July 11, 2009

Being a Slave or Liberation from Lattés (also; Krishna Das, Ram Dass, Bhagavan Das)

Every jest is a half-truth. A co-worker said to me, “we’re both slaves to the job.” I respond, by rote, that we are only slaves if we believe it. But have I questioned this truism? Hardly enough. Liberation does not exist much for me beyond a theory. And how can genuine liberation exist in the head alone? Action unfolds either from our values and perspectives or from sheer mistake, chance, and ignorance. Mindful action is part and parcel with liberation, for when make considered choices we begin to step beyond the herd mentality of habitual patterning.
From consideration comes the will to change. A change that is essential today. I’ve been considering lattés and entertainment. Twelve to sixteen dollars a week of my earnings goes to skinny lattés. Now, a latté bought from a local business or a company that invests in the welfare of the planet, that is made from local product, and is distributed into a personal mug rather than plastic or paper disposables may not be a huge detriment to the planet or society, but how does it affect consciousness. It reminds me of my relative wealth, of the privilege I have to consume the insignificant, the trivial. It is the way many of us take in film, as a distraction, a simple entertainment that has become part of the process of living. What does it say that one of the largest grossing movies of the summer was made devoid of dialogue, wit, or any substantive plot, and the director said it was made to satisfy the masses. If complete banality is what truly satisfies us then perhaps the species is doomed. I do not subscribe to this view. I think it is a lack of exposure and a culturally subscribed diminishment of patience. They say it takes hearing a piece of classical music ten times to fully appreciate its quality. How many of us take that time. It is the cycle of material-information-stimulation consumption for consumption sake that I want to stop. I am not inflicting a wound on the planet by drinking a latté (though I am by supporting most Hollywood blockbusters) but every drink diminishes the integrity of how I idealize my life.

Those who have traveled in the devotional circles of yoga are likely familiar with Krishna Das, Ram Dass, and Bhagavan Das. Das comes from the Sanskrit Dasa meaning “slave”, slave to Krishna, slave to Ram, slave to the Blessed One. To be a slave to the higher vision is the meaning of their names. It is of the highest good to bind oneself to the virtues of selflessness and renunciation. In these names I see the impetus for change. Our society is enslaved by material, it matters not how insignificant it may seem. A cup of coffee seems insignificant but how much weight does it carry when we consider twelve to sixteen dollars spent on inconsequence, twelve to sixteen dollars another person did not have, twelve to sixteen dollars that to some would be a fortune, twelve to sixteen dollars spent without consideration or care. At least until now. A slave can only have one master. Willing to become a slave to the divine, the highest good of humanity and the earth is to sever our bondage to the world of our cravings and the cycle of suffering.

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