“Free from all contaminations of material desires, the distressed, the inquisitive, the penniless, and the seeker after supreme knowledge can all become pure devotees. But out of them, he who is in knowledge of the Absolute Truth and free from all material desires becomes a really pure devotee of the Lord.” (Shrila Prabhupada, Bhagavad-gita, 7.17 Purport)
“I don’t want any more war. Why should one country send soldiers to fight soldiers of another country? We don’t fight to the death with our neighbor, and the country is just a collection of communities, or large groups of neighbors, so why should there be conflict? It would be great if the entire world were united in peace. No more fighting; just sharing and caring.”
To want world peace is certainly noble, but how does one actually go about achieving it? Many organizations have been formed, but instead of increasing the peace, there is only more division, which automatically leads to more strife. If I think that I am constitutionally different from someone else, how are my desires ever going to square with theirs? And if desires clash, then surely someone will get frustrated. If someone is frustrated, they are bound to get angry, and as a response to that anger they may take to violence. Only when I and others know that everyone is equal constitutionally is there any chance for peace.
Let’s look at a practical example of where a peace solution goes wrong. There is the United Nations, which was formed in response to World War II. Never do we want a repeat to the second world war, which saw millions die in a struggle for sovereignty over various lands. In the United Nations, the many nations around the world come together to talk things out, to resolve their disputes diplomatically, in a peaceful way.
But what kinds of disputes are there? One country wants to take over another country. They believe that the land in question belongs to them and not the current occupiers. How do you settle this dispute? Do you just hand over the land to the country that wants it? What about the people that currently live there? Well, you can always ship them off to somewhere else, but as soon as you do this, you are setting the precedent that one governing body, an authority figure if you will, has the ability to decide who can live where.
If an authority figure can determine that land belongs to a specific country, why can’t it do the same for my country? Who is to say that I can’t have the entire world as my playground? Why should I listen to this authority figure anyway? Who are they? Are they beyond vice? Do they not have flaws? Just because they earn majority support in an election doesn’t automatically make them infallible. In an election the primary objective is to receive the most votes, which can be accomplished in many ways that are not admirable. The victorious party could have used every fallacy of argument in the book. It could have purchased votes by promising certain favors once elected. Actually, these things take place all the time already in democratic elections.
As long as there are conflicting interests, there will always be division, which in turn makes peace unstable. The more nations you add means that you’re only creating more points for conflict. However, the human race can unite under a common thread: knowledge of the individual’s constitutional position. This position is hinted at in the Vedic aphorism athato brahma-jijnasa, which means “Now is the time for inquiring about Brahman.”
What time does this refer to and what is Brahman?
This aphorism applies to the human birth. This means that as soon as we emerge from the womb, our time has come for inquiring about Brahman, which is the Supreme Absolute Truth. In the United Nations and other governing bodies there are relative truths. What one country wants isn’t necessarily in the interests of another. What brings peace today may not tomorrow. These truths are based in duality; they have two sides. The Absolute Truth is that which is beyond duality.
Can such a truth exist?
Only the human being can make the inquiry into this. Notice that the aphorism doesn’t say, “Now is the time for surrendering to such and such personality.” It also doesn’t say, “Now is the time for adopting this faith so that you’ll avoid eternal damnation.” For real surrender to take place, one has to have full faith in the object being surrendered to. And real faith only exists when there are no doubts. And the easiest way to dispel doubts is to be confident from knowledge.
The human being learns about Brahman to dispel doubts. The learning ideally begins at an early age, in the same way that we learn the alphabet, grammar and mathematics while still under the age of ten. The Vedas, the ancient scriptures of India, exist for the purpose of understanding Brahman, and one who knows Brahman fully is known as a brahmana. By occupation the brahmana can be likened to a priest, but from their position in knowledge they are more than just a figure dressed in religious garb. From their knowledge of Brahman, they can impart wisdom to any person in society, whether that person is Brahman realized or not.
“One who is thus transcendentally situated at once realizes the Supreme Brahman. He never laments nor desires to have anything; he is equally disposed to every living entity. In that state he attains pure devotional service unto Me.” (Lord Krishna, Bhagavad-gita, 18.54)
The person who is realized in Brahman no longer hankers or laments. In that superior position, they take up devotional service to the Personality of Godhead. Again, this figure is not sectarian and neither is He an abstract concept conjured up by the speculative mind. He is the very source of Brahman, which can be likened to a collection of individual spiritual fragments. Spiritual means not material, which means that it is not riddled with the defects of mutability and impermanence. That which is spiritual is immutable, unchanging, and ever-existing. The individual thus does not die at the time of death and does not come into existence at the time of birth.
“For the soul there is never birth nor death. Nor, having once been, does he ever cease to be. He is unborn, eternal, ever-existing, undying and primeval. He is not slain when the body is slain.” (Lord Krishna, Bg. 2.20)
I am Brahman and so are you. In fact, so is the dog and the cat, but due to their material coverings they are not able to understand Brahman. If I know that every person is equal on a spiritual level, I will treat them better. I will not unnecessarily be violent towards innocent creatures, both human and nonhuman alike. I will not need to collect more than I should because I know that my true identity is as spirit. All spirit emanates from the Supreme Spirit, or God, and so there is an inherent relationship we all have to Him.
A Brahman realized soul takes the next step into devotional service, or bhakti-yoga. In this discipline, there is still desire and relevant activity, but they are dovetailed with the interests of the Supreme Lord. Just as we are above the dualities of the material nature, so is God. If my identity is not rooted in place of birth, bank balance, or physical relationship to another object, the same holds true for God. As a result the many temporary problems we create are not in His scope of interest.
What does interest Him, however, is connecting with the Brahman sparks, the individual spirit souls. Thus one who is in full knowledge of Brahman and the source of Brahman takes to activity that is pleasing to the highest authority figure. His gifts in the form of material opulence, whether large or small, are enough to continue on in life with peace. In bhakti-yoga, division between the living entities, at least in thought, is eliminated. Thus desires no longer clash as well.
As long as I continue to think that I am different from someone else at a constitutional level, I will have desires that are sure to clash with another person’s. In bhakti-yoga, the uniform goal is pleasing the Supreme Lord, whose qualities and instructions are described in the ancient Vedic text, the Bhagavad-gita. The devotees of God unite in peace by chanting together the holy names, “Hare Krishna Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare”. The supreme authority figure gives each person their allotment, and whatever is provided is fair for continuing on in service, which unites others who are around in the mission of serving God in a peaceful way.
World peace is what we seek,
But conflict when nations meet.
Desiring to take over a certain land,
With ease they’ll raise conflict’s hand.
Desires guaranteed to collide,
When in ignorance of spirit we reside.
From the Vedas Brahman know,
And straight to enlightened state go.
Worship of universal Lord from there,
And automatically for all creatures care.
To find God for every person is the plight,
In chanting the holy names let the world unite.