Whether there’s wisdom in the ancient teachings of the East, I think few people doubt. The difficulty arises for many, however, when some of the teachings are applied to the practical problems of this world.
“Don’t get so fussed up with what’s wrong out in the world. The real transformation needs to happen inside yourself.” Many masters of the East have even said: “Whenever you see wrong with the world, remember, it’s wrong with you. When you are right, everything is right, because you see God there,” to quote from my own master, Paramhansa Yogananda. “For there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so,” this one from the master of poetry Shakespeare.
Most people feel a ringing of truth in these teachings, I think, at least they are willing to ponder them some.
But then many of us think:
“So you’re telling me there’s nothing wrong in the world? that I’m supposed to sit at home and watch on CNN how much damage that Trump has done in just a week? that he has already started the process of deporting and blocking entry for potentially hundreds of thousands of Muslim immigrants from this country? putting the least qualified people in key ministries? that it is all the will of God? What good does it for me to sit back and relax and watch? Close my eyes to it all and just meditate? Are you kidding me?”
The problem, of course, isn’t in the teachings. It is rather in our shallow understanding of their message, and truth.
Point 1: Fate
Great masters have never said that we’re all a slave to fate, that it is all written, and we should just passively sit nervously and watch what happens next. In fact, Yogananda said:
“There is no such thing as fate. You make your own destiny. God has given you independence, and you are free to shut out His power or let it in.”
Yes, we do have choices. Free will is the thing given uniquely to human beings as a gift (and a curse). In fact, every moment is an opportunity or challenge for a us to make a choice: to face the light or the darkness, to choose that thought, that will, that desire, that speech, and that action which affirms our oneness with all, or does its opposite wrongly assuming our separate reality from all else.
It’s just that free will isn’t quite what we understand it to be. We tend to think free will means the freedom to do whatever we want, that is as an ego (a separate entity from all else). But of course, that kind of thing is in fact a bondage, and sooner or later causes our head to hit a rock, bringing us to bleed, and hopefully rethink our choices. The real free will is only to the extent of accepting God’s will, accepting “what is”, or resisting it and trying to sing our own tune. That’s what Yogananda refers to in the quote above.
Yes, we have the freedom to choose our actions and shape our lives, no matter our past, our culture, our upbringing, and circumstances. It is not a pre-written destiny which we come to earth already doomed with. It’s just that God (that is the universal consciousness beneath all existence) being omniscient already knows what choices we will be making. Yes, it boggles our minds. But it is true nonetheless. And doesn’t make ours a less free will.
So the teachings of East do not say at all to just shut up and accept your fate passively. Remember that it says there’s no such a thing as fate. In fact, much of the Bhagavad Gita, the Indian Yoga scripture is about the importance of “taking action”. But it is the “how” of it that is the key, and in which most of us fail regularly.
Point 2: It Is Not What You Do. It Is the Consciousness and Awareness That You Bring to What You Do
Yoga advocates a life of action without attachment to the fruits of action (or “nishkam karma”).
So what is that the followers of Eastern wisdom mean when they, going against the general tendencies, say “Relax, don’t get all wrapped up in what’s going on. It’s all taken care of. It’s all part of a divine plan”?
Let me tell you something. They are not being indifferent to what’s happening. Quite the opposite. They are being more “effective” instruments of change and inviting others to join them. They have within them a knowledge of the power of, not “fate”, but “faith.”
What they are telling us is to do action, whatever our individual calling (for some is writing, some entering politics, some silent protests and activism, and some meditating in the mountain caves), but to do it without lowering our state of mind and consciousness to the level of those whom we oppose; without engaging from a place of alarm, frustration, or anger, which are themselves marks of low consciousness and weakness. And to do it effectively and artfully, without the resisting presence of the ego-mind, without being attached to an outcome, knowing that God only knows what’s best and the long-term trajectory of things.
Because if I go shouting in the streets against Trump because “I just hate everything he stands for and hate his guts” what good am I putting out in the world? How does my hate and his hate differ? Is his a delusion, but mine enlightened activism?
Swami Kriyananda says it beautifully:
“More important than working on specific […] delusions is the work we do to eliminate our sense of separateness from the great Ocean of Life.”
In other words, to see somebody else’s delusion and be thinking how deluded he his while I am not, is the worst delusion itself.
It means do your actions that you feel you’re called for, but not because so and so is evil and you just want to eliminate them from the face of the earth. Rather do it from a place of understanding of the truth that in reality we are all instruments of the Divine, taking differing shapes or roles to be vessels that bring needed lessons/experiences for people, ultimately designed for their spiritual progress and understanding.
It is hard to swallow, I know. But Trump is just as much instrument of God that you and I are. His karma (results of the exercises of the free-will in the past) has presently given him the role he is playing, and our karma has given ours. In our deep essence, neither one of us is “better” that the other. We are all spirits who have involuntarily been asked to play the game of life, and we all have made our share of good and bad choices in this life and many many past lives. We do not truly stand for unity, until we swallow this pill.
If we go and take action against someone we oppose because “he stands against unity and is about hate and fearing others” are we not also affirming separation if we consider ourselves separate than him? Or what we’re actually thinking is that “yes we are different. There is the good people camp and bad people camp. And I belong to good ones.” That is, my friends, no different than what Trump thinks.
It is the awareness and the attitude from which you operate and perform your actions that make it aligned with the light and truth, or against it; that make it effective to advance the world into an age of higher awareness and unity, or repeat and solidify the long cycles of delusion and darkness.
Having faith simply means having the humility to see that as a mere human, limited to a body and form, inhabiting a negligible thin slice of time and space, we simply don’t and can’t see the whole picture; that an uphill challenge may in fact be a path to a vast beautiful vista in the future; that things are never “wrong”, but in fact always arranged perfectly by God to bring us our next level of growth and moving closer towards absolute “bliss”, our final abode.
It is seeing what you see in the world, and rather than crying foul about what’s wrong, staying centered and unattached, and pondering what lessons these various seemingly good or bad circumstances are trying to bring for us; how beautiful it is that, in the long term, Divine Mother with Her infinite wisdom will bring victory to the forces of light, and how I can calmly play a joyful and effective instrument of that divine plan.
Fortunately, we are blessed with the guidance and example of great masters throughout time, who showed us what it means to operate and engage “problems” from a higher state of consciousness.
Jesus Christ didn’t say “You sons of *$!, I’ll crucify your moms! Because I’m the Son of God, and you’re not!” He said: “Forgive them Father, for they know not what they do!”
He was basically saying: “I’ve been there done that!” And that is not a place of weakness, but of infinite power!
Only if we still ourselves and meditate on these truths and teachings…
Outer battles are only symbols for the inner battles that you have to win within yourself. Whether you engage in the outer battles makes no difference in your real inner battles, but how you engage in them does. That’s the message in Bhagavad Gita, Krishna’s scripture of Yoga.