Yesterday, the priest at mass urged the faithful to exert pressure against the passing of the reproductive bill soon to be discussed in congress. Another explosive debate, I am sure.
A wise old musician, Roger Hererra once told me that the two most contentious topics in the world are politics and religion. He says that if one reviews all the wars in the world, these two could claim the most number of casualties. It was his way of chiding me for my political involvement then when he used to play for us many years ago. While I thought then that the statement was simplistic, I know that it makes for a fascinating thesis. Why, because one, the political sphere claims to speak for the governance and social order of the lives of men. The other, religion, claims to speak for the sphere of beliefs beyond the material or the souls of men(although some may claim it also has domain over material and earthly concerns). No wonder they’re explosive! They claim to cover everything.
Just watch TV and you will see all types of televangelists–the pompously dressed, the hysterical, those who threaten with eternal damnation, etc. They are slick and enticing. Then there are the politicians who can blow on the pied piper flute of various concerns that can raise everyone’s hopes or hackles. And there are the priests of various religions who talk like politicians, and vice-versa.
It’s amazing that even as politics and religion both claim to unite people, they have done just the opposite many times. The real reason though why they have become two swords that have divided humanity into as many splinters as we have seen in history is not so much because they make such huge claims and have largely failed to deliver. The reason is they have the great ability to entice the ego, and many times it is the ego that believes it has the right to speak on their behalf.
The ego, once hooked will defend, attack to win, fight to persevere, or preserve itself and when it can, attain superiority. It is the evil genius that sucks everyone into arguments. And when it is a collective ego, a nation, a race, or any group of egos with a shared identification that is threatened, it can be more dangerous. It can go to war and genocide all in the name of ‘good’ causes. It can also lead to religious purges and executions, yes, in the name of a God whose followers feel was insulted, threatened or diminished in some way by ‘ the enemy’.
The New Earth, a great book discusses the workings of the ego in detail.
I often ask myself if God can ever be diminished, hurt, or feel insulted. More importantly, does God have an ego? What do you think? Does God need to be defended, or is it us who need to defend our view of what God is, or what ‘right’ is? Think about it. What if you could set aside ego? What if you did not feel the need to be right? Isn’t the ego the only thing that makes forgiveness or renewal impossible?
I think of all those I have ever percieved to be ‘enemies’ at some point, and there have been many–the Inquirer recently, ha ha. Or the commenters on blogs that just love to argue (yeah, I get hooked too.). When the heat of the moment has disspitated, I often wonder about the ‘valid’ reasons that made them adversaries except that they seemed to threaten MY view of the world, MY values, or aroused MY ego into defend and attack mode, and vice versa. Eckart Tolle says everytime we use ‘my” we are seduced by the ego.
The ego is a genius as I said. It can masquerade as a good or righteous guy, or any other persona it needs to be to survive. It’s nature is to view itself as separate, as in superior or above others. Thus, it loves to condemn and judge. If it needs to be ‘spiritual’ it can do that too. Rinpoche Trungpa, a Tibetan Buddhist wrote a book about spiritual materialism where he says the ego will even claim enlightenment, or ‘blessedness’ to raise itself. Magaling talaga. Is there any escaping the stranglehold of this evil genius?
Allow me to answer in a non-academic way as I share experiences of my occasional flights from ego’s dominance..
I feel very liberated when I sometimes find myself in ‘the zone’. This is where I am NOT pulled by concerns to be anything but just being in and with the moment. And more and more, I do not just ‘find’ myself there. I actually make it my practice to consciously choose to be there. And sometimes, I succeed.
no sky to hold up
no ego to feed or protect
no self-esteem to nurture
When does this happen?
When I write music, when I am writing just like I am writing now, when I am performing, when I am with anyone and I am fully present with him/her, when I don’t demand for anything, when I don’t expect any outcome and just flow with whatever is. It does not matter what one is doing. It’s not about that. Everything IS, and that means it is the state of the art of what it can be at the moment.
And when you can be one with just that, you will find there is no tension, no conflict. And what happens is it opens all your creative channels to engage the present without conditions. You feel like you are REALLY an offspring of the Great Creator, the carrier of God’s creative DNA, capable of creating wonderful things too. You write,sing,love, you ARE–without conditions. It’s a moment when you are not asking, not needing anything. You are complete. In the zone, I keep on discovering that the moment one stops asking, it is given. Everything you need is inside of you. You’re the fire and breath of your own soul. And in the zone, you keep catching yourself just saying ‘thank you.’
But can’t religion and politics do that to you as well? Yes. Actually, anything can bring you to this state. Many athletes like Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods, performers, religious and saints experience this too all the time. The common thread is letting go of ego. You lose yourself and gain the world, so to speak because there is no ‘self'(in the common way we know it) that stands in the way. And no, you are not living in some cloud. You are in your body. You are here. You are, to borrow a Christian phrase, ‘in the world but not of it’. The divine in you kicks in as you are plugged into the powerhouse of the present time.
To lighten the ending, I leave you with some interesting and light quotes on religion:
‘If you are a Christian, and are interested in Buddhism, study it not to become Buddhist but to be a better Christian.’–the Dalai Lama
” I belong to the one true church of the oonly real God of which I am the sole member.’ –a guest at Larry King
‘When I do good, I feel good; when I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.’–Abraham Lincoln
‘Among politicians the esteem of religion is profitable; the principles of it are troublesome.’ –Benjamin Whichcote.
“The secret of a good sermon is to have a good beginning and a good ending, then having the two as close together as possible.”—George Burns.
“I admire the Pope. I have a lot of respect for anyone who can tour without an album.”–Rita Rudner.
“Thank God I’m an atheist.”—Luis Bunuel.
“When I was a kid I used to pray every night for a new bicycle. Then I realised that the Lord doesn’t work that way so I stole one and asked Him to forgive me.”–Emo Philips.
‘”Hearing nuns’ confessions is like being stoned to death with popcorn.”–Bishop Fulton Sheen.
-Why don’t you just settle things like good Christians’– a US diplomat talking to Muslim Arabs and Jews.