Critical Dharma for Thinking Minds
I’ve discovered this fantastic collection of rare and unknown jazz gems compiled by Jazzman Records UK called ‘Spiritual Jazz.’ There are nine volumes of Spiritual Jazz compilations, and I vow to listen to them all. Jazz teaches me so much about the dharma.
Jazzman Records Liner Notes:
Here we evaluate Spiritual Jazz – music that is a snapshot of the era after Coltrane, a time which saw the evolution of an underground jazz that spoke about the reform of the soul, the reform of the spirit, and the reform of society: a music which was local and international at once, which was a personal journey and a political statement, and which was religious and secular in one non-contradictory breath. Soul Jazz – Black Jazz – Spiritual Jazz.
I’m starting to reconsider what is “political” vs. what is “spiritual.” [Maybe it’s becuase of the project I’m working on, namely my dissertation, which asks the question “what is political?”] Who’s to say that a spiritual group is not ‘political’? Just as who’s to say that a political group is not ‘spiritual’? It’s time to dig behind the false categorizations and see that the political and spiritual are different facets of a multi-faceted collective experience. These days, we are so estranged, isolated and separated by race, ideology, media and technology, that even getting together as a spiritual group is itself a political act. And getting together as a coalition of differences to act for the good of all is also a spiritual act. Acting collectively for the good of people and the earth is both a political and spiritual act. I don’t know, but did I finally make some kind of a breakthrough here?
Does the ‘political’ necessarily require opposition? conflict? use of force? power? Does it necessarily require an enemy? an ‘us’ and a ‘them’? Does it necessarily require ‘calling out’ or ‘calling in’? Is simply getting together and supporting each other’s deepest aspirations not also political? and spiritual?
We have to break through the false dichotomy that what is political is necessarily about ‘contests’, ‘winning’, ‘defeating’ and other terms in the art of war. We have to see that while the ‘political’ does include voicing our differences and working through conflict, it doesn’t require inflicting pain on the ‘other side’, excluding and imposing violent language or actions on the ‘other’. While the ‘political’ does include exposing hidden agendas and power imbalances, and challenging forms of domination, it also includes working toward mutual empowerment. This is not a politics of ‘winning’ and ‘losing’, but of openness, trust and exposure, a politics of vulnerability.
Likewise, the ‘spiritual’ is not the absence of the ‘political’. So long as our spiritual lives together require collective decision-making and action, it is also political. The ‘spiritual’ does not transcend the ‘political’. Ever. So long as the spiritual is in any sense collective, it is necessarily also a political act of self-governance. We have to see that simply being a people and acting together for the good of all is inherently both political and spiritual. We have to see that both ‘justice’ and ‘healing’ are both political and spiritual.
How can we make our spiritual groups more consciously political? How can we make our political groups more consciously spiritual? It seems to me that what is required is simply opening up the dialogue, getting honest and vulnerable with each other, and then making decisions and acting together for the good of all.
Is not acting collectively for the good of people and the earth both a political and a spiritual act? I think that’s how Dr. B. R. Ambedkar understood his form of political/spiritual Buddhism, the Navayana.