Okay, it’s still summertime, and I’ve been doing too much of either watching You Tube, or enjoying the last of the warm weather. I did listen to an interview by Bill Moyers of Joseph Campbell. If you were around in the 80’s, there is a good chance you have heard of Campbell. He saw a totem pole when he was young and it sparked a lifelong fascination for the study of myths. That passion culminated in a six part PBS series. Or, if you saw the movie Star Wars, his influence on George Lucas helped make that movie what it was.
There is a lot I could go in to here, but one of his central tenets answered a question for me that I have been working on for a long, long time. The question is, how do I know if something that I feel is right, is coming from my heart or from somewhere more base? Put another way, is it just a physical desire, or something my subconscious senses as a valuable course of action. In religious terms, is it God or the Devil speaking to me?
I can remember discussing it in my college dormitory. I felt I knew how to discern my inner voices, until a guy, who happened to be a raging alcoholic, someone who was very good at following his baser instincts, asked me to describe how I would know. It was more of a challenge really than a question. I couldn’t answer him. Now I could.
Joseph Campbell calls it following your bliss. He came to his understanding while studying Sanskrit. Sanskrit is an ancient language with some of the greatest spiritual writing the world has known. It has been absorbed in to Hinduism and other Eastern practices. When you hear of someone with the title of Sri or Yogi, that is someone who studies and teaches these ancient writings.
A central god of this tradition is Brahman. He has no characteristics, no form. One way to describe him is sachchidananda (I have seen more than one spelling of this). This word has three parts:
1) Sat – Truth or Being
2) Chid – Ultimate Consciousness
3) Ananda – Bliss, delight
As Campbell puts it, how do you know if you know the full truth or have reached the full potential of your being, you don’t. How do you know if you are fully conscious, you don’t. How do you know what excites you, what drives you, well that you do know, and it will lead you to the other two.
This still does leave some questions open as to what is just for pleasure, but in the interview, this came up within the context of laws. One of the functions of myth is to codify what a culture believes is right and how its people should act. This almost always causes trouble because laws need to change with the new challenges that each generation faces. But I don’t want to get too far off on that tangent.
The importance of grouping these three is that you can know if you are making good choices in one area, because you will see progress in the other two. Let’s say you like baseball. If you sit on the couch and watch baseball all day, you probably will not find any insight to higher truth or feel that your consciousness is expanding. If however you dedicate yourself to improving your baseball skills or competing at a high level, you might.
It may take a little time, but I think this will work. I think you can look around and see who is following their bliss and who is going for the short term gain. Those going for the short term pretty quickly develop empty spaces in their lives. They can keep seeking the thrill, but it gets increasingly difficult to get satisfaction. I admire those who found their bliss early and followed it.