None of us can truly be free until we all are free

By John Di Leonardo

This past week, my partner Juliana and I had the opportunity to meet with Pujya Gurudevshri Rakeshji, an enlightened master and devotee of Jain saint Shrimad Rajchandra, as well as the founder of Shrimad Rajchandra Mission, Dharampur – a spiritual organization with 108 centers across five continents after he spoke to an audience of ardent followers at BAPS Shri Swaminarayan Mandir in Melville, Long Island. We also had the opportunity to exhibit at the Vegan Festival at Crossroads Farm in Malverne, also on Long Island. While these events were drastically different, each were attended by hundreds of devotees of ahimsa – or non-violence – seeking community as well as self-realization.

I am reminded of two quotes by Lord Mahavira:

1.       A man is seated on top of a tree in the midst of a burning forest. He sees all living beings perish. But he doesn’t realize that the same fate is soon to overtake him also. That man is fool.

2.       In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.

The self and our community are inextricably linked. If a fire is running rampant through our community, standing on top of the tallest tree or highest rooftop will not save us. Instead, we must step out from our safehouses or out of our comfort zones and help the community extinguish that fire ourselves; otherwise, that fire will extinguish us itself. Our passion for all in our community must be fueled with the same ferocity for kindness as the fire’s ferocity for destruction.

For this week’s Anuvrat, or small vow, I challenge you to join a community event, protest, or seminar aimed at making this world a better place or to sign up as a member of an organization preaching ahimsa, or non-violence. Discover Shrimad Rajchandra Mission, Dharampur. Give out free grocery items with Community Solidarity – America’s largest hunger relief program with food shares from Brooklyn to Suffolk County. Speak up for women through the Center for Reproductive Rights. You can even sign up to follow my own organization Humane Long Island – which is the leading animal advocacy organization on Long Island and the premier domestic fowl rescue from Manhattan to Montauk. No matter the direction you choose, get active in your community and remember that none of us can truly be free until we all are free.

John Di Leonardo is the founding director of Humane Long Island. He was previously the Senior Manager of Grassroots Campaigns and Animals in Entertainment Campaigns for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). He has a Master’s degree in Anthrozoology from Canisius College. He also earned a graduate certificate in Jain Studies from the International School of Jain Studies (ISJS) in India. John can be reached at [email protected].  

Image courtesy of Provided

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