The other day, a friend posted this video on their facebook page:
The video is about Narayanan Krishnan, who lives in India. In this 2-minute video, he tells his story: He used to work for a nice hotel in Bangalore. Then one day in 2002, he passed an old man on the street who was starving. He was moved by compassion. He quit his job and now serves food to the hungry full-time. He also cuts their hair, washes them and gives them a shave.
He saw a need. He was moved by compassion. He works to fill the need.
I was inspired.
Someone else shared this video on facebook the other day:
You don’t have to watch the whole thing. It doesn’t get any better at the end.
In this second video, a lady talks randomly on her webcam about alien invasions and global conspiracies. It actually sounds very spiritual, in a “new age” kind of way. In fact, lots of spiritual people talk about this type of thing. It’s all the rage in spiritual circles to talk about aliens, crop circles, global conspiracies, shifts in planetary consciousness, etc, etc. Some of it is just crazy talk. But actually a lot of what “new age” people stand for, can be useful in inspiring us to change our thinking to a more peaceful state of consciousness in which we all get along and love one another.
What bothers me, though, is that a lot of the “spiritual” talk is just that – talk.
Of the two videos, I found the one of the Indian man to be far more “spiritual” in nature. Sure, he talks about very physical issues (like fecal matter) and doesn’t say anything about angels or God or global shifts in consciousness. The only time he mentions religion is to say how much of a hindrance it is to his work. But Krishnan’s story is about bringing our lofty spiritual ideals down into the physical world, where we are – right here – right now – and treating all human beings with compassion in very concrete ways.
Regular readers may notice that, despite my Eastern-mystical way of looking at the world, I tend to bring up biblical stories and quote Jesus. That’s because I was raised on that, and I still think Jesus had a lot of good things to say. One story that fits here is the story of the “Good Samaritan.” To summarize: a religious debater asks Jesus what the most important commandments are. Jesus responds: To love God and to love your neighbor.
Religious guy says, Yes, you’re right! But who exactly would this neighbor be? (Although the story isn’t clear, I suspect he’s trying to weasel his way out of loving people who are not technically his neighbors – people who live beyond a certain geographic limit, perhaps, or maybe people who he doesn’t like.)
Jesus doesn’t answer directly. Instead he tells a story of a guy who got beat up by robbers, and another guy (a foreigner) who came along and helped him. The moral of the story ends up being: it’s not about where you’re from, or your ideals, or what religion you claim, but what you do that matters.
It’s about bringing those lofty ideals of peace and love down into the dirty world of a Bangalore gutter where some old man is eating his own shit to survive, and bringing real, actual food to that man, feeding him, caring for him in actual, physical ways. It’s not about what caste the man is from, or whether he deserves to be fed, or whether the poor old man is subconsciously responsible for creating his own experience of lack.
We make spirituality real by caring for each other in real ways.
And what better time for that than Christmas?