–by Vimala Thakar (Apr 27, 2017)
Most of us are not aware of our motivations for living or our priorities for action. We drift with the tides of societal fashions, floating in and out of social concerns at the whim of societal dictates and on the basis of images created by the media or superficial, personal desires to be helpful, useful persons. We are used to living at the surface, afraid of the depths, and therefore our actions and concerns about humanity are shallow, fragile vessels easily damaged. Ultimately most of us are concerned chiefly with our small lives, our collection of sensual pleasures, our personal salvation, and our anxiety about sickness and death, rather than the misery created by collective indifference and callousness.
We have reached the point, however, where we no longer have the luxury to indulge in self-centered comfort and personal acquisition or to escape into religious pursuits at the cost of collective interests. For us there can be no escape, no withdrawal, no private arena in which we can turn our backs on the sorrows of humanity, saying, “I am not responsible. Others have created a mess; let them mend it.” The writing on the world’s wall is plain: “Learn to live together or in separateness you die!” The choice is ours.
The world today forces us to accept, at least intellectually, our oneness, our interrelatedness. And more and more people are awakening to the urgency of arresting the accelerating madness around us. As yet, however, our ways of responding are superficial, unequal to the complexities of the challenge. We do not take or even consider actions that threaten our security or alter our habitual ways of drifting through life. If we continue to live carelessly, indifferently, emphasizing private gain and personal indulgence, we are essentially opting for the suicide of humanity. […]
We can become involved in many acts of social service, according to our resources, without ever moving one inch from the center of our private interests; in fact, the very act of social service typically enhances self-image and self-centeredness. But we cannot become involved in true social action, which strikes at the roots of problems in the society and in the human psyche, without moving away from ego-centered motivation. We must look deep into the network of personal motivations and discover what our priorities are. Our yearning for peace must be so urgent that we are willing to free ourselves from the immaturity of ego-centered action, willing to grow into the sane maturity required to face the complex challenges that affect our existence. If we are motivated by desire for acceptance either by the dominant culture or the counterculture, clarity of right action and passion of precise purpose will not be there. We may be praised for our contributions, but unless there is a deep awareness of the essence of our lives, a penetrating clarity about the meaning of human existence, our contributions will not penetrate to the roots of human misery.
To be ready for social responsibility, we will have to be mercilessly honest with ourselves. Wherever we are, we are responsible to resist injustice, to be willing to put our comforts, securities, our lives at stake in fearless noncooperation with injustice and exploitation. If we adopt all the habit patterns of the enslaved—the fear, the acceptance of tyranny, the intellectual and emotional blindness to injustice—we deserve the inevitable consequences that are descending upon us in a dark storm cloud. If we are submissive, clinging to our small islands of security, naturally terror will reign. If we are willing to allow all others to perish—the peoples of other parts of the Planet, races, castes, cultures, religions; the other creatures of the Earth—so that we may flourish and endlessly increase our network of pleasures and comforts, obviously we are doomed to rot and decay.
When we come face-to-face with the actualities of human and planetary suffering, what does the powerful moment of truth do to us? Do we retreat into the comforts of theories and defense mechanisms, or are we awakened at the core of our being? Awareness of misery, without defense structures, will naturally lead to action. The heart cannot witness misery without calling the being to action, without activating the force of love. […] Social responsibility flowers naturally when we perceive the world without the involvement of the ego-consciousness. When we relate directly to suffering, we are led to understanding and spontaneous action—but when we perceive the world through the ego, we are cut off from direct relationship, from communion that stirs the deepest level of our being.
We can become socially responsible readily, if we have the fearlessness to cast aside all theories, ideologies, all authorities of conditioned society, to free ourselves from the grip of the ego-structure. When we perceive life as a whole, we don’t have to struggle to create interrelatedness, unity; it is the fact of our existence. When living beyond fragmentation, separateness, moving in wholeness, there is no barrier between us and others. On the mental plane, we construct artificial barriers, divisions, but in wholeness there are no barriers. Only relatedness exists. Then we share the sorrow of the world and in spontaneous total responsiveness we act.
The social action we undertake in this state will vary according to the scope of our awareness, our talents, capacities, and the place where we are living. When we live in wholeness, we cannot use any of the devices of the society or the psychological structures to put distance between ourselves and the problems of humanity. The awareness of oneness will sweep aside all doubts about our capabilities, commitments, all self-consciousness, fears about the work ahead. Wholeness is spontaneous energy which moves without the doubts, fears, insecurities of the ego-structure.
We may not act on a global or national scale; it may be only on a community or neighborhood scale—but act, respond, we must. According to our capabilities, talents will move easily, effortlessly into social action. We may contribute to social action by drawing pictures or creating pieces of sculpture; we may write poetry or prose to awaken and stimulate the consciousness of people, to intensify the awareness of the problems and stimulate values. We may travel around or serve where we are — there are ways and ways of engaging in social action.
Social action becomes an extension of personal life. We move into it spontaneously because we cannot do otherwise. It is a choiceless movement, taking into its fold the whole human global family, and that concern, that care, that revolutionary fervor is expressed in different individuals, in different ways. Some will sing and by singing put fire into benumbed hearts and arouse them, stimulate them to dedicate themselves to the cause of social action.
As social activists we do not use our talents and capabilities for self-enhancement, for amassing personal prestige. In an easy, simple way, the humility that the sense of oneness arouses, we each mobilize our individual abilities and skills for the total upliftment of humanity. Each of us will need to discover individual resources for social action and not depend on any revolutionary formulas or models. Each is unique.
–Vimala Thakar. Excerpt picked from Spirituality and Social Action: A Holistic Approach [Image is a poster from the upcoming General May 1st Strike]