Episode Description

Quotes and discussions of various spiritual leaders concerning the recent presidential election and their recent thoughts, discourses and suggestions for spiritual practitioners. How should we Be, and how should we be practicing, in light of current events? Quotes and discussions from Gangaji, Krishna Das, Ram Das, Raghu Markus, Sharon Salzberg, Danny Goldberg, Pope Francis, Brother Phat Dung, Sister Peace, and Thich Nhat Hahn.

Suggested Reading for this Episode:

A lot to explore I know, but very worth your effort. Explore what these masters and teacher’s have to offer – you won’t regret it. These loving beings have been at the forefront of the awakening in America – enjoy their kind assistance and wisdom – I certainly have. Consider them, our pioneers. Go ahead – dive deeper!

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Welcome – You’re listening to the first Full Episode of Dharma Review. Let’s just be straight forward here. For those of us who consider ourselves Spiritually oriented individuals, many of us have felt that we have been thrust into some sort of alternative reality, some sort of parallel universe – one which we thought, the possibility of which – we had left in the past, especially in this 21st century age of rising awareness and wakefulness.

I want to start by pointing you to a recent episode of Gangaji Radio, Episode 49 – titled Blindsided: Spirituality and the Election of a President, which was aired on November 14th 2016. Gangaji was interviewed from Australia where she was holding an event at the time. Her comments may or may not surprise you.

Gangaji: “We are certainly poles apart in our opinions, but the unifying force is this mystery of Love. And I don’t want to even use that word, maybe Love, is too spiritual a whitewash – and I don’t want to do that at all. And I think sometimes people expect spiritual teachers to act as Hillary and Obama acted beautifully to calm the nation and prepare for the transfer of power. But that doesn’t mean you aren’t experiencing what you are experiencing and if that takes you to the street in protest or petitions in protest or to whatever future action may be, then I salute that. I am not speaking of ends I’m speaking of where it all begins and we can recognize that in everyone. …I mean I do respect the protesters that were on the street…I think we have to respect whatever our particular process is for finally coming to clarity, a clarity that is solid and can meet anything…”

Moderator: “You know this feels like a car accident, when you didn’t feel it, you didn’t see it coming and then you spend these days with moments going ‘actually this feels like it couldn’t have happened’…and then there’s the direct blow even to the body and when I emailed you and asked you how you felt about doing this special , I joked with you and said that someone had texted me and said they were relying on chocolate and Xanex. And I was like, well that’s not such a bad idea.”

“But it does, I mean, in all seriousness, it does feel like a huge assault to the psyche, to the heart, to the body and I’ve had people telling me that they had their grown children calling them in the middle of the night in tears sobbing.”

Gangaji: “Well its really beautiful too that people care so much, that it’s not just Oh, business as usual. That we were and are involved in our political process and I don’t separate that from our spiritual life – that’s just the way I ‘m made as a form. I’m always interested in the political outcome. So I really think it’s beautiful and painful – when the heart breaks its painful. But it can also break more open and include more and be more intelligent.”

Gangaji: “Because somehow, we should have had some clue this was going to happen…maybe we were complacent or even arrogant, and so in that sense we’ve been profoundly humbled by not knowing the country we live in…yeah it is like a car accident…it’s a shock.  But shocks are not necessarily bad – they can be bad, it can be a shock that is really leading to worse.”

Gangaji: “I don’t ever want to sugar coat this, because we do have history as the model for this and this is really not a good sign in terms of the toxin in the system. But also shocks can serve to alert the whole system to get healthier, to wake up. What will happen in this case? I don’t know – it’s too soon to know and it’s a serious case. So, you know the worst could happen – it could be a period of American Fascism I mean – It is a vote for that in many ways. And it could be a planetary disaster – it is a vote for that in many ways.”

Gangaji: “So, I want to encourage everyone to stay alert, to stay awake, and to be tender with yourself, and to also be in nature. And to also recognize you can receive love at this time. You can receive the peace that is inherent to your being without betraying your intelligence of fighting for the planet, of fighting for justice, of fighting for inclusion of all people of all kinds.  So, that’s our challenge – is what it feels to me, and also the challenge to recognize that many of our brothers and sisters don’t agree with us at all – are diametrically opposed to us. And that’s the reality. And where do we go from here? That’s the discovery.”

I would encourage you all to go and listen to that full Episode – it includes some powerful encouragement. Go hear it at the source in Gangaji’s own voice.  It’s worth the effort.

Why are we afraid to see life as it is?

As reported in the Catholic Herald, Pope Francis was answering questions from a group of combined Catholic and Lutheran youth from Germany – the Pope had this to say, “…the sickness or, you can say the sin, that Jesus condemns most is hypocrisy… which is precisely what is happening when someone claims to be a Christian but does not live according to the teaching of Christ.” Pope Francis went on to say that he does not like “…the contradiction of those who want to defend Christianity in the West, and, on the other hand, are against refugees and other religions.”  He then said, “You cannot be a Christian without living like a Christian. You cannot be a Christian without practicing the Beatitudes. You cannot be a Christian without doing what Jesus teaches us in Matthew 25.” – This is a reference to Christ’s injunction to help the needy by such works of mercy as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked and welcoming the stranger.

“It’s hypocrisy to call yourself a Christian and chase away a refugee or someone seeking help, someone who is hungry or thirsty, toss out someone who is in need of my help,” he said. “If I say I am Christian, but do these things, I’m a hypocrite.”

OK, so what other Spiritual leaders have we heard from on the subject? Are our Teachers speaking about it at all? If your Teacher has commented – won’t you please contact us and tell us what has been said?

In a recent Satsang Krishna Das gave via Skype to devotees at the Hanuman Temple in New Mexico he had this to say: “The Deal is you work with what you got, as you perceive it – you don’t wait for somebody to push a button and turn the lights on because that ain’t gonna happen. The lights are on – we’re just wearing sunglasses, so don’t wait for something to happen from the outside world. Everything we need to work with is right within us right now, it’s with us right now, its in our lives right now – there’s no reason to wait for anything.”

Krishna Das: “Guru, God, and Self are not different, really that’s the bottom line. The fact that we think they are different shows what we don’t know.  When you look at Hanumanji – what he really is –  is a mirror – you’re not looking at something outside of yourself – You’re looking at a mirror of your higher nature. When we worship the murti of Hanumanji in a temple what we’re really worshiping – is the form inside of us.”

Krishna Das: “We’re actually looking at a mirror of our true nature – and we happen to be monkeys…There’s no guarantees – whatever karma’s you’re going to have to run through you’re going to have to run through.  The deal is that the Love that’s within us that’s who we really are, that’s who the Guru really is. Don’t wait for the scene to change outside of us. Do what has to be done – Do your practices  – that will calm us down and help us overcome our knee jerk reactions to negative stuff and our clinging to positive stuff.  And look deeper and find a deeper place within us.”

In reference to the power of peaceful protest – Brother Phap Dung at Zen Master Thich Nhat Hahn’s Monetary say’s,“We need to learn that, even in our own personal life we act out of this place of anger and we see that it doesn’t help and this expands to groups – to nations.”

Thich Nhat Hahn in his new book At Home in the World writes:: “Mindfulness must be engaged…“Once we see that something needs to be done, we must take action. Seeing and action go together. Otherwise, what is the point in seeing?”

“Nonviolence is not a set of techniques that you can learn with your intellect,” he goes on to say. “Nonviolent action arises from the compassion, lucidity and understanding you have within.”

Sister Peace, also from Zen Master Hahn’s monastery says, “There’s still a lot of things within ourselves that we need to look at, that we need to erase and heal, so that when we hear this rhetoric coming from outside we can know that it’s not true and we can hold onto a sense of balance and Peace. In some groups, there’s a level of angst and anticipation and anger and passion to want to move towards and to do something.…Those civil rights advocates they trained for that – they were taught how to be quiet how to be still and how not to resist and no fighting back no matter what happens.”

Sister Peace: “If we can be strong in ourselves then we could offer a resistance that is non-violent, but that means that we ourselves are at a place where we can have that recognition and we can offer that to another. And that is a great, great source of Love and having the other feel that they are being recognized, listened to, and embraced. To Be Fearless actually means – to be Peaceful.”

Sister Peace: “We have to come out and we have to show what we think in a non-violent way, then other’s will be ready to move. And we can begin to march toward that progress if we do it collectively and I think everyone in America does want to do that.”

Ram Das – back in 1995 – spoke of collective denial when he said, “If you think of the German collective consciousness that dealt with – through much denial –  what was being done to the Jews and others,  is that different from our collective denial that allowed us to idealize and place on our altars people like Donald Trump, when we knew that the permanent underclass was being created cause we could see it around us, but we were being denying what we were seeing. We had Dynasty and we had Dallas and then we had an increasing number of people who are the ocean that spreads out into the world over that Mexican border and elsewhere of those who haven’t”.

Ram Das: “And How much denial, how much closing of your compassionate heart must it take to continue to play the game of King of the Mountain – what’s in it for me? And each of us gets the most we can for our self –  trickling down of course is the assumption that once we have enough for ourselves we will then create ways to share it with everybody. Out of our beneficence or out of our obligation perhaps – that’s another level of consciousness.” Wow he said those things back in 1995. Now let’s look at what he recently said:

Ram Das – Here and Now Podcast – Episode 105Keeping Our Quietness and Love in 2017

Ram Das: “…Well, there’s two things – there’s being and there’s doing. The doing is social action and – we all have to keep our Being. We’ve gotta keep our quietness inside, we’ve gotta keep our Love, we’ve gotta keep our Compassion, we’ve gotta keep our Wisdom during this time. And on the action side, we all know what we can do to alleviate the affect from Donald.  And I think that I’ve learned that social action and Spiritual Quietness, and Listening, and the Witness – the Whole thing – this is the Thing we can do.  These two things coming in.  I’m not telling everybody to not follow their social actions – But, I want everybody to go into that social action with this Quietness and Love and Wisdom.”

Now, I want to quote from Mindrolling – Episode – 176, entitled Love is Beyond Time, from Raghu’s Podcast, which can be found on the Be Here Now Network – This is from an episode with Sharon Salzberg and Danny Goldberg as they revisited a retreat which they all had participated in with Ram Das and Jack Cornfield whose main topic was Finding the Beloved – Touching the Compassionate Heart.  This was some time just after the election. Raghu says, “Of course there was a lot on people’s minds.” Then he asked his guests where they were and what they were doing that night.

Sharon who lives and teaches at the Insight Meditation Society was involved in facilitating the end of one of the 6 week intensive retreats the night of the election. She commented that in this case –  just posting the results on a flip up sheet (for those who just had to know) on the bulletin board as they normally did –   just wasn’t enough.

Sharon: “It took a lot of processing it wasn’t enough just to announce it” and then she went on to say that at their sister retreat, Spirit Rock, she heard that people fainted, and others people started sobbing.

Raghu: “One of the core things that we have to really help each other with is how do we handle our reactions, our anger, our fear on one hand and try and straighten out that inner part of ourselves which is so polarized in this situation, and at the same time, not just sit on our hands?”

Danny – who has been an activist for a long time, offered up that he thinks …”it’s very important to reach out to the groups of people being singled out right now and members in particular, so that they do not feel too isolated and alone.”  And then he went on to say that it would be helpful to really look at the history of this country and he emphasized being really realistic about what this country is.”

Danny:  “It’s had many, many periods of darkness. It was created with great darkness with the genocide of Native Americans, and almost a century of Slavery, and then another century of so called Reconstruction with Jim Crow and just terrible racism.”

Danny: “When we grew up in the 60’s we had a military draft, we had a war where more than 50,000 Americans were killed, we had J Edgar Hoover as head of the FBI. …Really, the birth of 2nd Stage Feminism and the Gay Rights movement only came late in the 60’s early 70’s. My parents talked a lot about the Black Listing period after WWII. You know I’m reading a book now about Lincoln, and in the 1830’s people were jailed for writing articles opposed to slavery because it was interfering with commerce. So –  these dark forces, that are scary, have been with us for a long time. And there are many examples of people who shone their light in those periods and I think that it’s worth seeing it in that perspective.”

He went on to say that, “We must remember who we really are and that we can be of most help if we can stay centered and connected to the light within us. We have to figure out a way to talk to people we don’t normally talk to and who don’t read any of the things we read and not freak out every time there’s new appointment to this administration that seem to violate the moral and ethical and rational opinions that we have. It’s obviously a divided country. “

Raghu then piped in: “This polarization is the biggest toughie…To see them as a real person, as His Holiness the Dalai Lama says, everyone wants happiness… It’s easy to say we need to see the light, but talk about how we really get at the core of this knee jerk reactivity to what I feel is …just so much ignorance and I just can’t seem to cut through, in my own self the spaciousness to have a conversation.”

So here was Sharon’s answer – and I want you to listen to this very, very carefully. Because the whole purpose of my podcast is to help us all find these kinds of helpful conversations and find the resources that we need to survive these times intact and still grow in the process. There is so much information and disinformation available now in this information age and many of us are so busy just trying to keep a roof over our heads, our families together, food on the table, gas in the tank, and in all of that – stay somewhat healthy – it helps, it really does –  when we can find real answers not just canned responses or quoted scriptures or over simplified “just Love” commands. Real teachers, real gurus, real dispellers of darkness, real yogis, speak truth -even when it’s difficult and unpopular to do so, and mostly they don’t tickle our ears with what we want to hear, they tell us what we need to hear, and it’s our souls that respond – not our egos, they don’t scapegoat, rather they show us by their example, just what an enlightened being looks like, and their actions bear witness – I have plenty of examples to share with you through the ages to illustrate this. And yes, there are masters here with us even today – some may be closer than you think and many even speak English as their native tongue (as I think you’ll find out if you stay with me on this unfolding journey OK – Let’s get back to what Sharon said here. I’ll quote it carefully.

Sharon: “Well I think there are many, many levels to that, I had a whole discussion with somebody the other day somewhere because I think ignorance is a thing. Sometimes people are taking this to the degree of saying like ‘All views are equal and we have to be able to accommodate all views, and this is my view and this is their view,’ and I said I don’t think that’s true. Some views are really biased and they’re ignorant and they are hurtful. And some actions are really wrong.”

Sharon: “There is no way I’m ever going to say killing girl babies is correct because it’s a custom or it’s the way some people see things. Or racial bias is correct – it’s wrong. But, confronting someone as a bad person or an evil person, or to quote your Guru, Neem Karoli Baba, throwing them out of your heart. Is a very different thing…One of the difficulties I find in myself and certainly in talking to people is that the idea of cultivating Compassion for someone does not mean you give up the fight.”

Sharon: “And we think it’s one or the other. That either I’m gonna have all this hostility and outrage and probably die young. .and fight and fight or I’m gonna be sorta peaceful and mellow and let things be and have love for everyone in my heart. And It’s not like that. …I come back to the original teaching of the Buddha they say – about Loving Kindness –  which was the anecdote to Fear. Nobody thinks fear is a skillful thing – that its gonna help us see options, its gonna help us carry out action, or reach out to people that it’s uncomfortable to be with. Or remember those that could easily be forgotten. So, fear doesn’t help any of that process. Why not take a chance on Lovingkindness and Compassion and see what the cultivation does?”

So where does this leave us? Since Sharon brought up the original teaching of the Buddha let me share some of what motivated me so strongly to start this Podcast journey now. I have wrestled with myself the last 9 years with the concept of withdrawal and seclusion vs action in the world. Of particular note to me was an experience I had when I spent 6 months in Tucson Arizona where I met some very serious young anarchists and street kids.

I needed some help as I was short on funds and trying to keep a dream alive of building a musical, artistic, and spiritual ashram in the city – it was an experiment of sorts – a beautiful one and a very special time of deep mediation, spontaneous music making, and intuitive effort of living in the Present moment while attempting community building.

It didn’t take root, but one very important thing that has haunted me was a discussion I had with a couple of street kids whom I gave some work and shelter to during the build- out of the space. They were a couple –  one of whom was convinced that anarchy was the only way to bring change – he talked about refusing to participate in the system in any way – that included going to college or holding any kind of steady job or any permanent home. During the winter he roamed with a group of fellow anarchists -crashing in one abandoned warehouse after another, living communally as squatters, until they would be found out and forced to leave, but he had a propensity to do as much vandalism as possible along the way. He seemed to relish smashing things up.

When this couple found out my age, and they figured that I was around during the Viet Nam era and after surmising that I was a conscientious objector and had been against the war they whole heartedly said – “then why aren’t you leading us – why aren’t you guys telling us how to do it – how to change things? You should be teaching us how it’s done – Your generation stopped the War in Viet Nam where are you now?”

I tried convincing them that just destroying everything was not a solution. That violence only begets more violence. I tried just accepting them for where they were coming from at this time. They had every right to be disillusioned and even angry and I just tried to Be an example.

But that young man’s words stuck with me and became a part of my daily prayers and meditations.    I prayed that somehow, he and I both would find an answer to his heartfelt plea for guidance.

His companion seemed less married to the violent path which he had chosen and so my focus was to encourage her not to waste too many years on something that would only end poorly – I shared some of my personal story with her and when I found out she loved to read – I encouraged her to invest in herself and think about taking advantage of returning to college – find something You love to do I told her – that’s a big part of the key – when you are doing that amazing things happen, told her.

I do not know what became of the young man – but I learned years later, after stumbling across the young woman on the internet, that she had returned home and had gone back to school. Unconditional Love and encouragement have effects we don’t immediately see and may not even know about.  That – and sincere advice – that speaks from experience. Real world experience.

Something that also became clear over the next several years is that one thing American’s had forgotten about was Eldering. Many cultures had respect for their elders – many indigenous cultures still do. Wisdom is generally learned through regular spiritual practice and just living. But – Wisdom can also be passed down, and in many cultures it still is. But when you force retirement and relinquish your elders to living alone in old folks homes – you denude the natural order of eldering, mentoring, and the passing of wisdom from one generation to the next,

This Millennial generation tends to get this. If they hear elders speaking Truth to Power – they are inclined to get beyond their mistrust of the “older generation” that seems to always be a big part of the problem. How else do you explain the trust the 20 somethings placed in Bernie Sanders-  and on the opposite spectrum – Donald Trump and Steve Bannon? This may also explain the proclivity of the move towards an eastern philosophy that still believes in Elders and Apprentices. Hence the Guru – Disciple relationship in Buddhism, Shamanism, and the Yogic Traditions.

Now let me address a piece of what Sharon was referring to – The original teachings and examples of the Buddha. Many have the idea that Buddha just sat around teaching Loving- kindness and meditating. This couldn’t be further from the Truth.

He was actively involved with the rulers and leaders of his culture as well as involved in resolving conflict even in his own ranks – in the enclave of disciples, monks, and nuns he set in motion – things did not always bode well.

This may help illuminate how enlightened Beings act in the World and how we ourselves should Be the change. So now, let me read from Old Path White Clouds, which presents the Gautama Buddha’s life drawn directly from 24 Pali, Sanskrit, and Chinese sources, but retold to us by Thich Nhat Hahn. This traces the Buddha’s life over the course of 80 years.

Let’s try and be receptive now – take a moment to relax – breathe deeply and slowly in and out for two full cycles in and out. Let everything just go and let this sacred text speak to you. It is said that the Torah, the five books of Moses is written in both white fire and black fire – which is a way of saying you must read between the lines as well as what is written. You read what is in black ink, but also read with the spirit it was written.

I have found that all truly sacred texts provide us with the ability to feel as if we are there in the moment observing the story in real time, in the Now – with the spirit of the original story teller– and also that the text itself is Alive – and pregnant with messages and meaning for us in our present moment.

Here goes.  This is Chapter 72 from Old Path White Clouds called: Quiet Resistance, Enjoy.

(I Read the entire chapter 72) Here is a summary:  One of the Buddha’s main disciples Devadata proposes 5 new rules much stricter than Gautama Buddha had previously laid out. The Buddha responded that it was fine for the monks to follow those stricter guidelines if they want to, but that it was fine for others to do just the opposite.

Devadata wanted it known that the Buddha rejected his suggestions and then full of himself led a large group of monks to go off with him and formed a separate sangha thus following Devadata – this grew to 500 followers. Devadata was their leader.

Devadata got involved in politics and began advising the King’s son to overthrow him by lending his blessings and his followers support.

The king abdicated the throne to his son. His family was held under house arrest. The son confessed to his father that he wanted to kill him. After persistent questioning, his son admitted that Devadata was encouraging him to this action.

The king was a student of the Buddha and so, insisted on showing mercy forgiving both his son and Devadata. The Buddha and his Bhikkhus were invited to the coronation of the new king. The Buddha and all the Bhikkhus refused to attend – this was the beginning of the people’s resistance to the new king and Devadata.

Note: this was offered as proof text that the Buddha did much more than just sit and meditate all the time – he was actually – involved and engaged in the world.

Additional note: I went on to suggest re-listening to some of this podcast or just meditate on it, Until next time Namaste.