The activation of an ethically based and philosophically sound spiritual practice means the integration of those precepts into the body politic, meaning the environmental, social, and political realms. We are members of various communities. Some of these communities are based on geography and others on genealogy; both are profoundly affected when selfish viewpoints are replaced with compassionate wisdom. The larger world community is thus positively affected by the political activism resulting from the critique of a truly activated spiritual being—the jivanmukta. Each action, every choice we make as individuals and as members of communities, affects the world in which we live. Politic refers to the tribe, the people, the other folk we live and thus interact with on all levels. We live under the same sun, we breathe the same air, we drink the same water. Our individual actions affect the communal sun, air, and water. If we reflect upon that, it becomes apparent that all actions are political.
In fact, we determine our shared future by our actions and choices in the immediate present, today, right now, wherever we are. Our karmas are intricately intertwined, and it is of the utmost importance to make conscious, kind, educated choices that will inevitably shape our communities far and near. Yoga practice is about cleaning up our actions. Karma Yoga translates as the “perfection” (yoga) of “action” (karma). A perfect act, from a yogic point of view, is a selfless act. The yogi acts perfectly, through their satsang, or community of truth-seekers, because what is best for the individual can be determined only by considering what is best for the whole. To be politically active, in truth, means to actively look after the safety and welfare of the others with whom we live. Caring for others will bring us closer to enlightenment quicker than any other action.
To vote means to care, to vow, to wish, to express an opinion, to choose, endorse, or authorize. Voting is a verb. We vote with every action we take. Certainly, we cast our vote every time we purchase something. We may complain about the greed of “big business.” We may point our fingers and accuse our government of selling out to corporate seduction. But we the people must realize that it is we—you and I—who fill the coffers of the corporations. In our desire for happiness, we consume the products they provide and then demand more. We expect our politicians to maintain our high standard of living, with the military forces of the police and army if necessary. Our standard of living is based on personal wealth, not on the quality of life for all beings. Through these selfish actions, we deaden our senses and widen the gap of disconnect between ourselves and this Earth and all other beings who share it with us. There is no end to our insatiable appetites, however, because material objects can never satisfy the desire for happiness. Things or other people cannot give us happiness. We already have happiness, it is our very nature, it dwells within our souls regardless of external material conditions. To discover it, we must look within ourselves. When we look outside ourselves for happiness it will always elude us.
It is we the people, whether rich or poor, who seem to want more and more. More shopping malls, more gasoline, more oil, more clothes, more cars, more shoes, more entertainment, more pharmaceuticals, more theme parks—we want it all. The conditioned mind desires unceasingly and mostly unconsciously.
We must look beyond our conditioned minds and deeply into our own souls to find what is really valuable. Love is the hidden wealth within our own souls. When we delve into the infinite well of love within us and share it with the communities to which we belong, we start to free ourselves from the chains of complacency. Project positive thoughts, words, and actions. Always vote for, never vote against. Like Gandhi, “Be the change you wish to see.” Yoga teachings reveal that when we can take responsibility for the discord we see in our world and not blame others, then we are at a very important step in our path to enlightenment. When we recognize that others do not hold the key to our happiness, that we hold it within ourselves, a true sense of confidence arises.
See yourself as part of the problem, but most importantly as part of the solution. Stay positive, refrain from anger, divisive speech, and gossip. Reduce the amount of stuff you buy. Reduce the amount of gas and oil you use; don’t drive if you can walk or bike. Clear out the clutter in your home. Try to live even more simply than you do now. Do your part to reduce the amount of garbage in the world. Go vegan.
Swami Nirmalananda said: “We do not seem to realize that each of us is responsible for the present condition of the world and society. Therefore, each one of us has to cease contributing to the problems so that we may have a better world and society.” We will see an end to war and hunger when we can find a way within ourselves to live simply so that others may simply live. We will see peace on Earth when we ourselves can dare to have the courage to create that peace within ourselves and embody it.
Don’t be silent, but use your words to uplift, speak sweetly, kindly, and respectfully. Dare to care: Devote yourself to the global community enough to vote for Love with every action you do.
Essay taken from Sharon Gannon’s Book Eternity is Happening Now