Empathy – Is it so difficult?

Today, I write with a heart that isn’t able to understand where humanity has disappeared into. Recent events in India have been disturbing and conflicting and one thing has been missing. That one thing is called empathy.

The Farmers Protest in India has been riddled with misinformation, misbehavior of a few and a lack of empathy from the nation. Whether the Farm Bills are right or wrong isn’t my issue here and that is something the Government has to work with the Protestors on. My issue is why has the country lacked empathy and when I say country, I specifically mean its spokespersons like Bollywood, Politicians (regardless what wing you are), Large Corporates, Spiritual and Religious Gurus and organizations etc.

Around 70 protestors have reportedly died, many are still protesting in very cold conditions and some of these people are the elderly and young children. People who are risking their lives regardless of the outside conditions are protesting against the Government. Instead what has the Indian Government done – absolutely nothing. Not even empathy has been shown, forget compensation.

While I sit here writing this in a centrally-heated home in the United States and still feeling cold, I cannot even imagine what an elderly farmer must be going through in the biting cold in Delhi or wherever in India they are protesting. But one thing is for sure, this isn’t fair to the protestors. They have been protesting for over 3 months and that during a pandemic but the empathy from our leaders, our celebrities, our religious/spiritual gurus has been missing.

Empathy is something that every emotionally intelligent person should feel. The pain of someone else, we should feel this. The thought of another in pain should make us shudder. This is something basic that we should all feel. Instead what we get is distraction from the actual issue. We get a few Bollywood celebrities who are obviously fed from the current Indian Government to give standard tweets out and ironically state that India is against propaganda. It is an absolute joke! Why have they all of a sudden spoken up? Because Rihanna sent out a tweet asking one question! Greta Thunberg sent out a tweet in support of the Protestors and India loses its mind. They start burning effigies of a 17 year old child and the Government, these bollywood celebrities, spiritual gurus say nothing about this? They don’t condemn this?! This 17 year old has done much more humanitarian work for the environment than all of these celebrities put together. Instead they tell people like Greta, Rihanna to leave the country alone, it is an internal matter and say their views are propaganda against India

Now this leads me to the next point, where are the Spiritual Leaders hiding today? Why are they not addressing the inhumane response to these protestors? One Guru did speak up but defending the Government. In fact, this Guru tweeted that celebrities outside of India shouldn’t interfere with Indian politics. This very Guru has celebrities ‘interview’ him and I have to ask why does he need their help? Maybe to become popular? Make more money? Look more credible? It is hypocritical of him to pick and choose when celebrity status is important. Maybe, he should stick with staying in his own ashram instead of going to the UN and interfering in global politics or meeting Logan Paul and other global celebrities. The less I say about his actual teachings, the better.

Spiritual Gurus are known to be great thinkers or reformers, they are meant to present to us how to be model citizens. But their current response has been lacking across the board. There are a few who have understood the plight of the Farmers. But they were called terrorists by the current Indian Government and the mainstream media that is in bed with the government. I can understand the hesitancy but empathy is larger than that. Compassion is about responding with rightful action against the oppressed. Heck, I wonder what names the mainstream media and the government would have called Mahatma Gandhi today?

We have to understand that democracy doesn’t mean that a government can do whatever they like because they got the votes a couple of years ago. A democracy is about having a voice and allowing voices the freedom to express themselves, to have a non-violent dialogue about the pressing issues of our times. Democracy is all about being in the moment.

Some people may turn around and tell me that some protestors have been violent. But if you look at the language of those against the protestors, it is nothing short of violence. Calling a peaceful protestor – a terrorist is calling for violence. When you put spikes in the road and concrete barricades, that is creating violence by showing division. When you block the internet so protestors cannot communicate with each other – it becomes authoritarian rule. When you block food and water supplies – that is a crime against humanity! Every single bollywood actor, every journalist, every politician, every corporate, every spiritual/religious guru, every citizen is complicit if they side with the Government and it’s ridiculous misinformed narrative and violent actions in regards to the Farmers Protest. Silence will not do, we have to defend the right to protest.

I end with a question. Why has empathy become so difficult to feel?

Critical Spirituality

Today I read an article published by the Vice on Conspirituality and how the Wellness Industry has become a loudspeaker for QAnon and misinformation about Covid-19, the US election, the Covid vaccine is thriving, along with its boundless support for Trump, who is seen as the Messiah. It is worth a read and I recommend that we all take some time out to read this.

I regularly listen to a podcast called Conspirituality, where a lot of the conspiracy theories that are infiltrating the Spiritual scene is debunked with facts, evidence and reputable studies. I recommend that we listen to these podcasts to take our critical thinking to a higher level.

I have seen smart and/or spiritual people on my social media feed fall to conspiratorial thinking. It has definitely shocked me enough to write about this. For quite some time, I thought only I was seeing this from people on my social media feed. When I started seeing people fall in love with Trump, then share their ideas about 5G radiation, even Pizzagate, I was wondering how did it all get to this? This is where the Conspirituality podcast really helped me and some amazing people on Facebook openly spoke about the rise of conspirituality. It shocked them and they had to address it.

For me, spirituality has to be one that is balanced with facts based on science and personal experience. It is understanding the fine line before we end up going towards wacky thinking or fantasy. Science has been a boon, most of the time, for the upliftment of society. Science has helped us understand our place in the universe, it has helped us understand the laws of Nature. Then there is the spiritual journey, where we seek to find God or Truth through whatever means, this shouldn’t interfere with the material world. This seeking should purely be kept to spiritual development alone. Yes, it is true that our spirituality will seep through to our material life, it will shape our views and will be the foundation to how we interact with the world, however, it should never get in the way of absolute truth. For example and this may make my point more clear, my spiritual views should never interfere with the fact that the Earth is a sphere.

Even when it comes to spirituality itself, how many of look at our journey with a critical eye? How many of us are just happy to go along with whatever the crowd is saying? If the crowd repeats a quote, slogan, or a story, how many of us just repeat it without thinking of the deeper philosophies behind such stories, slogans or quotes? How many of us inquire within to see how much time do we live in the awareness of a deity or our true Self? How many of us are willing to call out our our laziness in practicing spiritual values like compassion, love, honesty, understanding etc? Until we start becoming more critical about our own spiritual progress, then the collective spirituality will always be at a loss.

If you truly want to be your best self, then you have to understand that the whole crux of spirituality is understanding that there is no-self. In fact, what we call God is something beyond self and non-self. This is difficult for me to express and people may disagree with me here. New-age movements with there emphasis for a great ‘you’, really isn’t about ascending your true self to something higher. It may help to give you self-esteem but its just giving you another layer of ego, another layer of identity and can even create a narcissistic mentality. Why do I say this? It’s because I have gone through it myself. I have experience how these self-help books only expanded my ego and it didn’t help me attain a higher degree of spirituality.

I feel that people like Tony Robbins are not great people to follow either. Many people I know have attended his events and they feel fired up in the beginning and I appreciate that he gives people confidence. But how long does that confidence last? Not long. I haven’t seen anyone who followed Tony Robbins become an equal to him, forget exceeding him.

This is also applicable to Spiritual Gurus too. If you cannot help your disciples be equal or better than you then how effective is your teaching? Many people follow popular Spiritual Gurus with their catchy clickbait titles on YouTube and not one person who has watched all their videos has achieved enlightenment. In fact, most of it is ran like multi level marketing (MLM). If you liked the video and want to go deeper in spirituality, then buy this course. You buy that course then you are told this isn’t enough, you need to do this other practice so you make that purchase, only to be told once you completed that course that there is a 7 month program that you guarantees success and you end up in a cycle that will never end until you find your bank account has gone slim or your credit cards are maxed out. Of course, it is the whole carrot and stick analogy. The main question I want to pose in this section is where are our Swami Vivekananda’s today?

We can say that maybe we aren’t being decent disciples and not committing ourselves to practice so something has to change. Either disciples understand discipline or Gurus separate the wheat from the chaff (and the wheat isn’t the highest bidder). We have to take spirituality seriously, if we are to save it from entering a territory that Great Teachers like J Krishnamurti and Alan Watts never expected.

Let me know what you think in the comments because maybe I need to add more context behind something I have written and I can dedicate a post to it. We all have to be critical to our spirituality, if we are to evolve our respective Gurus or religious/spiritual organizations.