Re: [rainbowtribereiki] Gift of the week
- My heartfelt appreciation to Nanda for sharing this on her forum. :)Understanding the universe on its own terms
by Satish KumarSatish Kumarwho has led a remarkable life as a monk, activist, teacher and magazine editoraddresses one of the most central, yet often ignored, subjects of our time: how the universe transcends its own divisions to exist as a glorious whole.
Matter and spirit are two sides of the same coin. What we measure is matter; what we feel is spirit. Matter represents quantity; spirit is about quality. Spirit manifests itself through matter; matter comes to life through spirit. Spirit brings meaning to matter; matter gives form to spirit. Without spirit matter lacks life. We are human body and human spirit at the same time. A tree too has body and spirit; even rocks, which appear to be dead, exude an element of spirit. There is simply no dualism in the universe, no separation between matter and spirit.The problem in our world is not matter but materialism. Similarly there is no problem with spirit, but spiritualism is problematic. The moment we encapsulate an idea or a thought into an ism we lay the foundations of dualistic thought. The universe is uni-verse, one song, one poem, one verse. It contains infinite forms which dance together in harmony, sing together in concert, balance each other in gravity, transform each other in evolution and yet the universe maintains its wholeness and its order. Dark and light, above and below, left and right, words and meaning, matter and spirit complement each other, comfortable in mutual embrace. Where is the contradiction? Where is the conflict?Life feeds life, matter feeds matter, spirit feeds spirit. Life feeds matter, matter feeds life and spirit feeds both matter and life. There is total reciprocity. This is the oriental worldview, an ancient worldview, a worldview found in the tribal traditions of pre-industrial cultures where nature and spirit, Earth and heaven, sun and moon exist in eternal reciprocity and harmony.Modern cultures are dualistic and see nature as all tooth and claw, the strongest and fittest surviving, the weak and meek disappearing, conflict and competition as the only true reality. From this worldview emerges the notion of a split between mind and matter. Once mind and matter are split then debate ensues as to whether mind is superior to matter or matter is superior to mind.This worldview of conflict, competition, split, rift, separation and dualism has also given birth to the idea of separation between the human world and the natural world. Once that separation is established, humans consider themselves to be the superior species, engaged in controlling and manipulating nature for their use. In this view of the world, nature exists for human benefit, to be owned and possessed; and if nature is protected and conserved, then the purpose is strictly for human benefit. The natural worldplants, animals, rivers, oceans, mountains and the skiesis denuded of spirit. If spirit exists at all, then it is limited to human spirit. But even that is doubtful. In this worldview humans too are considered to be nothing more than a formation of material, molecules, genes and elements. Mind is considered to be a function of the brain, and the brain is an organ in the head and no more.Materialism rules politics today. Instead of seeing nations, regions and cultures of the world as one human community, the world is seen as a battlefield of nations competing with each other for power, influence and control over minds, markets and natural resources. One nations interest is seen in opposition to the national interest of another. Indian national interest is opposed to Pakistani national interest. Palestinian national interest to Israeli national interest; American national interest to Iraqi national interest; Chechen national interest to Russian national interest, and so on the list is long. And so we have polarised politics: "If you are not with us you are against us," has become the dominant mind-set. And if you are not with us you are not only against us, you are part of the axis of evil.This is politics denuded of spirit. What can we expect from such thinking other than rivalry, strife, terrorism, the arms race and wars? Politicians speak of democracy and freedom but they pursue the path of power, control and self-interest. How can a particular view of democracy and freedom suit the whole world? There can be no democracy and freedom without compassion, reverence and respect for diversity, difference and pluralism. Compassion, reverence and respect are spiritual qualities but politics, founded on the tenets of materialism, considers spirituality to be flaky, woolly, utopian, idealistic, unrealistic and irrational. But where has the politics of power, control and self interest led us? The First World War, the Second World War, the cold war, the Vietnam war, the war in Kashmir, the attack on the Twin Towers of New York, the war in Iraq. Again the list is very long. Politics without spirituality has proved to be a grand failure. Thats why it is time to bring politics and spirituality together again.Sometimes the words spirituality and religion are confused, but spirituality and religion are not the same thing. Politics should be free from the constraints of religion but should not be free of spiritual values. The word religion comes from the Latin root religio which means to bind together with the string of certain beliefs. A group of people come together, share a belief system, stick together and support each other. Thus religion binds you, whereas the root meaning of spirit is associated with breath, with air. We can all be free spirits and breathe freely. Spirituality transcends beliefs. The spirit moves, inspires, touches our hearts and refreshes our souls.When a room has been left closed, doors and windows shut and curtains drawn, the air in the room becomes stale. When we enter the room after a few days we find it stuffy so we open the doors and windows to bring in fresh air. In the same way, when minds are closed for too long we need a radical avatar, a prophet, to open the windows so that our stuffy minds and stale thoughts are aired again. A Buddha, a Jesus, a Gandhi, a Mother Teresa, a Rumi, a Hildegard of Bingen appears and blows away the cobwebs of closed minds. Of course we dont need to wait for such prophets: we can be our own prophets, unlock our own hearts and minds and allow the fresh air of compassion, of generosity, of divinity, of sacredness to blow through our lives.Religious groups and traditions have an important role to play. They initiate us into a discipline of thought and practice; they provide us with a framework; they offer us a sense of community, of solidarity, of support. A tender seedling needs a pot and a stick to support it in the early stages of its development, or even the enclosure of a nursery to protect it from frost and cold winds. But when it is strong enough it needs to be planted out in the open so that it is able to develop its own roots and become a fully mature tree. Likewise religious denominations act as nurseries for seeking souls. But in the end we each have to establish our own roots and find divinity in our own way.There are many good religions, many good philosophies and many good traditions. We should accept all of them and accept that different religious traditions meet the need of different people at different times, in different places and in different contexts. This spirit of generosity, inclusivity and recognition is a spiritual quality. Whenever religious traditions lose this quality, they become no more than mere sects protecting their vested interests.At present, most religions have fallen into this trap. For them the maintenance of institutions has become more important than helping their members to grow, to develop and to discover their own free spirit. When religious orders get caught in maintaining their properties and their reputation, they lose their spirituality and then they, too, become like any other thing without spirit.As it is necessary to restore spirit in politics we also need to restore spirit in religion. This may seem a strange proposition because the very raison dtre of every religion is to seek spirit and to establish universal love. The reality is otherwise. Religions have done much good but also they have done much harm, and we can see all around us that tensions between Christians, Muslims, Hindus and Jews are major causes of conflicts, wars and disharmony.The rivalry among religions would cease if they realized that religious faiths are like rivers flowing into the same great ocean of spirituality. Even though the various rivers with their different names give nourishment to different regions and different peoples, they all provide the same quality of refreshment. There is no conflict among the rivers. Why then should there be conflict among the religions? Their theology or belief system may differ but the spirituality is the same. It is this spirituality which is paramount. Respect for a diversity of beliefs is a spiritual imperative.It should not be necessary for me to make a case for the spiritual dimension of our world. But over the last few hundred years Western culture has been in denial of spirit and has been busy elevating the status of matter. In the process our society and culture have lost their balance and wholeness. In order to restore this balance we must emphasize the importance of spirit. In an ideal world people would recognize that spirit is always implicit in matter.Traditionally that is how it was. People took pilgrimages to holy mountains and sacred rivers; life was considered sacred and inviolable. We recognized the metaphysical dimension of trees. The tree of knowledge and the tree of life express the implicit spiritual quality of the tree. Regaining this perennial wisdom should be our worlds greatest mission.
Adapted from the text of Satish Kumars Schumacher Lecture given on October 30, 2004 in Bristol, UK. http://www.schumacher.org.uk The Schumacher lectureswhich have featured speakers such as Vandana Shiva, Anita Roddick, Ivan Illich and Fritjof Capra carry on the work of philosopher and economist E.F. Schumacher, author of Small is Beautiful.A former Jain monk who once walked most of the way around the world in a peace pilgrimage, Satish Kumar recounts his remarkable life in the autobiography No Destination (Green Books, ISBN 1870098463). He is currently President of Schumacher UK, Editor of Resurgence magazine (http://www.resurgence.org) and Director of Programmes at Schumacher College (http://www.schumachercollege.org.uk).'May we live in peace without weeping. May our joy outline the lives we touch without ceasing. And may our love fill the world, angel wings tenderly beating.'The Universal Heart Center
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