Editor’s Note: This article first appeared shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
Q. What do you feel is the single most important thing people can do to help the world crisis?
A. I feel that the single greatest lack in world consciousness today is love for God. When people’s love for the Lord grows tepid, nothing goes right for them. As the poet Francis Thompson wrote in “The Hound of Heaven”: “All things forsake thee, who forsakest Me.”
Q. You have said that if we meet hatred with anger, and bigotry with intolerance, we take onto ourselves the same emotions that were responsible for this disaster. Yet you have also said that no scripture on earth counsels spinelessness, and that our duty is to act firmly, even sternly, to prevent evil from spreading. What kind of behavior would be necessary to eradicate these evils?
A. In a universe ruled by relativity, one must learn to act appropriately in many relatively contrary circumstances. The important thing is not to be centered in those circumstances, but in ourselves.
We needn’t adopt the violent attitudes of some of those with whom we may have to deal, just as we needn’t become greedy when dealing with greedy people, or petty-minded when dealing with selfish people. Our own attitude when dealing with others should be centered in our own higher Self—in our ideals. We must learn to be practical in our idealism. In the need to control outward violence in others, we can focus on protecting the innocent rather than on responding with anger, hatred, and kindred violence in our own hearts toward those who do wrong.
Q. Given the current situation, do you believe a non-violent movement like Gandhi led would be possible for the United States and world leaders?
A. Non-violence is not a passive principle. If the people and their leaders—and no leader can do more than the people led by him will accept—are not prepared to understand and to adopt non-violence as Gandhi did, in a dynamic way, it would be mere passivity and would amount to cowardice. Moreover, the power of non-violence must be greater than the power of violence it opposes. Is it realistic to think that it can be?
The only solution for nations—I don’t say for individuals—is to use common sense. The best they can reasonably expect when meeting evil is to control it without adopting its attitudes of anger and hatred.
Q. People want peace; they fear the ruthless destructiveness of war. As we enter the new millennium, what new ways of thinking and being will help us to have the peace we all long for?
A. By recognizing that peace is a state of mind, not a mere absence of armed hostilities. It is a product of outer harmony among people, which, in turn, is a product of inner harmony in human beings. Such harmony is impossible to achieve so long as people center their lives in desires and material greed.
Q. If you could counsel the American president and world leaders as they make their decisions on the “war against terrorism,” what kind of advice would you offer?
A. I would concentrate on urging them always to act from idealistic and generous motives, but realistically. It would show poor understanding of true generosity to be generous toward the terrorists while ignoring—indeed, while not paying even far greater attention—to the world’s need for protection from acts of outrage.
To act firmly in the name of truth, one must remember that kindness is a harmonious expression of truth, whereas brutality isn’t. There are times when a doctor must hurt patients in order to make them well. If his focus is on hurting them, he is a bad doctor. And if his focus is on inflicting no pain, he is a bad doctor. He must be impersonal, but kind in his long-range intentions. By focusing on that thought of kindness, while being practical about what has to be done, he will do the greatest good.
Q. What do you believe will win this war?
A. God alone can win it through people who are committed to doing His will.
Q. People pray in many different ways. What suggestions would you offer to those needing help in knowing what to pray for?
A. They should pray, not that their own will be done, but that God’s will be done. And they should ask to be used as His instruments.
Q. What words from the ancient teachings of yoga and Self-realization would you draw on at this time to offer students of yoga a perspective on how they can help?
A. The words of Krishna in the Bhagavad Gita say it best: “nishkam karma”—desireless action. Act without personal desire, without a thought to “What’s in it for me? but rather, only, “What’s right?”
Q. Why do so many people feel so helpless in the current situation?
A. I think their feeling is most understandable! How does one fight with shadows? There is a way, however: Shine so strong a light that shadows cease to exist.
Q. Many people have commented on the unity that people in the United States and the world are beginning to feel through this crisis. What is your dream of how the world could become through these events?
A. I have written a three-act play called “The Peace Treaty.” In that play, the people of the concerned nations realize that peace must come from their own desire for it, and not from selfish ambition or passive dependence on their leaders. Peace will come when people determine to take charge of their own lives, and not wait for others to make every crucial decision for them.