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Sacred Balance: An Active Pursuit

e-Jain Digest I e-Jain Digest 2009

Sacred Balance: An Active Pursuit

Samir Doshi

Samir Doshi resides in Burlington, VT. He is a Systems Ecologist for Ocean Arks, International and a Doctoral Candidate at the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics at the University of Vermont. Samir works with impoverished communities to help restore degraded landscapes and develop an economic return around a restoration economy.

A certain degree of physical harmony and comfort is necessary, but above a certain level it becomes a hindrance instead of help. Therefore, the ideal of creating an unlimited number of wants and satisfying them seems to be a delusion and a snare.

-- Mahatma Gandhi

We sleep. We wake and meditate. We pray and recite mantras. We do yoga and breathe. Throughout the course of our days and our lives, we seek balance. At our most simple form, we strive for harmony. Jain philosophy describes the pursuit of balance and Ahimsa as liberation from samsara – the attainment of moksha. But, regardless of what awaits us in the life after this, the need for balance is inherent and eternal. This is our true nature. This essay is entitled ‘Sacred Balance’ as a reference to geneticist and environmental philosopher David Suzuki’s work on humanity’s place in nature.

Balance is often thought of as a passive exercise. If I do nothing, then I will affect nothing and presumably have balance. But this is impossible. I do things, many things – all the time! How do I attain balance, liberation, happiness? The answer can be found as readily in science as it is in spirituality. Newton’s third law of motion describes each action as having a simultaneous reaction with equal force in the opposite direction. Chinese philosophy recognizes the concept of yin yang as opposing forces that are interdependent and naturally give rise to each other. In the spiritual plane within ourselves, time does not exist as it does in the physical plane. Each action is not instantaneous, but lasts for an unspecified period. This means that the reaction that maintains the balance could be delayed, and might have not yet occurred. Just as we initiated the original action, we must undertake the reaction. This is an active exercise.

I am not assuming that our actions are all negative or positive. They simply are, and they all have an effect on the self and the planet. The renowned chemist, James Lovelock, developed the Gaia hypothesis in 1965, which states that all the living and non-living components of our planet form a complex holistic single organism that regulates itself physically and chemically. In other words, there is a scientific consensus that the Earth also seeks balance and utilizes actions and reactions to self-regulate. Presently, our society and our planet are incredibly unbalanced. Our species is taxing the environment at an unprecedented level and is continuing to grow at an exponential rate. As Gandhi professed over half a century ago, we have an unlimited number of wants and cannot sustain our current way of life. Unless we act, the reaction of the planet to the disruption of the climate will entail more hurricanes, larger monsoons, and a sea level rise that will bring about the migration of hundreds of millions of ‘climate refugees.’ The Earth is awaiting our reaction before it becomes so imbalanced that it is forced to act. 

History shows that whenever our culture has taken on a change of course, the initial phase yields the largest results. The greatest need is at the moment of change, and this is when the greatest effect can be actualized. The original agricultural revolution, the French revolution, and the industrial revolution – all encompassed turning points in the history of our species and all were actively accomplished. We are in the midst of another turning point that is being called, ‘The Green Industrial Revolution,’ combining ingenuity, vigor and the pursuit of lessening our impact and achieving a balance. There is a place for each of us in this movement: young and old, male and female, immigrants and nationals.

The action with the greatest impact that we can grasp onto right now is education. We each need to educate ourselves and our communities on how to lessen the impact on our planet and attain a harmony within ourselves. Globally, education has reduced poverty and disease, and increased prosperity, social capital, human well-being and a greater respect for our environment. Two of the largest developing countries, India and China, are following the example of the United States with respect to consumption and waste. Education is integral in helping these countries develop in a sustainable fashion. You might feel that this is a waste of time – you already know how to reduce your impact on the planet. What are you currently doing? Are you doing everything you can? Do you know what else you can do? This is where education can aid your actions. It will allow you to maximize the output of each action, and subsequently have the greatest impact.

Education is at the heart of Jain dharma. We look inwards to learn more about ourselves and our interaction with others. Our culture prides itself on our aptitude and welfare. The next logical step is the integration of our prosperity and spirituality. The musical definition of harmony is the simultaneous combination of notes that fit together in a balance. A spiritual definition of harmony is a natural extension of Ahimsa, as well as yin yang.

We must utilize our resources to encourage a balance between our species and our surroundings. In this action, we can attain a sacred balance within ourselves.

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