“Let us color our lips with words of truth. Let us trace our eyes with the anjana (‘kajal’ or traditional eyeliner) of compassion. Let us adorn our hands with the henna of good deeds. Let us bless our minds with the sweetness of humility.” Amma
Long have I observed the subculture of (let’s-just-say) neo-hippies in the US and abroad, finding myself inspired by some aspects of the lifestyle and disheartened by others. This group of non-conformist visionaries is empowered more than ever as co-creators, and this is truly something to rejoice about. Many are offering their gifts to the world in ways which are a greater expression of their passions and talents than ever before, and generating a livelihood and the expansion of consciousness at the same time. Yet, our collective development is bittersweet when out at the “cutting edge of consciousness” we are still directing so many resources toward the heavy consumption of luxuries for personal benefit alone, often disregarding the impact on the environment and the blossoming of consciousness itself. Despite having shaken off some cultural shackles and stretching out our glittering wings of refinement, we have further bonds to shed before we can rise to our highest alignment with embodied virtue, particularly nonviolence, which has long been the ethos of the tribe.
Most of us don’t hesitate to clothe ourselves with expensive garments and fashionable accessories, create luxurious living environments, pay any price for costly supplements and treatments for our personal well-being, take expensive vacations, and spend lavishly on intoxicants, all the while living on a planet where one out of four people still lives in a slum. We hear no murmur against our choices from our fellow first-worlders. A lifestyle of materialism, and even outright spiritual materialism, is celebrated. Yet is it not a subtle form of violence to turn our backs and consume like this when everywhere people suffer without shelter, medicine or education? When do we take some responsibility for our part in that?
Frequenting India annually for well over a decade to serve in a charitable organization has made this perspective especially alive in me. My Guru has spent decades tirelessly consoling and inspiring millions of people from all over the world. She shares with us that one third of the people who come to her on a daily basis are experiencing severe crises in their lives. She tells of an example of a family who came to her on the verge of committing suicide by drinking poison together because of extreme poverty and hopelessness. We live in a world where we don’t have to look very far to see places and people that could use our assistance. Maya Angelou said, “Do the best you can until you know better. Then when you know better, do better.”
Heavy-laden are spiritualists’ body-temples, embellished with “next level” gear sporting sacred symbols of mystical insight, costly to possess and further stirring the bottomless well of materialistic striving. Many of these goods have valid and significant pros and some come from a truly divinely-inspired place. I am not condemning them, and possess some of these things myself. I am only calling for some reflection. The prevalence of projecting spirituality through gear and goods stirs this heart to question: isn’t the actual “next level” move to cultivate the mind through regular spiritual practice in order to realize these mystic symbols within through direct insight?
We are naturally driven to be lovers of pleasure, seeking comfort and harmony from the outside world for happiness. How easily we are enticed to participate in over-indulgence when we are drowning in media propaganda and are all the while driven by the five senses to seek fulfillment through sating their endless grasping. Many of us now understand that desire pulls the mind out of balance and springs from the place which spiritual masters since time immemorial identify as that which binds the mind to suffering life-time after life-time. The Bhagavad Gita, for example, can be summarized as a statement of attachment and aversion being the root causes of suffering.
Personally, I find balance between poles of self-indulgence and self-denial by investing in a conservative amount of well-made, beautiful garments and accessories, which I take good care of and wear in creative combinations for many years until they can not be repaired. People always assume that I have a lot of clothes and are shocked when they see the sparseness of my closet. With some creativity and careful selection we can act on our compassion and wear fashionable garments that we love at the same time! Even some cultivation of self-restraint when spending resources is better then none. My Guru suggests that instead of buying ten new garments a year, we buy nine and donate the money that we would have spent on the tenth to a charity that we believe in. That feels like a reasonable and achievable benchmark. In this way, together we can make a significant positive impact while we still have the privilege and opportunity.
When I see a human who, rather then projecting spirituality with words and clothing, lives spirituality by expressing service and compassion (especially of the unsung variety), then I am impressed. I am impressed by my numerous community members in India and elsewhere who are sincerely offering their time and energy to humanitarian outreach, and by those who sacrifice in any small way what is pleasant for what is good in this torrential onslaught of misalignment. Mostly, I bow at the lotus feet of my beloved Satguru, who not only speaks most wisely on these noble principles, but lives and breathes the moment by moment embodiment of their fullest fruition.
It is my understanding that we are indeed here to create the good, the beautiful, and the holy, and that bringing forth our beautiful, creative dreams into reality is a blessing for the world. I envision being part of a people that are liberated co-creators, embodying an empowered, globally sustainable and compassionate life-style; one that respects the fact that we currently live in a world that desperately needs our loving service. May we free ourselves from the shackles of selfish grasping and make choices that benefit not only ourselves but all of humanity. May our efforts be met with grace!
Aum Parashaktyai Namaha!