Deborah Morrison & Arvind Singh from Ontario, Canada explore their gifts as novelists through a captivating book called NEXUS.Deborah has previously written a book of poetry called Mystical Poetry, and she has published many articles on health and spirituality.Arvind has published a number of articles on spiritual and philosophical thought both in English and South Asian languages and this is his first book.
NEXUS is an amazing spiritual adventure of Personal Transformation & Empowerment.Readers have described it as Insightful, Captivating and Inspirational.It builds on the experiences of both authors as teachers of relaxation, breath and yoga therapies.Through a poignant journey to a retreat, each person in the novel is looking to overcome personal pain including the main character, Logan Andrews.
Logan, a journalist in his mid-20s, struggles with depression to the point of suicide.Can he control his troubled mind before its too late?
In a vivid dream, Logan is guided to a spiritual retreat where he meets his lost love, Sarah, along with an arrogant millionaire, a grandmotherly woman and two insightful teachers.
Problems soon emerge for Logan and others at the retreat. What happens to each character and the depth of their personal experiences makes NEXUS a journey of transformation and a compelling read.
I’ve read many spiritual books but this one succeeds where others fail. It successfully combines a poignant story fraught with true human emotions of personal pain along with remarkable spiritual insights. James Bertrand
Nexus made me laugh and it made me cry.The story touched on many issues that I have struggled with in my own life and it gave practical advice on transforming my life.Its perfect for anyone looking for an Inspiring, Spiritual book filled with practical wisdom. Harpal Singh Khalsa.
A simple story with a simple message, Nexus invites you in to explore the characters’ thoughts and feelings along side your own. Nancy Noble
This book is totally amazing!!! It works like a dream at a subconscious level of understanding even if consciously you’re unaware of its full spiritual dimensions. Aaron
Excerpts of speech by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.delivered at New
Yorks Riverside Church on April 4, 1967.
Over the past two years, as I have moved to break the betrayal of my own silences and to speak from the burnings of my own heart, as I have called for radical departures from the destruction of Vietnam, many persons have questioned me about the wisdom of my path. At the heart of their concerns this query has often loomed large and loud:
Why are you speaking about the war, Dr. King?
Why are you joining the voices of dissent?
Peace and civil rights don’t mix, they say. Aren’t you hurting the cause of your people, they ask.
And when I hear them, though I often understand the source of their concern, I am nevertheless greatly saddened, for such questions mean that the inquirers have not really known me, my commitment or my calling. Indeed, their questions suggest that they do not know the world in which they live.
Since I am a preacher by trade, I suppose it is not surprising that I have seven major reasons for bringing Vietnam into the field of my moral vision. There is at the outset a very obvious and almost facile connection between the war in Vietnam and the struggle I and others, have been waging in America.
A few years ago there was a shining moment in that struggle. It seemed as if there was a real promise of hope for the poor both black and white through the Poverty Program. Then came the build-up in Vietnam, and I watched the program broken and eviscerated as if it were some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money like some demonic, destructive suction tube.
So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor and to attack it as such. It became clear to me that the war was doing far more than devastating the hopes of the poor at home. It was sending their sons and their brothers and their husbands to fight and to die in extraordinarily high proportions relative to the rest of the population.
My third reason grows out of my experience in the ghettos of the North. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems.
But, they asked, what about Vietnam?
They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home. I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government. If America’s soul becomes totally poisoned, part of the autopsy must read “Vietnam.”
In 1957, when a group of us formed the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, we chose as our motto: “To save the soul of America.” We were convinced that we could not limit our vision to certain rights for black people, but instead affirmed the conviction that America would never be free or saved from itself unless the descendants of its slaves were loosed from the shackles they still wear.
Another burden of responsibility was placed upon me in 1964. I cannot forget that the Nobel Prize for Peace was also a commission, a commission to work harder than I had ever worked before for the “brotherhood of man.” This is a calling that takes me beyond national allegiances, but even if it were not present I would yet have to live with the meaning of my commitment to the ministry of Jesus Christ.
To me, the relationship of this ministry to the making of peace is so obvious that I sometimes marvel at those who ask me why I am speaking against the war.
Washingtons Regime Change in Vietnam
The Vietnamese proclaimed their independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its re-conquest of her former colony.
Before the end of the war, we were meeting 80 percent of the French war costs. After the French were defeated, it looked as if independence and land reform would come again through the Geneva agreements. But instead there came the United States, determined that Ho Chi Minh should not unify the temporarily divided nation, and the peasants watched again as we supported one of the most vicious modern dictators, our chosen man, Premier Diem. Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long.
The peasants watched and cringed as Diem ruthlessly routed out all opposition, supported their extortionist landlords and refused even to discuss reunification with the North. The peasants watched as all this was presided over by increasing numbers of US troops who came to help quell the insurgency that Diem’s methods had aroused. Now they languish under our bombs and consider us, not their fellow Vietnamese, the real enemy. They move sadly and apathetically as we herd them off the land of their fathers into concentration camps where minimal social needs are rarely met. They watch as we poison their water, as we kill a million acres of their crops. They must weep as the bulldozers destroy their precious trees. They wander into the hospitals, with at least 20 casualties from American firepower for each Viet Cong-inflicted injury. So far we may have killed a million of them, mostly children.
Where are the roots of the independent Vietnam we claim to be building? They ask how we can speak of free elections when the Saigon press is censored and controlled by the military junta. They question our political goals and they deny the reality of a peace settlement from which they will be excluded. Here is the true meaning and value of compassion and non-violence, when it helps us to see the enemy’s point of view, to hear his questions, to know of his assessment of ourselves. For from his view we may indeed see the basic weaknesses of our own condition, and if we are mature, we may learn and grow and profit from the wisdom of the brothers who are called the opposition.
The Lies that Lead the US to War
It must be clear that the leaders of Hanoi considered the presence of American troops in support of the Diem regime to have been the initial military breach of the Geneva Agreements. They remind us that they did not begin to send in any large number of supplies or men until American forces had moved into the tens of thousands. Hanoi remembers how our leaders refused to tell us the truth about the earlier North Vietnamese overtures for peace, how the President claimed that none existed when they had clearly been made. Ho Chi Minh has watched as America has spoken of peace and built up its forces, and now he has surely heard the increasing international rumors of American plans for an invasion of the North.
We are adding cynicism to the process of death, for our troops must know after a short period there that none of the things we claim to be fighting for are really involved. Before long they must know that their government has sent them into a struggle among Vietnamese, and the more sophisticated surely realize that we are on the side of the wealthy and the secure while we create a hell for the poor.
I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam and the poor of America who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as an American to the leaders of my own nation. The world now demands a maturity of America that we may not be able to achieve. It demands that we admit that we have been wrong from the beginning of our adventure in Vietnam, that we have been detrimental to the life of her people.
We must make what reparations we can for the damage we have done. We must provide the medical aid that is badly needed. Meanwhile, we in the churches and synagogues have a continuing task while we urge our government to disengage itself from a disgraceful commitment. Every man of humane convictions must decide on the protest that best suits his convictions, but we must all protest.
A Far Deeper Malady
The war in Vietnam is but a symptom of a far deeper malady within the American spirit, and if we ignore this sobering reality, we will find ourselves organizing clergy, and laymen-concerned committees for the next generation. We will be marching and attending rallies without end unless there is a significant and profound change in American life and policy.
In 1957, a sensitive American official overseas said that it seemed to him that our nation was on the wrong side of a world revolution. During the past ten years we have seen emerge a pattern of suppression which now has justified the presence of US military “advisors” in Venezuela. The need to maintain social stability for our investments accounts for the counterrevolutionary action of American forces in Guatemala. It tells why American helicopters are being used against guerrillas in Colombia and why American napalm and Green Beret forces have already been active against rebels in Peru.
The words of John F. Kennedy come back to haunt us. Five years ago he said, “Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”
Increasingly, by choice or by accident, this is the role our nation has taken, by refusing to give up the privileges and the pleasures that come from the immense profits of overseas investment. I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. When machines and computers, profit and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and America Needs a Revolution of Values
True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice that produces beggars needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth. With righteous indignation, it will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say: This is not just.”
It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say: “This is not just.”
The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war: “This way of settling differences is not just.”
This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.
There is nothing, except a tragic death wish, to prevent us from re-ordering our priorities, so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war.
Let us not join those who shout war and through their misguided passions urge the United States to relinquish its participation in the United Nations. These are the days that demand wise restraint and calm reasonableness. We must, with positive action, seek to remove those conditions of poverty, insecurity and injustice which are the fertile soil in which the seed of communism grows and develops.
These are revolutionary times. All over the globe men are revolting against old systems of exploitation and oppression, and out of the wombs of a frail world, new systems of justice and equality are being born. The shirtless and barefoot people of the land are rising up as never before.
We in the West must support these revolutions. It is a sad fact that, because of comfort, complacency, a morbid fear of communism, and our proneness to adjust to injustice, the Western nations that initiated so much of the revolutionary spirit of the modern world have now become the arch anti-revolutionaries. Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.
If we do not act we shall surely be dragged down the long, dark and shameful corridors of time reserved for those who possess power without compassion, might without morality, and strength without sight.
Let us re-dedicate ourselves to the long and bitter but beautiful struggle for a new world. Our brothers wait eagerly for our response. The choice is ours, and though we might prefer it otherwise, we must choose in this crucial moment of human history.
Most world religions include teachings on forgiveness, which provide guidance for the practice of forgiveness. Here are some examples of forgiveness understood from different traditions:
Forgiveness is a practice for removing unhealthy emotions that would otherwise cause harm to our mental well-being. Hatred leaves a lasting effect on our karma (“actions”) and forgiveness creates emotions with a wholesome effect. Buddhism questions the reality of passions that give rise to anger through meditation and insight. After examination, we realize that anger is only an impermanent emotion that we can fully experience and then release.
The basic problem in Buddhist psychology is that emotions like anger and hatred are based on projections and ignorance, not on wisdom and awareness. The elimination of anger is a lengthy process but through mindfulness Buddhism is confident that an individual will realize anger is only temporal like many other mental states.
“Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else but you are the one who gets burned” — The Buddha
You will not be punished for your anger, you will be punished by your anger.” — The Buddha
“It is natural for the immature to harm others. Getting angry with them is like resenting a fire for burning.” — Shantideva
Wheel of Dharma, Symbolizing the Cycle of Rebirth & Death.
Forgiveness () is viewed as the remedy to anger (). You forgive an offender when aroused by compassion. Compassion generates peace, tranquility, humility and co-operation in human interactions. The act of forgiveness is considered a divine gift, not the work of human agency. Otherwise, pride () would increase when we take personal credit, which would impede our spiritual progress.
Anger is often considered the result of unfulfilled desire. If a person fulfills our desires and wants, we feel love for them but when they impede our desires anger can well up. The ego can easily feel slighted, embarrassed, belittled or in some other way be offended. As we learn to discipline our mind through meditation on the Word, our ego and anger naturally turn to compassion and forgiveness. Since anger and forgiveness are considered opposites, the human mind can only contain one of them at a given time.
Here are some verses from the Guru Granth Sahib, the Sikh scriptures, that capture the essence of forgiveness:
“To practice forgiveness is fasting, good conduct and contentment” — Guru Arjan Dev, page 223
“Where there is forgiveness, there God resides — Kabir, page 137
“Dispelled is anger as forgiveness is grasped” –Guru Amar Das, page 233
While Eastern religions take a more psychological view of forgiveness, Abrahamic religions share a distinctly moral view that varies from idealism of Christianity to relative pragmatism of Islam and Judaism:
Ideally a person who has caused harm, needs to sincerely apologize, then the wronged person is religiously bound to forgive. However, even without an apology, forgiveness is considered a pious act (Deot 6:9). Teshuva (, literally “Returning”) is a way of atoning, which requires cessation of harmful act, regret over act, confession and repetence. Yom Kippur is the day of atonement when Jews particularly strive to perform teshuva. Two relevant Jewish quotes on forgiveness:
It is forbidden to be obdurate and not allow yourself to be appeased. On the contrary, one should be easily pacified and find it difficult to become angry. When asked by an offender for forgiveness, one should forgive with a sincere mind and a willing spirit.” — Mishneh Torah, Teshuvah 2:10
“Who takes vengeance or bears a grudge acts like one who, having cut one hand while handling a knife, avenges himself by stabbing the other hand.” — Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9.4
In Christian teachings forgiveness of others plays an important role in spiritual life. The Lord’s Prayer best exemplifies this attitude, notably in these words: ” And forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us” ( Matthew 6:9-13). The final words uttered by Christ during his suffering reinforce the importance of forgiveness: “”Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34). We also find instruction to love your enemies and turn the other cheek (Matthew 5:9 & Luke 6:27-31). Another beautiful expression of forgiveness and understanding is St. Francis of Assisi’s prayer:
“Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console. To be understood as to understand. To be loved as to love. For it is in giving that we receive. It is in pardoning that we are pardoned. And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. “
The word Islam is derived from the Semitic word slm meaning “peace” and forgiveness is a prerequisite for genuine peace. The Quran makes some allowance for violence but only to defend faith, property or life. Still forgiveness is held as the better course of action whenever possible: “They avoid gross sins and vice, and when angered they forgive.” (Quran 42:37). In terms of clemecy, we find this passage: “Although the just penalty for an injustice is an equivalent retribution, those who pardon and maintain righteousness are rewarded by God. He does not love the unjust” (Qur’an 42:40).
The Star & Crescent Moon, which is a recognizable symbol of Islam
Note:Forgiveness is a central theme in our novel NEXUS available online from Amazon, Barnes & Noble & Chapters-Indigo.
Nexus is derived from Latin nectere, which means “to bind.” First of its three possible definitions will be explored in this article. Definition 1: Nexus as a means of connection, link or a tie.
A connected relationship involves a union between two or more people. We are familiar with many bonds between two individuals, which starts with our first experience of attachment, our mother, who can often be our nurturer, caregiver and protector. This bond is significant for Logan Andrews, the protagonist of our story, since his mother raised him as a single parent during his adolescence. A child often can feel the strongest bond with his or her mother, since she gave birth and raised the child in her womb. Even after birth, a child will often turn to the mother for sustenance.
The bond with the father develops next, since the child and the father are separate entities. They develop a concrete relationship after birth. Many of the same qualities can be present in father-child relationship as with mother-child, except fathers have often been distant due to traditional roles. As with any relationship, complex issues can surface and the relationship between Logan and his father is built upon regret and missed opportunities. The bond isn’t severed because the hope however remote of reconnecting is there until physical death, yet it has lost its closeness a long time ago. Will the closeness ever be established between Logan and his father before he dies?
Next we move into the level of relationship that love songs, “chick flicks” and Harlequin books depend upon: The coupled relationship. But what does it mean to be in love? Is it a feeling that we desire, or is it truly an attempt to transcend our narrow self through union with another? Some people can also be hurt by fully giving their heart to another. With the resulting hurt and pain, they can in severe cases decide to close down to life.
With Logan he experienced a deep ecstatic love with Sarah McMaster. A love that would fit the definitions of soul-mates, united in mind, body and spirit. Yet Logan loses her and this becomes his painful tragedy from which he seeks escape through suicide. Still a part of him yearns to live and to love. Nexus becomes a psycho-spiritual struggle based on this inner conflict. So far we have looked at relationships between two individuals and the bond between them. Of course, relationships can also extend outward to include a group of people as part of a circle.
Besides Logan and Sarah, Nexus also has an interesting mix of other personalities. One of the most endearing characters is Muriel, a loving widow whose faith gives her certainty that she will reunite with her husband after this life. Yet, she also wants to be part of a community before she dies. As you read our novel, you will know if she fulfills her wish.
In Nexus, we wanted to show through the journey of each character the importance of empathy, which is aroused through intimately understanding another person. Each of us has experienced moments of joy, sadness, despair and even loneliness. These experiences of highs and lows give us the capacity to relate to and know the contents of another person’s heart in all its myriad emotions.
Our empathy creates the connection between us and another person and this is precisely the nexus, the connection that the book presents as having the potential to reconnect us in our relationships.
Our connection isn’t just at a human level, we can feel the same empathy for animals and all life around us. I would even say that we have an intimate relationship with Mother Earth, though living in cities that connection is not always apparent. Yet our sustenance and survival as a species comes from Gaia just as a child’s comes from his or her mother.
Logan poignantly experiences the pain of a dying fish, expressing the idea that all life is interconnected at a spiritual level. No pain or suffering is isolated, so long as compassion enters the heart. So the circle of empathy can extend outward from that between two people, to an intimate group that attempts to form a community, and ultimately to the connection between all life. In the process, of each unique relationship our heart also grows in its capacity to love and to be present with others in our shared journey through life and possibly even after. The book also hints at the dimension of our connection beyond this life. Moments of being present, especially at the end of a person’s life journey are important and we also experience them in Nexus.
The nexus found in relationships becomes a major motif throughout our novel as we explore the connection between each character and those around them, in the process highlighting compassion and heart-centered living. Through this connection, the holistic vision of the self can be realized instead of a divided self.
Awareness of Nexus is not easy and both Sarah and Logan undergo challenges. When you read Nexus, you will learn about each character’s unique journey and discover if they can overcome their challenges.
NEXUS involves a stark look at psychological turmoil as exemplified by inner conflicts present with each person in the book. Both Debby and I consciously highlighted that personal transformation is an arduous journey in our novel. The inner conflict that causes psychological turmoil needs to be successfully resolved, otherwise suffering at some level will continue.
The psychological journey to healing the mind from pain, hurt and anger requires understanding the problem, acknowledging its existence, and then a release from the unskillful patterns of thought and interaction. In an ideal situation our interaction with another person would be based on courage, love and trust. However, after hurtful experiences with relationships, especially when our hope or trust is dashed, we can erect walls around our broken heart. In such a situation, our fear keeps us from experience of closeness we crave in preference of secure walls.
Logan Andrews, the main character of NEXUS, exemplifies these inner psychological conflicts that are present in depression and despair. He is given insights at a spiritual retreat by his teachers, Chandra Singh and his partner, Celeste, which he tries to integrate into his psyche. Still, as he takes a step forward toward healing, he takes two backwards into depression. Even when new understanding dawns, it is also easily lost as old patterns reemerge with strength. Logan needs to find mental peace through reconnecting with equanimity that is at the centre of his being.
In Logans case, a tough love approach will not work as advocated by individuals like Dr. Phil McGraw, since the problem requires time and patience. His hopelessness is deep and even with new insights, the struggle doesnt instantaneously disappear for thoughts of suicide continue to haunt him. He is left wondering whether he can ever be free of them. Or will his freedom be found in death?
Other people in NEXUS also have unique conflicts: Sarah McMaster, the main female character in the story, needs to regain her lost courage, confidence and sense of direction through acquiring ethical peace. She needs to sort through her fear and uncertainty with full courage. Steven, an unethical businessman, needs to learn the importance of compassion in order to find spiritual peace. Muriel, a lonely widow at the retreat, hopes to find emotional peace gained through community and connection with others.
All persons at the retreat start their journey from the circumference like the rim of a wheel, and need to journey through different paths or spokes to the centre or the hub. Will they find the centre of their being, which is the Nexus; a place of peace, courage, empathy and faith?
The Nexus is uncontrived, a place of stillness in the middle of movement just as the rim moves on the outer edge and the spokes radiate, yet the central hub which connects everything remains still. In the same way, when the Nexus can be found within then our true nature is realized and outer commotion and conflicts that arise from ego and personality simply dissipate.
The progression to Nexus for Logan is a challenge with a death wish to escape pain, which stands in opposition to his understanding that the very pain he desires to escape makes him most human. His psychological conflict and that of other people drawn to the retreat become exciting sub-plots in NEXUS with romance, humour and drama for readers along with insights.
Each person is drawn to the spiritual retreat in the hopes of overcoming pain, yet they discover that their pain binds them to the Nexus at the centre of their being. Only through a connection with Nexus, can personal transformation lead to equanimity and compassion.
In our novel NEXUS there are several situations where one of the characters will follow their higher guidance in order to take appropriate action in a situation. Also, to apply the process of following our higher guidance in our day to day lives will invariably result in increased non-violent approaches to resolve conflicts with more peaceful outcomes to experience.
The following is an excerpt from some of my relevant research about Gandhi and the inner voice, that may expand understanding about higher guidance.
“The only tyrant that I accept in the world is the still small voice within me”
Mahatma Gandhi, Spiritual leader who showed importance of non-violence. His ideas influenced the American Civil Rights Movement and various other non-violent movements throughout the world. At the core of non-violence is non-cooperation with an unjust system and to listen to the “still small voice within”
It must be stated at the outset that according to Gandhi, the inner voice cannot be fully defined in words. However, he attempts to describe the inner voice in order that our understanding of it may be somewhat enhanced. He explains that Truth is what the inner voice reveals. Furthermore, the inner voice may be described as one’s conscience. Gandhi refers to the inner voice as a Truth force or Soul force that has the power to elicit the Divine in us. He urges his fellow humans to follow the inner voice as opposed to following the dictates of modern civilization. This voice would affirm our commitment to non-violence, since its compassionate quality will lead us to peaceful solution to conflicts in life. So the purpose of listening and responding to the inner voice is for positive, progressive reality transformation.His response to the inner voice may be described as a kind of spiritual insight, that enhances one’s sense of discrimination; to know right from wrong, as well as when and if one should take action.
Gandhi’s most vivid description of the inner voice was given at the time of his decision to undertake a fast in 1933:
“For me the voice of God, of conscience, of Truth, or the inner voice, or the ‘Still Small Voice’ mean one and the same thing. I saw no form…what I did hear was like a voice from afar and yet quite near. It was as unmistakable as some human voice and definitely speaking to me, and irresistible. I was not dreaming at the time I heard the voice. The determination was made accordingly, the date and hour of the fast were fixed.”
With the above quote, we are provided with insight into the workings of Gandhi’s mind, especially in terms of his understanding and direct experience of the inner voice. The inner voice may further be described as not a message, but rather a compulsive self manifestation of Truth which has to be obeyed, as the only true way to act in a situation. Thus, one becomes impelled to action by the inner voice rather than compelled to action as a response to one’s external environment.
Gandhi feels that intuition (inner voice) is the heart of reason. Reason however, can become the crowning glory of the inner voice; for Gandhi advocates that one check (by means of reason) the actual results that are accomplished. He would, however, have us give primary attention to the means (a non-violent response led by the inner voice as “the mystery of all mysteries”). Gandhi says that “the inner voice does not suppress reason but rather sanctifies reason”. He described the inner voice as follows:
“Even as the bestirring of true love necessarily expresses itself in as many (sometimes unconscious and effortless) ways, so too a person who has heard even a whisper of the inner voice cannot but follow it.”
Guided by the inner voice, Gandhi expressed his heart’s compassion and decided to undertake other fasts as form of self-sacrifice through which he wished to arouse compassion in other people’s hearts. He fasted many times to end bloodshed between Hindus and Muslims even in his last fast when he was seventy-eight.
Many leaders since Gandhi have also turned to non-violence to resolve conflicts, such as, Dr. Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and the Dalai Lama. The basis of non-violence comes from the idea that rulers derive their power from the people. If people no longer support an unjust system, then it will fall. Of course, non-violence can be applied in areas outside politics, including in families, schools and local communities. As Gandhi points out, its application becomes clear when we listen to our conscience.
Some themes of paramount importance in NEXUS are compassion, love, and heart centered living, so I thought it would be relevant to expand on some ideas about the heart chakra (a metaphysical, energetic centre located near the heart).
The Heart Chakra is associated with the colour green and/or pink. This love centre of our human energy system is often the focus in bringing about a healing in an individual.
Thus the words “love heals all” have great truth.
Hurtful situations that can affect our emotional well-being are divorce or separation, grief through death, emotional abuse, abandonment, and adultery etc. These are wounding to the heart chakra.
Physical illness brought about by heart-break require that an emotional healing occur along with the physical healing. Learning to love yourself is a powerful first step in securing a healthy fourth chakra. The “wounded child” resides in the heart chakra.
Here’s an article I wrote that was published in the Toronto Vegetarian Association’s Journal, as well as a few other health magazines. I feel that this article is relevant to the Nexus site because of the central themes of non-violence and compassion.
HEALTH WORLD PEACE AND THE VEGETARIAN DIET
People all around the world are turning to a vegetarian diet. The reasons range from health and economics to ethics and religion. In North America alone there are over ten million people who now consider themselves vegetarian.
Among those who have renounced meat are some great and famous people. Henry David Thoreau wrote: “I have no doubt that it is a part of the destiny of the human race, in its gradual improvement, to leave off eating animals.” The twentieth century apostle of non-violence Mohandas Gandhi was a vegetarian. In his book ‘Moral Basis of Vegetarianism’ Gandhi wrote, “I hold flesh-food to be unsuited to our species. We err in copying the lower animal world if we are superior to it.” George Bernard Shaw’s doctors warned that a vegetarian diet would kill him. When older, he was asked why he didn’t go back and show the doctors the good that vegetarianism had done him. Shaw replied, “I would, but they all passed away years ago.” H.G. Wells wrote about vegetarianism in his vision of a future world: “In all the round world of Utopia there is not meat.” Nobel-prize-winning author Isaac Bashevis Singer became a vegetarian at fifty-eight. He said, “Naturally I am sorry now that I waited so long, but it is better late than never.” The Bible states, “Thou shall not kill,” and Jesus Christ said “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Lord Buddha also taught the principle of non-violence, to protect innocent creatures from being slaughtered. Finally, the brilliant physicist Albert Einstein said, “The vegetarian manner of living, by its purely physical effect on the human temperament, would most beneficially influence the lot of mankind.”
HEALTH AND THE MEATLESS DIET
Is the human body better suited to a vegetarian diet or one that includes meat? Although we are technically considered omnivores, physiological comparisons indicate that the human body is designed for a vegetarian diet. Carnivorous animals have claws, no skin pores (they perspire through the tongue), sharp front teeth for tearing, no flat molar teeth for grinding, and an intestinal tract three times their body length so rapidly decaying meat can pass out quickly, and strong hydrochloric acid in the stomach to digest meat. The human body is closer in design to a herbivor’s because we don’t have claws, we perspire through skin pores, we have flat rear molars but not sharp front teeth, our intestinal tract is twelve times our body length, and our stomach acid is twenty times weaker than a carnivore’s.
The human digestive system can have great difficulty digesting meat. Since meat is really just part of a corpse, its putrefaction creates poisonous wastes within the body and thus meat must be quickly eliminated. The short intestinal tract of the carnivore is designed for this quick elimination process. The human body has a very long digestive tract that retains rapidly decaying flesh for a much longer time, producing a number of toxic effects.
The kidneys are adversely affected by these toxins. This vital organ extracts wastes from the blood and becomes strained by the overload of poisons introduced by meat consumption. The kidneys demand three times more work from even moderate meat-eaters.
As early as 1961 the ‘Journal of the American Medical Association’ stated that 90 to 97 percent of heart disease could be prevented by a vegetarian diet. The American Heart Association reports that a “high-saturated-fat diet is an essential factor in coronary disease.” The human body is unable to deal with excessive animal fats in the diet. When, over time, excess fat is consumed, the fatty deposits accumulate on the inner walls of the arteries leading to a condition known as arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.
Numerous studies about the relationship between colon cancer and meat-eating provide further evidence of the unsuitability of the human intestinal tract for digestion of flesh. One reason for the higher rate of colon cancer among people who consume a meat-centered diet is meat’s low fibre content. The lack of fibre results in a slow transit time through the colon, allowing toxic wastes to do their damage. Studies from the Department of Nutritional Sciences at the University of California at Berkeley indicate that “Dietary fibre appears to aid in reducing…colon and rectal cancer.” Moreover, while being digested, meat is known to generate steroid metabolites possessing carcinogenic (cancer-producing) properties. Evidence linking meat-eating to other forms of cancer is building at an alarming rate. The National Academy of Sciences reports that “people may be able to prevent many common cancers by eating less fatty meats and more vegetables and grains.” Also in his ‘Notes on the Causation of Cancer” Roll Russell writes, “I have found of twenty-five nations eating flesh largely, nineteen had a high cancer rate and only one had a low rate, and that of thirty-five nations eating little or no flesh, none had a high rate.”
Numerous other potentially hazardous chemicals are present in meat and meat products. Growth hormones such as diethylstilbestrol (DES) and arsenic continue to be used in the meat industry despite studies that have shown it to be carcinogenic and/or poisonous.
Sodium nitrate and sodium nitrite are chemicals used as preservatives to slow down putrefaction in cured meat and meat products. These chemicals give meat their bright red appearance and without them, the natural grey-brown colour of dead meat would turn off many prospective consumers. The FDA points out that “only a small margin of safety exists between the amount of nitrate that is safe and that which may be dangerous.” These chemicals do not distinguish between the blood of a corpse and the blood of a living person, and many persons accidentally subjected to excessive amounts have died of poisoning.
The excessive amount of antibiotics used by the livestock industry affects human health because the antibiotics are showing up in the meat being consumed which contributes to the increase in drug -resistant bacteria and infectious diseases.
As well as dangerous chemicals, meat often carries diseases from the animals themselves. Animals are crammed together in unclean conditions, force-fed and inhumanely treated. As a result animals destined for slaughter contract many more diseases than they ordinarily would. Because of pressures from the meat industry and lack of sufficient time for inspections, the attempts of meat inspectors to filter out unacceptable meats do not succeed and as a result, much of what passes is far less wholesome than the meat purchaser realizes.
THE HIGH COST OF MEAT
In practical terms, the meat production process is extremely wasteful and costly. The meat industry is so costly that it needs subsidies in order to survive. The majority of people are unaware of the extent to which governments support their meat industries by means of grants, favourable loan guarantees and so forth. The government spends millions of dollars each year to maintain a nationwide network of inspectors to monitor the little-publicized problem of animal diseases. Despite much evidence from government health agencies showing the link between meat eating and cancer and heart disease, government continues to spend millions promoting meat consumption.
Another price we pay for meat-eating is degradation of the environment. The heavily contaminated runoff and sewage from thousands of slaughterhouses and feedlots are a major source of pollution of the nation’s rivers and streams. The fresh water resources of this planet are becoming polluted and depleted, and the meat industry is particularly wasteful in this regard. Paul and Anne Ehrlich in their book ‘Population, Resources and Environment’ found that to grow one pound of wheat requires only sixty pounds of water. In contrast, a pound of meat requires anywhere from 2,500-6,000 pounds of water.
According to studies one acre of grain produces five times more protein than an acre of pasture set aside for meat production. An acre of beans or peas produces ten times more and an acre of spinach twenty-eight times more protein.
THE CAUSE OF VIOLENCE AND WAR
Despite impressive progress in science and technology, our world is faced with a crisis of unremitting violence. This violence emerges in the shape of wars, terrorism, murder and vandalism. More than 145 wars have been fought since The United Nations formed in 1945. In North America well over 20,000 people are murdered each year. At this time in our modern society, the propensity for mercy is almost nil. Social and political solutions fail to resolve these problems of violence. Perhaps it’s time to analyze the problem from a different perspective- the law of action and reaction.
The law of action and reaction proposes that because people kill so many animals for food and sport, they in turn will also be cruelly slaughtered like animals in big wars. The slaughter of countless helpless animals therefore becomes linked to violence in society generally.
Also, the wasteful process of meat production creates social conflict. The meat industry requires more land than vegetable agriculture. This has been a source of economic conflict in human society for thousands of years. As a result the meat industry has created a dilemma where there is not enough to go around. There lurks a fear in us all that we will be the one who won’t get enough. It is out of such fears that some wars arise. As a result, conflicts stem from territorial disputes and become more frequent and more intense. Basic human needs become less important that property rights. Consequently, we are set off against each other. Meat-eating makes food scarce and puts us at odds with each other. Our world history is full of battles that were fought because meat-eating societies needed more land to graze their stock.
Gandhi urged us to “live simply so others might simply live.” Over two thousand years ago, another wise man,Socrates, said much the same thing: “And with such a vegetarian diet they may be expected to live in peace and health to a good old age, and bequeath a similar life to their children after them.”
Never before has it been so important as it is now to distinguish between basic human needs and excessive cravings. Never has it been more important to understand and defuse fears that drive humanity to war. If any person on the planet is starving we feel it…we’re all connected.
A significant step toward a non-violent world would be a new direction for the standard North American diet. Vegetarianism is the most significant step in creating a more simple lifestyle and in creating peace on earth. A nonviolent world has its roots in a nonviolent diet.
References: Based on teachings of Prabhupada in “The Higher Taste” and “Diet For A New America” by John Robbins.