Thursday, November 20, 2008

City of Joylessness

Yesterday I listened to an interview on the National Broadcaster with a doctor who spent many years in Mother Theresa's order. She has written a book that describes why she left the order. She had not been comfortable (I'm not surprised) with the self-torture (wearing barbed belts etc), extreme, cult-like submersion of personality, and the fanatical prohibition of birth control even for women in situations of abject poverty for whom more children would mean intolerable suffering. But the turning point came when she was censured for admitting a critically ill child during the nuns' prayer period. She wrote to headquarters in Calcutta, saying that even Christ healed on the Sabbath, and that this strict rule meant the death of many children. The letter she got back was a dry enforcement of the rule of obedience, and a warning that "the Devil can quote scripture" (This is also a quotation from scripture; why do the people who use it against others never see the irony of this?). She was told that she was proud and conceited for listening to her own conscience. She recalls Mother Theresa saying that any joyfulness one might display was only a cover for the fundamental misery at the core of one's being. Her remark points to the danger of surrendering oneself to any organisation that is not based on the ideal of Self-realisation. Those who experience the Self experience It as Joy.
A friend once told me of his own experience of going as a volunteer with a group of friends to Calcutta to work with the order. Of the dozen or so who went, several have killed themselves, and others are deeply scarred by their experience. It should be said that this is not the case in general with people who work with the poor.

True egolessness means obedience to the universal Self, not to an organisation or hierarchy. Humility does not mean erosion of personality and Self-esteem.

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