Can Vedic Dharma Bring Peace to the World?
By Stephen Knapp
The gifts and contributions to society that can be traced to Vedic Dharma are many. One of the most popular these days is yoga. The benefits of yoga are both individual and social, various and numerous. On the mental level it strengthens concentration, determination, and builds a stronger character that can more easily reduce and cope with various tensions in the material world. The assortment of asanas or postures also provide stronger health and keeps ills such as diabetes, high and low blood pressure, etc., away or in check. It improves physical strength, endurance, flexibility, back pain, digestive disorders, and arthritis. It promotes detoxification of the body, toning of muscles, and relief from stress and anxiety. Certain diseases can be prevented or improved by performing yoga on a daily basis.
When you progress in yoga, you can feel the unwanted burdens of the mind fall away, such as anxiety, anger, greed, envy, hate, discontent, etc. Then other qualities like peacefulness, tranquility, contentment, and blissfulness will be felt. These are qualities everyone is trying to find and are some of the many things that can be accomplished with yoga, at least on the elementary level. As you make further progress, you may enter into the deeper levels of understanding and transcending the mind and gradually go so far as to attain realizations as to what your own spiritual identity is and what your relationship is with the Absolute. Becoming free from material life and regaining one’s spiritual identity is the superior goal of all yoga.
As we progress in this way, we separate ourselves from the general vibrations of selfishness, greed, and anger that often pervade this planet. But we also contribute to the uplifting vibrations in the social or mass consciousness that this world so much needs these days. If we all can continue to work in this way, there could be a major shift in planetary consciousness for the upliftment of humanity for the greater good. Thus, our own spiritual progress becomes a positive influence on the whole planet, starting with our own small sphere of influence. This is how the Vedic Dharma goes from being an individual benefit to a positive social influence for peace and cooperation.
FACTORS THAT KEEP US APART
One of the main concerns in establishing peace, harmony and cooperation in this world is an old problem, mentioned in the Taoist text Chuang Tzu (11): "Men of this world all rejoice in others being like themselves, and object to others not being like themselves." One of the main reasons for this is that everyone acts under the influence of different bodily conceptions of life. This causes three of the inner enemies: envy, pride, and anger. Because of our bodily conception, we may become proud of who we are, envious of others, and angry over their apparent differences from us. Because of these diverse perceptions, people cannot act in harmony in this world. To act in harmony and unity, there must be a central focus.
Since everyone is actually a spiritual being, a soul within the material body, then accepting the body as oneself is an illusion. This illusion, the acceptance of the material body as ones real identity, causes a person to think "I am American," or "I am European," or "I am white," or black, or fat, or skinny. We may think this is my country, my family, my friends, my society, or my political party, and everyone else is different or wrong. But what is this consciousness of being American or Russian? A Republican or Democrat? Black or white? It is all illusion based on the impermanent identity of the ever-changing mind and body. It is the "I" and "My" consciousness. It creates a society in which people fight with each other because of the differences of the body and their identification with it. The whole world exists under this illusion. So how can there be peace? Even though government leaders talk about peace, and meet in peace conferences, there can be no peace as long as this misdirected consciousness continues.
When people are under the bodily concept of life, they do not know that their real self-interest is spiritual. Therefore, they try to adjust things materially, changing their situation, changing the way they look, changing their job, their government, or their living arrangement, or their neighborhood. They think such adjustments are the way to be happy and to improve their lives. These arrangements, however, are temporary. Sooner or later more changes will again be necessary if we live with this mindset.
Furthermore, leaders are doing the same thing. They try to change things through political, economic, or military adjustments. However, more often than not, it is merely guesswork, speculating on what strategy to use. Yet, the same problems, fighting, and antagonisms continue.
The United Nations in New York has been formed to try to calm this fighting so countries and people can work out their differences and work in unity. Instead, people often come together and blame or threaten each other. Unity has not been achieved. Actually, more flags are flying. More countries and borders have been established. Everyone has their own agenda. Disagreements between countries have increased. This brings the whole world into a deplorable state.
So, unless we have a central focus on the goal and identity of humanity, all talk of unity is merely utopian: It will never happen. As long as people act under the influence of thinking they are their bodies, born of a certain country, culture, religion, and loyal only to that particular identity, people will continue to fight like cats and dogs. No matter how much we desire peace between everyone so we can live in unity, as long as we are in this bodily concept of life, peace is not possible.
The only possibility of unity is in rising above the bodily platform of life and coming to the spiritual platform, the level of ultimate reality. Then there is a genuine possibility of unity on this planet because we can focus on the real identity of humanity as the uniting force among us all.
Therefore, one of the goals of human existence is to realize and enter that Reality. We need to be agents of Reality. This could also be called having spiritual vision.
HAVING SPIRITUAL VISION
So what does it mean to have a spiritual vision? To attain a spiritual vision, we need to follow the Dharmic process and rise above the bodily platform if we ever expect to reach a stage of permanent peace and unity. Even on an individual basis, real peace of mind can be attained only when one realizes that he or she is not the body. Otherwise, when you think you are your body you engage in the never-ending game of trying to satisfy your mind and senses, which always want new things for stimulation. The more you try to satisfy your senses, the more you will come under the control of lust, greed and anger. Lust is there when you want to satisfy your material desires. Greed is there when you want more than you need. Anger will always be there in some form when you fail to achieve what you want, or when you attain it but then lose it. The unmerciful masters of lust, greed and anger will never leave you alone. The only way you can achieve real peace of mind is by being free from your material desires, or at least most of them. That can only be possible when you realize you are not your body but the spirit soul within. And that is part of the essential process advocated in the Vedic spiritual tradition.
We find that the best sources for explaining the characteristics of what and who we really are, as the soul, are found in the ancient Vedic literature of India. Many such texts have information about this, but the great classic Bhagavad-gita (13.34) explains: "O son of Bharata, as the sun alone illuminates all this universe, so does the living entity, one within the body, illuminate the entire body by consciousness."
Another great verse compares the body to a chariot in which the self or the soul is riding. "Transcendentalists who are advanced in knowledge compare the body, which is made by the order of the Supreme Personality, to a chariot. The senses are like the horses; the mind, the master of the senses, is like the reins; the objects of the senses are the destinations; intelligence is the chariot driver; consciousness, which spreads throughout the body, is the cause of bondage in this material world." (Srimad-Bhagavatam 7.15.41)
So, naturally, until our consciousness is cleansed or spiritualized, we recognize various beings according to their body. We may see a person that appears to be a man, a woman, a child, or a baby. Or we may recognize those who appear to be animals, insects, aquatics, or plants. As long as our consciousness remains in this level, we are bound to continue living in this material world. However, once we can see beyond these material bodies, we will see that all these entities are the same. They are all spirit souls. No other tradition provides such clarity. Then we have a chance of understanding reality.
The Svetasvatara Upanishad (5.10-11) states that the self is not man, woman, nor neuter, but appears in different types of bodies only due to previous activities and desires of the living entity. This is how the entity chooses whatever status in which one presently appears. But a person in divine consciousness can perceive that he or she is beyond all material designations and activities.
As further explained in another of the ancient Vedic texts, the Sri Isopanishad (Mantras 6-7): "He who sees everything in relation to the Supreme Lord, who sees all entities as His parts and parcels and who sees the Supreme Lord within everything, never hates anything nor any being. One who always sees all living entities as spiritual sparks, in quality one with the Lord, becomes a true knower of things. What, then, can be illusion or anxiety for him?"
Only in this frame of mind or with this focus, will we be able to reach a stage of peace within ourselves individually and go on to attain peace in the world. This is what the world needs.
SEEING THE DIVINITY IN EACH OF US
This is why I have formed what I call the 11th commandment. The other commandments we hear about are but moralistic principles, but now is the time to add real transcendence to the equation, and this 11th Commandment is: "Thou shall recognize the Divinity in all living beings, and that the spirit in all forms of life is part of the Supreme Spirit." This is the way we need to recognize each other, which if applied properly, would create great social change.
Viewing it in another way, Morihei Ueshiba, the founder of the Aikido method of martial arts said: "Above all, one must unite one’s heart with that of the gods. The essence of God is love, an all-pervading love that reaches every corner of the universe. If one is not united to God, the universe cannot be harmonized. Martial artists who are not in harmony with the universe are merely executing combat techniques, not Aiki (Ai--uniting harmony and love with ki--the universal energy)."
This understanding is very important even in everyday life. If we are not working in harmony with love and universal energy, if we are not recognizing the Divinity in all living beings, we are simply going through daily routines that are ineffectual and empty of any spiritual value. We need to practice the methods which also awaken the connection we have with God, the universe, and each other. This is the way we can fully grow and develop. Then our life will have meaning and purpose. We will be guided by our own upliftment and will be able to assist in the upliftment of others. And we will be able to recognize the all-pervasiveness of the Supreme Being. This is the goal of yoga and the Dharmic spiritual process.
The essence of this perception again has been related in the ancient Vedic texts, as we find in the Svetasvatara Upanishad (6.11) which states, "He is the one God hidden in all beings, all pervading, the self within all beings, watching over all worlds, dwelling in all beings, the witness, and the perceiver." If one can truly understand this and become enlightened in this way, he will see that he is a part of the Supreme Reality and realize his union with all beings. Within that enlightenment one can reach Divine Love. This love is based on the spiritual oneness and harmony between all beings, which is sublime. It is a source of spiritual bliss. It is a love based not on bodily relations or mutual attraction, but it is based on being one in spirit, beyond the temporary nature of the material body. This is the love for which everyone searches, from which springs forth peace, harmony, and unity, of which all other kinds of love are but mere reflections. This state of being is reached through that spirituality as taught in the Dharmic traditions, especially in Bhakti-yoga. Therefore, a life without spirituality is a life incomplete. All have the need to fill their souls with spirituality, the presence of God, in order to feel fullness, peace, contentment, and unity.
To begin seeing how things really are, and to recognize the Divinity in each of us, we have to start adjusting our consciousness. This takes place by being trained in the Vedic spiritual knowledge and by the practice of yoga which purifies or spiritualizes the mind. When the mind becomes purified and the false ego no longer influences our vision, we become sensible people.
As the Bhagavad-gita (13.31-32) says, when a sensible man ceases to see different identities due to different material bodies, he attains the spiritual conception. Those with the vision of eternity see that the soul is transcendental, eternal, and beyond the modes of nature. Despite being within the material body, the soul is above material contact.
In this way, we can understand that all of us are but small reflections of the Supreme Consciousness. When we put the greater whole above ourselves, and realize that we all contribute to the condition of this planet, then uniting with a common cause and with that Supreme Consciousness will be easy.
This planet does not allow us to be isolated. We all must work together and interface with others on some level. One lesson that this school of existence on this planet forces us to learn is that when we come together willingly to communicate, with a positive purpose, or to pray together, and to unite for the good of the whole, then harmony and peace can exist. That peace forms and manifests when we focus on our spiritual nature, which brings between us our unity in the Supreme, as children of the same Supreme Father. Making this the center of our existence will easily bring peace, unity, and harmony in this world because it brings in the spiritual vibration that emanates from God. That vibration is one of spiritual love. It is all that is eternal. All else is temporary. All else comes and goes. Therefore, focusing on and using our energy on temporary emotions such as envy, jealousy, and anger, will only keep us far away from the Supreme, and from reaching any peace or unity between us.
We have to recognize how similar we are in order to expand our heart toward others whom we may have previously rejected. This is how love and understanding can dissolve the boundaries that keep us stifled as a society and individuals, and keep us from entering higher dimensions of consciousness. There is no other way to grow spiritually. A lack of love toward each other is a reflection of a lack of love for God, regardless of how religious a person poses to be.
When we think in spiritual consciousness, we do not recognize others by their differences, but we see our similarities. This is easy when we think in terms of being sons and daughters of the same Supreme Father, parts of His creation, and all sharing this world together. We all belong to the One, to God. Only in this way can there be universal love among all living entities. Only in this way can we begin to think that we are all related to each other. Once we establish our relationship with the Supreme, then we can establish our true relationship with everyone else.
Remember, our spiritual nature is eternal, and our spiritual relation with the Supreme is eternal. Therefore, our spiritual relationship with each other is also eternal. We simply have to reach that stage of awareness. This central point has to be established in order for there to be universal peace, brotherhood, equality, and unity in the world.
In essence, yoga and the Dharmic principles teach us that we are all consciousness in material forms. Consciousness cannot be destroyed. It is the symptom of the soul, which is the essence of God in each of us. We are all spiritual beings, reflections of the Divine. We are not our beliefs, our cultures, or our minds and bodies. We are all divine souls on a wondrous journey through Truth. We have all manifested from God, the Supreme Truth, and we are all evolving back to God. As the Manu-samhita (12.125) relates, "Thus, he who by means of Self sees the self [soul] in all created things, after attaining equality with all, enters into Brahman [spiritual consciousness], the highest place." That is the ultimate goal.
The Bhagavad-gita (4.39) states: "A faithful man who is dedicated to transcendental knowledge and who subdues his senses is eligible to achieve such knowledge, and having achieved it he quickly attains the supreme spiritual peace."
This is how the Dharmic values and principles can spread to affect all of humanity for its greatest social good, which then also affects all life on this planet.
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May I also conclude with the fact that the Vedic philosophy does not have the idea of conversion as part of its premise, nor has India and its people ever gone on campaigns to conquer other people or countries or religions. The Vedic culture has continually promoted the Sanskrit saying Vaisudhaiva Kutumbakam, which means the whole world is one family--the whole world. I rarely hear that in any other country today, or in any other religion.
This is actually the reason why many people, especially in the West, often say they are not so religious but are more spiritual. They no longer want to be associated with a narrow belief system, but want to attain a natural spiritual realization without the confines imposed by religions and all their superficialities that no longer make sense. They want a more wholesome form of spiritual development. In this way, enlightenment of the spirit is more important than pushing on the victory or popularity of a particular religion or even political ideology. This is what Vedic Dharma has to offer for anyone who investigates its holistic spiritual knowledge and understanding.
This means that the behavior of any person must be consistent with Sanatana Dharma, the eternal spiritual path, which contains truthfulness, devotion, nonviolence, goodness, service to others, help toward the poor, service and prayer to God, and spiritual realization. And this must be without racial or ethnic discrimination. In this condition there is an opportunity to attain the real goal of spiritual Vedic Dharma, beyond religion, and reach the natural condition of realizing our spiritual identity and connection with God, which also means our natural relation with each other. It is the Vedic tradition that points us in this direction.
Herein it is clear that it is natural for us to feel that all people are connected. That is the spiritual essence in all of us. It is the ego which makes us look at our differences and create a feeling of unity only with those of us who seem alike. The fact is we are all alike. But the ego must be stifled and the spiritual identity must be brought to the center for us to recognize that. However, we all inherently do want to do that. But we have turned our back on that natural inclination, and now only recognize our differences, either by politics, localized religion, racial barriers, or so many other things. This is why the Vedic culture has emphasized the path which will take down our ego and raise up the means to recognize our spiritual identity, which we need now more than ever. Unless this is done with earnest, peace in the world will never happen, nor will society ever become civilized.
The spiritual principles in the Vedic tradition teaches us to embrace all human beings and all living entities of all species. It sets aside false pride, and the sense of superiority. This is our spiritual quality as the outcome of a noble life that knows no distinction of rich and poor, or the high and low. This is our ideal culture.
The Vedic philosophy points out that the whole purpose as a human being is to live harmoniously with nature, with the world, and all of society to accomplish the true goal of life. It is this human life and this planet earth that is like a portal through which we can attain many different realms of existence. After death, our consciousness carries us to the most appropriate place for us to continue our existence. It only depends on how we use this life. So the whole purpose of this planet earth and life on it is to raise our consciousness and understand and perceive who we really are as spiritual beings, rising above this human experience and to attain our real and spiritual identity, and then to act in that way. But how long that takes is up to us. That is what we are meant to do, and by clearly understanding and being educated in this Vedic culture, and following its principles, is the way we can attain that goal.
This is called Sanatana Dharma, the timeless, universal spiritual truths, which do not conflict with anyone, but are applicable for everyone, for any time in history, and for any place in the universe. This is the uplifting nature of Vedic Dharma.
Dharma Rakshati Rakshita, and Jai Sri Krishna.
More information on this topic is elaborated in Stephen Knapp's books: Toward World Peace: Seeing the Unity Between Us All and The Eleventh Commandment: The Next Step in Social Spiritual Development.
[This article is from www.stephen-knapp.com]