The Compassionate Diet

How What You Eat Can Change Your Life and Save the Planet

by Arran Stephens with Elliot Jay Rosen

What we eat is of such importance to human progress and health, ecological balance and animal welfare that food, like politics and religion, has become a highly charged and controversial issue. While diet is important, it is equally so not to injure the feelings and beliefs of others. Mutual respect is therefore highly valued and necessary, while holding fast to one’s ideals.

Over the millennia of recorded history, and to this present day, philosophers, scientists, ethicists, sages and seers have weighed in on the issue of vegetarianism. Research has brought to light many startling and eloquent testimonies that join with numerous recent scientific studies to build an extraordinarily strong case. The vegetarian way of life is truly a diet for all reasons.


Millions worldwide make the change to a vegetarian diet to improve their health. Fruits, vegetables, grains, beans, nuts, seeds, seaweeds and other plant foods contain vital elements not found in animal flesh. The health risks associated with animal foods are now indisputable. There is a direct correlation between the amount of animal foods consumed and the incidence of degenerative disease.

The destruction of ancient rain forests, loss of topsoil, massive increases in water impurities, and copious amounts of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas pollution result from the raising of animals for food. Vegetarianism is kinder to the earth and offers hope for saving the 60 million people who die of starvation each year – 15 million of them children. If the grain used to fatten livestock were fed to humans, starvation could be completely averted, not to speak of the folly of growing corn to fuel cars.

In factory farm settings, billions of animals are killed for food each year in the United States alone. We recommend watching The Meatrix, an animated film posted at, for an entertaining but serious look at factory farms.

Vegetarianism, like ethical living in general, is foundational to spiritual growth and the development of universal consciousness and love. According to many of the world’s wisdom traditions, meat eating is antithetical to achieving these states of expanded awareness.

In some of these ancient spiritual traditions, vegetarianism is unequivocally advocated, yet it is a sad fact that many modern-day exponents either have forgotten or deny the original teachings. Examples are the utterances of Siddhartha Gautama – the Buddha –that were written down in the Pali language by his direct disciples; several Judeo-Christian texts, written in Aramaic, that were excluded from what became the King James Version of the Christian Bible; various esoteric Taoist teachings; and the writings and living guidance of spiritually realized human beings variously called masters, saints, prophets and sages. Many diverse traditions caution that our full human/divine potential cannot be realized if we indulge in animal foods.

Sparing life through dietary choice is an act of compassion by and for the individual person, as well as for mammals, birds, fish and other animals used for food; in actuality, it is having compassion for one’s own self! Many teachers and traditions indicate that the eating of animal foods carries heavy karmic penalties. It may be every soul’s ultimate urge to reunite with its Source, but according to many great spiritual traditions, meat eating delays the process.

A well-balanced vegetarian diet is also conducive to the practice of meditation. If the body is the temple of God, pure vegetarian food, obtained honestly and eaten in moderation, helps maintain excellent health while improving one’s powers of concentration. Concentration is crucial not just for meditation, but for success in any endeavour, whether spiritual, academic, scientific, artistic or professional.

Arran Stephens founded Nature’s Path Foods, North America’s largest organic breakfast foods company. He has received Ernst & Young’s Entrepreneur of the Year and Canadian Health Food Association’s Hall of Fame awards and has been named among “Canada’s Best 100 Employers.” He lives in Vancouver, BC. Eliot Jay Rosen is a health writer, clinical psychotherapist and author of the Los Angeles Times bestseller, Experiencing the Soul. He lives in Hawaii.

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