9.4 The Moral Singularity


The search for spiritual awakening, the search for environmental sustainability and the search for social justice are all part of the same search for moral singularity, a state of being where we routinely experience the ultimate happiness that is already within us. This is the true pursuit of happiness, but to reach that state, we need to abandon the Cartesian viewpoint that had driven the Caterpillar:

I think. Therefore I am.

Such a formulation puts the monkey mind as the central actor in our lives and enhances the human ego. In the Butterfly, we reverse this perspective into:

I am. Therefore I act.

Life is about action and action driven by our true intuitive self is fundamentally compassionate. The thinking mind, like the forearm, is a limb that must function automatically in the background and not be out, front and center.

As individuals or as a species, it is only when we realize the ego’s utter insignificance that we truly find that ultimate happiness. Yes, we are each the whole universe, but only when we become nothing inside. We are each powerful beyond measure, but only when we know that we are mere puppets.

For individuals, the Buddha’s prescription for attaining Nirvana, the ultimate happiness or transcendental bliss, is deceptively simple. The Buddha articulated this in the Four Noble Truths[12]:
1. The world is full of suffering.
2. The root of suffering is attachments.
3. The cessation of suffering is through dropping attachments.
4. The liberation from suffering is through the Eightfold Noble path.

The Buddha laid out the Eightfold Noble path as a set of moral precepts:
1. Right View
2. Right Intention
3. Right Speech
4. Right Action
5. Right Livelihood
6. Right Effort
7. Right Mindfulness
8. Right Concentration

Yet over the next two millennia, Buddhism nearly died out in India, the land of the Buddha’s birth. There was such a flowering of intellectual and philosophical discourse in India in the centuries following the Buddha’s birth that it led to the assimilation of Buddhist teachings within the Yoga and Vedanta traditions of mainstream Hinduism.

Yoga is union and that union is of the body with the Universe, of the mind with Universal Consciousness and of the spirit with Brahman or God. It leads to the same ultimate happiness, the transcendental bliss of Nirvana, that the Yogis call Samadhi. The Yoga masters recognized that we are incapable of following moral precepts if we are physically ill conditioned, or if our mind is beset with fear, guilt, shame, grief, untruths, delusions as well as attachments. They devised systematic techniques for overcoming these physical and mental barriers through postures (Asanas), chanting (Mantras), controlled breathing (Pranayama) as well as meditation (Dhyana). While the Buddha recommended just observing our breath, the Yoga masters taught how to modify our breath consciously in pranayama. While the Buddha taught Vipassana or insight meditation that trained practitioners to drop their attachments from the outside in, the Yoga masters taught Chakra meditation that trained practitioners to let go of their fear, guilt, shame, grief, untruths, delusions and attachments, in that order, from the inside out. While in the Vipassana approach, our subconscious fears, guilt, shame, grief, etc., surface over time in an uncontrolled fashion, the Yoga practitioner can surface them and let them go consciously. This wealth of knowledge is available to us as we transform our global industrial civilization into its steady state, Butterfly version.

Thus far, the socioeconomic system of the global industrial civilization had kept us all rooted in fear and scarcity, the base chakra, which made the pursuit of happiness a total farce. The emerging new socioeconomic system will be rooted in compassion and abundance so that we can begin the pursuit of happiness in earnest. We will need to systematically let go of our guilt for having polluted the Earth so much, our shame for having exploited Nature so ruthlessly, our grief for all the biodiversity that we have destroyed and for all the animals that we have caused to suffer, our lies of exceptionalism that we had told ourselves, and our delusions of separation from Nature. Only then will we be in a position to let go our worldly attachments and become an enlightened member of the community of Life on Earth. Only then will we experience the transcendent happiness that is worth pursuing.

In a popular Conservation International video, the actress, Julia Roberts, intones[13]:

“Some call me Nature. Others call me Mother Nature. I’ve been here for over 4.5 billion years, 22,500 times longer than you. I don’t really need people, but people need me. Yes, your future depends on me. When I thrive, you thrive. When I falter, you falter or worse. But I’ve been here for eons. I have fed species greater than you. And I have starved species greater than you. My oceans, my soil, my flowing streams, my forests, they all can take you. Or leave you. How you choose to live each day, whether you regard or disregard me doesn’t really matter to me, one way or the other. Your actions will determine your fate, not mine. I am Nature. I will go on. I am prepared to evolve. Are you?”

Evolution is not a spectator sport. In an AhimsaCoin-like economy, when we all live as Pablo Picasso envisioned,

“The meaning of Life is to find your gift. The purpose of Life is to give it away,”

then humanity would have evolved as a species and the Butterfly would emerge. That is the journey towards moral singularity that is worth traveling.

It is my privilege to travel with you on this journey, dear reader! To my granddaughter, Kimaya, as Robert Frost wrote,

“I have promises to keep. And miles to go before I sleep, Miles to go before I sleep.”

Welcome to the Vegan metamorphosis!