Water the Right Seeds
There’s a wonderful Buddhist saying that goes “We all have within us the seeds of greed, hatred and desire, and the seeds of love, compassion and empathy. Our job is just to water the right seeds.” By focusing on the right things we increase the effectiveness of our vegan advocacy and help grow a better world for everyone.
What the Buddhist saying means is that what we focus on will grow.
If we focus on others’ compassion, we’ll encourage them to be more compassionate, and if we focus on their apathy we’ll encourage them to be more apathetic— and probably even defensive, since they can feel judged by us.
If we want to help non-vegans connect with their natural compassion, and other core moral values, we need to view and communicate with them in a way that helps them to do this.
For example, when you meet someone who tells you they used to be vegan but aren’t anymore, instead of asking them why they stopped being vegan, try asking them why they became vegan in the first place.
Or, when a non-vegan tells you they love animals, instead of thinking of them as a hypocrite—many people genuinely feel love for animals and simply haven’t made the connection between caring about them and not eating them—ask them to tell you more about their experience. What kinds of animals do they love? Have they always loved animals? Do they have any companion animals in their life?
If the situation is appropriate, you can also share your experience, saying something like “I care about animals too, which is why—when I found out what happens to them in order to become our food—I decided I couldn’t eat them anymore.”
Imagine you have a vegetable garden you use to feed your family. If you always water the weeds instead of the vegetables, you’ll end up starving. But if you’re careful to nurture the vegetables, you can eat abundantly.
If we want to create a world based on compassion, justice, and other important values, we need to water these seeds as much as possible--in others, and also in ourselves.
In this way, we help grow a better world for everyone, humans and non-humans alike.