Rivers, Vairagya, and Fear Itself
Want to see how powerful a river can be? Go look at the Grand Canyon some day.
Just as in a river, in life there is a current that pulls and moves all things from beneath the surface. What we observe up above on the surface is not an adequate reflection of the deeper nature. We cannot help but draw conclusions from appearances; we have a biological system that survived because we could anticipate threats and quickly adapt to changes. Our whole orientation towards life comes from an intimate drive to continue to live, and from a macro perspective, to continue to propagate - our biological inheritors are the legacy that we leave on this impermanent planet. Deep within the psyche of all forms of life are primal urges: to survive, to hoard resources for an uncertain future which we undoubtedly not see, to ensure a healthy and competitive relationship with other members of our species and if possible to dominate or at least avoid antagonistic relationships with other forms of life. These embedded forces have shaped the human world and created our neo-feudal global society and it's avaricious consumption of the environment. It may seem dire and perhaps dystopian, but like all events it is a bubble on the surface of the cosmic river that flows through everything. It may sound escapist to withdraw to such a grandiose or abstract vantage point, but a healthy dose of vairagya, or dispassion, can do wonders when we begin to think of our circumstances as a prison; the bars are made from thoughts, beliefs, and desires.
Right here and now, amidst the present set of challenging circumstances we face a path forward those of us inclined towards pessimism would say is lugubrious. However the plight of our time, whether we are talking about economic or ecological concerns, is not impossible to navigate. Unlike a scenario where a hostile advanced cosmic race has set their sights on our planetary petri dish, or the collapse of our star, or worse still the failure of gravity or any other natural forces we take for granted, our problems are entirely self-created. Since we created the current social, political, and economic conditions over a long period of time it stands to reason that we are capable of solving the problems that have evolved with our creation. Some might argue that our salvation lies in some undiscovered panacea in the form of some brilliant novel technological breakthrough. Our reliance on fossil fuels might end by finding a way to more efficiently use molecular forces as a source of lossless energy the way that nature does. Even one small upgrade to our way of life has a catalytic effect on our behavior as a species. Waiting around for the fifth, sixth, or seventh industrial revolution is a gamble, and would deny us our agency in the life we are living right now.
Re-arranging the external conditions does nothing to address the undercurrents that move the super-structures of money and power plays. In our current situation the ordinary person seems to have very little influence over the corporate interests that continue to mine, de-forest, drill, frack, and borrow against the future for profits today. That picture is not necessarily accurate, though. How we relate to life, how we interact with other forms of life, is an inner experience informed by cultural, personal, and collective biases. Every moment is ripe for recognizing how old paradigms of deep biological history have evolved into selfishness, greed, and violence, and acknowledging they are no longer useful or appropriate. What is required at this time is for us all to practice detachment from the stories of "I, me, and mine." The everyday practical tools we can use to extricate our awareness and vitality are compassion and dispassion. All the self-focused stories we carry around the sense of I further entrench us in habit and custom where we are powerless to choose anything but what we have known. Utilizing the potency of energy and movement that is below the surface of our body and mind can have far-reaching impacts. Although they seem solid, like the ground, our ideas, thoughts, and beliefs about who and what we are have no firm substance and just below them runs an "Underground River." (Fear Itself)
For your reading pleasure:
How To Get Vairagya by Sri Swami Sivananda
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