the health of soils, ecosystem and people. People before commodities, that's important. We talk about people. It relies on ecological processes, biodiversity and nutrition, energy and water cycles adapted to the local conditions, rather than on the use of inputs with adverse effects - you know what is meant by that one, chemical inputs and pesticides mostly. Organic agriculture combines three things: tradition, innovation and science to benefit the shared environment and promote fair relationships and the good quality of life for all involved. Organic agriculture is more than just covering market demands, it's not just a trend or fashion, it's a concept, and it's sustainability put into practice.
We have achieved already quite some growth and quite a lot, all over the planet you find organic production. Millions of hectares are converted, it's growing and the sales are going up. However, our potential's not well recognized all over the place yet. We have a few reports, a few reports acknowledging what we did, including the recent World Agriculture Report, which is called "IAASTD." (International Assessment of Agricultural Knowledge, Science and Technology for Development) They are acknowledging sustainable and organic agriculture as the best method to move forward.
What are the challenges? Just the major ones. We have the challenge about food security, climate change, biodiversity, sustainable resources, water and soil. So we have it in the conventional agriculture and our concepts address it in a different way. So we come as a movement to the point that small farmers are the most suffering, but also the most important stakeholder group even when we talk about nourishing the world.
They are where the food is produced: they need to nourish their families and they go to the market with their products. So the small holders are on focus for the development we think is important for the future of the Earth. Why? Small farmers are the by-producers of global food. They are the stewards to take care of environment as much as they know. And we know that, specifically, traditional agriculture carries a lot of knowledge to protect nature. We have lost it over the years.
Before, it was very clear that nature is our buddy. We cannot even damage it because it's ours. With the industrialized agriculture approach, we have lost this knowledge, and we treat the Earth like a different component of the economy, but not as ours. Higher sustainable productivity increase will have a major impact on poverty reduction. So, the relation between small farmers and poverty is obvious.
Now, where to go? The concept is also simple. We call it sustainability, and it means development that meets with the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs, in a way, a very simple logic, easy to follow. Here is just one way to try to measure sustainability. It's a Swiss study which compares different ways of agriculture here, and different aspects of sustainability. It's about food security, economy, working conditions, product quality, natural resources, animal welfare, biodiversity, climate change.
There is a study available from 2008 that says organic agriculture has the potential to reduce ＣＯ２ concentration in the atmosphere by this and this amount of gigatons, and that means to reduce the whole emission of agriculture by half or even more. So that's one little aspect in a way. Not carbon alone will count for the future of our planet, but it's one aspect you should take into consideration when we talk about sustainability.
Therefore, this report I already mentioned earlier, The World Agriculture Report (IAASTD), recommends organic agriculture and sustainable agriculture due to the better land management, crops, and also because we are supporting the small farmers. Taxes, I already mentioned, on pesticides and fertilizer; that would be the easiest way to go for it. The lobby is not there yet, so be my lobby. Help us to go there, all over the globe. This is the way to make it cleaner. You also should see the subsidies, which are invested in the wrong way of agriculture: still promoting the pollution more than avoiding it.
And if you initiate programs to enhance biodiversity, stop soil degradation, then we are coming closer to the true price. There are different aspects for the external cost categories, environmental, health, and social. Just a few examples. I mentioned water pollution. There are climate change aspects, for example, the mitigation of climate change. We are trying to bring it into the discussion with the UNFCCC (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change), Cancún, and all over, how to calculate it, how to make the organic farmers benefit from the work they do, bringing humus into the soil, making it a sink for ＣＯ２.
They do a good job, why not pay for that? Soil degradation: if you count how many hectares we're losing every day by bad treatment, erosion, by building more roads and cities, this is an aspect to count for. We have to calculate and pay them to keep the land for farming; it's a price aspect. Loss of biodiversity: how to quantify? How to quantify the benefit to have hedges in between your fields and to make a living organism about your farm? This needs to be quantified and come to the price. Health: you discussed a lot this morning - diseases caused by chemicals, for example, coming from agriculture, allergies. Social, rural development and employment: how to count for that? Organic agriculture brings more employment to the villagers. They can keep their work running; they don't have escape to the cities.
Mr Cierpka (m): I'd like to state organic agriculture is the most economic way to nourish this world now and in future. We are not there yet. We know that organic agriculture is small still. The awareness is important among those who take the decisions both in economy and also on a governmental level, as well as the consumer level. The consumer power is tremendous: let's use it even better. Advocacy is important to bring it forward, that we have the research. We need the innovation and, finally, also the trade environment, for example harmonized standards and regulations, which IFOAM is very much engaged in, so that in the long run, organic will be the way to go. Thank you very much for your attention.
Zaufyshan Haseeb (f): Thank you so much Thomas, it was really quite informative for most of us and a little token of appreciation. So guys, what are we doing to save the planet? Earlier on, Shankar said a beautiful quote by Gandhi, which I also like that, “Be the change you want to see.” Absolutely! It's so easy to point to others. “Oh, somebody needs to do it.” Where's that somebody going to come from? As long as we do our little part, just small, small steps, unconditional, our little random acts of kindness, each and every day we need to see how we are making a difference. So Sandhya and some other very, very interesting and creative people thought that there should be some kind of …. Maybe I'll let Sandhya explain all that, right? So, if I could request you to come on the stage Sandhya… Thank you.
Sonyia(f): Let's just watch what we did in the last one year. This was a Veggie Youth Fiesta in Dubai. This was in Bangalore. A Future Green Environment Seminar. All the media in ＵＡＥ have been very supportive. We've had such a wonderful response in the last three years, you know, baby steps going on. We thought we need to bring this focus group out of the Facebook and the website, and the different online media that we are in and give it a face. So this Congress happened so that we come upfront as volunteers. And thanks to Minope, we brought this whole thing together.
But it is necessary to have a tool. When you want to make a change, so we came up with the Veggie Starter Guide, which is there online, available for free download for anybody in the region. This particular guide, if you see, has got Why, How, Impact on Diet - a lot of Middle Eastern flavors, okay? The food has so much vegetarian in it. We do a lot of presentation on just Middle Eastern vegetarian cuisine, why we need to be veg, and all those very beautiful people out there who are hale and hearty celebrities. And as a support group with all the support from all of you here today and from everybody, we plan to start, 2011, have a support group in the ＵＡＥ for people who want to make the change.
They want to know how to go about it. So this is one tool that we had launched about three months ago but today I'm so delighted to announce the launch of our second tool. What we have today is the first 100% vegetarian map of Dubai, which is being launched so that you can have a ready tool when you go there. It's going to be available at all the airports, at all the different outlets, restaurants. And this is a humble effort that is being supported by one of the companies called SPI - you'll see them on our gratitude banner out there - who've come forward and produced and published this. Thank you so much, SPI!
Zaufyshan Haseeb (f): The next step is to put it on the GPS system as well. The veggie map. (Yes. That's a great idea.) Yes! Excellent! Let's launch that.
Sonyia(f): Yes, please. Can I have all our volunteers please up here on stage? Thank you!
Zaufyshan Haseeb (f): These volunteers have been working day and night to put up this wonderful Congress. Because of their support it's been a wonderful ride. Our next speaker is going to be Cyntha. Cyntha Gonzalez has been a vegetarian for 30 years and a raw foodist for seven years. Cyntha comes from the US, which she left in 1987. She has lived in Latin America and Europe since then and now has been in ＵＡＥ for the last 12 years. During her 25 years as a counselor, plus her own personal journey, she has come to understand the rich relationship between food and emotion. Now that's a very interesting point to our eating habits, so I give the stage to Cyntha.
Cyntha(f): Good afternoon, everybody. I just first want to thank MEVEG, I'm really honored to be part of this and I think it's just an absolutely wonderful gathering, and raising the consciousness, so thank you. Thank you for inviting me to be part of this. So my talk is called “Food, Emotion and Life Force.” I want to go into the emotional aspect of food and the link there. There are two ways we can approach this. The first is that slogan, “Put down the food, feel the feelings.” I'm going to elaborate on that. And then the second one is, sometimes, you may not be able to do that, it's like it's too nebulous to say “I'm going to put down the food.
I don't even know the difference between hunger, physical hunger, and emotional hunger.” So what I'm going to do is present to you some examples of how the different foods that you may be craving, or that you're obsessing about, or that you have to have, can actually be a mirror to you of what you're actually feeling. As a counselor, I help people a lot in this. Sometimes, you may have a certain obsession with a type of food or a substance, and you're not ready to put it down, you're not ready to feel the feelings - it's too scary, it's too frightening to go into what's there - and sometimes a guide is necessary to accompany you to go into what's really there.
So the first one I talk about here: crunchy foods. So, crunchy foods are usually to do with anger, boredom, and mulling over something, or chewing on a decision or chewing on a problem. Okay, all the carbs those are filler foods, filling the void, disconnection. And disconnection can be that feeling of loneliness even though you're in a room full of people, even though you're in a big family, whatever the case may be, but it's also what we would say a spiritual connection. However we define that spiritual connection to be, but it's that connection with a oneness.
Okay, sugar: love, it's there, the sweetness of life; wanting that, ultimately, whether it's love from outside. If you're projecting that, you're not getting that love from others around you. Needing to give that love to yourself, needing to really know your own worthiness of love. Okay, caffeine: passion, motivation. A lot of people struggle with the caffeine addiction, and this stuff is not so matter of fact, or just “Oh, well, no big deal.” Can you put down the caffeine and then find your motivation somewhere else? So, this kind of thing is not lighthearted here. Sometimes this demands radical ego death, radical surrender to your truth even though it's extremely overwhelming in terms of the consequences of what this would mean.
So all of these things are signals and, of course, it's working with them, and gradually finding your way to come on the other side and listening to “What does my body really want? And if I'm not listening to what my body wants, why is that? And why am I using that food to completely abuse my body, to run over my body? And why am I not listening to the emotion and how can I find ways to do that?” Okay, chocolate. I'm sure there's not one person here that's never eaten chocolate. What do you tend to go to? And where do you tend to eat a bit more if you've had that experience, more than you really need, or really want, or you're hurting yourself with too much of that? If it's just pure dark chocolate, it's just that you just need a real fix with the motivation, the passion.
Now, I talk about fizzy drinks, like the sodas, and that's when we're wanting some pizazz, we want some fun, we want something different, we're in a place where either we're bored or it's just things just aren't happening for us. Okay, now there's a woman, she's been a real teacher to me, one of my favorite teachers while I've been, learning and continuing on this path of eating only raw food. Her name is Victoria Boutenko. She's a Russian woman who immigrated a long time ago to the United States. A lot of people come to raw food for different reasons. Some people come to it for diabetes, some people come with life-threatening illnesses, some with obesity; there are many reasons. Mine was actually more of a spiritual quest: I really wanted to just be in that, like heightened and refined vibration all of the time. That was my quest. I didn't come for health reasons.
Okay, I show here the raw food diet versus the American standard diet. I would say mine is probably quite a bit more greens, and less seeds and things, but pretty much that's my diet. So you can see the difference. And of course, which I'm going to move on to next, is the life force. I mean, when you look at the difference between that, and you just think about life force. What are we taking in when we're taking in on the right side? Okay, so I give here all these different examples of sources of prana and ways to bring in the prana, bring in that life force.
When we cook food over 42, 43°C, the enzymes are killed off, all of them; they're all killed off. So when the enzymes are that life force energy, when we maintain that, those enzymes in the food, we are taking in that life force energy directly. And it's a gradual thing. The more and more you take in that live food, this raw food and all that life force energy, the more your energy will raise in vibration, and the more you will want more of it.
Q(m): There's a lot of hype about vitamin B12 supplements and all. Do you take any supplements like that?
Cyntha Gonzalez (f): You know, very rarely. I don't need it. Let me speak about the B12 and the iron. First of all, the iron, you totally can get it from the plant-based diet. My body just tells me what I need. Whenever I need iron, I start craving black mission figs. Figs. I just want figs and I don't even know why and then that's the key. Vitamin A, sometimes I'll have a calling and I'll go for the carrots.
And then calcium, sesame seeds, unhulled ideally, the brown sesame seeds, which you can get at the organic here or almonds. Almonds and sesame seeds are extremely high sources; and broccoli. Now the B12: there is B12 in seaweed. You can get B12 in seaweed. And I have been fine. To be honest, it hasn't been a problem. But every once in a blue moon, I will feel a call for taking a supplement, but it's very, very rare. And it's usually actually when I'm only traveling because I'm not getting what I normally need. Thank you.
Zaufyshan Haseeb(f): Thank you very much. Very interesting. Cyntha, that was lovely.I think we should treat animals a lot better than we treat them now. We are being selfish by not taking care of the planet because this planet is not just for us, it's for the other animals as well - the parrots, the birds, the lions, the tigers, everybody. A lot of the animals are going extinct because we have been killing them for either fun or sport. Be Veg, Go Green 2 Save the planet!
Conference participantGuest (f): These two days I am coming to this MEVEG conference and I really enjoy. I learned so many things about the vegetables and about the health. Today's food which I am eating now, it is really delicious - very nice, healthy. It is so attractive and I really like this delicious food. Thank you very much. Be Veg, Go Green 2 Save the Planet!
There are more updates of Loving Hut restaurants opening all the time. Fatal prion diseases transmissible through air or milk
Supreme Master Ching Hai: The raising of livestock animals such as sheep, goats, and cattle generates huge amounts of methane and other greenhouse gases, which in turn cause and accelerate global warming. We cannot run around the circle and avoid the meat industry question like we avoid a sore thumb or avoid a boil on our body. Especially, we know that it is a very dangerous boil, which could affect our life, which could be fatal to our life, and even infect others, and even in this situation, infect the whole planet, could kill the whole world. We have technique, we have power. Each one of us can do this, just by being vegan.
Join us on Supreme Master Television on Friday, February 4, for part 2 of the rebroadcast of the live conference with Supreme Master Ching Hai, “The 1st Middle East Vegetarian (MEVEG) Congress,” on Words of Wisdom.
Tune in to Supreme Master Television today for the rebroadcast of the live conference with Supreme Master Ching Hai, “The 1st Middle East Vegetarian (MEVEG) Congress,” on Words of Wisdom.
Supreme Master Ching Hai: I tell you a secret: Suppose you promote organic plant-based food, now, whoever, the government, whoever decided to approve this plant-based diet solution, just approves it only, he will earn, my God, thousands of zillions of spiritual merit points. And we need a lot of points to go back to Heaven. Whoever approves this even, just one time, enough for him to fly to Heaven already, after he leaves this world. He doesn't even need any more pilgrimage, doesn't even need to do anything else even. Whoever approved of that, and whoever makes sure that it carries out, will obtain the same spiritual merits points, that Heaven will bestow upon it.
Join us on Supreme Master Television on Tuesday, February 8, for part 5 of the rebroadcast of the live conference with Supreme Master Ching Hai, “The 1st Middle East Vegetarian (MEVEG) Congress,” on Words of Wisdom.
Tune in to Supreme Master Television today for the rebroadcast of the live conference with Supreme Master Ching Hai, “The 1st Middle East Vegetarian (MEVEG) Congress,” on Words of Wisdom.