“Whatever action is performed by a great man, common men will follow in his footsteps. And whatever standard he sets by exemplary acts, all the world pursues.” The Bhagavad Gita As It Is, 3.21
Here are some headlines from The New York Times on a moderately slow news day (September 5, 1968): FATAL BOMBING IN TEL AVIV STIRS MOB ATTACK ON ARABS; VIOLENCE PANEL TO STUDY CHICAGO; U. S. REASSESSING POLICIES IN WAKE OF PRAGUE CRISIS; OFF-DUTY POLICE HERE JOIN IN BEATING BLACK PANTHERS; KEISINGER WARNS U. S. ON RUSSIANS—SEES MILITARY THREAT RISING STEADILY, HE TELLS LODGE: SPLIT AMONG MILITARY LEADERS SHAKES ARGENTINA; FIGHTING RENEWED NEAR SAIGON—ENEMY DEATH TOLL IS PUT AT 146. These are, of course, only the more sensational and ominous developments, those of a somewhat international character. And, being a slow news day, very little was printed about Nigeria’s cruel war with Biafra, about China’s brutal and enervating Cultural Revolution, France’s development of thermonuclear power, that same nation’s student unrest, the continuing Korean crisis . the imminent civil war in Southern Rhodesia and South Africa, the armed border confrontation between India and China, and the literally innumerable other incidents and near-incidents of violence and warfare which plague today’s world.
Americans of late—and most especially since the assassination of Senator Robert F. Kennedy—have taken to scouring their consciences to determine if the U.S. is really as violence-ridden as it seems to be. But events on the newsfronts of the world suggest that there is no single nation or culture which has a monopoly on violence or brutality. And it is increasingly clear that no nation today is devoid of them.
Dispute—difference of opinion, conflict of interest—is everywhere present in the world at all times. But the resort to unpitying violence in the form of riot, guerilla warfare, armed aggression, and the threat of holocaust seems especially rampant now, while respect of any sort for law and moral order is disappearing.
Is civilization changing—or dying? Perhaps the process of change brings us near to death, like a caterpillar during metamorphosis. If this is so, then whether in change or the throes of death our situation remains critical and dangerous, and the type of men we choose to lead us now may well decide the fate of the human race for many thousands of years to come.
With this elementary consciousness of our position in history, let us consider here what sort of men are fit for contemporary world leadership what qualities we ought to seek in them and what the aim of their leadership should be.
One thing is sure: those who have led us in the past cannot lead us today and will not lead us in the future. This is because the world has changed. As Marshall McLuhan has indicated, electric technology—and specifically the rise of the new mass media—has irrevocably altered the course of civilization. It is not only that warfare has become prohibitively ferocious, but that people all over the world are now linked at least as closely as most next-door neighbors were a century ago. Contemporary man finds himself too much in sympathy with his common fellows to blithely contemplate their torture or annihilation by the superbly armed warriors of gigantic governments—even their own—much less to sing rousing battle hymns about the whole thing.
Perhaps the most striking instance of the new world unity among men which is arising can be found in the spontaneous student revolts which have suddenly afflicted the nations. The first true generation of the mass media has determined, it would seem, to tolerate the “old politics” no more, whether it can offer a ready, reasonable alternative or not. Co-ordination among such “underground” or youth movements has generally developed after, not before, they were set in motion in the various corners of the globe. In this sense theirs is a true mass movement, a spontaneous revolution.
What is the schism between “old” and “new” politics? What is its basis? Again, McLuhan has pointed out the situation, though he seems uncertain himself of the obvious implications.
The “old” politicians are those who cheer their national flags, sing their traditional anthems, attend their traditional churches, make the traditional pledges during the traditional speeches, hate their traditional enemies, and offer peace and prosperity for their people. The old politics, in a word, is nationalism.
Nationalism, or sectionalism, is the obvious cesspool from which the diseases of war and famine arise. It is, to be sure, the bedrock of the United Nations and the cornerstone of our modern governments’ world views. Yet it is the real reason people starve in India while the U.S. pays its farmers not to produce, and it is the glaringly apparent reason why Russia and the United States, under the absurd banners of “world” communism and democracy stand ready to obliterate life on this planet. Nor is any detente likely to change matters in the long run, even if a temporary nuclear accord can be reached. For other nations want power too, and the fact that it is simply power to destroy blindly—and entails inevitably being destroyed in turn—does not deter them. Thus France and China are anxiously, avidly joining in the H-bomb race, and others can be expected to do so in the near future—Israel, West Germany India, Italy, Japan.
Nationalism is the old politics because it views men with narrow common interests as kindred, to the exclusion of others, and because it sanctions all the evils that men can work upon one another, so long as the victim stands outside one’s own community. But electric technology has made the world one community, and so the old lines of thought cannot apply. Nationalism is the politics of ignorance and ceaseless war, of misery, greed, rape, murder and starvation. Electric technology—the television, the photo-filled newspaper and the movie house do not permit the sort of insulation and indifference to such things that a single simple headline used to allow. And they tend to break down the degree of callousness—of alienness—that men of different nations used to be able to feel toward one another.
We are, by virtue of modern technology, one world family with a thousand governments, and this is the canker that rots us. The “new” politics, then, the politics by which we must be guided if we are to survive, is not just a matter of personal integrity, as the popularity of Eugene McCarthy and George Wallace in America seems to clearly indicate. It is true that the unpitying camera cannot help but reveal liars and frauds, as it has done for many during the current presidential race in the U.S., but this is only the beginning, only the first fruit of electric technology. The real and ultimate result is the consciousness within the minds of the world’s people that they are one and not many.
And the new politics can then be seen to be the politics of world unification, the politics of a higher consciousness of brotherhood transcending the limits of race, nation or creed.
Genghis Khan wrote a lawbook by which he hoped to perpetuate the world government which his tremendous conquests had established. Although himself a nomadic shamanist, it is interesting to note that the first of the laws in his “Yassak” reads:
It is ordered to believe that there is only one God, creator of heaven and earth, who alone gives life and death, riches and poverty as pleases Him—and who has over everything an absolute power.
The Mongol warlord understood, as all the great men who have attempted to unite the world under one government have understood, that without a principle transcending earthly ties—that is, transcending sectionalism—no universal government could endure. As Napoleon put it: “No society can exist without morality; there is no good morality without religion. “
The reader may wonder if I mean to hold up Genghis Khan or Napoleon Bonaparte as examples of the world leader required by our times. The answer is no. First of all, though the Mongol’s concept of world government was in many ways admirable, events most certainly demonstrated him a failure, for his empire did not endure, much less continue to expand, long beyond his death. Like Machiavelli, he conceived that men are best ruled by fear as opposed to love, and it was with this conviction that he initiated his campaigns of terror against the peoples of Asia and Europe. What we need today is neither a terrorist nor a Machiavellian, for the mass media no longer permit such extravagances within the human community. Indeed, dissimulation and terrorism are the very things now to be cast off by the human race if it is to live.
Again, Napoleon’s hopes of uniting Europe foundered on two principles: the first being his own self-interest, the second his irrepressible tendency to place France and her people at the forefront of the world. He made France not the liberator but the despoiler of those who had suffered under the abuses of the Old Regime, and in the end it was the people, not the rulers, of Europe who defeated him.
The world leader required by our times—the man or men for whom history and technology have conspired together to set the stage—cannot be a Frenchman or a Mongol, nor an American, Chinaman or Russian. He must stand above the designations of sectionalism, and he must be able to elevate the people of the world with him. And he must have at heart not his own aggrandizement, but the true and transcendant welfare of all the people of the world.
These are not ordinary qualifications, and they are not found in men the way that Napoleon’s military genius or Augustus’s administrative skill were found. They must be consciously, intentionally developed. Everyone accepts certain designations of family, race, religion and nationality from birth, without question. Even where one of these concepts is absent, another is present. But the true universalist cannot accept such exclusive designations. He must be capable of going beyond these things, he must be capable of comprehending the essence of the life force itself. In other words, he must be a man with knowledge of spiritual, or absolute, existence—a self realized soul. And this self realization is a matter of serious personal determination.
If we examine the causes of nationalism, we will see that it stems ultimately from the identification of oneself with the body. The body is born in a particular place, with certain relationships, loyalties, debts and duties already existing to absorb one’s interest. But the relationships of the body, like the body itself, are all ephemeral. One who accepts himself as having no spiritual existence beyond the space-and-time limits of the body cannot possibly avoid identification with one or another of the exclusive groups to which his body belongs. He cannot, therefore, be a true world leader.
The point to be noted is that spiritual knowledge is the requirement—the absolute requirement—for the man who would unify our world, establish peace and justice and, still more, happiness. I say it is the absolute requirement because without it such great men as Alexander, Genghis Khan, Napoleon and who knows how many first-rate administrators, executives, humanists, autocrats and demagogues have failed to do the job. For, though the Mongol and the Corsican correctly realized that religion was the ultimate means of unification, they were themselves not truly religious. They sought to use religion to cement together their empires, and here lay their basic error.
Religion must never justify its existence by service to a state or society, nor allow itself to be prostituted in that way. Religion is not a means to a stable society. It is a pathway to knowledge of God, it is the means of developing love of God. It is liberation from material existence, not a material device or adjustment. When it loses this orientation, when religion no longer serves to bring the individual to direct experience of the existence of God, then it is false and useless—a true opiate of the people.
The religion from which a stable and happy society springs is not, oddly enough, the false, society-oriented religion. Such a religion is ever the harbinger of revolution and disintegration, as witness Christendom these last few hundred years. Only the true religion which strives, and exhorts mankind to strive, after face-to-face knowledge of God can actually bring about peace and stability in the world. One who does not himself believe in God—much less know Him by his own serious devotional endeavors—cannot, therefore, create union among men by means of religion. Such leaders offer only the tradition, the hollow tasteless husk of a creed, and it is in turning from this in search of something better that the world so often finds itself in ferment.
The truth is that it is society which must be made to justify itself in terms of the spiritual advancement of its people, as both Gandhi and Toynbee have foreseen. And the world leader who will succeed in uniting the human race is the man who can affect this change in disposition. He cannot be a man interested in self-aggrandizement, for knowledge of God leads one to glorify God only, to serve and love and obey God only. Nor can he be a man of any section, with any special, narrow interest to serve, for God is one without a second, as He is described in all the world’s authentic Scriptures; and all that exists is His. All beings without exception belong to Him, are His beloved children, and therefore must be treated with the utmost regard, and must be offered the full happiness and peace of spiritual perfection.
One with this consciousness of God as the Supreme Father of all, as the Possessor of all and the Friend of all, is fit for world leadership today, and only such a spiritually advanced person can hope to overcome the strictures of sectional interest in establishing the world union which electric technology has made practical, and history essential, for our survival.
There are, and always have been, innumerable doctrines of a grand and sweeping nature which call for peace, disarmament, brotherhood, and harmony, but modern history has not found one which will work. Neither communism, socialism, capitalism, totalitarianism, democracy, nor whatever is really acceptable for the welfare of all. If communism excludes individual enterprise, capitalism is a system for the exploitation of the poor. And no scheme, whether economic or political, has taken account of the welfare of living beings other than humans. Based ultimately on personal avarice, existing only to adjust the exploitation of the world’s wealth for the benefit of many or few, such grand and all-inclusive world views falter at one point or another, such as Russian national predominance within the communist movement, or American—and before that British—industrial hegemony among the democracies.
The present writer, however, has no such scheme to offer. The Krishna Consciousness movement which I serve has indeed a dialectic, and what’s more an outright science of societal organization, but the point and essence of this essay is that the world cannot be “saved”—that is to say unified—by schemes. It must be saved by men, and only men who have made themselves perfect in the science of God realization are fit for such a task. To be perfect in God realization means to have purified one’s consciousness from the false designations of the material concept of life, and to have risen to the platform of spiritual awareness. Such awareness is universal in scope. and does not recognize the petty and vicious pretensions of sectional society, nor even of human society as opposed to other life forms.
This purification of consciousness has been outlined scientifically within the context of the Vedic Scriptural writings of India. and it is to these Scriptures that the leaders of tomorrow’s world must look if they are to achieve the required consciousness of universal love. Other Scriptures are, to be sure, not excluded by such a study, and it is exactly because they are all-inclusive, rather than exclusive, that the Vedic writings have real value for us now.
The Vedic wisdom can be summarized in a simple phrase: The single worthwhile goal of life is to develop love of Godhead. And the system for the development of that love is presented in many different ways. Especially recommended for this age, where the strains of life seem not reduced but magnified by electric technology, is the chanting of the Hare Krishna Mantra—Hare Krishna, Hare Krishna, Krishna Krishna, Hare Hare/Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare. By constant repetition of this transcendental sound vibration it is possible to arrive at the position of purified awareness of God. Such an awareness necessarily entails awareness of the eternally existing relationships between all creatures and their Creator and thereby endows one with the intelligence required for true world leadership.
This is a scheme not for societies so much as for individual people, and its value lies here. For if the people, individually, can find satisfaction, fulfillment and happiness in the advancement of spiritual life, then society will necessarily be peaceful and stable.
We can therefore see that a perfect society is a natural and inevitable byproduct but not the goal of true religion. And the world leaders of tomorrow are those who will encourage the people in this pursuit of God consciousness—and who will themselves pursue it, thereby offering their lives as examples .
The business of such world leaders can be outlined simply:
• to pursue with heart and soul the quest for personal fulfillment in devotional service to God,
• to unify the world under one government,
• to institute a system of law based on spiritual goals, which will have as its guideline the great Scriptures of the world,
• and to create an atmosphere of God consciousness for the actual benefit of all beings.
Utopian? Electric technology has made each one of these goals wholly practical, while the outcries of the new generation for a way of life more sane, more hopeful and more intimately fulfilling show that the human race is ready, if not waiting.