Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Martin Buber

It's a little ironic to be talking about the Hassidim Buber in the context of current events in Lebanon. It seems that there is something of a reaction to these events in a slow but steady rise of anti-Jewish feeling, as evidenced by actor Mel Gibson's drunken tirade, which was of course followed by the expected ritual self-flagellation that only confirms to conspiracy theorists the absolute domination of Jews in the media industry.

Jewish contributions to civilization are so great and disproportionate to their numbers that I never cease to be amazed by them. One of those is this mystic insight of Buber into the essence of theism, which after all is Judaism's soul and its first and proudest contribution to civilization. Yet it, of all things, has somehow gone missing in this action. Militarization is I-It in its most flagrant form.

The Gita tells us that all things are being carried out by Nature and only a person in the illusion of mistaken identity thinks that he, or anyone else, is the true cause of actions. The Bhagavatam also says that faults and virtues are also the products of the interactions of the material nature and so we should avoid finding fault or even praising virtue. So blaming Jews or Muslims in the current situation is not the most productive avenue to peace.

The only escape from this world of mechanical action and reaction is to see the Divine Person, the Thou, and to also see the little "thous" all around us. This is what is at the heart of the matter for a theist, a personalist, and a humanist: we must find the ability to see [and this most often means hearing] every creature as the spark of the Divine. Buber says that human beings (spirit souls) are relational, they find their true being and identity in the I-You, not in the I-It. This calls for a fundamental respect for all. Not easy, I admit, in the current situation. When the modes of passion and ignorance, fear and hate, start to spread, infiltrate and possess all around us, the voices of sattva are drowned out, mocked and condemned. But could we not look to Jews, of all people, to use their intelligence to find an original approach that draws on the mystic genius of their tradition, rather than that clichéd and dépassé angry old God that the Muslims also seem to have adopted from them.

Those who love the God of Justice begin by recognizing that He is not present only in the terrible exercise of power.


I am going to continue using Buber's terms in the knowledge that I have probably distorted its essence through carelessly abandoning the rigors that such an adoption would normally entail. I doubt that I will be the first to do so, as that is the fate of most buzzwords that become faddish.

In yesterday's article I talked about the Holy Name as a window into "I-Thou" consciousness. I furthermore spoke of a particular approach to chanting that specifically mediated this I-Thou experience through an individual person--as singer to audience. I also specified that this was a great and magnificent insight. Even though various prejudices may have militated against continuing association with that very person outside the context of the kirtan, when these prejudices had been dropped in the kirtan context, it was possible to enter a very specific experience of God in the presence of his name.

Now my argument here is this: Due to the fundamental complementarity of male and female in this world, something very similar to this experience is possible in the sexual act. Through the miracle of Eros, a man and woman are able to drop all defenses and experience the presence of another soul. If that relationship is approached as an aspect of spiritual culture, then the other becomes a door to the Other. The metaphor of Divine Love acts in dynamic harmony with the union of a male and a female devotee in this world.

I stress the word culture here, because this is a sādhanā.


1 comment:

Steve / Subal said...

I'm in agreement with you on this, Jagat, and with most everything, I've been reading on this site. I feel we have many things in common.

I have also declared myself to be a Sahajiya in a general sense as a follower of the "natural way." I also embrace sex as a part of my sadhana and a means of realization of the sacred. I also reject the whole dualistic view of clean and unclean and embrace life fully.

There is also our connection with Prabhuji. I also appreciate your broad view of things and that you are coming up with original theological ideas and not just rehashing the same old same old.

I support your idea of coming up with a credible sahajiya theology that I hope could include Bhaktivinode's contributions as well as insights from process and liberation theology along with some of the theological views of Paul Tillich, Marcus Borg, John Spong, Matthew Fox, and others so as to make sense to our contemporary post-modern Westerners. I have been working on this as best I can, but I realize my limits and seek colleagues such as yourself to work with.

I have been missing you during this time we have not been in communication. I hope we can resume the closer relationship we were starting to pursue before it was derailed.