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Books

Soul of Leadership (Hardcover)

Soul of Leadership (Hardcover)
ABOUT THIS BOOK Leadership is the most crucial choice one can make—it is the decision to step out of darkness into the light.      Bestselling author and spiritual guide Deepak Chopra invites...

Book Of Secrets

Book Of Secrets
2005 Nautilus Book Award Grand Prize Winner! New York Times Best Seller! Every life is a book of secrets, ready to be opened. The secret of perfect love is found there, along with the secrets...

Brotherhood - by Deepak & Sanjiv Chopra (Hardcover)

Brotherhood - by Deepak & Sanjiv Chopra (Hardcover)
BROTHERHOOD Dharma, Destiny, and the American Dream DEEPAK & SANJIV CHOPRA   “BROTHERHOOD is an uplifting account of sibling affection and success, and of the promise and infinite...

Super Brain by Deepak Chopra, MD & Rudy Tanzi, MD (Hardcover)

Super Brain by Deepak Chopra, MD & Rudy Tanzi, MD (Hardcover)
Learn about Deepak Chopra and the Chopra Center's Super Brain dietary supplement - Ayurvedic Brain Support NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER Super Brain by Deepak Chopra, MD & Rudy...

Ten Poems to Change Your Life

Ten Poems to Change Your Life
ABOUT THE BOOK: This is a dangerous book. Great poetry calls into question not less than everything. It dares us to break free from the safe strategies of the cautious mind. It opens us to pain...

NEW Spiritual Solutions by Deepak Chopra(Hardcover)

NEW Spiritual Solutions by Deepak Chopra(Hardcover)
Spiritual Solutions: Answers to Life's Greatest Challenges ( AUDIOBOOK Available )  "Great advice directly from the master on virtually any subject, it just doesn't get any better...

Joyful Wisdom

Joyful Wisdom
ABOUT THEBOOK: Yongey Mingyur is one of the most celebrated among the new generation of Tibetan meditation masters, whose teachings have touched people of all faiths around the world. His first...

GOD: A Story of Revelation (Hardcover)

GOD: A Story of Revelation (Hardcover)
“God is an empty term except through the revelations of all the saints, prophets, and mystics of history. They exist to plant the seeds of spirituality as a direct experience rather than a...

Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui

Creating Sacred Space with Feng Shui
ABOUT THE BOOK: Feng Shui is the ancient oriental art of enhancing and harmonizing the flow of energy in your surroundings.  Over the last twenty years, Karen Kingston has pioneered the study...

Events

 
 
 
November 21 2011

Why Do Bad Things Happen? (Part 3)

Category:  Consciousness , Spirituality , Blog Talk Radio

In the last post we arrived at a conclusion that will surprise many people: If the good parts of your life are to have meaning, the same must be true of the bad parts. This is a continual message delivered by the world's wisdom traditions. It's a fantasy to believe that being good will keep you from confronting the bad in life, or that there is ever enough pleasure to eradicate pain. The ills that visit every person's life exist for a reason. Yet each of us is fostering a different set of reasons in our heads.


At a superficial level, you can indulge in a blame game that never ends. The world contains enough malefactors to keep blame going for your entire life. My parents made me this way; my boss hates me; corporations are evil, and so on. As we keep projecting blame outward, the short-term effect might be that you feel better. It's crudely satisfying to judge, blame, and hate. But even as the roster of villains proves endless, blame postpones the day when you have to face your own involvement. The world's wisdom traditions are not superficial. There is no point in abandoning blame in order to feel better, to look good in the eyes of others, or to play the role of saint.



Rather, getting beyond blame is a way to actually solve the problem of suffering. In a sense, to act like a saintly martyr who turns the other cheek and patiently awaits for goodness to prevail is just as superficial as blaming other people. Life is dynamic and complex. If you are ever going to get to the bottom of your own suffering, you have to be alert, aware, and constantly flexible. Playing a role, like taking a rigid moral position, freezes the mind. Consider a harsh judge on the bench who gives the maximum sentence to every defendant and refuses to consider mitigating circumstances. Like a stopped clock, this judge may be right twice a day. There are malefactors who deserve harsh treatment. But what about the countless defendants who deserve to be treated flexibly, taking all their circumstances into account?



There's a harsh judge inside each of us. Freud labeled it the superego, an aspect of the psyche absorbed in early childhood when the wrath of a parent seems absolute. Young children understand morality in black-and-white terms. They are praised for being good and punished for being bad. As a person matures, shades of gray enter the picture. One adapts to the truth that there is good and bad in everyone and reasons for actions that blur the line between right and wrong. But some part of us retains the memory of a black-and-white world. On that basis, there are millions of people who hold on to a clear-cut scheme of morality. This scheme is sometimes called Old Testament or fundamentalist, yet religion doesn't necessarily dictate its terms. Childhood punishment probably plays just as big a part.



When bad things happen, all of us refer to our inner compass. We compare the present moment with a model of good and bad. In the case of people driven by the superego or by rigid religious teachings, the following principles are basic:



1. Two universal forces contend for control of creation, one being good, the other evil. Human beings are caught in this titanic struggle between light and darkness.

2. Forgiveness is provisional, blame is permanent.

3. Guilt tells you when you have done something wrong.

4. Judges, both inner and outer, have the right to assign guilt and blame.

5. God is the ultimate judge, keeping an eye on all sin and wrongdoing.



When this scheme is embedded in your psyche, your reaction to bad things is predictable because you have so little room to maneuver.



1. Your first instinct will be to look for someone to blame.

2. You will generalize that bad things are done by bad people, not by people who made a mistake or had a moment of weakness.

3. You will not be satisfied until someone is punished.

4. Random misfortunes will seem like hidden messages from a watchful God.

5. Self-esteem will depend on how perfectly you obey the rules.

6. Breaking the rules is always wrong, even when there are mitigating circumstances.

7. Anyone who challenges your dogma is morally suspect.

8. Life contains hidden punishments delivered by God.

9. Temptation comes from the devil or the dark side of creation.

10. You must defend good in order to prevent evil from gaining the upper hand.



This is the scheme that millions of people applied to the problem of terrorism after 9/11, at a time when "us versus them" thinking was encouraged by a right-wing administration. Other voices and more reasonable views were drowned out. But it wasn't just the right wing, which sees itself in charge of moral values for the rest of society, who reacted that way. Because we all have a harsh inner judge inside, the vestige of a child's black-and-white view of the world, the voices of fear and revenge came to the surface.



As long as you believe that universal good is warring with universal evil, you cannot escape constant vigilance, which brings with it several very negative things. Vigilance is stressful and leads to tension. The fact that vigilance is unrelenting makes it fatiguing, and to fend off fatigue, you must become rigid in your watchfulness. That's why in times of crisis, authority becomes harsher and more demanding. Everyone has to be watched; no one is exempt. Except for the watcher himself, which is how society arrives at paranoid watchdogs like J. Edgar Hoover who become monsters of morality while keeping their own failings a deep secret, even from themselves.



We can call this whole scheme moral fundamentalism; it is the most basic view of the universe and our place in it. What are the benefits? To a fundamentalist, there are many.

1. The scheme is simple. You know where you belong in it.

2. No troubling ambiguities exist.

3. Your sense of goodness is reinforced by clear rules about sin and virtue.

4. Justice comes down to retribution, which satisfies our primitive desire for revenge.

5. Society knows who should be included and who should be excluded.



To see the fundamentalist model at work, one doesn't need to live among hard-core religionists. Watching a baseball or football game suffices, because sports are a field where the enemy is clear, the goal is unquestioned, and the rules must be followed or you incur a penalty. The rise of religious fundamentalism in the past few decades has also caused moral fundamentalism to seep into politics, which is why, in the present divisive landscape, it becomes necessary not simply to defeat your opponent but to turn him into an immoral culprit.



To get beyond a black-and-white world requires more than growing up. The whole scheme starts to fray, and ultimately break down, only when certain key insights begin to dawn.

1. Good people do bad things, and vice versa.

2. Revenge doesn't solve the problem of wrongdoing.

3. Judging against others opens you to their judgment.

4. Everyone is alike in being tempted; everyone is alike in wanting to be forgiven.

5. A punishing God cannot be reconciled with a loving God.



At first these insights are troubling. No one likes to feel the ground shift under their feet. From the outside, it's hard to comprehend just how disturbing it can be for a fundamentalist to change. The simplest kind of compassion and sympathy actually feels dangerous and wrong. Live and let live feels like an invitation to let sin run riot. Lowering your guard means you will be attacked. Loosening the rules will automatically leads to depravity. Here we have a clue to how fundamentalism is enforced, not by the sheer satisfaction of knowing that you are good but from the hidden terror of falling from grace. Hellfire and damnation are totally necessary, because they justify the fear you feel. Only when you realize that you have set yourself up as both judge and victim does the scheme of fear and guilt break down. It dawns on you that you are divided against yourself, and then your goals change. Instead of constantly watching out for evil and guarding against attack, you long for a new kind of security that also includes peace and forgiveness.



(To be continued)

Published by The San Francisco Chronice

Top comments

  • This is a beautiful article explaining the subtleties of how our mind works. In my experience, being non-judgmental and neutral to various moments and situations in our daily life, requires effort and spiritual growth. The change in the fundamentalist attitude is very disturbing because it is out of our comfort zone. However, once we do make such fundamental changes in our life and the more often we work towards re-inforcing them and growing as a person, the more free we become, and it is well worth the effort. We see things more clearly, and in a more real sense, rather than clouding it by our own judgments. It frees up a lot of energy for being more creative in our lives.

    Deepika // 2011-11-21 03:31:08 // //
  • There are two aspects of fundamentalism that are prevalent in our society. On one hand there are those who use their fundamentalist attitudes to control others. They use terms like `righteous` and `devout` to describe their moral authority. In this respect they are more intersested in judging and punishing other people for their transgressions then they are in understanding why bad things happen in the first place. On the other hand there are those who feel they are constantly being punished for their shortcomings. They are made to believe by the `moralists` that they deserve to be punished. They easily become sad and despondent because they are constantly being told that if they had been more faithful they would not be suffering the way they were. I don`t believe a fundamentalist approach to life is valid. In fact it seems to be a form of psychosis. I think Deepak describes it as such in a very compassionate way.

    Mark // 2011-11-21 04:58:37 // //

 

 

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  • "It`s a fantasy to believe that being good will keep you from confronting the bad in life." If so, than what happens to the "karma" law of cause and effect, it doesn`t always work? "The ills that visit every person`s life exist for a reason." I wish Deepak would explain more about that reason. "Why Do Bad Things Happen?" Is it beacuse of "that blur the line between right and wrong"?

    Lydia // 2011-12-11 15:23:37 // //
  • Please see "When Our Leaders Do Bad Things". Is it it similar or different idea?

    Mangal Dipty // 2011-12-06 02:15:37 // //
  • I love the way you explain your what you say. It makes one give all of your attention and it feels like you are reading each piece of one`s mind and of their feelings, and being one with them. Right there where they are, down to Earth and even underground, and then there comes the moment when you say the right words and bring great relief to the soul. Our hearts know that we shouldn`t even deal with such fears, but there we are, inheriting wrong convictions from one to another. A few months ago I had a dream. A friend of me was calling me to show me the most terrifying thing of humanity and human`s brain. I was imagining chaos, world`s disasters, the most terrifying scenes and I didn`t want to see it, but she forced me. She opened a door and she showed me like three parts of yin and yang put in a triangle with black, gray and white color. And she said: NEMESIS! This is the most terrifying thing of human mind and humanity. I then checked on Wikipedia and saw that Nemesis was the Goddess of revenge. The meaning of her name is `to give what is due`. And she was associated with the roman INVIDIA(envy). Why do we do this to ourselves? Why did all this `game` started in the first place? This means to suffer in vain.

    Olta Canka // 2011-12-05 16:33:54 // //
  • I was raised in a fundamental Baptist environment and, to this day, I am still trying to heal the damage that has been done. All the years of punishment, total right and wrong, judgement, and mistrust have left serious scars. It has been a long and hard road but, with careful self vigilance and continued searching for spiritual guidance, the scars are starting to heal. We are blessed to have spiritual leaders like Deepak that direct toward love and acceptance.

    Khara // 2011-12-04 14:28:47 // //
  • So how does one change the mind of a fundamentalist? Someone whom you love and want to set free? It has to be done.

    Mark // 2011-11-24 07:41:44 // //
  • The concept of good and evil are merely perceptions not necessarily the reality. Since we are incarnated within a linear system, we seem to deem it necessary judge everything based upon this dichotomy. In effect, our attitudes and emotions are a by product of these perceptions and, therefore, our actions are greatly influenced by these perceptions. Much of what makes up our life is, oftentimes, considered "bad fortune or luck" and is viewed as punishment or victimization. The fact of the matter is that all things, no matter your judgment or perception of them, are actually part of that which is put in place to enhance the being you represent on this planet. We are the culmination of all our experiences, some we may term "the good, the bad, and the ugly". Our lives are made up of many experiences, some much more difficult to endure than others, with the sole purpose of revealing the glorious and beautiful masterpiece we are. Even though some of those pieces appeared dark and seem difficult to fit in, they hold the contrast that illuminates the complete picture. All of our experiences are designed to help us to awaken to the awareness of the magnificent beings we are and to realize that we are not the singular, alone individual we perceive ourselves to be, but a part of a collective energy. We are spiritual beings hosted by a physical body during this journey on this planet. Although it serves you well, understand it is not your completeness. Be wise to understand it`s limitations because of the dimension it functions in; however, you as a spiritual being are truly limitless for you are of a multidimensional reality.

    Eldmona1@aol.com // 2011-11-23 15:15:49 // //
  • Makes perfect sense to me!

    nap4golf@aol.com // 2011-11-23 11:11:41 // //
  • There are two aspects of fundamentalism that are prevalent in our society. On one hand there are those who use their fundamentalist attitudes to control others. They use terms like `righteous` and `devout` to describe their moral authority. In this respect they are more intersested in judging and punishing other people for their transgressions then they are in understanding why bad things happen in the first place. On the other hand there are those who feel they are constantly being punished for their shortcomings. They are made to believe by the `moralists` that they deserve to be punished. They easily become sad and despondent because they are constantly being told that if they had been more faithful they would not be suffering the way they were. I don`t believe a fundamentalist approach to life is valid. In fact it seems to be a form of psychosis. I think Deepak describes it as such in a very compassionate way.

    Mark // 2011-11-21 04:58:37 // //
  • This is a beautiful article explaining the subtleties of how our mind works. In my experience, being non-judgmental and neutral to various moments and situations in our daily life, requires effort and spiritual growth. The change in the fundamentalist attitude is very disturbing because it is out of our comfort zone. However, once we do make such fundamental changes in our life and the more often we work towards re-inforcing them and growing as a person, the more free we become, and it is well worth the effort. We see things more clearly, and in a more real sense, rather than clouding it by our own judgments. It frees up a lot of energy for being more creative in our lives.

    Deepika // 2011-11-21 03:31:08 // //