Renunciation: too much too soon?

Is it any wonder that in civil society, sport shares the same platform in news headlines as world disasters, war, politics and the economy? Our commitment to civil suggests that somewhere lurking there we may be otherwise. Being uncivil may mean anything from being discourteous to threatening and worse. Being civil requires that all the stuff that we are beneath the veneer must stay there--beneath. So what more than sport offers such an outlet to the instinctive and competitive animal lurking within?

In outbursts, especially our sensational outburst, we may find ourselves later offering apologies to others: ‘I am so sorry I have no idea where all that came from’. Once I saw a shoe thief in India being beaten by the crowd. It was severe and obviously served more as an outlet for all the upset and frustration the crowd felt for uncaught thieves. It was clearly disproportionate to the one hundred-rupee shoes the thief had just bagged.

All the loss, let down, desire, held back tears, anger and taboo urges that we forgo in life go somewhere only to resurface in the occasional outbursts or moral mishaps. It leaves me pondering the thought that the more civil we become the more we may constitute a danger to our own selves. After all, there is no shortage of civil servant scandals to read about. I’m not even going to mention the ‘church’ here, and my apologies that I just did. 

How many of us took to spiritual life because of stuff in our own lives and life in general; stuff we didn't like. We wanted emancipation, from ourselves too--in a way. Perhaps sports and other such mass cathartic rituals just weren’t enough for us. We wanted more, and especially more meaning. Did we have the desire to be free of it all rather than just temporarily relieved?

A word that the founder of the Hare Krishna movement, Srila Prabhupada used for spiritual practice was: ‘dovetailing’. He inferred a ‘dovetailing’ of the stuff of our lives in a spiritual direction. I never thought much of the term as I readily embraced the monistic path as a young man. I really thought it was for others, a sort of concession for the materialistic types. History, my meagre life history has taught me otherwise.

In the church, temple, mosque, synagogue, all places of the chosen or those who have chosen, the newcomer often faces an unceremonious right of passage. I hear this again and again in the question and sadness that asks: ‘why do devotees behave like that?’ A family member of mine was saved by a religious experience and shortly after abandoned those instrumental in disgust at their silly behaviour. The fact is that every unhealthy form of ‘ego defense’ or the management of our taboo urges finds its way into religious community behaviour.  Is there a connection, the more civil, the more ideal, the more renounced, the more goody-two-shoes, the more we face the struggle of finding consciously or unconsciously, strategies of coping with being yet, but still human? How sad.

‘Dovetailing’ or sublimation through practical and meditative activities may be far more about renouncing the material world and all that is uncivil while in it, than the mere act of renouncing it.

Amongst all our great ideals, a level honestly and empathy as we tame the inner barbarian must never go amiss. And if your beloved community is judgemental in response, don't worry it may be them who need help more than you.   

   

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