Posted by Bram Levinson on March 13, 2011
I went for lunch last week to my favourite afternoon eatery in the city, Olive & Gourmando, a place which already felt like home and whose staff are now extended family, and sat down with Jennifer, Dawn M, and Dawn B to add the finishing touches to the Luna Yoga Teacher Training that we will be giving for the next year starting in May. Jenn’s dad joined us, sitting just outside our hub of planning until we had gotten everything taken care of, at which point the inevitable subject that we gravitated to was the massive devastation in Japan from the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that have assaulted them in every conceivable way. We started talking about the footage we had seen online and on TV to bring Jenn up to date, as she hadn’t seen any of it, and once we had driven home the horrors of the events, Jenn’s father looked at us and asked, “So where was god then, huh?”.
There is a lot of god talk in yoga. It’s something that I’ve never been entirely comfortable with, as I have been raised to equate god with organized religion, something I have never ascribed to and find separates mankind more than it unites it. Having said that, I do believe in a higher energy, one that serves as the source of our essence as humans, and one that is the main player when we finally slip off this mortal coil at the end of this life we currently find ourselves living. And so with that as a fundamental part of my belief system, I found myself unable to respond to Jenn’s dad, whose sly grin reinforced his lack of faith in god as it is typically defined. Needless to say, Jenn jumped right in and switched the topic, and it was only a half hour later, as I was on my way home and mulling over the whole conversation, that I found clarity, and here it is:
If I believe that god is light, god is truth, god is energy, that god is the ultimate in cosmic consciousness, and that god is in all things (including us), then I have to accept that the natural disasters in Japan were embodiments of the true force of that energy. As I accept my interpretation of Patanjali’s Yoga Sutra 1.23, isvara-pranidhanad va, we need to, as individuals, determine how we define what is commonly referred to as god, and then see that in all things as a thread of commonality. And so my response to Jenn’s dad would be, “God was there for every second of every minute of the disaster.” Which leads me even further – who are we to expect any god-like act to be merciful? Why do we look at horrible events and immediately wonder where god was in the equation? Why does god have to be equated with a person possessing an intention or an agenda? Who said that the only way for god to be present is to be a source of relief and mercy? The bible? I’m sure god is defined as all things, not solely as the saviour. Why can’t we assume that acts of god are simply acts of god, and that to try and rationalize said acts in a way that makes us feel better about them is to be literally living out the definition of arrogance and self-centredness?
With all that steeping in my thoughts, the ultimate point I wanted to initially grasp, and then pass onto you all, is that perhaps god’s role in the act of the disaster is secondary to the way that we humans react to the events. Perhaps horrors like those Japan recovers from serve as catalysts for the rest of us to latch onto, to channel into and infuse with our words, actions and intentions that drip with the universal consciousness of kindness, of love, and most of all, of light. Perhaps these events occur to show us how when the chips fall, all the inane squabbling and in-fighting we’re all guilty of on a daily basis get relegated to the perimeter of our awareness, where they should have been all along, and the opportunity to step up as warriors of truth and solace presents itself. Perhaps god is not only in the action, but in the reaction. Perhaps. And perhaps not. Who’s to say? I would never force my beliefs on anyone in the same way that I would never be receptive to someone trying to force theirs on me. It’s up to each of us to decide.
And so…do you? Do you decide? Do you choose to believe something? And if so, what’s your take?