The Sacredness of All Living Beings:
An Interview with Michael Tobias

By Michael K. Pastore

Following are quotes from the interview. Read the full article here.

Ahimsa DVDMichael Tobias is the author of more than 25 books, and the writer-director-producer of more than 100 films — including such productions as Ahimsa: NonViolence . . . Tobias has lived in India on and off for 25 years (he co-founded a major film studio in Mumbai devoted to socially conscious production and programming) and is currently involved in some 50 film projects around the world. Tobias has conducted extensive research in a dozen fields, lived and roamed with various tribes, stayed in monasteries in Tibet, Japan, Nepal, Bhutan, Greece and the Sinai Peninsula, climbed mountains (often first ascents) on every continent, and traveled to some 80 countries, usually with film teams. Throughout this personal and artistic odyssey, he has been a fearless advocate for vegetarianism and for the rights of all living things.

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MT: . . . a rather hotly debated topic in the Sierra Magazine some years ago, with regard to the question: Does a true environmentalist have to be a vegetarian?

MKP: You’ve argued convincingly that the answer to this question is yes.

MT: I don’t like to come down too heavy on people. I believe that everyone has to change in his or her own way, and that’s going to happen regardless. You can’t preach nonviolence with your left hand and kill with your right hand, and get away with it for very long. You can fool some people some of the time, but you can’t fool yourself, you can’t fool your own soul, which is the bottom line.

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MKP: The term “sustainable development” is cropping up more and more these days. What is sustainable development? Is it a solution to some of the problems that we’ve been talking about?

MT: The health of our children is a tremendous barometer for whether we’re doing things right or wrong. That health is measured according to their happiness, their educational opportunities, their physical health, their diet, their ability to be free — free of abuse, free of curtailment, free of drugs, free of crime, free of violence, free of tyranny. Our children are perhaps our best indicators for the kinds of choices we should be making.

Jainism and Ecology BookMKP: It sounds as if you are saying that love and children sit at the foundations of the notion of sustainable development.

MT: Correct. Every community must confront principles of ecology, if they are to ensure a healthy environment for the kids. I mean, a healthy environment for everyone, but I signify this process by alluding to the children, who are the most vulnerable . . . we must urgently find ways . . . through wisdom, prudence and, above all else, the Jain model of nonviolence and compassion and tolerance. I am a passionate believer in Jainism. We must find ways — and there are Jain models aplenty — for discovering the middle ground of sustainable, interspecies harmony.

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MKP: Are we living in the most brutal era in history?

MT: It is without precedent in its brutality. This century has witnessed the most horrible wrongdoings in the annals of biology. And we’re living at the unspeakable zenith of that century. We’re living with the recent memories of the Holocaust, Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the Armenian massacres, and the Serbian massacres . . . It’s up to us to choose: violence or nonviolence. Total love, or total destruction.

MKP: It’s a choice.

MT: It is a choice.