Politics of wisdom and compassion

Many spiritual people these days eschew politics because they believe it’s too messy and adversarial and inherently at odds with an awakened, nondual perspective. Others, surprisingly, seem to forget the deeper realization they profess to have experienced and take a strong ideological position that brooks no disagreement and allows no middle ground. “My candidate’s way is the only way, and no other point of view is worth considering or supporting.”

But embodying our awakening in everyday life calls on us to relate with other people and the broader society without either withdrawing to an inner mountaintop of detachment and disengagement or getting lost in a passionately held belief system, which is just a collective form of ego. Rather, we’re invited to respond to what life presents from the unconditional love and presence we know ourselves to be, not as a set of beliefs or values but as a lived reality.

After carefully assessing the different candidates and positions available to us, how does our deeper wisdom, compassion, and discernment feel moved to respond? If we’re throwing a tantrum or recoiling in fear, we can be sure we’re caught in some reactive pattern. Awakening occurs in a timeless moment, but enlightenment unfolds as awakening embodies itself in the minute particulars of everyday life.

Of course, the Absolute has no opinion for or against anything—but as human beings, how does the Absolute want to express itself through us in this particular time and place? The freer we become, the more spontaneously this happens, not as a deliberate choice or a fixed position but as a natural process of life moving in a unique and individual way. Many people try to imitate the seeming detachment of Ramana but forget that the great sage himself read the newspapers regularly and showed concern for world affairs—and that his greatest admonition to his students was always, “Be as you are.”

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