Ask Metta

From Metta Mandir: Part 1

At a recent virtual hope tank dedicated to finding positive responses to the “shelter in place” order here in California and elsewhere we realized that Gandhi did some of his best writing — and meditating  — in the jail that he renamed “Yeravda Mandir,” or temple.

There are parts of the Bhagavad Gita that I take literally, and among them two verses from Ch. Four stand out at any time, but particularly one like this:

“Whenever dharma declines, and unrighteousness swells forth, I incarnate myself from age to age . . .” 

If there was ever a time that fits this description, when human degradation menacingly raises its ugly head, it’s this one. Where, then, is our incarnation?

I can imagine the Supreme Being answering, “What did you do with the last one?” 

Or perhaps s/he is yet to come; or perhaps, and this is the safest interpretation, we are (to be) that incarnation, that saving power.  

Our response, in addition to everything else we’re doing, is to lift up the five points for Personal Empowerment embedded in the core of our Roadmap. 

They deserve some elaboration, and accordingly, we decided to follow up on our recent article in Waging Nonviolence, which introduces Roadmap in general, with five pieces over the next five weeks dedicated to each of the five points in turn.

The Roadmap

Point Number One: Use extreme caution with violent and degrading media.

How pertinent, when so many of us are “sheltering in place,” our kids out of school, desperate for wholesome entertainment on the one hand and of course glued to the news!  A hard time to tell people to back away from the media.

Yet, when you develop some sensitivity to what a human being really is and some skill in reading the “subtext” in an advertisement or a piece of “entertainment,” you begin to realize that there’s very little left in the commercial world of media that does not in fact trivialize, misrepresent and degrade us. 

It does not have to be an action movie or an ad message like “Our pain is your gain” (seen on a recent Petaluma billboard) to try to tell us we’re small-minded, competitive fragments caught in a nexus of violence.

So, one objection this suggestion meets with is, ‘There’ll be nothing left to watch.’ Point number two in the inner circle, and all of them in their own way answer this objection. 

The next one is, ‘How will I know what’s going on in the world if even the news is slanted toward violence and firmly embedded in the Old Story (which it is)? Fortunately, there are more and more resources now to fill that gap; the field is expanding so rapidly that even the Appendix to my new book, The Third Harmony will soon be out of date!

Don’t let anyone tell you that they “like” violence, and it doesn’t do any harm.  There are thousands of studies proving that watching violence makes us more violent in attitude and eventually behavior, and a growing awareness that while we may have been so far conditioned that we get a rush of some kind seeing it, violence alienates us and sickens the mind.

It’s a part of what the military calls “moral injury” (and tries to ignore).  While breaking an entrenched media habit is unquestionably going to be a struggle for many of us, it really doesn’t take long for our sensitivity to return so that we enjoy peace of mind, and not at all its disturbance.

Go at your own pace: a periodic “cleanse,” cold turkey, a gradual reduction to just about zero — whatever works for you. The benefits are their own reward; who wants to be conditioned, really — to anything.