STRUGGLE IS THE ESSENCE OF LIFETALK BY RAVI LOGAN | MARCH 2021
Around the full moon in May 1959, Shrii Shrii Anandamurti famously said that “struggle is the essence of life.” He did not say this to glorify struggle, or just to give a positive spin on the challenges of life. Rather, was a statement made to provide a clear understanding about the role of struggle in human life.
The nature of life involves evolution. And from a spiritual vantage point, that evolution is an evolution from undeveloped consciousness to the fullness of enlightened consciousness. It is a journey from crude embryonic mind to subtle expanded mind, capable of attaining self-realization. The broad arch of the evolution of life bends toward Divinity. That is the journey that our life is on, along with all other life in this universe.
The broad arch of the evolution of life bends toward Divinity.
But, what are the dynamics that animate this evolutionary journey?
From the point of mysticism and mystical philosophy, there are three broad forces that are the animating impulses behind this evolutionary movement. First, there is physical clash, which dominates the evolution of life that is less evolved. Second, there is psychic clash, or clash at a mental level. This becomes more prominent in more evolved life. And third, there is the attraction of the Supreme, the Divine. There is a force of love that pulls on each living entity, drawing them toward higher and higher expressions of existence.
These three broad forces propel evolution. Two of these, physical and psychic clash, inevitably come with struggle. As such, struggle is the essence of life.
The late 1960s were a formative time in my life. It was a time when the United States was heavily involved in an imperialist war in China. There was a tremendous reaction to the injustice of this war that centered much on my generation. There was the African American struggle for racial integration, which had reached a new stage with a prominence of dynamic elements calling for Black Power. The Latino farm workers were struggling to unionize in the fields of the Central Valley. The Native Americans that occupied Alcatraz and other sites demanded a change in their status. There was a tremendous upsurge in the aspirations of women. There were vast elements of the young generation who were leaving or rejecting a lifeless conformist culture, and were involved in cultural revolution. There were third world revolutionary struggles, guerilla struggles across the planet. Peoples in Eastern Europe were rebelling against Soviet hegemony. As a result, Rachel Carson and others were awakening to the abuse of the natural world, and began a struggle to protect the environment.
On many fronts, there was a collective struggle, and somehow, I was positioned, as were many, at a nexus point where all those struggles were having an impact on my psyche. Going into the late 1960s, I was an honors student at an Ivy League university. The pride of my extended family, their hopes for status as a clan, was shouldered by me. Two years later, I was arrested with many others attempting to levitate the Pentagon. A month after that, I showed up at a large family gathering, stoned on a couple hundred micrograms of LSD and wearing oriental robes. My father had an ulcer attack that night, so much for me being the “pride of the family.” Two years later, I was on a remote island in Canada, exploring mysticism as the 1970s ended.
It was a time of intense churning, transformation, and mental struggle at the heart of [everything]. At the end of the day, sometimes I would just lay down in bed feeling psychically exhausted from the effort of figuring out where I stood, what was happening in the world, and how could I respond. What was needed [in the world]? It was exhausting, but there was change. There was transformation. And there was evolution, an aliveness. I felt alive, as did so many others. There was a vitality to the collective expression that came out of this time of difficulty and struggle.
Oftentimes, struggle is hard. But if it is approached properly, it is not without value. In Ananda Sutram, in the third chapter, there is an aphorism that says, “Vadha sa yushamana shaktih sevyaḿ sthapayati lakshye.” Translated, it roughly means “Obstacles are not hindrances in life. Those things that challenge us create a vitality of mind, and the effort to overcome them, vitalizes the mind and assists us in our spiritual and evolutionary journeys.”
In the spiritual circles I am acquainted with, there is much appreciation for the value of struggle, the value of psychic clash, that assists us on our spiritual journeys. At a personal level, it is seen as a part of individual evolution. More recently, I read an inspirational writing that gave emphasis to the value of collective clash and collective struggle. We are at an inflection point in our human journey, collectively, on the planet. One pathway leads toward almost certain civilizational collapse of some kind. On the other side, there is a vision of tremendous potentiality to be realized by humanity. To negotiate from the dominant paradigm that is taking us toward the trajectory of collapse to a new and different future, there requires some struggle.
Because it is a process of evolution, of collective evolution, and just as with individual evolution, it is therefore dependent upon psychic and physical clash to confront the obstacles in bringing forward a vitalization of spirit and capacity to overcome and to move forward to new potentialities and new understandings. The growing brightness of awareness has the same dynamic applied at a collective level. If we did not have the challenges that we are now facing, we would risk not being able to muster the collective spiritedness that lies in the potentiality for humanity to overcome and have a capacity to reach a new pathway, a pathway to a new dawn.
For many, life has become hard. We have all felt the impact of a new brush with fascism, of a global pandemic and economic hardship, of the mass distortion of information. Many challenges continue to face cultural minority groups, who are maltreated and do not receive the opportunities that individuals from the dominant culture have due to race. Many challenges are there that are arising, which also provokes us to muster our human spirit and rise to the challenge. To aspire to a new kind of collective greatness. [This struggle] is not without value and it does not lie outside of the Cosmic Forces that are assisting the evolution of humanity.
One other thing that came through the writing about struggle, is that for those who are on the Tantric path, for a long time, there can be the glorification of struggle in spiritual life, even an overemphasis on struggle. The point was made that not all life is struggle; there are also the fruits of struggle to be expressed. There are times to ensconce ourselves in joy and comradery, and warmth of the heart, and celebration. Those times need to receive attention and appreciation also. I think that the more we overcome as we move forward, the more we will grow our capacity to feel joy and feel a cause for celebration.
Solidarity with the suffering
While we as a society navigate the final throws of capitalism, and as suffering is amplified around the world–especially for marginalized people–it is important to support each other wherever we can. Consider donating to the disaster relief fund AMURT who has a long track record of providing support for those in need.
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 March 2021. 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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