Do we have a moral debt?


Is there something mystical that impels us?

Do we have a moral debt both personally a as a society?

The boast of Spiritual India hopes to attract in tourists and here in Bhopal, I am reminded that Emperor Ashoka attempted to house the ashes of the Buddha at Sanchi only 40 kilometres east of my Bhopal home.

After all, spirituality is more than glossy brochures. Spirituality is an inner transformation that reaches out to light the world. So while economic rationalists suggest development must come first, perhaps if we cleanse our moral debts of the burden of guilt then money will come.

Thich Nhat Hanh retells the Sutra on a Sons Flesh this way:

The Buddha once told his monks this story: A couple and their young son were crossing a vast desert on their way to seek asylum in another land. But they hadn’t planned well and were only halfway across the desert when they ran out of food. Realizing that all three would die in the desert, the parents made a horrifying decision: they decided to kill and eat their child. Every morning they ate a morsel of his flesh, just enough for the energy to walk a little further, all the while crying, “Where is our little boy?” They carried the rest of the son’s flesh on their shoulders, so it could continue to dry in the sun. Every night the couple looked at each other and asked, “where is our beloved child now?” And they cried and pulled their hair, and beat their chests with grief…

And the Buddha said, “We have to practice eating in such a way that will retain compassion in our heart. We have to eat in mindfulness. Otherwise we will be eating the flesh of our own children.”

Are we consuming our world mindlessly? Recently I heard Jane Goodall argue we must reconnect  head and heart if we are to reconnect to the web of life. We are but one thread in the web, and if the web is destroyed so is the threads within it.

We must embrace our humanity. Be enraged with injustice. From the age of ten, Jane Goodall wanted to live with Animals, when it seemed an almost absurd idea. Set your goal to change the world. Don’t let put downs put you off.

Young people will speak, the collective consciousness of repressed indigenous peoples will be heard.  Do we push the rush to unsustainable development  or develop smart ecofriendly solutions?

The question is how.

Do we invite collaboraton or will it be forced upon our unwilling hearts?

For me to reach that end I must know first two things: What is the heart of India? What is the heart of Australia?

The struggle for balance is nothing new to India.

Hinduism proclaims four goals in human life (purusarthas) dharma, artha, kama and moksha, of which the first three, or trivarga, are practiced in this world. If practiced successfully, liberation or moksha from the cycle of rebirths, is attained.

Dharma or right conduct is often considered the most important, artha, the pursuit of economic goods is second. However, the author of the Arthasastra suggests kama and dharma flow from success in this world and is therefore superior.  However, the sage Bhima argued in the Mahabharata “Kama is better than Dharma and Artha. As nectar is extracted from flowers, so is Kama to be extracted from these two. Kama is the parent of Dharma and Artha. Kama is the soul of these two.”

I suggest if we follow our duty with integrity, life will be blessed with passion. Or as the Hebrew writer put it “A man skilled in his work will be stationed before Kings.”

The first two must be given priority for the kama to arise transcendent? Has the modern world got this backwards.

Theologians of different faiths can argue if we are haunted by the karma of past lives, or whether we simply drink the bitter  wine pressed by past generations.

Rather than believe in the power of money alone, I would chose to hope that passion and reward come from integrity within my person.   What if our society could wash its debt to the past?

Tara Brach suggested that Eco Denial is a response to the unbelievable grief to damage done to painful to face. Our Earth has become both a supply source and a sewer. Societies rush to deforest and pollute in the rush for fossil fuel, is like a diabetic rushing to consume more sugar, or the obese rushing for more McDonalds.

Ignoring traditional peoples scarred by similar denials.

But despair can also force us to be present with our eco social reality. The flip side of despair is love. Being present, if only we truly feel it, may motivate deep personal and social transformation.

To realise where we stand so we can decide what will be best for us. How we can do our duty (dharma), achieve success (artha) and enjoy the passion of life.

 “The pain we feel for our world is a living testimony to our interconnectedness with it. “ said Joanna Macy “If we deny this pain, we become like blocked and atrophied neurons, deprived of life’s flow and weakening the larger body in which we take being. But if we let it move through us, we affirm our belonging; our collective awareness increases. We can open to the pain of the world in confidence that it can neither shatter nor isolate us, for we are not objects that can break. We are resilient patterns within a vaster web of knowing.”

Follow your star, ignore all your detractors . Let it shine to make the world a better place.


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