This morning, before meditating, I read some inspiring words from Vivekananda about strength. Our strength. Not God’s. Not a guru’s. Not anyone else’s.
Or rather, remind myself of. These distant gods, these elevated theologies, these remote sages—increasingly they seem like comic book characters to me. Two dimensional, artificial, unnatural, fantastical.
I may not have the answers to the big questions of life. I may be ignorant of what, if anything, lies beyond the physical. I may be clueless about how one even begins to unravel the mysteries of consciousness, life, death, and existence.
But there’s one big plus to me: I know that I am. Right here, right now, sitting on a chair, typing on my laptop, glancing out a window at a typically gray and rainy January Oregon day, I’m something real.
Now, what that “something” truly is, that’s a question for another day. Or moment. Or lifetime. However, there’s always an immediate answer to my what’s it all about? It’s whatever I’m aware of here and now.
Logically (and also intuitively) that’s always going to be the answer. It’ll shape shift along with every other changeable bit of the cosmos. Which, if the Buddhists have it right, is all the bits.
What I like about Vivekananda is what I like about myself when I’m not avoiding being who I am. He turns us around toward the person we see when we look in a mirror. He urges, “Worship that. Be that. Act boldly as that.”
My knowledge of Tango is as limited as my knowledge of ultimate reality. Still, I’ve learned this much: when the leader leads, he does so decisively; when the follower follows, she does so decisively.
No maybe’s. No perhaps’. No possibly’s. Either take a step, or don’t. If you do, do it. All the way. 100%. Full throttle. Pedal to the metal. That’s the ideal, at least.
Who can live up to it? Only a few, whether on the dance floor or in the meditation chamber. Still, whether we’re leading or following, yang’ing or yin’ing, pursuing or surrendering, the more strength and confidence we bring to whatever we’re doing, the better off we’ll be.
Religion is a strength sapper. Especially when your belief is in a personal god who is separate from creation. Vivekananda says:
There are, no doubt, great and wonderful things in the religions of the dualists. Wonderful is the idea of the Personal God apart from nature, whom we worship and love. Sometimes this idea is very soothing.
But, says Vedanta, that feeling is something like the effect that comes from an opiate; it is not natural. It brings weakness in the long run, and what this world wants today more than it ever did before is strength. It is weakness, says Vedanta, that is the cause of all misery in this world.
Weakness is the one cause of suffering. We become miserable because we are weak. We lie, steal, kill, and die because we are weak…We are miserable through delusion. Give up the delusion and the whole thing vanishes. It is plain and simple indeed.
What is so plain and simple?
I know it is Truth alone that gives strength. I know that Truth alone gives life, and nothing but approaching Reality will make us strong, and that none will reach Truth until he is strong. Any system, therefore, which weakens the mind, which makes one superstitious, makes one mope, makes one desire all sorts of wild impossibilities, mysteries, and superstitions, I do not like, because its effect is dangerous.
…When we have nobody to grope towards, no Devil to lay our blame upon, no Personal God to carry our burdens, when we alone are responsible, then we shall rise to our highest and best…Cry to all the gods in the universe. I cried for years, and in the end I received help. But the help came from within myself; and I had to undo what I had done by mistake.
…The idea that the goal is far off, far beyond nature, attracting us all towards it, has to be changed; the goal has to brought nearer and nearer, without degrading or debasing it. The God of heaven becomes the God in nature, and the God in nature becomes the God who is nature, and the God who is nature becomes the God within this temple of the body, and the God dwelling in the temple of the body at last becomes the temple itself, becomes the soul and man—and there Vedanta reaches the last words it can teach.
…The idea of freedom that you perceived was correct, but you projected it outside yourself, and that was your mistake. Bring it nearer and nearer, until you find that it was all the time within you, it was the Self of your own self.