Satrigraha II

Every day I walk into our temple I feel gratitude. With winter upon us, I am thankful for our new boiler and all the work, money, and angst that went into getting it. I am grateful for the congregants who make all our wonderful events and services happen, from the ones who plan and the ones who participate and the ones who stay to clean up and all those who pay their dues so everything is possible in the first place. I am grateful to the rabbis and boards and congregants who came before, for the gift of this temple and its unique and blessed community. Along with our teachers, I am grateful to our religious school kids for their joy and hope and laughter. I am grateful to their parents for having the courage to bring them into the world and our community.
Gratitude is a spiritual path that can traverse every kind of winter. Like any worthy spiritual path, it needs to be cultivated: starting with the seeds of desire for a calmer, happier life; followed by daily watering with the practice of finding what is good all around; constant weeding to focus perspective away from the negative; development of strategies to meet the slings and arrow of outrageous fortune; and the nurturing of a clear belief that life can be better.
Gandhi developed and walked a spiritual path of non-violent social change that he called Satrigraha, or the Power of Truth. I recently saw the opera of the same name by Phillip Glass. The libretto, entirely in the Sanskrit of the Bhagavad-Gita, was strikingly powerful. One term describing Gandhi came up again and again: “spiritual athlete.” Gandhi’s spirituality, his spiritual practice and process did not merely allow him to endure hardship and oppression. It enabled him to DO. It was, in fact, the path of his doing, the way he made transformation happen, the process of his non-violent revolution that never quit until it reached its goal.
Gandhi teaches us that spiritual paths aren’t just for enduring what is. Spiritual paths are also about seeing and transforming what is into what can be.
In the third act of the opera, behind the stalwart figure of Gandhi is the silhouetted outline of Martin Luther King. He was also a spiritual athlete running the path of Satrigraha, non-violent change. We will honor him this month, at the Jan. 13 Shabbat Service, and on Jan. 15th, with an afternoon/evening of learning and songs and inspiration.
Judaism is a path which teaches us to be the arms and legs of God on earth. This is another—wonderfully physical—description of a spiritual athletic. The question is, what kind of daily spiritual workout will direct and sustain us on that marathon? It starts with the seeds of desire for a more just society; continues with the practice of creating small changes that point toward greater transformation. It requires the practice of constant weeding to untrain ourselves and each other from the acceptance of what is; and the insightful development of strategies to vision and bring what can be. All of this is propelled by the nurturance of a belief in what we might call, olam haba, the world to come, a just world for all.
Sometimes, because one seems to involve external action and the other internal serenity, we want to think of social action and spirituality as two entirely different things. The teaching of Judaism and the evidence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King all indicate the opposite: social action and spirituality are—One. Deep inside our own spiritual tradition, we find the image of God—who is completely not physical—as a mighty arm, and an outstretched, compassionate hand transforming earthly history. Walking the spiritual path of our tradition we become that mighty arm, that outstretched, compassionate hand. The spiritual and the physical walk the earth as us. This is what it means to be a Jew, and I am most grateful to count myself part of the One..

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