Copy editor Simone Delochan reports on Archbishop Jason Gordon’s presentation at the November 1 International Veda Conference at the Hilton Trinidad and Conference Centre.
How does one begin to build a civilisation of love? The premise of Archbishop Jason Gordon’s 20-minute presentation at the Veda International Conference rested in contemplative practice and the natural self-emptying that occurs with the discipline.
Referencing Aldous Huxley’s 1944 essay in Vedanta in the West, Archbishop Gordon prefaced his discussion with three points of convergence in major religious traditions: the mystical tradition of prayer; the ethical tradition lived through the golden rule (variations on “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”); and the sense of obligation to help the less fortunate.
Building a civilisation of love, he admits, is “a bold ambitious vision” that requires a shift of “altitude”. Simply, “A problem cannot be solved at the same level as the mindset” which created it. “The sins of violence, hatred, war, poverty and destruction cannot be transformed using tools of the existing plane of civilisation…new weapons require new consciousness, greater restraint and more safeguards.”
It requires thus, embedding in a relationship with God who is Love and who guides the practitioner along the path. This, the Archbishop, explained, is the way of kenosis (self-emptying): a path of vulnerability, humility and “the way of a broken heart”.
He stated that contemplative practice could lead to either the way of the mind or the way of the heart. “Both have their gift and their challenge….It is vital that we understand the light and the dark shadows of these two so that the practice moves us beyond self to God.”
The Hindu epic The Ramayana, provided the analogy for the dangers of mind-centredness: “Lord Rama (consciousness), at Sita’s (soul) request, went to pursue the golden deer (desire), which remained outside of arrow shot. While in pursuit of the golden deer, Ravana (tyrant/mind) kidnaps Sita (soul)…Once desire is inflamed, soul and consciousness are derailed.”
The Christian correlation is in Jesus’ words: “Unless you become like a child, you cannot enter the Kingdom of Heaven” (Mt 18 2–4). “It is the way of being like a child, vulnerable, trusting, loving and open. This is different from the way of the mind and the way of desire,” the Archbishop explained.
Christian meditation and Transcendental meditation begin with the elements of breath, word and posture. For Christians, it is the word ‘Maranatha’ (come, Lord). With each exhale God takes the “selfish ego”.
Civilisation of Love
Western civilisation, has overplayed “mind”, and the value system now created makes the pursuit of true religion difficult. Enhanced technological advancement, in lieu of love, has seen an era of violence, slavery, human trafficking, refugees and migrants. The poor and those on the peripheries have become invisible.
“Pride is becoming a virtue and we, like Rama, are going deeper and deeper into the forest in search of the golden deer—always in sight and never in reach.”
Building a civilisation of love requires, said the Archbishop, a practice of contemplation—a profound encounter with God, on God’s terms. Quoting from the Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, “ It is only in the heart that one can see rightly; what is essential is invisible to the eye”, he explained that contemplation leads the heart to see God in all situations and in all people, including the most vulnerable.
All religions live by the golden rule— and this is a vital ethical framework in the shaping of a civilisation centered on love.
The practice of meditation can lead to deep transformation, “the sacred door through which we pass can either lead us to our self, or to God in God self”, and as in the example set by Jesus who gave Himself completely in Love. It is only in radical self-giving to the other that a civilisation of love would be possible.