Winning the Battle, Losing the War: A Spiritual Perspective. ~ Ram Dass

Via on Apr 20, 2012

If you tune in to the BBC or read newspapers from around the world, you will realize that we in the U.S. are seen as an economically exploitive and not very compassionate nation, and yet we are made up of people who are compassionate.

It’s an interesting paradox. It’s like seeing a big bully beat up a little kid. You feel anger. You feel hurt and upset. You want to stop it. How much worse do you feel if you realize that you are, in fact, just like that big kid? Not only are you hurt by the unfairness of exploiting weakness, but you are also hurt by the fact that you are in some sense a supporter of the whole fight. This is the situation of being a citizen of a nation that is a territorial bully. It’s a terrible double whammy.

Now there is a pragmatic way of looking at this and then there is a clearly spiritual way of looking at it. Let’s look at the pragmatic way first. If you and I have a difference of opinion, and both of us feel righteous about our cause, we’re having a fight. If one of us wins, in the long run both of us lose. Because if there is a winner, there is a loser. And when there is a loser, there are karmic repercussions.

You see, righteousness is a very delicate thing to work with, because it has anger. Righteousness is judging: it makes other people wrong. It’s all about power and who is more powerful than somebody else. So from a pragmatic point of view, you may win the battle but you may lose the war. When you say “I don’t care about the war, I just want to win the battle,” you have to live with the consequences.

Coming back to the question of feeling anger at somebody else’s bullying—do you recognize that the same qualities that led that person to act negatively are also in you?

A Mafioso who is selling crack to kids goes home and holds his grandchild on his knee with tremendous love and tenderness, and he would protect his grandchild with everything he’s got. He’s built a structure in his mind to justify how he is living so he doesn’t feel like he is an evil person. In the same way, we build a structure in our minds so we don’t have to feel our unconscious side, yet we are creating karma every day with unconscious acts, like driving a big gas guzzling car or consuming goods that that are derived from oil reserves. We are using products that use up the earth’s resources and are polluting the planet, even if we think we are doing it for good reasons.

Now that we can see the image of earth as a global village—the images of the whole planet as seen from space—we can see that we were all living on the same habitat. I meet kids who have grown up with a picture of the Earth as this big ship traveling through space with everybody on it. They’ve grown up with the Internet, where they see something going on anywhere in the world at the moment it is happening. I’ve watched space shrink and time change.

I’ve watched the whole nature of who we are all together morph; I’ve watched cultures blend with each other, which have made nations begin to be anachronistic. And I’ve watched the whole development of digital media and the web—a chain that ties us all together in even more intricate ways and that can ignite a shift in consciousness about who we are. The political and social implications are vast.

We are all a part of the web, so it’s a cheap hit to be angry at somebody else.

It isn’t good enough. You are angry because you can’t accept that everything in that person is a part of you, too. And when you are angry at somebody, you push that person away. You make him or her an object. You polarize the whole situation and don’t give that person a chance to change.

When somebody is doing actions you don’t like, the spiritual solution is to do what you can to stop them, but you do it in such a way that you do not reject the person. You reject the action, but not the person. That is a big one. You reject the action, but not the person. For example, I have yet to figure out who George Bush was. I know by his actions that he was full of shoddy, manipulative deceit. I also know he is a fellow soul, just like I am. And I know that he can grow, just like I can grow. And I want to keep my mind and heart soft and open and receptive to allow him to grow, because it is for my own survival.

I can disagree with a political leader’s actions. I can legislate. I can do civil disobedience if I think what he supports is wrong. I can disagree with actions that are not compassionate. But I want to keep my heart open. If I don’t, I am part of the problem, not part of the solution. And that’s just not interesting enough. That’s what the inner work is—to become part of the solution.

So going around being angry at everything and everybody is a cheap pie. It really is. You don’t have to act out of anger in order to oppose something. You can act to oppose something because it creates suffering. You can become an instrument of that which relieves suffering, but you don’t have to get angry about it. Social action does not have to be pumped up by righteous indignation or anger. That’s working with the dark forces. That’s working with fear. You can work with love. You can oppose somebody out of love. You can do social action out of love. And that’s the way you win the whole war, not just the battle.

Watch a special three-hour interview of Ram Dass and his film Fierce Grace on Oprah’s all new Super Soul Sunday, April 22 at 11am/10c. Hear his life story – from his time in Harvard with Timothy Leary to his journey to India, where he met his guru Neem Karoli Baba, all the way to the present time. To find out what channel OWN is on in your area, visit here

Read more: Unbearable Compassion.

Ram Dass first went to India in 1967. He was still Dr. Richard Alpert, an already eminent Harvard psychologist and psychedelic pioneer with Dr.Timothy Leary. He had continued his psychedelic research until that fateful Eastern trip in 1967, when he traveled to India. In India, he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba, affectionately known as Maharajji, who gave Ram Dass his name, which means “servant of God.” Everything changed then – his intense dharmic life started, and he became a pivotal influence on a culture that has reverberated with the words “Be Here Now” ever since. Ram Dass’s spirit has been a guiding light for three generations, carrying along millions on the journey, helping free them from their bonds as he has worked his way through his own. Ram Dass now resides on Maui, where he shares satsang, kirtan, and where he can amplify the healing process in the air and waters of Hawaii. His work continues to be a path of teaching and inspiration to so many. To learn more, visit: www.ramdass.org

The Ram Dass Love Serve Remember Foundation is also giving away a spot for two to Ram Dass’ Open Your Heart in Paradise Retreat on Maui in December 2012 to one lucky new subscriber. To enter, visit here and register before May 9, 2012.

~

Editor: Tanya L. Markul

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14 Responses to “Winning the Battle, Losing the War: A Spiritual Perspective. ~ Ram Dass”

  1. Valerie Carruthers ValCarruthers says:

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  3. Tanya Lee Markul Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

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  5. Thanks very much for the piece on anger….re: not rejecting the person…..but rejecting the action….

  6. [...] Winning the Battle, Losing the War: A Spiritual Perspective. ~ Ram Dass [...]

  7. [...] Ram Dass also talked to the importance of listening for guidance in his modern-day classic Paths to God, Living The Bhagvad Gita. Here he discusses the benefits of “adopting a Gita perspective”: “Instead of always preoccupying ourselves with trying to get what we think we want or need, we’ll start to quiet, we’ll start to listen. We’ll wait for that inner prompting. We’ll try to hear, rather than decide, what it is we should do next. And as we listen, we’ll hear our dharma more and more clearly.” [...]

  8. Signe says:

    Thank you for this amazing post. I have really been inching towards the applying the knowlegdge that we are all one to my daily actions. At least that's the idea! This reminder that anger pollutes us all is so helpful…

  9. Julian Bates says:

    Just some disjointed sentences, rather than an essay, but this is my response to these 'wise words' (and they come from experience, and insight, but they are offered up humbly-enough):

    I am so disappointed to hear this… 'Anger is working with the dark forces', Oh boy! THIS is what is perhaps dark- we are dualistic, god versus bad, rather than integrating ourselves, and how you can therefore judge others who are angry!

    Ok, I am not talking about 'stupid anger', violence – of course or fear-based anger, but anger that arises from people who have kind, caring, gentle hearts as well… It is as if it's from the heart essentially… (Not that that raises it to an uncritical place…)

    I as a human being. I want to be fully myself and fully alive as a human-being, in harmony with others when I am with them, and with myself, when I am alone. Yes, I like to be happy and at peace, but this is a journey, isn't it? We are a vast, multi-varied nature, &… all seems to have a place. I have learnt that it is naive and anti-life to want to cut a part of myself off. And it is impossible.

    Part of us is from the energy of Wood (-to use the Chinese elements for a moment), of Anger; -which, incidentally, seems my 'weakest' elemental force in my 'essential nature' …but we all have this.

    I really don 't like this too, for I feel most of us have fear about this anger. This adds to this, and justifies our estrangement from it, to put it 'over there'.

    Having a safe place to explore your feelings compassionately has worked wonders for me. You just let whatever your feeling be, whilest simultaneously, being an understanding, caring and positive parent to yourself. Thereby you are telling yourself, and your aliveness (i.e. this is workign with rel feelings) that you are important.
    Yes, it is tricky but when you begin to unconditionally accept your anger, it is not divisive, and it becomes one-and-the-same as compassion, sadness, Love…

    I am tired and not addressing the whole issue, not catching it fully, but I like to quote Thich Nhat Hahn here, " take very good care of your anger", not in the sense of indulging it, but acknowledge, listen and respect it. It's fierceness, and yes, maybe its fear, but above all it’s needs….

    There are so many things to talk about, but let's talk about any of these things the right way… which is being true to everything essential in us. Anger is not the ideal emotion for us to feel, but when it is alive in us, let us take care of it – which is simultaneously taking care of ourselves.) Then we can choose to appropriately express it (or not), without on the one hand, repressing it (or projecting it), but without being unpleasant to another.

    And, by the way, the BBC do not slag America off! The BBC is one wonderful thing about the UK (one of the few maybe, but..): it is known as being very professional and does not stereotype nations (Some of our English ‘newspapers’ do that!). Our weather is the problem 

    Please do respond to anything I said, for I have such a conviction in the essence of what I am saying here.

    I have just read the piece again, and think maybe I am the only one who has anger which is kind of the same as Love. But it is still the angry expression of love, and that is real and alive.

    Yours in uncommon common sense.
    Julian of Nottingham, UK

  10. Julian Bates says:

    Just to say I do agree with the heart of Ram Dass's message, it's wholeness, and I don't want to say that I am naively missing that. However, I think my points are say something very important and perhaps dangerously-missing in his monologue…Anger has such a 'bad press'in ungrounded, Bliss-Bubble New age thinking….
    Please dialogue with me , not being experts, but speaking our truth, arriving at some common ground together, avoiding fundamentalism and 'absolutist' statements if we can. :)

  11. [...] Ram Dass also talked to the importance of listening for guidance in his modern-day classic Paths to God, Living The Bhagvad Gita. Here he discusses the benefits of “adopting a Gita perspective”: “Instead of always preoccupying ourselves with trying to get what we think we want or need, we’ll start to quiet, we’ll start to listen. We’ll wait for that inner prompting. We’ll try to hear, rather than decide, what it is we should do next. And as we listen, we’ll hear our dharma more and more clearly.” [...]

  12. [...] musician Krishna Das recounts the story of how he and fellow pilgrim Ram Dass saved all of their money and traveled to India in search of a guide or Guru. When they thought that [...]

  13. [...] truth is that the human psyche is not built for war, and its effects are profoundly damaging to the soul of growing boys. This is not news. [...]

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