Reflections from Hallow's Eve
The sea of masks and painted faces swirled around us in phantasmagoric splendor last weekend. Even as I fought a cold I found myself buoyed up by the spectacle of it; the sheer randomness of human expression. This seems to me a perfect expression of Lila; the urge to play. Lila, according to Yoga, propels the unmanifest into manifest, propels the divine to take form. The idea in Yoga is that there is no reason for 'creation' or the manifesting that happens at every moment; the universe is simply playful, and free, and has some inclination or potential to reflect itself back upon itself. In Yoga there is not one Godhead; we are each the source of all that we perceive. So each moment, which flashes form into our awareness, is derived from our own precious instinct to see ourselves. And the source of the instinct is simply playfulness. This is Lila. Seeing the world through the lens of Lila, there is no order, per se, but no lack of order either. Phenomena arises simply out of its own potential energy, and things happen simply because they have the potential to do so. When a good thing happens to you, you might try to figure out why you are reaping what you've sown, so that you can feel proud of yourself, or pleased, at least, with your good work. This would be a practical application of the law of Karma. But the law of Lila says that your good luck is simply the fact that you arise out of the psychic soup of being-ness. What happens to us happens because we are ultimately interconnected with everything, and because the universe is playful, and inclusive. We all are impacted by everything that has ever occurred. Therefore there is nothing that has ever happened that did not also happen to us, and nothing that happens to us that did not or will not ultimately happen to everyone. This is Lila; and if we believe in it fully, we will either become saints, or criminals; devotees, or nihilists. Lila is just one side of the cosmic coin.
Lila is balanced out by the impeccability of karma: the fierce perfection of cause and effect. According to Karma, this causal realm is bound by and govered karma; the law of action. For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction, we reap precisely what we sow. How then, do we apply these paradoxical and complementary theories to our lives, relationships, careers, and practices? One way to play is to exchange self for other. This comes from Buddhism, but Tantra and Yoga all affirm it. When the person across from you is suffering, know that you could easily switch positions. Their suffering is your suffering, their joy is your joy. Attend to the suffering knowing that it is your own. This is not quite like the Christian idea - of do unto others as you would have them do unto you. It's actually a little deeper-- an acknowledgement that we have no capacity to think "he seems like he is suffering, it must feel bad" unless we are actually projecting our own suffering outward. So when we resist another's experience, because it is annoying, or suffocating, or cloying, or obsequious, we are actually simply in resistance to some aspect of self. The other theory that I play with is that Karma is only fairly applied to the broadest definition of self. If we start blaming other people's misfortune on Karma, we short-circuit our empathic process. Similarly, if we blame our own suffering on our karmic debt, we are less than likely to heal. But if we consider that we all carry a karmic debt collectively, and trust that collectively we are transcending and healing and stepping up to the grace plate, then life is much much more pleasant. And if we recall that Lila is constantly playing a hand, we can un-furrow our brows a bit, and trust in the process which is beyond our control or comprehension. All those crazy characters that come out on Hallow's eve, or any other day, for that matter, are all playing the same game. As perfect reflections of our own inner masquerade, all the rest are dancing the karma-lila dance with us; suspended between utter randomness and strict cause and effect.