Look inside to find path to harmony

Here’s an Op-Ed I wrote that The Times Union of Albany, N.Y. was gracious enough to run on Saturday, July 28, 2007 in the paper’s Voices of Faith: Religious Commentary section.

Look inside to find path to harmony

For the past 25 years or more, I have been walking — albeit haltingly at times — down the path of self-realization, down that road less traveled.

At this point I can honestly say that every discipline I’ve studied to any degree — be it Taoism, Rosicrucianism, the New Age teachings of Deepak Chopra and James Redfield, L. Ron Hubbard’s controversial Scientology system or the 17th-century impersonal philosophy of Baruch Spinoza — coalesces rather nicely with the message of one book: the Bhagavad-gita.

The Bhagavad-gita (the “Hindu Bible” to some Westerners), an important source book on yoga, is the essence of India’s Vedic wisdom and is one of the great spiritual and philosophical classics of the world. Remarkably, however, the setting for this best-known classic of spiritual literature is an ancient Indian battlefield — in the land of Kurukshetra.

At the last moment before entering battle, the great warrior Arjuna begins to wonder about the real meaning of his life. Why should he fight against his friends and relatives? Why does he exist? Where is he going after death? In the Bhagavad-gita, the Supreme Personality of Godhead, Lord Sri Krishna — Arjuna’s friend and spiritual master — brings his disciple from perplexity to spiritual enlightenment through instruction in the science of self-realization. Nowadays, people who view themselves as mixed race are often internally conflicted, not knowing how to identify or to which side they should pledge their racial allegiance. One’s view of the “race” notion and to what “race” the individual supposedly belongs is heavily influenced by the family into which the person is born. Thus, transcending the race concept is often difficult because it is so heavily connected with family (intimate relatives) and background (including teachers and close friends). It is analogous to Arjuna’s dilemma.

As someone whom society views as racially mixed (black, white and Cherokee), I can personally attest that a spiritual path is the only means to achieve happiness and to resolve the internal conflicts that arise from this nation’s obsession with the politics of racial identity. In my experience, people who consider themselves of mixed race inevitably question not only the wisdom of normal racial identification but also the very scientific and biological foundation of race itself.

To lend public expression to these heretofore private individual challenges to the racial paradigm was one of the reasons I launched, in September 1995, the Interracial Voice Web site, a networking news journal serving the mixed-race community in cyberspace. Furthermore, I believe that individuals of mixed racial backgrounds quickly begin searching for a higher spiritual truth, something that allows them to make sense of the madness behind lumping human beings into separate and distinct racial groupings. The basic Vedic conclusion is that we are not our bodies. Rather, we are the eternal spirit-souls animating our physical forms. Ergo, we are not innately representative of racial, ethnic or cultural groupings. We are not Christians or Jews or Muslims or blacks or whites because those are merely temporary external identifications that die along with the body. We do not possess Hindu souls or Christian souls as the soul or atma knows no duality, color or “organized religion.”

Instead, there is sanatana dharma, or our eternal occupation as servants of God, and knowledge of that timeless nature of the soul transcends the tenets of any sectarian belief system.

I recommend studying the Bhagavad-gita as a means for anyone, whether mixed race or not, to transcend race-consciousness and to elevate oneself to the level of humanity. From that platform, it is easier to then lift oneself to the level of Krishna consciousness — the revival of our original natural consciousness of complete harmony with Krishna or God.

Charles Michael Byrd of New York City edited the Interracial Voice Web site (http://interracialvoice.com) from 1995-2003 and is author of “The Bhagavad-gita in Black and White: From Mulatto Pride to Krishna Consciousness” (Backintyme Publishing).

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