Featured in the Garrison Institute Newsletter Autumn 2008
The Garrison Institute explores the intersection between contemplation and engaged action in the world, applying contemplative wisdom to social and environmental change. Our program initiatives on education, environment and trauma care are complemented and enriched by the diverse teachers from around the world who lead retreats here, and whose teachings are conducive to personal and social transformation.
It’s a privilege to have them under our roof, and we took the opportunity recently to ask three of them— Adyashanti, Father Thomas Keating, and Rabbi Sheila Weinberg—about their views on contemplation and social change. Their answers, individually and collectively, offer insights into what one has to do with the other.
Rabbi Weinberg and Father Keating both draw profound connections between contemplative practices in their traditions and mindfulness meditation. The Desert Fathers, the Sermon on the Mount, kabbalah, Hassidism, even monotheism itself, hint at oneness and nonseparation as the ultimate goal and meaning of contemplative practice. Mind and heart, intellect and spirit, the personal and the transpersonal, Abrahamic and Asian traditions, may not be mutually exclusive but are ultimately on converging paths, parts of a larger unity.
Even given their coherent meaning or convergent goals, contemplative practices still don’t make much sense to the ego, because the rational mind finds it impossible to step outside the framework of the self. Contemplation seems to entail some self-annihilation—anatta, no-self, wandering in the desert, the destructive trident of Shiva, the Passion of Christ. Fr. Keating sees in the convergence of contemplative traditions intimations of a higher state of consciousness, beyond the rational one, present in all religions. Adyashanti emphasizes what he calls the transrationality of contemplative practice.
Yet from a transpersonal standpoint that recognizes our interconnectedness, it makes perfect sense. From beyond of the boundaries of self, it’s possible to perceive our interconnectedness, and this is the foundation of compassion, good works, the vow to save all sentient beings, or commitment to social justice.
Adyashanti, Fr. Keating and Rabbi Weinberg all hint that insight into the interconnected nature of reality, achieved through contemplation, is what animates social action, lending the spark of inspiration or flash of insight that can make it transformative. In this issue are excepts from our interviews with them.