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The One Goal of All Nature

--by Swami Vivekananda (Jul 12, 2010)


The grandest idea in Vedanta is that we may reach the same goal by different paths; and these paths I have generalised into four—viz., those of work, love, psychology and knowledge. But you must, at the same time, remember that these divisions are not very marked and quite exclusive of each other. Each blends into the other. But according to the type which prevails we name the divisions. It is not that you cannot find a man who has no other faculty than that of work, nor that you cannot find men who are more than devoted worshippers only, nor that there are not men who have more than mere knowledge. These divisions are made in accordance with the type or the tendency that may be seen to prevail in a man.

We have found that, in the end, all these four paths converge and become one. All religions and all methods of work and worship lead us to one and the same goal.

I have already tried to point out that goal. It is freedom as I understand it. Everything that we perceive around us is struggling towards freedom, from the atom to the man, from the insentient, lifeless particle of matter to the highest existence on earth, the human soul. The whole universe is in fact the result of this struggle for freedom. In all combinations every particle is trying to go on its own way, to fly from the other particles; but the others are holding it in check.

Our earth is trying to fly away from the sun, and the moon from the earth. Everything has a tendency to infinite dispersion. All that we see in the universe has for its basis this one struggle towards freedom ; it is under the impulse of this tendency that the saint prays and the robber robs. When the line of action taken is not a proper one we call it evil, and when the manifestation of it is proper and high we call it good. But the impulse is the same, the struggle towards freedom. The saint is oppressed with the knowledge of his condition of bondage, and he wants to get rid of it ; so he worships God. The thief is oppressed with the idea that he does not possess certain things, and he tries to get rid of that want, to obtain freedom from it ; so he steals.

Freedom is the one goal of all nature, sentient or insentient ; and, consciously or unconsciously, everything is struggling towards that goal. The freedom which the saint seeks is very different from that which the robber seeks ; the freedom loved by the saint leads him to the enjoyment of infinite unspeakable bliss, while that on which the robber has set his heart only forges other bonds for his soul.

--Swami Vivekananda


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On Jul 15, 2015 swetha wrote:

don't giv unwanted reasons



On Jul 19, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

I felt that our coming together on Wednesdays captures the four paths. When we meditate for one hour, we are walking on the path of psychology, observing the working of our own mind and developing equanimity. When we reflect on passages like this, we are indulging in the path of knowledge. When we have a few minutes of gratitude at the end, that is when we practice love. When CFMom makes food for us, when volunteers serve it, and help cleanup or stuff smile cards later, we are walking on the path of work. Infact, by our very act of coming together on a Wednesday, we have chosen to share our pursuit with others and thereby support each other's journeys. That itself is an example of selfless work. I found myself wondering what Swami V meant by "freedom," attaining which, one experiences "unspeakable bliss." Having just returned from a 10-day retreat (the path of psychology, to be sure), the explanation fresh in my mind was "freedom from mental defilements."  See full.

I felt that our coming together on Wednesdays captures the four paths. When we meditate for one hour, we are walking on the path of psychology, observing the working of our own mind and developing equanimity. When we reflect on passages like this, we are indulging in the path of knowledge. When we have a few minutes of gratitude at the end, that is when we practice love. When CFMom makes food for us, when volunteers serve it, and help cleanup or stuff smile cards later, we are walking on the path of work. Infact, by our very act of coming together on a Wednesday, we have chosen to share our pursuit with others and thereby support each other's journeys. That itself is an example of selfless work.

I found myself wondering what Swami V meant by "freedom," attaining which, one experiences "unspeakable bliss." Having just returned from a 10-day retreat (the path of psychology, to be sure), the explanation fresh in my mind was "freedom from mental defilements."

It is pertinent to share two insights from the 10-day, that connect with freedom. Although my wife's Ayurvedic instructions helped me a lot to eat well, and I had pretty much stopped overeating this time, by Day 3, I still had stomach problems, and Day 4, like the last 10-day, was a very hard day. For some reason, most other people I spoke to on Day 10 also struggled on Day 4. In the session that the Vipassana technique was given, I was writhing in pain and dancing in the seated position. Then something shifted. The pain disappeared, but the writhing did not. Imagine the comedy of the situation - I'm observing an actor dancing around in pain, except that there is no pain and the actor and audience are one! Who is dancing? Who is witnessing? As these thoughts arose, so did a big grin. I had caught myself overreacting. I felt as if all the times I've overreacted this year came to me in an instant. The dancing stopped immediately, never to trouble me for the rest of the course, although the pain came and went as it chose to. Freedom to laugh at myself. Freedom to catch the "I" steal the peace of the "I."

The second big insight was at two levels: micro and macro. Micro: The cause of a lot of problems in life are due to the craving of inner peace (or freedom from defilements). As long as this insidious craving exists, there can be no inner peace. This craving disguises itself as a noble and even spiritual pursuit, and is anything but. Connects to an iJourney passage earlier this year. Genuine inner peace can only start arising when the reaction to craving starts ceasing. Macro: The craving for world peace/freedom/social justice/social equality/social welfare are all insidious cravings. Taking world peace as the example, as long I crave for this, it is guaranteed that in the world I live in, at least one person is not in peace - myself. If most in my world are craving for world peace, then we will have a world there is mostly no world peace. The so-called "positive cravings" are much more dangerous than the "negative cravings," for it is much easier to get false feedback on supporting noble-sounding missions, spurring us on to deepen our misery. The only way I can contribute to world-peace or any of these noble goals is by ignoring these cravings, balancing my mind and deepening in equanimity.

What is a good test to see if I'm growing in freedom? Two questions were given at the retreat: Am I developing in gratitude? Am I giving without expectations? I can only say yes to both when the self-centered behavior recedes.

How do we develop this freedom? Two decisions we might make that help us grow in freedom are to practice awareness and equanimity.

I loved Nipun's sharing of Rev. Heng Sure's colleague who refuses to accept anything at all from anyone. When the other monks asked their teacher what this meant, as they had been told to accept gifts from others, the teacher told them that interaction with others also created a link or a bondage. For many monks who chose to serve, they'd have to give up some freedom out of great compassion for others.

In short, this might be considered the Bodhisattva's value system - these are the folks who refuse to accept what they consider full liberation (although ready for it) until every last blade of grass has been liberated! There are many who believe that we are all latent Bodhisattvas. What a thought!

But the questioning mind asks, "I can believe that I am compassionate like a Bodhisattva and stop working toward my freedom. How do I know I'm not copping out; not fooling myself?"

From some unknown depth comes this thought: Only when we experience some degree of freedom for ourselves can there be genuine compassion for others, for wanting them to experience freedom as well. Compassion that does not come from a space of genuine freedom is no compassion, it is serious confusion that can lead only to more misery, more bondage. How do we check what genuine freedom is? How many times do "I" come in the act of compassion? How much do "I" include in compassion? What do "I" find myself not free to include or not free to exclude?

The question is the answer. The answer is the question.

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On Jul 19, 2010 Ripa wrote:

I loved discussing freedom this past Wednesday. I thought the idea that the sinner and the saint both ultimately seek freedom, though of differing natures, was quite interesting. I believe it's important to note, however, that the lines between good and bad, victim and perpetrator, sinner and saint are not as disparate as they may seem in our dualistic world. That we are the living composite of the universe: part flower, part lion, monkey, tree, rain, mouse, rabbit, part bird. Any characteristic we see in nature, we can also find within ourselves. True wisdom arises when we can come to know ourselves as both sinner and saint - one and the same eternally. The blurred boundaries between victim and perpetrator are, in fact, what led me to wish to serve juvenile hall inmates. It's been so interesting to observe just how much victimization lies within perpetrators of societal violence, crime and destruction. Just this past Thursday evening, one young inmate confided in me how scared he is  See full.

I loved discussing freedom this past Wednesday. I thought the idea that the sinner and the saint both ultimately seek freedom, though of differing natures, was quite interesting. I believe it's important to note, however, that the lines between good and bad, victim and perpetrator, sinner and saint are not as disparate as they may seem in our dualistic world. That we are the living composite of the universe: part flower, part lion, monkey, tree, rain, mouse, rabbit, part bird. Any characteristic we see in nature, we can also find within ourselves. True wisdom arises when we can come to know ourselves as both sinner and saint - one and the same eternally.

The blurred boundaries between victim and perpetrator are, in fact, what led me to wish to serve juvenile hall inmates. It's been so interesting to observe just how much victimization lies within perpetrators of societal violence, crime and destruction. Just this past Thursday evening, one young inmate confided in me how scared he is to get out of prison due to having been violently stabbed by another young man. He and the other youth often share with me how they don't feel safe anywhere. I shared with them why, then, meditation is a good practice, for developing heightened awareness of one's surroundings and sharper survival instincts.

There is also a great deal of perpetration that, likewise, takes place within victims. Severe guilt. Self doubt. Self-critical thinking and self-punishment. Addictions of all kinds. These are some of the many ways that victims perpetuate even more violence and suffering upon and within themselves. A good friend who serves as a counselor for at-risk youth in the violent neighborhoods of Richmond, CA recently wrote how "compassion is a gift that is inter-personally transmitted." Mitch also shares how a victim of any kind needs at least one truly compassionate person in his or her life to help overcome victimization. It is also interesting and very sad to note how in the case of so called 'honor crimes' against women, it is almost always women themselves who carry out and further perpetuate violence against themselves.

I am reminded in this of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s quote from "Letter from a Birmingham Jail" about how "Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly." I think of these words as they apply particularly to children who grow up witnessing violence in their homes, and how much spousal abuse affects their ability to grow up feeling loved and create healthy relationships throughout their lives.

In examining any kind of problem, where societal or individual (often societal problems are, in fact, gross manifestations of masses of individual problems), it is crucial to go into the root causes of the problems. It is not enough to simply judge and thereby cast off an action as being wrong or bad. I often hear from juvenile hall youth, for example, that the reason they resort to stealing in the first place is to actually serve and provide for their family members, friends and community members in need. Robin Hood is a great example of a thief, but one who stole from the rich to give to the poor. The real question at stake in examining robbery, then, often becomes whether a person's so-called 'need(s)' is a legitimate survival requirement (adequate, healthy food, clean clothing and safe shelter) or whether the 'need' actually arises out of greed. As Gandhiji once said, "there is enough for everyone's need, but not for everyone's greed."

In my own life, I have always had a strong yearning for the kind of inner freedom Swami Vivekananda eloquently describes here. When I was younger, though, I was unable to define this freedom as being internal and instead viewed freedom as being quite external. For this reason, I absolutely hated going to India. It was very apparent to me just how few (external) freedoms Indian women and girls possessed, in the strongly patriarchal society of modern-day India. In Gujarat, the word for 'girl' is pronounced "baby." One day, as I was observing life on the streets from atop our family apartment balcony, I remember some teenage boys yelling at me, screaming "Hey baby, baby!" At 9 years old, I was certainly no 'baby' in my eyes and replied "who are you calling baby? I am not a baby!"

My mother always wished that I would take training in classical Indian dance when I was growing up. I, however, refused to subject myself to this, ignorantly believing such dances were weird and definitely Not for Me. Why do these dancers make such scary faces? I particularly did not understand the necessity for sticking their tongues out when dancing. So much of the deeply spiritual Indian culture made so little sense to me. I remember having prayed intensely before one of the many deities (probably, come to think of it, Kali herself, outstretched tongue and all!), wishing that I would one day be able to understand Her deeper essence. I always intuitively sensed that there was, indeed, something very sacred and profound to all things Indian, but that I would be wise to find a talented translator down the road.

My high school speech and drama teacher Mrs. Sanders encouraged me, instead, to become that translator when she gave me a high school graduation card with a Marcel Proust quote on it:

"The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

Six years later, these words continue to ring so true for me, as I find myself completely voluntarily training in classical Indian dance, having just completed a weekend workshop where learned a dance drama that involves a fight sequence against 'Kaliya.' I had to make the very scary faces I had always feared! But, finally, with an understanding of its significance and relevance to life. 'Kaliya' is a serpent who Krishna fights. Kaliya represents the inner demons we all possess within ourselves: anger, hatred, fear, jealousy, ignorance, doubt and despair. Odissi dance, for me, has become an exciting way of bringing the ancient yogic spirituality of India to life and serving as a bridge between two seemingly very different cultures. The order of learning for the dances starts with "Mangalacharan" (meaning auspicious beginning) and gets increasingly more complex until a student can learn a "Moksha" piece. "Moksha" is a Sanskrit word that means complete freedom from all forms of suffering. Moksha is, in fact, the ultimate goal of all my present passions, for Yoga, meditation, Ayurveda and dance. In delving deeper into my own culture, which I once viewed as restricting me from the freedom I have always sought, I have found that it is this very freedom that lays at the heart of all things (ancient) Indian. My journey has come full circle in wonderful ways, teaching me many important lessons along the road. Mostly, that freedom is a state of mind -  a subtle, but powerful shift in consciousness one often only comes to through a crisis of some sort. On this subject, I have written three poems which I will close with.

Prisoner of My Mind

Help me! Please!

I am trapped.

Imprisoned.

Enslaved.

Inside the iron walls

of hatred

anger

fear

jealousy 

and ignorance.

For ignore I have

the goodness that 

is there,

seeking to free me.

Freedom is the 

gentle fierceness

of a fearless 

state of mind.

When the ego dies,

the soul awakens.

In silence and stillness,

the serenity of the soul

survives - and thrives.

Freedom is...

Freedom is:

the sweet song of a mockingbird

speaking truth to power

with the lightness and grace of a flower

flowing with love, hour after hour

Freedom is:

a state of mind

that is kind 

and one in which I find

no room or reason for a bind

Freedom is:

the dawn of each new day

waking up with a spirit of play

as if to say

Hey!

Life is what you make of it.

The Lotus Blooms

The lotus flower

blooms in adversity

atrocity

animosity

For there is no greater power

than that which comes from a shower

of struggle

strife

and sorrow

The lotus never forgets

the possibility of tomorrow

Rather than mope,

the lotus is the essence

of Hope.

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On Jul 18, 2010 Alex Machiya wrote:

I believe what we want is to empty our minds and focus on the goal we have. Many other thoughts will distract us from the goal. So empty the mind of all other thoughts causing risistance.



On Jul 13, 2010 amy wrote:

There is a statement I use as a talisman during times of resistance within myself or with others:  "Do you want to be right, or do you want to be free?"  So helpful in shaking things loose.



On Jul 13, 2010 David wrote:

And though that search for freedom cares a thousand miles or a ferw, the trip into the heart of a few thoughts done without fear may be the longest .  For it takes lfetimes.