June 9, 2013
Swami Om Poorna Swatantra’s view: action + spirituality + social connection
I’ve only spoken with Swami Om Poorna Swatantra a couple of times, and exchanged email perhaps a few times, but he strikes me as a person of significant calibre and perspective. I’m reproducing here a statement he issued on 22 May 2013. I’m excluding the Sanskrit text since the email I received couldn’t transcribe it properly.
This perspective reminds me a lot about the Advaitic perspective which is a more plausible hypothesis regarding the world than most others.
The key point he seems to be making is that action without spirituality is as pointless as spirituality without action. Now, I’m a man of action, not sure about spirituality. However, he offers meditation as a process to combine action and spirituality. That, I agree, makes a lot of sense.
This I do know that Swamiji is a great communicator with mastery in many languages. His English, for instance, is impeccable. It is a pity that not much is available online about his work.
HOLISTIC VISION AND ACTION
Human is the most evolved form of life on earth. The life is a three dimensional entity which can be variously described as two dimensions of depth and height of the vertical plane and one dimension of breadth (width) of the horizontal plane; root, shoot and thickness of a tree and cosmically God, Nature and the Creation. In human context, the three dimensions are spiritual, physical and social.
The consciousness which is capable of comprehending all these dimensions of life simultaneously – not one by one, simultaneously — realizing life to be an integrated whole can be described as having the holistic vision. The life is an organic entity, it is whole from the very beginning and grows holistically, not part by part as a house or a machine is built. The machine is a material thing, it is built from outside, the parts are manufactured separately and are then put together to make a whole machine, whereas the life, an organic being, grows from inside and is originally whole and in its growth the wholeness grows bigger and bigger, greater and greater. These are two different kinds of movement.
From after the Vedic age as the period of degeneration set in the consciousness of man got shrunk — and ultimately got divided into two halves — and lost its original character of integrality. This endless division into subject and object, spirit and matter, God and Nature, this world and the other, visible and invisible, underground and over-ground, space (infinity) and time (eternity), I and you etc. created all the havoc in the world and destroyed life. That is the history of civilized man and his world.
Since then life has been oscillating between the two extremes, subjective extreme of God and religion and objective extreme of matter and physical Nature. At one time it focused on the subjective side of soul and God to the exclusion and rejection of the objective side as false and unreal, it took the other-worldly existence beyond this world and the earth as its destination to be achieved after leaving the body here. It took no interest in the affairs of this world as it considered it ephemeral. This approach did give you the knowledge of the self, the wisdom but took away the field of action where the wisdom could be applied, so in the ultimate analysis it proved useless to the world. So all the religions of the world along-with their God could not serve the world and make it a better place for man to live in happily.
At another time as a result of reaction to the subjective extreme, objective extreme took place and man became totally outwardly and extrovert. He focused on matter, nature and visible world. Developing and using the mechanism of science and technology he gained unprecedented amount of power and energy but in the absence of insight and wisdom did not know, how to make proper use it. Rather, he generally misused it and ironically his power became his greatest liability as he was overpowered by it and his development began to prove counter-productive. As they say that Power is a good servant but a bad master. Today the power has become a bad master. Now the question is how to make power the good servant, so that it could serve mankind and the impending crisis could be averted.
Now we come to realize that the two approaches we have employed in exclusion to each other have failed to serve mankind. The reason is obvious, in fact it was a foregone conclusion, since the two approaches were anti-life as they did not take the whole man into account: either they took the underground root or the soul, or they took the over-ground shoot or the body into consideration but the tree, the man was ignored. If yesterday’s man was lame with no power to act, today’s man is blind with no eyes to see and guide. All the same man has throughout been handicapped unable to live life healthily and holistically. How unscientific has been this approach! One gets wonder struck beyond measure when one looks at the ‘wisdom’ of wise man of yesterday and scientific ‘vision’ of 21st century superman of today.
Realization of this fact leads us back to the point where we had gone wrong by dividing the consciousness into two apparently opposite halves. Understanding the cause of the problem also shows us the way which leads to the solution. It means that for the solution of the problem of life and the world, we shall have to nullify the division of consciousness and re-establish its innate and original integrality which is the truth of life. It would lead to the development of holistic vision which would enable us to comprehend the totality of a human being. Not only that it would provide for the growth and development of the whole human being along with his world as it is equipped with both the spiritual wisdom to guide and the physical power to execute simultaneously and as also it does not recognize any division between the individual and the universe – ‘unity of microcosm and macrocosm is the underlying principle’.
Now the practical and all important question is how to develop the holistic vision and integral consciousness because without that solution of the problem of life and resolution of the struggle of the world is not possible. To begin with we shall have to accept human being and life without cutting and pruning, without tempering as naturally he is a three dimensional entity like a tree: with underground spiritual, over-ground physical and horizontal social as the three dimensions. Man a microcosm is in spirit identical with macrocosm but he has got potentiality to be one with macrocosm in action. We shall have to start working on man as a whole, a single organic unit, providing for the simultaneous development of all the three aspects. The objective is to carry them to the macro level of their development: spiritually the soul must grow up to God, the infinity and boundlessness of consciousness; physically the body must get identified with earth, the Nature which is its source, the Mother and socially the individual must get universalized, become one with the universe, this formula must be actualized. This is the perfection of man and his growth from seed to tree is his life.
Then how to go about it, how to undertake this journey is the issue of immediate concern. How the root of a tree grows will answer the question of spiritual development, show you the technique to be adopted for it. Sitting calmly and quietly, quite comfortably at its place, without any effort whatsoever, the root begins to grow and go inwards spontaneously following the law of life which is ‘when there is no strain and pressure from outside and no obstruction inside the latent energy becomes active (creative) and manifests in the growth and development of life’. This principle applies equally both in the life of a tree and in the life of a human being. When the root of a human being, the soul sits in silence effortlessly, it spontaneously begins to grow inwardly and go into greater depth of itself constantly increasing the volume of its consciousness until it transcends the barriers and boundaries of finiteness and realizes its Infinity which is its true nature, and is popularly called as God. And this process of spiritual development is traditionally called as Meditation.
Since human being is a single unit of life and its various aspects are linked to each other, so the development of one pushes the other to grow. As the spiritual roots grow downwards and go deeper, the physical shoots go upwards and the body through action moves towards earth, the Mother, the source of its creation heading towards ultimate identification with the Nature. If God is the Father, Nature is the Mother and simultaneous identification with both leads to the fullness of being. But that is not enough, it is just linear or individualistic development, for the perfection of life and being to be achieved something more will have to be done.
The third dimension of social or global extension will have to be added to make man a spherical being who encompasses the whole of the world and squeezes it into his single self. Our ancient Rishis had realized it long back and established that not equality of individual men but unity of mankind was the fundamental truth. The formula ‘the world is one family and the earth one home’ expresses the same truth. At the same time it must be realized that these are scientific facts, not mental ideals or projections. The modern concept of human equality on which is based the ideal of democratic structure expresses only half truth, — the whole truth is human unity. When through love and inherent feeling of oneness the individual grows into the universe, the centre explodes into sphere and the micro unfolds itself into the macro, then the fullness of the being and the perfection of the life is achieved.
All the three aspects of life grow not one after the other, but side by side, simultaneously. And this is holistic action.
In this context, one thing very fundamental must be realized that in the history of the civilized world this objective has never been achieved, perhaps, has not been even attempted and even today it may look like a utopia but the fact is that it is the Destiny of man which he cannot escape and per force will have to realize, – further the need of peace for life and stability and security for the world would not let him rest until he reaches the End: the Perfection.
Finally the current unprecedented crisis is pushing man irresistibly towards that inherent goal of life.