While the Israelites were in the desert, a man was found gathering wood on the Sabbath day. Those who found him gathering wood brought him to Moses and Aaron and the whole assembly, and they kept him in custody, because it was not clear what should be done to him. Then the Lord said to Moses, “The man must die. The whole assembly must stone him outside the camp.” So the assembly took him outside the camp and stoned him to death, as the Lord commanded Moses.
– Bible, Numbers 15:32-36
I’ve heard something like the following at least a hundred times in my life:
Just chant Hare Krishna maha mantra purely and be happy!
Or seen people believing in something like this:
The ideal all devotees strive for is exclusive dedication to sri guru. [...] The purity of spiritual advancement depends on the grace of sri guru. Only when he or she is pleased with the disciple can the disciple attain purity, and no one can please their guru by abandoning or relativizing him or her — by not being chaste.
– Harmonist, July 2009
Why is God bound by purity to bestow happiness unto us, little flock on a tiny planet Earth, a mere speckle within the endless universe? Sounds silly and paradoxical.
It very much reminds me of the psychology that propels a market mechanism, especially stock market. People reach deep into their pockets, grab some money to buy investment shares, real estate, government bonds, valuables like jewelry, original art, rarities, and so forth. Utilising money to purchase happiness, comfortable living in this life and utilising purity to bargain for some happiness, God’s mercy or good prospects in future life — what’s the real difference between them? They both illustrate a market approach to get what we need to “feel secure” and to be “saved from the blazing agonies of material existence”.
The true trick with every market is that is not ruled by the abundant offer — no matter what that can be — but only by means of acquisition, which in this case becomes purity. In traditional stock markets money rules. Similarly in spiritual markets of this world purity rules. When purity becomes currency, then nothing else matters for currency can “buy you anything”. You live not to spend it, buy things with it and then forget about it, but the market entails: you need to be constantly liquid. Liquidity means being able to easily convert all your assets into currency, or in our case in purity. Gordon Gekko, a ruthless multi-millionaire character played by Michael Douglas in Oliver Stone’s masterpiece movie ‘Wall Street’ would call that “You become a player.” A player in the stock market of purity.
Purity puts a pressure on you. You need purity. Desperately. Purity gets you everything. Therefore you work hard every day to earn purity. However, oftentimes that is not enough to play in demanding market games, so you need more income flowing in. What can help? Selling something, rather than pouring in penances and hard work alone? Or filling up pockets with other valuables appreciated in the stock market of purity? Both are absolutely necessary. As Gordon Gekko further said in the movie, one third of the wealth comes from hard work and two thirds from everything else: mainly from inheritance, interest accumulated, stock and real estate speculation.
Let’s see inheritance. In markets of purity inheritance is something you get by belonging closely to someone who was recognised as a great player and was considered a wizard of purity. Being in the line of some well known market guru, for example. Being born in a family of priests, imams or brahmins is considered to be very propitious. Or being their good friend, or a distant relative. You scratch your back on your ancestor’s life of achievements, the resulting social status and use it as a winning bid to get more currency and investment options. Your true achievements don’t really matter because inheritance puts you instantly forward. Suddenly your voice matters and you’re in the game.
Interest accumulated is everything you gain on assets properly invested into purity market options. Spiritual markets of purity claim God, as a supreme treasurer and a bean counter, carefully calculates all your deposits and adds on a proper interest that you can withdraw at a certain time, or use to reinvest. The choice is yours, but obviously market indeed wants players to accumulate as much currency as possible because that’s the true goal. Liquidity. So you’ll probably tighten up your waist belt and reinvest.
However, even all that is not enough, as market has tremendously high expectations from its players. Often you ask yourself does this frantic game makes any sense, but you have little time to reconsider and change your life, as you’re firmly bound to market rules by different sets of fears for your very existence. Can you find courage to challenge them? But you don’t have enough time even to earn enough to stay in the game. Now when you’ve reaffirmed yourself this is the only way to go, you’ll shout out one more loud banzai and continue.
What major promise keeps you in the game? An oracle that says you should never forget that one percent of all players possess half the spiritual wealth available in those markets, and only one percent of those one percent will even attain God’s mercy. You really want to be one of them. You indeed need to venture into stock and real estate speculation.
What is that? It is following: you need carefully observe the bids on the market and try to predict where’s best to invest. Is there someone or something really popular at the moment in spiritual markets of purity you should come close to? Invest in his or her shares? You need to monitor everything carefully, for you never know who’s gonna appear next, with a more comprehensive portfolio, inheritance capital and thus more promising future for investment. Be careful, for investing into stocks of ‘wrong saints’, ‘out-of-ordinary gurus’ or some suspicious religious thoughts may cause banishment from the circle of your friends and mentors. You surely don’t want that.
You should also re-evaluate your assets regularly. Do they yield enough purity? Should you get rid of something? Perhaps that which is not pure enough, that doesn’t earn a high interest rates in purity markets at the moment. That can be some real estate of your life, say, relationships with others which the culture of purity markets call ‘impure and non-winning bid’ relationships? Say, abandoning school, family, young children, wife or a husband, friends? Or it can be your own industry, talents, hobbies, ideas and fruits of your knowledge and thought that is considered impure and not worthy of God’s mercy?
Greed for purity is mighty. Those who give up just everything impure in people eyes are considered sheiks in the purity stock markets. They are “top players”. We also call them renunciates. But however you call them, everyone looks at them attentively, watching how they bid in order to learn few tricks ‘from the best’. That’s why they, like Gordon Gekko, have thousands of poor Bud Foxes who want desperately to become like them and will do anything.
“Save us master, we are fallen. We want to become as pure as you are,” they pray in exhaustion. A whole new paradigm of spirituality arises, which rules this world by mockery and fear, and drives it downhill.
In his book ‘Meeting Jesus Again for the First Time; The Historical Jesus & The Hearth of Contemporary Faith’, postmodern Christian thinker and theologian Marcus Borg reflects on matters of purity which are old as eons. He writes:
“The famous words of Paul also negate the world of purity and cultural boundaries and express the same inclusiveness: In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile, slave nor free, male nor female. Paul is not here announcing an abstract ideal; rather this verse reflects the new social reality of the [Christian] movement itself. In short, there is something boundary shattering about the imitatio dei that stood as the center of Jesus’ message and activity: Be compassionate as God is compassionate. Whereas purity divides and excludes, compassion unites and includes. For Jesus, compassion had a radical sociopolicital meaning. In his teaching and table fellowship, and in the shape of his movement, the purity system was subverted and an alternative social vision affirmed. The politics of purity was replaced by a politics of compassion”.
And it came about when He went into the house of one of the leaders of the Pharisees on the Sabbath to eat bread, that they were watching Him closely. And there, in front of Him was a certain man suffering from dropsy. And Jesus answered and spoke to the lawyers and Pharisees, saying, “Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath, or not?” But they kept silent. And He took hold of him, and healed him, and sent him away. And He said to them, “Which one of you shall have a son or an ox fall into a well, and will not immediately pull him out on a Sabbath day ?”
– Bible, Luke 14:1-5
Compare this act of Jesus with an act of Moses and Aaron, who sentenced a poor man to death for breaking purity laws on a Sabbath day, mentioned at the very beginning of this essay? They stand opposite, startlingly different. One is an act of compassion and causeless love despite laws, yet other a cold-hearted exercise of purity laws that seldom make any sense at all. Can a sane person today really believe that God indeed demanded a poor man collecting wood (and thus breaking some obscure social rule of purity) to be stoned to death? What a poor man should do to please God through Moses and Aaron? His purity market stock options were obviously low, and he was not a friend or a relative of anyone ‘important’. Then he was a good scape goat to show people, to scare them profoundly, what will happen if they don’t obey laws of purity. However, I wonder has God thundered his command for the execution of a man from the sky above, so everyone could hear it, or it was Moses who claimed he was the one who heard it?
Can a thoughtful person really believe we need purity to get few drops of happiness, or a step in ’spiritual advancement’? We find infinitely more mercy in scouts organisations, or just one hospital by practicing doctors and nurses who save endless lives than in hundreds of asylums of Moses-like gurus and teaches who ‘hear God’s voice’ and whose mercy ‘thou hast to yet deserve’. What is so ‘advanced’ and ‘worthy’ in the climate of purity, which is always ruled by fear? What a horrifying God demands all that? Do we really want rules that create such a sadistic, hopeless, heartless world with its roots in bigotry?
With a following paragraph I want to conclude: everything we do is better to do with love, no matter how small, or how insignificant we think it is. We cannot measure love. Loving attitude is better than purity of any kind, no matter how big the latter one is. Love is a higher principle than purity. Purity is a serious impediment and becomes a goal in itself, which is a sad truth in all spiritual practices today and of antiquity. Purity is disgrace that denies our humanity, denies life, denies compassion. It always needs some ‘impurity’ to justify its sorrowful life, and thus it lives to find blemishes and spots in everything and everyone. It rules by fear, stops people to think and to feel outside its boundaries. It has nothing to do with spiritual, or life affirming. Quite the opposite — it’s life denying.
But if I said it just like that, without any elaboration, who’d believe me a word?
– Zvonimir Tosic