Talk: Why Endure the Separation – Br. Shankara

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July 28, 2019

Click for PDF of Quotes & Notes from this talk

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July 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 yields the freedom and contentment promised by Karma Yoga.

“Even a little practice of this yoga will save you from the terrible wheel of rebirth and death …” — Sri Krishna, Bhagavad Gita, Ch. 2

This month we’ve been studying the yoga of action – Karma Yoga. In September we’ll take up Raja Yoga, the yoga of meditation. This, our last talk for July, focuses on how these yogas can co-operate like the gears of two finely-designed machines.

Together, they transfer the power of spiritual practice to your nervous system, to your muscles and sinews, and thereby transform the way you see and behave in the world of action and experience.

Today, you and I probably live as if we are pretty much what we appear to be: a body, which is host to a mind that is governed by our intellect and emotions.

Neuroanatomist Jill Bolte Taylor tells us in her book My Stroke of Insight that most of us are “left-mind dominant:” a highly structured personality, primarily oriented to language and analysis. We value prosperity, productivity, and planned outcomes.

Taylor says that we minimize or even mock our “right-mind” attributes: heart-centeredness, intuition, and a tendency to think in images rather than words. We may judge harshly people who manifest those ways of being and thinking — they’re called dreamy, or even more dismissive names.

In our culture they are often poor and dependent on society for what we believe to be scarce resources. So, in our righteous judgment, some of us may secretly join Ebenezer Scrooge and say, “Let them die … and decrease the surplus population!”

From moment to moment, we often also inflict this death-wish on our own right-mind thoughts and feelings as they arise: “Don’t be impractical,” our left-mind intones, so reasonably. Or, if the name-calling mood is on us, “You jackass!”

We distance one critically important part of our being from the other, and then complain about the emptiness and repetitiveness of our lives. As Albert Einstein lamented, “The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.”

In this talk we discuss what the intuitive mind tells us about what can make our lives joyous and complete. As we’ll see, our faithful servant mind has been offered a step-by-step instruction manual for precisely that purpose.

Together, we explore how Karma Yoga and Raja Yoga — practiced together — can, slowly but surely, dissolve the sense of separation that keeps us in the grip of anxiety and suffering … that keeps us from being fully ourselves.

___

Note: There is silent meditation in the Chapel from 10:30-11am, before each Sunday’s talk. After the talk, devotees and friends meet in the Monastery from noon to 1:30pm, for tea, coffee, snacks and a continuation of our spiritual fellowship.

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