Monday, February 18, 2008
Recently, I received the following question, which raised some interesting reflection on my part. It has to do with the matter of personal awakening and social and familial responsibility.
There is a passage in your book when you mention another kundalini expert/writer who recommends than anyone going through a kundalini awakening should avoid work, due to the hypersensitivity to all stimulation that comes, especially in the early stages. This made me think about the early days of my own journey, when it was so overwhelming and overpowering and I wanted nothing more than to lose my-self in it. Yet obligations to family and friends made that impossible of course...I am a householder and have a wife and children to support emotionally and financially. Indeed, the only "condition" I put on the Goddess when She first made Herself known to me was that She could do whatever She wanted with me and I would go along willingly, PROVIDED that no harm of any kind came to my family as a result of my journey. She accepted this condition.
This reminded me of the story of Buddha. When the prince began to awaken as he became aware of the pain of the world, he left his wife and family in order to find enlightenment. From the first time I read that story as a teenager, it bothered me...I always found it selfish of the Buddha to have done that, to have abandoned his family. But on the other hand, Jesus Himself (who I regard as an enlightened being akin to the Buddha) spoke of dividing families and setting brother against brother, and having to abandon your family to find the way. Who am I, a mere neophyte, to question the experiences of Buddha and Jesus?
What do you think about this? So much walking a fine line....I KNOW in my deepest being that so many of the things we struggle and worry about are completely meaningless in the big picture. We Are One...I have felt this, I have experienced this, I KNOW this. Yet the daily grind continues. Granted my own work is blessedly easy compared to the jobs of 99.99% of people on this planet. And if I, pampered as I am, struggle with this, what hope does anyone else with a much more difficult job have to walk this fine line?
Like you,I have been bothered by the example of the Buddha who abandoned wife and family to follow his chosen path. The texts seem to slide over this detail, as if it has no real significance. But here I think the age old question comes up--do we follow our own "call to greatness" or do we forego that in order to live up to our human obligations? Of course, it is true that Buddha came from a wealthy family who could provide financially for the dependents he left behind. But did his wife and children not feel the pain of rejection? Did his departure not leave emotional scars?
Some might see his unilateral action similar to that of certain creative geniuses who neglect family and lovers in order to fulfill their own aesthetic call. Consider Picasso, who found inspiration in a succession of women, then cast them aside when they were no longer useful to him. And there was Rilke, who refused to attend his daughter's wedding lest he break his creative burst when he was writing "The Duino Elegies" (one of the great poetic creations of all time). And what about Gulley Jimson, the maverick artist in Joyce Carey's "The Horse's Mouth" who had "a nice little wifey and nice little children" and gave them up to follow his passion (painting)? What about Gauguin(and all the other great creative artists) who did the same?) And, finally, what about the admonition of Jesus, who seemed to counsel something similar for his followers?
Me, I think family comes first, even if it means one foregoes chances for enlightenment or greatness or whatever in this lifetime. This (again for me) is the true bodhisattva path, the willingness to put personal desire for extreme "spiritual" advancement aside in order to fulfill one's obligations in the world, whether to family or to society at large. And--as for Jesus--who knows what he really said? We have words in a book, which may or may not be authentic. Further, perhaps he was referring to ideas as such rather than overt action. Thus we may leave the family thought-circle, and embrace new perceptions of what the world is all about. Many of us do this in one way or another as we mature and reconstruct our received notions about the world.
Indeed, we must do this in order to claim who we truly are, in terms of our spiritual, sexual, and professional identity. Such acts of personal independence often do upset the family dynamic, and bring disproval and even division among family and other close groups. And, I would add, I believe as well that one has a reponsibiity to self, to follow and fulfill the new purpose with all the attention and time that circumstances permit--when this does not inflict actual suffering on others.
Sometimes it is important to go into prolonged retreat, or to work from a location of solitude rather than worldly involvement. Kundalini demands that attention must be paid, as we strive to balance the needs of the inner and outer worlds.
But--I believe that it is one thing to embrace a new vision and another simply to "walk away" from the obligations one has previously incurred.
Anyone undergoing the kundalini process may well confront such dilemmas.
And the process is indeed complicated when one must work at a demanding job which may become almost intolerable when one is so acutely sensitive to all outside pressures.
Perhaps this is why traditionally many undergo deep spiritual transformation later in their lives, during the period which Jung speaks of as "individuation." The study of caballa historically was reserved for those over forty. In Hindu practice, it was only after the period of the householder was complete that the devotee "went into the forest" in order to devote him/herself fully to spiritual pursuits.
I do not presume to have final answers here. These are extremely complex issues. We must cope with the new state as best we can, wherever we are in our lives. It (kundalini, spiritual awakening) is, I believe, a great gift, but like many things of value, it may also carry a heavy price.