INTERVIEW WITH DR GABRIEL COUSENS M.D., M.D.(H), D.D. (Doctor of Divinity), Diplomate of American Board of Integrative Holistic Medicine. Dr. Cousens is also a psychiatrist, family therapist, Ayurvedic practitioner,homeopath, acupuncturist, medical researcher, ecological leader, and bestselling author of books such as Spiritual Nutrition, Conscious Eating, Rainbow Green Live Food Cuisine, and There Is a Cure for Diabetes.
What do you mean by holistic veganism?
DR. COUSENS: What I mean is that vegan way of life, plant-sourced only, impacts us on really every level of our lives, so in that sense it’s holistic. It impacts us on the survival of the species, personal health, about feeding the hungry, protects against animal cruelty, preserves the ecology, protects our bio-computer mind so we can raise above it spiritually, helps us maintain the consciousness of sovereignty, which I think is maybe more important in the vegan world because I think that vegans have much more an awareness of the importance of their own unique expression in th eworld. It fulfills the moral/ethical things, the yamas, the niyamas, the Ten Speakings, it brings inner peace on a spiritual level, it clears the nadis, which are the subtle energetic channels we call in yoga, ther eare 72,000 of them, it balances the chakras, and clears and opens up the layers of the mind called koshas. Basically it’s the diet most associated with spirituality and enlightenment in all traditions.
It’s very comprehensive, and it’s not a new idea. It’s taught in a variety of ways that really, 6000 years ago, that was the diet, what we talk in Genesis 1:29we all talk about basically the herbs and grasses ofthe field and the fruit of the seed-bearing tree are your food. That’s it. It wasn’t that complicated. Actually,
that’s the way people lived, and we can trust it from the Anunnakis, obviously the Torah tradition, Adam and Eve, the Garden of Eden, and basically for the first 1600 years, everybody was 100% vegan because that was the way it was. We were like in this greenhouse, and it was fantastic.
I looked through history, and I just want people to understand. Veganism is absolutely not a new idea. We have the Pelgasians that were complete 100% vegans, live-fooders, lived 3000 years BC in southern Greece and their average age was 200. The Egyptians, Akhenaten and Nefertiti, about 1350 BC, they were the pharaoh and the queen, and they were explicit in teaching a vegan, more raw-food diet for spiritual evolution. We have the Essenes, who taught Pythagoras, in a sense he was the most famous vegan, and when I say that, he studied with the Essenes in 500 BC, came down, live food, came down enlightened, and his teachings, up until 1944 when they termed the word veganism, if you were plants or something, you were called a Pythagorean. That’s what you were called. When they coined the term veganism in England, up until then. That is a whole tradition that started 6000 years ago. Not a new idea. And then you have Max Gerson and Dr. Szekely, the Essene who in 1929, really from 1940 to 1970, he started the Essenes in 1929, basically treated 123,000 people with a vegan raw food diet. That’s a lot of people. Then the whole tradition from then that’s all over the world. So this is not a new idea. That’s kind of what I want to say in the bigger picture.
Now, what may be a new idea for people is my statement that veganism is the key for survival of the species.
That’s a little more. And this is holistic, but let’s talk about that, the work by Price and Pottenger where they did the animal studies and they saw when people are eating a poor diet and so forth there was a degeneration. The famous physician Abram Hoffer said recent intergenerational research in animals and people show that on a uniformly poor diet, the offspring of each generation deteriorates. So what are we talking about? We’re talking about the degeneration of the germ cell,the DNA and RNA. When we eat junk food, and now this is key for survival of the species, radioactive, high pesticides and herbicides, we are endangering the germcell and the ability to reproduce. When we look at that, the research is showing, and it’s probably worse than I’m going to say, that radiation from Fukushima, from the depleted uranium, from Chernobyl is about 30 times higher in meat, fish, and chicken, and dairy, and the pesticides and herbicides are 15-30 times higher than they are in vegetables. Suddenly the turn of events is such that veganism becomes essential for the survival of the species because it has to do with the viability of the germ cell, which radiation and pesticides and herbicides in essence are destroying. So now we have just a whole other way of appreciating and understanding it.
That’s how I’m seeing it from a holistic point of view. I want to say, though, that holistic veganism is not about moral superiority. And that’s a mistake that I think vegans tend to make. It’s really about being responsible for the total impact of one’s actions. It’s like, wow, if I eat this way, what’s the impact? And the impact is amazing. What do I mean by impact? Let’s talk spiritually. When you eat animal, meat, fish, chicken, dairy, you’re taking in their fear and misery and cruelty and that comes out from us, in terms of a spiritual point of view, an agitated mind. The big yogic teaching is “yoga chitta vritti nirodha”; yoga is quieting the activity of the mind. So if you’re taking in vegetables, you’re really creating a quiet mind.
It’s not a new idea. We know that the ancient Rishis 2000-3000 years ago, that’s what they did. They did a vegan-based life. The ancient Taoists did the same thing. The inner circle of the Mormons were vegan livefood, the first inner 25 people around Joseph Smith. The Torah teachings. It’s like, what’s new here? It was always seen, and one of the reasons I think is because it creates a quiet mind, and then the second thing is that you’re not killing, you’re not creating cruelty, you’re not creating misery. One of the problems with meat-eaters – meat, fish, chicken, and dairy, not just red meat – is they don’t see how their diet connects to the whole. And that’s why I say a holistic viewpoint is so important here, when we see the bigger whole.
I’m just going to play with it in a moral/ethical level. First is you shouldn’t murder, which is ahimsa. We see it, and obviously murdering animals is really obviously contrary to that teaching. Second, we say don’t bear false witness. In other words, right now, what a meat-eater has to do is to pretend somehow that Elsie the cow is very happy, has to pretend that animals are just lined up to be slaughtered, and taking their skin and fur and everything is just so happy. But it’s not true. Then we have asteya, non-stealing. The meat and dairy are a form of stealing, the milk, and body, and life, and skin, and fur, and natural life.
Then I’m going to use the word adultery. Most people think that’s about sex between married people, but in the Torah tradition, the real interpretation is sexual perversion. If you’ll understand that the way cows are inseminated, that’s a sexual perversion. They have men sticking their hands up into their vagina, uterus. You have how do you get the sperm from bulls, you have to do masturbation. So these are sexual perversions. All these things are coming out, and people don’t get the whole picture in that way. Then also the idea of aparigraha, don’t covet. When you understand the wastage that goes on, it’s a real problem. By being vegan, we avoid that issue. And those are I think the key things in the big picture.
Where does that take us? If we expand that, what are the implications? There are real implications, which are pretty clear. Preserving health. I do a lot of work obviously in diabetes. We’re healing 21% of Type Is, which is impossible, but we’re doing it, and up to 60% of Type IIs, non-insulin dependent, and we’re doing that with a live food vegan diet. A vegan diet’s key, and I’m going to say low sugar, that’s key. We’ve got all the diseases, cancer, heart disease, diabetes, meat-eaters have 30-50% more diabetes. That’s just a fact. That’s all the studies that have been outhere. It’s indisputable. And then inflicting unnecessary pain. We’re not supposed to be doing that. What are we doing to affect these farm animals? It’s such cruelty and such. And I know other people have talked about it. I’m just going to point it out in the implications
of our actions, that’s how I’m looking at it.
We teach the earth is the Lord’s, and we’re partners, co-workers, in preserving the world. Well, what is the result of animal agriculture? Again, water pollution, soil erosion, air pollution, chemical fertilizer and pesticides that destroy the topsoil, destroying tropical rain forests, it’s like this is implication. Now wastage. We know that an animal-based diet is, one, unsustainable in the long run, but it’s built on a very wasteful pyramid of resources because it’s so much resource-intensive. By my calculations, it’s 22-29 times more energy, which is a little higher than most people calculate. I think some people say 13 or 14, but you know. Even if it’s ten, ten times more is huge, and we’re looking at usually half the water, and 85% of the soil, basically we’re destroying the fresh water, the energy, all these things are hoarding the resources. Unsustainable, but it’s wastage.
And providing for the poor. We’re supposed to feed people. When you realize that over 75% of the grain in the U.S. and maybe 40% worldwide is used to feed animals, that means, different estimates, but at least 20 million people worldwide die each year from hunger. That is totally unnecessary. We have enough food to feed everybody as it stands. If the whole world were vegan, plant-based only, we would be able to feed the world seven times over. That’s worth considering. We are really dealing with a population issue, and actually,
besides the mythology, the real statistics show that food production is increasing at 2.2% per year and population is 2.0% or 2.1%. In other words, our food production is actually outgrowing our population. But if we went vegan, which obviously we will have to do because there’s another piece to that is when we talk about preserving peace, which is another thing that happens on that, diets and high animal protein monopolize the resources and therefore create shortages, and, food, water, energy, and what are people going to do about that? They’re going to fight over it. That’s where we’re going. The ancient Greeks actually knew that.
These are kind of things, but I’m going to take a step further as I’m talking, and I’m going to say let’s imagine a vegan world. I’m going to say, why not? First of all, it’d be a world with people being really healthy. Wow, that’s not bad. Really healthy. How about humane world? We kill about 60 billion animals a year. Wow. We eliminate that cruelty, and we have a more humane world. Environmentally sustainable world would be another thing, and a world where people weren’t hungry or thirsty, there’d be enough water and food for everyone. What kind of world is that? That’s a pretty extraordinary world. I think that the animal world is requiring about 14 times more water per person than vegan is doing, we’re running out of water all over the world, and it’s a serious problem. That would not be a problem. So we’re looking at a world that would feed everybody and have enough water for everybody. And a peaceful world. I joke, “Give peas a chance.” In otherwords, wow, we can do this. We’re not fighting over resources and people would be taken care of.
I’m not going to call it a dream. I’m going to call it a reality. In my world, in each generation, we’re given the medicine for the healing for the planet. And at this point in history, veganism, plant-sourced only food, is the medicine for healing and restoring the planet. So that’s kind of where I am about it, in a holistic viewpoint.
Can you tell us about the Tree of Life? Is it a place where people can go if they have physical, if they would have physical challenge you could actually get healed from physical or psychological diseases? Or is it more of a place for people to go to learn about being a vegan, learn about vegan organic gardening? Just tell us a little bit about the vision and the actual practice of the Tree.
DR. COUSENS: It’s really all of the above. I’m going to first say, because our emphasis, we call ourselves a vegan retreat center, is to come and experience a total lifestyle. It’s kind of hard for vegans if you’re in the city, but veganism is a total lifestyle. So we’re a total lifestyle including the spiritual aspect because our goal is to help people really wake up to their spirit inside and expand their consciousness. A lot of people come here who aren’t vegans, and they are having the intention to go, but they don’t make that transition. So believe it or not, maybe 50% of the people come with the intention of moving from meat-eating to being vegan. It happens. How does that happen? Well, one of the things is one of the best ways to make that transition is what I call spiritual fasting, which we often offer all year long. Why? Well, meat’s addictive. I don’t mean psychologically. It stimulates the dopamine endorphins, and it’s actually physiologically addicting. Casomorphins are one tenth as strong as morphine. After a seven-day juice fast, all your cellular memories are erased, and you’re no longer addicted. Meat has 11 to 15 opioids. It’s addicting, and people know this. So they come and if they choose, they can get free of those addictions in a week and therefore have a clean, cellular memory, and it’s really easy, really easy to move into a vegan way of life once you’ve cleared the actual physiological addiction.
There are a lot of people, people aren’t so aware of that. So that’s one thing. So we help a lot of people. Plus it’s a whole lifestyle. It’s like, wow, this is fun, this is good, I feel great, because you can talk about this veganism and everything else as a theoretical thing, but if you experience it, which is really the key of why I started this center in 1993, the experience of well-being is so strong that people say, “You know what, I want that. This is worth it. Now I know what it feels like to feel healthy, wow. This is really, really good.” So those are I would say key.
Now along the line, we have a vegan diabetes program, people come to hear what we call the whole person healing, which is really your own personal work-up, and then people come for training. People come and do what we call seva, they come work in the garden, they come work in the kitchen, and so there are lots of ways to come in the door. Plus we have a vegan masters program.
It’s the only one that’s a university-degreed masters program in the world. It’s like, wow. So they have lots of entry points in the bigger picture where they can make that transition. So I feel ourselves really a transition in training, experiential training, that really solidifies people’s ability to make that shift because it’s not all that easy, particularly with the addictions and the social things. Then you’re linked into this bigger network where you’re getting support. So that’s how I see it, that complexity of training, of personal healing, and of living a lifestyle and feeling so good on it. It’s like, let’s have the experience of it, and then we know how good it is.