ENDING EXPLOITATION, WAR & POVERTYTALK BY RAVI LOGAN | MAY 2019
A few days ago, Anandam came by and picked up a few of these cards that Madhu has printed on the practice of neohumanism. He wanted to bring them to a house concert that he and Kirana would be giving, and I would like to say something about the significance of these points.
A couple of years ago, a few of us were involved in some supporting and consulting work in Denmark. At that time, we met a man named Ross Jackson. And Ross told us an interesting story where he and his former wife had an acquaintance who was a distinguished anthropologist. She came and visited them, and was apparently a consummate story-teller. She told them the story about the work she had done, some anthropological field work that she was excited about. It was all so engrossing that the couple said to the anthropologist, “You have to write this up and put a book out about it.”
While she is a great storyteller verbally, disciplining herself to write was very difficult. Eventually, Ross Jackson’s wife said “I am just going to set up the tape recorder here, and I want you to sit down with me and tell your story.” Over numerous taping sessions, they got the complete story on tape, and then Ross Jackson’s wife worked it up into a book. It was published in Danish, and came out later in English. It ended up being a milestone book that had profound significance. This book was titled Ancient Futures: Lessons from Ladakh. The name of the anthropologist that wrote this book is Helena Norberg-Hodge.
For those of you who do not know her work, Helena was in the far northern corner of India. It was so far north, it was essentially Tibetan culture. There was a mix, about 50-50, between Tibetan Buddhist and those who were ethnically Tibetans, but practiced the Islamic religion. The two lived side-by-side in a common culture, even though their religions [were different]. It was a subtle culture, and there was a great sensitivity to living sustainably with the land. There was not a lot of money in this culture, and a lot was done through, what we would call, “gift economy.” It seemed very idyllic. Helena Norberg-Hodge was very intrigued and with great depth, looked into how this culture worked. She shares in her book that earlier in her research, she asked one of the local people where the “people who were poor lived,” because Helena did not come across poor people. She wondered “where is this part of your culture?” And the person she asked could not relate to the question.
The Ladakhis did not have a concept of people who were poor. There were no poor people. There was, of course, difference in people’s ambition, and their cultivation of the land was not all uniform. But there was no poverty, nor were there great riches. Everyone was well provided for, and there was a great deal of community effort and people working together, working the land together, and building homes together, along with cultural practices that ensured everyone had their needs provided for in the harsh climate in which they lived.
This had been a stable arrangement for centuries, probably, though it did not last in the course of her time there. Helena saw there came to be poor people. Poor people who hadn’t been there before, and then rich people as well, who had not been there before, the emergence of many new kinds of suffering. Suffering that was not the suffering of disease or old age, of accidents, but suffering that came from social and economic causes. All of this suffering came in a rush when a highway was put in, which connected this remote and isolated region of Ladakh with the rest of India. Then, the money economy of economic globalism came in, and within a matter of years, life was profoundly transformed.
We have all heard the saying that the “poor are always with us.” This is an assumption we have all had, and I think, more or less, if you were to ask about war in the culture where we live and beyond throughout the planet, an assumption would be made that war is, somehow, a natural condition of human existence on this planet. That war will always be a part of our collective experience. There are historians who have looked back at the last 6,000 years of human civilization, and taken account of how many years where there has not been war. Maybe the historians know this with more accuracy, but my memory is that you can count the amount of years on one hand where wars did not plague humanity on one part of the planet or another.
This has been our condition. That the poor have been with us, that war has been with us, and that exploitation and systems of domination and oppression have been with us. They have been around so much that we take them to be natural features of social living. But we are at a place where the patterns of domination, of oppression, of conflict, of allowing some to live in luxury while others barely survive have become so counterproductive, that humanity cannot go forward, or go forward for much longer.
I would say that, to go from a perennial situation in which the poor are always with us, or that war and systems of domination and oppression are always with us, to a world where everyone has their needs nicely met and living in peace…that this jump in human evolution does not require very much. It simply requires a shift of consciousness to one in which there is not the motivation to privilege the interests of one’s self and one’s group. A group that is privileged based on nationality, religion, gender, [race] comes with systems of exploitation that come with that domination. To see that life is all connected, that all are part of the common fabric of life that is inherently interrelated in wholeness and oneness… the allegiance of that oneness, of the fundamental unity of being makes it possible for all to live as did the people of Ladakh, removing former allegiances that privilege the interest of one group or another. This simple shift of consciousness is coming on the planet now with remarkable speed.
One takes interest in the welfare of others, not in the domination of others. One works things out for the common good, not for the good of the few or one’s group in a way that breeds conflict.
The practical question becomes, how to bring forward this shift of consciousness, this shift of outlook and values? This is not a problem for the leaders of the world, though they must relate to it as well. Rather, it is an endeavor that concerns all of us, for every human being who aspires for society and the planet to operate in a different way… in a healthy way.
The cards that Anandam came to get with these points on the practices of neohumanism are an attempt to summarize the essential practices for those who see the need for this shift of consciousness, the need and promise for this shift of consciousness to engage in themselves, personally, as well as collectively.
The first [practice] is to lead one’s life by the highest standards of ethics and morality. If you want codification of this, two good places I feel are within Buddhism: one of the eightfold points is right action, and after that, there are several subpoints. Within the yogic tradition, the yamas. There are five points of how to live ethically in the world [with the yamas]. In their essence, these are the practices of doing no harm, and attempt to be helpful to others through one’s behavior.
The second one is to have a daily or regular engagement with some sort of practice where one goes internally to connect with Source, with the Source of Love, and let Love get expressed through one’s self.
The third practice is to have one’s actions be guided not by passion or sentiment, but by reason. There is too much sentiment in the world that is killing us. The passions that are not strongly grounded in reason that float around in our society now tear the social fabric apart.
The fourth practice is to make efforts to see the world around us as being sacred, as being a Divine expression. This beautiful world, this beautiful planet is not just something material to be utilized. There is life that flows through it, and that life is sacred. That life ultimately comes from Source.
The fifth practice is to make efforts to propagate the meaning of the neohumanist vision of interdependency and interconnectedness of a unitary existence, where all work together in peace to meet our common needs. To spread that meaning through action, words and creative expressions, and different avenues to the world.
How might we practically and effectively give expression to these practices? How can we support these practices? How does one incorporate these points into our lives? May we all [learn] to live like that people of Ladakh.
You can learn more about Ancient Futures and Helena Norberg-Hodge’s work toward localization on our Art Blog.
Ravi Logan is the Director of the PROUT Institute, and the Director of Transformation Education, the training and education department of Ananda Seva. He is the principal author of PROUT: A New Paradigm of Development. His new books are A New Interpretation of Revolution and Transition to a New Era. He is also the co-founder and program director of Dharmalaya, which has as its mission, “to promote dharma holistically in personal, social and ecological spheres of life.”
Ravi has dedicated his life for the past 50 years to the project of the liberation of human beings and society. Ravi has been teaching yoga and meditation since 1972, and shared the yogic teachings of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti in Jamaica in 1974. In 1996 Ravi became a family acharya in Ananda Seva and has been involved with the organization since its inception, volunteering as publications secretary, retreat organizer, and developing training manuals for the mediation teacher training. His latest publication in that capacity is the Ananda Sutram Primer, an accessible format for understanding the philosophy of Shrii Shrii Anandamurti.
This article was transcribed from a talk by Ravi Logan given in May 2019. Transcription by Rene Tricou, editing by Michele Renee.
The transcription may vary slightly from the original recording as it was edited to improve readability.
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