Calmness in the Face of Grave Injustice


What is the best way to remain non-judgemental, calm, and composed even when we see grave injustice?

—Mary, Chennai


Dear Mary,

While I do not know specifically what “grave injustice” you might be referring to, there is a difference between righeous indignation and anger or upset.

As Arjuna conducted his part in the battle of Kurukshetra and as Jesus drove the moneychangers from the temple in Jerusalem with a whip, and as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King expressed with great force their campaigns for social justice, there is a place, in principle, for responding with great energy.

For most people, however, the injustices we rail against are not part of our own daily life. Most are if not powerless to effect change are, at best, unwilling to commit their life’s energies to helping.

You see it always comes down what my particular duty (dharma) is in my life. If I am Mahatma Gandhi, injustice was a call to action and great self-sacrifice, even unto death. But few of us have that situation or that dharma in our lives.

Therefore, I am going to assume that what you are describing is injustice of a type that is not immediate or compelling you to action in your own life?

If I am correct in this assumption (and a great many yogi-devotee friends feel upset by the injustices and exploitation in this world), I would offer to you the counsel I have heard from saints down through the ages.

Starting, then, with Jesus Christ: his compassion for the downtrodden is well established. Yet, it was he who said” Ye have the poor always, but me ye have not always.” What did he mean by that? Surely he didn’t mean we shouldn’t help those in need of material assistance? No, what he meant is that the purpose of our creation is first, to love God with heart, mind, soul and strength; and, then, second: to love our neighbor as our Self.

Our first duty in life is to establish contact with God or the divine within us. Then, having done so, to channel that light, wisdom, and compassion out into the world.

When the world’s injustices “get the goat of our inner peace,” then we need to go back within the temple of peace of meditation. What can be more odd than a peace protester becoming angry or violent?

Inner peace, therefore, should be our highest priority. Peace nurtures wisdom, and wisdom draws God’s blessings and strength.

Ananda Moyi Ma once commented on the same issue when she said, in effect, “Don’t you think that God, who has made this world, knows what to do with it?” What she is essentially saying is that we should understand that the nature of this world is that injustice and ignorance exist. To combat it we must find wisdom, first. That wisdom tells us that the solution is God-consciousness.

Whatever good we can do in the world with the consciousness of God will have some effect but the world wasn’t created by God for us to save it. We should try to improve it, knowing, however, that good and evil will exist so long as ignorance persists.

Krishna’s counsel to Arjuna in the Bhagavad Gita, moreover, is that it is better to fail at our own personal dharma (right action) then to succeed at someone else’s. We must therefore act in this world according to what will help us to grow spiritually. That might, or might not, include working for social justice. It might mean taking care of our children; or, working in a factory with joy and light. Who can say? This world is an infinity of rays of light, activities, personalities, skills and yes, suffering and evil.

Why run off trying to save the world from itself if, by so doing, we lose our soul in the effort (because of anger, upset and anxiety)?

As Swami Kriyananda would sometimes express this: This is God’s dream. We must play our part in it, but we mustn’t think we are solely responsible for it. Good and evil vie enclessly for supremacy but in a world of duality this battle will go on forever, so long as the cosmos remains in manifestation!

I make it a point, for example, to limit my exposure to news. I don’t watch televsion. Yes, I keep up in my own way but world or national news that isn’t real to my daily life I cannot ascribe a high priority nor, more importantly, will I allow it to make me upset. I will pray for those hurt and sometimes make donations for charitable relief. Well, but that’s my life and my dharma is serving God through Ananda.

So, make your peace with God through meditation, devotion, and selfless service to God through your family, your neighbors, your gurubhais, your community. Be at peace in yourself. If you are inspired to wage a dharmic crusade on behalf of justice, then do so as warrior of peace, not anger; blessings, not hatred.

Joy to you,

Nayaswami Hriman