Radhanath Swamiji on how to create a common centre that we all agree on
United we stand, divided we fall. This sentence is simple, yet so deep. It conveys the critical importance of unity. But how to create that unityIJ How to create a common centre that we agree on in a world of such immense ego, competition, and diversityIJ This is a great challenge. Wherever there is unity, there is great power and strength to create a peaceful situation in society.
Swamiji explains “When things are unified, they are beautiful”. What makes music beautifulIJ Harmony. And what is harmonyIJ Unity. It’s not that the violin is playing one thing, and then the flute is playing whatever he wants, and the drums are playing whatever they want, and the guitar is playing whatever he wants. When there is harmony and when all the voices are trying to make one voice —not that “I’m heard,” but “we’re all heard” — that harmony creates such beauty and such musical talent. All the instruments are trying to combine to make one sound.
Similarly in architecture, when there is structural construction and every beam is depending on every other beam for its strength, that is unity. There has to be harmony and balance in the design and in the structure. And in a machine, if every part of the machine is not working together in harmony with every other part, there is a breakdown.
However, this unity is difficult because negative energy and its influence is terrorising the world and shackling it to evil qualities. It is so easy to find faults with others. No expert person likes to work under somebody. If there is slight disagreement, people no longer want to work together. There is no more united effort, and everyone wants to be an independent master. Yet we see in the example of the five Pandava brothers that even though all were individually very powerful and competent, they were always together. All of them followed the instructions of the eldest brother Yudhisthira. Despite any diversity of opinion, they all agreed and were united on a higher principle.
Whether you read theGita, the Old Testament, the New Testament, or any other scripture, we find there is one God. And that one God is the father and mother of all living entities. We are all children. This is reality. This is a universal principle. And we show our love for our father by how we treat our brothers and sisters. No matter how many gifts you give to your father and mother, if you punch your brother in the face, will they be pleased with your giftsIJ No. The gifts that you offer them will be meaningful when they’re offered with love, and that love is expressed by understanding their heart. They love all their children, and there is nothing greater for a mother and father than seeing unity, love, and trust among their children.
All living entities are part and parcel of the Supreme; all are children of the same source.The absolute truth is from whom everything emanates. We are all spiritual. We are all part of God; we are all brothers and sisters. If your sister has a disease, do you hate your sister or do you hate the diseaseIJ You hate the disease, but as a symptom of love you feel compassion for your sister. There are people acting in crazy, violent and unethical ways, but deep within their heart is the atma or soul, which is pure, part of God and our brother or sister. A person who understands the self can have no ego; there can be no hatred toward anyone. There can only be love in such a person, as well as compassion for those who are unfortunate. That is knowledge of the truth. We are all part of God, and when we develop inner awareness of our relationship with the supreme, we naturally see every living entity in connection to that relationship. That is inner unity extending to create unity within the world.
We find according to the scriptures that the greatest power of those who are learned and realised is the power of love and the power of forgiveness. We take so many little things and all of our differences so seriously because we are not aware of our oneness. Oneness does not mean that we are all just one homogeneous, impersonal substance. Our oneness is in our common relationship with the supreme object of all love or God. To understand and realise that oneness creates unity in diversity.
The scriptures advise us to cultivate inner awareness of the supreme and understand what God wants of us. And actively and dynamically live and work in this world with that basic foundational experience in our heart.
There is an inner disunity within all of our hearts. The mind is the battlefield and the dualities of life are always competing with one another. From the spiritual platform, while working in this world to do good we must simultaneously actually realise the art of love and of yoga — to be united in body, mind, and soul with God. Then we can express that inner knowledge, inner love and inner compassion in everything we do.
And in unity not only as nations, not only as races, not only as families, but even within religion.The more we expand this principle of compassion, the greater service we can do to society. There is nationalism and then there is humanitarianism — that means for all human beings. But that is limited too. The greatest compassion is for every living entity — even for the animals and fish and birds in the sky — to see the unity we have with all of them. We can even see unity with the trees and the plants as we are all part of God. We can show our love for God by how we respect, how we serve, and how we love each other. The greatest necessity is to create a very deep form of real unity. The unity of inner compassion born of unity between the soul and God is the greatest strength on earth.
We are all inconceivably, simultaneously one and different from God, being one in quality with God. We are sat-cit-ananda — eternal, full of knowledge, and full of bliss. And God is sat-cit-anandaalso. But we are a fragmental particle and God is the supreme whole. The oneness between the soul and God is in oneness of love and being inconceivably, simultaneously one with one another. We are of the same quality; we are of the same origin. We are all brothers and sisters on the spiritual platform, but have forgotten that due to ego, envy and illusion. There must be a cleansing of these unwanted things so that we can realise the actual oneness despite all the diversity amongst ourselves. We can then be well-wishers, humble and forgiving.
love means sacrifice. love means service. As long as we have an individual, personal, egoistic desire to enjoy, there is going to be conflict. As long as we think, “I am the enjoyer and I am the proprietor,” that conception will create so much potential conflict with any other living being, even our own family members. How many family members divorce and how many family members are fighting in courts over propertyIJ The scriptures teach the unifying peace principle — to understand that God is the proprietor and enjoyer of everything, and we are all meant to work together for that purpose. So, if we really want to make a significant difference in this world, then we must be united on the basis of truth.
The art of loving creates unity which has unlimited spiritual strength, and that is the greatest need in the world today. Each one of us can make such a difference if we become humble, if we develop a service attitude rather than an exploitative attitude, if we develop a broad mind to see the oneness and to learn to love all living beings. What a difference each one of us could make, and what a difference we could make if we are united on that principle.
The writer is an ISKCON spiritual leader