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Leaders in Animal Protection: AJ Dahiya

Written by David van Beveren | February 9, 2022

AJ Dahiya is a philanthropic leader with nearly a decade of monastic service and the Chief Vision Officer of The Pollination Project, a global community of 4,000+ grassroots volunteer leaders in over 125 countries. 

As the Chief Vision Officer at The Pollination Project, AJ oversees the daily giving of $1,000 microgrants to grassroots community leaders around the world. By equipping individuals with both the initial funding and belief that they can solve society’s most pressing challenges, AJ is expanding the walls of philanthropy and empowering individuals to make a difference.

AJ is committed to challenging the status quo of philanthropy by encouraging grantmaking at the individual level, to ensuring that grantmaking is more equitable and accessible to grassroots leaders, and to creating a kinder, more compassionate world through service.

The Pollination Project has served an impressive number of changemakers across 166 countries! What are the shared qualities or characteristics among these heartivists who have become active in their communities? How can we inspire more?

There are many qualities and characteristics, but the one that stands out to me the most is the desire to be an antidote to apathy. There are many, many issues in the world and most of us can point them out. However, to go beyond pointing out the negative and to become an agent of positive change takes something special. I see that special quality in the heart of our community of changemakers. 

How can we inspire more? We live in a time where society may have made us forget the inherent power each and every individual has. Every individual matters and the innate potential within each and every one of us is the largest untapped resource for creating a better world. We have to believe in ourselves again, we have to support each other in offering our unique gifts to the world, and we have to reignite the power of the individual heart to be a compassionate vehicle driving change. 

It is not uncommon for activists engaged in social justice, whether they're fighting against human rights violations or animal abuse, to experience burnout. What advice would you give to activists that are nearly burnt out or have already reached this stage? How can they maximize their impact in a more healthy and sustainable way?

Activism, much like life, is a marathon rather than a sprint. While we want to make positive change, it’s important to also be kind to oneself, because how we show up everyday—the mindset, the energy—all determine the level of impact we will have over the long term. 

We live in a world that is dominated by what people stand against and what people hate. A more sustainable stance is to be driven by what we stand for and what we love. Externally it may look the same, but internally when we are moving due to our dislike of the negative, rather than our love for the positive, it takes a toll on one’s well-being—mentally, emotionally and spiritually. 

I feel that it is important that we all have contemplative practices that give us space to look within, while we work without. If we can find time to pause, reflect, take inventory of our motivations and extend kindness and compassion to ourselves as well as others, I feel that we will be working in a sustainable way that brings out our best.

Inner resilience will come from inner reflection and a recalibration.

[Blog post] AJ (photo 1)

Your philanthropy addresses both human suffering and animal suffering. Can you speak more to your work in that regard, and the conscious decision to address both by yourself and The Pollination Project?

The world is a complex place, and humans are complex beings. We are committed to supporting a shift in the collective consciousness to create a kinder, more compassionate world for all beings. As individuals with our own particular proclivities, unique callings, and acquired tendencies we recognize that unleashing compassion takes place along a spectrum of human experience and understanding. 

Whichever issue area may call to someone, our efforts are there to fan the spark of compassion in each and every person in order to create a blazing fire of change. My interest is in serving anyone who has a desire to make a difference in the world and I want to support them in offering what they feel is uniquely theirs to give in the greater mission of compassion consciousness. 

We’d love to know if there are any particular books, films, or other forms of media that have made a significant impact on you? What would you recommend to readers interested in expanding their self-growth through heartivism?

The Bhagavad Gita has been the most profoundly influential book on my life; I own multiple versions and volumes, and have read it more times than I can count. It is the story of a heroic warrior in the middle of the biggest battle of his life.  While ostensibly it’s a narrative of the necessity for owning our duty in life, at its essence are deep lessons of selfless service that have buoyed me through many of life’s storms.

What are your plans for the future? Where do you see yourself in the next 10 years? And how can we continue to follow your personal journey?

My hope is to continue to expand my capacity to serve others. I’m committed to challenging the status quo through wisdom and contemplative practices. My personal mission is to help individuals rediscover their spiritual selves, reconnect with their own wholeness, and catalyze consciousness-shift for the benefit of the planet and all beings.

For those interested in continuing to walk together on this journey, please visit thinkingaj.com. Very soon I will also be launching a YouTube channel and other social media platforms to share insights and wisdom in service of a consciousness revolution.

[Blog post] AJ (photo 2)

Last one! If you could share one piece of wisdom for our readers, what would it be?

If we look at all the issues the world faces, the climate crisis, racism, sexism, social and political unrest, animal exploitation—the list is endless, who do we find as the cause of all of these problems? Who is the common denominator? If we get to the root cause we will find it is us: human beings! 

Humanity is complex. Within us all we carry the capacity to force positive action, uplifting those around us and contributing to the world with kindness, compassion and a spirit of service. However, within us is also the capacity for exploitation, destruction and selfishness. 

The biggest challenge we face is the problem of human consciousness. It is human consciousness that has brought us to where we are today, and it will be human consciousness that will solve the ills of the world. 

If we want to make a lasting impact, it is of the utmost importance to examine and address the schisms within our own consciousness that make us think the world and everyone and everything within it is there for our exploitation. Rather than seeing the world as a place where we can take what we want, our consciousness must shift to see the world as a place of our service where we are empowered with the capacity to give. 

If I can leave you with anything, I would like to offer to you that you have unlimited potential to make a difference. All that is required is a shift of consciousness.

Thank you so much for your time, AJ!

About the Author
David van Beveren

David is Founder and President of Vegan Hacktivists. In 2019, he created the organization to address gaps in technology & data for the animal protection movement. Since founding, VH has supported over 200 organizations with its services. In his spare time, he enjoys reading, watching anime, and playing handpan.