International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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15th World Vegetarian Congress 1957
Delhi/Bombay/Madras/Calcutta, India

Foreign Secretary of the American Vegetarian Union

What do you want to make of your life? This is a promising question. But to get a right answer the question has to be right. And in this particular case the question ought to be asked the other way round. That is to say, not what do you want to make of your life; but what does life want to make of you? For just as the oak is written into the acorn, so life has written a plan into each one of its creations. This plan is not something to be imposed from the outside, after you have listened to a lecture or read a book. It is already there inside of you with the first breath you draw. The work which the plan-makers of the 20th century are striving so hard to achieve has already been done with the same incomparable wisdom and skill that put the oak into the acorn. And the best thing for us to do is to learn how to follow life's intention, instead of trying to make fussy little plans of our own which must forever prove painfully inadequate in the face of the unforeseen.

To play a creative role in our own growth, you and I must know what life is seeking to accomplish through us. How are we to know this? Talk will never tell. And neither will the printed page. True knowing is not by means of an ear or an eye. We must be the thing we want to know. It is a matter of identity rather than advertisement. The flower is contained in the seed, not in the seed-catalogue. This fact has been evident for centuries, and yet because we live to-day in an age of unenlightened power, people almost everywhere are making an effort to know one thing by being quite the opposite. Consequently the salvation of you and me depends upon our detachment from prevailing ideas and customs. To know life's plan we must live by it. As long as we live by any other, we shall not be able to realize the almighty possibility which life holds in store for us.

Life's plan affirms that all growth is from an invisible centre toward an external circumference. Rearrnnging facts at the circumference from an egocentric position - suppressing symptoms without removing causes - can only increase the conflict that already exists. "In rain we build the world unless the builder also grows." If he stops growing, the house eventually becomes more important than the man who inhabits it.

Appraisals of property vary from age to age, but the values of life are eternal. In our 20th century, respect for these values has seemingly struck a new low. In the present appraisal a so-called high standard of living outweighs a high standard of thought. And for this reason life's intention has progressively been pushed aside to make room for material goods and services, until the average man to-day would appear to be nothing but an outlet for a chain of super-markets.

It is useless to ask him vital questions. Isolated in the egg of his own ignorance, egotism, and habitually bad behaviour, he is in no position to be interviewed. Before he can hope to give any of the right answers he has to get out of the egg.

How is he to get out? He can blast his way out. He can try to buy his way out with money. Neither of this pair, however, can keep its charlatan promise. For neither is in harmony with the eternal plan. Both hot explosion and cold cash are bright concoctions of the brain; but their brilliance is always followed by darkness greater than before. The mind of man may be a suitable instrument for solving murder mysteries ; it cannot solve the mystery of life. At best it can only help fulfill conditions favourable to enlightenment. The light, itself, must come from a source behind the mind.

In this light, compared to which the sun is less than a candle, man may confidently place his trust. He does not have to wait for hostile nations to agree. He does not have to entreat his own government to pass new laws for his liberation. The order to end his imprisonment has already been written safely within himself where no enemy can intercept it. All man has to do is to obey the law of spiritual evolution and in the fulness of time the shell of egotism will crack open and the darkness will disappear.

Recent findings of archeology and paleontology point to the fact that man lived in health and peace for about eighty three million years, having evolved like the great arboreal apes into a harmless fruitarian free from disease and war. Quite lately - only five or six hundred thousand years ago - man slipped a notch in the scale of evolution and relapsed to the level of the carnivores with whom he is not dietetically linked. This is the truth that pain in the mind and body of the world today is trying to tell us. One of our most faithful friends on earth is pain. But instead of learning the language of our alien friend, we run to familiar charlatans and pay them to stop the voice of pain with drugs and deadening diversions.

After living eighty-three million years according to life's intention as a peaceful member of the world-family, man for a brief moment in history has lost his way. Cut off from his fellow creatures, he pauses in fear at the crossroads looking for a path back to peace. But even now as he stands alone, trembling in the wilderness of the 20th century, the steadfast voice of pain is crying out louder and louder to all mankind : The law of the brute is violence - your law is love. There is no path back to peace, Peace, itself, is the path.

You must be thing you want to know.

(Forum Autumn 1953.)