Many people yearn for the time when we will finally be freed from the curse of warfare. Unfortunately, however, wars will continue until the mass consciousness of the world changes and the majority of people no longer want conflict.

Most people, including world leaders, respond to conflict by striking back—two eyes for an eye, a bomb for a bullet. But, as we have too often seen, killing “enemies” produces no lasting peace; it only sows seeds for further conflict. Paramhansa Yogananda said that world peace would be achieved only by raising the overall consciousness of mankind.

Negative patterns in the consciousness of mankind cause not only warfare but also disease, natural disasters, global warming and similar problems. Paramhansa Yogananda said that the devastating influenza epidemic in the 1920s was a result of the conflict and suffering of World War I. The human distress caused by the war attracted the low vibration of germs, which killed twenty million people—twice as many as the war itself.

The quality of our consciousness

The Bhagavad Gita tells us that our consciousness is shaped by three different vibrations, or gunas—tamo, rajo, and sattwa. Tamoguna, the darkening, downward-pulling quality reduces awareness to a dull and contracted state. That part of your nature that wants to push challenges away, that wants to avoid putting out energy, or that sees other people as the problem reflects the influence of tamoguna.

Rajoguna, the activating quality, which puts things into motion and creates desire, can be influenced in either a downward or upward direction. Rajasic energy influenced by the downward pull of tamoguna is “ego-active”—energetic but in a self-focused, greedy, insular way. When rajoguna is influenced upward toward sattwa guna, it produces what Swami Kriyananda calls the “truth-seeking vibration.” People are focused more on helping others or improving the world. The work of Mother Theresa in India was a perfect example of this kind of consciousness.

As gradually this truth-seeking tendency becomes more refined, it brings us into alignment with sattwa guna, the elevating quality. With the pure sattwa, you have no personal desires. All you want is unity with God and to be a channel for the Divine. This is the consciousness of a jivan mukta or free soul. Anyone whose energy is predominantly sattwic will be a light to the world.

The downward pull of tamoguna

The Yugas — Kali, Dwapara, Treta, and Satya — are also expressions of the three gunas. Our planetary system goes through a 24,000-year cycle during which the earth moves closer to the center of the galaxy (from which uplifting (sattwa guna) vibrations emanate) and then farther away into more tamoguna energy.

The latest low point in this cycle was reached in Kali Yuga around 500 AD, a time when barbarians burned libraries and tore down civilizations. We are now advancing into Dwapara Yuga and there is less of the heavy tamoguna energy. Unfortunately, we have not gone as far as we would like to think.

The predominant energy in the world today is rajoguna being drawn downward by the pull of tamoguna. As a result, the majority of people in the world still have an ego-active nature —the type of nature which creates conflict.

Three approaches to stopping conflict

With this background, we come to the question: how, in today’s world, can we end warfare? There are three major approaches to stopping conflict, whether personal or global.

The first strategy is to do nothing and hope things improve on their own. This often seems to work because the world is always in flux. Imagine having an argument and, instead of trying to resolve the underlying feelings, you wait for your, or the other person’s, mood to change. Then you think, “Well, that seemed to work,” and you become conditioned to waiting for time to change things.

A second, much better, strategy is to neutralize the negative energy by radiating the opposing positive quality—peace neutralizes conflict, love counters hatred.

The third and most effective strategy is to expand your consciousness and invite God to be your partner.

Will time change things?

Trying to “wait it out” is not an effective way to end war in our lifetime because world-time moves so slowly.

The masters say that warfare will not end during Dwapara Yuga because ego-active people will continue to choose violence as a means of resolving differences. Even positive initiatives for global improvements (the U.N. or efforts to reduce global warming) are largely nullified by ego-active infighting.

According to the masters, warfare will not permanently end until well into Treta Yuga, which doesn’t start for another 2,000 years or so. During that truth-seeking age, the most highly evolved people are able to read the minds of others, an ability which promotes understanding and positive solutions, and even the least evolved people will have empathy and compassion for others.

Moving upward very slowly

Warfare is absent in Satya Yuga, the highest age, when people perceive Spirit as the underlying reality, uniting everyone and everything. There is a story about the avatar-king, Rama, reputed to have lived during Satya Yuga, which highlights the vast differences between that age and our own.

Rama sent out a counselor to assess the state of the kingdom. Reporting back, the counselor said: “Everything is wonderful–very harmonious! But in one far-flung village, I heard a fishmonger and his wife arguing.”

Rama replied sadly, “That’s the beginning of the end of this age.”

Obviously, the world has descended a long way from the highest age and is going back up very, very slowly.

Neutralize the energy you don’t like

The second strategy, neutralizing negative energy by radiating the opposite, produces more lasting changes. But in our relatively unenlightened age, it is hard for a minority of people to put out enough positive energy to change world consciousness.

Buckminster Fuller, the designer of the geodesic dome and an icon of the hippy era, made this same point at an anti-war peace rally during the Vietnam era:

If you think that you’re going to stop warfare by little gatherings like this and running around chanting slogans, you’re sadly mistaken. There is a military industrial complex that employs millions of people and spends billions of dollars every year. And if you want to stop that, you have to match that kind of energy.

Determination and spiritual power

Each of us, one person out of billions of people throughout the world, finds it difficult to effect a level of change that will have any lasting impact. But we can, and must, create localized vortices of peace and harmony.

How much our efforts will affect the world depends on the amount of energy, determination, and spiritual power flowing through us. A saint or master, having realized his unity with the omnipresent Christ Consciousness, has enormous power to influence minds. Paramhansa Yogananda’s teachings, for example, have uplifted millions of people throughout the world.

As you raise your consciousness and become less ego-bound, you are able to become a positive influence on those around you in ever-widening circles. Changing world consciousness thus begins in your own heart, with your own spiritual search.

The practice of peace to counter warfare

There are certain practices recommended by Yogananda which can improve conditions now. First of all, you need to establish a state of peace in yourself, which requires calming your mind and developing a certain amount of detachment. For this, daily meditation is essential. When you finish meditating, try to hold on to a state of inner peace for as long as possible.

Build a bridge of calmness between your meditation time and your daily activities, holding onto that calmness in everything you do. Throughout the day, practice peace through your interactions with other people, always relating as if you are seeing God in that person, and keeping in mind that only God exists.

A power that changes things

Prayer is another very important practice. While uplifted in meditation, pray for the world. Visualize the people around you, the nation, the globe, and all leaders being bathed in blue light and cooling peace.

Prayer and visualization bring into play a divine power that can radically change things. Our healing prayer ministry at Ananda Village has received hundreds of letters of gratitude and testimonials about the effectiveness of prayer.

World peace will spread one person at a time. It begins with your own spiritual search and uplifted consciousness. Act as an agent of uplifted consciousness and infect others with sattwa guna. Let God’s light flow through you into the dark corners of the world.

An earlier version of this article appeared in Clarity Magazine, Winter 2007 Related reading: Hope for a Better World! The Small Communities Solution by Swami Kriyananda


  1. Every day, I hear ever more horror stories about this world’s never-ending conflicts, and I must admit, after 60+ years, it has become pretty demoralizing. You have confirmed my sinking realization that these wars and skirmishes will not be ending soon. B. Fuller’s quote was especially depressing: however much sattwic energy we in the minority send out, it is puny indeed compared to the vast resources that power the war machine. I feel myself being sucked into tamoguna, resigned to living in an alien world of hate, greed and conflict, with no power to stop them nor any desire to join in the madness. But thanks, anyway, for reminding me to keep up my spiritual practices; they may not save the world, but at least they prevent me from falling to the bottom. (In my next life, perhaps I’ll be lucky enough to abide in a community like Ananda. How lovely that would be!)

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