Excerpt from the interview of a person i admire for being beautiful on the inside as well.
I especially loved her thoughts on not being judgmental about non-vegetarians and using Vipassana as a way out of suffering
Vegan India!: So wonderful, do tell us what has been the reaction of your family, friends, fans, and the society at large to your choice to live Vegan and how did you/do you deal with it?
Amala: I deal with the subject of food with respect. Having been a non-vegetarian by birth and giving it up by choice, I know that the time comes to us in a sequence of life changing events. When I know a person has arrived at a life-changing event and makes a pro choice that will save the lives of thousands of animals, I acknowledge it with ceremonious gratitude. But I am careful not to offend the choices of others. There are good people in this world doing their bit and yet not vegan or vegetarian. Who are we to judge?
Vegan India!: Amala, how do you see the Vegan movement shape up in India?
Amala: I dread armchair activists or critics and avoid people who sit in judgment of others. There are vegans with these attitudes who I believe do more damage and harm than inspire others. As of now, I stay far away from movements as I don’t think people who are moralistic or judgmental are better human beings just because they are vegan. Change needs inspiration, inner awareness, and a whole lot of purpose. To reach there takes time and life gives us opportunities for this. Each to his/her own, at their own pace. I hope the Vegan movement in India takes a proactive, welfare involved approach that inspires others. I don’t see the difference between a dog, a cow or a buffalo, they are all wonderful creatures to me and deserve a better life.
Vegan India!: Everybody who has met you has described you as a person who exudes peace that comes from deep within you. Please tell us how you retain the peace within and achieve so much for the rights of animals while at same time deal with animal cruelty perpetrated by thoughtless human behavior.
Amala: Thank you, but I was not always like that. After a year of doing animal rescues, I fell apart. Helping animals in thousands just made me feel worse as I realized it was just a drop in the ocean. Facing suffering day in and out drained me of hope. I became bitter and angry like many working for animal welfare that I see around me. So of course, I started the universal search for a way out of suffering. I learnt to meditate Vipassana as Buddha taught it. I learnt about the impermanence of life, joy, and suffering. I learnt detachment from suffering itself, from my own beliefs and judgments. It was all very liberating.
I continue to mediate every day and I go on a retreat every year. If things get to me, I step aside and meditate for a while. Buddha says, “If you take praise, you must learn to take blame”. Those are very wise words for all of us. People lift you up and throw you down on a whim. If it weren’t for the animals, I wouldn’t be in animal welfare, so I must find my peace and carry it wherever I go.