Have you noticed any recent disruptions? Protests, riots, statues being demolished, old systems being challenged, and some even being destroyed It can appear chaotic at times, and it is. This can be frightening and upsetting.
When I was in India studying to be a meditation teacher I kept noticing the many tall statues of Shiva, a deity known as ‘the destroyer’. At first, I was struck by this but during the training, I learned why it was that there was such deep respect and reverence in the culture for a ‘deity’ who represented a disruptive and destructive force.
As part of the studies, I was exposed to a philosophy known as the Vedas, which is one of the most ancient bodies of wisdom spanning over 5000 years. One of the tenets of Vedic philosophy is the recognition that evolution consists of three forces: creative (represented by Brahma), maintenance (Vishnu), and destruction (Shiva). These three forces are considered not only equally relevant but also, at varying times, essential, which explains why Shiva was so highly revered for the important part it plays in the evolutionary process.
So, what is evolution?
One of the definitions of evolution in Dictionary.com is that it is, a process of gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development, as in social or economic structure or institutions.
Change and progress towards a more unified, harmonised and connected society are essential under what seems to be a Universal Law. Some schools of thought, embraced by the likes of philosophers Aristotle and St Thomas Aquinas, call this a Natural Law. An in-depth article on Natural Law Tradition in Ethics, in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy, states that “All human beings possess a basic knowledge of the principles of the natural law”, as it refers to ideas and moral codes for living a good life and contributing to a good society.
We know that when Natural Law reigns supreme, there is greater unity and connection, which leads to greater harmony. What exactly do we mean by harmony? Again, referring to Dictionary.com for this, one of the descriptions refers to harmony as, ‘a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts’.
However, this process of evolution toward greater harmony can become stalled at times, usually due to some dogma or conditioning that causes a blockage in the process. It can be from a social construct that gets embedded deep into a society’s psyche and becomes very hard to shake off or change. As described in the Vedas, this is when the destructive, evolutionary force known as Shiva steps in to help dislodge the blockage so that “gradual, peaceful, progressive change or development” may continue.
Some of my most painful and turbulent times in life have also been some of my most significant moments of progress. I could have avoided the intense moments of turbulence that forced me out of my patterns if I had been more adaptable and less resistant to change, but because I wasn't, the apparent chaos had to happen. Yes, it was dark, painful, confusing and heavy. Looking back, though, it was what had to happen so that I could experience “progressive change”.
Change and evolution must take precedence. We don't get to choose that as a species. What we can choose is whether it is through Brahma, the creative force, or Shiva, the destructive force—this is where we have a variable and a choice.
So here we are, in what could be a watershed moment in history with the potential to result in an evolutionary leap towards a more ‘pleasing arrangement of parts’. Does it need riots, protests and anger to overturn hundreds of years of oppression, inequality, injustice and division? It looks like it does. Yes, some might want things to be how they were, to go back to the ‘good old days, but this isn’t the way evolution works.
There appear to be some glimpses of progressive change emerging from the apparent chaos and disruption. For example, the virus that has engulfed us in fear until now has a vaccine. The world is gradually progressing and adapting through this pandemic. Are we there yet? Heck no! There is a long way to go.
But it’s a start, and if we want to move towards a peaceful, harmonious society some big shifts are going to have to take place that may challenge some deep cultural, political and social ‘systems’. And again, it can be done peacefully if we adapt and change, or it can occur through turbulence if there is resistance. Keep making noise, keep rattling cages, keep pushing for a 'consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts' in whatever way we can, with harmony, unity, and peace as the end goal.