Saturday, October 16, 2010

What's Important?

In a prior blog written over a week ago while in Frankfurt, Germany at the annual international publisher's trade show, I commented on the dizzying spectrum of attitudes, appearance, and consciousness gathered in one place from all nations, races, and cultures of the earth!

While there I met a publisher who represents a Vietnamese spiritual teacher whose ministry revolves around respect for animals. The publisher returned my visit to her booth with a visit to our own. As Padma was busy with another publisher (a regular "customer"), I agreed to be interviewed and filmed for this publisher's TV station based in Los Angeles. (Due to language difficulties I never quite got the whole picture and details and it happened so fast.)

Among the comments I made during that interview (held right in the busy aisle of a large exhibition hall and adjacent to our booth) were included the remark that seeing all these thousands of people, all seemingly so different in many ways, I could also see that each and every one of us wants the same thing: happiness.

Since the venue was that of conducting international business it was natural to project that many people there were seeking success (aka happiness) in their business dealings. But it doesn't take much awareness to see, even but visually, that a large spectrum of desires and ambitions (and hurts) are reflected in the faces and bodies of passersby.

If human beings could truly examine their own motives and realize that it's not only happiness that we seek but that the infinity of (generally) trivial, fleeting, and even petty pleasures and desires we entertain cannot possibly bring lasting satisfaction, wouldn't it be so easy to make real progress toward inner peace?

Alas, the Great Dramatist of this varied universe has put on a very good show. As actors we have to work our way up the ladder of success and recognition before we can meet the Director and see that's it's only a show. The parts we have seem very realistic and we do get very much caught up in them.

Question: is "God" for losers? For failures? Do we only turn to God when we've lost everything? This is a common perception, isn't it---especially among materialistic, self-made people?

It's certainly true that suffering makes us re-think our priorities. But it's equally true that success, which inevitably fails to bring us the happiness we seek (when sought only for its own sake), can offer an opportunity for deeper reflection. So, in this world of duality, BOTH success AND failure can be prods to awaken our desire for truth and true happiness.

One of the most famous sayings of Jesus Christ is universally in every language and in so many words the true devotee's mantra: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and its righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you."

It takes a beginning affirmation (belief) but with a little "practice of this inward religion" (quote from the Bhagavad Gita), faith which is based in and grows toward Self-realization emerges to show us that when we put God first in our lives, everything else takes its proper place to support our journey.

What does this mean: put God first? It can mean, "first" of all: to put virtue first. Honesty, committed, creative effort, unselfishness, healthy living, compassion and fulfillment of one's appointed duties. But goodness and virtue, by themselves, have their limits. Based only upon our ego's sense of doership and ownership (of our very own virutes), we lay the groundwork for their opposites to rise up and strike down our growing pride.

Yet virtue, being its own reward, builds strength and character and attunes our goodly consciousness towards a more Godly one. But it is not until we seek the highest virtue, God alone, God's pure love alone, that we can begin the journey away from the opposites towards the center where no sorrow, no polarity can rob us of our peace.

It becomes a question of uplifting our sense of self identity: from the body (and ego), to the soul and to eternity. Only when anchored in changelessness and unaffected by the opposites of which this world is made, can we find release and true happiness.

This certainly does not permit us to be remiss in our God-given duties. It certainly doesn't excuse us from enthusiasm, generosity, compassion and self-sacrifice in support of worthy goals and causes (not just our own salvation).

In the Ananda Communities around the world, practicing daily meditation and self-giving service to others, we find that simple living and high ideals brings the greatest happiness. Such communities are living laboratories wherein it becomes obvious that those who give the most in devotion and service (and in self-forgetfulness) are the happiest. Those who hold back and who complain, and who put their personal comforts and concerns ahead of the needs of others, are never satisfied.

Ananda's founder, Swami Kriyananda, has given over sixty years public service: creative, energetic, devotional and kindly. Now, at age 84, with the body-temple giving him lots of trouble, it is Bliss, not pain or regret, that he experiences.

Only the saints can "boast" of having found true happiness. A saintly life, a God and Good-centered life, brings to our bodies, nervous system, feelings, and perceptions the cooling breezes of Bliss. God first, God alone.

Blessings, Hriman