Saturday, November 18, 2017

Money, Sex, and Power Revisited

The Rajanaka Mission
Living From the Core, or Saturday's Sermon

We live in a time when moral diversities challenge every notion we have of ourselves. These situations are as real as our need to find the inner field, the place where we engage the battle for our soul and search for our moral core. By "moral diversities" I mean that our global acculturation requires degrees in history, sympathies and empathies we didn't know we needed or could possess, and serious considerations of power, authority, and leadership that raise every issue of identity and value.

People have different beliefs and behaviors and no matter where we stand as persons, it is no simple matter to claim the moral high ground, insist on intervention, or engage the moral war of choice that claims someone's cause. How we invite ourselves into other peoples' lives has never been more complex ---and I believe that "never been" because we are less than a nanosecond from nearly every corner of the globe. And, of course, the globe is burning, flooding, and being devastated by human beings. How do we recognize anything like universal humanity but from how we are able to see each other in a context, a culture, and a circumstance?

We need more, not less, education to consider our values and choices. No one is exempt from the poignant and painful shadows that hide and command us from deep within our terms of life. No soul is left unscathed, all of us warrant the Buddha's compassion and the Christ's merciful acceptance of the pain that we will all feel. And because we must be better than perpetrators of pain we need to learn how to search deeply for _all_ that lies within the soul, all of our better and all of our worse. We need tools and resources for living in relationship with ourselves, nature, culture, each other.

Yoga traditions have far too often focused ---and, it is not too exaggerated to say, only focused on creating quietist resources for introspection and inner serenity. Modern postural yoga has, in my opinion, gone further than any previous tradition to extending the soul project into the body. But let us be honest, only so much can be accomplished from feeling. We need to be able to _work_ with feelings to understand and address with thinking our experiences.

Yoga has given us plenty of good advice about this, especially from those sources that _refuse the retreat_ into meditation or quietism. No one is ever surprised that I think we can cull more from the Mahabharata and Iliad than we will ever receive from Patanajli, Visuddhimagga, or Abhinavagupta. None of these sources are particularly interested in how we live _in_ the world, much less the battle for a moral core that will contend with living. They all promise some or another supernal state that exempts rather than engages the irresolvable problematics of mortal, conditioned life.

What we learn from the great resources of mythology and particularly the epics is that we must take seriously how people will choose from the menu that reads money, sex, and power. This was as true in 8th century BCE Greece as it was in 400 BCE India and no one needs examples from our current world to consider how depraved and venal we humans can be. Not to be reductive, but the core of the matter can be summarized in this triad: money (being everything that costs us in labor, effort, and living), sex (everything everyone wants from desires that is sensual), and power (everything else that is its own aphrodisiac and its own form of delusion because life always ends in death, no matter what you think comes next.) No one is immune from these needs and requirements of a 21st century life, no matter your personal situations with money, sex, and power. You gotta' have some.

The majority of yoga traditions create their own juxtaposition as antidote. For money, it is renunciation or principled indifference; for sex it is abstinence or divine internalizations; for power it is command _over_ the world by having absolute interior control and mastery (think: YS third book as typical). This prescription works if you are willing to accept that quietism is paramount, social justice is not the truest shadow of cultural achievement, and power leads to goodness because the quietistic life demands as much.  I wish you luck with this prescription because, for me, it's just another way to check out rather than stay checked all the way in.

The best feature of the ascetical yoga traditions ---and this includes all of those neo-Vedantin Advaita traditions that preach some or another moralism and everything we'd think of as "Tantric", like Kashmir Shaivism---is that they do indeed understand that the world _is_ power and that power is the underlying feature of _all_ else: dharma, artha (wealth), and desire (kama). Their offers of liberation are invariably liberation _from_ those human conditions or at best liberation from the worst of those human conditions leaving only the good stuff. Thus they promise us light without darkness and so Dharma without corruption, and all the rest of the idealism that we will never in truth realize.

Christians understood these same issues and the more honest Christians offer some or another version of poverty, chastity and obedience as their money, sex, power alternative. We need not quibble over different Christianities here and while we might take notice of hypocrisies today that defy even the meanest credulities, there's no joy to be found in pointing out how depraved people can be for the holy trinity of money, sex, or power.  Can we learn to act differently given our needs?

Rajanaka's primary mission is to provide a resource of education to anyone who wants it or more of it, just as it is to help young people in India get an education. I'm happy to let others tell of the virtues of quietism or make promises of unconditionality. I want to help people learn to think, teach them _how_ to think not _what_ to think, and create _resources_ that empower us to live lives of value, intimacy, and creativity.

This is the Rajanaka alternative to money, sex, and power. Value is the price of success and failure, and it's focus is a dynamic viability and the precarious challenge of dynamic equilibrium. At different times in our lives we need different resources. How much is enough? How do we manage these acquisitions and needs? Intimacy is defined by the complex relationships we need to make connection with the world and inside ourselves. Don't just fight off your demons, invite them to lunch and feed them so that you can learn to live with them, both you and them will leave less hungry. And creativity---we could call this "artistry" if we think about this as what you want to be and who you know yourself to be---this is the very core of power. You become powerful in your creativity and by your creativity. Go there, all the time, reach towards, draw from it as an inexhaustible resource.

The goal of a Rajanaka life is to learn how to love _all_ of your life, from light to shadow, from success to failure, from achievement to regret--- somehow life's blessing is never to be diminished or underestimated. Bringing other people the blessings, privilege, or opportunity we have had for ourselves is our outreach, our "mission." Our hope is a good conversation, which requires intelligence, endurance, serious doses of tolerance, and honest standards of candor.

Appa respected privacy _deeply_ and never demanded confession, contrition, nor did he offer any absolutions. But we must learn to live deeply with ourselves because that is the only hope we have for living with others. How we learn to live in world that promises pain, irresolvable human conflict, and inexplicable wonder and joy becomes all the richer when we have _learning_ in art and science, in literature and language, in mythologies, creativities, _artistries_ of the heart and mind, in the _great human endeavors_.

We invent the worthy impossible, we aspire to the auspicious boundaries, we make life fun, beautiful, gracious, and honest because we know how hard it really is. And to learn from the humanities is a crucial part of those aims just as it is _as important_ to learn from and about the sciences.

Leadership is not the same as mere power and authority though it is difficult to accomplish without both. So lead with the heart and from the soul's core. We almost always know right from wrong, so be that person that leads with what's right and you will learn to live with your wrongs. But never leave your good sense, your _learning_, or the conversation behind. We need each to act from that moral center and however flawed and regretful we may be, we can excavate that core so that there is no rot or malignancy, and from that place of decency we may carry on. Carry on. Rage calmly.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Everybody Loves Rudra But No One Wants to Admit It

Everybody Loves Rudra
But No One Wants to Admit It

What I am about to write is not good for business.  I tell myself that almost every time I come to this page where I know I have sympathetic listeners.  But I know it's true.  We human beings do not like our truth drenched in acidic facts and you can't tell me that you don't like the puppy story that ends _every_ broadcast of the nightly news.  What we _want_ to be true and what we sorta'kinda' have to admit to ourselves is true is a fundamental breach, an incongruity that makes us really not like incongruity.  Oh for the world to be more like a south Indian coffee: hot, sweet, satisfying, and accessible so long as their is milk available.

What I mean too is that we like to think of ourselves more like the Buddha: the world suffers and we must be compassionate.  We don't like to think about how rage, anger, and seige motivate us to our better angels or to our exigent needs.  We're not sure about Rudra.  How could we be?  He's not sure about you either.  I'm telling you, you love Rudra.  It's just hard to admit it.  He loves you but only if you take out the wrecking ball.

I come by this kinda' naturally because I got beat up on the streets of Jersey and then got beat up again at Harvard.  I am sure you have your story too.  But don't we all wish it were more like, "I left home because I needed to find a deeper truth, suffered some of my own accord, sat under a tree and got enlightened, then spent the rest of my life helping people." (Apologies to the Buddha for being so hard on him here, but you know, it's heuristic, skillful means and all that)  So you mean, you too aren't the historical Buddha?  Shazam, Goober.  Neither am I.  It goes more like this,

"I was raised out of steel here in the swamps of Jersey, some misty years ago
Through the mud and the beer, and the blood and the cheers, I've seen champions come and go
So if you got the guts mister, yeah if you've got the balls
If you think it's your time, then step to the line, and bring on your wrecking ball..."  (N.B., Boss time break here, my favorite kind.)

It's Rudra time.  Get out your howlin' wolf, let it bleed, there _are_ tears in heaven.  Start there.

We prefer to to flourish but fail to admit that we feel this comfort because there is some safety net beneath us, we want to be comfortable enough because we need that comfort to believe we can flourish.  This is a mistake we all make.  We don't like discomfort, strife, or crisis not only because the are all too real but also because we want to reject their being _the ordinary state of affairs_.  I sort of never tire of reminding that the best part of the Gita's argument is that we are need to _notice_ what is going on _first_ and when we do, well, it's a call to arms.  That makes me sound like I am celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Bolshevik revolution (which it so happens to be) but it's not the same.  There's no violence being advocated, only vigilance and determination to take the world to be as threatening, precarious, and downright predatory as it is to we fragile (but oh so resilient) human beings.

The call to arms is called in Mahabharata the "call to the yoke," and there you have it.  If you live in a house of lac (see the Mbh story about arsonist murder attempts), you had better make sure that the Kidde Corporation's fire extinguisher that was just recalled is not the one sitting ready for _that day_ when in fact it _is_ just that one that was just recalled.  (Nothing like a true story early in the morning about fire extinguishers, eh?)  So it's surely sure that the call to the yoke ---that old fashioned warrior's summons to get the kids in the car, make sure there's gas, and head out with the dog on the roof (thanks, Mitt), is just moments away.  Do _you_ know where your car keys are?

Here's the take away, and it's important.  Hate does not win.  Violence is always the very last resort.  But anger and rage, however they bring their own consequences, are valuable, important facts of human nature.  By wide margins in last night's election results Democratic voters said that their vote was _against_ Trump and motivated by anger, dismay, and determination prompted by rage.  Victory is sweet, is it not?

Knowing what you are for is a luxury position and the sort of thing that gives you pause and makes you debate yourself and those you like (and don't).  Knowing more clearly what upsets you, what turns on the rage, that is of course easier but also _much more problematic_ because it's a short step to thinking less and feeling more.  That feel, don't think is going to cause real problems you don't want.  If you doubt me on that reference Arjuna at the Gita's opening and just exactly what Krsna says to him when he is all a puddle and starts making up his own reasons for things. If you find yourself doing that thing, then that thing you're doing, don't do that.

So what we need is rage with serenity.  Rage on, calmly.  Put your intelligence is that space of peace and remember that the binaries of emotion ---like this, hate that--- they "come and go" and are _just part of the story_.  Deal. Cope. Endure.  MAKE DO.  That is the first thing put first.  "This is the teaching according to the Reckoning (Samkhya)..." and that comes _before_ you can hear "the teaching that yokes to your intelligence," also known as yoga.  When you get there, to yoga, you find that in the center of peace is rage but that that rage doesn't debilitate you and that it brings with it _all of your intelligence_ (buddhi is the word) and discernment (more buddhi).

Rage with intelligence and you will rise to the occasion.  Otherwise you can just go sit beneath the tree and when you get up pretend that being nice will solve everything.  Good luck with that.  Rage can do you wonders.  So long as you don't screw it up.  That's the key.