Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Heroism in Religion and Philosophy

"Although a man has not studied a single system of philosophy, although he does not believe in any God, and never has believed although he has not prayed even once in his life, if the simple power of good actions has brought him to that state where he is ready to give up his life and all else for others, he has arrived at the same point to which the religious man will come through his prayers and the philosopher through his knowledge; and so you may find the philosopher, the worker, and the devotee, all meet at one point, that one point being self-abnegation. However much their systems of philosophy and religion may differ, all mankind stands in reverence and awe before the man who is ready to sacrifice himself for others."

-- Swami Vivikenanda --
("Teachings of Swami Vivikenanda," pp. 174-175.)
We live in times which call for heroic action - inwardly and outwardly heroic - and yet we live in times where religions seem to be in ever deeper conflict, and in which philosophy and science are held by many religionists to be irrelevant to their worldviews. What will it take, one wonders, for an ever smaller world to pull together? What will it take for whole masses of individuals to put the interests of others before their own narrow self-interests? Is self-abnegation  widely possible in a world that faces crisis?
"I think we are actually at a point in time that is very unique," observes spiritual teacher, Adyashanti. "Here we are, and it is very possible that in your and my lifespan we will actually experience the fulfillment of literally not being able to sustain certain things. We will run out of energy, we will run out of environment. We have weapons of  destruction that are so extreme that we can wipe ourselves out. It is very possible in the lifetime that we are living in, that we could actually come (to) see a conclusion, that non-sustainability will actually happen and we will have to deal with that. And I think we have been evolving towards that for a very, very, very long time. And, here we are."

"It is no wonder," Adyashanti observes, "that there is fanaticism breaking out in all sorts of religions and fundamentalists in all points-of-view, whether it is religions or philosophical (viewpoints). People are just dividing themselves. There are people that want to save the world, and people that want to destroy each other. They are all there. And it will be very interesting to see what happens. Because there is often at the 'point-of-no-return' - at the point of the most dramatic tensions in life and extremes -  (that) is the very place that dramatic change and transformation can happen."

"I don't think that it's anywhere guaranteed that the change and transformation will happen," he notes. "We don't know. But it is going to go one way or another, and it's not going to be very long from right now before it goes one way or another."

"We are running out of options other than to wake up," he warns. "It is starting to become, possibly, a biological necessity of survival. And when it gets to that point, it really starts to get people's attention."

"We may destroy ourselves if we cannot actually wake up to the fact, to the living experience, that we are really the same," he points out. "It is not good enough to have the philosophy that we are really the same, because that philosophy breaks down when push comes to shove."
When the fruits of different religions and philosophies break down, is that the point at which we realize that they, and we, are essentially the same?

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