Printed in Timeline (www.globalcommunity.org) by Will Keepin who is president of the Satyana Institute in Boulder, Colorado, a provisional set of "principles of spiritual leadership." These are neither definitive nor authoritative… but rather the beginning of a collective inquiry into how we can apply spiritual teachings in social change work.
First: The first principle is that the motivation underlying our activism for social change must be transformed from anger and despair to compassion and love. This is a major challenge for the environmental movement, for example. It is not to deny the legitimacy of noble anger or outrage at injustice of any kind. Rather, we seek to work for love, rather than against evil. We need to adopt compassion and love as our foundational intention, and do whatever inner work is required to implement this intention. Even if our outward actions remain the same, there is a major difference in results if our underlying intention supports love rather than defeating evil. The Dalai Lama says, "A positive future can never emerge from the mind of anger and despair."
Second: The second principle is a classical spiritual tenet, though challenging to practice. It is the principle of nonattachment to outcome. To the extent that we are attached to the results of our work, we rise and fall with our success and failures, which is a path to burnout. Failures are inevitable, and successes are not the deepest purpose of our work. This requires a deepening of faith in the intrinsic value of our work-beyond the concrete results. To the extent that our actions are rooted in pure intention, they have a reverberation far beyond the concrete results of the actions themselves. As Gandhi emphasized, "The victory is in the doing," not the outcome. In our workshops, we have had several environmental leaders react strongly to this principle. As one lawyer put it, "How can I possibly go into court and not be attached to the outcome? You bet I care who wins and who loses! If I am not attached to the outcome, I'll just get bulldozed!" His words underscore the poignant challenge of implementing these principles in practice. Yet he keeps coming back to our retreats, and he actively seeks ways to love his adversaries. He acknowledged that, although it is difficult to love some of his adversaries, one way he can do it is to love them for creating the opportunity for him to become a strong voice for truth and protection of the natural environment.
Third: The third principle is that your integrity is your protection. The idea here is that if your work has integrity that will tend to protect you from negative circumstances. For example, there are practices for making yourself invisible to the negative energy that comes toward you in adversarial situations. It's a kind of psychic aikido, where you internally step out of the way of negative energy, and you make yourself energetically transparent so it passes right through you. But this only works if your work is rooted in integrity.
Fourth: The fourth principle is related to the third: the need for unified integrity in both means and ends. Integrity in means cultivates integrity in the fruit of one's work; you cannot achieve a noble goal using ignoble means. Some participants in our workshops engage regularly in political debates, testimony, and hearings. We have them experimenting with consciousness techniques for transmuting challenging energy into compassion and love-right there in the hearing room. Early indications are that this is helpful in defusing charged psychological situations, and reducing tension in heated debates.
Fifth: The fifth principle is don't demonize your adversaries. People respond to arrogance with their own arrogance, which leads to polarization. The ideal is to constantly entertain alternative points of view so that you move from arrogance to inquiry, and you then have no need to demonize your...