I recently read a very nice joke, one of the rare occurrences on the whatsapp forwards. It goes some thing like this:
“You are walking down a crowded lane and holding a cup of coffee. There is some jostling, and shoving, and the coffee spills, dirtying the floor and staining your new clean white shirt. You are upset, and blame the crowds for unruly behaviour. Now if you were holding a cup of tea, the tea would have spilled all over. Life is like walking on a crowded lane, sooner or later, life will jostle and shove you, and whatever you hold in your cup will spill. The problem is not life and other people, it is the contents of your cup.”
I have been rumi-nating (pun unintended) on this for a few days, and my mind veered round to the many ways in which mankind has tried to deal with this problem, namely of people holding unsavory things in their cups, jostling and spilling the stuff all over. The end result is not only a world full of all kinds of waste, the world is also full of irate people!
One of the earliest ways was imposing laws and instituting punishments to ensure that people are good and orderly. There are many problems with this attempt. When one looks around, there are a minuscule number of maryada purushOttam ram type of people. On the contrary we find people in all walks of life, particularly in positions of power whose cups are filled with unmentionables. They seem to be very busy using the sceptre and crown that they wear for short periods of time to use their power in extractive, unethical and self serving ways. People in authority with beautiful cups have been very few in all of known history. Just take a look at the nuclear cocktails Trump and Kim are holding (by the way no one has spilled more of this ‘coffee’ than the US presidents)
The other way that has almost an equal claim to antiquity is religion. Using the idea of god, heaven and hell religions have tried to instill goodness in people. This too has failed miserably. All through history we have examples of the most despicable use of religious authority. The dark ages and reformation and the use of the sword to spread the word of peace has been the favourite pastime of most religions. Officially sanctioned use of terror in the name of ones (only true) God still rages in our midst. The misuse of the trust the followers place on priests and cult leaders happens all the time. Stories of Shogyal Rimpoche, Ram Rahim Singh, various Bishops and so on around the world are recent examples. Their cups over flow with the blood of innocents and nonbelievers!
The third way has been walking away from the world and becoming an ascetic. After 14 years of intense sAdhana (this seems to be a popular length of time from ancient times) the person returns. He (most often) is shining with light, talks of peace within and gathers a few dedicated followers. Their cups are filled with joy and bliss. This has worked for a time, especially for those touched directly by the Wise person. But, very soon the ‘teachings’ become dogma, a religion is born and a King feels honour bound to show the depth of his faith. The oasis of peace becomes the well spring of a new form of the same old coffee!
Having clearly seen these failures and partial success, what do you and I do? We live in the world, lead a work-a-day existence and are part of the crowded lane! At Ritambhara we are trying to answer this question, we want to learn from all these attempts, but endeavour to experiment with a new path. We are energised by the statement made by Thich Nhath Hanh who believes that the future will be shown by sanghas that live in the world but are deeply spiritual. We are creating a platform where we will commit to an inner sAdahana, we will help each other to find our ways of acting in the world, being housewives, husbands, professionals and so on (ordinary citizens in short) while discovering a spiritual way, a path with a heart. We begin by looking at cups honestly, examining its contents, and how we keep filling it up with unfailing regularity!
We find that the Mahabharata and Yoga Sutra offers a lot. These we use as guides and inspiration. Would you like to join us? The next few opportunities: Mahabharata Immersion (dates) and Antaranga Yoga - http://sumedhas.org/media/Antaranga_Yoga_Brochure.pdf
My work revolves around helping individuals, groups and organizations discover their Dhamma, and become “the best they can be”. This aligns with my own personal saadhana. I have restated this question for my self as follows: “how can I be in touch with the well spring of my love for the world and my love for my self simultaneously”