Are We Seeing the Social Change—Revolution—That Yogananda Spoke of?


I remember reading that Paramahansaji said that there would be a revolution. My intuition tells me that these riots are what he was referring to. Does your intuition tell you the same?

—Candice , United States


Dear Candice,

You may indeed be correct. What I’ve been saying to friends is that we can expect increasing levels of social unrest: perhaps triggered unexpectedly and suddenly by events that may or may not seem to justify the response. And why is that?

While I don’t think there ever really was a homogenous thing called “an American” (white, Anglo-Saxon etc.), we can certainly see by direct experience supported by statistics that our nation has steadily become more diverse in every way imaginable. After all, this is America’s destiny in the world: leading the way into future centuries wherein all races and nations commingle.

This diversity, especially now during its initial stages, is messy because our diversity lacks a shared experience or shared values. Polarization and conflict seem to steadily increase. Just when—at last—our nation elected a president of color in 2008, that person was besieged by waves of disdain and hatred, and all his efforts to govern were thwarted by prejudice, fear, and envy.

In time we will emerge a culture and maybe even, to paraphrase Mahatma Gandhi’s wry reply, a civilization—”What do you think of western civilization?” He replied, “I think it would be a good idea”—but only after great upheavals that could require not just years but decades. The more intense the upheaval and shared suffering, the quicker we’ll get through it.

But for now, various “tribes” of color, religion, political persuasion, and ethnicity are squared off, preparing for battle. The “blessed peacemakers” are mobilizing haltingly. Confused as to whether to be angry, even violent, or in support of harmony, and not schooled or disciplined in the inner change that Gandhi required of his followers (or even that Martin Luther King, Jr. attempted also to do for his supporters), nor in the specific tactics of non-violent protest, social unrest is going to be messy.

Martin Luther King, Jr. once stated that Black people in America, having suffered in the way that they have, are uniquely positioned for future leadership, because suffering can be the basis for moral courage, compassion and wisdom. I pray that this be so, for it seems true to me; Barack Obama was a test case, but not quite the right one; his very intelligence and dispassion seemed to fuel fires of hatred and jealousy.

So, yes, I do feel we are on a track wherein the early stages of a revolution are being seen. While Yogananda’s comments were in the context of a revolution by the people against the tyranny of their government and that certainly will be part of it, I would like to believe, based on other statements of his and general expectations as well, that the real revolution will take place by a change (awakening) in consciousness, meaning sympathy, compassion and “love thy neighbor as thy Self.”

Generally speaking, political revolutions based only on conflict and desire for supremacy result in another status quo; “The more things change, the more things stay the same.” Let us hope that whatever revolution Yogananda intuited is more than this kind of revolution.

Let us, therefore, deepen our commitment to the path of Self-realization wherein our consciousness is purified and uplifted towards ego-transcendence and the willingness to endure unearned hardship and persecution for the sake of the divine plan of spiritual awakening. Band with others of like mind to stand up and be counted. Serve the oppressed as your circumstances and dharma suggest. Speak up for God, goodness, faith, hope and charity!

Nayaswami Hriman