Until recently I'd never heard of Shahid Kapoor, a Bollywood actor in India. But it turns out that we have a connection: after reading my book, Life is Fair, Kapoor became a vegetarian.
Here's the tale, as told in "The Man Who Changed Shahid Kapoor's Life"
A decade ago Shahid Kapoor turned vegetarian. He got on to a flight with a book Life Is Fair by Brian Hines (gifted to him by his father Pankaj Kapoor) and when he got off the flight, he never touched non-vegetarian food again. Such was the impact of the book that Shahid even wanted the women he dated to embrace his food habits...
His father, who follows Radha Soami, had been preaching to him for years about the benefits of eating only what is grown in the farms, had no effect on him; but the book converted him. It is written by anauthor for the Indian spiritual organisation, Radha Soami Satsang Beas and it is a karmic justification for vegetarianism. Strangely today, the author who changed the actor’s life does not believe in the same principles that he spouted then.
Hines, who now runs a a blog called Church of the Churchless, says, “Today, I don’t look upon karma and reincarnation as I did thirteen years ago. The only thing I can be certain about is that from this moment until the day I die, I’m not going to be absolutely certain about anything. But here’s the thing: I changed. And I’m still changing. As are we all. Thankfully. Because change only stops when we’re dead. Until then, living leads us in largely unpredictable ways. I’m glad I wrote the book. It pleases me to think that some people have become vegetarians as a result of reading it, or were strengthened in their commitment to remain meatless. Likewise, writing Life is Fair meant a lot to me. I agree that some parts of the book aren’t scientifically defensible. I’d write it differently today, but yesterday isn’t today.”
When asked if Hines still subscribes to vegetarianism, he says, “Well, I no longer believe that reincarnation, and karma, that extends over multiple lives, is the best reason to be a vegetarian. However, there is plenty of scientific evidence, along with ethical arguments, for not eating animals. I still stand 100% behind these reasons for being a vegetarian. These really, are the main points I made in Life is Fair; killing and eating animals for food creates negative health effects for people and (obviously) negative effects for the animals who have been killed and eaten.”
When told that a leading Indian actor turned vegetarian after reading the book, he says, “I’m pleased that my book had an effect on Shahid. Since this book was written as seva, I didn’t get any payment from writing it other than the satisfaction of feeling that some people may have been encouraged to become vegetarians.”
The quotes by me came from an email I sent to the person who ended up writing this story. I was asked by the journalist for Bombay's DNA newspaper if I still subscribed to the views expressed in a blog post, "Is my 'Life is Fair' book really crap?"
My answers comprise much of the story.
Yes, I still strongly believe in being a vegetarian.
However, I no longer consider that avoiding nasty karma that'll be incurred in future reincarnations is a good reason to not eat animals for food. Looking at this life alone, there are plenty of good karmic, meaning cause-and-effect, reasons to be a vegetarian.
I feel good that my book touched Shahid Kapoor in the way it did. This is a reflection of how interestingly interconnected the world has become.
I wrote Life is Fair in the late 1990s. There I was, a fifty'ish American guy living in Oregon, writing a book aimed at explaining why vegetarianism makes sense -- both scientifically and from the standpoint of Indian philosophy.
The book was published in India. I enjoyed hearing from someone who told me, "I saw bluejean clad Indian teenagers carrying your book around."
Cool, I thought.
This is how "flat" (in Thomas Friedman's sense) the world has become. An American guy who follows a guru in India writes a book that is read by Indians who want to better understand their culture's ancient philosophical tradition.
(I used lots of cartoons to make my points, so maybe this helps explain why Life is Fair appealed to some readers who aren't turned on by the Vedas or Upanishads.)
Anyway, reading the story about Shahid Kapoor made me feel good. Writers write to touch someone. Knowing that the book I labored over for several years had an effect on Kapoor... sweet!