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Form and Emptiness, Spirituality and Politics

October 29, 2008

I have been debating for weeks whether or not to write a post related to the upcoming election. I had decided not too, because I think religion and politics have already become too linked in our political rhetoric, and inevitably both get corrupted by it. Also, my own focus is on the spiritual process – on methods, like meditation, for triggering personal spiritual experience and knowledge. Those methods aren’t Republican or Democrat, and the experiences they enable aren’t either.

On the other hand, many individuals focused on their spirituality give up on ‘the world’ altogether, viewing the entire political arena as just another playground for the ego. Of course it can be, just like every human activity, including spirituality, if approached that way.

When contemplating this a couple of weeks ago, I got an email newsletter from Gangaji, one of my favorite contemporary spiritual teachers, with a letter from her that spoke directly to what I was thinking. In her introductory quote and letter, she speaks to our tendency to either view human reality as all there is, or to juxtapose a ‘spiritual’ reality that renders that human reality irrelevant. Neither is truth. Truth is something beyond both, and we don’t have to deny either reality to live in concert with it.

So, I have decided to reprint Gangaji’s quote and letter below. I have been on Gangaji’s email distribution list for several years, and this letter was unusual, because she does not often speak of politics or social issues. In her letter, Gangaji mentions Papaji, her own spiritual teacher, and Papaji’s spiritual teacher, Ramana Maharshi. If you are unfamiliar with her, I encourage you to check out her website, or the profile of her on the Heroes for Healing website (an excellent site profiling many contempory teachers, healers, and authors.)

From Gangaji:

“Finally one discovers there is no difference between inside and outside. Between form and emptiness. To cling to either is to miss the whole.”

Dear Sangha,

In 1947 India was in extreme crisis. Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs were killing each other. Enforced mass migration was causing anger, fear, and despair. The country was in chaos.

At the same time, Papaji sat in bliss at Ramana’s feet and at the feet of the holy mountain Arunachala. One day, after reading in the newspaper of the horror, Ramana asked Papaji about his family and the dangers they were in as they were being forced to leave the Punjab and relocate to Hindu governed Lucknow. Papaji responded, “That is all an empty dream. I am here in the bliss of your grace.”

Ramana looked deeply at Papaji and said, “If it is all a dream, where is the problem of taking care of your family? Go and help them.”

Papaji left that night for the Punjab. He was able to help get all his family out in time. Just in time. He was on the last train allowed out.

It is my view that politically our country is at an essential crossroads. In my lifetime, there has never been an election as important as the upcoming one.

I strongly invite you all to look deeply into your hearts and using what you value most in your self and in all your relationships, choose a candidate for President and vote. You may also be called to work for Voter Registration or to help with voter turnout. I support you fully in support of our precious democratic process.

Finally one discovers there is no difference between inside and outside. Between form and emptiness. To cling to either is to miss the whole.

In deep love and respect,


2 Comments leave one →
  1. Tonia permalink
    August 16, 2017 4:00 pm

    I fear that voting for presidents in the US Military Empire is pointless. The president is just a puppet for a shadow government.

  2. August 17, 2017 8:58 pm

    Hi Tonia, I’m truly sorry to hear that, as I feel that undermining faith in our governmental structure – in democracy itself – is the biggest evil occurring right now. Once people feel that their vote does not matter, and become disengaged, we are truly in a crises. There are so many faults in our government, and no doubt there is corruption, and yet still we enjoy relative freedom and the right to protest in a way many others in other parts of the world do not. And we experience the peaceful transfer of power that democracy represents, as opposed to constant war and revolution that is still the norm in so much of the world. So despite all its faults, I will continue to fight within the structure – through action in politics including voting – for change and improvement. I am inspired by the many people who have been galvanized in the last 8 months to protest and speak their mind, and it is creating a momentum we have not seen in a long time that I believe will eventually bear fruit.

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