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The Animal Liberation Movement and Global Spirituality
By Dr. Mira Foung

Like many seekers on the spiritual path, my journey is a continuous quest for meaningfulness. From the sixties to the nineties, came a succession of social reformations, including the anti-nuclear and feminist movements, and finally the environmental and animal liberation movements. Slowly we see the extension of justice and equality to include less privileged groups.

Living a spiritual life usually includes meditation, yoga practice and study of scriptures. Aligned with the abundant availability of esoteric paths, there is also a revival of ancient healing systems that focus on personal well-being. There is a danger of turning the systems into ego-nurturing spiritual materialism, fixated on healing the physical self rather than healing our mother earth that is now endangered.

It is common among the spiritual seekers to hold a rigid attitude that spiritual life and social activism are mutually exclusive. It is easy to be enveloped in practices to achieve euphoric serenity, but somehow the path of the heart is missing. A heart pulsing in kinship and unity with all living beings; the capacity to care is the very sustenance of spirituality.

We have forgotten that before the popularization of ancient wisdom, forest dwelling sages and seers knew that nature and all of its creations holds our true cosmic identity. Their hearts were spellbound by the awesome forces of nature and the animals wandered around them.

Unfortunately, today animals are still not allowed to enter places of worship. The fallacy is deep in our consciousness, animals are shunned as inferior and insignificant. As one species among billions on the planet, we humans are unwilling to acknowledge the fact that all creatures are interconnected in the spiritual evolution; this is the true meaning of holism.

In the effort for self-realization, one must honestly acknowledges the tremendous injustice around us. The personal endeavor for spiritual awakening should include direct social action such as Mahatma Gandhi illuminated through his non-violent movement, for humans as well as other animals. He said: " I hold that the more helpless a creature, the more entitled it is to protection by man from cruelty of man."

Facing the holocaust of the animal kingdom from human encroachment on the natural world, the nineties can be rightly called the age of exploitation. An age of embarrassment, culturally and spiritually. The crisis of the planet is our own spiritual crisis. We have gone astray with a civilization of human primacy which caused great suffering to billions of animals; in the factory farms, laboratories, marine worlds, circuses and everywhere else.

The explosive development of transgenic science is the ultimate exploitation of animals. Those gentle creatures that are labeled as farm animals are now being further "pharmed" through genetic engineering, causing them to suffer from a wide range of deformities. Genetically altered lab animals are also being subjected to many invasive experiments. The awareness of these facts can perhaps shock us into a painful reality that calls for urgent action. Buddha himself was awakened by confronting the enormous suffering of the sentient beings. Such pain gave rise to the whole Buddhist path for liberation.

What is spirituality? The best definition that I know of is found in the book The Souls of Animals by Gary Kowalski. "Spirituality is the capacity to extend one's own awareness to a larger universe". One of the spiritual experience I had was when my dog Mitra was dying. I took him to his beloved Sangre de Cristo Mountains and there, as his true home, I laid him down in the soft grass among the Aspen trees. I saw the magic of death unfolded as his body became lighter and lighter as if he allowed his corporeal existence to enter the magic of transformation. He was ready to abandon the density of his animal form for the final reunion with the great mystery.

As Homo sapiens, we are beginning to examine our own moral and spiritual consistency. Animal liberation is human liberation. Every tree, every rock, every animal should be an object of reverence, this was how our ancestors lived. To guard the rights of nature and animals can serve as our own passage to spiritual maturity.

What is the spiritual practice of an activist? It begins with cultivation of voluntary simplicity, freeing up time devoting to higher cause. Also, following an ethical vegetarian diet, and living with a sense of humility as being part of the earth selves, adopting the principle of non-harming. Our personal life style should become a statement for what we believe. Such compassionate services are not different from any religious precepts East or West.

The path of the Bodhisattva's great compassion is to hear the cries of all living beings and come to their rescue. With the same intent, the animal liberation movement wants to abolish any form of exploitation of animals by way of political action and public education. Seeing the suffering of animals face to face is a window into our conditioning that causes our own suffering. Our destiny and our joy are deeply linked with their destiny and joy. This is self-realization.

Biographical Information

Mira Foung, born in Shanghai, China, is a doctor of oriental medicine (D.O.M.) with a clinical practice in Santa Fe, New Mexico for over twenty years. Dr. Foung also has a degree in philosophy with graduate studies in filmmaking. She is a published poet, a painter and a writer on Eco- philosophy, spirituality, environmental and animal protection issues (both in the US and in Taiwan). Her writings are original, visionary and lyrical.

Her writings include four collections of mystical poetry - Island Poems I and II, Desert Poems and The Approaching Snow as well as three collections of essays and articles - The Authenticity of Existence, Voice for The Voiceless and My Heart Blossoms As I Utter These Words. She regards herself as a cultural innovator (for countering the global effects of commercialism and consumerism) and a spokesperson for the animals and the Earth.

Along with her own academic studies in Mahayana Buddhism and Taoism, she has also been inspired by many other spiritual teachings. These include the direct path of J. Krishnamurti, which she studied while she lived in Ojai, California for six years, the Vedantic meditation of Ramana Maharshi, the integral and evolutionary yogic system of Sri Aurobindo, the writings of Thomas Merton and Thoreau, the mystical and anarchistic writings of Simone Weil, the poetry of Rilke, the ecstatic poems of Rumi and Hafiz, the deep ecology movement and most importantly, Peter Singer, professor of bioethics, whose revolutionary ideas on our collective conscience changed her life forever.

Dr. Foung is a natural healer, her practice aims at not only healing the individual but also at healing the wounded Earth. The main message in all her writings is restoring the wild wholeness in our fragmented life and to live authentically. She also teaches meditation as tools to un-pollute our inner environment for world peace and offers spiritual consolation based on evolutionary principle with a transpersonal approach that incorporates Taoist cosmology and Buddhism as well as the organic view of life based on the process philosophy of Alfred North Whitehead.

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