Nonduality and Environmentalism Or Non-Duality and Becoming a Victorious Horseman

Nonduality and environmentalism can they go together? If reality is seen as nondualistic, why should anyone be involved in environmentalism? This article explains why one should.

"As long as space endures, and for as long as living beings remain, until then may I, too, abide, to dispel the misery of the world."--Dalai Lama

You could become a victorious horseman

And carry your heart through this world

Like a life-giving rain

Though only if you and God become sweet Lovers.

--Hafiz (The Gift: Poems by Hafiz, The Great Sufi Master, translated by Daniel Ladinsky)

If we believe what our senses tell us, the world is in a heap of trouble--species of flora and fauna becoming extinct in record numbers, severe climate changes, threat of nuclear, chemical and biological attacks, plagues, and increasing widening economic gap. Indeed, it seems like a frightening time and much action to be done. However, is everything as it seems? And what is the right action to take anyway?

I once dreamt of asking the Dalai Lama if the Earth Changes were happening. He replied that it was. Then I asked if any safe areas existed. He smiled and said, “There are no safe areas.” Whether the Earth Changes prophesized are occurring or not his response is full of wisdom. The world spins in perpetual change and offers no refuge from the suffering that all beings must eventually experience as we all race towards death—unless, of course, one abides in the deathless, changeless state that the masters have spoken of.

This is the meaning of the line by Hafiz: But only if you and God become sweet lovers. Yes, one can do great things to help the world, but only if one makes contact in the fearless place of Divine Love or Wisdom first. Ramana Maharshi, a contemporary Indian sage, instructed those who wanted to save the world to find out who they were first. Then once they had discovered the Being who possessed the body and mind, trace the mind back to the Source from where all thoughts rise, including the thought to help, then see if the world really needed saving. Without the knowledge of who we are, not who we believe we are, all we are doing is acting in ignorance. Ramana would often use the famous metaphor of a jeweler who creates all sorts of different items of jewelry out of gold. A delusional mind will see just various items such as bracelets, rings, necklaces, etc.; while an enlightened mind will see the gold that makes up all such pieces. The mind constantly divides and categorizes into boxes such as good and bad, desirable and undesirable. Look at our world where people are placed in categories of conservatives and progressives, patriots and traitors, believers and heretics, and countless other labels, basically boiling everything down to us and them. If we find the Essential, the Gold that makes up everything, then the division disappears and the Unity is remembered and the world becomes a whirling dance of changing forms of the One Essence.

When I was in college I had a near-drowning incident. From an observer’s perspective, who might be witnessing through the senses, I was suffering in my struggle to live. No doubt if they could see my body sinking down into the river, they would have felt great pity for me. However, my consciousness was watching the rescuer pull out my body, and when that consciousness was seeing out of my body’s eyes once more, there was no relief—only a density of feeling encased in the body once more. I was, in fact, quite disappointed to be back. From a body’s perspective a tragedy was avoided; yet from a spiritual perspective, if my consciousness would not have returned to reanimate the body, no suffering would have existed at all. Another example of judging situations by the limitations of our senses I saw in an experiment in cymatics, of pollen particles dancing upon a copper plate, vibrating through the playing of various notes. The higher the vibration the more franticly the particles moved. As the camera zoomed in on the individual particles it looked like complete chaos. However, when the camera pulled back a beautiful geometric pattern could be seen forming.

If we are acting from the perspective of bodies then we are not seeing from the higher perspective of Spirit. Fearful actions will only produce fearful results—such is the law of cause and effect. Loving actions, when there is recognition of the Unity of all things, will only produce loving results. Of course when we act out of love we do not always see the good fruit of our actions. Look at the assassinations of Mahtma Gandhi and Dr. Martin Luther King, two individuals who acted against ignorance with the awareness of the Unity of all things. Why should they have been killed if their motive was love, one might ask? However, faith in the bigger picture allows us to act while trusting in the magnificent pattern being formed, and only in hindsight, can we see that the actions of these great men has changed the pattern of the world.

Ramakrishna, another Indian sage, said that God laughed whenever a doctor said that he can heal a patient. Is not the Giver of breath in charge of it all? Or the Intelligence that creates this amazing pattern we call Life? This is true for the doctor as well as for anyone who is trying to heal the world or to make it a better place. Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, was given a vision of all the warriors ready to fight on the battlefield being consumed by Krishna. Krishna teaches Arjuna on this field of action that he must renounce the sense of doership if he wants to reside in wisdom, for only bodies are doing, not the pure Divine Self. The Self is the Power behind all actions, yet it is not bound by them; just as the Sun shines down on Earth and enables all to act upon it, but it is not affected by actions down below. Arjuna, whose occupation was that of a warrior, was instructed to keep his mind fixed on the Infinite, not on the transitory, in that way his actions would be an act of offering, surrendering the fruits of his actions to God. Arjuna was a victorious horseman, not because his side defeated the bad guys, but because he acted with the wisdom that there is only the One.

There is a danger for people who are actively working in the world to get caught up in the limited perspective of the senses; become attached to the results of their actions, not allow time for introspection, and lump people and actions into categories that continue the illusion of us and them. There is also a danger to nondualists who have only an intellectual realization. If everything is transitory, and is ultimately being manifested by Divine Intelligence, why do anything? An indifference and cold-heartedness can arise with such notions.

Ramana also said that we must know there is one but act as though there is two. He did not advocate to run from the world and go into seclusion. In other words, we all have parts to play. Arjuna had his part to play as a warrior, a doctor his role as a healer, an artist to create works of art, an environmentalist to protect nature, a parent to ensure one’s children have the basics needed for a healthy life. I doubt very few of the intellectually enlightened ones, or even religious practitioners who see salvation awaiting far off in another world, would defile their homes or places of worship with toxic sludge or have their holy water be filled with garbage, or allow such treatment we see on the nightly news to happen in their personal space. Here the heart needs to expand the mind to see the world as one’s home and place of worship. We all have the role of citizen of the Earth. It is a role, but it is a divine role. It is the role of the heart that brings life-giving rain to all beings who appear to suffer.

After all, the Divine Self, our Infinite Nature, in Truth, needs no help at all, not if we realize there exists only One. For who helps whom? The world offers so many wonderful opportunities to extend out of our little personal selves and become part of the bigger whole. Let us act as the actors that we all are in this phenomenal world while remembering throughout this adventure the Infinite One, is the Gold that underlies all our actions.

Janaka Stagnaro

Earth Changes
Devotion and Knowledge
Inspirational Poetry: Nondualism Poems
Nondualism and the Art of Becoming Human
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