Complexity and Simplicity – Br. Shankara

Sunday, October 29, 2017

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elephant umbrellaOctober is a month for study of Karma Yoga, a spiritual path leading to the abandonment of selfishness. As a karma yogi, you practice offering your actions and their results, as well as your perceptions, thoughts, and feelings to the Divine Presence.

Even before fully knowing this Presence, you hold firmly to the belief that the Presence is within each person or other living being that you interact with or serve. 
Working and abiding in this spirit, you are increasingly able to release attachment to your activities and their results. This is the freedom promised by Karma Yoga.

As Sri Krishna tells Arjuna in Ch. 2 of Bhagavad Gita:
“Even a little practice of this yoga will save you from the terrible wheel of rebirth and death …”

This month we’ve explored spiritual teachings that promise you freedom from the small, dark prison cell of self-centeredness. We were told that there truly is a life of bliss and joy, beyond your pain and suffering. And we heard that to live this life, you must be of service to others, and of noble character.

John R. Macduff, a widely read 19th Century Scottish preacher and author, wrote:

“Character is the product of daily, hourly actions, and words, and thoughts; daily forgivenesses, unselfishness, kindnesses, sympathies, charities, sacrifices for the good of others, struggles against temptation, submissiveness under trial…”

Yet, in today’s world, how can you actually act, speak, and think like that? Our lives seem too complex: We’re constantly busy, nearly overwhelmed by duties, concerns, conflicts, and situations that demand an immediate response. We may suffer constant psychological pain. Sometimes, it feels like we’re barely hanging onto our sanity by our fingernails!

Yet, our Great Teachers gently tell us this need not be so. Swami Vivekananda once wrote to a deeply troubled friend: “Herein lies the whole secret of Existence. Waves may roll over the surface and tempest rage, but deep down there is the stratum of infinite calmness, infinite peace, and infinite bliss.”

Hanging on by your fingernails …
Infinite calmness, peace, and bliss …
Two utterly different levels of reality.

The first is the realm of mind, where — as Sri Sarada Devi said — human beings are “endowed not only with goodness, but with profuse quantities of materialism and vanity.”

The second is the province of the heart, with its revealing power of love and compassion, and its insight into the spiritual nature of our sisters and brothers in human and other forms.

In this talk, we expand on what is meant by these two statements, and discuss how the dedicated practice of Karma Yoga can tame your restless mind and open your joyful heart.

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