Political Storm: Taking Shelter in Ancient Wisdom

I do not have tv at my house, nor cable, nor my own Netflix account. Of course between the internet and my partner's Netflix account, I don't think I am missing much, besides maybe extra stress. I was at my parents' house the other night while there were watching Full Frontal with Samantha Bee. I had never seen or heard of this show before, and while it is an incredibly well done satirical news show (a la The Daily Show), it made me painfully aware, no, excruciatingly aware of the insanity that is our current political administration. I was awash with dismay over what seemed to be giant backwards steps in social and environmental policy. Everything the administration is doing is upsetting to me, but attacks on environmental protections (which IMHO were pretty thin already) sent me through the roof. One of my first paying jobs was as a canvasser for Greenpeace. When all else seems to be in chaos, at least Nature maintains her order and a walk in the park brings me peace.

Where will we go for solace when our coal, oil, and nuclear industries have successfully cut their costs by dumping their waste in our forests and waterways?! I will not get started again, but suffice it to say that my mind was in a tirade. The next day I struggled with an overriding feeling of despair that was much larger and deeper than it "should" have been. Suddenly I realized that I had been taken back to 1989, a time when racial tension and police brutality entered my world with the Greekfest riots in my hometown, Virginia Beach. Up until then I had viewed the world as a safe place, a just place, a place where the "powers that be" took care of the citizens, not a place where hatred and fear moved people to use their power to hurt and destroy. Here and now in 2017, Republicans are cutting the budget and doing away with protective governmental regulations, and yet I was feeling as unsafe, as shaken, as frightened as a young teenager discovering for the first time this world's dark side.

Fortunately for me I have a lot of loving support, wise friends, and a spiritual practice. In the endless self-questioning of what I can do to make a difference in a world where there is so much need, I keep coming back to something that I read long ago in the introduction to the Bhagavad-Gita. The Bhagavad-Gita (literally "The Song of God") was spoken approximately 5000 years ago by Lord Krishna to His devotee, the warrior prince Arjuna. From that time until today, the Bhagavad-Gita is revered the world over as the Holy Book and prime scripture of the Vaishnava and Hindu traditions.

Once upon a time, not so long after the 1989 beginning of my existential crisis, after I had tried and tired of escapism (a short affair with hitchhiking, "herbal medicine," and hallucinogens that took years to cleanse my system of), I came in contact with the Bhagavad-Gita As It Is, translated by His Divine Grace AC Bhaktivedanta Swami, Prabhupada. I didn't know what to make of Srila Prabhupada's long name and even longer title, and through the cannabis-induced haze still lingering in my brain, it was difficult for me to understand the Bhagavad-Gita's lofty philosophy.

(photo krishna.com)

Yet a few simple concepts presented in Srila Prabhupada's introduction struck me, stuck with me, and changed my world. They were 1) you can only nourish a tree by watering its root. Watering the extremities, the branches and leaves, will only lead you and your tree to frustration. The analogy is that God is the root of all existence, and that by serving and pleasing Him, all of humanity, the Earth, and her creatures (ie. the branches and the leaves) become satisfied. (Still so counterintuitive when I want to run off and save the world, painstakingly, one cause at a time... yet the causes are endless and after some mental exhaustion, I come back to this point of focusing on the root of the tree.) 2) One can change one's religion countless times, but one can never change one's identity. Therefore the intelligent person seeks to truly understand his/her/their true nature, which is eternal and changeless. In Sanskrit this inherent, irreducible quality of a thing is called its dharma. According to the Bhagavad-Gita, every living thing is a soul (having a human or animal or plant experience), whose dharma is to love and serve God. All suffering and conflict comes from the soul's departure from dharma and misidentification with the external covering of the body. Understanding this one point eliminates sectarianism, racism, classism, and all other troublesome isms as superficial hangups. Sigh. This is yet another one of those instances where what I planned to write and what I actually wrote ended up being quite different... Obviously I am still quite a beginner in spiritual life and needed to be reminded of some basic truths...

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