Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label terrorism. Show all posts

Thursday, June 28, 2018

Security vs Compassion; Wisdom vs Mercy; Liberal vs Conservative!

In the uproar about separating children from parents at the U.S. border, I am reminded of the long-running controversy over abortion which pitted right to life against the right of personal choice. 

In the case of the children, we have security and integrity of the state (borders) versus compassion for the welfare of children. In both cases the obvious choice should be compassion and personal choice: both reflect the nature of the guiding principles and the overriding consciousness of American culture.

In the case of the children, it seems that there must be an administrative way to BOTH secure the border AND protect the children. On that score, I simply do not know enough about the issue. If a family attempts to enter and not everyone in the family is legal, maybe it's their choice whether they all are turned back or they are separated? Or, if they can provide sufficient documentation to ensure proper follow-up, they all enter and approval processes take place later?

I don't object to the right of our nation, indeed, every nation, to secure its own borders and decide who is allowed to enter and stay. Many are concerned about our having a porous southern border both in principle and given present world conditions of terrorism. Building a "wall" has come to be a symbolic issue but whatever practical means can be employed to better secure our borders should be considered on its own merits. Border security is basic to national security in these times.

But border security is far less an issue than the suffering of people in other nations who desperately seek to flee violence or poverty. But is pouring unending amounts of relief aid all that viable long-term? My impression is that decades of "relief" have had mixed results. (I am not referring to temporary disaster relief or medical assistance.) Better to help rebuild an impoverished economy from the inside out than simply sending food decade after decade, thus impoverishing the initiative, creativity, and self-respect of recipients.

Right now peoples in the southern hemispheres of Africa and South (and central) America are desperate for security and freedom. To open wide the gates of Europe and North America to immigration is politically and culturally unacceptable at this time. Thus we face the stark reality that present border and immigration policies could be viewed as indirectly causing more suffering in the southern realms. 

At some point, all human beings must face the reality that suffering on this planet exists and has always existed and that there will probably never be (in any foreseeable future) a global solution. We know we can feed every-body on this planet and that starvation shouldn't exist. But it does; so does poverty; abuse; exploitation; and addiction. Reason and the golden rule alone should suffice to end all injustice and suffering. But, they do not and never will. 

I sometimes come across non-profit organizations trumpeting the goal to erase poverty, hunger or illness. I'm all for it but I remain sceptical on philosophical and practical grounds. 

The reason for compassion for these children and for giving women the rights to choose (an abortion) is because the greatest gift given to humanity is free will, reason, individuality, and choice. The fact that this has the very real potential to create suffering, whether self-inflicted or inflicted upon others, is the necessary corollary to this God-given gift. 

God permits suffering because God has given us the right to make choices, including those which cause us to suffer or to inflict suffering. We are teenagers and have been given the car keys. Each person is on a long journey on which we have choices in our efforts to seek the pearl of great price: happiness. That no-thing, position, status, object or fleeting experience will give us what we seek takes a LONG time (lifetimes) for the individual soul to learn. It may be ironic, or even be seen as cruel, but the simple fact is this: it is suffering that causes us ask the deeper questions and to seek lasting solutions. We are here to re-discover that we are "One" and that unconditional love and the existence of that Love is the sole reality of creation (the true purpose of our creation).

We must learn, individually, to use the gift of freedom wisely. Preservation of individual liberties is a higher moral standard than collective security (at least under present circumstances). As is so often said: "Democracy is messy." Yet, the northern nations (Europe and America) are in the midst of a battle over where the border between individual freedom and collective security lies. That boundary line is the real national border and by necessity will move up and down within a given bandwidth. 

When prosperity, liberty, health and security are strong, we can be more "liberal." When all of these are threatened (or perceived to be), then the "border" will get tighter. As it tightens owing to fear, it appears to give permission to express prejudice, even hate. As it loosens owing to security and prosperity it appears to give permission to express love and acceptance. Thus we find the great irony that on a collective level, security and prosperity will tend to foster love and acceptance! Can we have it both ways: loose and loving? At this point in history and in consciousness, perhaps not. 

But the issue is not just a collective one, but an individual one. Institutions do not have feelings; people do. Can we affirm compassion even at the perceived expense (or fear) of our security? That takes courage and will. Right now the northern nations are faltering. Strident condemnation on both sides only makes matters worse, for it re-directs compassion towards anger while it reinforces fear's tendency to turn a blind eye to suffering. 

BE THE CHANGE -- a campaign the worldwide Ananda communities initiated a few years ago -- goes to the heart of the true solution. For the only lasting change that can emerge from in the collective reality comes from a change of heart in the individual consciousness. 

Does a nation like America have the courage to admit asylum seekers and help them get re-established? Do we have the wisdom and courage to offer not merely relief to the suffering nations from which come the asylum seekers, but to offer genuine long-term tools for their own security, justice, and prosperity? 

But do we even have such tools to offer? And, in the end, can we accept that they, too, have to want to change their cultural consciousness and embrace higher ideals and equality and refuse to accept corruption and exploitation within their own ranks? Can we force our ideals upon other peoples? As our nation fought for its freedom long ago, don't other nations have to do so--perhaps alone?

The simple fact is that the karma of individuals and nations rule. We can't save other nations and peoples from their suffering. We can be wiser and more compassionate but if we are only compassionate, the lack of wisdom may undermine our compassion. Wisdom and mercy must forever balance one another. 

The middle path starts in our "middle": our own heart. Then comes action which follows feeling. Successful action is balanced. It learns to compromise on issues such as border security vs. compassion; the right to life vs. right to choose. In a world of endless flux and duality, we must be practical in our ideals. 

The suffering of others is hurtful to those both wise and pure. But the question of "What is right action" is not so easy to answer. For me and for now, the only avenue open is to pray for these children. [Our meditation temple is hosting a prayer vigil for just this purpose. (see]

There is a desperate need to return to the "middle" path of reasoned dialogue, mutual respect, and willingness to compromise. Self-described liberals must learn how to do this, perhaps more so because the heart is wiser than the head, and, more courageous. Those "on the right" are driven by fear (and sometimes worse). They are not as open to change unless forced upon them. As Gandhi said and King reiterated, those in power do not yield it willingly. So, who, then, will make the first move?

[The very nature of conservatism is inertial. The very nature of progressivism is to change. Conservatism affirms static, unchanging values and realities while progressivism affirms the reality of evolution and the need for creative and positive change. Conservatism tends to support the status quo while liberalism tends to support change. Both represent relative and valuable truths.] 

Screaming at each other from left to right and vice versa increases in inverse proportion to the power to do anything about the situation. Left and right need to dial down the volume. Once an issue is polarized screaming is all that's left. And, it's easy to scream because there are no consequences to screaming when no one is willing to talk.

May our calls for compassion be compassionate not angry. Gandhi and King identified the redemptive power of unearned suffering. They gave their lives for their ideals. 

But today's issues do not seem to invite this heroic level of self-giving. I strongly suspect that our culture's fascination with superheroes is in direct proportion to our lack of them. Furthermore, I doubt there are any superheroes on the horizon line of our planet's destiny at this time.

Instead, we need to grow up and recognize reality as we find it. More nuanced tactics are needed for today's sophisticated issues of climate change; voting rights; prejudice on the basis of gender, race or religion; immigration policies; global trade; sustainable and healthy lifestyles; and more.

What's needed today is to learn the art of cooperation and compromise. Collective change is directional, not absolute. Imperfection is the nature of the outer world. Perfection exists only in the pure heart which "sees" God. All else is woven in the fabric of fleeting flux.

May we be both wise and compassionate.

Swami Hrimananda

Addendum: Having said "What's needed today" above, I have no illusions that it is likely to happen in this highly polarized environment of America and the world. Sadly, but seemingly inevitably, only a crisis of monumental proportions will motivate any given nation, or perhaps the planet, to unite in its response. Most people or nations change only when forced to by external circumstances. 

Addendum no 2: The silent movement establishing intentional communities, such as the Ananda communities worldwide, will someday set a pattern and an example of "how-to-live" in troubled times. There is no doubt that a planetary storm is brewing. Like weather-related storms, some will be devastated, others untouched, though they live side-by-side. Jesus said, "Two will be in the field; one will be taken; the other will remain." The law of karma (action and reaction) rules the universe. 

Saturday, June 18, 2016

War and Peace : reflections on American culture under attack

Although there is no lack of killings, suicide-bombings, and terrorist attacks around the world, the shootings at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, have hit home for Americans. The worst such shooting yet in American history has sparked a firestorm in part because the tragedy combines the volatile and extreme perceptions related to LGBT culture, ISIS ideology, and the hedonistic decadence symbolized by the nightclub scene.

What cries out to me as an allegory or a dramatic story is the contrast between the self-righteous and angry self-appointed upholder of moral law bringing down punishment upon the wild and crazy hedonists. It is reminiscent of a movie scene right out of Cecil B. DeMille's TEN COMMANDMENTS where Moses comes down the mountain to find his people worshiping the golden calf and engaging in all manner of immorality to the beat of drums, dancing disheveled and half-naked.

Is not the so-called loose morals of modern times a major gripe with the fundamentalist mentality everywhere and anywhere? (Christian, Moslem, Hindu, etc.) In the shootings in Paris last year, didn't the main focus of the shooting take place at a rock concert with a group whose name was something like "Eagles of Death?" Such places make easy targets, and not merely literally, but symbolically.

In Orlando, FL, the allegory is far richer than that. Alcohol, perhaps drugs, sex, LGBT's, and sensual music! What an incendiary target. (For the record, for all I know, the music at the Pulse Club was mellow and the atmosphere one of calm, table conversation! I'm speaking of perception, not necessarily reality.)

Our nation itself is struggling with these contrasts. It's not just east vs west in the way the killer and most people are defining this. Our nation has been struggling for decades, if not since its birth over two centuries ago, over the balance between personal liberties and social mores.

I believe that the long term direction of the evolution of human consciousness is weighted in favor of personal liberties, including their misuse. But I also believe that where the affirmation of personal liberties is strongest, the counterweight of individual responsibilities is needed. I'm not talking about nightclubs, here, but something much larger. Our national dialogue has been over balanced in the direction of "me, me, me."

Whether selfishness, corruption and greed are greater now than before, or, as I think is more likely, our tolerance of them in public life has steadily shrunk, the national conversation needs to emphasize our individual responsibilities toward the greater good of all.

Where is the conversation about the responsibilities of citizenship? I hear too frequently, "What's in it for me?" Where is the conversation of decency, moderation, reason, respect, sobriety, modesty, self-discipline, and cooperation -- all the attitudes and behaviors which, like oil in a motor, lubricates the commerce and intercourse of society at large? [In mentioning citizenship, I accept that at the present time in history, we weave a delicate balance between enfranchising people to vote and encouraging citizens to be educated about the machinery of government and the principles upon which it is founded.]

As a nation and as an example to other peoples, we've far too often affirmed our freedom and right to "do what we want" again and again. How about affirming the freedom to make the choice to do what is right and good: by the health of our body; the integrity of our commitments and relationships; the honesty and quality of our commerce; the beneficial results of our science; and our genuine interest in the welfare of all nations and peoples.

Where is the acknowledgement in social and political conversation that we should strive towards maturity? How often do we say that self-indulgence is immature and harmful: to ourselves but also to others. When and where, besides church, do we remind ourselves that a mature adult is one who, inter alia, holds in check-and-balance emotions such as lust, greed, anger and negativity? Is it not natural that maturity clothes itself in modesty (of dress, behavior, and self-expression)?

Has anyone ever mentioned that human happiness comes not from technology, high position, money or talent but from maturity, and not from immaturity? When will our national self-image and culture grow out of the adolescence of the 20th century? The "cowboy" image of America is not something to be proud of: boastful, insensitive, and aggressive as it is. [Not a slur on real cowboys, mind you!]

In other words, lets shift the America dialogue about who "we are" from "what I want" to "what is right and good for me and others." We don't need legislation or rules for this. It takes, instead, a shift in consciousness. (How much more smoothly would our legislative bodies function if its members were actually this mature?)

Let the tragedy of Orlando result not only in an outpouring of sympathy, but let us recognize that an attack upon our nation and culture (whether from within or without) cannot be sustained if our national character reflects universal values that all people respect and admire. Such values necessarily result in peace, health, and prosperity.

May the light of wisdom shine upon you,

Nayaswami Hriman

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

A World at War : A Message of Hope

There is a psychic storm throughout America and Europe of fear, confusion, and chaos triggered by the killings in Paris. It's true that acts of terrorism take place throughout the world but it's also not surprising that the attacks in Paris hit "home" in a closer and more personal way for many.
Where are we headed and how should we respond? Though our teacher, Paramhansa Yogananda, left this world in 1952, he nonetheless predicted that a time was coming when "international criminals" would cause much suffering and chaos. What he knew and "saw" we cannot say but his prediction is eerily prescient. He predicted other catastrophic events and wars as well. All this, he said, would be necessary before the world would enter a prolonged period of peace.
He advised that allied nations who shared basic human values form a kind of international police force to aid oppressed people suffering under lawless regimes. Despite the obvious risks, it seems right, also, that countries who can afford to do so, take in eligible refugees from troubled parts of the world. Who can, any longer in this increasingly small world, pretend to hide from or attempt to ignore, the woes of the innocent?
Yogananda's guru, Swami Sri Yukteswar, was the first to proclaim, in 1894, that a new age (of increased material, mental and spiritual energy) was about to dawn. And, looking back, so it has. But as humanity's consciousness awakens to a new level of awareness, it is also burdened by old ways of thinking. Thus, in the early stages of this planetary awakening, entrenched interests and prejudices of all kinds (e.g., political, cultural, and religious) are energized rather than transformed.
Those, like ourselves, who affirm individual freedoms, the rule of law, and the acceptance of all people as children of God regardless of race, gender, religion or culture, are a minority, but a rapidly growing minority.
There is no question, then, of the outcome of the planetary conflict between a new paradigm of consciousness and the old forms, narrow and prejudiced. Nor are the new and old thought forms restricted to any nation, religion or group of people. We live side-by-side with one another, even if certain groups of people epitomize or specialize in one form or the other.
The new consciousness will prevail but it is obvious that humanity will continue to go through many trials, challenges and cataclysms. Though somewhat and appropriately silent, the spread of meditation and yoga throughout the world holds the greatest promise of fostering a new consciousness. Change from within is an individual transformation, not a legislative, military, political or cultural one. Sometimes changes in consciousness are reflected in political action, but lasting and peaceful change is inevitably personal and one-by-one.
Let each and every one of us reaffirm faith in ourselves, faith in the divine in one another, and faith in the power of like-minded and high-minded souls to affect planetary consciousness for the better. Great changes in history are always initiated by a small minority! Let us be, as Mahatma Gandhi counseled us, "the change we seek."
Though Yogananda predicted that "no corner of the planet would be safe," true security lies in the fortress of God's inner presence, whether in times of war or peace.
At home, at work, let us show respect for one another; let us learn to cooperate with "what is trying to happen" for the good of others as well as ourselves; to listen to the other person and the other side to see what truth or circumstantial realities he/they perceive; let us fulfill our personal duties with care, with excellence, and with creativity guided by the spiritual power of intuition and divine attunement. Let us also pray for those who suffer and render aid how and where we can.
May the light of universal Christ-Krishna peace fill the skies of our hearts and minds, guiding our hands to serve the divine in one another.

Nayaswamis Hriman and Padma

Friday, September 23, 2011

After the Fall - The Road Ahead?

What lies ahead of us after the Fall? What Fall, you may ask? America and European nations stand on brink of a fall in currency values and wholesale economic paralysis. No matter what form it takes: hyper-inflation, deflation, partial or complete, the results will affect everyone to varying degrees.

What, then, may the road ahead of look like after "the Fall?" We see the American Congress (seen as a symbol of American public opinion) in paralysis. Some say the government should uphold spending as a safety net to wholesale collapse. Others say continued spending in the face of such immense debt and deficits is irresponsible and, itself, responsible for wholesale collapse. As I have written previously, it probably doesn't make much difference as the result is the same.

For today, however, I want to roll the film ahead and peek behind the curtain of the road ahead. What are the consequences of a new economy in which the central government plays a greatly reduced role in the lives of its citizens (whether in America or in Europe)? Here are some possibilities:

1.     So long as major war(s) are not imposed upon us, we can expect a great reduction in public and governmental willingness to intervene militarily in off shore wars. If things go this direction (and not towards MORE international warfare), the reduction in military spending for personnel, facilities, and weaponry will result in the unemployment of thousands, with a concomitant ripple down affect.
2.     We saw how World War II was a major economic engine that drove the 1930's Depression from the national scene. While the Depression was not necessarily the cause of that war, we might see that a worldwide economic collapse or stagnation might generate warfare especially around energy resources, or as a window to more effective and devastating acts of terrorism. When things are tough at home, uniting against a common "enemy" can be "good" politics and "good" economics, if you know what I mean.
3.     Social services and support systems will be greatly reduced in their funding. Charity will shift to the private sector, the individual, and to the nonprofit sector with the result that many otherwise on some form of relief or subsidy will have a difficult time. Social unrest is certain to result and polarization of public attitudes towards the poor will certainly make things even more difficult.
4.     A renewed emphasis on both individualism and cooperation will surface. Faith-based groups, ideologue-based groups (green or cause oriented), and local partisans will form to tackle various needs and causes. 
5.     A large increase in part-time or shared jobs, telecommuting and other forms of shared, partial, or results-based (commissions, e.g.) jobs will occur. The trend to the use of subcontractors will continue to accelerate.
6.     Private, corporate, union and nonprofit pensions will be reduced.
7.     Despite the glut of homes on the market, more people will live together, whether related or unrelated.
8.     A small but growing exodus out of the cities will begin in the face of unemployment and harsher living conditions, including scarcity of food, social instability, and cost of utilities.
9.     The trend toward personal or small farms will accelerate. 
10. Communes, cooperatives, co-housing, and intentional communities will become visible and will grow in number and influence.
11. Small numbers of westerners will move to other countries and expatriates of such countries currently living in the west will return to their country of origin.
12. Government spending will shift toward infrastructure and jobs, and away from social services. 
13. A rapid increase in the use of barter clubs will be seen.
14. The high cost of public transportation may be strangled by lack of public funding and interest. Low-cost individual transportation systems (from bicycles, motorcycles, smart cars and hybrids), including telecommuting and living near one's workplace, will increase.
15. Energy conservation will become high profile and high priority in all sectors. 
16. Agri-business will lose substantial subsidies provoking more instability in food prices and boosting interest in individuals growing their own food (and locally grown produce).
17. Immigration into the U.S. will slow due to slow economy and tightened security and public attitudes.
18. Alternative forms of currency (not just bartering) will pop up here and there, greatly enhanced to the extent internet remains stable. 
19. Government efforts to regulate will become increasingly ineffective. Regulatory power will shift to the state and local levels, but even here, will be lax or inconsistent from place to place. Crime or lack of conformity to laws and regulations will skyrocket. Society will become far more random and chaotic while yet free and enterprising.
20. Travel will be greatly reduced and more emphasis will be placed on local recreation, sports, and holidays. People will tend more to stay at home or local.
21. Home improvement projects, especially low-cost and energy-efficient (with rapid payback), will accelerate.
22. Real estate prices, in general, will remain low, stable, or dropping for years to come (with various exceptions of course!) Commercial real estate will be the next sector to drop hard and fast. Malls will be devastated and big-box shopping will move even more strongly to the internet (assuming the internet remains reasonably stable).
23. A new growth industry in trade and labor skills will slowly build. Jobs in small manufacturing activities will slowly begin to build momentum as the economic and energetic incentives to make things locally or nationally grows.
24. A trend toward simplicity in technology, lifestyle, and household products will begin.
25. The trend toward non-impact exercise and interest in yoga and meditation will grow at an accelerating rate. Fewer people will be able to afford or have interest in high-tech gymnasiums, pools, and equipment.
26. Public interest and acceptance of non-sectarian spiritual values, beliefs, and association will begin to rise. This will threaten mainline and sectarian oriented churches and institutions. Mainline churches will suffer in membership and revenues, although there will be exceptions and some push-back as members turn increasingly to their faith for comfort.
27. Trend toward alternative health care and naturopathic and energy healing will increase rapidly both for economic reasons and for the lack of satisfaction with allopathic solutions.
28. Health care industry will be devastated, whether private or public due to economic pressures.
29. It would seem that conflict and instability in less developed countries around the world will increase. But this will be mitigated (perhaps) by economic paralysis. We will probably see an inconsistent and spotty pattern of conflict alternating with reconciliation, both at more local levels with less interference from developed countries. 
30. Against the prior point is an increase in the intensity of competition for natural resources among all countries and especially the (relatively) richer nations.
31. Increased attention and commitment to alternative energy sources will be slowed by economic troubles creating an inconsistent stop and start pattern of research, development and implementation around the world. Necessity will be the mother of invention and solutions will tend to be more local than global.
32. Lifestyles in developed countries hard hit by economic troubles will tend to polarize but in general will move towards traditional, universal, and simpler values: health, commitment, saving, hard work, community and family. I avoid the label here of conservative in favor of natural, balanced, and sustainable living in all levels: earth-oriented, health-oriented, family-oriented, community-oriented, and church-oriented values and lifestyles.
32.5 The public school system in America will continue its steady decline. Committed parents will continue to look for alternatives but economic woes will make traditional private school increasingly out of reach. Tutors, small non-profit schools staffed by dedicated staff and volunteers, after-school enhancement activities, character and holistic education, home schooling, and volunteer associations will sprout everywhere. Online and internet alternatives, especially in higher grades and education, will skyrocket almost as fast as costs and prices.
33. The BIG IF'S that can drastically affect all of the above are as follows: war, plague, and natural catastrophes.
34. War between nations is not difficult to imagine when global conditions become stressed and competitive. Terrorist use of small nuclear devices could wreak havoc and great suffering.
35. Pandemics are constantly being touted as just around the corner. Millions could be affected.
36. Natural catastrophes are seen, by the public at least, as increasing in both frequency and intensity of devastation. Predicted sunspot activity could herald global disaster for telecommunications, travel, and energy production. Meteor hitting earth is a popular fear as is a shifting of the poles (perhaps as a result of the former).
37. When the time arrives for a general subsiding of our troubles on earth, it seems that humanity will so yearn for peace, health, and prosperity that a long and gradual period of relative security and peace would undoubtedly result. 
How long a time frame is all of the above? Well not short like a recession, certainly. The trends above are long-term but are listed because I feel that in the few years ahead of us we will be able to discern their appearance. Those who live with faith, share with love, pray with devotion, and act courageously and creatively will fare well, spiritually for sure and likely in most other ways as well.

May we live in God's light and peace as His children!

Nayaswami Hriman