Authentic Spiritual Wisdom and The Path to Social Justice

Discover the dynamic interplay between social justice, politics, and spiritual philosophy in this engaging discussion. Participants delve into the significance of aligning political action with spiritual values, the imperative of active engagement in democracy, and the delicate balance of non-attachment amidst advocacy for social change. Through insightful discussions and personal anecdotes, gain a deeper understanding of how ethical principles and individual responsibility shape our pursuit of a fairer, more equitable world.


HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Greetings everyone, and welcome to our February Community conversation. This month we're going to speak about spirituality and social justice. I'm very grateful to all of you for being here, and I am looking forward to hearing your thoughts on this topic. 

I thought a good way to begin would be to do what is done in so many yoga wisdom texts, particularly the literary form of sutras and define our terms. It's always good to know that we're all talking about the same thing when we use language. 

So I'd like to begin by asking you. What do we mean when we say spiritual or spirituality and what do we mean when we speak about social justice? What exactly are we talking about? And let's start with the first part. We're looking at the connection between spirituality and social justice. What do we mean by spirituality? Anyone care to share your understanding of what we mean by that, or the definition you're working with? Bernadette, go ahead. 

BERNADETTE: Thanks. Hello, everyone. You know, it's funny, I've always had this lifelong battle or conflict with that word because I grew up in a religion. I moved from religion outside of that box. I guess you could say where it was all very rules. It was Catholicism. So it was very ritualistic and rules and all that stuff, which I thought that was my connection to something greater than myself. 

Then moving through life and jumping on with the yoga community is really when I developed the spirituality word. Where I kind of let go of all the rules or the rituals of, if I do this, then I'm pleasing some master God in the sky. So it's allowed me to be healthier. I'm happier. I feel a greater sense of connection to whatever is causing the next day to happen, to whatever is causing my heartbeat to beat even when I don't tell it to do so. 

I think I just kind of like, swan dived, in a sense, to just the unknown. And so for me, that's really what I now picture spirituality to be. It is like this walk in the unknown. More of a trust in something greater, even though I might not be able to pinpoint it.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Okay. Thank you. Trust in something greater than ourselves that is not necessarily defined or the relationship is not constrained by rules or dogma and that sort of thing. 

Anyone else have a sense of the meaning of the word spirituality? What comes to mind when you think of this word?

JAMIE: Hi, it's Jamie.

I think that we all have a spirit within us and that is our higher consciousness, our true self and that does not die. That goes on. I think it's called the atman, right? In our yogic scriptures. So spirituality is doing anything that connects you to that higher, everlasting self that goes on and on for eons and never was created and cannot be destroyed. So any practice or any thing or place or person or thing you do or ritual you have, or even breath or gratitude towards that spirit.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Okay, so spirituality then is that which brings us closer to Atman or the eternal self, beyond the temporary identity that comes with a mind and body and that sort of thing?

JAMIE:  Yes. And to give it reverence.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Cool. Thank you. In the chat, Jill offered: I once heard religion is for people who are afraid of going to hell. Spirituality is for those who have been there and don't want to go back. 

I've not heard that one before, but that's an interesting way to think about it. There is, at least in some religions, a fear factor that seems to be built into the particular form of faith that we don't see in spirituality. And I think that may be one reason why people, especially people who have experienced religious trauma, are drawn to spirituality. Christina. Go ahead.

CHRISTINA: I was reading the seventh Yoga Sutra earlier today, and something that was said about rites and rituals made me think of spirituality, where it says that the rituals can be modified, the language can be modified, but the truth can never be changed because the truth is always the same. This was in regards to direct perception, inference and scriptural testimony. And so for me, spirituality is the seeking of truth.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Yeah, that's really nice. Thank you, Christina: spirituality implies a set of principles that are not beholden to any particular faith form. 

But what's interesting about that particular sutra in connection with spirituality is that there's this idea that there is a truth, but it's not just one we make up. It's one that requires some evidence. 

And the evidence falls into three general areas: reliable testimony, which then is broken up into three divisions: of your teacher, the wisdom texts, and previous sages who set an example. So it's got to make sense. It has to be sound.  It has to have no logical fallacies or internal contradictions. And it has to be practically applicable. And then finally it has to conform to your lived experience, your direct perception. You have to be able to see it, to believe it in a way. 

So that idea of looking for the truth, knowing that the truth is not confined to just one form of faith. That's a nice way to think about spirituality. All right. We have some good working definitions of spirituality. Anne, go ahead.

ANNE: So this morning I happened to see this thing. It was a little mushroom in a petri dish, it kind of looks like an iris in the middle.  What it says is, if you cultivate a mushroom in a Petri bowl, its actual shape becomes visible. 

The essential part of a mushroom, that micelle, is usually hidden from our eye. What we perceive as a mushroom is only the transient fruit body. And for me, something I've been working with, with one of my other lovely teachers, is just the understanding that we're all connected and, you know.  Humans are the fruit of Gaia.  

Like we're all from this Earth and we're all just the mushrooms in a way. So spirituality for me is kind of that understanding that we're spiritual beings in a human form.  With the discussion of different religions and theology, I feel like a lot of that is just man trying to understand human existence by creating religion and of course manipulating it for power and control. But spirituality is more of that understanding of like the four brahma viharas type concepts.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Thank you, Anne. I think that rounds out our definition of spirituality nicely, a sense of a higher truth about ourselves and beyond ourselves. That involves a sense of interconnectedness as well as a sense of eternality and is not constrained to a particular faith form or dogmatic approach, as we often find in religion. 

So let's take this now to the next word or phrase, which is social justice. What do we mean when we say social justice? Any thoughts on that?

JAMIE: For me to relate it back to yoga right away. Sukhino bhavantu. May all beings everywhere be happy, healthy and free. And may our collective thoughts, words and actions contribute to the happiness, peace and freedom of all beings everywhere. 

Social justice is the work that we do to get to that place, for there to truly be peace, happiness and freedom for all beings everywhere.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: All right, Jamie, thank you very much. It doesn't surprise me that a very immediate and concise definition would come from you. Glenna. Go ahead.

GLENNA: What comes to my mind are the words equity, fairness, equal access. Those are all words that, for me, are part of social justice. And it's trying to ensure that freedom, liberation, accessibility, fairness, equity and justice for all, no matter who they are, no matter what their resources are, no matter race, religion, creed, whatever. Those are all parts of social justice for me.  

Social justice is, in my mind, activism. It’s a part of that because there's an aspect of taking action with social justice in my mind.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Glenna. Thank you. So, so far we have action that leads to equity and inclusion and things of that nature that ultimately result in the freedom and happiness for all beings connecting what you were saying with what Jamie was saying earlier. 

Other thoughts? Anne, go ahead.

ANNE: I see it as removing the man-made constructs that make us feel like we're separate. All of these ideas we have about whether they’re different from me, or they're lesser than me, or they don't deserve what I have, are all really just these constructs that have been imposed on us. So it's removing those so we can see that actually, no one's more deserving than the other.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Okay. Thank you, Anne. So social justice then involves moving social constructs that are artificial impediments to seeing the equality of all people, of all beings, that sort of thing. 

In the chat, Jill shared: I picture social justice as a people who stand in a circle rather than a people who stand on a ladder, some above, some below. So this is sort of echoing a little bit of what Anne was saying or similar to what Anne was saying: remove artificial conceptions of hierarchy.  

Okay, so now what, if any, connection do you see between spirituality and social justice?  We have two things: a sense of a higher truth beyond our immediate sensory experience that is independent from any one particular form of faith, and we have action that leads to the experience of the equality of all beings, and the removal of artificial obstacles to seeing that equality. 

Jamie earlier made a very distinct, very specific connection between these two things, at least, or from the standpoint of yoga as a spiritual practice. By invoking the mantra or the benediction, I should say, may all beings be happy and free and therefore there's this connection. 

But what other connections do you see from the standpoint action?  How does our pursuit of spiritual consciousness intersect with a pursuit of social justice? Any thoughts on that, Diane? Go ahead. 

DIANE: I feel like a lot of times we need to take a step back in order to not be involved. So face to face with a situation, and maybe by just taking a step back and looking and then educating yourself to what the situation actually is so you can figure out how you want to initiate change or if you want to initiate change.

I think there's a lot of banging of drums. But is that really spirituality and how does that intersect? I think there needs to be a conduit between the two. And I think self-reflection and being able to not get so involved is very helpful to then becoming part of a solution to a problem versus just reacting to the problem.  That's it.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Okay Diane you're bringing up a really good point which is that we've begun this conversation with an assumption that there is a connection between these two things. Maybe that assumption itself should be questioned. 

A lot of people take up a spiritual practice to shut the world out. There's a certain amount of renunciation of the world that goes into an inner journey of spiritual awakening, and it's necessary. And for some people that's like the time that they check out and they don't necessarily want their spiritual life to be involved in that kind of activity in the material sphere. 

On the other hand, that time that we take to step back- that can be time for energizing and for contemplating what our role is? What actions need to be taken? That, as you said, are not just reactive, but are in a way, spiritually proactive. Cool. Thank you. Glenna. You had your hand up a second ago. Go ahead.

GLENNA: I did, but I was actually probably going further than where we are right now because I was going to take it to yoga and that connection with yoga. So maybe we're not ready to go there yet.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Okay. Well then, hold that thought. And remember to jump back in if we get to a spot where that seems like now's the time. 

Celeste shared: I think if one truly believes people are equal, part of the same whole, it becomes harder to walk away, to be inactive. Because if that schizophrenic or homeless person is truly the same as I, then I have no excuse. I have no excuse not to help them. 

Yes, this is another thing or another way of looking at it, that spirituality provides impetus for action rather than being a reason to turn away from the world. It becomes a reason to turn toward the world. So yeah, this can work both ways. And this dynamic of renunciation and action. Renunciation of the world, turning away from the world and turning toward the world. From the standpoint of what our spirituality really means is actually one of the things I was hoping to explore with you all today. Thank you very much. 

Okay. So here's another question I have for you. Social justice is both an objective of and a function of political action. So if a equals b and b equals c, then, uh. If spirituality connects to social justice and social justice connects to politics. Then how do we feel about the intersection of spirituality and politics, as opposed to the spiritual connection between spirituality and social justice? Is it possible to have one without the other? 

All right. I'm getting a no from Anne.

ANNE: No, I don't think that it's separate at all. I think it's both. And kind of answering the previous question too, it's all part of the same thing. And I love how you just said that it requires that amount of like, renunciation, but also that turning toward it doesn't have to be all one and it doesn't have to be all the other. We need to be able to do both.  

Again, politics is just this man-made thing that we live in our world, and if we pretend like it's not there and it doesn't matter and doesn't exist, that is just denying a major part of the human condition. And everything that we do in our practice contributes to that because what we do ripples out. 

We teach our children. We teach the people around us. We, you know, we just live this life in a way that we can't just turn a blind eye to things that go completely against what we know to be true. If that makes sense.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Yes. It does. First of all, there's a lot in spiritual philosophy and especially spiritual yoga philosophy where we find ourselves with both/and situations rather than either/or situations. 

So thank you very much. Other thoughts on stepping from social justice specifically to the politics of social justice and any connection to spirituality. Glenna. Go ahead.

GLENNA:  I agree, I don't think they are separate. I don't think they should be separate. However, I do think for some people they are separate. You know, for some people their focus is on religion or whatever their faith.

So, when something awful happens, when there's a mass shooting somewhere, then what we get is lip service. We get my thoughts and prayers are with you and your family. And it stops at that, that there's no additional action that is being taken to try to influence that situation or change it so that it doesn't happen again. 

So for some people, I think the two are intertwined and there is action involved. For other people, I think they're not… there's not action involved necessarily or it's maybe it's action that they feel like it's action on their part, but it's not really action that's going to change something or make a difference, to enter, to intervene in the system in terms of trying to upset the status quo or be a catalyst to do something different. So I guess I have issue with that.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Yeah. Thank you. There's a conference that comes to Washington, DC here where I am that's called “Values Voters” or something along those lines, which kind of presumes that this is the group of people, with values that inform their politics. As if that's not the case with all of us.  

One of the things that comes with spirituality, when you look at the yoga wisdom tradition, is values. And this comes back to our conception of spirituality. 

One conception of spirituality is that it's not attached to any particular religion. Therefore, I can make up my own spirituality. I can just decide for myself, this is spiritual. 

And then another way to look at spirituality is that there are wisdom traditions that speak to a conception of the truth: a spiritual truth that is a non-sectarian approach, but yet is scientific. And in fact, there are specific elements of theory and practice that go into the spiritual practices described by the yoga tradition. 

When Christina was speaking, I elaborated on what she cited as yogic epistemology. How do you know something is true? There are these three categories of evidence. And therefore, from the standpoint of the wisdom tradition of yoga, you don't just make it up. It's not up to us to decide what spirituality is. There's a meaning to it, and there's a structure to it, and there's a science to it. Part of that science is a philosophy that gives rise to values. And then those values can be connected to how we participate in politics. 

So if we value social justice, if we value everyone having an equal playing field being included, then those values are going to inform our political action. If that political action is just voting, or if that political action is going out of our way to let our elected representatives - those of you who live outside of Washington, D.C., have those things, that's wonderful. I'm happy for you - so that's something that we can think about also.

What are our values? Where do they come from? Are we just deciding for ourselves, or is there some authoritative source of knowledge that is giving us a framework of ethical principles for basing moral decision making and that sort of thing? 

So thank you for setting me off on that little tangent. 

All right. I want to share my screen with you and make a political statement.

JAMIE:  Good luck.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Thank you. It's not my political statement. It's Krishna's political statement.

JAMIE:  Better, better.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: This is a baseline teaching that we hear from the Bhagavad Gita. This appears in the 12th verse of the second chapter of the Bhagavad Gita, where Krishna begins His teaching to Arjuna with this bit of spiritual wisdom. “There has never been a time when I did not exist, nor a time when you did not exist, nor a time when all these kings did not exist”. Krishna is speaking on a battlefield where many kings and warriors are assembled. “Nor is there any possibility that in the future any of us shall cease to be”. 

And he continues in the 20th verse to elaborate on this point. “The self is never born and never dies, has never come into being, and shall never cease to be unborn, eternal, everlasting, and primeval. The self is not slain when the body is slain”. 

And then further along, Krishna makes an additional distinction that is an elaboration on this point in the seventh chapter of the Bhagavad Gita. He describes the material energy in eight divisions. “Earth, water, fire, air, ether, the mind, the intellect, and the false ego constitute the eight fold division of my separated material energy”. In other words, all the stuff physical and metaphysical that makes up our bodies, which are temporary. 

But then in the next verse he says, “besides this inferior energy, the material energy that is subject to the influence of time, almighty armed, know that I have another superior energy of which the living beings who animate this world are comprised”.

So there are actually two really interesting political statements contained in these verses. The first is that we are not created beings. We don't come into being at a point in time. Conventional religions generally tell us we're created by God at a point in time. And we move forward in time from there. 

And modern secular science says due to a chance combination of material elements, we are created at a point in time and we move forward in time from there. 

Here, in the Bhagavad Gita, we're hearing that we are influenced by time as long as we are in the material world. But we, the atma, the self, the person having the experience of this temporary material situation, we are eternal. We've always been and we will always be. There's no possibility that we will not be. 

This flies in the face of both sectarian religious and secular scientific assumptions about the nature of who we are. And if you are immortal, eternal by nature, well that kind of pulls the rug out from under a lot of power tripping people can do to use the threat of eternal damnation or some other unfortunate fate as leverage. 

Then the second statement that I’d consider political is that, while we are separate, we are categorically different as spiritual beings and the elements of the Earth are divine energies. And the world therefore ought to be experienced as an enchanted place. And if we're feeling disenchanted, it's because the modern paradigm that we're living with tends to be disenchanting.  

Which is to say, we are taught to think of the world and beings other than human beings as objects, inanimate objects, or animate objects without the same spiritual standing that we as human beings have. 

And if you think about these two things and what they imply in terms of how they might inform values and how those values when applied to how participation in politics will play out, we have spiritual wisdom or philosophy that has the potential to make a political impact. Especially when you consider the issue of equality. Because, if we're all made of the same spiritual stuff, then we are all on the spiritual level, equal. 

Materially, of course, none of us are equal. We may not like hierarchies, but some people are smarter, some people are faster, some people are stronger. Some people are more beautiful. Some people are wealthier. Some people are more powerful. Every contest is just designed to demonstrate inequality. 

So on a material level, we are not equal. But on a spiritual level we are equal and therefore a spiritual understanding of the world is required in order to have a rational basis for equality, which is what you need to have a rational basis for justice. And therefore a spiritual understanding of ourselves and of the world and everyone in it. Is actually necessary in order to be able to have a rational basis for the pursuit of social justice. 

I want to hear what you think of them apples. But first, I want to share a couple of things that showed up in the chat from Karen: one of Gandhi's seven sins is politics without principle, so politics, social justice to me, would flow together. 

All right. Thank you. Yes. And I would even take that even further: politics without spiritual principles, without being informed by spiritual principles is incomplete and therefore cannot provide complete solutions to any of the problems we face. 

Then Celeste also shared: while I agree that people just giving lip service to issues, can be frustrating, it is important that we consider if our action is effective. I'm concerned that we become too judgmental about what is appropriate or effective action, without concern that our judgment may be flawed. An action may have unknown consequences. And also: I believe people deserve our generosity, that they may have limits, emotional time, money, etc. that can govern how much they can act.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Yeah. Thank you very much, Celeste, for contributing this. It's very easy to make snap judgments about people and assume the worst.  As opposed to assuming that everyone's doing the best they can or they are actually sincere, or they truly believe that whatever they're doing is making a positive contribution, even if we think it's the most negative thing that you could possibly do or think. 

I know I myself try to police myself. Insofar as just because I think something is a good idea, doesn't mean it necessarily is a good idea. My way of thinking about things is one way of thinking about it. And I need, however tempting it is, to not think of myself as the ultimate authority on everything.  I have to consider other points of view from people with good intentions. 

Other thoughts about spiritual equality and material inequality in the proposition I've made that the pursuit of social justice requires a spiritual component in order for it to make sense. Any thoughts on that? Jill. Go ahead.

JILL: So, this might be hard for me to put together. One of the places where I get stuck is that while I believe that we are all equal spiritually, I understand that we are all inequal materially. That we live in a world that's governed by the three modes of material nature. And so even spiritually and materially, we're all set up differently, because some people live in a mode of goodness and some people in a mode of ignorance and some people in a mode of passion. 

And we also know that we live in the age of Kali, right? In your Srimad Bhagavatam class, you mentioned that many of our leaders are liars because that's where we're living right now. So, I guess if I begin with all of that as my foundation, then to me, social justice is an independent individual process in which I recognize my responsibility to put into action my belief that the soul is equal and beautiful and great, and that I'm not on a ladder looking up to anyone or looking down on anyone. And I can govern my life with those principles, and I can teach them to my children.

So I'm trying to be the change, right? I have to try to teach my kids this, too. So that they can take these yogic principles and bring them into their life. 

But I really struggle with - and tend to lean more towards the avoidance of - anything outside that in terms of the actual political arena. And I get stuck there because we're all so different. 

Taking it upon myself as an action is one thing, but to force my beliefs of what I think is appropriate on other people, and then expect people to follow those particular beliefs that I share, is impossible. Because if, let's say, I hope that I live in the mode of goodness, I can't convince somebody in the mode of passion or ignorance to share that.

So I guess for me, I don't understand why to even involve myself in politics, because I just don't see how anything can come of that, if that makes sense.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Yes, Jill, thank you very much. I think you have plenty of company in the large group of people who are disenchanted with politics because they feel like their involvement really won't push the needle in the direction it needs to go. And we have actually seen that. Public opinion has very little effect on public policy, that policy makers apparently really don't care what we think. 

There have been studies that I've seen done on the impact of public opinion on public policy, and it doesn't really look like there's much correlation. There is a correlation between public opinion and how you spin a campaign to get elected. But once someone is elected, apparently there's really not much connection. And so it's easy to understand why someone would feel disenchanted. 

But in the both/ and category, let's give politics the benefit of the doubt and speak of it in positive terms as the art of negotiation and compromise. It is just a true fact that we live with people who don't think the way we think and feel the way we feel. And somehow or other, we have to figure out how to get along with them, how to live in the same place. 

At a certain point you may say, you know that just crosses a line. We can't have that and still be, you know, part of the same community. And then you get something like the Civil War. However, on the assumption that a large group of people with a wide range of opinions are dedicated to the proposition that we have to find a way to live together, peacefully, and prosper together. In that case, if we're not in the fray, trying to push the needle to where we think it ought to be, then someone else is going to push the needle in the opposite direction. 

I often look at my political participation as defensive. For example, in 2016, I had conversations with a friend who was absolutely convinced that there was no difference between the Democratic nominee and the Republican nominee there. It's all capitalist. It's all designed for the wealthy. It's all the same thing. It's all going to be the same. 

And I said, no, I don't think so. I think that it's easy for you to say because you won't really be affected by anything. There are people for whom it will make a very big difference. And just because I'm not one of those people doesn't mean I should not participate. For me, the one issue was who's going to pick the next Supreme Court justices? And I think there'll be a really big difference. And I think there was a really big difference. 

So it wasn't as if I was voting that year to be proactive, because I thought so many good things would come from the candidate I voted for. It was more of a defensive posture to keep something bad from happening. So I think we can look at our pursuit of social justice within the political system as both pushing the needle in the direction we think it ought to go, or preventing the needle from being pushed in the direction we don't want it to go. And that is the reasoning I have. Even in situations like you said, where you know the difference one way or another may be minuscule. 

I'm betting Jamie has something to say about this.

JAMIE: A little bit. I am biased because I feel like I should disclose to everybody, right? I do work in progressive politics and have for 15 years. The one reason that I intrinsically think it's still important to participate as a yogi specifically, is democracy is a participation sport, for lack of better phrasing. So the less people that participate, the less we do have control, right?  So that's the first thing, whether it be voting, volunteering or even just having discourses like this, this is social justice in itself. 

And the other thing I just wanted to bring to the light is just the true, classic examples of what's happened in America. Any time social justice has made progress, it has been through the mechanism of politics. Right? Like whether it's women getting the right to vote, whether it's integrating schools, any sort of social justice that has happened in America has been through this mechanism, through this complex system of politics. So currently in this version of this body, in this timeline, I don't feel they can be separated. That's all I really had to say.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  All right, Jamie, thank you very much. Now, this brings us to a segue into the last major point I was hoping to bring up today. We have reasons to be disenchanted with politics. We have reasons to participate in the political process. We have a spiritual teaching from the yoga tradition that tells us we should act without attachment to the results of our actions. Okay. That's always the easier said than done part of yoga, for me at least for me. 

What do you think? Is it possible to engage in political action without being attached to the results? Especially if we're interested in social justice? If we take some initiative in the direction of social justice, can we do that without being attached to the outcome? Should we do that without being attached? Bernadette. Go ahead.

BERNDADETTE: I'm glad you said that. Should we be attached? Because that's where I was going. I guess I wouldn't really see the point of moving myself forward in life without attaching to a result, or without expecting a result or wanting a result. 

How do you just kind of do something and just la la la. You know, I think we have to have an attachment to a result. That's my drive anyway. I do things for the result. 

I first started taking yoga for a result and then I do that with everything in life. Like there's a reason I got married, for a result. I bought two cats because of a result. So my life is always about the result. So I'm not sure how I would separate that.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Yeah, it's natural. Thank you. It's a natural tendency to be results oriented. That's one of the things that we have to put on our resumes. I'm a very results oriented person. I'm going to get you results. That's why you should hire me. 

And I had a conversation with a president of a company I was working for, briefly, that was based in France, and we were talking philosophy, and he was like, how can you be an entrepreneur and not be attached to the results? I don't understand, like the whole concept of, you know, how can you even do business if you're not results oriented? Anyway, it was an interesting train ride. 

Christina. Go ahead. You had your hand up for a second.

CHRISTINA: I did, I was wondering the same thing about the non-attachment. It reminds me of Arjuna to Krishna, giving wisdom to Arjuna that we're on this battlefield. And yes, we can go to battle with our mode of goodness. But, from what I understand you saying is that we are eternal beings, so the outcome is the outcome, and spiritually we are greater than the material experience. 

So maybe that is sometimes an escapism to where if I feel really charged about something, it's a great way for me to nullify a little bit of my feelings by saying, oh, I'm not going to be attached to this. So I want to recognize when it's important to attach and when it's important to, to respect that, that spiritual non-attachment. You could give wisdom on that.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  You know this is, I think this is not just one of the harder things to do, but one of the harder things to understand in yoga philosophy. 

One of the important things that Krishna tells Arjuna is that under the influence of the false ego, we think I am the doer. I am making things happen, when in fact what we're actually experiencing are the interactions of the three qualities of material nature. 

So there's a distinction between our will to act and the action that happens there. There are more factors in action than just our involvement in action. And then in his conclusive statements, Krishna tells Arjuna, you're entitled to act. You're entitled to do the right thing because it's the right thing to do, but you're not actually in control of the outcome. There are so many things beyond your control, so the attachment is to doing what's right.

JAMIE: Okay. You really took words out of my head, but put it in the right context, as you always do. That's the whole point of what we're doing here, right? We're told that, like, no matter what, we're not in control. So just always do the most good, right? 

So you engage in social justice and politics because we can't be attached to the results because that's focusing on the future and not the present moment. So if all we're supposed to do is stay in touch with our higher selves, move from a place of gratitude and love, and not expect anything in return for the higher deeds we do, then we're actually doing exactly what we're supposed to be doing when we're not attached to the outcome of the work we put into social justice, because it’s all is how it's going to be anyway, right? And we're just doing our piece of the timeline.. 

I'm so glad we have these talks.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Jamie, thank you. Glenna. Go ahead.

GLENNA:  Christina was reminding me back, when I had my hand up before. Because for me, you know, the Gita and the whole issue of right action, is one that is very important to me in terms of how I determine what my activities need to be in the social justice arena, in the political arena. 

And it also brings me back to the yamas and the whole concept of ahimsa. Which, you know, kind of underpins everything in yoga. Which is about not doing harm to others, not doing harm to the planet, not doing harm to animals, and not doing harm to myself.

There's so much harm being done everywhere to everything and everybody, you know. So for me, I have to take my right action, based on my values. And regardless of whether it turns out like I wanted to turn out or not, I still have a comfort in that I acted according to my values. According to the foundations of yoga, to attempt to do less harm in the world and to try to eliminate harm that's being done in the world. So it comes back to yoga philosophy for me, and it comes back to those core values in terms of who I am. 

So I don't know if it's not so much being attached to the outcome. It's like I have to do something. I can't just sit and not do something when all this harm is occurring. If I say I'm a yogi and I am functioning according to the yamas and niyamas, then I can't just sit and do nothing when all that harm is being done.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS: Thank you so much. The yamas are ethical directives that inform moral decision making. That is about how we treat others. And so for a yogi, for a spiritualist, the attachment is to the values that are given to us in yoga philosophy. Not necessarily to the results of acting on those values, but attachment to acting on the basis of those values, irrespective of what the outcome is going to be. 

All right. Thank you. Anne, you're going to get the last word, and then we'll wrap up for today. Go ahead.

ANNE: I'll be quick. I believe it was Jamie saying, it just made me think of that concept of we don't plant a tree so we can sit in the shade. We're planting it so our grandchildren can sit in the shade. And if we use that as kind of an analogy here. Trees keep growing, but they go through hard times, right. When we look at the rings, some years are full of growth and some years there's a drought. Some years, like in Colorado where I live, we have smoke filling the air. And like one year my tree didn't even create seed pods that season. It was crazy. 

So if we see it that way, if we're not attached to the result, we're attached to the fact that planting the tree was the right action. Because eventually, over time, It's going to become what it needs to be.

HARI-KIRTANA DAS:  Thank you Anne. We don't we don't know what the ripple effect of that action will be. And yet we are compelled to take action. 

In the case of pursuing social justice, there's this balance between the spiritual practice that gives us the knowledge and the values and the strength to engage with the world, but it requires spending time turning the world off, turning away from the world and turning inward in order to develop that knowledge. That inner fortitude. So both of those things are there.

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