HaveYour Cake And Eat It Too!
by Jim Bass & Lucy DuPertuis
Is it possible to have your cake and eat it too? Must human life be a compromise between frustration and satisfaction, or can life be an uninterrupted flow of happiness?
The answer is yes and no depending upon one crucial factor: Knowledge, which brings the experience of unity into our lives. We hope to show throughout this series how Knowledge can solve common dilemmas of life.
In this installment we will explore the human search for community, both with and without Knowledge. By community we mean a sense of community rather than a geographical place.
Last month we defined the unity drive - the human urge to experience and merge with infinite consciousness. The unity drive is the basic human desire, but we often experience it disguised in limited forms, such as desires for food, sex, excitement, comfort, security, or power. The appeasement of these limited desires cannot satisfy the unity drive and so, as soon as one desire is satisfied, other more insistent ones crop up in its place. One is reminded of the dragons of ancient mythologies: when the hero would cut off its head, two new heads would grow in its place. The only way to slay the monster for good was to forget about all the heads and stab it in the heart.
In the same way, only the continuous experience of infinite consciousness can satisfy our unity drive. Limited and temporary states of peace will not do. Knowledge shows us that state of infinite consciousness and how to remain in touch with it at all times. Through practice, we gradually realize that this experience alone can give us complete and permanent satisfaction.
But knowing all this, are we to conclude that the final result of practicing Knowledge is for each person to withdraw like a hermit into the conscious energy within himself and ignore society altogether?
This is a common criticism of spiritual endeavor. But actually, quite the opposite is true; Knowledge is the basis of community.
When a person delves deep into meditation, he experiences perfection for the first time in his life, and is forever freed of dependence on the outside world. But paradoxically, this independence allows him to see the world outside of himself clearly and objectively - and he begins to recognize there, for the first time, the same perfection he experiences within.
Imagine this process happening to many people at the same time: consciousness begins to attract consciousness and life to attract life. People see such perfection in each other that they want to break down all the barriers and divisions they have erected between themselves, and experience the merging of pure human consciousness. As the experience of Knowledge deepens, people are pulled into community with one another.
Even among groups of people without Knowledge the unity drive life attracting life - operates to some extent. In these societies we can recognize the "centripedal" forces which tend to pull people together, and the "centrifugal" forces which tend to pull them apart. When these forces are somewhat balanced the society remains stable. If the centrifugal force is stronger, the people are soon scattered into quarreling and anarchy, and the society dies. But if the centripedal force prevails, people are drawn closer and closer together to live ultimately as one being in perfect communion, in perfect harmony, in perfect peace. This is no longer ordinary human society, with the "laws" so painstakingly defined by sociologists - this is divine society.
The unity drive is the centripedal force which keeps human society together. It underlies the drives for security, food, sex, etc. - the usual explanations of why people live together. As a social force, the unity drive manifests as a desire for satsang: for in satsang, the essence of human beings can merge. Communication is perfect and direct, limited neither by external physical objects and circumstances nor by differences in opinions, emotional state, intelligence, social position, socialization, age, physical appearance, not even by differences of culture and language.
What, then, are the centrifugal forces which tend to prevent people in our society from living together as one being, in perfect satsang? Ralph Keyes analyses this question in his book, We the Lonely People, which summarizes a three-year investigation into America's search for community.
According to Keyes, Americans are at once searching and wishing for community, while avoiding it as best they can. They are victims of "ambivalence" - the "simultaneous attraction toward and repulsion from an object, person, or action." They are pulled away from community by the desires for anonymity, privacy, convenience and mobility.
For example, most people cherish the idea of the corner grocery run by "Mom and Pop," the kind old couple who always greet their customers by name. But most people don't shop at the corner grocery; they go to Safeway where they can get a better price and a wider selection. In this case, convenience comes before community.
But besides convenience, chain stores have a deeper attraction for their customers. Ironically, the same people who like the idea of the homey little grocery store also like the impersonality of the supermarket. Why? Because the supermarket lets a person remain anonymous. So do huge health clinics, I.D. numbers, and mass education.
This is the heart of ambivalence: people relish the thought of being known, yet they find comfort in not being known.
The desire for privacy is another obstacle to community. Somehow people have duped themselves into believing that isolation from others (and those others presumably include the people they'd like to commune with) is liberating.
Our obsession with isolation is a material manifestation of our psychological defenses, i.e., our minds made flesh and stone. We hide from one another behind a variety of facades ranging from social games to phony smiles. As long as we've troubled ourselves to build a wall of psychological defenses, we might as well complete the job with our architecture. Concealing true feelings with a fake smile strains the facial muscles. Why not let our chain-link fences do the job for us?
This love of privacy is reflected in the design of our homes and cities. The front porch, for example, used to be a place to see and be seen and a place to mingle. When family members sat on their porch, they informally offered themselves to their neighbors for conversation or rubbing elbows. Today the front porch has either been screened in or left off entirely. Likewise, city squares, promenades, and other casual meeting places are also disappearing. These were places where it was not only legal, but actually fashionable, to loiter. Now we have suburbs, fragmented units of homes built row upon row as islands unto themselves. When we redesigned our world we forgot to include places to mingle with one another.
The pattern becomes clear. Physical isolation is a consequence - or symptom - of psychological isolation. People desired anonymity, privacy, mobility, convenience: first they cut each other off with mental defenses, then with a plastic smile, and finally with cars, fences, and vending-machine eating habits.
How are these symptoms of isolation to be cured? Many social scientists believe our environment should be rearranged so that people no longer avoid bumping into each other. Having to share and to compromise, they would somehow begin to feel that sense of community once again.
But of course, community does not mean just being close together. It is possible to sit in someone's lap and still feel lonely. With our sophisticated defense mechanisms we can ride a crowded subway, our arms and legs tangled with those of other passengeampseathing each other's exhalations, and still be isolated. 4,000 men can be crammed onto an aircraft carrier, or thousands of people into city ghettos or refugee camps, but where is the community in all of this?
A study of small experimental communities by Rosabeth Moss Kanter, called Commitment and Community, shows that many of these groups, in addition to be physically close, also contrived external "centripedal" forces to cement their communities together. Schemes included a careful system for selecting members who seemed already to be the right type; isolation from the rest of society; economic dependence on the group; exaggerated symbols of equality like identical dress and "point" systems to equalize work; specific vows, commitments and sacrifices; common jargons and belief systems; a charismatic leader; and peer pressure tactics, including regular encountergroup-like sessions of "mutual criticism."
Even with these efforts, however, most of the community experiments Kanter studied did not survive for long: in most cases, people were unwilling to compromise to such an extent. The underlying "centrifugal" force - that urge for external freedom from others was still there, and when the artificial restraints slackened in the least, people
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sprung away from each other once again.
How can we restore an inner sense of community - and not set up just one more system of checks and balances to thwart people's desire to avoid each other? First we must ask why people seek isolation in the first place. At the time when Americans already lived together in large family groups and had front porches and promenades and market places in which to socialize, why did they choose to demolish these and build a new society where isolation would prevail? What was - and is - so uncomfortable and so terrifying about being together?
"True community is not a function of physical distance. Nor is it a function of dressing alike, thinking alike or believing alike. True community is being together in Knowledge - the consciousness of being alive at this moment."
In the last installment we discussed the case of Al the bar fly, who felt he didn't know who he was until he found his identity among his circle of friends. We saw that when Al turned to his buddies to find out who he was, he surrendered to their judgements. When his pals smiled, Al smiled. When they frowned, Al frowned. Al lost his freedom by submitting to the tyranny of peer pressure.
When we don't know who we are from the inside, we have to ask other people - or television ads, or fashion models, or movie stars. But the way other people define us is limiting and insulting to our true nature, which we intuitively know to be limitless. The desires for privacy and anonymity which Keyes discusses are attempts to get away from the self which other people have fashioned for us - and which we have unwittingly accepted - throughout the whole process of our upbringing and adult life.
But in practice, it is difficult to be anonymous. If Al should grow tired of being labeled as a clown, he would have to hop from bar to bar in order to preserve his anonymity. He would have to mingle with strangers and leave quickly before they have time to form an idea of him, and certainly before they begin to expect him to act like that idea. But even this won't work.
Those who have tried to avoid peer pressure by constant traveling and shifting of circumstances can tell you that they learned a strange thing: we carry "other people" around with us in our own heads. Periodically, Al longs for acceptance and admiration - so he reverts to his tried-and-true method of clowning. Though he may be in a different bar with different people, soon the others are expecting him to clown some more, and he is trapped once again.
In the same way, many people drop one relationship or job because they feel trapped. When they take up another, for a while they feel free - but not for long. Their mental habits force them back into old ruts, and soon the new partner or the new boss is reacting in precisely the same way the last one did.
Don Juan the Yaqui sorceror tells Carlos Castaneda, in a series of books describing Castaneda's apprenticeship in sorcery, that he must learn to "erase personal history," so that others cannot "pin him down with their thoughts." But does the fault really lie with others? Unless we believe, at some level, what others think about us, how can their ideas affect us?
Really we must "erase personal history in such a way that our own minds cannot limit us, either by agreeing with others judgments or by judging ourselves directly. What a person is really seeking when he seeks anonymity from others' opinions is anonymity from himself - he wants freedom from his lifelong conceptions of himself and those insidious mental habits which continually preserve those conceptions.
If we can succeed in freeing ourselves from our ideas of ourselves, then, when we are with other people, even if they think they know everything about us, and even if they try to judge and form opinions, nothing they can do can limit our freedom in the least. We have achieved true independence, and we no longer have any need to get away from anybody. At this point, we are ready to live in community.
PEELING THE ONION
Knowledge teaches us this kind of independence. Slowly but surely it undoes all the effects of our conditioning. As you would peel off the layers of an onion, the practice of Knowledge removes layer after layer of our conceptions about ourselves, layer after layer of unconscious habits which have helped to preserve our conditioning. Knowledge uncripples us, and lets us flourish in our fullest capacity.
In "consciousness-raising" groups all across the country during the 60's, groups of ethnic and religious minority members, women, and disgruntled young radicals who did not like what their conditioning had turned them into also tried to peel the onion of their social selves. But they never went far enough. They never realized, for example, that they were not their emotions; at most they may have tried to substitute a sense of pride for a sense of fear or worthlessness. They never realized that whatever they thought they were, they were actually something else, beyond thought. They never realized that their truest essence was not even their bodies - it was the energy of life, inside them, and it was the consciousness which looked out at one another, from behind their eyes.
Meditation on Knowledge has taught us these things. The state of meditation is not a state of thought - it is a state of pure, universal consciousness. In thought we can limit, classify, separate, and compare - either ourselves or others; in consciousness beyond thought we cannot. Meditation teaches us to distinguish between this consciousness, which is our true self, and the false self developed by the process of social conditioning.
When we really know ourselves, we no longer need to get away from other people. We are no longer affected by that "centrifugal" force, the fears which pull people apart. On the other hand, we no longer need other people to define who we are, because through meditation we already know who we are. So we are freed from both halves of Keyes'. "ambivalence": the need for isolation and the need for community - at least community in the sense that we used to imagine, community in the sense of having to appear physically close, and co-operative, and loving, whether we actually were or not. And at this point the "centripedal" force of consciousness attracting consciousness, life attracting life, can take over, and we find ourselves drawn into true community.
True community is not a function of physical distance. Nor is it a function of dressing alike, thinking alike, or believing alike. True community is being together in Knowledge - the consciousness of being alive at this moment. Running into an unknown premie on the bus, at once we can experience community. Visiting a premie group for the first time, we can immediately experience community. And sitting down to dinner with the same people we have lived with for two years, we can forget our grudges, our rivalries, our five hundred other dinners together, and experience community.
Community grows as our realization grows. The process is not instantaneous. It takes time to peel the onion, to get over the old habits and fears. It takes time to learn to stay in that state of consciousness beyond thought; and it takes time to learn to trust that the infinite thing inside is really ourself.
In the meantime, we can benefit from the findings of researchers like Keyes and Kanter. We can arrange our lives so that we do mingle more frequently and so that we must confront one another more often. Knowledge must be practiced to be of any value. When we are off by ourselves it is easy to forget to meditate. In social situations where compromise is demanded, we must rely more and more on the Knowledge within ourselves to get by. It is in this reliance on Knowledge that we experience the full beauty of living.
We can have our cake and eat it too. With Knowledge we can take all the steps necessary to bring ourselves closer together, and yet all the while feel freer and freer and freer.
Satsang is "when your heart sings and it comes out your mouth."
– Jacob (age 3)
While I was ironing, I burned Guru Maharaj Ji's shirt and I was totally freaked out. I had just completely lost it. I wanted to die. I couldn't think of anything worse in this world than Guru Maharaj Ji's shirt that I had just burned. But how much more does Guru Maharaj Ji care about his premies? And how often do we burn and fold and crease each other?
– Jule Lawson
Recently, everybody has been talking about marriage, friendship and romance. The most important thing to remember is that you can't look for fulfillment in relationships. Nothing in this world is going to make you happy if you are not already happy with Maharaj Ji. Since I work in finance, I look at it with a little math formula. Relationships are like multiplication and the ideal is to be one, one with Maharaj Ji. So if you are one and your partner is one then 1 x 1 = 1 and everything remains in balance. But if you are less than one, say 1/2, and you go looking to be completed in a friendship or marriage … 1/2 x 1/2 = 1/4 and that's an even smaller fraction than you started off with.
– Phil Armstrong
"Everyone speaks of love, but what is love? Love is the perception of true beauty."
– Mahatma Gurucharnand.
"Listen, the hierarchy of this world is very simple; there's Guru Maharaj Ji and then there's all the rest of us."
– Jeff Grossberg.
"Can you imagine it? Guru Maharaj Ji gives us everything we have. We walk into the door of his house, and turn his doorknob, and eat his food. Can you fathom it? The Lord of the Universe digs you so much that he wants you to hang around and play with him.
– Scott Glaesner
Everybody says, "Oh those children really have it together," but I tell you, the world is so dark these days, that even us kids, so called beautiful souls, can be totally freaked out, even at age four. It's not impossible, it's really very simple for that to happen, because you never know when a kid is going to start thinking. He might be freaked out about falling off a chair or something.
– Paul Cunningham (age 12)
It's like we're in college and we're taking one course. We have one hour of homework in the morning and one hour of homework in the evening, and we can discuss it all day long. No quizzes, just one big examination at the end. And you either pass or you fail.
– John Miller
Heard any good satsang lately? Cream the crop and send the best one or two lines to us: Creme de Satsang, Divine Times P.O. Box 532, Denver Colorado 80201.