Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Humble Musings Of The Manhattan Monk 5/5/11

How is it that we can become empowered through the most awful, difficult situations? My life experience certainly does not give me any practical clarity, but from the examples of others we see that when the veils are lifted, when one has to sink or swim, we grow in inconceivable ways to our limited consciousness when we persevere and refuse to drown wrapped in the vines of our false nature.

A mood of deep prayer must permeate our lives to allow us to develop the instinct to swim (although we may have to sink a bit a few times over in order to get the picture). Most importantly, the association of the saints around will always prevent us from fully drowning, if we genuinely feel the need for their presence, and cling to it with all of our meager might.

I have to pray for the most unique blessings, because look at my situation: agitated mind, slumbering soul, swimming upstream in a monastery at the locus point of Manhattan Island. But what relish in this courageous life, a life that finally has given me a deep and central meaning, which is slowly giving substance to these expressions and to my creative spirit.

I move slowly but surely beyond that complacency which yields no fruits with any juice, sweet or bitter. In this irrational, difficult, paradoxical struggle of a life I finally find the real way forward.

It's not so much the substance we crave as the craving itself which is the obstacle. It's something indeed to notice the same endorphin rush, the same nervous anxiety for the relief I hold dear, even if it's not of the same gross devious nature as before. Still, the boulder lies in the path my worn feet tries to walk.

No better chance to actually practice the detached mind when you get what you need, rather than getting what you want.

No better chance to actually practice the detached mind when Krsna deals you the trick material hand, when He liberated you of the unnecessary and the rotten.

Admittance of our weakness is not an excuse to act out that weakness. Instead it should be a compulsion to take greater care in whom we associate with and with what situations we place ourselves into.

What mystery lays there in Your presence so close to me, that I cannot even hear or understand, yet my heart, with even the slightest sense of You, tastes a yearning beyond all that is unreal, a magnetism that frees me from who I am not.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Your chance to support "Today We Have The Power"

"Today We Have The Power" is a dynamic and thought-provoking documentary by my friend and fellow monk Christopher Timm. You can click here to check out the trailer and the fundraising page to help him get his project on the move.

Click here to check out the film's website

Today We Have The Power is a feature documentary that delves beneath the mayhem and madness of the 1999 WTO protests in Seattle, examines the economic and social issues that brought people to Seattle, and then dives into the spiritual crisis at the root of the problems. The goal of this film is to facilitate conversation about the connection between activism and spirituality that many people have come to see as essential for our societies progressive evolution.

For one week in 1999 the sight of Seattle police brutally attacking ordinary American citizens that came to protest the World Trade Organization transfixed the world. The story most people remember is that a peaceful protest was disrupted by a small band of masked anarchists intent on violence, forcing the police to intervene.

Ten years later, people still don't know why unprecedented numbers of people from all walks of life came to protest the WTO. Ten years later most people still don’t know what the WTO actually is. The blasts of tear gas, rubber bullets and shattered windows may have obscured the reasons for the protests, but the reasons for the clash have not gone away: denigration of human life, species extinction, environmental destruction and social decay remain the heavy tolls we pay for the way we have gone about globalization.

Now in 2011, the Seattle protesters seem like prophets, as the effects of globalization continue to take their toll on our world. But still missing in the public discussion is the strong belief held by many that at the real problem—and the solution to it—is not an economic or political issue, but a spiritual one.

Today We Have the Power challenges us to consider the deep spiritual issues at the core of these events. The film achieves this by drawing out the spiritual angle from the people engaged on all sides of the Seattle WTO protest event, who reiterate and expand upon the eternal spiritual truth best expressed by Mahatma Gandhi: You must become the change you wish to see in the world.

The film features interviews with David Korten, Norm Stamper (former Chief of Police in Seattle), Mike Moore (former Director-General of the WTO), Vandana Siva, Jagadish Bhagavati, John Zerzan, Tom Goldtooth, Sister Catherine Pinkerton, Radhanath Swami and many more.

About the Kickstarter Funding

We are inches away from launching the film. We need this funding to do post production, including sound and color correction, as well as for graphic design work for the film and its promotional materials.

Kickstarter is an all-or-nothing fund raising platform. That means if we don't make our goal of raising 11.5k in this month we don't get anything! Anything raised beyond what we are shooting for will go to help create a buzz about the film.

So please contribute, stay tuned, and help to spread the word!

Thanks again for checking us out.

Project location: Manhattan, NY

Sunday, May 1, 2011

The Intersection-Faith And Freedom

Faith And Freedom

Our perception of faith must move beyond the nebulous in order for it to provide us with the necessary strength to fight the negative forces within and without. The call for change in our environment requires the best positive engagement to create the best positive result, and to get this result, we need a tangible and active faith in our lives to constantly renew and restore the essential engine of our revolutionary spirit.

Our faith is our freedom, and our faith is the cause of our freedom. Our faith keeps our integrity whole and frees us from being controlled: Thomas Merton writes:

To defend one's faith is to defend one's freedom...Freedom from what, and for what? Freedom from control that is not in some way immanent and personal, a power of love. Religious belief in this higher sense is then always a liberation from control by what is less than man, or entirely exterior to man.

He who receives the grace of this kind of religious illumination is given a freedom and an experience which leave him no longer fully and completely subject to the forces of nature, to his own bodily and emotional needs, to the merely external and human dictates of society, the tyranny of dictatorships.

This is to say that his attitude to life is independent of the power inevitably exercised over him, exteriorly, by natural forces, by the trials and accidents of life, by the pressures of a not always rational collectivity.”1

If we try to play the power games of the elites without understanding the potential power we carry within ourselves, and how this power is already corrupted and what we must do to purify that corruption, we will never get a grasp upon our freedom. The very ideal and multifaceted reality of our freedom has its full origins in our genuine spirituality. These two aspects of our being cannot be disconnected in any way.

Merton writes:

Freedom from domination, freedom to live one's own spiritual life, freedom to seek the highest truth...the ability to say one's own 'yes' and one's own 'no' and not merely to echo the 'yes' and the 'no' of state, party, corporation, army, or system.

This is inseparable from authentic religion. It is one of the deepest and most fundamental needs of man, perhaps the deepest and most crucial need of the human person as such: for without recognizing the challenge of this need no man can truly be a person, and therefore without it he cannot fully be a man either.”2

The struggle for our individual and collective freedom stands as the highest aspiration of humanity. We cannot fulfill the meaning of this struggle unless we take it into the spiritual sphere. We must heed the voices of wisdom from those who have transcended their material bonds, who have found their actual freedom, for it is in their perspective that we will actually be able to free ourselves.

And what is this freedom? It includes the aspiration for justice in the spheres of the social and the political, but it is more than this. It is an internal emancipation from our lower nature, from our lust, anger, and greed, as well from our envy and confusion, and our impersonalism. This internal liberation creates and sustains a real revolution, for it is a revolution of the heart, and once the heart is free, then the external obstacles of injustice and inequality become much less difficult to remove and overcome.

The true revolutionary spirit of the heart must be a humble spirit. Real humility builds enduring character, and this is a character that must stand tall to create real change in our collective environment. This humble character is not afraid to submit itself to a higher source of strength, and it is not afraid to admit that it doesn't have all the answers, and that it must be dependent on something more than itself.

Merton writes:

But it is essential above all to understand that the basic principle of spiritual freedom, all freedom from what is less than man, means first of all submission to what is more than man. And this submission begins with the recognition of our own limitation.”3

The two greatest figures in the fight for justice and freedom in our time, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Mohandas Gandhi, were not afraid to be humble before God, and to pray, beg, and plead for His mercy, for His help, for His direct assistance in their awesome tasks and responsibilities. If we want to imbibe their example in our own struggle, we cannot be afraid to seek something more out of our own hearts and our own relationship with God. This is where we will find our actual faith, and our actual freedom, and our ability to bring out this freedom to those who have yet to or who are unable to claim it.

1Merton,Conjectures Of A Guilty Bystander 88-89

2Merton, 91

3Merton, 92