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Living Wild

“I am at home in the entire universe.” -Swami Nirmalananda, the anarchist swami who lived in peace deep in the wild forests of South India

Tompkins Square Park is near where I live on 7th Street in the Lower East Side of NYC. In the middle of the park there is the famous tree where, in the 1960’s after arriving in the United States, Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada first chanted the Hare Krishna mantra. Lots of pigeons and other smaller birds often can be seen gathering together around the base of that tree, sometimes several hundred. One day as I was walking toward the tree, I saw many birds walking and quietly pecking at the ground. A group of three or four children came rushing by me towards the birds, screaming and laughing. They ran at full tilt, right into the peaceful demonstration. Of course, the birds, alarmed and frightened, flew off immediately, circled around overhead and landed again this time in another place not far off. The kids took off towards them with the same intent to disrupt and cause havoc. I turned to see who I assumed were the parents, who giggled and said, “They’ve been cooped up all day at school how can you blame them for wanting to go wild?”

Is wildness synonymous with the freedom to do what ever you want, to whomever you want, whenever you want? Contrary to popular belief, to be wild is not to be selfish, chaotic and unorganized. If one observes wild beings in a wild environment you will see that orderly co-existence among all is the norm. To be wild is to be anarchistic-where one’s actions are derived from the essential transcendental Self. That Self is the same in all beings. It is what holds us together and connects us to each other. To be an anarchist is to be ruled by the Self-to live your life so as to enhance the lives of others -even to enhance the world and perhaps even the greater universe. To be an anarchist is to know oneself as one with all of life-all animals, plants, water, even the sun, moon and stars. The laws dictated by the Self are the natural harmonious laws of love. The Self is described by the yogic texts as satchidananda-ultimate existence, knowledge and bliss-this happiness is our true nature.

Civilized ordinary people are kept apart from the deep joys that living a wild, free and fully engaged life offers; instead they live in fear-fear of others. So governments with laws and militaries and police forces are employed to protect the people from the people-human people that is. Certainly man-made laws cannot be read by wild animals like wolves or bears, because they aren’t written in a language that any wild being can understand; laws are meant for human beings, who have forgotten the universal laws of nature. A yogi is someone who has moved away from the laws of civilized life, which justify the exploitation of others, and is trying to live by the laws of nature. The path of renunciation involves self-discipline in order to become freed from the man-made restraints imposed upon the Self. As poet Gary Snyder suggests, “You first must be on the path, before you can turn and walk into the wild.”

When engaged in the disciplines of yoga the practitioner transforms. A dramatic alchemy is undergone, which changes a person from a cultured, civilized, hypnotized robot into a cosmic being wild and free. As they drop the superficial, artificial restraints imposed by culture’s attempt to tame and urbanize, the yogi is actually able to reclaim wildness from within. All of our man-made achievements are just tiny reflections gleaned from a glimpse of the vast intelligence and organizing principles inherent in the wild universe. Perhaps we should be more humble in our relationship with what is wild instead of taking a stance of arrogance and dominance-attempting to harness and lord over others.

A realized yogi is not bound by the false fences and demarcations constructed by prejudiced minds which insist on differences. A true yogi has equanimity of mind and is able to, as the Bhagavad Gita describes, perceive a lump of clay, a stone or a nugget of gold as the same (BG VI.8). When the shackles of religion, nationalism, racism, sexism, and speciesism are broken, one is released from a thousand year prison sentence and able to walk as a cosmopolitan citizen-a citizen of the cosmos-no longer taking pride in the things that separate us from each other, like the confining traditions of language, sex, dress and diet. A yogi moves comfortably as a free spirit easily through walls-those physically constructed as well as those mentally constructed. When one is truly filled with joy, no boundaries can contain them. They live as a friend to all, independent-dependent on no one in particular, as they find their sustenance at the eternal flowing fountain which sustains and nourishes all-God’s radiant Love. A yogi lives wild in the light of love.

-Sharon Gannon

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