[I]n oppressing our kin [other animals], we become estranged from ourselves, placing ourselves in perpetual flight from our own embodied, desiring, suffering, and (potentially) rational selves.
So writes social justice scholar-activist John Sanbonmatsu in an editor’s introduction to the anthology Critical Theory and Animal Liberation. And yet this oppression is normalized, and frequently valorized, in contemporary Western culture. Moreover, the moral imperative of a consistent anti-oppression stance is routinely minimized or dismissed out of hand by Leftists who nevertheless stand unequivocally and emphatically against the exploitation of their fellow humans.
It would be reasonable to conclude that Buddhists would in practice refute such hypocrisy, with a foundational principle of the buddhadharma being ahimsa, or dynamic harmlessness. This principle is codified in the First Precept, as an admonition against the taking of sentient life. And yet, in the words of author Norm Phelps in his seminal book on Buddhism and animal rights entitled The Great Compassion, “Western Buddhists – influenced by a lifetime of the most animal-intensive diet the world has ever known – are especially creative in fashioning Buddhist rationales to justify their addiction to meat, eggs, and dairy.”
In this session longtime yogi and animal justice activist Philip Murphy will facilitate –detonate – a consideration of veganism, as a consistent anti-oppression social justice stance that must inform the performance of both post-traditional Buddhism and Leftist politics. In dialogue, the gathered sangha, or community, will examine the contention that veganism is of critical importance as a foundational element both within the confines of these traditions and moreover in functioning as a bridge between them, in order that potential synergies can be actualized for substantive impact in mitigating the suffering of sentient beings
Facilitator: Philip Murphy is a longtime student of Theravada Buddhism, having studied in the US and overseas with dharma teachers Larry Rosenberg, Sayadaw U Indaka, Shinzen Young, and George Haas. He has served as a director at the Cambridge Insight Meditation Center, the Insight Mediation Center of the Pioneer Valley (Easthampton, MA), and New York Insight Meditation Center. Philip is a founding member of the Buddhist Action Coalition NYC, and is a co-founder of the New York City chapter of climate and animal justice organization Animal Rebellion.