Racism as viewed from the perspective of self-realization

вик услугихолни масиThere is an ongoing debate in American society these days between those who adamantly insist that the race notion is valid and those that consider it to merely be a social construct. Admittedly, I fall into the latter group and consider race a bogus proposition.

Let’s say it was possible to line up every single human (all six billion) on the planet side-by-side, shoulder-to-shoulder, starting with the lightest all the way to the darkest. Now, let’s also say that it was possible for you to walk down that line looking each person in the eye, from number one to number six billion. Would you be able to detect any discernible difference in skin color, hair texture or nose width as you proceed from human being to human being? No. Would you be able to tell where the “white race” ends and where the “black race” begins? No.

Over the decades, however, the media has nearly thoroughly brainwashed us by consistently presenting only representatives of the extreme ends of the color continuum. Additionally, the average person wouldn’t waste time thinking about all this, as he is content with what society has taught him since childhood. Most Americans are all too comfortable with their racial identity.

That said, “white” and “black” are abstractions that exist only to the extent that we agree they do. Most “white” people are of a pinkish hue and most “blacks” are actually brownish. None of us has ever seen a human the color of coal or snow, yet we steadfastly refer to others and ourselves in this inane manner. The terms become convenient shorthand when we become too lazy to describe individuals in anything other than material realm identifiers.

For a long while, whenever I wrote about “blackness” and “whiteness,” I would use quote marks to denote just how absurd the entire idea really was. I no longer do that nearly as much as it often distracts from the essential meaning of the text. Whenever you see black and white throughout the remainder of this book, however, feel free to use mental quote marks if you so desire.

Against the backdrop of social scientists sparring with biologists over whether there truly exist mutually exclusive “races” on planet Earth, though, what is the spiritual perspective, the viewpoint of one situated on the platform of spiritual self-realization? This section represents the transcendental wisdom regarding the race notion, racism and race-consciousness that I have received over the years by virtue of associating with devotees infinitely more advanced and enlightened than myself.

The physical body has many characteristics – black or white, fat or skinny, male or female, and so on. It also acquires many labels or designations — based on social or economic status, marital status, political affiliation, nationality, etc. If you identify your body as your self, you will consider all these characteristics and labels to be your actual identity. If you have a white male body, you will think, “I am white; I am a man.” When you see someone else (or rather, see someone else’s body), you will likewise wrongly identify the person with the body in which they happen to reside. If you are in a white body and see a person in a black body, you won’t actually see the person, only the black body. You will conclude, “That person is black,” thus identifying yourself as white and the other person as black. This is the beginning of racism.

As viewed from the perspective of self-realization, the root cause of racism and racial conflict is the false identification of the body with the person. False identification of the body as the self, however, leads to more than just racial conflicts. International conflicts, religious conflicts, sexual conflicts and many more are rooted in this misunderstanding. Each body has a multitude of different labels and characteristics. This in itself is not bad, just as it is not bad for people to wear different-colored clothes. What is bad is that due to identifying the body as the self, we wrongly consider the person to be the labels associated with his body. Being unable to see past the labels to the person himself, we end up in a world of barriers and conflicts.

If you are enlightened, you are free from such clouded vision; you see beyond bodily characteristics and labels. If you are wise, you can see the person, the atma or soul within the body and relate to the person, not to his body. If you are wise, you are free of prejudice, racism, sexism, race-consciousness, class-consciousness and so on. In the Bhagavad-gita, the sage is described as one who not only sees through racial and social designations, such as “worker,” “merchant,” “administrator” and “teacher,” but who even sees through species designations such as human and animal.

The humble sage, by virtue of true knowledge, sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahman, a cow, an elephant, a dog, and a dog-eater (outcaste).

Bhagavad-gita, Chapter Five, Verse Eighteen

All living beings are equal sparks of the Supreme Living Being or Krishna. Each of us, no matter what kind of body we have, no matter what that body’s color, age, nationality or even species, is an eternal life particle, a child of God. Such wisdom is the medicine that can transform a world of prejudice and conflict into a world of peace and harmony. Individual happiness and social harmony are possible only when we come to appreciate our true spiritual essence.

As long as we do not see our spiritual essence, there will be racism and hatred. The latter is a byproduct of people’s lack of spiritual vision. When we look at others with our material eyes, we perceive the duality of material existence. We see blacks and whites, young and old, male and female, long hairs and short hairs.

The inclination to associate the body with the self is so strong that it is present even in so-called religious communities where you have one religion hating another religion, just as you have one so-called race hating another so-called race. You may be Christian while another person may be Hindu and someone else may be a Muslim, but these are also external designations. The root cause of all types of prejudice, all racial problems, all religious problems, as well as the problems between one village and another, and one nation and another, is false identification with the material body.

In the recent past, we’ve witnessed the Soviets or Russians sparring with the Americans or, still current, the Palestinians versus the Israelis, and they compete and often fight over property and natural resources. A wise man knows, however, that everything belongs to God, and we are but extensions of His divine energy.

When you see others as they really are, you will think of the Supreme Friend or the Supreme Father of all. If we remember our common Father – the source of us all – then we can appreciate our relationship. No longer will we see each other as strangers but as relatives. This vision, and the feeling that comes from it, extends to all living beings. The porpoises, the whales, the lions, the apes and the birds are all sparks of God, and when you begin to see others and appreciate all living beings in this manner, you will never hate them. The aim of the devotee or the yogi is to come to this spiritual vision so that even though he’s living in this world, he actually feels God’s presence and sees others as brothers and sisters under God’s fatherhood.

This philosophy doesn’t seem practical to some, though. Since we would still perceive differences between the color of our bodies and those of others, it appears that problems would still arise. This is not about idealism or utopian thinking, however. This is about the objective reality of our identity, and when we remember this identity, we know how to relate to others.

Conventional wisdom holds that one benefit society derived from the O. J. Simpson trial of over a decade ago is that it focused our attention on the race issue, and that, since then, various community leaders have been calling for different ethnic groups to work together and coexist peacefully.

It is not sufficient to exhort people to work together. We must relinquish the nonsensical idea that we are black, white, red, or whatever. Racism, as well as race-consciousness, is false identity of the body as the self, and as long as such false identification exists, we will be faced with all the problems associated with racism. While it is good that some are calling for racial harmony, that is not nearly enough.

Artificial harmony is but a quick, temporary fix, and it simply won’t last. That “harmony” will fall apart because the underlying animosity is still there, and the feeling that “we are different” remains.

With regards to the still-lingering racism we witness domestically as well as internationally, when we take a broader view we see that people are suffering on both sides. On one side are those experiencing the brunt of other people’s hatred and bigotry. On the other side are those who are experiencing the hatred or the dislike that they are manifesting towards others on the basis of their physical body or race, and these haters are also suffering.

In other words, if somebody hates, it is not just the person he hates that suffers. He himself also suffers. Such hatred occupies and pollutes the very core of a person’s heart, and the very experience of such hatred is itself a terrible kind of suffering because it keeps one away from God. It makes it so that person cannot experience the happiness of truly loving and feeling close to the Supreme Personality of Godhead, because one cannot simultaneously love the Supreme Lord yet hate His children.

So suffering is present on both sides, and, of course, in many cases, hate is also there on both sides. It’s just a matter of which side has political power, or control, as to which side is exploited. Those in power exploit the others, yet if the oppressed come into power, because of their hatred, they then turn the table around and abuse those who previously exploited them. There can be no end to racism until this hatred is taken away.

There is something else that can help us be free from the feelings associated with other people’s hatred towards us because of the color of our bodies. This is the knowledge and appreciation that although the prejudiced person does not love me or like me because of the color of my skin, God loves me. Therefore, what others think doesn’t matter. My happiness is not going to come from being loved by everyone in the world. Rather, it will come from appreciating that the One who is the source of everyone and everything in the world – the Father of every living being – loves me.

If I know that God loves me, then I will automatically experience satisfaction and fulfillment, even if everyone else hates my guts. Hatred directed toward me by others is not going to bother me because I feel happiness from within knowing that Krishna accepts me.

People are often upset when they know someone is prejudiced toward them, even if that person is not an actual threat. One of the reasons we don’t like people disliking us is the feeling of rejection. It’s not because there’s necessarily going to be any physical violence or because that person may hurt us in some way. It’s simply because we like to be accepted by others. This is natural. We want to be loved. By nature, we are happy when we are experiencing being loved; we are unhappy when we are hating and when we experience being hated. Therefore, if we are experiencing God’s love upon us and are experiencing ourselves as being spiritual in nature – not our bodies – then even if somebody else doesn’t understand this, due to their ignorance, and hates us or rejects us because of our skin color, it will not touch us. This is real protection. It is spiritual protection.

It is our hatred of others that causes us pain, and when we experience prejudice, hatred and rejection, we immediately suffer when we direct this back towards those same persons. This in turn increases the hatred those persons have toward us. It’s a vicious cycle.

In some big cities, for example, tensions exist between blacks and Asians. The black person becomes angry with, say, a Korean for coming into his neighborhood. Then the Korean becomes angry with the black, and it spreads, and pretty soon you’ve got one community versus another community. Everybody gets caught up in this suffering, and they’re suffering from it not just because they’re the receivers of the hatred but because they’re perpetrators of it.

There is obviously much pain associated with racism. In the previous decade, in Bosnia, we witnessed the pain and misery caused by ethnic cleansing wherein the Serbs attempted to drive the Muslims out of “their area.” In turn, the Muslims and Croats attempted to drive the Serbs off “their turf.” Unless we end this hatred, today’s victim will simply become tomorrow’s perpetrator. Ultimately, the suffering the racist causes cannot be solved simply by hating the racist.

We are our brothers’ keeper, and it doesn’t do our brothers any good to let them continue engaging in demoniac, sinful activities, like murdering, killing and trying to exterminate people simply on the basis of their race or religion. It is for this reason that a nation like the United States, at least partially due to its spiritual sense of right and wrong, took up arms against Nazi Germany. Similarly we contemporarily fight a global war against Islamic fascism. Sometimes we must engage in violence in order to change things for the better. This is an unfortunate part of our existence in this material world, but hatred is not necessary. Love is there, if we but seek it.

Feelings of self-esteem based on race and sex (e.g., “I am a proud black,” or “I am a strong woman of color.”) are meaningless and do nothing to combat racism. The attempt to make people feel proud of their racial extraction is a false solution to racism. For decades now, white liberals and minority nationalists alike have been telling people “You should be proud of your race.” The idea is that many blacks, Asians, Native Americans and Hispanics feel inferior because some people in the world incorrectly perceive them as being inferior. Consequently, there is a school of thought that argues that the way to overcome feelings of inferiority is to take the opposite approach and be proud. Therefore, you have black pride, Native pride, Chicano pride, Asian pride, and so forth. This is artificial, though, because it is still grounded in bodily consciousness.

The minority pride, or bodily pride, movement — that I referenced in the Introduction — is no substitute for self-realization, which leads to genuine self-esteem. Everything else is false. Your self-esteem can only be as real as the truth upon which it is based, and if it is based on falsity, or a lie, then it is fake. It is not going to last, and it is not going to satisfy you. Since you’re not your physical body, any so-called self-esteem that is based upon your physical form, is useless. It may temporarily allow you to feel good, but it is not going to last. It certainly is not going to satisfy you.

Our consciousness needs to evolve. Yes, evolution exists, but — as opposed to Darwinism, which seems to imply that some races are higher than others — it is an evolution of consciousness, not of bodies. Every individual, regardless of the type of body he has – be it black or white, male or female – can achieve spiritual perfection. The perfectly evolved person is not the one with the whitest skin and fairest hair. Rather it is the one who sees himself and others as pure spirit soul.

With respect to the myriad civil rights laws that various legislative bodies have passed with the hope of ending racism, the simple truth is that political maneuvering cannot solve the problem of racism. It has been more than forty years since civil rights legislation was enacted in the U.S., but some would argue that animosity between the races has not appreciably diminished. Legislation may ensure that blacks or other minorities are guaranteed certain rights – which they certainly deserve – but it does nothing to lessen the hatred that one bigot, or one race, feels for another.

Enacting legislation without educating people about their real identities is merely another superficial solution to a deeper, internal problem. It treats the symptoms of a disease without curing the disease itself. You may alleviate the problem temporarily, but because the disease is still ravaging within, new symptoms will soon appear. You can’t treat cancer with band-aids, and, similarly, you can’t cure racism through legislation.

This is not to say that there was no value in implementing civil rights laws, that it was a waste of time. To the contrary, those statutes were both desirable and beneficial. Something more, however, is required, and that something is proper spiritual education and understanding. Civil rights laws may help level the playing field, but they don’t stop the players from hating each other. The same thing is true of political maneuvering, including military action, on the international level. It is both necessary and helpful under particular circumstances, but it cannot cure the cause of the problem.

Prior to the Balkan War, for example, Yugoslavia’s Marshal Tito was able to keep the Serbs, Croats and Muslims from killing each other, but he couldn’t stop them from hating one another. After Tito died, Yugoslavia eventually fell apart, and the same old problems manifested anew. A fragile peace has held for a number of years now, but how long will it really last?

You may be able to temporarily check the violence through cease-fires, or temporarily cause people to live together in the same community, but this is akin to sticking your finger in the leaky dike. It does not actually solve the problem because the real problem is hatred and ignorance. As long as that hatred and ignorance survives, sooner or later it will rear its ugly head and manifest as oppression, suppression and violence.

Spiritual vision is the ultimate solution to racism. That said, it often seems that religious people are more bigoted than are ordinary folks. Though there is now a lull in the action, Catholic Christians fought Protestant Christians in Northern Ireland for decades. At the present time, we see Muslim fanatics waging their version of jihad or holy war against anyone, including other Muslims, not buying into their interpretation of the Koran. Case in point is the unspeakable bloodletting between Shiites and Sunnis in Iraq.

Religious racists can be just as dangerous, if not more so, than garden-variety types. In fact, the argument that a person can be both religious and a racist has no foundation. We confuse the cloak of religiosity with religion itself when we use the phrase “religious racist.”

There is a huge difference between “cultural religiosity” and real religion. Where there is real religion there is knowledge, and there is spiritual vision. Strong faith and little knowledge, however, characterize cultural religiosity, and faith without knowledge is simply fanaticism. Unfortunately, faith and ignorance can be a very dangerous combination, and thus we have the so-called religious bigot. He is not just a bigot; he is a bigot with a cause.

We have witnessed so-called religious racism or religious wars for nearly sixty-years in the Middle East. Why do the Palestinians and the Israelis fight? They do so because they cannot see beyond the external labels of the body.

Palestinians constantly think about Jews, and Jews constantly think about Palestinians. So they’re simply switching bodies and feeling the same hatred life after life. Only this time it’s directed at the same type of body with which they so closely identified in their last life. At the time of death, you will take on the kind of body that you are always thinking about. This is described in Bhagavad-gita:

Whatever state of being one remembers when he quits his body, O son of Kunti, that state he will attain without fail.

Bhagavad-gita, Chapter Eight, Verse Six

They don’t see how foolish they are, because they lack the proper spiritual perspective and cannot see what is happening. They’re killing each other’s bodies, and then taking on bodies in families of the opposite camp and killing again. Repeatedly, generation after generation, they are doing this, and they never see or know their senselessness.

This is just as much a problem, and throughout history has produced just as much suffering, as the secular hatred between the races. Every scripture in the world – the Old Testament, the New Testament, the Koran and, most clearly, the Vedas – states that a person is not the body. Polluted by their own material desires, these people are using certain quotes from various scriptures and twisting these passages to try to interpret a meaning that allows one class of men – their own class – to lord it over, dominate and exploit another class of men.

Secular hatred between the races is the reason why we see racially segregated churches in many so-called multiracial communities. You find black churches, white churches, Korean churches, Hispanic churches and the like. On my hometown’s Main Street (doesn’t every village have one?) there are Lutheran, Episcopalian and Baptist Churches all lined up in a row, a mere stone’s throw from my neighborhood. How convenient it would have been for me to attend one of those houses of worship instead of having to travel all the way over to the other side of town to Valley St. Baptist.

It was common knowledge, however, that the churches, like the public schools, were segregated. This is abject stupidity, however, since all churches supposedly worship the same God. It indicates that the people who lead the churches and the followers who attend them are all racist, because they are all identifying the body as the self. The ones who go to the black churches identify themselves as being black, and the ones who go to the white houses of worship identify themselves as being white. This is ignorance.

In actuality, it is not surprising that there is so much ignorance and confusion in the world today. This is Kali-yuga, the age of quarrel, chaos, confusion and hypocrisy. We can counteract all of this confusion and ignorance, though, by chanting the Holy Names of the Lord. Everyone – regardless of the designation they may place on their body – can chant the Holy Names of Krishna and experience higher happiness and thereby transcend all of their prejudices, all of their lust, and all of their anger.

Kali-yuga’s influence will remain, but those who are influenced by the chanting of the Maha-mantra will be protected. It will still be Kali-yuga, but you will not be touched by it. You will clearly understand that you are spirit soul, not your material body, and you will see others in the same light. You will feel no prejudice or hatred towards any living being.

Unfortunately, the so-called leaders of the world have chosen to ignore this information. They are deluded and full of anxiety, and they are leading everyone else to a life of further anxiety. If you want to alleviate the misery associated with racism, educate people about their real identity and the identity of others. When they understand this, there will be no hate, and there will be no racism.

It is wisdom alone that will actually eat away at the foundation of racism. We must reject the conclusion that the body is the self. If we want to get at the root cause of racism, we must understand that we are not our bodies.

This is the first chapter in my book “The Bhagavad-gita in Black and White: From Mulatto Pride to Krishna Consciousness” (Backintyme Publishing).Икониikoniикони на светциПодаръциИдея за подаръкикониикониПравославни иконииконописikoniсвети георгиikoniхудожник на икониИкони на светциХудожникОткъде да купя иконаидея за подарък

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