Thursday, June 16, 2011
We are swimming with all our might, gasping for air
Even when the rescue boat arrives, we still must get in and join in the row
Even when our paddle strikes the water, we must remember to pick up the anchor
Lose the dead weight
Shed the old skin
Picking up speed, naturally the sun rises on the horizon of our heart
The relief of homeward bound
Bees and scents of kadamba games and peacocks
Relief from this dream that we have held onto for too long
The weight of this body, our expectations
Perhaps we are afraid to pick up speed, to life that anchor
But we have no choice, all hope lies dormant ready to shine.
We must beg for our grace. We must ring it and squeeze it out, like sugarcane juice, from the Holy Name. Bringing our pure intention to our chanting, we make this offering to the specific grace that we need, our actual spiritual desire. Let that offering hold our attention tight to the Holy Name, let it make us cling with all of our might to the Holy Name, to Your sweet sound resounding.
Let our chanting be infused with the complete faith that it will free and purify us fully of all that we are not. Let us have no doubt about its supreme, invincible power. Let us have no doubt about its sweet touch. Let us never give up, never turn our gaze from this golden grace.
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
Merton writes of the essential foundation of self-realization:
“Since I am a man, my destiny depends on my human behavior: that is to say upon my decisions. I must first of all appreciate this fact, and weigh the risks and difficulties it entails. I must therefore know myself, and know both the good and the evil that are in me.
“It will not do to know only one and not the other...I must then be able to love the life God has given me, living it fully and fruitfully, and making good use even of the evil that is in it. Why should I love an ideal good in such a way that my life becomes more deeply embedded in misery and evil?
If I can understand something of myself and something of others, I can begin to share with them the work of building the foundations for spiritual unity. But first we must work together at dissipating the more absurd fictions which make unity impossible.”1
For many, God is identified as part of the problem, as an agent of the oppressor. For these people, the evolution of human society means to move past the idea of a God who watches over all, over whom we must serve out of obligation and out of love. Social justice remains solely an earthly concern, devoid of the supernatural presence. It depends solely on human endeavor, human wit, human emotion, and human ability, but to the committed spiritual activist this hope on mere humanity itself is a pipe-dream.
Humanity without a sense and connection to God's presence is not a fully capable or realized humanity. Its revolutions, even if they temporarily succeed, will then only dissolve back into the systems, structures, and injustices that the revolutionaries originally fought against.
I may still find myself rooting on green-shirted protesters in Iran of black-shirted anarchists smashing Burger King windows at the latest meeting of the World Bank, but a deeper calling comes through my conditioning. Standing as someone who is trying to reconcile my spirituality with my yearning for justice I feel as an outsider yet again looking in. Can I convince others of God's place in this discussion? Can I help to show them He is the real friend and the one who empowers the oppressed, rather than the lord and overseer of the oppressor?
A great courage and resolve is needed to remain firm to God's message in the realm of social justice, to not be convinced and swept up in actions devoid of any supernatural motivation. One has to remain in a sense above the fray, while not becoming aloof. Merton comments:
“People are constantly trying to use you to help them create the particular illusions by which they live. This is particularly true of the collective illusions which sometimes are accepted as ideologies. You must renounce and sacrifice the approval that is only a bribe enlisting your support of a collective illusion.
You must not allow yourself to be represented as someone in whom a few of the favorite daydreams of the public have come true. You must be willing, if necessary, to become a disturbing and therefore an undesired person, one who is not wanted because he upsets the general dream. But be careful that you do not do this in the service of some other dream that is only a little less general and therefore seems to you to be more real because it is more exclusive!”2
The spiritual activist committed to social justice must use his most developed and sincere intelligence to tread a careful path: first, to understand and imbibe the presence of God's desire for his/her life and to act constantly upon that desire, then, to apply that desire in the fields of justice without letting it become diluted into mere politics, and finally to learn the art of disturbance as mentioned above.
This art of disturbance requires a tender balance, between being forceful enough to shed the light and message of God through in the realm of justice with enough strength to convince others, even the doubtful, of the need for God's presence, and at the same time being tender enough, astute enough, not to completely alienate the intended audience and also any potential new recruits to the cause.
This mixture is so potent, and it allows the committed spiritual activist to bridge gaps in a way that make history. We can look to Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr as one of the most clear examples of someone who came as close as possible to perfecting this art of disturbance, but we shouldn't feel that his lofty example can't be emulated in our own way, in our own lives, and in our own particular set of circumstances.
Even if we try to ignore the potency of God and His love, we will have to acknowledge His absence, even unconsciously, in our failure to reflect it in our duties of justice and compassion. We cannot complete our own humanity, and any attempt to restore the humanity of others, without the touch of the kingdom of God, and this kingdom is so wonderful, life-affirming, and redemptive that it lays bare the faults and emptiness of the “kingdom” we call our attempted civilization. It is our duty and our struggle to make this contrast unavoidable to look at.
Monday, June 13, 2011
Sunday, June 12, 2011
From Radhanath Swami at the Huffington Post
One particularly illuminating lesson from the forest comes in the form of the Himalayan musk deer. The musk deer is referenced in Sanskrit poetry and philosophy owing to its peculiar behavior. Prized by the perfume industry for its exceptional aroma, musk is one of the world's most expensive natural products, fetching more than three times its weight in gold. The aroma of musk is so alluring that when the stag's sensitive nose catches wind of it he roams the forest day and night in pursuit of its source. He exhausts himself in a fruitless quest, never realizing the bitter irony: the sweet fragrance he was chasing resided nowhere but within himself. Musk, you see, is produced by a gland in the stag's very own navel: it was searching without for what was all along lying within.
The sages of India found in the musk deer an apt description of the human condition. We are all pleasure-seeking creatures wandering a forest of some sort -- replete with pleasures and perils alike. Moreover, we are prone to the same type of folly as the deer: we seek our happiness externally. Misconceiving our true needs, we wrongly equate our fulfillment and self-worth with possessions, positions, mental and sensual thrills. We are often drawn into superficial relationships which hold the promise of lasting satisfaction, yet leave us feeling empty.
The true treasure lies within. It is the underlying theme of the songs we sing, the shows we watch and the books we read. It is woven into the Psalms of the Bible, the ballads of the Beatles and practically every Bollywood film ever made. What is that treasure? Love. Love is the nature of the Divine. Beneath the covering of the false ego it lies hidden. The purpose of human life is to uncover that divine love. The fulfillment that we're all seeking is found in the sharing of this love.
The power of love is most profound. It has various levels. In its crudest sense, the word love refers to acts of physical intimacy, and its influence over society is obvious. But on a deeper, more emotional level, not simply of the body but of the heart, there is no greater power than love. For the sake of money and prestige, one may be willing to work long hours, weekends, even holidays. A mother's love, on the other hand, is selfless and unconditional. There's nothing she won't do for the well-being of her child, and she asks for nothing in return.
When love is pure it has the power to conquer. Lover and beloved conquer each other by their affection. The source, the essence, the fullest manifestation of love's conquering power is the love of the soul for the supreme soul, or God. The sages who authored India's sacred texts found that the most astonishing of all of God's wonders was His willingness and eagerness to not only be touched by our love, but to be conquered by it. The cultivation of that dormant love is called the path of bhakti (devotion). This love is within all of us. It is the greatest of all powers because it is the only power that can grant realization of the highest truths and the only power that can reveal the deepest inner fulfillment in our lives. On the strength of this love we can overcome envy, pride, lust, anger and greed. There is no other means of conquering these diseases within us.
One who loves God sees everything in relation to God. Therefore their love flows spontaneously toward everyone, at all times, everywhere. They even love those who wish them harm. If you love God, you can't hate anything or anyone. If the love one offers is met with hate, it doesn't die, rather it manifests in the form of compassion. That is universal love. It is not just a sentiment. It cannot be manifested merely by a shift in mental disposition. It can only come from inner cleaning, an inner awakening. Then that love becomes the reality of life.
This inner cleansing is the goal of all spiritual practice. Every prayer offered, mantra chante, or ritual performed should be for the purpose of removing the impurities which impede the full blossoming of unconditional love and compassion. This is the only way to peace, both individually and collectively. When our intrinsic love is awakened and our divine qualities shine through, we will not only find the pleasure we've been seeking but also become powerful agents of change in the world.We are all searching, roaming the forest like the musk deer, seeking the pleasures without. When we recognize what we are really looking for and begin searching for the lost love within, at that point, the real journey of human life begins.