In the beloved story of the Bhagavad-Gita, a corrupt and narcissistic king sits on the throne. He is selfish and greedy with little concern for the welfare of the people he rules. As a result, everything is out of balance and suffering prevails.
Enter Arjuna, our main character. Arjuna is a warrior, and it has fallen to him during these difficult times to lead a battle against the forces of self-interest in order to restore wellbeing to the whole kingdom.
The whole story takes place on a battlefield. The forces of justice and sustainability lined up against the forces of corruption and greed. The forces for the good of all lined up against the forces for the good of a few at the top. This is Arjuna’s battle to fight and the outcome will be determined by his courage and strength.
These times remind me of this ancient battle. We are witnessing the destruction caused by the forces of greed, selfishness, and denial. We are witnessing the moral failure of many of our leaders and the policies they are endorsing or failing to endorse. We are witnessing the weakness in those of us who have closed our eyes and gone to sleep.
But there is another power at work. It is seen in the image of 7000 pairs of tennis shoes placed on the White House lawn. It is heard in the voices of students who will not be silenced. It is displayed in messages on signs carried by protestors. It is manifested in even the smallest actions, the daily choices, made by each, and every one of us.
Like our story in the Bhagavad Gita, there are two different forces at work, each with its own scenario for the future. And that future is being shaped by each and every one of us in the smallest of ways everyday. It is ours to live now the future we choose.
A study was done at the University of Virginia showing that 67% of men and 25% of women would rather endure an electrical shock than to sit alone is silence. Startling, isn’t it?
The school shooting in Florida is now history, and the nation is buzzing with controversy. The students who survived the massacre are saying, “No more.” The NRA is waving its freedom flag. Our President is suggesting possibly arming the teachers to “solve” the “problem.”
I have been thinking lately about a quote by T. E. Lawrence, known to many as Lawrence of Arabia. It goes like this: “All men [sic] dream, but not equally. Those who dream by night in the dusty recesses of their minds, wake in the day to find that it was vanity; but the dreamers of the day are dangerous men [sic], for they may act on their dreams with open eyes, to make them possible.”
T. E. Lawrence is reminding us that not only does it matter how we choose to act moment to moment, it matters what we can and are willing to imagine with our choices. It matters what we can dream, what we can create in our imaginations. Can we, do we, engage in a rich imagination that can reach into the present and shape the life process?
It’s hard to miss. Another New Year has called us to social celebration and quiet reflection. We can feel the turning of time and with it the longing for meaningful change. We are in touch with hope, with possibility, and with failure. We are reminded of what might be different or at least a little better in our lives, in our world, in our character. And for most of us, this hope turns into resolutions.
There is much written about how to make resolutions, how to succeed at keeping resolutions, or how to not have any resolutions at all. We forget that there is no right way or even one way to enter the New Year. As much as we read the “how to’s” and the “what’s”, this is OUR life, and we are mortal.
In his poem called Tripping Over Joy, the poet Hafiz gives us much to reflect on regarding surrender. He portrays life as a chess game with the Divine. Most of us, he notes, take playing the game much too seriously. We can feel this seriousness in the rigidity of our shoulders or the tight set of our jaw. We can feel it in a sudden outburst of emotional turbulence. The mystic, he notes, has a very different experience.
“Don’t look for peace. Don’t look for any other state than the one you are in now; otherwise, you will set up inner conflict and unconscious resistance. Forgive yourself for not being at peace. The moment you completely accept your non-peace, your non-peace becomes transmuted into peace. Anything you accept fully will get you there, will take you into peace. This is the miracle of surrender.” ― Eckhart Tolle
Do you ever feel guilty for having moments of deep happiness, like somehow you missed the part where the world is falling apart? Or, do you ever feel guilty because you are caught in despair and hopelessness, like somehow you aren’t being spiritual enough?
“Know yourself as a breathing being.” -Pandit Rajmani Tigunait
What comes to your mind as you hear these words from Pandit Rajmani? I am taken back to my years in seminary, sitting in my Old Testament class. The story that comes to mind is from Genesis 2, where God fashioned a human being out of the dust of the earth and then breathed into this being the breath of life.
In this story, there is an image of tenderness as the human being is carefully crafted. There is also a grace-filled intimacy as breath is breathed into this being. And it doesn’t end there, for as we know one breath doesn’t keep us alive for very long. We require a continuous sustenance of this intimate gift we call breath.
“Who are you God, and who am I?” – St Francis of Assisi
I would like to share a poem written by a fifth grade girl that I know well and who brings joy and wonderment to my life. She requested that I use her nickname, Shadow.
Who Am I?
” I was brought into this world wondering why I’m here.
I was brought into this world wondering who I was.