In this episode, we discuss social change and activism through the lens of the higher wisdom of Eastern philosophy. You can make a difference in the world with your dharma and we will explain how! We cover:
- What did Gandhi really say about being the change in the world
- Lessons from the Gita that give us instructions on how to deal with the challenges of the world
- The difference between an ego perspective and a higher perspective when facing adversity and taking action toward change
- How to really make a difference in the world with non-violent active resistance
Welcome to Soul Sessions with CreativeMind with Debra Berndt Maldonado and Dr. Rob Maldonado of CreativeMind. Join us each week for inspiring conversations about personal development based on Jungian philosophy, Eastern spirituality, and social neuroscience. Spend each week with us to explore deep topics in a practical way. Let’s begin.
Debra Maldonado 00:29
Welcome to another episode of Soul Sessions with Debra and Rob Maldonado with CreativeMind. Today we are talking about how to create change in the world, which many people are thinking about these days. How do we change the world? We’re going to go deep into what Eastern philosophy says, higher wisdom says about that idea of social change and making an impact on the world.
Robert Maldonado 00:58
To say that the world is rapidly changing is an understatement. There’s rapid change, and we all need to be on board and we all need to be conscious of what is our part in this rapid changing world? How do we enact it? How do we play our role without losing ourselves, buying into hate or battle mentality of us against them?
Debra Maldonado 01:29
I hear this a lot from our clients and students. How do I approach something that I want to change in the world? What’s the best way, how do I work with my feelings that I have? How do I approach change? What can I do? I’m not not doing anything, but how do I do it in the most impactful way that’s going to have the best for me and my experience of life? We turned to one person who actually made dramatic change, Gandhi, who used spiritual principles, higher wisdom to liberate India from the British Empire, not a small feat. This half-naked man, tiny man could do it. He got it from the Gita, that we all have that power, if one of us can do it, we all can do it. There’s so many things important to us individually and as groups that we want to take a stand in. This would be maybe a different way to think about, how do we create change? Do you want me to read the quote?
Robert Maldonado 02:42
Let me just say something about the quote. A lot of you have read or heard this, “If you want to change the world, be the change that you want to see in the world.” That’s actually not his quote. It’s an interpretation of the spirit of his quote. The actual quote is this one.
Debra Maldonado 03:03
“We mirror the world, all the tendencies present in the outer world are to be found in the world of our body. If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As the man changes his own nature — or woman — so does the attitude of the world change towards him, her or them. This is the divine mystery supreme, a wonderful thing it is, and the source of our happiness. We need not wait to see what others do.” Powerful.
Robert Maldonado 03:41
We see in Gandhi’s philosophy, a pointing towards ourselves. Of course, that requires acceptance of our responsibility to the world. Because if we’re simply thinking we are the ego and responding to the world, and seeking justice through our ego sense, then it’s a very limited perspective. It only leads to escalation. It was his idea that you don’t want to just escalate, you don’t want to just kill your enemy. Because that just leads to the same process of force being the ultimate arbiter of justice. That’s not the kind of world we want. We want a world where people express their sense of justice from within, from higher knowledge. His aim was not to destroy or ridicule or defeat the British, but to actually change their mind, because he saw that when you’re opposing someone else, you’re caught in the same struggle. You’re both caught up. It’s an opportunity for both to grow.
Debra Maldonado 05:18
Even in a small world, we think about big issues, but if you think about your small world, you have a conflict with someone, if you meet them at the same level of conflict, they come at you, there really is no resolution, because you’re both projecting on each other and caught up in ego. The only way to resolve a conflict is to find out what is pulling from you, like we teach in our trainings. Even on a micro-level, our small individual level, if we learn how to do that in our individual lives, how can we impact the world? This comes from the Gita, we can learn from the Gita, this is where he got his inspiration from.
Robert Maldonado 06:03
He was well-read does, Gandhi was inspired by the teachings of Jesus, the Jain tradition, the Sikh tradition, as well as the Hindu or the Upanishads, which are distilled in the Gita. The Gita is made up of 700 verses, 18 chapters that take place right in the middle of a war. It’s very apt to speak about conflict. It’s happening as these two armies are about to clash, the forces of the Pandavas, who have Krishna on their side as an advisor, and the forces of Kauravas, who are their cousins. Family members fight each other, which is also apt, because we’re all related as human beings. When we fight other people, when we oppose other people, we’re opposing parts of ourselves. There’s a lot of teachings in the Gita about what your duty is. How do you act out of your duty through spiritual or higher principles?
Debra Maldonado 07:35
In the beginning of the Gita, it starts out with Arjuna not wanting to fight, saying “I don’t want to enter this battle, if they win, my side dies, if they lose, their side dies, there’s no resolution if one side is going to lose.” He just gave up. That’s where Krishna said “You have to do your duty, you’re a warrior, you have to do your duty.” We all have things we’re passionate about in life, we feel it’s our duty, we need to protect certain people, or believe in certain things. We have to honor that, we can’t just give up and say “I don’t want to hurt anyone, I’m just going to spiritually bypass my way through life, pray for a better solution.” In the Gita, Krishna said to Arjuna “You have to fight.” But it’s not the fighting we are used to or we’ve been conditioned to fight in the world.
Robert Maldonado 08:41
That’s exactly where Gandhi comes in. His understanding was informed not only from teaching of the Gita, but also from the yoga tradition which has Ahimsa, or non-violence as one of its principles one should follow in becoming a yogi. Non-violence means working with your own anger, working with your own internal sense of justice, that if you’re acting out of ego, you want to punish the other person, you want there to be an equal, a tooth for a tooth, an eye for an eye.
Debra Maldonado 09:27
Isn’t that our instinctual response? The first response is always “I gotta defend myself. I gotta take action.” You get angry.
Robert Maldonado 09:41
The whole idea in these teachings is that there’s nothing wrong with it, this is our nature, but we have to work with that. If we simply act out of that natural tendency of the ego mind, we’re acting out of conditioning, out of ignorance in essence.
Debra Maldonado 10:04
Almost the same level of other people acting toward us or towards the ideas, because we’re really fighting ideas, we’re not fighting people. We’re fighting ideas, we just tend to personalize it when it affects us.
Robert Maldonado 10:16
Ignorance leads exactly to that conclusion that it’s the other person that’s opposing me. Therefore, if I get rid of them, if I kill them, if I destroy them, if I cancel them, or whatever we do nowadays, the problem will go away. That’s not really true. Because ideas don’t live in individuals, as we’ve seen throughout history. They live in a world of ideas, surface over and over.
Debra Maldonado 10:46
Think about it, all the issues of the world, since the beginning of time, we’re still dealing with the same issues. Inequality, wealth in one area and not another, men and women alike, all these areas that in our world we’re still fighting with, because it’s an idea, not a person. Thousands years ago, none of those people are alive, but the idea still survives. The idea is really in consciousness, wouldn’t you say? It’s in the conditioned consciousness of humanity.
Robert Maldonado 11:27
There’s a deeper wisdom also in the Gita, which Gandhi brings forth, that hate does not hurt the other person, it doesn’t hurt your enemy, it hurts you, it hurts the holder of the hatred, of the anger. It’s a corroding element in your own psyche, in your own heart. That’s the deeper wisdom, he’s saying, there are deeper principles we can use in building a just society, than force, than whoever has the guns and the power, wins. Because if you go by that, all you can do is replace who’s in charge, who has the most guns and who has the most power, you’re back to the same.
Debra Maldonado 12:23
It’s like the Game of Thrones, no matter what happened, it’s a spinning wheel where someone wins power at one point, then another person gains power. It’s this duality that we’re in in this world, we get caught up in it. That’s what causes the pain and suffering in our life on both sides of any issue.
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Debra Maldonado 13:48
When you talked about hatred, and that it doesn’t serve, I just want to say that we don’t want to just push it away and say “I can’t be angry because I’m like Gandhi.” We want to be able to express our emotions, be in touch with them but also know that when we hang on to the hate, it can become very destructive. It’s not dismissing it, but it’s how do we work with it?
Robert Maldonado 14:12
It’s certainly not saying not to take action. All the teachings of the Gita, including Gandhi, were very adamant about this. It does not mean inaction, it does not mean passively accepting whatever the situation is. You always take action, you always do what you know and think is right, but with that deeper understanding of non-aggression, non-violence towards the other, simply doing your duty, as a citizen, as a soldier, whatever role you’re playing, you carry out your duty, but with that non-attachment or non-hatred, non-aggressiveness.
Debra Maldonado 14:59
Wouldn’t you say that if you’re acting out of aggressiveness or hatred, it really is a weaker way to be because it’s a fearful response?
Robert Maldonado 15:11
It’s a lower way of acting, it’s closer to ignorance than it is to higher wisdom.
Debra Maldonado 15:21
When we talk about changing the world, we have to shift from an ego’s perspective to a spiritual perspective, or a higher wisdom perspective?
Robert Maldonado 15:33
Absolutely, because if we’re acting out of our natural, instinctual mind, the conceptual mind, the ego mind, we’re simply escalating the situation. It’s going to turn to aggression, to violence, to war, to the situations that we know cause more human suffering, and lead to nowhere.
Debra Maldonado 16:01
Even if someone destroys the enemy, they’re going to suffer because they have to live with harming someone else to get their gain. How do we look at it from a different perspective? How do we get from ego to higher wisdom perspective?
Robert Maldonado 16:21
As human beings, we’ve evolved our technology to such an extent that it’s very dangerous now to escalate in this way.
Debra Maldonado 16:32
Think about Twitter and Facebook fights people have in social media, especially during the pandemic and the election. People were just at each other. A lot of my friends don’t even want to go on social media, we just don’t want to be there because there’s so much vitriol on it. You’re not going to win an argument, you’re not going to make anyone change their mind through making them feel stupid, or talking down to them, or making fun of them. There’s that wanting to diminish the enemy, you minimize them, make them look wrong. That’s not going to solve a problem because no one wants to be wrong. As soon as you say “you’re wrong”, the defenses go up. That’s the ego way of approaching it.
Robert Maldonado 17:14
The great lesson in Gandhi’s work, in the Gita, in Martin Luther King, Jr. is that we have to cultivate this non-violent way of interacting and making social change in the world. Non-violent resistance, but also non-violent activism. We’re not passively accepting things as they are. We’re saying “We definitely need to all do our part and make the changes. But we need to do it in a certain way, in a thoughtful, mindful way.” That mindful way is through non-violent, active participation.
Debra Maldonado 18:07
What would be the first step to that?
Robert Maldonado 18:13
If you notice, in Gandhi’s quote, he’s pointing to the individual. All of these tendencies present in the world are found in the world of our body. He’s saying, we’re seeing ourselves expressed in the social setting, our own complex, our own internal pushing and pulling away from things that we want. We want to do certain things, we want to possess things, but at the same time, we want to get away from them. We’re always caught in that duality. That duality is precisely the ego’s dilemma. It’s always trying to find a balance between the things it desires and wants, and its freedom, sovereignty. But that balance can’t be found in the ego state. You can only move from one extreme to the other one. You see it in the world where things move, that pendulum swinging from one way of being to the other way.
Debra Maldonado 19:38
There’s no middle ground. Wouldn’t you say the ego is invested in being right, being on the great side? That’s one of the things Carl Jung said. That’s one of the hardest parts about working with the shadow because you have to face the parts where you’re wrong. The ego based on past assumptions is going to see things only one way. A lot of our assumptions are based on what we’ve been told and conditioned to see. Both sides are conditioned to see things a certain way. They both think the other side is wrong. They’re both in ego, they’re not understanding what’s going on. When I was in college, in my writing class, the teacher made us write the opposite of what we believed in on a certain issue. I had to do the research. I believed one way, then I saw the other side, and I was like “That’s interesting.” It made me see both sides. When we’re in ego, we don’t see both sides. When we have a conflict with someone in our life, we think we’re right, and they’re wrong. We’re not able to see beyond the conflict. But if we can say “What would make them want to do that? What am I resisting?”, we start that self-inquiry, we can start to see things in a different way, instead of that rigid, defensive, one-sided way.
Robert Maldonado 21:08
The ultimate lesson is, we have to cultivate it. You have to make a decision that it is worth cultivating this higher understanding, this higher knowledge that comes through spiritual wisdom, the wisdom traditions, the work of Gandhi, the work of these powerful people that were willing to put their lives on the line in order to demonstrate that love is the most powerful force in the universe. You had the British Empire with all its power, unable to defeat this little guy, because he was holding this higher principle of non-violence and love being much more powerful than guns and political power.
Debra Maldonado 22:10
It reminds me of that scene in the movie Gandhi, where the British soldiers were beating the people, and they weren’t fighting back, they were just falling down. After a while, the soldiers felt this is wrong. They didn’t have to fight back, the mind of the soldiers started to turn about, “What are we doing here? They’re not fighting us back.” When you don’t fight fire with fire, something new can emerge. Compassion can emerge. It doesn’t mean we don’t fight, it doesn’t mean we don’t passionately care about an issue that we feel is right. But we can’t approach it as “I’m right, you’re wrong.” We have to approach it as “Where is the conflict within me? How do I get out of that ego thinking to understanding myself in a bigger way, so I know how to approach change?”
Robert Maldonado 23:04
Gandhi understood that it required a lot more courage to be non-violent than to be violent. Because violence is a defense, it’s an action you’re taking physically towards another human being. Whereas in non-violence, you’re letting your guard down but you’re still insisting on the change you need to make. It doesn’t mean weak, it requires more courage to be non-violent and to take action. That’s where teaching, learning, practicing, cultivating these qualities comes in. They’re not going to be there just because we understand them to be the right way to do things. We’re going to have to cultivate them, we’re going to have to teach it to our children, we’re going to have to practice them continuously, and learn by making mistakes. That’s the only way we can do it.
Debra Maldonado 24:17
Cultivating love and compassion toward the enemy. When I see something that upsets me that I’m passionate about, the first instinct is have anger. Then I often wonder “What do I do with that? This isn’t helping, it’s making me miserable to just stew in the anger.” You could spend afternoon just trolling the internet or reading articles or quit watching the news and getting that anger, it’s really just hurting you. It’s recognizing this is not the right approach. How would someone go from that place because we’ve all been there, we get mad at certain things that happened in the world. We want to make a change. That anger triggers us into action. Because if we weren’t angry, we wouldn’t take action. There’s a gift in that, but it’s about how to use it, transmute it into something.
Robert Maldonado 25:20
It begins with self-inquiry. All the higher teachings begin this way, you have to consider why is this anger arising within me? What does it mean?
Debra Maldonado 25:33
What’s threatening? What is really going on?
Robert Maldonado 25:36
This is where a lot of people make the mistake, I’ve done it myself. I think if I ignore or suppress the anger, I’ll be acting in spiritual way or a higher way. But that doesn’t work. We have to acknowledge that the anger is within me, it’s definitely a part of my psyche, of my body, like Gandhi says, it’s part of me, it’s actually arising within me.
Debra Maldonado 26:08
It’s already there, no one can put anger in you.
Robert Maldonado 26:12
Accepting responsibility for your own anger is the beginning of it, because then you’re able to work with it in a sane way, instead of suppressing it and trying to present a spiritual, non-violent phase. That’s not going to work, it’s going to build up and come out in other ways.
Debra Maldonado 26:35
You might say “I’m angry, I can’t feel angry, I’m just going to put a light around the planet and hold my intention for a beautiful world. I don’t need to fight out there.” It sounds really nice, but you’re not taking action. It’s about action and emotion. I heard the Dalai Lama, someone interviewed him and they asked him “Aren’t you angry? You’re a spiritual person, they took over your country, they killed and did terrible things to your people. Aren’t you mad at the Chinese, do you have anger toward them?” He said “They give me a great opportunity to work with my own anger.” It actually helped him to bring Buddhism more to the West. He’s reaching more people than ever because of this. Not that it was good, what happened, but he’s using it in a way to bring higher knowledge, higher awareness. It’s a higher level than just the ego battle that we’re doing on the human level, there’s a higher place to be, while we’re also engaged in the human experience.
Robert Maldonado 27:51
That’s the difficult part. People want justice, they want to punish the other person, they want to hold on to the hate for the other person. But that’s precisely the message of higher knowledge. It’s saying, it’s easy to love the people that love you, the people that don’t oppose you, that think like you, that are like you. It’s the easiest thing in the world, even criminals can do it. But it’s very difficult to get to the point where you can be compassionate and non-aggressive, non-violent towards somebody that actively opposes you. Think about Gandhi situation. The British were actually killing his people, putting him in jail, restricting his freedom is in every possible way, opposing him, yet he was able to cultivate that state of mind of “They’re acting out of ignorance. Therefore, if I fall into anger and aggression towards them, I’m hurting myself, I’m hurting my own cause, my ability to make the changes that I need to make.”
Debra Maldonado 29:05
When we say compassion, we’re not saying letting them off the hook, we’re not saying they’re right and I’m wrong, we’re not saying they’re good people, I should love them. It’s reflecting part of you you’re angry at. They’re representing that mirror, like he says “We but mirror the world.” When you’re clear on what you’re mirroring in that person, you could get the person out of the way and understand the idea that you’re trying to battle. When you take the person out of the way, you realize it has less hardness to it or less rigidness because the ego’s designed socially to be in the world and feel threatened for survival, but ideas, when they’re not assigned to a person, we can work with them in a different way.
Robert Maldonado 30:02
To make real social change in a creative way, not in a forceful, temporary way that’s just going to create more animosity. We need to cultivate understanding that the so-called the enemy, the person opposing us, or the group opposing our ideas, is actually doing us a favor. They’re allowing us to cultivate this higher wisdom in ourselves, in our own mind, and to enact it, to actually act out of that higher purpose.
Debra Maldonado 30:42
And the duty itself, it gives rise to a purpose for some people, it gives rise to “How do I make the change in the world?” It cultivates courage, cultivates facing a challenge, builds community. Imagine if we can do it in a non-violent way that we can change the world.
Robert Maldonado 31:10
We’ve seen people that have made huge changes in the world and have gotten us safely to this point, they’ve sacrificed a lot to do that work, it’s their destiny to do that work. The lesson of the Gita is, do your duty, perform your duty as a citizen, as an activist, as whatever position you’re placed in, as a teacher or coach. Do it well, perform your duty, but practice higher wisdom of non-aggression, non-violence, doing your duty with non-attachment towards the result.
Debra Maldonado 32:01
It doesn’t mean you don’t care about the result but ego’s not getting tripped up in it. If your ego’s tripped up in it, you take action to change, and in every little thing you’re looking for a sign that your actions are bearing fruit. You’re in a cycle of up and down. You’re looking at it from the perspective of the senses. This showed up, maybe it’s not going to change. Then this showed up, I feel good. You’re on that roller coaster. Non-attachment is you passionately believing, passionately taking action, but not getting triggered in everything that shows up, because you can’t be effective that way. I’ve seen people who get passionate about something and then defeated. Also the ego joy of the other person failing is not very good either, to laugh at the other side for failing. Ego loves to do that, to be right, to be on the right side.
Robert Maldonado 33:07
Recognize that we can’t do it alone, we need to reach out, to take care of each other. Part of the work you see in Gandhi and some of these great leaders is that they always understood it’s about taking care of each other. It’s about taking care of community. It’s about softening our hearts and not buying into the anger, finding ways to communicate, to reach out to the people that are opposing us.
Debra Maldonado 33:45
Ask them, be curious, just like our inner self-inquiry. We do our inner triggers, we examine what is this feeling? Why am I feeling angry? Why am I feeling fear in this moment? Instead of just trying to push it away, to suppress it, to oppress it.
Robert Maldonado 34:05
It’s not going to be easy. These are the hardest things to do for us as human beings because we’re conditioned, we’re in ignorance of the higher principles of this higher knowledge of what the nature of the mind is, what the nature of reality is, that we see people as separate from us when in reality we’re all in this together. We’re all one family, one consciousness, one planet that is in desperate need of understanding each other, joining each other in this.
Debra Maldonado 34:48
We’re gonna destroy everything if we don’t find a spiritual higher wisdom to deal with this. The reason Gandhi was able to cultivate compassion for the British soldiers is because he understood that on some level, they believed what they were doing was right. It made him think less they were trying to harm the Indian people, but more that they thought in their hearts they were doing the right thing. When we look at our enemy, the first question is, somewhere in them, they believe they’re doing the right thing, assume they have good intentions. Maybe their intentions don’t match yours, but maybe starting from the assumption they’re not trying to hurt you but they have a good intention, even if you disagree. If you could start from there, you can have compassion, maybe have real conversations, showing your side without the defensiveness. Openness, just like in any relationship, if we were fighting about something, and I was like “You’re wrong”, and you’re saying I’m wrong, we wouldn’t ever resolve it. But if I let me understand your point, you let you understand my point, we start to have more compassion for each other. It has to start with that. The hardest thing is to love your enemy, love someone who you absolutely would not be able to love. That’s really a challenge for us to cultivate because loving them doesn’t take away your power, it actually gives you power, hating them takes away your power.
Robert Maldonado 36:35
That is the wisdom that’s encoded in the Gita, because the Gita is considered the distillation of the wisdom of the Upanishads, which we consider to be the ultimate source, the ultimate manual on human consciousness, the human mind, and the human awareness.
Debra Maldonado 36:56
We’re going to be continuing our series throughout the summer with these concepts of higher wisdom from Eastern philosophy. We just thought this topic is very timely right now. A lot of people are having a lot of passion about things, fear, anger, all those emotions, we wanted to give you another way to approach it, so you can lighten your heart and make true change in the world and feel good in yourself.
Robert Maldonado 37:27
Thanks for watching. See you next time.
Debra Maldonado 37:30
Don’t forget to subscribe if you are listening to our audio on Spotify or iTunes. Also on YouTube, if you are here watching us, click the Subscribe button so you don’t miss a single episode of Soul Sessions. I also want to give a shout-out to all our coaches that graduated our program that are sharing this work with their clients and really spreading that message of the powers within us, and really changing the world one mind at a time. Take care everyone, and see you next week.
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