Monday, March 23, 2009

58/82 Suffering and Tapas

Day off.

I'm still a day behind on the meditations.  I took the day for no particular reason.  My back feels much better.  Overall, I'm feeling really good again.

Gates says that there is a fundamental energy that underlies tapas, and that that energy derives from the desire to end suffering.  Too often, people apply that energy by trying to change the outer world.  That can lead to bad, and even terrible results.  He says that that misdirected zeal made Stalinism and Nazism possible.   In yoga, he says that the desire to end suffering is directed internally.  With it, we can change our reaction to outward circumstances, and we can do this without risking evil consequence.

Too often people misunderstand one of the basic points here:  most evil people actually intend to do good.  Hitler truly thought that the end result of his extermination programs would be a better world.  The Communist true believers slaughtered millions in pursuit of what they thought would be a better mode of existence for everyone.  I'm pretty sure that Osama bin Laden truly believes in the rightness of what he was doing, as did GW Bush. 

And I also think that Gates is onto something by pointing out the zeal, the focus of belief and the dedication to its application, that is necessary to accomplish evil on that scale.  This is one of the reasons I tend to shy away from true believers, no matter what they are selling.  Skeptics tend to be alot less dangerous.

I also agree that many problems have their root in a desire to end suffering.  People overeat, or gorge on comfort food to make themselves feel better for awhile.  People will lie, cheat, and steal because they want financial security.  No matter how rich some people get, they will then think that it will be enough when they make the next big strike.  And with other people, I've seen a kind of never ending resume building -- if they can just get that next position, that next title, then everything will be all right. 

The question that still puzzles me a little is whether the inner directed zeal is, by nature, superior.  The reason I wonder is because I've seen a few yoga snobs, people who are entirely wrapped up in their own spirituality, and who tend to rub it in other peoples faces.  Is their zeal inward directed, or outward directed?  I don't know how to answer that.  Or maybe their zeal in practice is just fine, but they are missing some other aspect.

Anyway, I'm pretty well convinced that outward directed zeal can be a very dangerous mistake.  I'm not as convinced that it always has to be.  But, again, the nice thing here is that yoga is ultimately a very practical endeavor.  The thing to do is to try to devote energy into the practice itself, without focusing too much on any particular result.  And then see if that works.  

And don't bug me about how I will know whether it worked if I don't have any goal in mind.  Suffice it to say, if I like where the ride takes me then I'll stay on the bus.  Or as Mickey Hart put it:  "Gone are the days we stopped to decide where we should go, we just ride."

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