As Conflict Escalates, What Can Be Done NOW?

As Conflict Escalates, What Can Be Done NOW? originally appeared in the August edition of Prabuddha Bharata, or Awakened India – an English-language monthly magazine of the Ramakrishna Order. Founded by Swami Vivekenanda — a disciple of Ramakrisha who traveled to the West — it has been in publication since July 1896. With the kind permission of Editor Swami Narasimhananda, I am reposting the full-length article here.

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by Patricia E. West, Ph.D.

The Creator’s most miraculous and precious gift is often the least appreciated. In fact, in the midst of hectic daily life, it sustains everyone – friend and foe, good and evil doers alike – virtually unnoticed by all. Increasing strife and conflict bombards us from every direction. Yet we have very close to our hearts the elusive means of reconciling illusory differences and restoring original unity, first within and then without.

The priceless gift of which I speak is, of course, the breath.

Magically and mystically, every breath each person on the planet takes is infused with prana, that which links the individual being with the Universal Life Source.

Swami Vivekananda defined prana as “a manifestation of the universal power, indefinite and omnipresent.”1 Riding on the vehicle of the physical breath, prana is the most basic, potentially unifying aspect everyone everywhere shares in common.

In Meditation as Medicine, Dharma Singh Khalsa, M.D. writes, “According to the ancient masters, prana is the mystical force found in all living physical entities. It is in the air without being air. It is in water without being water. It is in food without being food.”2

This commonality repeats on every scale of magnitude. Thus Vivekananda quoted, “I am the thread that runs through all these pearls.” According to him, “Each pearl is a religion or even a sect thereof. Such are the different pearls, and God is the thread that runs through all of them.”3

He continues, “most people, however, are entirely unconscious of it.”

So how has it come to pass that most people remain unaware of the energizing life force that breathes through them every minute of every day, and even dare to deny its single origin? How is it that so many pass through their lives ungrateful for the waves of potential abundance they move through like fish in the ocean, seemingly starving for what is so close and so freely given?

As a possible answer, let me tell you a favorite story. It seems that long ago, there was a very old man who took his lunch every day at the same restaurant. He often complained about the service. So, one day when he called the waiter over, the waiter asked impatiently, “What is the matter this time, old man?”

The answer: “Taste the soup and find out for yourself.”

All right,” said the waiter. “Where is the spoon?”

Aha,” exclaimed the old man, delighted. “Now you see!” There was a delicious soup, but no spoon for taking it in.

Which is to say, most people have the nourishment of their heart’s desire everywhere about them, but no means or methods for accessing it. Medical research finds that, for many reasons, very few humans get enough oxygen into the body to fuel the brain or move the muscles properly. Although many are learned and accomplished in intellectual matters, the basics of practical breath control are often ignored. All too few have learned basic paranayama exercises or benefited from the profound insights gained from regular practice.

Workers who slouch long hours at their desks cut off their wind. Tight-fitting clothes force shallow breathing that fills only the top part of the lungs. Habitual tension and chronic anxiety further reduce the limited portion taken in. Attitudes of boredom, apathy and depression produce postures that strangle and suffocate the lungs. Pride stiffens the neck and twists the spine, strangling air circulation. Anger hardens and explodes the heart. Terror causes panic breathing and paralysis in the face of crisis, exactly when full powers are most urgently needed.

In such ways, sadly, many people ultimately cut themselves off from that Universal Source of blessings which everyone everywhere shares in common. So here we have a “chicken and egg” question. Which comes first? Does escalating religious intolerance and extreme violence cause people to increasingly forget their common humanity? Or does lack of fundamental awareness and oxygen deprivation increase the sense of alienation, illusion of lack, and rush for retaliation? Perhaps each feeds the other, causing a downward-spiraling disaster.

The Universal Key

To address the related question of why leaders at every level have failed to correctly identify and heal the root causes of conflict, first within and then without, I will draw contrasting pictures. One is the complete and accurate world view I’ve called the Positive Paradigm. Another shows distortions of the Universal Life Wheel responsible for today’s worldwide deficit of inspired leadership.

Here is the Life Wheel described in Rethinking Survival: Getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change.4 It embodies Einstein’s dearly sought Unified Theory. Ironically, he had already received it, but, for lack of yoga training, didn’t recognize what he’d been given. Being universal, its applications are seemingly infinite.

Utopia.sized

This multi-directional, mandala-like pattern of interdependent wheels-within-wheels is equally compatible with the world’s enduring religions, the teachings of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutras, and modern physics.

It is universal key, the answer to Shaunaka’s question, “What is that, knowing which, all else is known?”

This structure mirrors the pattern of each cell, where electrons and protons spin around a single nucleus.

It likewise pictures our solar system’s organization of planets circling the sun. As written:

This well-familiar atomic structure repeats smallest to largest in the patterns of nature, from snowflakes and intricate flowers to spiders’ webs and sea shells. Similar symmetrical patterns repeat worldwide in the art of every culture — including, to name but a few, the prayer wheels of Native Americans, the colored sand mandalas of Tibetan Buddhists, the stained glass windows of European cathedrals and the intricate geometrical patterns that cover Muslim Mosques. They offer proof of the universal awareness of a central inner reality, of an inner structure common to all humanity, and to a continuity of experience deeper than individual lives or transitory cultures.”5

The “m = mass” level at the surface correlates with daily experience and tangible, physical objects measured by empirical science. The “e = energy” level corresponds with subtle energies which, though invisible, are experienced by their effects. Prana and electrical energy reside here. It is the field of motion and e-motion. The level of “c = light” is associated with intuition and guidance. Deeper still, within the stable hub of the Wheel, beyond the duality of polar opposites, resides the changeless eternal source.

According to medical brain science, the vibrational speed of the levels slows with inward progression. Beta waves correlate with the busy, cluttered surface of the Life Wheel. Alpha waves associated with relaxation and then theta waves produced in revere or meditation rest increasingly deeper within. Delta waves are slowest of all. Measurable brain waves, in turn, match closely with the states of waking, dream and dreamless sleep described in the Mandaka Upanishad.

In clinical psychology, intelligence at the outermost level is measured by IQ tests. At the middle level it is described as EQ (emotional intelligence) and towards the center as SQ (spiritual intelligence). The levels, which flow along a continuum, neither separate nor totally distinct, are linked in an infinite, two-way loop. One who succeeds in joining the levels, living here and yet there, in the world but not of it, enjoys the experience of enlightenment – Christ Consciousness.

Integrating and balancing the levels of the Life Wheel produces health in every aspect of life – personal, social, economic and political. The executive equally capable of both inspired decisions and effective action embodies Plato’s ideal of the Philosopher-King. Such accomplishment is the goal of Raja Yoga and of holistic leadership. Masters of the creative in- and out-breathing process hold the key to Life itself. For teaching purposes, they occasionally demonstrate their ability to perform apparently miraculous feats of magic.

The Life Wheel is especially useful because, in a clear, simple way, it shows the critically important distinction between 1) what is absolute, eternal and real at the center hub and 2) that which is ephemeral, transitory and subject to change on the surface rim. A very early version the Life Wheel shown below pictures where genuine Unity is to be found as well as where it is NOT.

062514 Balanced World View

The “Pleasure and Pain” level includes the pairs of opposite sensations/ emotions, hot and cold, anger and fear.

The “Right and Wrong” level includes not only competing religions, but also the social/political and economic “-isms.”

The surface, material rim of the Life Wheel is the abode of fashions and fads as well as power and ego contests. Generational swings are reflected on the surface. Enduring, timeless values abide at the eternal center.

Distortions of the Universal Pattern

Those who focus exclusively on the material surface of the Life Wheel cause themselves and those obliged to depend upon them untold amounts of unnecessary pain and suffering. Sometimes, calling it “unity” – whether in the name of God, the common good, or world domination – they seek to impose unnatural social regimentation and political conformance upon others. This naturally stirs up violent reactions from those who have different ideas about such things.

Now, why is it that international leaders have brought the world to its current state of violence and fragmentation? Put another way, why — given the demonstrated and documented benefits of something as basic and simple as mindful breath awareness – is this not taught to every school child and to every medical patient suffering from degenerative diseases and mental disorders? Where is the method in such irresponsible madness?

One hint can be gleaned from the description of a basic pranayama exercise, the Complete Breath. Benefits listed include increased calmness, reduction of toxins, increase of pranic intake, enhanced oxygenation of the blood and even synchronization of personal breath rhythm with universal vibration. However, another benefit is “increased consciousness of unconscious acts.” 6

Sadly, for a host of different reasons, most are unwilling to increase conscious awareness of matters “conveniently” tucked out of sight. They lock themselves in uncomfortable, rigid postures that freeze out self-awareness. There is too much they prefer to hide from themselves and others. Further, monied elites and tyrannical governments have no interest in the education of a self-aware, self-responsible public capable of throwing off the chains of functional slavery.

Like the protagonist of Oscar Wilde’s Faustian tale The Picture of Dorian Gray,7 many choose to focus exclusively on the surface of the Life Wheel. They strive to maintain the physical appearance of youth and beauty, while concealing the internal ravages of ill-spent time from public view. They delude themselves into believing that the paltry profits gained by saving face while heartlessly exploiting others are worth the ultimate price.

It appears as if many world leaders today, the ones we should be able to depend upon to help improve our lives, have themselves chosen the fragmented path of self-deception, cutting themselves off from conscience and inner truth. As educators, such leaders cram youthful heads with hypnotic information to make them passive yet useful workers. They deny followers the basic knowledge of who they truly are, thus preventing access to the Universal Source from which infinite intelligence and power flows.

The following illustration shows how levels become fragmented by living inauthentic to Life, cutting oneself off from the Creative Source. This is but one suggestive version of what it looks like to distort the natural, complete pattern of Creation. Those who themselves are cut off in turn enforce this sorry state on others.

world gone mad.sized

In the extreme, individuals dissociated from their inner lives become psychopaths capable of committing horrific crimes with no apparent remorse. Out of touch with their True Selves, they remain insatiably hungry, thirsty, afraid and very, very angry. No addiction can satisfy. No amount of wealth or worldly success can compensate for the loss of inner connection.

Sages Transcend Conflict

Now then, wherein is consolation to be found during the present difficult times? For Hindu sages foresaw them. We are now enduring the decline described as the Kali Yuga. Christ similarly foretold the End of Times.

It lies in this. Time does not exist for sages established in the eternal center of the Life Wheel. To enlightened beings, it is but an illusion. Because they experience themselves as eternal, at one with the Creator, their inner peace cannot be disturbed by outer violence. For them, life will go on whether or not the world as we now know it continues. Even if for this reason alone, seeking enlightenment should be a top priority.

To the point, a modern day Chinese meditator acknowledged the seamless continuity connecting his tradition with Einstein’s vision:8

Truly, Einstein was an exceptional man, not only because he proved the theory of relativity, but because he took the chance of pursuing the goal of his enlightenment. The important point is that although we might not reach enlightenment through meditation, it is a grand enough aspiration for us to make the effort.

In this, the wisdom of Jou, Tsung Hwa reflects the teachings of the much earlier, world-loved Lao Tze, who knew that true survivors ride the crest of repeating historical cycles to carry on.

Passage 42 of the Tao Te Ching describes the experience of sages who have purified, integrated and mastered the elements of their animal nature. Like the numerous watercolors and ink drawings which depict Lao Tze riding his ox, sages of all times harness instinctive impulses to the service of intentional goals to reach their metaphorical mountain top destination.9

PB LT 1

Wisdom is Lao Tze’s antidote to the instinctive dread of death. He assures us that merging with the Source, the unchanging Tao, overcomes the illusion of mortality. Passage 16 illumines the apparent paradox that death cannot change the sage:10

PB LT 2

For those of us who are less attained, the best efforts made to improve and preserve Life at all levels NOW are noble and worthy in themselves, as valuable as for the experience of the journey as for the end result of achieving immortality.

What Can We Do NOW?

Now then, wherein is consolation to be found during the present difficult times? For Hindu sages foresaw them. We are now enduring the decline described as the Kali Yuga. Christ similarly foretold the End of Times.

It lies in this. Time does not exist for sages established in the eternal center of the Life Wheel. To enlightened beings, it is but an illusion. Because they experience themselves as eternal, at one with the Creator, their inner peace cannot be disturbed by outer violence. For them, life will go on whether or not the world as we now know it continues. Even if for this reason alone, seeking enlightenment should be a top priority.

In the past, monasteries arose as islands of hospitality, learning and civility during Europe and Asia’s so-called dark ages. Once again, as another dark age looms on the horizon, intentional communities dedicated to preserving the essential teachings will naturally arise. My best hope is that future leaders will meet the responsibility of shaping hopeful new beginnings; that they will succeed in transmitting the wisdom of the ancients to future generations along side the complimentary technical know-how of today’s sciences.

In the Positive Paradigm reality map, future educators have a versatile self-awareness tool with which to teach the basics of leading an integrated, self-responsible life. Building on the seven basic axioms which flow from it, tomorrow’s leaders have a viable model upon which to structure healthy social organizations.

As described in The Positive Paradigm Handbook,11 these basic axioms are:

1.  A complete and correct paradigm is the key to personal well-being and success.

2.  We are each a world complete, containing the potentials of the universe.

3.  Unity and diversity are necessary compliments.

4.  The consequences of action are inevitable; those who respect the law of karma survive.

5.  History is neither linear or progressive, nor can human survival be taken for granted.

6.  Used as a linguistic tool, the Life Wheel promotes clear, accurate and effective communication.

7.  With a correct paradigm, practical methods and useful tools, you can make yourself whole.

Herein lies another discussion, complete in itself.

Conclusion

Resolving conflict necessarily occurs one person at a time, and from the inside out. For this reason, however complex and overwhelming world problems may seem, we each have the option and responsibility to improve that which is closest to home: ourselves. By reducing internal conflict within, each of us has the potential, if only in modest ways, to reduce the conflict without. By remaining ever mindful of the breath and the Divine Source from which it flows, self-selected survivors will surely find from deep within the answers to every question along with sufficient intelligence, courage and power to overcome and outlast every challenge.

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References

  1. Swami Vivekananda, quoted by Dharma Sing Khalsa, M.D. and Cameron Stauth in Meditation as Medicine: Activate the Power of Your Natural Healing Force. (New York: Pocket Books, 2001), 55

  2. Meditation as Medicine, 55

  3. Swami Vivekananda, quoted at http://izquotes.com/author/swami-vivekananda

  4. Patricia E. West, Rethinking Survival: Getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change. (Wisconsin: +A Positive Action Press, 2014)

  5. Rethinking Survival, 104

  6. Meditation as Medicine, 64

  1. Oscar Wilde, The Picture of Dorian Gray. (originally published in England, Lippincott’s Monthly Magazine, 1891)

  2. Jou,Tsung Hwa, The Tao of Meditation: Way to Enlightenment. (Scottsdale, AZ: Tai Chi Foundation, 1983), 71

  3. Patricia E. West, Two Sides of a Coin: Lao Tze’s Common Sense Way of Change. (Wisconsin: +A Positive Action Press, 2014), 31-32

  4. Two Sides of a Coin, 70

  5. Patricia E. West, The Positive Paradigm Handbook: Make Yourself Whole Using the Wheel of Change. (Wisconsin: +A Positive Action Press, 2014)

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