This quote captures the essence of what I am trying to say in this blog:
“Running through the field of time is this energy which is the one energy that is putting itself into all these forms. By identifying with that one energy, you are at the same time identified with the forms coming and going. If you see the two modes—involvement and the still point within you, samsara and nirvāṇa—as separate from each other, you are in a dualistic position. But when you realize that the two are one, you can hold to your still point while engaging. It’s the same world experienced in two different ways. You can experience both ways at once.”
Excerpt From: Campbell, Joseph. “A Joseph Campbell Companion: Reflections on the Art of Living.” Joseph Campbell Foundation, 2011-08-01.
When the great American mythologist Joseph Campbell in 1955 visited living Advaita sage Sri Atmananda Krishna Menon in India, he had one burning question for the master in mind. Having studied Indian mythology thoroughly for years, he struggled to reconcile the messages of God’s glory in the vedic hymns with the apparent horrors of the ordinary world. How could we say “no” to brutality, stupidity, vulgarity and thoughtlessness if, according to the Vedas, all was a manifestation of the divine? The master’s answer blew Campbell’s mind. “For you and me”, Krishna Menon replied, “the way is to say yes”.
For most people such an answer would be plain stupid or, at best, naive. They would argue that this supposedly Indian sage was telling them to become cowards by avoiding friction and conflict, or, they would expect to be thrown around and crushed by life if they ceased to defend themselves.
What Sri Atmananda was pointing to is, of course, exactly the opposite to cowardice. It takes a truly heroic stance to say “yes”, for every “no” reflects our unacknowledged fears that trigger conditioned, reactive patterns, collectively known as our ego. At the root of our ego and all our psychological suffering is an array of “no’s” that are heavily encased by unconscious fears. For the sages and masters of all times, thus, spirit-uality was about cultivating a warrior spirit towards our fears, turning our “no’s” into “yes'”, thereby transcending our ego (obviously, from the point of view of our ego, developing such a spirit feels like a terrible mistake which is exactly why spiritual training is so darn challenging).
When we say “no” we act and react from an unconscious place of fear. Fear is what drives the brutality, stupidity, vulgarity and thoughtlessness that Joseph Campbell saw manifested in the world. When we transcend fear and say “yes”, however, the range of possible actions and reactions broaden immensely. After saying “yes” we can still say “no”, but we will be able do so from our “Buddha-Nature”, that is, in a more open, creative and compassionate manner because our being is not gripped and bound by fear. A spiritually mature person can, thus, utter paradoxical statements like Ram Dass when he said that “suffering is part of the plan of it all, and suffering stinks”.
To reach such maturity in (warrior) spirit, non-dual teachings are great tools. When we realize that all is this ‘One’ (or ‘God’) we lose all objection to the various facets of life, whether they ‘stink’ or not. It helps us realize that not only joy and peace is what characterizes life, but also the suffering that comes with it. “All life is sorrowful”, is the first Noble Truth of the teaching of the Buddha and when he is depicted as sitting in the immovable spot in the hub of the wheel of life, he is not immune to life’s pains and sorrows since the hub is still a part of the world. He accepts the seemingly contradictory polarities of life as an integral part of life, as a manifestation of this ‘One’ Absolute reality that includes every single thing. He knew that when we can unconditionally say “yes” to all existence, we indirectly also say “yes” to this moment, this eternal “Now”. And it is in this “Now” that all the Buddhas before and after him have found their liberation from pain and sorrow.
What the enlightened masters ultimately teach us is that if we don’t know how to wisely relate to the “dark side” of existence, we are not fit for the full experience of life, since whenever we keep aspects of the world out we keep ourselves out of the world.
“My formula for greatness is amor fati: that one wants nothing to be different. Not merely bear what is necessary but love it.”