Positive Possibilities: Activism for the Sincere Spiritual Seeker, by Parvati Devi
Spiritual activism has become popular among today’s yogis and conscious communities. But what does it mean for a sincere spiritual seeker? Since peacefulness arises from a state of non-attachment and unity, what is spiritual activism?
As we evolve spiritually, we cannot help but feel moved by the suffering we see in the world. An impulse to help alleviate pain is a natural reflection of our inherent humanity. Meditation often gives rise to a greater sense of how connected we are, and as such, that our compassionate actions serve the world. Compassion must be the foundation of spiritual activism. Through compassion, we rest in our underlying sense of oneness. We are humbly no better than or worse than others, but feel connected to all through love.
However, realized masters remind us that compassion is a sophisticated state of being. We can open our hearts to others’ suffering and empathize. But true compassion, where “no-self” exists and only oneness presides, is a profound state that most of us experience less frequently than we may think. Our world is desperately hungry for more love and true compassion, so we work towards such. We simply must not mistake our good intentions for true compassion. We must make sure that we are not acting from ego when we are doing “good deeds”.
The term “spiritual activist” feels like a slippery slope for a sincere spiritual seeker, one who is devoted to the cessation of all sense of “me” or ego. Though many spiritual traditions around the world use the word “righteousness” to indicate the spark that calls a spiritual seeker to follow divine guidance, often such can fuel the ego. In radical cases, it can lead to extremist groups that justify their acts of violence as compassion in action.
The ego is a tricky thing and will find any window to slip through and express itself. We have all heard the popular aphorism, “the road to hell is paved with good intentions.” Perhaps some so-called cases of spiritual activism are this: an aspect of the ego feeling a self-righteous and self-inflated sense of “me” who is doing “right” as opposed to the “wrong” “they” are doing “over there”. No love can come from such divided thinking.
Would a sincere spiritual aspirant attend a protest? Would the Buddha be beside him, protesting? I am not the Buddha, but my guess is that it is unlikely, as the very nature of a protest is either for or against. I know from the protests I have been in that they tend to inflate or deflate the ego in some way. There is a subtle or powerful rush in feeling “I am doing good because…” And that thought is not far from “I am better than… because I am doing this.”
Some protesting activists are truly inspired, such as the famous Rosa Parks who refused in 1955 to move to the back of the bus because she was black. She was a fiercely courageous activist, yet not necessarily a peaceful spiritual seeker.
Would writing a letter to an MP be an action for a spiritual aspirant? It could be, if it were done in a spirit compassion to highlight the way an action creates suffering, and without attachment to outcome. A yogi doing such would do as Lord Krishna instructs Arjuna in the Hindu holy text the Bhagavad Gita: be unattached to the fruits of his or her actions. True spiritual activism must make non-duality, that is, the sense of unity, its first priority.
We do not want to hear about our attachment to “me” or the suffering it causes. But the sincere spiritual seeker knows that anything that inflates our ego (positively or negatively) leads us astray. When thinking about what to do in the face of suffering, we must ask ourselves if our actions in any way stem from feeling separate from the whole, or have any sense of aggression, finger pointing or ego stroking. If so, we are not acting in peace. When not in peace, we are disconnected in some way, somehow feeding our ego. And when there is ego, there is suffering.
Spiritual activism is something very few can truly do, because it can only arise when there is no ego. And when there is no ego, as the great saints show us, there is a more peaceful way. May we aspire to this.
Parvati Devi is the editor-in-chief of Parvati Magazine and an internationally recognized Canadian musician, yogi and new thought leader. As a chart-topping touring musician, Parvati spearheads the Post New-Age musical genre with her independent success hit single “Yoga in the Nightclub”. She founded YEM: Yoga as Energy Medicine, a powerful yoga method that combines energy work and yoga poses. Her critically acclaimed self-help debut book “Confessions of a Former Yoga Junkie – A Revolutionary Life Makeover for the Sincere Spiritual Seeker” is currently in its third edition.