Thursday, January 24, 2013
You Can't Be an Activist and Claim Your Faith as Personal
This piece was published in the Huffington Post on January 24, 2013
I shared my faith with an activist going to a progressive conference in DC on inauguration weekend. He wrote back, "We don't proselytize our faith or religious beliefs because we regard them as personal." I've run into that "philosophy" from many activists. Yes, it is deeply personal, but that doesn't mean it's private, or should be private, based on some sort of repressive status quo social taboo. When I read that, it seemed contradictory, because in the very next sentence, he said "Without leadership rising from amongst us, our future will be filled with suffering and misery, not from fate but from the hands of powerful selfish people." So he believes in leadership in secular political matters, but not in spiritual matters? Really?! That is not only contradictory, but either one of two things: disingenuous or hypocritical. What if all the politically active people regarded their views as "personal?" There would be no activism. What would that accomplish? Welcome to the United Corporations of America.
Similarly, if you think that spiritual people should just keep their values personal, or to themselves, then the world would be a nice place for our sense gratification, that may be, but without spiritual principles, the values of this relative materialistic world are just floating right now, and no one knows where they're going to end up. I'll tell you where they'll end up -- on the rocks. The only problem in this world is a lack of God consciousness. Let's not conflate this statement with the right wing wackadoodles like Rick Perry, et. al., who ignore practical solutions and say we must depend entirely on prayer instead. Perry thinks we don't need to do anything about guns, we just need to pray the violence away. "Prayer can be stronger than laws," he says. As Bill Maher says, "I would pay to watch Rick Perry defend himself against a school shooter with prayer." As the Led Zeppelin song goes, "Crying won't help you. Praying won't do you no good." I'm not talking about their so-called religion. I'm talking about real God consciousness, and how to practically apply it to real life situations. The religious right is neither religious nor right. There is a bumper sticker on my car that says, "Jesus helped the poor. Republicans help themselves." Paul Ryan claims to be a Christian, but his budget is exactly the opposite of what Jesus taught. In Bhagavad-gita 18.32 Krishna says, "That understanding which considers irreligion to be religion and religion to be irreligion, under the spell of illusion and darkness, and strives always in the wrong direction, O Pārtha, is in the mode of ignorance."
Maybe these ignorant types should keep their so-called "religion" to themselves, but that doesn't mean that everyone should. I am so sick of this meme that spiritual people should not "shove their beliefs down other people's throats." We should all just shut up and pray in our closets. If someone claims to be a spiritual person, and that is indeed the most important thing in their life, because it has changed their life for the better, and they know it could do the same thing for others, why would they be such misers that they don't share that with others? I can only conclude that while claiming to be a spiritual person, spirituality is not really the most important thing in their life. Such people claim to "respect all faiths" in their liberal way that makes an appearance of respecting diversity, but it appears to me that most of them are actually not that interested. Emerson says, "Always scorn appearances, and you always may." - from Self-Reliance, Essays: First Series (1841) They may be interested, in as much as it aligns with their own proclivities, but it is not their main interest in life. As it is not their main interest in life, frankly, I am not really interested in their interests. I choose to associate only with true devotees. In another place in that same essay, Emerson said, "If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly. It is alike your interest, and mine, and all men's, however long we have dwelt in lies, to live in truth. Does this sound harsh to-day? You will soon love what is dictated by your nature as well as mine, and, if we follow the truth, it will bring us out safe at last. - But so you may give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility. Besides, all persons have their moments of reason, when they look out into the region of absolute truth; then will they justify me, and do the same thing."
Religion is not about our own proclivities. We may dovetail our proclivities such as activism to religion, to the absolute truth, but not vice-versa. We can't turn our own ideas of activism into religion. The word religion stems of the Latin relegō, which means, "I bind back." Similarly, in Sanskrit (the ancient language of India), yoga translates as "yoke" or "union" with God. Real religion comes only from one place, and that is the Supreme Personality of Godhead, the Cause of all Causes. The Absolute Truth with a capitol T is a person, but not an ordinary person. No mortal can make up his own religion. Krishna says in Bhagavad-gita 15.15 "I am seated in everyone's heart, and from Me come remembrance, knowledge and forgetfulness. By all the Vedas, I am to be known. Indeed, I am the compiler of Vedānta, and I am the knower of the Vedas."
My guru gave us this test, which can be applied to anyone who claims to be a spiritualist: "Who is your God?" Also, "Show me your love of God." If you love someone, and you never talk to them, or about them to anyone else, you never bring them flowers, or even think about them that much, how much to you actually love them? If you love anyone or anything more than God -- if you love TV, or sports, or politics, or your democracy, or your ism, or sex, or your dog, or your wife, or your family, or your friends, or your nation, or your world, or any kind of personal sense gratification whatsoever, you really can't claim to be a spiritualist, can you? So, if you are an activist, and claim to be a spiritual person, don't tell me that your faith is "personal," or that I need to keep my faith to myself. You don't have any faith.
There is a story of a seven-year-old boy named Prahlāda who lived in India millions of years ago. He prayed, "My dear Lord, I see that there are many saintly persons indeed, but they are interested only in their own deliverance. Not caring for the big cities and towns, they go to the Himalayas or the forest to meditate with vows of silence [mauna-vrata]. They are not interested in delivering others. As for me, however, I do not wish to be liberated alone, leaving aside all these poor fools and rascals. I know that without God consciousness, without taking shelter of Your lotus feet, one cannot be happy. Therefore I wish to bring them back to shelter at Your lotus feet." - Srimad Bhagavatam Canto 7 Chapter 9 Text 44
That is real activism.
Murti of Prahlāda with his worshipful Lord Narasimhadeva (Half-Man/Half-Lion) in New Vrindaban, West Virginia