There are times when one encounters very forceful people. These people demand one see things their way. There is no other way to perception, except through their doorway of understanding.
Recently my wife had an unexpected encounter with Jehovah Witnesses. It wasn’t supposed to be a surprise indoctrination meeting, but that’s how it turned out. My wife has a friend who had been planning to stop by for a visit. Today, she showed up and “brought a friend.”
The friend she brought was someone very deep in her faith, the faith of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. What should have been a friendly visit, turned into a visit on where my wife’s faith was at.
It reminded me of something Trungpa Rinpoche once said… he stated that those who seek to deride another’s faith, do so because they can’t find any truth in their own. Since they can’t really improve your life, they simply demean your faith so that by comparison theirs looks better.
“Are the great spiritual teachings really advocating that we fight evil because we are on the side of light, the side of peace? Are they telling us to fight against that other ‘undesirable’ side, the bad and the black. That is a big question. If there is wisdom in the sacred teachings, there should not be any war. As long as a person is involved with warfare, trying to defend or attack, then his action is not sacred; it is mundane, dualistic, a battlefield situation.” – Chogyam Trungpa from “Cutting Through Spiritual Materialism“
Duality is the state of affairs, of this material realm. When we think of one thing as “good” another becomes “bad.” Even the simple idea of being a “fighter” evokes something to fight.
While I don’t agree with the Jehovah Witnesses, I am trying to be more tolerant of them.
In a similar vein, I met a spiritual teacher who was very vexed by American politics. His concerns were growing each passing week. Instead of providing an instruction for spiritual work towards a goal, he focused on the mundane work of voting – as in voting just like him, to overthrow the current governmental powers.
The problem with such intent, is that it’s really no different than the Jehovah Witness that intruded upon my wife today. It’s an ideology that we know less than they, and we need to do as instructed. But is such work, spiritual work? What is meant by Spiritual Work anyways?
When I discuss spiritual work, I’m referring to activities that are not rooted in a result from the physical world. They are rooted in a different world or dimensional space – a space closer to the source of creation. This may include prayer, ritual, spiritual dance, meditation and the like.
Such work is about raising the consciousness of humanity, by first raising the consciousness of oneself. But if one’s focus relies heavily upon work in the material plan (such as with politics, or materialized religion) then one simply roots into the physical world of duality all the more.
If you are resisting the Jehovah Witness, you’ll simply find more things to resist. If you are driven to proselytize, then you find rudeness abounding everywhere. If one pushes a political agenda, then the opposite spectrum is given more life.
Spiritual work is the antithesis of all of this. Rather than seeking division, spiritual work seeks Oneness. Union and oneness are derived by breaking down the walls. When I look at someone in opposition to me, my ego may suggest, “they’re nasty people. Not worth your time.” Or my ego might tell me write something negative about them. Yet my spiritual nature is encouraging quite the opposite spectrum….
My spiritual nature wants to see the child-like essence within them: That little spark of life that is within us all. It can present itself when they smile, or when there’s a moment of letting down their guard. If you can spot it, you can harmonize with it, because that same spark is within you.
Filled with Love & Light
In the path of the guru Paramhansa Yogananda, there is a practice where one envisions someone difficult in their life and says: “[ Name of the Person ] is filled with Love and Light….” This mantra is repeated over and over.
The sentiment is not just said with some offhandedness. It’s said in a way to evoke the belief that this person is honestly filled with Love and Light. When this is felt as something real, the student is then directed to state, “I am filled with Love and Light…” over and over, until that is similarly realized.
In doing this practice, the realization that the same light of God is within both the agitator and the individual – a harmony takes place. The duality shrinks and a oneness resounds.
In the Buddhist traditions, there is a meditation practice called Tonglen. Tonglen is a practice of giving and taking – One is taking the perceived negativity from another, and in return one gives the perceived purity from within themselves.
This visual is like breathing in the smoky darkness of the “other,” and breathing out the pure light of wisdom from yourself to the “other.” As the negative darkness from the “other” fills the aspirant, the sacrificial act sparks a proverbial sparks a light in which they themselves are lit with the light of wisdom.
This practice creates a form of equanimity, where each side is seen as being one.
Measuring the effectiveness of these practices may be tricky. One might see it take place immediately. I have. I’ve used each of these techniques, but most notably the “Love & Light” really seemed to work.
Truthfully though, it isn’t that you’re magically changing someone “out there.” A change in oneself is created first, and then the other follows. Instead of picking up a gun, or building a wall, one harmonizes with the other and attempts to find a sense of union.
You might project a sense of love, a pyramid of light, a compassionate acceptance of one of another million spiritual practices, to achieve this. The intent is the fuel for the work.
By changing ourselves the world changes.
Buddhism has a central theme about “emptiness.” It started with the Buddha’s comment that “Form is emptiness and emptiness is form.” From there, commentaries from highly trained Buddhists, produced great introspection on emptiness.
Emptiness of form states (as interpreted by some) that our physical world is not what it appears. Each of us see something quite different. One may see a presidential failure, while another sees a presidential giant. One may see a religion of control and another may see a religion fo tolerance.
To the West, there can only be one objective truth, but in the East the objective truth is never known. One simply sees what their individual perception allows for and this individual perception is the product of past actions.
In other words: The world is a blank canvas, empty of existing one way or another. Our karmic paint of past actions splashes shapes and colors that cause each individual to see the “same thing” as quite different from another person’s perception.
This also means that if the world “out there” is pliable, then by changing our own nature (karma), we can change the world. When we find equanimity with others, we transform our world. “But it’s still that same filthy world I see,” screams someone. But is it?
One might realize this by transitioning into another dimensional reality. That’s how esoteric the idea can get. It isn’t that you or I are stuck in the same damn world. You see what you think is me, but what I am may be quite different, and vice versa.
What We Chose
Despite any disagreements we may have with this philosophy, one thing is quite certain:
Those who appreciate this way of thinking and make it their daily bread, have a peaceful radiance. They are able to handle very difficult situations. There isn’t a need to “fight” or “win.” They simply “are” in the present moment and are capable of being at One with it All.
That is proof enough for me, and that can be experienced by practice and dedication.
So while we are living in times of extreme polarization, we can also consider that it’s time to embrace the “other” and work to find equanimity with them. Regardless if the other is a “non believer,” a Republican, a Democrat, a huckster, a misogynist, a free thinker, a liberal, a conservative… the list is infinite. But we are all still people.
Until we strive for finding a union, love will not abound. We will be destined to repeat the same argument, problem or issue over and over again. Even death will not calm these emotional waters. The only way to end the repeating pattern, is to let go of the idea the “other” is different.
One must find love, compassion and union within the “other,” so they become harmonious. It doesn’t mean, one becomes the same as the “other,” but one sees the same in both the “other” and “themselves.”