Learn about the life and work of H. Jay Dinshah, founder of American Vegan Society and coauthor of Powerful Vegan Messages. One person can make a big difference. Be inspired to make a difference utilizing dynamic harmlessness.
Jay’s birthday was November 2 which is the day after World Vegan Day. After learning how to eat a variety of plant foods and not use any animal products, the next step on a vegan journey is to learn about applying ahimsa in our daily lives.
Dynamic Harmlessness Day brings awareness to the concept Jay promoted that should be encouraged and practiced everyday by everyone. Veganism is just one of the many facets of dynamic harmlessness.
Read Sammi Farb's article in American Vegan magazine, fall 2015: "Dynamic Harmlessness Day: November 2 and Every Day"
Ahimsa is a Sanskrit term that literally means nonharming. Until the twentieth century it was considered mainly, if not entirely, in its negative, or “thou shalt not,” aspect. Mahatma Gandhi stressed the positive aspect of constructive loving action. Today we consider it in its fullest positive aspects as well as negative and explain it as “dynamic harmlessness.” It means to go through life doing the least amount of harm, hurting, killing, as possible; and it means to do the most amount of helping, assisting, and benefiting of others as possible. So you see that ahimsa has two sides to it, one negative and one positive, to be understood and practiced together, in balance. This can help us determine what we should not do and what we should. -H. Jay Dinshah, Powerful Vegan Messages
H. Jay Dinshah quotes are from the book Powerful Vegan Messages by H. Jay Dinshah and Anne Dinshah
H. Jay Dinshah (1933-2000) was a motivational speaker, lifelong vegetarian, vegan since 1957, founder of American Vegan Society (AVS) in 1960, editor of Ahimsa magazine, and president of AVS for forty years. Jay was especially skilled at planning conferences and encouraging people to get involved.
After touring a slaughterhouse in 1957, he vowed to work every day until all the slaughterhouses are closed. Jay lived every moment in tireless service to the cause of helping animals by educating people. His tools of choice were veganism and ahimsa. He believed in the powers of cooperation, nonviolent action, and communication.
He married his pen pal Freya who worked alongside him for forty years and continues as AVS president today. Their two children are Daniel and Anne. For more about H Jay Dinshah, AVS Founder, click here.
Jay was always ahead of his time. A big canvas was Jay’s stage. He painted the picture of a vegan world for everyone to imagine.
- Tom Regan, PhD, author The Case for Animal Rights
I summarize Jay’s character and spirit in two words—consistent and uncompromising. In his vegan beliefs, Jay was the most consistent man I ever met. He was on a level all his own when it came to being vegan through and through to the very fiber of his soul. It was clear that he lived his vegan ideal of dynamic harmlessness in every waking moment (and probably while he slept!), from the food he ate, to the clothes he wore, from the words he used and, most importantly, to the actions he performed.
- Dr. Michael Klaper, staff physician at TrueNorth Health Center
Through the artful yet simple use of language, Jay greatly increased the depth and breadth of ahimsa to the world. He also placed it in a holistic and practical, everyday context, calling it “dynamic harmlessness.”
- Nathaniel Altman, author Ahimsa: Dynamic Harmlessness
I am healthy today and at peace with myself largely because Jay invited me to come “out of the jungle” and into the most fulfilling life possible.
- Victoria Moran, founder Main Street Vegan Academy
There are not a lot of individuals in this world who can be credited with starting an entire movement that has benefitted humanity. However, as the founder of the American Vegan Society, Jay Dinshah is one of those precious few. He truly won victories for humanity and health and I am just glad that I had the opportunity to cross his path and call him a friend.
- Attorney Mark Huberman, executive director National Health Association
I wonder where the vegan movement and I would be today if Jay Dinshah had not provided the inspiration for the most rewarding journey of my life.
- Alex Hershaft, founder of Farm Animal Rights Movement
Jay’s profound words persevere in fueling my desire to carry on his mission of love and care for all living beings.
- John Pierre, 2014 inductee in Vegetarian Hall of Fame
It is my hope that Jay’s words nudge and gently awaken what may be lying dormant within you. Let them inspire and guide you just as they do me.
- Victoria Hart, vegan activist and artist
from H. Jay Dinshah in Powerful Vegan Messages
There are so many worthy projects and endeavors that fulfill certain facets of the ahimsa ideal, such as:
A) Helping people to live more naturally and healthfully. This takes in a great deal of territory, including simplification of needs and wants, proper diet, growing of better foods without chemical fertilizers and pesticides—more correctly called “biocides”; the correct use of exercise, rest, sunlight, pure air and water, etc.; civic activity to curb pollution of land, air, and water (including fluoridation a.k.a. compulsory toxic medication); education to natural means of restoring and maintaining health; cultivating and encouraging proper emotional and mental attitudes.
B) Publicizing the benefits of meaningful work with more collaboration than competition. Provide beneficial ways to do more good, such as: helping others, coordinating events with a positive ahimsa message, or spreading information about the atrocities of using animal products. These become a fulfilling alignment of one’s work and values.
C) Working for the preservation and protection of wildlife and natural wilderness areas (though not for hunting and fishing purposes) as well as making every attempt to make the cities more livable. Ideas include painting murals over graffiti, picking up litter, planting urban gardens, and organizing neighborhood community activities.
D) Working for the direct benefit of animals. Volunteer at an animal sanctuary either taking care of animals or doing outreach. On an individual basis, care for the various birds and other animals who may come to you for help in one manner or another.
E) Working in any number of ways to persistently teach a more humane attitude toward nonhuman creatures, especially in children, who have not yet been artificially hardened in their viewpoint by the callous and cynical see-no-evil pose of their elders. If you are good at cooking, offer a kids’ cooking class at a local community organization. (See Apples, Bean Dip, and Carrot Cake: Kids! Teach Yourself to Cook webpage for class ideas.) If gardening is your passion, offer to teach kids how to connect with their proper food—plants. If hiking is your thing, lead nature walks and remind people how to appreciate the Earth.
F) Working for world peace. Build a foundation of understanding, unity, and empathy, without which there can never be a very successful effort for world peace. Work for understanding and compassion among human beings, including families, states, nations, and races.
G) Working among the poor and unfortunate, to alleviate human misery in general.
There are many other worthwhile causes. Help can be in the form of actual work performed, services rendered in a direct or indirect manner, material goods donated, funds contributed or bequeathed—though it is more meaningful to be a live giver than a dead one—or talents cheerfully offered. Above all, one does not just live and help: ideally one should live to help.
Contact American Vegan Society for information about the following internships and other volunteer opportunities: