Now, I finally understand that not everyone who goes to prison has done something wrong. Some people go to prison because they did something right. Some people go to prison because they are protesting oppression. Some people go to prison because they choose to give others freedom in exchange for their own.
A man named Gary Yourofsky, famous for his speech, was sentenced to do time in a maximum security prison. One day, in the common area, the TV was tuned in to a channel that happened to bring the news about him, and it referred to him as an “international terrorist”. An inmate recognized his face on TV, to which Gary explained that his crime was trespassing and breaking into private property, so he can rescue minks from being killed and turned into fur coats. The inmate was perplexed, and said “They put YOU, here, with US, for FREEING ANIMALS?” In our upside down world, morality and legality are not always on the same side. The norm is not necessarily the right choice. Obeying, conforming, following orders is not necessarily moral.
I’m not suggesting that people should disregard the law; I am suggesting that we should look at the world through the lens of morality first, and when morality and legality are in conflict, to recognize that. What is socially acceptable is not always right, just as what is right is not always socially acceptable. Our societal norms are sometimes questionable, and we may need to turn our worlds upside down to do right by others.
May we have the courage to discern what is right, even if it brings up discomfort, even if it means it demands we change our behavior, even if it means we do the complete opposite of what we have always done.
Jivamukti Yoga is a huge advocate of animal rights and veganism. If you are not yet vegan, please look into veganism as a practical extension of your yoga practice. Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy and free, and may the thoughts, words, and actions of my own life contribute in some way to that happiness and to that freedom for all.