When Contemplation and Spirituality Meet Social Activism

When Contemplation and Action Meet
Photo credit Unsplash, Zac Durant

It is my deep conviction that any meaningful religious or spiritual approach must also really address the key issue of today – and that is a world that works for all. Disparities and inequalities in income and opportunities are become so huge, environmental degradation is advancing so rapidly, that unless we create a world that works for ALL (and this includes the environment), it will soon work for no one, not even the super-rich in their private, computer-protected suburban citadels.

Eckhart Tolle, echoing Isaiah, has said that loving your neighbor as yourself means that your neighbor IS yourself, and that RECOGNITION OF THIS ONENESS is love. This is meaningful spirituality, or true religion – the original meaning of the world religion being to create links or bridges.

When Spirituality and Activism Meet

A great source of inspiration for me in this area of what a meaningful spirituality for today might look like has been the Indian teacher and activist Vimala Thakar.

Born in 1920 into a Brahmin family, she very early manifested a passion for spirituality, and very early in life started visiting ashrams. At 19 she spent a year in a cave meditating. Following that experience, she went to the opposite end of the spectrum and joined the land distribution movement inspired by Gandhi and then led by Vinoba Bhave, travelling the Indian countryside for eight years.

Then a major event occurred in her life. At 40 years of age, she met the legendary Krishnamurti, the great teacher. He encouraged her to teach, and she left the field of social activism, writing to her friends in the movement that ‘the only salvation for mankind appears to be in a religious revolution of the individual’. Yet, 18 years later, the same Vimala returned to activism with the aim of aiding the poor and disenfranchised and healing the environment. She is the only major example I know of a person with that particular path: from meditation to activism, to teaching, and back to activism.

The clue, I believe, lies in her reply to the well-known American Buddhist teacher Jack Kornfield, who questioned her about returning to her earlier love: “I am a lover of life,” she replied, “and as a lover of life, I cannot keep out of any activity of life. If people are hungry for food, my response is to help feed them. If people are hungry for truth, my response is to help them discover it. I make no distinction between serving people who are starving and have no dignity in their physical lives and serving people who are fearful and closed and have no dignity in their mental lives. I love all life.”

Dropping the Dualistic Approach to Existence

In our dualistic approach to existence we are so fond of making comfortable little categories: inner and outer, meditation and activism, spirit and matter, individual and collective, my neighbor and myself, etc. There has yet to be a true blending of the two, a real integration of spirituality and social action. I  have met many social activists who were angry, self-righteous, full of judgement and even cynical and hateful, and I have known supposedly spiritual people who were indifferent to the needs of the poor and the real suffering of the world.

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To claim to be spiritually minded and yet be indifferent to the intense suffering of the poor, who are poor because of an economic system we keep in place by our votes, is a grave and dangerous illusion. And to be a social activist without an understanding of the spiritual laws which ultimately run the universe is to court personal and collective disaster.

The Force of Love Is The Force of Total Revolution

We truly need the total revolution Vimala Tharkar speaks about, where there is no longer a division between the spiritual and social spheres, inner and outer. All is one. As she states,

“A tender loving concern for all living creatures will need to arise and reign in our hearts if any of us is to survive. And our lives will be truly blessed when the misery of one is genuinely felt to be the misery of all. The force of love is the force of total revolution. It is the unreleased force, unknown and unexplored as a dynamic for change.”

I truly believe that love is the most powerful force in the universe, and that it is a law to every single situation that needs healing on the planet.

Vision for Change

John Lewis. congressman and civil rights leader wrote the following in his book "From Across That Bridge: Life Lessons and a Vision for Change": 

"Tolstoy wrote to Gandhi that “love is the only way to rescue humanity from all ills” …

"Our actions entrench the power of the light on this planet. Every positive thought we pass between us makes room for more light. And if we do more than think, then our actions clear the path for even more light. That is why forgiveness and compassion must become more important principles in public life.

"Anchor the eternity of love in your own soul and embed this planet with goodness. Lean toward the whispers of your own heart, discover the universal truth, and follow its dictates. Release the need to hate, to harbor division, and the enticement of revenge. Release all bitterness. Hold only love, only peace in your heart, knowing that the battle of good to overcome evil is already won. Choose confrontation wisely, but when it is your time don’t be afraid to stand up, speak up, and speak out against injustice. And if you follow your truth down the road to peace and the affirmation of love, if you shine like a beacon for all to see, then the poetry of all the great dreamers and philosophers is yours to manifest in a nation, a world community, and a Beloved Community that is finally at peace with itself."

©2020 by Pierre Pradervand. All Rights Reserved.
Reprinted with permission of the author
and taken from the author's blog.

Book by this Author

365 Blessings to Heal Myself and the World: Really Living One’s Spirituality in Everyday Life
by Pierre Pradervand.

365 Blessings to Heal Myself and the World: Really Living One’s Spirituality in Everyday Life by Pierre Pradervand.Can you imagine what it would feel like to never feel any resentment for any wrong done to you, gossip or lie disseminated about you? To respond with full awareness to all situations and people rather than react from your gut? What freedom that would entail! Well, this is just one of the gifts the practice of blessing from the heart, i.e. sending out focused love energy, will do for you. This book, from the bestselling author of The Gentle Art of Blessing, will help you learn to bless all situations and people as you go through the day and add overwhelming joy and presence to your existence.

 For more info and/or to order this book, click here.

More books by this Author

About The Author

Pierre PradervandPierre Pradervand is the author of The Gentle Art of Blessing. He has worked, travelled and lived in over 40 countries on five continents, and has been leading workshops and teaching the art of blessing for many years, with remarkable responses and transformational results. For 20 years Pierre has been practising blessing and collecting testimonies of blessing as a tool for healing the heart, mind, body and soul. Visit the website at https://gentleartofblessing.org

Audio-visual presentation: A Blessing for Compassion - Pierre Pradervand

Watch: Blessing and the Spiritual Path (full movie)


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