There is a lot of deep wisdom in this excerpt from Sheldon Kopp about the meaning of life: the purpose is You and how to be you... better. Kopp was a psychotherapist who wrote this work after a long and nourishing career being lovingly and authentically avant’ garde. He wrote this work whilst dying from a brain tumor; not knowing whether at any point he would drop down dead.
I do not argue for an oriental reconciliation by the ultimate harmony of opposites so much as for the need to recognize and cherish the existence of the other side. My goal is not some idealized perennial peace and absence of conflict, but rather a vital and viable state of dynamic tension. I seek not agreement but rather a balance of forces, both of which are needed. Politically, for example, I know that when the Left is victorious, the liberators soon become the new oppressors who must be acted against so that the fluid flow of human processes can go on. My commitment is to the ebb and flow, the rhythmic ever-changing, never-changing state of flux, of life on the move.[the only constant thing in life, paradoxically, is change]
Having emphasized at some length the need for making more vivid that which can be seen by exposing what is hidden, I would like to turn now to how we are to become what we are once all of it has surfaced. The fullness of my vision will once again be brought forth by turning my gaze Eastward, this time toward the twenty-five century old Hindu singing of The Song of God: Bhagavad-Gita.
The Bhagavad-Gita is a powerfully poetic battlefield dialogue which takes place before an epic encounter of a long-ago civil war among royal Indian kinsmen, a dialogue between one of the commanders, Arjuna, and Sri Krishna, an incarnation of the Supreme Godhead who has taken it upon Himself to appear in the form of Arjuna’s charioteer. A family power struggle has arisen among the offspring of the sons of King Vichitravirya. The King’s eldest son was born blind, and so his younger son, Pandu, took the throne when their father died. The elder brother bitterly raised his sons with stubborn determination that someday they should reclaim his lost seat of power. And so these young men have come to challenge Pandu’s sons in battle. The sons of Pandu, Arjuna and his brothers, had been willing to work out some sharing of the power, but their bitter and dispossessed cousins have forced a battlefield confrontation instead.[this battle is a metaphor, as well, for the conflict/ balance of tensions in life and how there are many paths to go by and to choose. If you despise conflict, you despise the freedom to choose in life and the balance of tensions that arise in infinite creativity. Resisting tension, then, is a great cause of despair and by extension mental illness. Avoidance leads one to temptation and blindness from the Truth. We need to accept absolutely what is occurring in order to deal with it, or we go ‘potty’ and ‘lose it’.]
Krishna tells Arjuna that there is more than one solution to his problem just as there are many paths to fulfillment, alternate ways to find release from spiritual bondage, and more than one way to seek enlightenment. Yoga is the term for such personal oriental disciplines [meaning Union with God] for the ways in which one may seek release from the trap of life’s endless sorrows. Krishna describes to him the Yoga of Renunciation (the ascetic way), the Yoga of Meditation (the inner seeking), the Yoga of Mysticism (through faithful surrender to the Divine), and the Yoga of Devotion (through worshipful love). But it is toward Karma Yoga that Krishna turns His Disciple, and toward which I would turn your gaze.
Karma Yoga is the doctrine of salvation in the world, in life as it is, by becoming who you are. It is not possible, of course, not to act, not to live your life, not to be yourself. “All are helplessly forced to act.” But the way to salvation is to act by giving yourself over fully to the moment by renouncing the fruits of your activity. All activities must be performed, not in terms of what you seek to be or how well you hope to do, but in accordance with who you are and what you feel here and now.
In the Bhagavad-Gita, the nature of your particular life is defined in terms of your dharma or duty which you find in the karma or the life in to which you are born, the karma of the personality that is the you of this your one and only life. And so it is that Krishna instructs Arjuna:
Do your duty, always; but without attachment. That is how a man reaches the ultimate Truth; by working without anxiety about the results.
You need only discover who you are, and act according to the tendencies of your own nature. The most important aspect of your life and your personality is simply that it is yours and none other’s. As Krishna tells us:
It is better to do your own duty, however imperfectly, than to assume the duties of another person, however successfully. Prefer to die doing your own duty; the duty of another will bring you into great spiritual danger.
Better your own life, imperfectly performed, than the life of another, well performed. In every life, in each particular human being, Brahman, the Holy Power is present and each person can perform his or her own particular Act of Truth….
…We make a mistake if we ask ourselves, “Am I good enough?” or “Is it worthwhile to be me?” Whoever or whatever we are or do is who and what we are supposed to be. It is our Act of Truth. Psychologically, many of our problems began when as children someone led us to question the worth of our particular existence or performance. Whoever heard of a baby who was inadequate, or a child who did not know just exactly how to be a child? How could it not be all right for me to be me? How could it not be just right for you to be you? The Divine Spark of every single person is just that he is that particular person whether we define being human in the Western Judeo-Christian tradition of the Messiah:
How should a messiah behave? Now tell me. Do you know?
You know only one thing: that he relieves your pain, your
Precise pain. He is messiah to your particularity…a particular man saves…(one other) particular man.
Or in the Oriental Hindu-Buddhist tradition of the universality of the Supreme Being who Himself says:
Whatsoever is the seed of all creatures, that am I. There is no
creature, whether moving or unmoving that can exist without Me.
I am the gambling of the fraudulent, I am the power of the powerful. I am victory; I am ethic, I am the purity of the pure.
It is the joker of the Tarot deck, The Fool who is wise enough to ask, “Who am I?” Innocently and openly, he steps forward into the unknown so that he may become who he is. Upright, he makes the right choice. Reversed, he will mistake his identity and live some other’s life.
Our only hope is to learn to yield to each moment as it is as best we can, to live life as a work done as much as possible without anxiety about results “in the calm of self-surrender.” Only then can we fully live our own lives and be our own person by being engaged in just what we aredoing at the moment, by doing it our way ,by being able to declare not that my life is perfect, but that imperfect as it is, surely it is mine alone and nobody else’s. For Krishna tells us:
When a man acts according to the law of his nature, he cannot be sinning. Therefore, no one should give up his natural work, even though he does it imperfectly. For all action is involved in imperfection, like fire in smoke.
And in response, we can then rejoice in the surrender of becoming who we are, as does Arjuna when he answers:
By your grace, O Lord my delusions have been dispelled. My mind stands firm. Its doubts are ended, I will do your bidding.
…OM, Peace. Peace. Peace. (“Aummm, Shanti, Shanti, Shanti”)[There is extremely deep wisdom in the above passage taken from Sheldon Kopp’s work The Hanged Man (1974). Kopp was a psychotherapist who wrote this work after a long and nourishing career being quite avant’ garde. He wrote this work whilst dying from a brain tumor; not knowing whether at any point he would drop down dead. I am quite sure this gave him a new lease on life, in terms of saying what he needed to say without mincing words or leaving anything out to conform to some contemporary custom of political correctness. He has opted for purity in his own intention, to say what he means and to mean what he says. BB.]