Work and Service

Before enlightment: chop wood, carry water

After enlightment: chop wood, carry water

                                ~Zen Proverb

bee2 A common misconception is that an enlightened person simply drops out of everyday life and has no more need to engage in daily life activities, such as eating, maintaining household chores, or working.  It seems that there is an inherent conflict between spiritual life and worldly existence, but this may not be the case.   In Be As You Are: the Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, a seeker inquires about engagement in worldly life where they inquire, “Is it possible to enjoy Samadhi while busy in worldly work?”  Maharshi replies:

The feeling ‘I work’ is a hindrance.  Ask yourself ‘Who works?’  Remember who you are.  Then the work will not bind you, it will go on automatically.  Make no effort either to work or to renounce; it is your effort which is the bondage.  What is destined to happen will happen.  If you are destined not to work, work cannot be had even if you hunt for it.  If you are destined to work, you will not be able to avoid it and you will be forced to engage yourself in it.  So, leave it to the higher power; you cannot renounce or retain as you choose.

So what is work and service then?  As Maharshi reminds us, all is the Self, therefore, all is a modification of God, and the perceived separation from worldly life and a spiritual one is imaginary.  If engaged in worldly life tasks, such as a part-time job, service to the Self may still be engaged here though it may not be apparent to the untrained seeker.  The duty to work and make a living to sustain the body-mind may be there simply as a lesson of discipline for the ego, thus acting as a necessary tool for learning in order to eventually become free from this condition.  However, I am not stating that all activity is God-like, because anything that is done for purely selfish (egoic) motivations isn’t God.   The ego, paradoxically, is God and at the same time it isn’t; as it is there to teach us exactly what isn’t God through pain and suffering so that one can eventually become free from it.spider web 3 crop

So, going back to our proverbial enlightened person who continues chopping wood and carrying water: what is the deeper meaning here?  Why would one carry on in engaging in menial life activities after understanding something as profound as God?  What would be the point after the fear of death is gone in continuing to engage in activities that serve to maintain the body-mind?  Actually dis-engaging from these worldly activities would again be falsely perceiving one as a separate self, because as Maharshi puts it, not attending to work still means identifying with ego.  He explains that, “Attending to the Self means attending to work.  Because you identify with the body you think that the work is done by you.  But the body and its activities, including that work, are not apart from the Self.”  So neglecting work would be neglecting a part of oneself through the action of falsely identifying work as separate from the higher Self.  The key is to engage in work without preferences and without selfish motivations, not to avoid such activities an individual may dislike altogether, for our higher Self has no likes or dislikes.

So the difference now with our proverbial enlightened person is that while they may still engage in life activities, they are now happy doing this work, accepting it as God’s will and therefore work as well.  Without personal motivations and desires, work becomes duty and service to the Self.

Article By:

~Devyn Lewis~

Photograph “Worker Bee” By:

~Devyn Lewis~

Source:

Maharshi, Sri Ramana.  Be As You Are: The Teachings of Sri Ramana Maharshi, edited by D. Godman.  London, England: Penguin Arkana, 1985.

Guru Purnima

buddha nature cropTo all of those who have a true Guru in their lives, Guru Purnima is a holiday traditionally celebrated in the East by both Hindus and Buddhists to show appreciation to one’s spiritual teacher.  A Guru is revered as one’s path to God through their role as a spiritual guide and counsellor, a devotee’s best friend, and a father and mother figure.  Purnima, which means ‘full moon’ in Sanskrit, is celebrated on the first full moon in the Hindu month of Ashaad (June-July) which marks the beginning of India’s four month monsoon season.  On this day, in accordance with Vedic scripture, seekers make a pilgrimage out to the Guru’s Ashram to honour him/her on this day.

For those in the West, this tradition is foreign to us, and paying respect to our spiritual teachers is almost non-existent.  We always want something tangible in return, or a quick fix to our dilemma or suffering, and true spiritual teachers are unappreciated in our society.  We prefer to worship false prophets; ones that don’t shake  up our egos too much, and let us go on with petty indulgences in our daily lives.  Spirituality is maybe something we do on the weekend, and for the rest of the week we continue to be self-indulgent and egoic.  Popular spiritual teachers today in both the East and the West, have become modern New Age celebrities, offering us petty condolences in the form of 7-step programs towards one’s enlightment, or books with feel-good phrases to coo our fears.

However, a true Guru isn’t there to comfort you; in fact, they are there to shake you up and dissolve those daily illusions we so vehemently hold on to. These spiritual teachers aren’t popular, in fact they are often demonized as an excuse to prevent having to deal with one’s own darkness: the ego.  Guru, which translates loosely as ‘dark-light’, or the remover of darkness and ignorance, is there to help dissolve mind and ego which keeps us in ignorance.  Dissolving the ego is no easy task as people want to hold on to their illusions; illusions that serve to keep the fear in check, and one’s personal desires.  False teachers won’t  dissolve these illusions, instead they will only provide new ‘positive’ ideas to mask the old ones.  This New Age Positivism only serves as a temporary fix to our overall dilemma.

However, I am guilty, I must confess, as I am not making a pilgrimage on this day to see my Guru.  So, instead I write this post to say ‘Thank You’ for everything that you have done for me, as you are my best friend, and a brother to me, and I am damn lucky to have strangely met you on that strange and fateful day; (there are higher forces at work here, I am sure).

Happy Guru Purnima, western style,

Namaste

Article By:

~Devyn Lewis~

For further information on Guru Purnima:

http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2012-07-03/nagpur/32522716_1_guru-purnima-vedas-great-sage

http://www.hinduismtoday.com/modules/smartsection/item.php?itemid=5076

For further information on the Teaching:

www.siddhawarrior.com

Neurosis

When the revolution happens, we’ll all be on our cell phones.

distractions

Media monopoly, free-trade frenzy, corporate oligarchy, totalitarian,

mind control;

Where’s my freedom?

I’m waiting;

dial tone-

there’s no one here to take this call

-Too much-  thinking

I need a distraction;

a vaccination from the fear

a vacation from myself

…even if it’s just for a little while.

phone rings-

Excuse me, this could be the important call; you know, the one that I’ve been waiting for?

fire. no exit.

– Sit back, relax; enjoy the show!

tune in, tune out; no time for thinking-

patterns, illusions,

dancing on the tele-screen

just watching the world burn down-

don’t worry,

it’s not real,

it’s just the program

-ing

they tell me

everything will be

just fine

~~~

Poem by:

~Devyn Lewis~

Film Review: Kumare

guru kamareIf one can get past the ethics of fooling people into believing that New Jersey filmmaker Vikram Gandhi is ‘Guru Kumare’ from India, then Kumare is well worth watching.  This original, witty, and gutsy 2011 documentary reveals how easy it is to convince people that they are getting real spirituality, when in fact they are not.

Gandhi set out to test his hypothesis with what he calls ‘The Spiritual Placebo Effect’, in a social experiment to see whether a fake religion can have the same effect as a real religion.  After interviewing and documenting numerous so-called spiritual teachers in both the West and the East within the modern day New Age Movement, he found a blatant connection between them all in that they were false prophets.  In his journey visiting the East he narrates that he, “felt that the gurus were all trying to out-guru each other,” but who all had a following of believers legitimizing the spiritual teacher’s apparent authoritative position.  In the Western world, Gandhi criticizes how yoga has been imported from the East and has, “become the answer to Western problems,” in the form of a five billion dollar a year industry.

In order to prove his point about the illusions of these New Age ‘prophets,’ Gandhi decides to experiment with some fakery of his own and creates his alter ego, Guru Kumare.  Gandhi also creates a fake philosophy derived from both his advertising and religious upbringing and education, of which he calls ‘Mirror Yoga.’  To accompany this ‘teaching’  to legitimize his deceit, he also creates a series of nonsense rituals, yoga moves, and mantras for students to follow.  Derived from more specifically from his advertising background, Gandhi was able to create easily consumable symbols and slogans, (or ‘mantras’) that flowed along nicely with the his Eastern garb, long hair, beard, and fake Indian accent.  In addition, as if to point the finger at our collective consumer appetite itself, these ‘mantras’ that ‘Kumare’ used are simply familiar recycled American slogans translated into Sanskrit in order to give them an air of mysticism and spiritual authenticity.  The US Army slogan of “Be all you can be,” was translated into Sarvau Bhaav, and the Nike advertising slogan of “Just do it,” translates into Karam Yaivah Dikaarastha. This re-branding of popular sayings seemed to work well, as no one during the experiment even bothered to look up what these terms meant in English, which would have been a simple way to expose Kumare’s facade.  What Gandhi had re-created, like other fake prophets of our time, is the particular brand of spirituality that consumers want and are willing to pay for; a marketable product that other false guru’s have been capitalizing on for years.What Gandhi as Kumare set out to prove with his film is that anything can be made into a religion when the power of belief is behind it.  What he also discovered through his experiement is that the potential for personal growth resides within oneself and not these phony New Age spiritual leaders.

Ironically, while the viewer is still struggling with the ethics of people being deceived and confiding their personal problems to someone who is only acting as a guru, ‘Kumare’, through his ‘teachings’, is actually telling them that he is a fake.  He is telling his followers that he is an illusion, that what they see is not his true self, (of which is a part of his Mirror Yoga).  Still, people only see what they want to see: a mystical guru with a mysterious background who they believe can relieve them from their pain and suffering.

What Gandhi through his social experiment concludes is that, “spiritual teachers are illusions, and we are the ones who decide who and what is real.”  He even starts to believe some of his made-up Mirror Yoga himself stating that it wasn’t ‘Kumare’ who helped these people, but the individual of whom was reflected off him.  Unfortunately for Gandhi, his conclusions fall short in this regard as it serves to perpetuate the self-help movement, something which epitomizes the rugged individualism of modern Western society.  The message of this film, and of the self-help movement, is that you don’t need any sort of spiritual authority because we already have all the answers within ourselves; all we need to do is unveil it.  Therefore, the truth already lies within all of us, so it is up to us to find our true selves, not have someone else tell us what that truth is. This message may sound nice and self-empowering, but it is limiting because everyone does actually need a Guru; the problem is, how to find a real one who won’t exploit you.

Humans as subjective beings, are easily led and duped by impermanent thoughts that can be perceived to be real.  Thoughts, which can be transformed into powerful, illusionary, beliefs are not a suitable tool in order to interpret the enigma of Life’s lessons on its own.  The role of the a true Guru is to be a channel for Divine through the radical intuition of the Heart.  This Teaching is beyond the limitations of the ego-mind and this Divine function is to interpret for the student of spirituality what Life (God) is trying to teach us.  A real Guru can look just like anyone else, does not need to come from a far away land in the East, nor teach nonsense rituals or mantras.  A real Guru is someone who is a spiritual friend, guide, and Father* figure, who is there to help dissolve ego and ultimately free one from suffering.

For Gandhi, it is apparent that he has never met a real Guru, but he definitely is able to recognize those who are fake, which is why this documentary provides an important function in revealing the falsities of the New Age Movement.  However, as for the self-help movement, the film still seems to uphold limitations of rugged individualism where the documentary supports people to ‘do it on their own,’ and consequently, without the help of a real spiritual guide.  Despite this however, Kumare is a film worth watching, as it rightly reveals the power of the mind in creating everyday illusions and can help one to recognize if they themselves are being duped by any false prophets in their own lives.

*The guru is not limited to a male body, and the Father figure is purely a symbolic representation of the energy modality and function that he/she serves.

Article By:

~Devyn Lewis~

You can watch the Kumare trailer here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OXUzG6YKuvo

For more information on true spirituality (the kind that won’t exploit you), visit Siddha Warrior:

http://www.siddhawarrior.com/

Why Your Yoga Teacher Isn’t Your Spiritual Teacher

chakra bodyPART 1: Yoga of the West

Dutifully chanting an ‘OHM’ with the rest of the class, I prepare, like them, for my yoga practice.  After the collective hum ceases to reverberate through the room, the yoga teacher then proceeds to sermon the class about their version of God as if from acquiring a yoga teacher certification from a six month course has somehow brought forth their enlightment.

An hour of stretches and poses later, with maybe a few breathing exercises intermingled here and there, I lay down for Svasthana, the  final resting pose, falling into a semi-meditative state for about 5 minutes.   For the total of the 75 minute class, this scenario represents the average yoga class in the West, the majority of which constitutes of physical exercise;  and as we all bow our ‘Namastes’ at the end, there is a good portion of those attending who now think they are yogis.

Saying ones ‘Namastes’ regularly, doing yogic poses, or collectively humming an ‘OHM,’ does not make one a yogi.  Some of you may understand this already knowing that attending these Western style yoga classes are nothing more than for relaxing the body and getting good exercise.  However, as for being ‘spiritual’, these classes are far from it.  handle the light

The physical component of yoga, mixed with the breathing exercise that must accompany it, only consist of a fraction of true yogic practice, as many of the other components are unknown to us in the West, or simply ignored.  ‘Yoga’, which translates as, ‘to yoke’, (as in to yoke one’s spirit to God), is the spiritual goal of ascension towards God, and therefore enlightment.  Such a profound practice  cannot be reduced to a 75min exercise and/or breathing/meditation class once, (or more) times a week.  Such a practice is a life commitment that interlaces all aspects of one’s being through a devout journey of contemplating the Self.

What it means to be ‘spiritual’ has vastly become diluted in this age of mass materialism, as the struggle between ego and spirit have vastly become apparent.  In this sense, many of the teachings that came from the East have become distorted or spliced up in order to appease our insatiable consumer-driven appetites.  Contemporary yoga then has become reduced to an easily consumable packaged of which is accessible to almost  anyone who can pay for it, whether they really want to work on their egos or not.  The result of these Westernized yogic practices isn’t becoming closer to God as some might think, but instead to feel some sort of temporary bodily satisfaction, of which can mistakenly be perceived as ‘bliss’ or divine energy.

   -end of Part 1

Article By:

~Devyn Lewis~

Operation Consumer Culture: The Wal-Mart Experience

danger bargains aheadI  finally did it.  I never thought I would, but I did.  I had my first Wal-Mart experience.  Not by choice mind you; well, not completely.  You see, I received that well wished for Wal-Mart gift card for Christmas, and I’m sure you understand, I just couldn’t let it go to waste. So I did it: I braved the epitome of our consumer culture madness two days after boxing day.

Wal-Mart: one of the biggest US companies with average net profits of ten billion a year, is accused of everything from destroying communities, to environmental degradation, to keeping employees below the poverty line through union busting and bottom line wages. Knowing all of this as I walked through those big tinted corporate doors, were some of the many reasons why I didn’t want to give my money to Wal-Mart.

As I was approaching, even though I held a list of  needs for the household, I still feared what strategically placed, low priced products would exploit my desire nature. Deep breath.  Go in and get out as fast as you can; and above all, do not spend anymore than the gift card contains, that was the plan.  walmart rows

It was everything that I could never want to hope for: seemingly endless aisles of cheap goods systematically arranged, waiting to be torn off the shelves by hungry consumers, each long and dismal row seeming to threaten to envelop one up by its own mesmerizing low prices.  Items lined up in marshal rows contrasted the discordant masses of shoppers zigzagging their way past each other. Like a well oiled machine, herds of consumers seem to effortlessly make their way through the rows of products, and I stood in a daze trying to tell each aisle apart.  Buzzing fluorescent lights loomed above the towering shelves, each  marked in a different number of militant blue.

This was the part where the panic set in. ‘This place is trying to confuse me!’ I thought, ‘to keep me here as long as they can, so that I will shop forever.’  And like most big-box superstores, this is exactly the design that is intended (I mean have you been to IKEA?  That place is like a labyrinth for lab mice on steroids, except instead of cheese, the reward is a 50 cent hotdog).  So now I knew, the only way out is through.  I refused to let this place consume me -like when I went to IKEA that one time-, so I resolved to strategically map out my path and march dutifully though the aisles one by one.

However, I wasn’t completely pessimistic about my excursion seeing as these stores are created as a kind of one stop shop so you don’t have to go anywhere else, which means that I could easily survive for weeks in this place.  Though wearing cheap slave labour clothing, and having to maybe wash with Wal-Mart brand soap and bottled filtered tap water, would seriously get me down, at least I would be alive by the end of it.

Sometime, and bags full of cheap household items later, I finally emerged  through those exit doors into the soft, pale moonlight.  Exhausted, weary and hungry, I wondered how long I had been in there, as I distinctly remember a bright yellow sun shining when I went in there some time earlier.  I blinked in disbelief and wondered vaguely a little more at the time, however my thoughts moved on to commending myself for only spending $1.67 more than my gift card permitted me to, and that I would most likely never have to go in there again.  I looked back wearily at the automatic sliding doors, opening and closing continuously like ravenous jaws, seeming to swallow up eager and dutiful consumers each time they snapped back shut with an interminable ‘whump’.  Each time the door slid open, a cheerful voice reverberated, “Welcome to Wal-Mart,” and  would rhythmically echo through the parking lot.  Walking away with bags of way-too-cheap goods, I gazed ahead at the desert of asphalt that once could have been a lush Canadian forest, and I ask myself, ‘Is this the peak of our civilization?’walmart protest

The Wal-Mart experience epitomizes our Western consumer culture and gives us the illusion of freedom with the option of going to a single store and buying whatever we want.  However, here we have an example of how seriously spiritually degenerate our society really is.  Valuing things like low prices over quality of living serves only to exploit our ego’s desires as we learn to deem what is impermanent verses what is permanent as more important in our lives.  With the advent of the information age and the subsequent rapid expansion of Western values facilitated by the prevailing global economic system of unfettered global market capitalism, this is happening on a massive scale.  The more we consume, the less we create, as we choose to live as individuals and abandon communal needs.  The exploited ego is ravenous and just like the ‘jaws’ of Wal-Mart, it must be learned to be kept at bay through spiritual practice.  The Wal-Mart experience seeks to exploit our desire nature through consumerism and therefore exacerbates our contractual condition of individuality which results in a lack of real spiritual values thereby undermining the creation of community.

So, as I left, a sense of relief overcame me, as I wasn’t sure whether to thank my gift giver or curse them for obliging me through such a harrowing experience.  Though all in all I confess I got through it okay, and I can at least gratefully state that Operation Wal-Mart is now complete.

Article By:

~Devyn Lewis~

Being in Satsang

floating buddhaLast year, the Siddha Warrior community put on a public Satsang to receive only mixed reactions.  The problem we discovered, was not with the Satsang itself, but that the concept of Satsang has become watered down in our Western society to mean something of a New Age spiritual gathering.  Attendees who had gone to one of these mass ‘satsangs’ were used to chanting and meditating while the said guru coos its audience with soothing words of wisdom.

True Satsang can be defined as relationship; specifically the most radical form of relationship and that is to God. This relationship isn’t something that just happens when a spiritual seeker enters into a spiritual gathering, listens to a wise person speaking, and chanting positive mantras together; rather the real enjoyment of Satsang is to become purified of one’s suffering, an arduous and slow moving process that can only be done with a true Guru. Therefore, this relationship to God can only be enjoyed through a true Guru who’s task is to help a devotee work through their own pain and suffering.

Satsang can be described in many ways according to various traditional spiritual teachings.  In Sanskrit, the word satsang can be broken up into two parts as sat-sangha in order to unfold its deeper meaning.  However, like most Sanskrit words or terms, the English translation often falls short and needs many terms in order to try and divulge the depth of meaning behind it.  The first component of the word, sat, can be defined as simply which is real, being-ness, to the revelation of Truth. Furthermore, sat represents one of the three fold aspects of sat-chit-ananda of Brahman, as described in the Upanishads as the transcendental, omniscient, ultimate Reality where all creation derives.  Sangha, however can be described in less abstract terms to simply mean community, and in the non-dualistic teachings of Advaita Vedanta, sat-sangha is interpreted as ‘association of being.’ This association is meant to be with God and where traditionally it was interpreted to mean in the accompany of one who has realized the Self, the concept of real Satsang encompasses much more.  That being with God through community doesn’t just mean attending Satsangs, but the removal of association with the material world altogether, and having that association even when the Guru is not physically present.

So more simply put, Satsang can mean to be or to live in the company of Truth, not just a gathering of spiritual orientated people sitting in a room together.  So in this context, the so-called Satsang that the Siddha Warrior community put on wasn’t the real thing either as most people attending either weren’t ready or didn’t want to hear the Truth (and therefore enjoy  true relationship).  This was apparent because these spiritual seekers were holding on to their limiting contractual sense of individualization by avoiding relationship as opposed to being present with the transcendental one and ultimate Reality, which is God.

Siddha Hermes explains Satsang more in depth at http://www.siddhahermes.org  in The Way of Satsang:

Satsang is the ultimate form of Relationship. It is through the continual process of living in Relationship that we realize satsang. When we live in Relationship, we become true in our enjoyment of life…Read More

For more information on spirituality visit http://www.siddhawarrior.com

Article and Photo by:

~Devyn Lewis~