|Understanding reciprocity is the realization of our metaphysical endeavor; co-operation is our response and our practice.
In meditation it has been shown to me that there is a field where beings are working together co-operatively for the benefit of all.
Rabbi Zalman Schachter says it better than I: “ Rupert Sheldrake has identified inter-organism matrix fields that he calls morphogenic fields. Such a field is energized by beings living within it; and the field, in turn, provides order and harmony for those individuals. When a morphogenic field is healthy, robust, and energetic, the units living in it create a balanced ecology. However, if the field is sick or askew, the units within it struggle and fight against one another. We see this in the prevalent geo-planetary tense environment – the competitive, and hostile struggles among the various inhabitants of the body of the Earth.
”Schachter goes on to say, “I believe that the current morphogenic field of the planet is shattered and broken and that, in addition, the great dreams that energized nations, traditions, lineages, and religions, are weak and anemic. The discords have proven not to be solvable on the rational or political level, for these conflicts are energized by realities that operate on a much more subtle level.” (1)
These beings work in much the same way as bees in a hive, and ants in a colony; as trees do in a grove; and as one tree grows. Although every individual (part) is expendable, all co-operate to make life.
In the Rasa Lila, the Gopis spend their lives entirely working to make beautiful arrangements to bring Radha and Krishna together. They don’t want to be with Krishna themselves because they know that Radha, who is the most qualified, can bring Krishna more pleasure than they can. Radha, on the other hand, wants to make arrangements for the individual gopis to be with Krishna. Competition in the spiritual realm means everyone is trying to make wonderful arrangements for everyone else. It begins with love and continues as an ever-expanding ocean of bliss.
In his commentary (2) on the “Sri Chaitanya-Charitamrita”, A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami says, “It is very difficult to express their (the Gopis) dealings with Krishna, as they have no desire to mix with or to enjoy Krishna personally. But they are always ready to help Radharani be with Krishna. Their affection for Krishna and Radharani is so pure that they are simply satisfied when Radha and Krishna are together, and they simply enjoy the transcendental pleasure of seeing Radha and Krishna combined, united. The actual form of Radharani is just like a creeper embracing the tree of Krishna. The damsels of Vraja, the associates of Radharani, are just like the leaves and flowers of the creeper. And when the creeper embraces the tree, automatically the leaves and flowers also take the opportunity to embrace the tree, along with the creeper.”
“This is confirmed in the Govinda Lilamrita as follows: Radharani is expressed as the expansion of the pleasure potency of Krishna. As She is compared with the creeper, Her associates, the damsels of Vraja, are just like the flowers and leaves of that creeper. When Radharani and Krishna enjoy Themselves, the damsels of Vraja enjoy the pleasure more than Radharani Herself.”
When everybody’s highest motive for doing anything in a social context comes out of a strong desire to give pleasure to others, then automatically, without separate endeavor, co-operation is there as a bi-product.
In Buddhism, the equivalent to the Rasa Lila is Mudita, the Heavenly Abode of Sympathetic Joy. When we are not dwelling in the janas, we can practice being here by imagining that we are. Likewise, in Tibetan deity practice, even though we don’t have realization, the invitation is that we bring forth qualities of that deity in thought, word and action. Even if we do not know ourselves to be the deity, we can still imagine that we are. In Wazifa practice too, we imagine the qualities we are trying to embody.
The realm of imagination (The Sufis call the imaginal realm ‘alam al-mithal’) “provides the vital interface between the intent and its achievement,” says Zalman Schachter, in his article entitled “Accessing the Imaginal Realm to Heal our Planet."
Joseph Campbell says that it is up to the artist to create wholesome visions by which to live. Likewise, in our spiritual practices, we use the imaginal realm to help us arrive at co-operation.
As we struggle to bring this vision to life, when difficulties arise among us, we can "turn the other cheek”. Twenty years ago, while I was listening to Buddhadassa give a dharma talk in his own monastery in Thailand, he shed light on Jesus’ words. Speaking in Thai, with an English translator, Buddhadassa said that what Jesus had meant was that when you turn your head slightly, your eye moves. When your eye has changed position, you have a new view.
Hazrat Inayat Khan says the same thing. On writing about tolerance (3) he says, “By a slight change of attitude in one’s outlook on life, one can make the world into heaven or hell."
I was talking about this recently when my friend Hayra Nur reminded me that at its root, ‘respect’ actually means ‘to look again.’
Joko Beck says that your own reactivity is your teacher. She says this is the practice we all need to be doing: whenever we feel any reactivity what so ever, we must look within, and handle it.
In the Vedas it asks the question, “If your house is on fire, do you run down the street to go after the arsonist?” No, you stay home and put out the fire in your house.
I don’t think there is anything else we can do once we realize that everything we perceive is coming from our own software and programming (karmic conditioning). When we have a thought, we can simply say, “Well now, that’s a thought!” The same is true for emotions, sensations, feelings and perceptions. We must come to know that all our feelings, thoughts, and perceptions are nothing more than our own experience; that there is nothing whatsoever objective about them. They are utterly subjective.
Until we learn to express what we are feeling as our own feeling, we will continue to project our reality out there onto others and make statements that feel to the other person like blame and accusation. We will continue to deceive ourselves into believing that what we are feeling is about them, rather than about ourselves.
But once we have learned to express what we are feeling/thinking with the certainty that it is only our own perception, then we have entry into skillful dialogue. Then we can find out what is true for the other person. This is rapport. This is the spirit of co-operation.
Each and every time we feel reactivity, the Bodhisattva Vow demands that we travel into our own field: the field from where the reactivity is arising. There we can embrace (and thereby exorcise) our demon. Then we can respond with an open heart with a spirit of co-operation.
One teacher invites us to imagine that we are in a subway car for eternity with a certain group of people. Some are content, but others feel a growing sense of restlessness. Unless we help them to find peace, our own peace will soon be interrupted. Not only must we constantly address our own reactivity, and be honest about it with our fellow travelers, but we must also be vigilant to see how we can help when others are in distress.
Nyogen Senzaki says: "When I started the mentorgarten movement sixteen years ago....I coined the name "Mentorgarten" to express my feelings that the whole world is a beautiful garden, where everyone can associate peacefully and be mentors to each other...Like a kindergarten, the Mentorgarten had no teachers, but we encouraged each other and tried to grow up naturally as we could. Like a kindergarten nurse, sometimes I would presume to be gardener of the flowers; but I never forgot that I was a flower of that garden too." (4)