International Vegetarian Union (IVU)
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6th European Vegetarian Congress
Bussolengo, Italy, September 21 - 26, 1997

Vegetarian Compassion
Giorgio Cerquetti

Founder and President of Vegetarian International

We can't tell others why they should go vegetarian - everyone has to discover this for themselves - but we can teach others our example. I would like to mention that during this Congress Dr Trespidi is taking blood samples from some of you to check how healthy vegetarians are. I was asked during the test, which I volunteered for, what illnesses I had had. In theory vegetarians should never get ill, because of their diet.

I had an unusual experience. I discovered that 10% of the people in the world suffer from a congenital arteriovascular malformation of the brain which may or may not come to light during a lifetime. If this anomaly presents as a cerebral hernia, we have an aneurism, which can be fatal. I had this experience in the United States five years ago, and came out of it alive, but they told me I would need to take drugs for the rest of my life. When I asked the doctors how long I had to live, they just told me there were no statistics. I asked what the likely consequences would be if I didn't take the drugs, and they answered that I might have an attack ending in paralysis or death. My experience led me to believe that, with the right diet, with meditation and inner peace, I could solve the problem without recourse to drugs. The fact that my malformation was congenital meant that it was a problem I had brought here from another life, and it meant that I was behaving correctly in this one, and so I decided to continue down the same road.

Our potential is unlimited. At the moment I am making an indepth study of consciousness and the development of human potential. I have spent a lot of time in India, where I have met yogis who even manage to stop eating. You may have noticed that putting something in your mouth is enough to make the sensation of hunger go away, even though it takes time for us to absorb the energy-giving substances in the food. The hunger passes immediately because the food contains an energy called chi, prana, vital energy or bioenergy, which reactivates our vital aura, our energy field, giving us the necessary spark to "get us going". Once we know that there are people who can live without eating, we appreciate that with food the quality is much more important than the quantity. People often believe that a person a few kilos overweight is in better health than a thin person, but actually thin people tend to live longer, because apparently thin bodies absorb vital energies better. My research into the paranormal also - Uri Geller is a vegan - has convinced me that vegetarianism assists the development of ESP. In fact, vegetarianism is a key diet for living in both sensory and extrasensory worlds. In the States, NASA has created a model diet for astronauts, which is strict vegetarian and doesn't include eggs or any other animal products. The diet had to consist of products of vegetable origin, processed in a non-toxic manner, which can be kept for very long periods, and take up very little space in a confined environment. In the US they have also done experiments in confined spaces which show that the best diet for recycling your own body waste as manure is the vegetarian diet.

I have a book coming out soon entitled "The Vegetarian Revolution", which is about a programme for distributing vegetarian food around the world, the profits from which will be going to the neediest people in America. Vegetarians do good all the year round, by not damaging other beings, so I had the idea of introducing the figure of the "compassionate vegetarian", a person who arrives at this simple realisation: by not eating meat, I am benefiting myself and animals, and by organising the distribution of vegetarian food to other human beings I am spreading compassion: I am carrying out an act of love not only towards animals but also towards other people, helping them to greater physical and spiritual wellbeing, with a positive karmic effect. We can feed a poor human being without killing another poor living being - the animal.

In order to persuade others to go vegetarian, we need to go through the following steps: first we have to find the seed (conversation about vegetarianism), then find the soil (everyone we come into contact with) and then cultivate patiently to encourage the seed to grow, because ripening and then harvest will come in their own good time, and cannot be rushed. It is important that we should not be impatient with those who are not yet ready to receive our message: we must allow our message - which must be valid, open and sincere - a gestation period, give others time to grow, and then cultivate. We must send out our message in all directions, and not just stay in small cliques. This is a historic moment of transition. It is not true that things now are worse than they used to be: now we can communicate via the modern media, and human rights carry more weight than in the past. Vegetarianism is even having some effect on Church and governments. This is a time of transformation, like the dawning of the day: on one side, there is darkness; on the other, light. Now is the dawning of the New Age. And just as the coldest moment comes just before the dawn, in the modern era the coldest period for humanity astrologically was between 1940 and 1945, the time of the Second World War. New values are now emerging. It's time to reconsider, to analyse past mistakes. The history books do not tell us the unpleasant aspects to the great heroic moments: deaths, torture, exploitation and suffering. The true heroes of humanity are those who have taught love and respect for all life.

Let's also remember that Lenin once said that even minorities make history when they stop seeing themselves as minorities. If people had not walked this earth who were in a minority and spoke about vegetarianism, who kept alight the twin beacons of conscience and hope, then we would not be here at this Congress today. We must be patient, and wait until the time is right (Martin Luther King said, "I have a Dream!"), even though it is natural to wish our ideals were more successful than they are. It is with good reason that people who are ill are called "patients", because it is precisely by being patient that they will achieve recovery. We must get vegetarians out of their minority ghetto mentality, and perhaps meetings, seminars, conventions and short courses could help in this direction. It might be an idea for me to run them with Dr Trespidi, the two of us being inclined towards spiritual/philosophical and medical considerations respectively. It's no good for us to be happy only in the company of other vegetarians, and ill at ease with non-vegetarians, because we should above all feel at ease with ourselves, and then start to see non-vegetarians as potential future vegetarians.

We shouldn't get discouraged if we seem to have failed to persuade somebody to go vegetarian, because the big thing is to sow the seed. I was talking before about "contagious recovery", in which we honestly, sincerely and scientifically sow the seed. We must transform our behaviour. In discussions with non-vegetarians, we don't need immediate approval, we don't need obvious victories. The sun rises whether we want a suntan or not, but if we stay in the sun we will inevitably get a tan. If we radiate positivity, those we come into contact with will feel the benefit. There must be no walls, no sects. Vegetarians should above all feel that they are citizens of the world. If we accept that animals have as much right to exist as ourselves, then we must stop behaving like a minority. So political discussion is welcome, as Dr Trespidi would say. Preaching to the converted is not enough. The real success of a Congress like this is not in the numbers of vegetarians attending, but in the numbers of non-vegetarians present. In future, groups of people should get together not because they are all vegetarians, but because they are all concerned with wellbeing. Global wellbeing and balance between mind and body are the keys to converting people to vegetarianism.

- translations by Hugh Rees, Milan - commissioned by Associazione Vegetariana Italiana (AVI)