I think it takes courage to feel pain. In a world where we are encouraged to be escapists, to drink, to shop, to consume, to disconnect, to numb our minds, to build walls, the fact that we still feel pain towards the plight of others means that we are warriors. We are connected to that part of ourselves that say "No, I will not be a mere passerby."
In Manorama's lecture The Warrior Within Through the Bhagavad Gita, she said that it is not a question of whether we are warriors or not. The question lies in what kind of warriors we are and what we are fighting for.
For the vegan community and many in the Jivamukti community, we fight against all oppression, including the oppression against animals. Admittedly, this fight can become weary at times, especially when we encounter more people who seem not to care than those who do. How do we continue this fight? By examining the kind of warrior we want to be. We want to become warriors who win the war, not the battle. We can become attached to the battle in the form of spending too much of our energy trying to change the hearts and minds of a few specific people because they are our family or friends or influential people in our community or fellow yoga teachers or we just think they have it in them. But as Manorama mentioned in the lecture, it is not up to us to take on the journey of others. And I think we owe it to the victims of oppression not to become too attached to a specific battle. We fight this ignorance and apathy by planting seeds where we can. We plant the seed, let go, move on, plant the seed, let go, move on. The cycle continues. We owe it to the victims not to be paralyzed by our perceived failures. We owe it to the victims not to value one seed more than the other. There will be people who are not ready to make the change at that moment no matter what we do, but there will also be people who are ready to make the change. We won't know who they are unless we give them credit. We won't know who they are unless we detach from our frustrations and forge ahead to seek those who are ready to listen.
For every minute that we spend trying to change the mind of someone who already has awareness of this oppression but is unwilling to make the corresponding changes, we can spend that same minute bringing awareness to those who truly have not thought of these issues.
The war against oppression can be won if there are enough of us. It is not necessary that every single person be vegan for the world to become vegan. Just as there are many people who do not take an active stand in examining their choices to participate in a non-vegan world, so it will be in a vegan world. There are those who at the moment are comfortable with conformity, and they will conform to the norms of the times. If the world is not vegan, they will conform to it. If the world is vegan, they will conform to it. We will know who they are in the process of planting our seeds.
We win the war against oppression by learning to let go. The spiritual work that is required of us as activists is to love everyone- even if they are not ready to make the change, forego judgment, and finally let go of our need to change them.
It is our work not to dwell on anger, but rather simply to observe those feelings when they come, and let them go, so that we can make space, forge ahead and continue to fight. If we allow ourselves to become caught up in hopelessness because of the actions of a few, if we start to judge the entire humanity based on the apathy of a few, then we are not serving the animals well. Our work is not for our ego. The time is too short to feel sorry for ourselves. Ultimately, our work is for the animals. The need is urgent. We need this code of letting go so we can move on and plant as many seeds as we can, to build that counter-culture that will stand firm and break down oppression. And the time to do it is now.