A sometimes-vitriolic debate is raging in the yoga community about whether yogis should a) be politically active, and b) follow a vegetarian diet. Although ahimsa (nonviolence) is the primary yoga ethic, some teachers argue that vegetarianism is too restrictive and violates ahimsa by potentially causing harm to the student. Other teachers, notably Jivamukti Yoga founders Sharon Gannon and David Life (see photo), state emphatically that not only is a vegetarian diet better for people and the planet, ahimsa requires yogis to refrain from harming animals.
The World Peace Yoga Conference to be held in Cincinnati on October 23-25 ups the ante by inviting outspoken animal-rights activists such as Gannon, Life, envronmentalist Julia Butterfly Hill, and World Peace Diet author Will Tuttle to speak at the first all-vegan yoga/peace conference.
I asked Gannon and Life why they feel this is, as Life puts it, "the best idea of the millennium."
David Life: "This is an opportunity for all of us to show that we care enough about world peace to take the first step ourselves. Yoga means “you do it!” You don’t wait for someone else to be compassionate, you do it. You don’t wait for someone else to create peace, you create it."
Sharon Gannon: "Because this conference will focus on practical yoga methods to bring peace to a world where violence, exploitation, and destruction have become a way of life. We can be the change we wish to see in the world -- not through anger and blame but by recognizing the connection between personal and global imbalances, all of which stem from the exploitation/degradation of animals and nature. We don't have time to wait for enlightenment in isolated caves or yoga bubbles. Now is the time to become spiritually activated so that we can see what we have known in our hearts all along -- that what we do to the world we ultimately do to ourselves."
Registration for the World Peace Yoga Conference closes October 16.
Sharon Gannon discusses "What Does Yoga Have to Do with Vegetarianism?" and "Yoga and Spiritual Activism" on her Reality Sandwich blog.
Check out Debra's band Devi.