March 9, 2017

Dear Human, the Heart & Soul of our Nation Needs You.

I recently read this statement from elephant journal to its readers.

“Stop covering politics, some of our dear readers cry every time we post something relephant. Look: politics are life. Equal rights, empathy, fair economy, healthcare. We can’t ignore what’s happening, and you shouldn’t either.” ~ Waylon Lewis

The need for Waylon to say this was shocking to me for a number of reasons.

When the very fabric of our democracy is at stake, and the free press is being attacked so virulently, I wondered why elephant journal readers would want to stifle the free expression of their fellow citizens. I was shocked that enough readers had complained that they caused Waylon to make this statement. And it was shocking that readers would not welcome the ideas and thoughts on the current political situation expressed by members of our community; for elephant journal is surely that—a community.

We should understand that being mindful is not incompatible with—or even separate from—being an active, engaged citizen. For as long as I’ve been a yogi (and that is a very long time), there has always been some reluctance and ambivalence on the part of the spiritual community of yogis and meditators to being politically engaged.

I also feel that in the current situation, there is so much despair and uncertainty that there might be a tendency to want to check out of “real life” and only read things that don’t remind us of the crisis in our country. I get it. But should elephant journal be our respite from the real world? I certainly don’t think so.

Because the elephant journal community has such a strong spiritual consciousness, this is all the more reason that we should use our awareness and strong spiritual energy to help shape a resistance that is grounded in peace and love—as corny as that might sound.

The Bhagavad Gita describes how important dharma is and gives very specific guidance on how seekers should act out of love and faith for the greater good. To attain liberation, one must first act.

When Arjuna tried to cop out on his dharma, Lord Krishna doesn’t buy it. Arjuna tried to convince Krishna that it would be wrong for him to engage in a battle. He felt it would be evil to take part in a brutal fight. His holier-than-thou prostrations didn’t impress or convince Krishna.

Keep in mind that the battle that begins the Bhagavad Gita is an allegorical battle between good and evil.

“Even if they, with minds overcome by greed, see no evil in the destruction of the family, see no sin in the treachery to friends: shall we not who see the evil of destruction, shall we not refrain from this terrible deed.” ~ 1.38-39

O day of darkness! What evil spirit moves our minds when for the sake of earthly kingdom we came to the field of battle ready to kill our own people.” ~ 1.45

“Better for me indeed if the sons of Dririta-Rashtra with arms in hand, found me unarmed, unresisting and killed me in the struggle of war.” ~ 1.46

I have read and reread the Bhagavad Gita many times over many years. I have read it with and without learned commentary. My favorite commentary on this revered spiritual treatise is Eknath Easwaran’s, The Bhagavad Gita For Daily Living.

Just as is the case now, it was greed in Arjuna’s time that led to the great social and spiritual divide. Arjuna is so distraught at having to fight over something so base as greed and to fight his own family, he wishes to be killed unarmed rather than fight.

But as Easwaran’s spiritual teacher said to him, “All of life is a battlefield…Whether we like it or not we are born to fight. We have no choice in that. But we do have a choice in our opponent and our weapon. If we fight other people, often our dear ones, we cannot help but lose. But if we choose to fight all that is selfish and violent, we cannot help but win.”

“When Sri Krishna, silent until now, opens the dialog (in the second chapter) there are no soft words, no honeyed phrases. He pours withering contempt upon Arjuna,” says Easwaran.

Lord Krishna basically told Arjuna to stop bellyaching, do his duty (follow his dharma), and stop hiding behind his spirituality as a reason for nonaction.

“The despair and self-pity in a time of crisis is mean and unworthy of you, Arjuna. How have you fallen into a state so far from the path of liberation?” ~ 2.2

“It does not become you to yield to this weakness. Arise with a brave heart and destroy the enemy.” ~ 2.3

“Think thou also of thy duty and do not waiver. There is no greater good for a warrior than to fight in a righteous war.” ~ 2.31

“And not by refraining from action does a man (sic) attain freedom from action. Not by mere renunciation does he attain supreme perfection.” ~ 3.2

Keep in mind that two of the most revered men in the last century were men of great spiritual attainment who did not refrain from action. Mahatma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King were two of the greatest forces of resistance in modern history.

So if you are tempted to eschew the battle that lies ahead for the heart and soul of our democracy and nation, I would ask you consider the potential dangers to your fellow countrymen (and the world) should this administration be able to continue on its dangerous path while you choose the path of inaction.


Author: Gayle Fleming

Image: @elephantjournal on Instagram

Editor: Caitlin Oriel

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