Occupy the Heart!
Shunyamurti | Satyoga Institute |November 8, 2011
No doubt it is news to no one that planet Earth is in a period of escalating interlocking crises. We need a response that addresses all the hidden as well as the obvious dimensions of these crises—before they spin out of control into irretrievable chaos. (For the moment, let us leave aside the geophysical crises, including climate change, increasing seismic activity, and the ozone holes, as well as pollution, radiation poisoning, mass extinctions of species, increasing solar flare activity, and the like. They cannot be dealt with effectively so long as the current political system endures.)
The system is in process of collapsing of its own weight, its own internal contradictions. At the same time, spontaneous social movements are arising on a global scale that are confronting the system and increasing the level of stress to the breaking point. Our concern is to assure the optimal outcome of this titanic face-off.
The crisis we face at the sociopolitical level is one of legitimacy of authority. The OWS movement (Occupy Wall Street) and the Indignado movement in Spain and other anti-austerity movements all over Europe, following on the so-called Arab Spring, not to mention student movements and general protest movements in many parts of Africa, Asia, and Latin America, are simultaneously rising to a crescendo.
Given the logic of the collective ego in its current form of postmodern fragmentation, and the exhaustion of the value system of the dying civilization in which this is all taking place, there is a high probability of these movements degenerating into violence at a level of intensity that could tear apart the social fabric irreparably. It is possible to avoid the worst-case scenarios of intensifying cycles of uncontainable street protests, police over-reactions, counter-reactions of mob destructiveness, eventual martial law, disappearances of activists, concentration camps, uncontrollable private acts of vengeance, looting, and complete social breakdown. But to avoid such a fate, which for governments is the automatic reflex, will require on the part of civic leaders a very refined level of mass diplomacy.
We must all be prepared for what is to come. To contribute to the possibility of healing the widening rifts in our societies, it is important for a critical mass of individuals to occupy not the government and financial centers, but to occupy the Heart. If enough of us will hold the center of love, the inner center of true compassionate consciousness of our unity as manifestations of the One Source, we can pass through these times of tribulation with sacred integrity and offer a healing balm rather than merely watching (or participating in) the explosion of other sorts of bombs.
We must take seriously the need to train diligently to succeed in our occupation of the Heart. If we intend to take part in civil disobedience and remain non-violent—in fact, if we wish to remain non-violent even in a cloistered convent, we must practice being mindful and empathic in all circumstances that arise. We must stabilize our attention in one-pointed sacred silence and stillness. Non-violence requires the sacrifice of the ego. Because the ego is a machine to sacrifice others, to scapegoat others who are rivals for power, and to dominate or die. The ego is the real enemy, not the other, not even the ego of the other. Victory over the ego can only be achieved through the realization that the ego is an illusion, a satanic force that brings about only misery. Even the dominant ego is miserable behind its façade of prestige.
It would be useful for activists to take vows, as do those committed to any of the traditional spiritual paths, such as Buddhist, Yogic, or Christian monastic orders. Those vows invariably include a vow of non-violence. If the members of the occupation movements were to publicly take solemn vows of non-violence, as well as vows of non-stealing and truthfulness, that act would give them the moral high ground and remove any excuse for violence on the part of the police. Linking the social movements to all spiritual traditions that support love among neighbors will increase the backing of those who do not take part in the civic actions.
These movements would have been blessed, if not led, by many of the great saints and founders of past religious movements. Other spiritually evolved beings would have avoided enmeshment in politics, but would have offered prayers for peace and guidance to eschew scapegoating and divisiveness. There are many spiritual beings today who will not take part in social upheavals, but will be great catalysts of healing afterward. Regardless of the role we feel called to play in these tumultuous times, the feeling of love and compassion, rather than anger, should motivate us all.
The ego is adept at seducing us into a state of self-righteousness. It is this that enables us to justify our turn to violence. In the current situation, both sides—the establishment via the mass media and the street protestors—maintain that they represent the 99%. Neither side is right. Although the ruling elite is no doubt even smaller than even 1%, they still command the loyalty of armies and police forces, media and other massive structural apparatuses, including the multinational corporations. If we fall into an urban guerilla war scenario, the proverbial gates of Hell will open. Perhaps it is our karma for this to happen, but it is not too late to repent and take a higher road.
It is therefore important that we hold a vision of a world that is free of conflict, free of ego, and free of structural oppression. The monastic communities of both the present and past, including Buddhist lamaseries, shamanic enclaves among many indigenous tribes, Eastern Orthodox and Camaldolese monasteries, kibbutzim, and Yogic ashrams, may provide different yet compatible models of divine communalism that can help us restructure our utopian designs for a harmonious future. Out of the death of the current mode of life a new and more evolved form of life will be born. We can ensure that it will be a life of higher consciousness, of loving inclusiveness, of universal peace.
We may want to visit spiritual communities that are currently flourishing and learn from their experience. Living in such communities of love and egoless mutual surrender to the Supreme Self, and to the Law of Goodness, is possibly the best preparation for restoring our world as a whole. It is essential to overcome cynicism and despair, to recognize that other ways of governing ourselves are possible, and that life need not be based on money and mimetic desire and all that brings with it—competition, rivalry, aggressivity, covetousness, domination, greed, sexual obsession, anxiety, depression, and the consequent abuse of alcohol and drugs.
The only escape from the inevitability of mutual destruction by social forces determined by collective and individual narcissism is that mimetic desire, with its inherent tendency to covetousness and violence, be replaced by advaitic desire, which is better termed non-dual Self-recognition; otherwise known as divine love. But this requires the sacrifice of ego, a sacrifice that, once achieved among a critical mass, can become mimetically-advaitically reduplicated throughout the society. In other words, one learns through emulating a teacher who has transcended mimesis to recognize the One Self in all beings, and thus to be able to love without needing to appropriate the other’s image. But to do this authentically, one must first encounter a being who is one with Being, who recognizes the Self in you, as I-I, in the present, to melt away the defenses of the ego.
To escape from the downward spiral of egocentricity, then, we need to find and surrender to a higher principle of organization, embodied in a real human presence. It is not enough to understand this principle intellectually, in the abstract, but to come face to face with the abyss of emptiness and nonduality as living Presence.
The abstract principle has most often been referred to as God. But because the concept of God has taken on too much imaginary conceptual baggage for the modern scientific intellect to accept, it is useful to deconstruct that concept, and to recognize that other cultures have found many other terms, free of the personalistic and objectivizing terminology of the theistic traditions. The Buddhists, for example, use the term emptiness to refer to this ultimate principle. The word nirvana is also used, meaning silence. Others use the word tao, meaning the way. The advaita dharma refers to this ultimate principle as atman, which could be translated as Self that is free of selfhood.
What is necessary to realize is that the principle in question refers to the core of our consciousness, not to some fantasmatic top gun alpha male Other. It refers to a deep level of awareness that is fully present, diamond-like in clarity and strength, but free of fixations, objectifications, and identifications; prior to language and yet with a level of intelligence higher and more integral than our linguistic level of symbolic consciousness. But can we recognize that deep level of awareness in ourselves until it is seen by an uncanny non-egocentric Other?
Being seen as a non-object, seen as the seer, united with the other as mutual in-seeing, the I-I, is the function of a guru or spiritual guide. It is the meaning of the trinity, of god becoming man so that man may become god.
The supramental level of our Being is present now and always, but inaccessible to the grasp of ego-consciousness. It is not the Freudian unconscious, which is filled with repressed egoic desires and phantasies. Neither is it the Jungian archetypal unconscious, which is still within the merely symbolic dimension of reality. It is, rather, the ineffable Beyond within, the ultimate mystery behind the I. The purification of the lower egoic unconscious and the digestion and integration of the archetypal unconscious are useful steps toward attaining the ultimate home of absolute consciousness. But none of that can happen without recognition by the Other of the Self within, so that mimetic perception can be converted into advaitic apperception.
When we realize the Supreme Self, there will be no question or doubt about it. The majestic feelings of transpersonal love, the subtle yet shining presence of supernal light, the flowing currents of immense and overwhelming healing energy, and the silent power of sublime presence, will fill the awareness with awe and joy. This is the significance of the guru’s gift of shaktipat. It enables one to occupy the Heart.
By occupying the Heart, we transmit to the whole universe the energies of peace and boundless love. Because we are all interconnected, when one being attains the supreme beatitude, the flow of grace is disseminated to all other beings. So the greatest act of kindness and encouragement that could be offered to others is the act of abiding in the sweet silence of the Self, dissolving the ego and becoming terminally (and interminably) inebriated with the divine nectar of blissful consciousness.
So let us all march together, at least metaphorically, which means to merge together in unity, not as the 99%, but as the full 100%, as the inherently united (beyond the veil of illusory mimetic multiplicity and conflict) divine super-organismic manifestation of the One, Most High, Absolute Self. By recognizing our oneness, we can transform society from a battlefield into a Garden of Eden. So let us occupy Nirvana! Occupy the Kingdom of Heaven! Occupy the throne of Allah! Occupy the Pure Land! Occupy Sach Khand! Occupy Shambhala!
For God’s sake, let us occupy the Heart!