January 10, 2021 | Message from Dr. Benton
It’s been a rough year so far and we are only a little more than a week into it! I found my mind was echoing with this African American Spiritual…Hold On… This recording rings with the strength and perseverance necessary to keep going…something that our enslaved ancestors knew something about.
I never thought that I would be supporting our lawmakers…those who are often too timid to speak their minds…too afraid to speak and act their conscience. But this week’s events have put some things in perspective. I am reminded of the overarching themes that many freedom fighters have grappled with. One such “warrior” was Mohandas Gandhi. He said that Hinduism teaches that human folly comes from ignorance, from ignoring the truth. Ignorance, yes, ignoring the truth, yes, maybe…or maybe it is about believing a different truth.
I spoke with one of my clients this week…it may have been Wednesday before the white mob descended upon the Capitol. I will refer to my client with the pronouns they, their for anonymity. This client states that they were a life-long democrat until the past couple of years. They state that they have changed their mind because they now feel like the “country has been stolen from us” and that “Trump wanted to save us.” The client states that they now believe that “the left has no morals and that they believe in walking all over you”. This person believes that what they are saying is the truth. They actually stated, “I know who’s telling the truth”. It makes you wonder what happened to this person. Any time that I find I cannot understand a situation such as this one, I realize that there is fear involved and in this case the fear of “the other”. As much as this person states that it is not a black and white issue, or an American or foreigner issue, or some other binary issue, notice the word “us” and “you” above. What does that mean? My client was talking with me so I can only surmise that they meant “white people”. This is disheartening and extremely difficult to provide support to this individual. Still, I will try. But it does shed some light on what we are up against. Just because Biden won the election and will most likely be sworn in, it does not mean that this will disappear. Carter Heyward put it this way:
It is exceedingly dangerous for us to allow any structure of sin and evil to go unchecked in the society, because in the end we ourselves will be the victims. These forces in the world…are bound to act against women’s liberation, racial equality, gay/lesbian rights, the demands of the poor, all revolutionary movements, and the integrity of the earth itself.
This is what has happened in this country. We have allowed the structure of sin and evil to go unchecked…and this does not only refer to Trump. Trump is just the most blatant and recent example of this phenomenon.
I’d like to go back to Gandhi, who stated that the following internal forces could destroy a nation:
Politics without principle
Wealth without work
Commerce without morality
Pleasure without conscience
Education without character
Science without humanity
Worship without sacrifice
Any evidence of these forces in our contemporary society? And what does this have to do with our current situation? It is as Carter Heyward stated, structure of evil and sin allowed to flourish will act against the less powerful, including the earth herself. It will embolden the terrorists…those that are living in fear that their way of life has ended…those who feel that they are still entitled…entitled to more of life than others who have traditionally been oppressed. They are feeling the weight of the oppression of the planet wrought by our own species…the result of so many years of “unchecked sin and evil”.
Gandhi knew of this danger and fought hard for:
Politics with principle
Wealth with work
Commerce with morality
Pleasure with conscience
Education with character
Science with humanity
Worship with sacrifice
For our meditation today, I would like to play this popular devotional song in honor of Mohandas Gandhi. This song was one of his favorites and was chanted regularly in his prayer meetings. A contemporary Hindu blogger has written of the meaning of this song. He writes:
The song starts with the praise of Raja Ram (Lord Ram). Lord Ram is an incarnation of Vishnu (the preserving aspect of Brahman). Lord Ram is an embodiment of Dharma (Right duty, righteousness) and Virtue.
The words “Patita Pavana” mean the uplifter of those who have fallen from the path of righteousness and virtue. So, we call upon Mother Sita and Raja Ram who are the uplifters of the fallen. Mother Sita is the daughter of Earth. She signifies selfless Love and purity. Mother Earth gives us everything she has without asking anything in return. Mother earth is always pure and everything we get comes from that purity.
Ishvar Allah Tero naam means – People call you by many names, some call you God “Ishvar” while some call you Allah, but you are the one and only the Brahman, infinite Divinity that is within us all and we are all within you.
Sabko Sanmati De Bhagvan means – Bless everyone with this very wisdom that we are all the product of the same matter and consciousness, and that all of us strive towards the path of righteousness and virtue.
At this point in our history, we might do well to lift up all life, including those who have strayed so far from the path of righteousness and virtue. Maybe chanting this song could be a start to this “uplifting” of humanity. This particular version is by one of my teachers, Russill Paul.
Get comfortable in your seat and take a deep breath. Try to let go of all worries…the worries of the week and beyond and be present for these words of faith, of hope and of healing for humanity and all creation. Take a deep breath into the lower part of your lungs in order to relax your body and your mind. Do this again. Let go of thoughts of last week or later today and be present right here…right now…
Yes, we are all made from the same stardust…from the original flowing forth. We are relatives to everything that lives. As our own Howard Thurman stated about this sense of belonging:
We have committed to heart and to nervous system a feeling of belonging and our spirits are no longer isolated and afraid…. [We need to resist the] “will to quarantine” and to separate ourselves behind self-imposed walls.
In place of feeling separate and alien, isolated and afraid, Thurman suggests that this sense of belonging may be why we were born…
For this is why we were born: [People], all [people], belong to each other, and [the one] who shuts himself away diminishes himself, and [the one] who shuts another away from her destroys herself.
Now this sounds good and all, but after what we saw at the Capitol this week, how will we get there? I think we need to go back to Mohandas Gandhi and truth…to the work of seeking politics with principle, commerce with morality, education with character, a science which includes humanity. And Gandhi was not alone. Before his time, during his time and since he has died there are countless examples of individuals and groups fighting for the Beloved Community that Thurman is describing…people fighting for the integrity of Earth herself.
To close I would like to provide you with some inspiration for moving forward in the year 2021…moving forward with love, with truth, with justice…moving forward to the Promised Land of Peace and Understanding. Let’s take “This Train”!