In a few days we honor the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. Each year, Ananda Seattle presents a tribute program (this year, 2016 will be the 14th year!). We combined the tribute to Dr. King with Mahatma Gandhi. We add music and audio-video clips for an inspiring program that is updated and re-scripted almost every year.
An article I wrote about both of these men and what we can learn from them was kindly published by Krysta Gibson of the New Spirit Journal. You can read it online at: http://newspiritjournalonline.com/what-we-can-learn-from-mlk-and-gandhi/
Most people are practical and don't give much thought to the "big questions" like suffering, evil and ignorance. "Sufficient unto the day is the evil (the problems) thereof," said Jesus Christ! Why bother our little heads about these things -- as my mother more or less said to me when, as a child, I would pester her with questions.
We all have our problems; we all die eventually. End of story. Get over it! Well, I like this kind of pragmatism too, but my little head has a mind of its own! So I snuffle around the cosmic forest like a pig looking for truffles!
Whatever you may think about the theology of original sin, no spiritual teaching can be called such if it doesn't encourage us to be better people and to never give up hope ..... whether for being "saved," or "redeemed" or achieving God realization. (The end goal may be expressed variously but hope and effort spring onto us an eternal message.)
And why not? You don't have to be consciously spiritual to see the value in using will power and having hope. Even if we fail, such attitudes are help build strength and character, regardless of outward success.
Paramhansa Yogananda was not the first saint to say, in effect, "A saint is a sinner who never gave up!" Or, as more than one Christian saint put it, "A sad saint is a sad saint, indeed!"
Do we tell the victims of racism and to the loved ones whose child or father has been lynched or shot for no other reason than the color of his skin that "It's all for the best?" I hope to God, not!
I heard Larry King interview Maharishi Mahesh Yogi right after the fall of the Twin Towers in New York city on September 11, 2001. I hope I only offend a few of you, but I was aghast to hear his highness' squeaky voice explain the law of karma on T.V. at such a time of grieving. No doubt he meant well, but, egad, I can never imagine my teacher, Swami Kriyananda, nor yet the great yogi, Paramhansa Yogananda, responding with anything but compassion at such a time.
Love (and compassion) is a higher law than the law! It's not as though Sri Yogi was wrong per se but his words were, in my view, at least, simply not appropriate at that time and place. His need to represent the Hindu view of life and to play the role of all wise teacher seemed to eclipse the needs of his listeners. ("Just sayin')
We do need, however, to step back from the human drama if we are see the cosmic drama and have an impersonal insight into suffering, evil and ignorance. The birth, life, and death of stars and planets, and the "eat or be eaten" law of survival among animals are generally accepted by us as a part of the ups and downs of the cosmos. A tiger eats for food and because she's a tiger doing what tigers do. She's not a murderer.
But why are there "bad" people anyway? And why do "good" people suffer? Selfishness, self-protectiveness, ego affirmation: these have a natural appeal in a world of struggle and uncertainty.
That the golden rule is transparently a better way to live is evidently not as transparent as some of us would think. When the light of a greater awareness that includes the needs and feelings of others and of the world of nature is so dimmed that only threatening silhouette shapes of strife, competition, and opportunity can be seen, "golden rule" becomes "What's in it for me?"
We are conditioned by the struggle of life to either recoil in self-defense and aggression or expand in cooperation and harmony.
Either way, we are still "we." Our only option lies in which direction we choose. Materialism is that choice that puts the needs of ego (and body) first and the needs of all others second (or not at all). Spirituality is that choice which finds nourishment and protection in peace and harmony.
The broader our reality the more strength and stability we have. "Love thy neighbor AS thy Self." By contrast, imagine trying to live in a world where animals and other humans compete for survival. Few would last weeks or even days.
The law of conservation of energy says that energy cannot be destroyed: it only changes from one form to another. Applied to a higher reality, the world of consciousness, this offers some interesting parallels to various teachings that we humans have a soul. Our soul inhabits, for a time, a body, and then moves on to another state or body.
Energy, not matter and not our body, is our more essential nature. It has no limiting form and thus shares reality with all others as equals.
We cheerful and ever positive yogis (and others) drink our cheerful "spirits" from the comfort, support and wellspring of inner silence. It is easier to face death or cope with grief or suffering when our life is lived calmly from our own center where we are relatively free from the hypnosis that our body and personality is our reality.
Knowing that suffering, old age and death comes to all, and finding within ourselves "the kingdom of heaven," it becomes gradually easier to experience the pleasures and pains, the successes and failures that are inevitable in life as passing stages or states of mind. But, this detachment from our ego and body DOES NOT (or should not) induce indifference or aloofness towards the sufferings of others. Else, why do Buddhists, and people everywhere, especially the saints, feel such compassion for others even as they, themselves, endure what for many would be an unthinkably self-sacrificing life?
When I am less concerned about ME (and how people treat ME or view ME), I am free to be more loving, interested, and compassionate towards others. I have nothing to lose, for the I AM is not the little "i."
This is, in effect, the secret of the power of Dr. King and Gandhi. You and I don't need to be bookmarked in the pages of history for our great deeds for humanity because "sufficient unto the day" are our stresses, pains, betrayals and hurts. Everyone's path to greater awareness is unique. The outer forms of our struggles and our efforts is secondary to how we handle them.
In the lives of each of these men, their invisible source of courage and inspiration came from a powerful practice of prayer, faith, and meditation. Yes, they had a destiny and role to play. But they each struggled with the energy, will, confidence and endurance to fulfill their roles. Just as you and I do. Their source, their wellspring of the healing waters of peace is as available to us as it was to them.
Yes, we can blame God for creating this universe and for putting into motion the necessary dualities of dark and light, positive and negative, good and evil, male and female polarities which, because always in flux, must necessarily alternate on the stage of history, life and consciousness. It is necessary in order for this "mechanism" -- the illusion of the world -- to be created and sustained: it's akin to the quick "now you see it, now you don't" hand of the cosmic magician. This magic "hand" never seems to stop moving. Panthe Re: all is flux!
But for having written the play; for running the reel of the movie from the beam of light projected from the booth of eternity, God is untouched by good or evil. God is no more evil than Shakespeare for having created the villain of the play. Good and evil are the necessary characters in the drama if it is to seem real, even to (indeed, especially to) the actors.
Those actors who mistake their on stage role for who they are get type cast as B grade actors. Those who play their roles with vim and vigor, always present to the reality of who they really are inside, become the greats of all time.
The impulse to "play" has its source in God's "impulse" to create the dream of creation. Just as we dream unwittingly (rarely lucidly), so God's bliss instinctively projects out from its Joy the waves of creation which, endowed with an echoing impulse and innate pure joy, begins to intelligently create and reproduce....all while the seed, the germ, of divine intelligence and motivation silently hides and guides from the still heart of all motion.
As forms become more self-aware, this impulse becomes increasingly personal and increasingly forgetful (in fact, even disdainful) of the invisible reality that it is, in truth, a spark of the infinite reality. Bit by bit, both in the macrocosm of satanic consciousness and in the microcosm of human consciousness, the process of separation and rebellion creates a veil and the divine light becomes progressively dimmed.
But it is always there even if the darkness of evil or ignorance cannot or will not recognize it. Nothing and no one is ultimately separate from God. But it is we, individually, who must, like the prodigal son, decide to turn away from our separation to return home to the light. We do this because we have suffered the famine of separation and the pangs of the unceasing monotony of duality.
Thus suffering, though inextricably embedded in the cosmos and in our separated consciousness, has a divine role also: to eventually guide us toward the transcendent state at the center of the opposites.
While we can't truly appreciate the "Why" God created this universe (that has given us so many so many temptations and troubles), we can know that, apart from God's initial impulse, we have made countless decisions to "play" in the tar baby of duality.
It is up to us to decide to get off the wheel of samsara (suffering). As we have lived and played for untold lifetimes, so we must accept that escape isn't going to be easy or immediate. We have to pay our dues.
God descends into the human drama through those avatars (saints) who have become his "sons" (who by the self-effort of previous lives attracted His grace until they achieved soul freedom). They are His messengers and they come in every age and time to awaken souls who are ready to "come follow Me (home)." This is the great drama of life whose meaning is, simply, that it IS a drama (and nothing else).
So, go ahead and blame God but don't stop there in self pity. Pick yourself up and do the needful to improve, to transcend ego, to seek the help of one who knows the "Way," and to offer help, as you can, to others. No more sniveling about your troubles. We all have troubles. Lots of people have more troubles than you. Let's get up, stand up, support one another. Act with courage and fortitude, hope and will power.
No act of sincere seeking and openness to the One who is "One with All" will be unrewarded. Faith, hope and charity. Meditation is the single most direct and efficient path to the state of consciousness in which knowing is believing.
Joy to you,