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.

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