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The State of the World

Three viewpoints on the state of the world: trying to improve it, being realistic about trying to change it, everything is as it should be. The tendency to divide groups into "we-they." Unity with diversity. With each new generation there is opportunity to teach new beliefs. The duty of spiritual people is to want everybody to come up in consciousness and to feel: Vasudaiva kutumbakam, the whole world is one family.

Unedited Transcript:

Talking to someone recently about the world, the condition of the world. And in fact I saw an interesting TV show, a comedy show last night in which commenting on the condition of the world and all the unusual problems we have in it.

So, it's an interesting topic to think about the world. You know there's multiple viewpoints we need to hold. One is to try and improve it, but within a reasonable concept. In other words, the other concept is the world is like trying to straighten a dog's tail. You know it keeps going back the way it was no matter what you do. So, you have to find the right balance between working to improve it and accepting it as it is because you can't totally transform it overnight.

And then a third point of view is that everything is as it should be. So even in striving to improve it, we don't want to feel that things are not supposed to be the way they are. So three different points of view. We wish it was different but it's a natural playing out of what's been set in motion in the past is what the world is. So we can direct it and guide it and encourage things to be played out in a better way, but still there are forces in actions of the past that are what are creating the present.

So sometimes, you know closer to 9/11 it was, there was more of a sense of major worry among Hindus that would bring up the subject when I was in the Guru Peedam they'd bring it up, you know: "What do you think about the world, isn't this terrible?" and this is a big problem we have at the moment. And so they're having the sense that things have never been worse was their general sense they gave. So to me, I brought up: "Well times have been worse, just all you have to do is go back to World War 11 you know, that was a serious problem. You know, you're not just fighting some terrorists who borrow somebody else's airplane, you know. You're fighting Japan and Germany, two very powerful military groups, were causing havoc in the world, you know that was a serious problem by comparison.

And then I point out that, well look at Europe for example. You don't have to go back any further than World War 11 to see the trend: European countries fighting one another. Been going on forever, right? Since the beginning. These countries are close to one another, next to one another, they're neighbors and what are they doing? They're fighting. So what are they doing today? They're working together as a European union. They've joined together and do we really see Germany attacking England again? You know not really, something changed there. There's a change in consciousness somehow that took place in Europe. So, that's a good sign, right? It shows that things are changing for the better.

So, the basic challenge that is faced is this tendency to divide into "we-they" rather than to keep everything as we. As we-they and then they are different than we are and so forth. And by, of course if we can avoid that and keep everything as a we or in principle of inclusiveness then we minimize that tendency. All groups have that tendency to split or even a large family will split into we-they. Not, it's just a natural tendency of humankind to divide into two groups that have some problem with one another.

So, how do you solve the problem? Well Gurudeva took the simple step in creating signs for the island of Kauai. Don't tell me, I'll remember it. One island, there it is. "One Island Many Peoples, all Kauaians." So we put the signs around the island. Gurudeva liked signs, you know. There it is, nobody will forget it if it's on a sign. If you want something to really last you put it on a pillar of Iraivan Temple. It'll last a thousand years, right? Gurudeva didn't want us to forget Shum or the mamsani so we have twelve mamsani on the pillars of Iraivan Temple. So that five hundred years from now someone will come up and say; "What's that?" And if the monks haven't been doing their jobs in teaching Shum then they'll pull it out of the file and say: "Oh that's, that's what that is."

So, Gurudeva liked to put it on signs, he created similar signs for Mauritius. I'm not sure if they're installed yet there but trying to create a unity. Cause in every community there's this tendency to split. So, in the Kauai community it's based on ethnicity. It's the tendency to split according to ethnic backgrounds. So, having differences according to ethnic backgrounds is fine but we also need to feel a common unity. You know not trying to ignore our differences as Gurudeva says in unity with diversity, not a unity with sameness. So to be able to stand together as Kauaians is important no matter what our ethnicity. So that was the message that Gurudeva, that was the form that Gurudeva brought this message of not splitting, of maintaining a unity to the island of Kauai. "One Island Many Peoples, all Kauaians."

So, let me read from this, this is a good introduction though it's a little outdated.

"Conditions in the world today are certainly troubling. Wars between countries, wars within countries plus a serious threat of international terrorist attacks. The terrorist attacks in New York on September 11th naturally heightened everyone's concern about these problems. One of the immediate consequences of the 9/11 terrorist attacks was the presence of television coverage depicting people in a number of countries who strongly hate the United States, some to the point of wishing violence upon it. Watching these shocking reports on television, we were quite impressed by the extent and seriousness of the problem of prejudice in the world today. Attitudes of prejudice toward those who are of a different race, nation, or religion can start simply as distrust which can then deepen into dislike and deepen further into hatred which can turn into a desire to inflict injury. Are we born with these attitudes? Certainly not. We are taught them at home, at school and even in some religious institutions.

"After the United States went to war with Iraq, a number of governments passed resolutions objecting to the war. Some individuals expressed their objection by demonstrating in the streets. These actions are sincere and make a point, but they certainly do not address the core of the problem, which is hatred. People have been raised to hate those of different ethnic groups, religions or nations. The solution, though a long-term one, is that we need, in the century ahead, to teach all children tolerance, openness to different ways of life, different beliefs, different customs of dress and language. We need to stop teaching them to fear those who are different from themselves, stop teaching them hatred for peoples of other colors and other religions, stop teaching them to see the world as a field of conflict and instead instill in them an informed appreciation and a joyous reverence for the grand diversity we find around us. Instead of teaching children to be intolerant and to dislike and distrust, hate and inflict injury on those who are different, we can teach them to be tolerant and like and trust, befriend and help. Of course, the central place for that to occur is in the home. Secondarily it can be further strengthened by also being taught at the temple and at school and through special community activities."

So then the talk goes on you know, don't have to go through the whole thing. You're familiar with the ideas of course and prejudice free consciousness is what it starts to talk about. And the idea is that one of the biggest changes that takes place in the world is from generation to generation. It's very hard to change people who are older, get set in their ways. Some totally set in their ways. But every new generation has a blank slate. Starts out blank when it comes to this area of prejudice. You know it has to be taught. You're not born prejudiced as this points out. You know, you're taught to be prejudiced. So, each new generation there's an opportunity to teach them new beliefs. So that's where the emphasis is, that's where a lot of opportunity is in encouraging parents to raise their children is such a way that they're prejudice free. Prejudice free consciousness. And then do it all again, and then do it all again. Do it all again and do it for enough generations you'll change the world in a major way. But it takes time, takes time. So, but we can all help in our own call it: spheres of influence. Each of us a sphere of influence, family, friends, work, community and within those spheres we can do our part to try and maintain a prejudice free consciousness or try and change attitudes of prejudice to the degree that we're able to.

So, just a few keys on that in case you're not remembering them.

One of the most important one's is avoiding generalizations.

We can teach children to avoid generalizations about people and instead to think about specific individuals and the qualities they have. Even positive generalizations should be avoided as they encourage us not to look at the qualities of specific individuals.

So that's a very good point. You know positive generalization is: Chinese are all industrious people. Well that's a generalization. I mean, each Chinese person is different, you know. They're not all industrious. So if we through out the generalization, even if it's a positive one, we don't see the individual. And seeing the individual as he or she is, is the important thing. That's how you get beyond prejudice. So, we want to avoid even positive generalizations to see the individuals. So Martin Luther King had a good one there, if I can remember it. In his "I Have a Dream" speech--you know that's a great speech, "I have a dream that one day my children will be perceived for the content of their character rather than by the color of their skin." So that's the point is you know, to see the person, not to see the ethnicity or their religion and put a positive or a negative generalization on it. But to see the person.

And in this way Hinduism is, has a lot of wisdom. Because it, there's two principles that naturally encourage Hindus to be prejudice free and not do this we-they. One is that everybody is a divine soul, even a terrorist or a criminal is a divine being. There aren't people that are evil intrinsically. Behavior is evil, behavior is destructive, but everybody is divine on the inside. Therefore, everybody is important. Even the terrorist is important, even the criminal is important, because they need to be encouraged to come up in consciousness. That's the duty of spiritual people is to want everyone to come up in consciousness no matter if they're for you or against you. You know we want them people to come up; we don't write them off.

And then the other is the whole world is family. "Vasudaiva kutumbakam" is a great statement because everyone understands family. Even the monastics, the monastery's like a big family and within it there's also five subfamilies. So when we say the whole world is family, what does that mean? Well, it means that we have the same attitude toward everybody that we do to our family. And when it comes to family we want them all to be happy and prosper, right? Do well. So when we say the whole world is family it gives us an attitude that doesn't exclude anyone, no matter if they like us or not, if they're our enemy or not we still include them. We draw a circle that includes everybody and in that way, we're wishing them well. We want them to prosper. We don't exclude them from our thinking.

So those are two useful Hindu concepts that are very relevant to the modern world situation and you know gives it, gives a different point of view. So of course in Hinduism the idea is that everything worlds because of reincarnation. In other words, things don't work out in one life. It's a long term process. So if we don't believe in reincarnation we can't hold the Hindu point of view. Because the Hindu point of view is a long term point of view. So as Gurudeva used to say: "You have to be careful who you hate, then you might end up born in that group next time." Well don't hate anybody too strongly unless you want to join the group in your next life. See what it's like to be on the other end of that attitude. So, it all works out in the long run is the point.

But, so to summarize what I'm saying, you know, there's three complementary attitudes toward the world. First one is that we want to try and improve it. Second one is we want to be realistic about how much we can improve it which is like trying to straighten the dog's tail. We can't change it totally. And the third one is to accept everything that is as being the way it should be even though certainly it's not the way we would prefer it to be. It's that way because of what's happened in the past. It's just a natural playing out of the past forces.

So by what we do in the present of course, we change what happens in the future. Direct it all in a wise direction.

Thank you very much. Have a wonderful phase.

Aum Namah Sivaya.

[End of transcript.]