The word “Buddha” means to wake up. More precisely it means to see what is really going on (in other words, “dharma”), and understand that it has always been so. The Occupy Wall Street movement and its 1,000 offshoots worldwide is that kind of awakening. Its overarching theme is inequality: rich and poor, haves and have-nots, just and unjust. It has always been so, but the scale of it varies through time. In the U.S., the objective reality and statistical fact of this economic divide has been brewing since the 1980s (for an excellent historical perspective, see this article by Bill Moyers in The Nation magazine).
But now in times of unemployment and bread-line level deprivation, that reality has broken through the veil of public unknowing, taken form as the Occupy movement and has been transmitted at light speed from city to city courtesy of social media and the web.
Many of my Buddhist friends are sympathetic to this movement, and want to help. Many of them, like me, were themselves youthful demonstrators once, long ago when the issues were civil rights and the Vietnam war. Just as now, that awakening in the 1960s was to perennial truths to which we had up to then been oblivious. “Black people in the South can’t vote! They are oppressed!” Yes, as they had been forever. “This war is unjust. It’s horrible! The innocent die!”–another perennial truth. In those days it was television, rather than the internet, that broadcast these truths into everyone’s living rooms and woke us up.
I was once one of those youthful anti-war protestors, linking hands and facing down riot police armed with batons and guns. We self-righteously referred to the police in those days as “pigs,” ignoring the unwiseness of hurling such insults at a phalanx of heavily armed men. We too were beaten, bloodied, and in a few cases killed. When I look back through the lens of my own youth at today’s protestors and their pithy slogans (“We are the 99%”) I see myself.
However, we Buddhists all need to remember that Gautama was in his time a one-percenter or worse–he was, after all, a prince. He had his own awakening from unknowing (or so the accounts of his life tell) when he walked out of the palace as though for the first time and saw what was really happening — “People are old and poor! People are sick! They die! Look, a monk!” This is an archetypal moment (referred to in Buddhist literature as the “four sightings”); I think it happens in some fashion for each generation–an onrush of awakening that keeps societies from sinking totally into the quicksand of their own corruption.
My Buddhist friends think of conveying well-meaning instructions to today’s Occupiers about non-violence, compassion, and meditation, so they will not become angry in the face of the injustice they see. This is good, but I am not sure that is exactly the right medicine. Maybe it is good that they are angry. Maybe they don’t need meditation instruction just now. Gautama, after all, was not schooled in meditation when he experienced the four sightings. He just opened his eyes, which anyone can do.
Others say the Occupiers need a goal, demands, a program. Perhaps. I’m not sure today’s protestors need anything right now except to be appreciated for the truths they are speaking and the role they are playing at this critical time in the development of human consciousness. They have already discovered what the Buddha taught in his second Noble Truth — that the root cause of our unnecessary suffering is grasping, clinging, selfishness, and greed — often for money, sometimes for emotional or physical safety, nearly always for power. The energy of greed is the prime distorter of human community. The Buddha clearly saw this.
My feeling is that we are seeing the first raw beginnings and baby steps of a giant leap forward, one that will transcend and outgrow whatever form the Occupy movement is currently taking. Let it develop, let it learn what nourishment it needs. If it needs or wants our gray-haired advice — and it may not — then let it ask. I am ready if anyone asks, knowing that my time on the barricades was long ago and that I may not know the answers. If no-one asks, I am content to be watchful, to appreciate, and to allow this fervent historical moment to unfold.
One last note: much later, when I had become a Buddhist teacher, I met a policeman who had been on that police line where I demonstrated in front of the Oakland, California Army Induction Center so long ago. By now he too was a Buddhist. He told me how it was for him back then. “We were scared,” he said. “We didn’t know who you were or what you would do. We didn’t know what weapons you had or whether you would riot. And when you started screaming at us and calling us pigs, we got mad. We weren’t pigs (well, a few of us were brutes, he admitted) we were just people trying to do a job. I understood that you were angry, but I didn’t like being called a pig. I wasn’t a pig.”
The policemen, the firemen, the teachers, the workers everywhere — they are all part of the 99%. And more to the point, this really isn’t just about the 99%, it is about the 100% — in other words, all of us. Who knows what Gautama was like in the years before he walked out of the palace. He may have been a self-satisfied aristocratic twit — until he woke up. People can change. That is the unwritten liner note to the 2nd Noble Truth — the deep truth of human suffering is for everyone, it is about the 100%. For Buddhists, this 100% is not just human beings, but everything living, the air and the clouds, even the whole earth itself.
Needless to say, Gurdjieff was one of the pioneers in mind-control manipulation of opinion: the tactics of telepathic hypnosis in creating conservative opinion is the most devastating evil in his legacy, but one the rightwings of modern society have no mastered.
However, the endless research into advertising technology has made Madison Avenue et al. thoroughly acquainted with Gurdjieff’s findings on ‘suggestibility’.
Gurdjieff promised liberation here, but the reality is its exploitation.
I get email. The post speaks for itself, for the nonce: will discuss at length later.
I wrote a review of Andrew Cohen’s book at Amazon, and I must have gotten through to a lot of people.
I need to revise my statements (check out the review) to get past the Bennett references. But Bennett had a good basic framework in the way he pointed to the transition from homo erectus as significant.
I think the writer of this post has been confused, as I warned, by Cohen’s formulation: the ‘evolutionary impulse’ is, I think, a confusion.
I read your piece The Muddle Over Evolution (http://integral-options.blogspot.com/2011/10/two-views-on-andrew-cohens-evolutionary.html)
and decided to drop you a line…
I absolutely agree that “we need more then New Age Platitudes” / “Enlightenment is not the same as a higher state of consciousness” / “simply beyond our our science, and beyond our New Age gurus”.
But, because I live it, I KNOW that the “evolutionary impulse” is as real as this keyboard. I didn’t choose my spiritual path, but because I paid attention to ‘guidanace’ from beyond, I responded to its ‘calling’, but it had nothing to do w/ wishing to be ‘spiritual’ at all!
I wanted to live in the forest away “from the insanity of the world”, and yet it happened because my Soul’s blueprint had its own agenda to fulfill!
Sri Aurobindo said it perfectly that “Even the body has to submit to a mutation and be no longer the clamorous animal or the impending clod it now is, but become instead a conscious servant and radiant instrument and living form of the spirit”.
Yes, that’s why in my blog I say that my job is “Supracosmic Tonglen Duty” (because my body-mind-soul is plugged to its Source)
which is something the ordinary mind can’t imagine what that’s like… Hell, I would never imagined such a thing possible!
But the Divine Shakti (Kundalini) ‘awakened’ in me and I had no choice but to deal with it to the best of my capability.
I don’t want to be long winded, but will mention that in 1990′, according to my frightened husband my head lit up “like the sun” for several minutes. By 1994′ “by fluke” I discovered I had next to my skin finger wide “ribbon of blue light”, and beyond it golden glow around my head and body. That’s why I say that “my life is my testimony” (and its frikin’ hard to be me!)
Blog sampling or few, to give you an idea what ‘Theofilia’ writes about
Review of Anirvan’s To Live Within
I am picking up ‘noise’ to the effect that the Anirvan pro-G stuff is now being phased out: the post-Anirvan entity is denouncing the way he was misled by the ‘work’. Exactly the same that happened to the post-Ouspensky entity (who had a much harder time discovering his past life, was done for him I’m told).
Whatever the case my critical review needs a rewrite or elaboration. Anirvan has some interesting stuff to say about Samkhya, but his confusion, that he is describing Gurdjieff’s teaching, is cockeyed. He is describing an Indian tradition, and his own experiences with an Indian guru. Anirvan doesn’t know much about Gurdjieff’s own path and thinks it is a variant of a yogic/samkhya sadhana. The nasty surprise, furthermore, never come, because, as usual, those who promote Gurdjieff get special handling, and never realize what is going on with the sufi world of Gurdjieff.
Suffice it to say that Anirvan’s guru, a shadowy figure in the background, is not at all like Gurdjieff, was enlightened, where Gurdjieff was not, and is never quoted on the subject of Gurdjieff, or anything else.
Note here the danger of promoting gurus when you are not sure (or even aware of the issue) if they were enlightened.
Time to amplify this review/ Will repost any revision soon.
I have long been a critic of postmodern new agism, and also of Cohen’s brand. Now he has changed his story, and I actually take a hit here in one of the comments (scroll down). It gets outrageous. Cohen’s failed ‘postmodern’ spirituality was sunk by me. The comeuppance isn’t very convincing.
We have to face the reality here that so-called enlightened gurus (but I deny that Cohen is one of them) can decipher ‘evolution’ in man. The riddle is deep and not solved by books like this. But this is an exceptional bad book, and hasn’t had much influence anyway.
To continue from the previous two posts: to mix the ‘work’ ideas with politics is dangerous tactics. The reason is that the conservative wing is totally asleep. The closet fascism of the ‘work’, forced to act via a conservative framework is crippled at the start, and abandons the potential to higher consciousness to the left.
The problem is totally obvious in studying the eonic effect. The ‘left’, despite its flaws, represents the action, originally, in the early modern, of a spiritual force. The anti-modernism of much New Agism is simply vacuous, a sign of traditions that have long since died.
One of the hidden strains of the New Age movement is its conservative, in reality, reactionary state of mind, as this supports the authoritarianism of the guru world. The reality, visible in Rajneesh, is that the world of ashrams and gurus should be truly ‘new age’, on the left, in the service of social justice. The point should be obvious from the early history of revolutionary buddhism, now seen in the hidden reactionaries of Tibet (granting the sense that the Dalai Lama gives of an attempt to moderate this).
Those who fall in the trap here should note the way that the emergence of freedoms in social and political histories, especially modernity, have a spiritual lineage, secular or not.
The email spam below arrived in my inbox from Arete@Gurdjieff-Legacy.org.
The speaker looks like the author of ‘Struggle of the Magicians’???
Whatever the case it is classic example of the conservative orientation of the Gurdjieff mafia.
To be fair, the speaker is forced to balance his attacks with some no-brainer criticisms of the Wall Street people. The video starts with a harangue about violence. A giveaway. Who disagrees? The OWS movement started as a non-violent one, and was subjected to some violence in Oakland, at which point the critics had an inroad: blame the victim.
And this is pure hypocrisy. As if the crypto-fascist Gurdjieff was a proponent of non-violence. The whole method of the ‘work’ is violence against disciples, and the trashing of their independent spirit.
I don’t wish to be unfair here, since most front office types in the Gurdjieff game are outsiders ignorant of what they belong to.
But the thought, “Occupy youselves”, is another clue. It is another instance of the old canard: only the spiritual elite has a right to power. The peons who are ‘asleep’ need the guidance of those who are awake. Garbage!
Rights to freedom are unconditional, and don’t require the presence of ‘real I’ in the individuals powerless and impoverished by the elite, egged on by vultures like Gurdjieff who is anti-modern, anti-democracy, and not even clear about the achievements of abolition.
Liberals should be wary of the Gurdjieff legacy: it is an invitation to unconscious manipulation towards conservative mouthpiece status, as here.
Keep in mind that Gurdjieff is on record complaining of the liberation of the Russian serfs. He thought their place in traditional society to be just! Indeed, the concealed attack on liberal rights in Beelzebub’s Tales is a classic case of cryto–fascism
Subject: Occupy Wall Street – Occupy Yourselves
Date: 11/8/2011 3:27:33 A.M. Eastern Standard Time
A different slant on Occupy Wall Street. Check this out….
If you like, pass it on to friends and acquaintances.