April 2, 2009

Engaged Life 2

Without spiritual development, well-meaning attempts to change the world will probably unconsciously replicate the very problems that we believe we are solving. Unfortunately, we can see this all too clearly in the history of revolutions, where so often after an oppressor was toppled, the purported liberator was soon revealed as the new oppressor. Violent “solutions” all too frequently only beget further violence. Without transforming ourselves and coming to know ourselves deeply through sustained spiritual inquiry and practice, we may only make things worse. We also run the risk of not having the kind of resources of wisdom, compassion, equanimity, and perseverance necessary to respond to great needs of the times without being quickly burned out by anger and frustration. Outer transformation thus entails inner transformation.

But if the path of spiritual transformation is not socially informed, it is too risky. There is the irony of attempting to overcome self-centeredness through spiritual practice while ignoring the cries of he world, of living in a protected spiritual home while the rest of the world is burning. And there is the danger of not seeing how the world’s not just “out there” but also “in us,” internalized through self-images; our social constructions of gender, class, and ethnicity, among others; and in our behaviors as consumers parents, partners, and coworkers. Without transforming in the world that is in us, we maintain, usually unconsciously, its patterns in ourselves and our spiritual communities. And when we do attend the world “in us,” we join in the act of social transformation. In that sense, inner transformation entails outer transformation.
From Donald Rothenberg's book The Engaged Spiritual Life.

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