_The Holy Commune
The start is half of the work or even as Polybius would say ‘ a start is not only half the work but lasts till the end’. Let us hope for the best.
Social Engagement - A few years ago, during my study of social and cultural works in the Netherlands, I participated in a quite inspiring course called ‘(socially) engaged Buddhism’, offered by ‘Padma’ educations. My classmate Frank and I researched a Zen Commune in the Dutch city of ‘Leiden’. Research during this course included a visit to the institute; an interview with the head of the organization, and a small book study about the subject - in this case Zen Buddhism. Their philosophy was generally pretty impressive and inspiring but we were quite shocked about the big wooden stick they use during the meditation session (called Zasen). The main objective of the course was social engagement so this Zen communes’ behavior during their meditation sessions was less important. We ended the course with a short scripture and a presentation about this specific Zen commune. The actual social engagement in their specific environment was absurdly little in comparison to the vastness of the Zen philosophy. Once a year they organized a cultural event, a flea market. Of course, the doors of the temple are always open, freeing western minds, the aim of Zen, is a noble act indeed.
Law of nature - Now, a few years later, the subject is still on my mind. It’s not only because for the past year I have done a semi-intensive study in Tibetan-Buddhism, or that I live next to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. It is not only because I am raised in a Roman Catholic environment and that my ‘uncle in orders’ was strongly socially engaged in Indonesia. It is not only because of being in India, seeing locals coping with their problems and mainly foreigners, outsiders, like (and unlike) me, helping. Or worse, outsiders interfering in local problems, forcing their ‘idea’ of help within these environments. And this is not the first place we traveled where we saw the similar things happening.
A friend emailed the question asking if we had found a meaning or a ‘ground’ to devote our lives to? Of course we have, we have had this ‘ground’ since birth. This ground is to live life. As ever the questions people ask reflect their own state of mind. In this case a well known question shines true, what is the meaning of ‘my’ life? Although he directed this question towards us he hopes that the response will inspire him, shine a light on a misty or missing purpose, maybe he wants to justify his course of actions and the answer will give him a premise to validate or invalidate his choices. Who knows? At least he does. And if he’ll remember he’ll have his answer. How?
History indicates a rule, maybe we could call it a natural law. It is not a law of nature like, for example, Newton’s law of gravity, but a law more in the way we thought of nature before applied science. This law is found in the ancient Greek philosophy even before Socrates, in the old Upanishads from India and many other places. I wouldn’t be surprised if the foundations of the ‘I Ching’ have its roots in it also. The world of tarot cards, visionaries, fortune tellers, etc all are based upon this law. This natural law says that whatever question the mind can come up with, the answer is already there: for if you didn’t know the answer, your mind couldn’t come up with the question. The only reason we don’t always come up with our own answer is because we have separated ourselves mentally and sometimes even physically from the, sorry I couldn’t find another fitting term, divine. This is one explanation. Another explanation, more scientific, we can find when we apply a more logical deductive reasoning. Think about it, for example when we ask somebody the time. Why? Reasonably we expect an answer like one o clock or two-forty-five, as this is our way of speaking. But basically we are asking; ‘where am I in time?’ in an endeavor to place ourselves on a timeline. The answer is ‘here’ at ‘this moment’....
This answer we already knew because we asked the question ‘here’ at ‘this moment’. People prefer the reasonable answer; this is how the world goes round. But is it? The statement; ’this is how ‘we’ go round’, might be more appropriate. You can’t get a right answer to a wrong question and I even think many people feel fine with that. Who am I to argue that? This brings me back to my question of social engagement.
The Quest - If a question really reflects what I already know, than I should stop annoying you with questions and formulate something that is not a question. A statement would be too pompous for me, I have nothing to state. So maybe I will just write what’s in my heart, here the question becomes a quest. Luckily for you, here in the East when they speak of mind they point towards the heart. And I know (or in a more spiritual vocabulary: feel) that they are right. Therefore, opening my heart to you won’t mean I’ll rave about my afflictive emotions but more share what’s actually on my mind. And I already told you what that was, the quest; social engagement.
Engagement is Karma - Social engagement doesn’t refer to your participation in everyday life, mostly we talk about it from a slightly different perspective. Engagement refers to a sort of commitment or involvement in the issues of society such as: public health, politics, environment, law, economics, freedom, terrorism, religion, communication, etc. Engagement means involvement in society which brings change to a persons (or group of persons) wellbeing. So being engaged means not only being concerned about the wellbeing of society, but also working towards this change. We usually measure our degree of engagement by looking at actual conduct. Capitalists would tend to agree with Marx’s comment, you are what you produce. Politics tends to be the exception as during elections ones words or promises are heeded above their actual conduct or performance. Maybe it’s a comforting thought that we can be assured that there are many examples other than politics, where words or promises correspond with conduct. And nobody is to blame since our ‘trivium’ is highly respected.
To produce or work is a crucial component of our conduct or behavior. Conduct within Buddhism is put on a very different level. Most will have heard about Karma. About three thousand years ago in ancient India some groups of philosophers had their first discussion about a cause and effect relationship that we now call Karma. They had a change of perspective. The common view in those days was that metempsychosis (transmigration of the soul) was decided by the will of some gods. They believed that these gods would decide, after a humans death, what they would become in their next life. In other words life and rebirth where decided by the whim or will of multiple gods. When creating the concept of Karma the philosophers were formulating a way to connect the concept of metempsychosis with another newly discovered concept of ‘The One’, what they call ‘Atman-Brahman’. ‘The One’, though, is not a numerological one as we may assume. The concept of ‘one’ refers more to the ‘all’. Everything arises from within this all, which is beginningless and endless, eternal. The gods also only existed within this all, so how could they be in charge of how things would continue to exist? There had to be another factor to our transmigration. In an Upanishad text the following is written: “Man is made of desire. As his desire such is his resolve. As is his resolve, such is his action. And what action he performs, he reaches that existence.” In another passage, ‘the wise man, Arthabhaga’ asks the sage Yajnavalkya what becomes of the man himself when his body has deceased. Yajnavalkya takes the wise man apart so only they would know this. “And what they talked: they talked of action. And what they praised: they praised the work. Indeed, man becomes good by good work and bad by bad work.” So, as we can conclude, there is an interdependent force of action and result, or, in their words Karma.
The fact that Yajnavalkya kept the mystery can be explained in various ways. The knowledge is occult (only accessible for a small group of adepts) or was maybe too new at the time of this dialogue. Nonetheless the mystery is kept within the doctrines of Buddhism. They ascribe the relation between transmigration and karma to be exceedingly complicated. The shortest answer on questions of how Karma is related to transmigration besides, “I don’t know,” is probably, “ You’ll know when you’re enlightened.” So how karma, or conduct, works exactly is not so important here. What counts is the conduct itself. To make it more tricky, conduct is not only what we see on the outside. Like the Christians say, conduct is not only the work itself but the entire process, starting with the intention. Buddhists totally agree. Only with a ‘good’ intention, or motivation, will you have ‘good’ conduct. Even your sense of satisfaction after the conduct counts toward the final result. So after every action try to be content, joyful, or something positive otherwise you still won’t create a good conduct. This is, if you want to create good karma for happiness in this and in all future lives.
Culture is a party - ‘Social engagement’s’ broad spectrum of conduct in helping other people is better known as community work. This should sound familiar. Hopefully even a bit comforting. We can argue about a lot of concepts but when it comes to community work, we all say that it is ‘good’. We consider it to be a moral duty to participate in community work at some stage of our life. A range of cultural activities, assumed to be easily accessible, are organized and current community events are very popular. And if a gathering to show ‘Tupperware’ products is considered to be a ‘party’, then culture (as the sum of cultural activities and conduct) most certainly is a party. A conduct of joy.
Nowadays ‘green energy’, is also listed among the world of community works, the magic word. The evil sorcerer ‘Lord Voldemont’, the villain in the Harry Potter series, would probably have succeeded his hideous plans if he had only used the word ‘Eco’ in his spells. We associate green energy with environmental and eco(logical) acts of social engagement. There are many variations on this theme starting with recycling, wind energy, a broad range of using and developing eco friendly products, perma-culture, save the trees actions, urban farming, all the way to eco villages. Green energy unites us by connecting us with nature and with each other. Green energy allows us to reconnect or reunite with the natural laws of communication, of feeling, of behavior, of participation and how to take care of ourselves and each other. Green energy, green energy, green energy, hallelujah. It is not difficult to imagine that we find the origins of this movement in the western mind.
The western mind is strongly influenced by the Christian belief system. When we talk about community or even communication, which find their origin in the Latin word ‘communio’(sharing thoughts and feelings), we find that these words have become direct variations of the word communion. The fellowship of the Holy Spirit, as preached in Church. Although the eco-Christ is still alive, the eco-fundamentalist known as the guerilla gardener is already active. Although there is not much difference between the occult and the esoteric most people prefer residence in an eco village to involvement with a religion.
In the Bible we find the following verse in the book of John (John 14:16-17): “16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 .the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you.” The Holy Spirit is our conscience, our source of creativity and conduct. It makes us, loving, joyous, peaceful, patient, kind, good, gentle and self-disciplined. The Roman Catholics add generosity, modesty and chastity to this list. The Holy Spirit is often symbolized as wind, fire and water as means of transport in which it comes to us and abides within. Now, find the link to our eco mindedness as we talk about wind energy, solar power and water turbines. It takes a green man to make this a trinity. The Holy Spirit also provides true anointment, so when you say you feel ‘blessed’ with your new eco friendly skin cream, that is very natural. Where we referred to culture as a party it is very different to a culture being a party.
Revolution - Restoring belief in nature is what can be called a spiritual revolution. Although it might be different to restoring the house of God and painting it green, we are trying to found, constitute, lost freedoms of natural conduct and community.
If Obama is a revolutionary, the ‘founding fathers’ were the trend setters. They took inspiration very literally. ‘In God we trust’ is still the motto on every dollar transaction made. It looks like we are lost in the act of revolution, the Holy Spirit and engagement for the well being of others. Appearances can be deceiving. A revolution is equal to engagement as it becomes the will to change (yes we can!) the state of wellbeing. Although usually more violent and absolute than engagement, still with no lesser intention. Hugo Claus’ ‘Les Misérables’ (the miserable) depicts beautifully the origin of the modern revolution, the French revolution. The red flag waving on top of the barricade accurately captures the entire story of this revolution in one image. The barricade symbolizes an abrupt stop. The red waving flag symbolizes the anger of passion. People were angry, they were angry because they were starving and felt powerless. They wanted a stop, not only to poverty but also to the bourgeoisie and the monarchy. Liberty, equality and brotherhood (Liberté, égalité, fraternité) was the motto derived from this revolution, a beautiful phrase, a mind that still flows within French society, a fruit derived from a revolution which was in fact a failure. Impotent anger lead to blind violence, the barricade that arose stopped the motion and became a basin filled with rage. Where violence has absolute dominance not only will all laws become silent, but everything and everybody will fall silent.
Violence is not capable of speech, or any form of communication other than violence. Violence is a force and not a power. The power of the people is gain when people unite with the intention to act (together). This power fails/falls when these people leave each other. The barricade was built to stop the monarchy, but even when the king was killed the structure of the monarchy still prevailed. The barricade was built to stop poverty, the poverty worsened. Everything consumed by this revolution was indeed miserable. Surprisingly the fruits derived from this revolution are fruits of social engagement: Brotherhood, the care for each other; Equality the connection with each other; Liberty the way we can act freely with each other (sincere communication and conduct).
The construction where one man, appointed by God, would govern the country was reformed by the construction of a republic. The divine power of the king was transformed to the power of the people. There the will of each individual was assumed to be always anarchistic, the constitution of the republic was rooted in the will of the people but it didn’t represent the will of the people. The constitution represented a more mundane element; the space where the people could express their will. The republic became the house where brotherhood, equality and liberty could live. In the words of one of the American founding fathers John Adams: “Let us be seen acting,” let us have a space where we are seen and can act. It came again as the Greek and roman Polis, the commune.
Trivium - Another achievement of the constitution was the trinity of power. The preceding trinity; religion, tradition and authority, already damaged, was replaced by the legislative power, the executive power and the judicial system (law). The last one is the binding factor, it expresses the ratio between the first two. Without law the space between the legislative power and executive power would probably be non-existing, and within this concept of constitution this wouldn’t be a denial of law but of liberty. Nevertheless, a constitution or nation starts and ends with the will of people to act, their conduct, their engagement. Although religion was downgraded the trinity stays, and is still the main concept now.
Somewhere in her book about revolutions Hannah Arendt equates grammar to action. In this equation syntax would be power - most interesting. Using this perspective we can place engagement within the dimension of the earlier mentioned ‘trivium’; Grammar, Dialog and Rhetoric. The ancient Greeks studied these three arduously; you attained a Bachelor degree after you completed these three successfully. If we replace Grammar with ‘engagement’ this means that conduct would be the rule.
Here conduct means, again, that there is an intention, there is an urge otherwise there is no conduct. This conduct is the start. The next step is the ‘dialog’, where one conduct meets another conduct. On this level conduct presents itself as a story. This could sound abstract; another word for it is culture. Finally the stage of rhetoric where ‘engagement’ reaches the debate ground, the ground for a showdown, the ground where our conduct is publically exposed and discussed. I previously mentioned that the ancient Greeks used the trivium, but we actually see this threefold idea everywhere. At least, everywhere we make use of a so called debate ground. In politics we call it the senate or the (Dutch)upper and lower house; in business we call it a meeting; in the western domestic environment we could call it the family table.
The last level, rhetoric, has continued to have a function of a platform throughout history; many battles have been fought, many opinions and philosophies revised or silenced. Throughout the ages the basic rules on this ground have never changed, one proposes and another asks the questions. The debate finishes when the proposer is unable to answer the question asked, or the questioners can’t come up with any further questions. On this ground everything has to come from the first two stages, so the grammar has to be fine and also the dialogue or logics has to be learnt. Mastery over grammar and dialogue can make you an authority on the debate ground. Mastery here is gained by reasoning, composition (of arguments), right use of language, knowing things by ‘heart’ (memorization) and the use of the right gestures and intonation.
The drive to stand and bow - Still, although three-foldness could sustain itself, there is always an authority which stands within and without of this trinity; the ultimate judge. Eventually the most charismatic advocates bow down to the jury (which represent the community/dialogue) and the Judge. The government bows down to the constitution or to the King. The king bows down to God, as the manager’s bow down to their chief executive, and eventually to the company (legal) owner. Upright as we are, in all our supremacy and as John Adams said: “Every individual seems, in greater extent, to be driven by a desire to be seen, heard, discussed, appreciated and respected, with his knowledge, by the people surrounding him” in short; desire to stand out, eventually we have to bow down. The longer you delay this the tougher life will be. Bow to God, the father, bow to your children, bow to each other, bow to your teacher, bow, bow, bow; the ultimate condition. And probably you feel the contradiction coming; we even bow to our desire which impels us to stand up. Actually bowing is very difficult if you have never stood up. And there we are fully absorbed in the act of bowing down and standing up - the main source of income for the mental and physical therapist.
In contrast to the mentioned judge it is of less importance, if we stand up, bow down or freeze; our main concern is who is the actor, the doer, the decider, the initiator. It’s not the bow or the stand that engages; it is what is making us bow or stand that engages; this other energy. Let us call it the drive This drive would be the bottom and stands before intention or motivation. This drive, is driving us into engagement, that’s power, and it is the driving ‘force’ we meet at the debate ground of engagement. We are talking about social engagement, community or communal work, a conduct that is characterized by the many (plurality). An ‘individual’ driving force can be beautiful but is a mere inspiration. The drive is more, it is the ground, the foundation, were the inspiration lifts off. The drive is impersonal, but carried by each individual. And how could it be otherwise? It is the driving force, derived from the drive, that puts us in trial or on the debate ground. It’s the driving power, derived from the drive that forms a community or the dialogue; it’s the drive that forms the grammar or the conduct. It is the drive that is being exposed in every layer of the trinity and it is not only the final judge it is also the creator of the concept of this trivium. Only one stuck in the books of Freud would take this drive personally. Not that Freud was a big show-off at the show down. Although his (threefold) theory fits perfectly within the trivium, it reduces and even scatters the vastness of the originator of his driving force; the drive, dramatically. Making the drive personal is like saying ‘I created internet’.
Anthropocentrism - At the Cosmology and Consciousness event, a ‘Dialogue’ between Buddhist Scholars and Scientists on Mind and Matter, held in Upper TCV Dharamsala in December 2011, Professor Rajesh Kasturirangan seated at the Indian institute of Science and the National Institute of Advanced Studies opened his talk with the following words:”The end of anthropocentrism is one of the signature achievements of science; starting with Copernicus, we have progressively shifted the ‘center of the universe’ away from human beings. As of now, we are just another species on yet another planet in yet another galaxy (not yet another universe, though that might happen too). ….When it comes to subjectivity, the same logic leads us in the exactly opposite direction…..the totally objective universe is mirrored and represented in my completely isolated and subjective consciousness.”
Professor Kasturirangans’ discussed his research and development of a new form of Anthropocentrism (means to consider humanity as the center of creation) which is in line with the dialect used in the Indian philosophical system found in the Advaitic doctrine. This system, as a predecessor of early Buddhism, had already formed an approach of the interdependence between subject and the object. There are many interpretations on this thought. Some with more emphasis on the subject, which leads them to say that this world is only a projection of one’s consciousness and that everything that seems real is only imaginary, a construction or creation of our own mind. In this context, the sentence ‘I created internet’ suddenly isn’t so strange anymore. Others place the emphasis more on the object side, that the object outside reflects that there is a consciousness inside that is perceiving it.
Yama - Some Buddhists deal with anthropocentrism by claiming that the appearance of a human being is an interdependent subject based on five aggregates. These aggregates are form, sensation, perception, mental formation and consciousness. One school of Buddhist philosophy, Madymika, is famous for their doctrine about the absence of a self, or selflessness. These five aggregates, dependent upon each other are used to search for the I, me or mine which are deemed absent. The Buddhist reasoning is logical; if the person is dependent upon these five aggregates, then where is the (solid) I, me or mine that we refer to? Having the wrong perception of your real ‘I’ is what the Buddha called ‘ignorance’. This ignorance is the main reason why we are kept in the cyclic existence of suffering, ‘samsara’. The five aggregates are symbolized as five skulls on the head of a monstrous Deity called Yama. He is depicted on one of the most popular paintings in Buddhism, called ‘the Wheel of Dependent Origination’; which is used to explain their most profound teaching. This painting shows us the mirrored ‘subjective’ consciousness. In this painting Yama is holding the ‘Wheel of Life’. It teaches or shows us the lesson on the so called ‘twelve links of dependent arising’. The wheel of life is an old drawing which was constructed and first drawn in sand by Buddha [drawn for a worldly King] to explain the laws of conditioning. How everything depends on causes and conditions. How everything we experience is a result of something that has happened before. In short, he explained the working of Karma. The wheel that Yama is holding can be regarded as a mirror. This mirror shows our ‘inner psychological cosmology’. It shows our internal processes and their effects, the cause of our frustration, limitation and pain. It also shows us the antidotes (luckily).
The text on the ‘wheel of dependent origination’ is studied in all Buddhist schools. There is a lot to say about this picture, what it symbolizes and teaches. Many beautiful dialogues, stories and profound philosophies arise from it. What is important here in the context of the ‘subjective’ consciousness is that in the teachings on the 12 links of dependent arising, consciousness plays just a minor roll. It is ‘just’ one link. In this image consciousness is symbolized as a monkey jumping from one branch or house to another. The 12 links are: Ignorance, compositional activity (karma), Consciousness, mind and body (name and form), sense, contact, feeling, craving, attachment, becoming (potential existence), birth and as the 12th link we find aging, sickness and death. Breaking just one link enables you to leave samsara, cyclic existence.
Ignorance - Where Professor Kasturirangan still leaves space to say the outside world is reflected inside, which makes perfect sense in his thesis on the objectification of the outside world, the Buddhist image reflects only the inside world as they say that the wisdom lays within and that is reflected outside. Another big difference between the starting point of the new anthropocentric movement and the Buddhist doctrine is that the professor still speaks in terms of ‘my’ consciousness. The Buddhist doctrine, with their theory of selflessness, dismisses the I, me and mine. In the case of social engagement, which I have concluded is impersonal, we have to put the professor in line of the cavalry and take the path of anthropocentrism to the origin of the drive with a more Buddhist way of thinking. Unfortunately there are a few pitfalls on that road. One is the concept of Buddha nature, or clear light nature. Another is the concept of the so called subtle consciousness. Both could be easily mistaken for the ‘drive’. Understand that both concepts are too vast to be explained in a few words.
Our Buddha nature gives us the aspiration or urge to strive for Buddha-hood and the ability to become a Buddha or enlightened one. Unfortunately this ‘nature’ is blocked or enshrouded by ignorance. As we now know ignorance is the misconception of a self-existent independent I. And that needs to be understood. A similar, but not the same, concept that we find in the Bible and Koran is where ignorance is also a stain on our ‘pure’ heart. Ignorance then means, disbelief [confusion]. In the Koran it is symbolized in the event of splitting open the prophets’, Muhammad, breast. The passage tells the story of the young Muhammad playing with other kids, in the time when his parents were still alive. Suddenly Angel Gabriel appears; he grabs Muhammad and pushes the child to the ground. Gabriel splits the chest of the child open takes out the heart and cleans the heart of a dark substance. The angel then replaces Muhammad’s heart and heals his breast. Sounds harsh but by Gabriel’s act the heart of Muhammad was purified, freed from the dark clouds of ignorance. With Buddha nature the pure heart reveals itself once ignorance is overcome. Why are the pure heart as well as our Buddha nature different from the drive; is because the drive ‘is’, a constant, unshrouded.
The ultimate Truth - The subtle consciousness is the term for that which transmigrates to the next life. The subtle consciousness is different from the concept of soul in Christian related religions. It is also different from the shamanistic spirits. The subtle consciousness can be seen as a recording medium which records the imprints of karma. The subtle consciousness is slightly connected to the, easy to know but difficult to comprehend, concept of atman. The subtle consciousness arises, just as the atman, in deep sleep and just after death. The subtle consciousness is like the earth for the seeds of Karma. Subtle consciousness is carried by an eastern [in Hinduism first, then Buddhism] concept, ‘subtle wind’ and exists (sort of) in each person’s ‘continuum’, also a Buddhist concept. The reason why drive would be different from subtle consciousness is simple, it is like atman-Brahman, free of any other concept. It is the space where all this is happening. Its description is more likely to be found on the level where the five elements expose themselves. The Buddhist would call this, uncompounded space, in their words not a conventional but an ‘ultimate truth’.
Taking the Buddhist path we turn inside to find the drive behind social engagement. It answers the following description: it is something impersonal, something simple, something that can’t be hidden, a kind of ultimate truth. It is the force that equally drives us to seek out higher grounds or as the introduction of ‘Star Trek: the final frontier’ tells; to go where no one else has gone. Like being on community or common ground where we do what we do just to help out. What drove Nietzsche’s Zarathustra first up and then down? Zarathustra went up for knowledge and whilst there he felt the abundance given by the sun and he wanted to flow. Flow like a river, the ultimate metaphor of the early Taoists, flow like a river as being one with the Tao. Why did Muhammad come out of his cave after his messages from Gabriel? He would reply to the messenger from Allah, that he felt Allah and was united with Allah. He could have stayed in the cave enjoying the ultimate truth but instead, he came out and spoke to and fought for the people. He came down with his variation of the trivium, he preached: ’the law is my word, the path my action, the truth is my inner state’. TheBuddha left his palace, then after six years of extreme ascetism he found the middle way, became enlightened and then came from sweet nirvana to tell us about the four noble truths, thus realizing all his dedication of merits collected throughout ‘eons’ of cyclic existence. We are all familiar with these wonderful stories. These stories about heroes, prophets, scientist, politicians, kings, dictators and common people, who with an act of complete selflessness, impersonal, spread helpful conduct throughout the world. But don’t let us be carried away by beautiful stories, these ‘can’ at best only inspire us. What we are looking for is the aspiration, the urge, the intention, the drive, that makes us long to make these stories our own, the drive that impels us to get inspired. The message most of these stories tell of is a downfall after or before a magnificent arising. The characters in these stories first bow down, are insignificant, and with a true force they grow as a sun flower, they rise up, and fully grown, overloaded with fruits or seeds they bow down again, ready to be harvested, ready to be cut, in order to spread their seeds. So again stand up and bow down or bow down and stand up. Please, don’t be caught up by the metaphor, the basin or fish bowl in which a fish swims round and round, the circular reasoning, or the circle of samsara. The reason why these stories stay in our mind is because of the asymmetry exposed in these stories, the asymmetry exposed where the story is told and this asymmetry as felt by the listener. They continue in our mind like a catchy tune we just can’t get out of our mind. Leonardo de Vinci exposed this asymmetry in his famous painting the Mona Lisa. One can stare at this picture and see different things every moment. The asymmetry is the dissonant in an opera, the ‘Kit Kat’, ‘cup a soup’, or coca-cola light break on your working day. It is the power that makes things grow, and the force that allows them to diminish.
This is the drive.
‘Eureka’! ... Galileo yelled out in church. When he left church, after singing with joy praising the conception and the concept (of the pendulum motion) from which the seed was exposed. His life ended condemned by that same church, for questioning and bringing chaos to the ‘holy’ concept of anthropocentrism. His theories probably endangered the order of the holy community called the human earth, the creation of God. Galileo was on a quest preceded by Copernicus, as Professor Kasturirangan noticed. Galileo’s quest is yet just another story in yet another time, it quotes success and downfall. The drive exposed in the story is ‘the quest’ of first Aristarchus van Samos (310 – ca. 230 BCE), than Martianus Capella (5th century A.D.), Copernicus and later Galileo, freeing science from the barricades which kept the world outside and the community in. The drive is that there was a Galileo as there was a Copernicus and the drive is that we want to remember them by their drive, to keep them in our community, our society. ‘Their’ force burnt them down, but their quest continued. And they knew just as Yama knew, that the quest would be continued. Yama the Lord of Death who holds the mirror. Before he became a monstrous deity he was a monk, the story goes as follows: Yama came to a wise, highly realized man, a Buddha, who said to him that he would reach enlightenment in this life if he would meditate continuously for 50 years, so he did retreat in a cave. After 49 years 11 months and 29 days, two thieves broke into his cave, they found a cow but no jewelry or what so ever. They come across Yama, who was sitting there and decided to break his concentration. They drove the cow in front of Yama and cut off his head. Then they decide to also cut off Yama’s head. Yama, almost enlightened, begged for his life saying that he is almost enlightened. The thieves show no mercy and cut off his head. Because of his merits and state of almost enlightenment Yama is reborn in the realm of deities, but he is so angry that he returns to samsara and kills the two thieves who killed him. Then his rage did not stop, he blamed the world so he decided to kill all human beings. The Tibetans come to know about Yama and feared for their lives, they pray to another deity, a Buddha. By showing immense regret, this gives Yama the final insight; he finished the path and become enlightened.
Yama’s quest, the drive, is remembered. Yama, with his force, climbed the barricade and instead of climbing over he planted the red flag red. His monstrous image symbolizes the barricades of time, impermanence and death. The Buddhists teach that we are captured or trapped in his claws and teeth. But, we know now, accentuated by Yama who is holding the mirror ‘and not himself’, the drive is not trapped, it is flowing. It is a constant, unchanged.
Social engagement, the drive in most subtle form - The quest Professor Kasturirangan is on, ‘a new anthropocentrism’, is helpful in the practice of social engagement. Objectivity on object as well as subject brings us closer to the impersonal. Social engagement is a quest, the drive in its most subtle form. It is a quest by means of its conduct, a quest by means of its result and a quest by means of its continuity. In fact a quest that was already there. It doesn’t have to be found nor does it have to be shipped in. As was written in the Upanishads: ’it is inside, it is outside, it is up and down, left and right, it is before and after.’ It is constant.
Although community work is a form of social engagement, social engagement is beyond community. In fact the community can be a barricade. Already we saw the close relationship with the communion which was easily transformed into a ‘tower of Babel’. The community is a concept, and as every concept it has a structure. This structure is built, out of the drive to form a union, which can be a deed of social engagement. But when the union is there we build a community, this drive then has transformed into a power. A power that can fall. The structure of a community is well known, it is built from various values. Commitments and promises keep the community together, like a magnetic force. Power and force can be called authority, authority a branch of Government and thus a person. Social engagement is on another level. Driven social engagement is a constant, the drive has no sum. The saying ‘united we stand, divided we fall, union is strength’ is a very wise one, but also the start of a big red flagged barricade. The slogan is derived probably from a strategic perspective that can be taken as a computing thought. This thought computes, one and one makes two. This precious mind has some meaning in one’s community life but social engagement aims for the drive. Making one and one, two is an act of adding ‘up’ two numbers but also an act of generalization. This act generalizes the individual ones’. Reducing people to countable numbers is making people impersonal, but two as a union is upgrading these people to one person, a person that can stand, and thus personal. As we can clearly notice when we say our union stands. Social engagement is impersonal and focused on the field of the individual. An example of this conduct of social engagement can be found in Jesus’ and Bhudda’s (selfless) passion. Their passion wasn’t personal it was directed personally to each individual. Taking these people as individuals, fully respected and appreciated. Reflecting or sharing what they felt inside.
As the Dalai Lama points out Christian community work has being very successful, he is very right. The strength, the power of their community work is indeed stunning. Every missionary they send out is like a settlement on his own. Talking to him (or her) is like entering the house of God in both senses. And even if you don’t believe in God, this house certainly has a most comforting, motherly warmth. And on top of that, a family is included. A house can also be oppressive but it is amazing to see how the secular power can be turned into a force and from that force again to its power. Even at the level of showdown they have a most outstanding repertoire. But we are discussing social engagement different. It is community work on the level where cause is a result and result is a cause.
Back to the Miserables - In many musicals, books, theatrical and screen plays, there is a love story, a story of love, placed against a background of a world that is burning down. This is another example of ‘de Vinci’s’ asymmetry. Mostly this background has a multiple function; it often describes the destructive nature of some or all of the characters, their behavior, their conduct, the nature of the relationships etc. This is what we call Drama. In many ‘Hollywood and Bollywood endings’ ‘love’ stands strong, even if everything else is diminished. We all know the story of Romeo and Juliet where both characters die dramatically. In the end Love still stands as a sort of monument…sniff, sniff,… how beautiful. There are many examples such as Hugo Claus’ Les Misérables’. Amidst the Barricades, amidst the story of the constantly chased righteous, brave, fugitive Jean Valjean, amidst the fact that all are doomed to be miserable, even miserable-ship itself and of course love itself, there is this Love story between Marius and Cosette. While his fellow students are planning attacks in their attempts to hold the Barricades, in this basin filled with rage and madness, Marius is walking with his head in the clouds. One of the fellow students is making fun of Marius, by singing, ‘...this is better than an opera.’
Engage in the playground - Social engagement is engagement, it is ground level community work, the level where fun-making starts. Perceiving the asymmetry.
In the early years of ‘Cosette’ she was used as a drudge by the Herbert family ‘the Thénardier's’. She escaped this hardship in her dreams. In the musical this is translated in a beautiful solo ‘There is a Castle on the clouds’. She dreamt about a castle, a place, a wondrous community. In her dream she constructed this building ‘with’ the set of rules that governed this place. She did not dream about gold but of a playground where children play with each other ‘nicely’, a place, ‘….where nobody shouts or talks too loud, not in my castle on a cloud’. Social engagement sees the castle but focuses on the clouds. The Castle is the concept, constructed by Cosette’s desire to free herself. She is protecting this castle by rules and hiding it in her dreams. The clouds are the field of construction, the field of the whole spectrum of possibilities. The clouds are the playground, a playground, where children can everyday draw new lines for yet a new or old game they invented, or have thought about. The old lines erased by time, rain or snow as long they don’t use waterproof materials. Social engagement is engagement in the clouds, it is community work at a infinite playground.
The first PiYama party - Social engagement can bring, can give, can take, can change, can stabilize, can restore, can build, can give birth and can even construct but most of all social engagement is a quest floating on the asymmetry of wisdom and method, where community is located and holy is just another driving power or force. Social engagement is a continuous act of appreciation. Social engagement is simple; just start with A, Appreciating.
I consider this essay to be both; continuation, transformation and a new form of ‘JIJ’ (‘you’ in English). The birth of ‘PiYama’. This is the first PiYama party, nice you are here.
Cause is a result and result is a cause.
‘The son becomes the father, the father becomes the son’
Looking forward to the next PiYama party,
I will continue…. cool, aware, attentive and immensely enjoying.
Wheel of dependend origination