Sacred Activism as a path of transformation
What breaks your heart?” Andrew Harvey believes that when we each answer this question we’ll be inspired to engage in compassionate and radical action to transform humanity. The India-born poet and translator is also director of The Institute for Sacred Activism and author of many books including “The Hope: A Guide to Sacred Activism” and “The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying” with Patrick Gaffney and Sogyal Rinpoche. His newest book, with Karuna Erickson, is “Heart Yoga: The Sacred Marriage of Yoga and Mysticism.”
GOOD TIMES: I’d like to hear your vision for transforming the United States, a country
permanently at war where economic and retributive violence is the status quo.
ANDREW HARVEY: Also, we’ve just been sold to the corporations by the Supreme Court, which has given corporations carte blanche to invest in American politics. We are in the best democracy that money can buy! It’s amazing to me that the American people aren’t on the streets because this is actually the prelude, potentially, to the rule of fascism.
I’m very alarmed, too, at the spiritual response to this. We’ve had a spirituality that’s sanctified greed and consumerism and has been not at all concerned with political and social transformation at the very moment that they are needed most.
How can we change structures of domination and control?
The corporations are certainly not going to go through a quick change of heart. People have to face that there is very little hope in the political system. The responsibility for major change now lies in us. The one hope for the world is in a global mass movement of love in action. I’m devoting everything I’m doing to mobilizing people into what I call networks of grace.
Explain more about these activist networks.
Networks of grace are cells of between six to 12 people who are gathered around heartbreak or a cause. There will be networks dealing with environmental protest and transformation and the creation of different forms of energy. There will be networks working on poverty, famine and the transformation of our relationship to animals.
What I suggest to people who really wish to discover what their mission is in this chaos is that they get up at three o’clock in the morning, ground themselves in the divine in whatever way is natural to them and ask themselves, “What breaks my heart?” Rumi said that when you uncover your heartbreak you uncover a compassion that will never run dry.
In “The Hope” you write, “I am not a dogmatic pacifist ... In certain extreme situations, which I pray do not arise but could, I would be prepared to take up arms and use force.”
Everybody should, as far as possible, pursue the path of nonviolence. I also believe that given the situation as it is—the omnipotence of the corporations, the strength of the military-industrial complex—we might, and I say might, be brought to a situation so extreme that even those who have committed ourselves to nonviolence would consider a disciplined, focused and economic use of force. When I interviewed His Holiness The Dalai Lama he said something which permanently changed my mind, “If it comes to the necessity of using force, only those people can be trusted to use force … who have been profoundly, over a long time and with a deep spiritual intensity, trained in nonviolence.” Obviously the use of violence must be the absolutely last resort.
You recommend uniting spiritual practice and social change into sacred activism. Many of us are interested in balancing what you call, “the sacred marriage between serenity and urgency.” How best to train ourselves as sacred activists?
I suggest that people combine four kinds of practice: cool practices like vippassana meditation, breathing, calm mantra repetition, and visualizations; heart practices which enable you to keep your heart open and compassionate even when the world is burning; prayer practice and lastly sacred body practice. My book “Heart Yoga” brings together yoga in its most ancient, mystical form with practices from all of the mystical traditions.
What the world is going through is an equivalent of a dark night of the soul; it’s a dark night of a species. We are heading into the eye of a perfect storm of crises that threaten the extinction of the human race and the desecration of a great deal of nature. We have ignored all the warnings and indulged in a vast coca-coma. I also believe that this is not the end for the human race. This is a wake up call for the human race to get real about putting love, compassion and wisdom into urgent, focused, radical action. If millions of us take up this challenge then what this great death that is materializing all over the plant will turn out to be will be the birthing canal for a new humanity.
What Breaks Your Heart Open? will be a discussion with Andrew Harvey on Friday, Feb. 25, at 7 p.m. at Inner Light Ministries, 5630 Soquel Drive with Rev. Deborah Johnson and spoken word artist, Lex. Tickets are $15 at Gateways Books and innerlightministries.com. Join Harvey with Eric Schneider on Thursday, Feb. 24 at 7 p.m. for Rumi’s Embrace—Hope for Humanity. A limited number of tickets are available for $40. Call 426-5755 to leave a reservation message. Check out andrewharvey.net for more information. John Malkin is a local writer, musician and host of The Great Leap Forward, Wednesdays at 7 p.m. on Free Radio Santa Cruz, 101.1FM and freakradio.org.
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