How to be in this world but not of this world? This question has been pondered through the ages in many spiritual traditions. How to reconcile the absolute with the relative or as the Tao puts it, how to unite heaven and earth. We become immersed in worldly affairs and we lose touch with our divinity or we lead a spiritual life and forget our humanity.
We live immersed in paradoxes. Our mind leans towards the right when our heart yearns towards the left. How to integrate the best of both worlds? This is what yoga is all about. In the Bhagavat Gita Krishna presents to Arjuna different paths to arrive at that union but all of them require awareness, clarity of purpose and commitment. Then when we stop making noise, inner and outer, we come in contact with our true face or as a Zen koan puts it, ‘our face before our parents were born’. And in that silence wisdom and compassion manifest and the integration of apparent opposites is clear and spontaneous. Daily we are presented with situations that require the union of our ‘little mind’, our thinking relative mind, and ‘big mind’, the spacious empty pool of infinite potentialities, the consciousness of Vedanta. For example, how to set limits for others while remaining kind and loving, how to enjoy life fully while not getting lost in pleasure, how to become fully involved in our life’s circumstances and yet not to forget our immortality.
There is a story I heard from my Zen teacher about a couple that goes to see a Master about their marital problems. First the woman complains about how her husband is treating her badly and the Master says: “Yes, yes, you are right”. Then the husband has his turn and complains about his wife, and the Master says: “Yes, yes, you are right”. The confused couple asks: ” how come you agree with both of us? We cannot be both right.” And the Master answers: “You are right, you are right”. The Master out of his kindness had to give an answer to both of them without taking sides and he succeeded beautifully.
The practice of integration, of reconciling duality is constant and requires alertness, intelligence, discriminating wisdom and compassion, these last two called the two wings of the Buddha, and as we become more skillful at this balancing act we can soar higher and higher while keeping our feet firmly on the ground.