After the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, President Kennedy estimated that the possibility of a nuclear holocaust had been “somewhere around one out of three…. Everything the U.S. has built in three centuries would have disappeared within eighteen hours. Even the fruits of victory would have been ashes in our mouths.” At that time everyone hoped the near-disaster would spur world leaders toward an effective disarmament treaty. But just the opposite has happened. Envoys have met thousands of times to discuss disarmament, but no one has destroyed a single warhead. In fact, since 1965 the world’s nuclear stockpile has multiplied more than tenfold, and now both the U.S. and the Soviet Union are daily building three hydrogen bombs, each one powerful enough to wipe out greater Paris and its ten million inhabitants. Far from taking the Cuban missile crisis as a warning to disarm, the world’s major nations have created a nuclear Vesuvius primed to erupt at any moment.
If you doubt that our leaders consider nuclear war an essential (and even convenient) option, the remarks that follow should convince you. During the summer of 1974, President Nixon told California Senator Alan Cranston, “At any moment I could go into the next room, push a button, and, twenty minutes later, sixty million people would be dead.” And the 1974 Senate Hearings on Nuclear War and Foreign Policy included this statement: “The NATO doctrine is that we will fight with conventional forces until we are losing, and then fight with tactical nuclear weapons until we are losing, and then we will blow up the whole world.” Of course, we’ve all heard the theory that with nuclear weapons war is out of the question. Alfred Nobel said the same thing when he invented dynamite. So to think that our fleets of missiles and bombs will never see action is to think that history won’t repeat itself. The world’s great fighting forces have always seen action. The Roman legions, the Spanish Armada, the Wehrmacht—all were meant for war, and all went to war.
“But,” you may ask, “if world history has been a history of wars, and if history repeats itself, then what chance do we have now for peace? Was there ever a time of peace?” The answer is yes. The Puranas, the Koran, the Bible, and the teachings of Confucius tell of an ultracivilized age when wise, saintly monarchs (similar to Plato’s philosopher kings) ruled a world totally at peace. This peace resulted not from repression but from the wisdom of rulers and citizens who knew God’s laws and followed them.
Just as federal laws govern a nation, so God’s laws govern the universe. And just as the state punishes a thief or a murderer, so God punishes a nation that transgresses His laws. This punishment takes such forms as natural disaster, social disorder, economic hardship—and war. Ancient India’s Vedic literatures give us this basic law for a peaceful world: “Everything animate or inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself—those things set aside as his quota—and one must not take other things, knowing well to whom they belong.” (Isa Upanisad, mantra 1)
In former ages people knew that encroaching upon others’ property violates not only civil laws but God’s laws. Unlike modern materialists, who know only how to grab and keep grabbing, the ancients knew that everyone gets his quota of life’s necessities from God—and that if someone takes more than his quota, he is in effect stealing from God.
In Bhagavad-gita Lord Krsna affirms, aham sarvasya prabhavah: “I am the source of everything.” In other words, everything in existence comes from Him. Clearly, we have not created the material energy—the land, water, sunlight, and so on—so how can we say we own it? After a carpenter takes some bricks, wood, and cement and builds a house, can he claim that he owns it? Not unless he wants to see the inside of a jail. The house belongs to the person who supplied the carpenter with the building materials. And it’s the same way on the cosmic scale. God supplies us with the food we eat, the air we breathe, the water we drink, the land we live on. Even our bodies and minds come from Him. It’s all His property—but still we’re claiming it as our own. This is thievery, and how can a bunch of thieves ever be peaceful or happy? They’ll just fight over the loot. And this is exactly what’s happening in the world today.
Take the U.S. Did we create these fifty states? If we’ve become the rightful owners just by living on the land, then what about the people who were here before we came on the scene? Didn’t we, in one way or another, steal the land from them? But now, of course, we’ve outlawed stealing. What kind of hypocrisy is this? Do we think the laws of nature will let us go on this way?
The Middle East conflict is another classic case of thieves fighting over stolen goods. The Jews, the Palestinians, the Syrians—all fighting over the same piece of desert land. But how can any of them claim the land as their own? We come into this world naked and empty-handed, and we leave the same way. Whatever we “own” while we’re here is only ours on loan. If I visit New York for two weeks, can I claim, “Now that I’ve been in New York for two weeks, the city belongs to me”? This is madness. Yet in the same way we are visiting this planet for a few years, and soon we’ll have to leave. How, then, can the Jews or the Arabs or anyone else claim that a certain piece of land belongs to them?
Actually, everything belongs to God, the supreme creator and supreme father. When the people of the world understand this idea, then their territorial claims and counterclaims will disappear like so many mirages. Just as two brothers can live together peacefully on their father’s estate, so a God conscious Arab and a God conscious Jew can live together peacefully on God’s land. In God’s mind is there any line of demarcation between Israel and Lebanon or the United States and Cuba? This nation against that, black against white, Jew against Arab, Catholic against Protestant—all these conflicts are due simply to our lack of God consciousness. The only solution for us is to recognize the real owner: God. This doesn’t mean we have to give up everything and live like ascetics. Actually, as God’s family we have a right to live on His property. But now we have forgotten our bond with the supreme father, which means we have also forgotten our bond with one another. That’s why we’re having so much trouble living and working together.
Imagine some people standing on a bridge over a small pond. If each of them starts tossing stones in at random, the ripples will clash, and in no time the water will become choppy. But if the people could toss the stones at the same central point, then the ripples would never clash; they’d harmonize. In the same way, if our nation has its center of interest and another nation has its center of interest, our interests will clash. But when we see that Lord Krsna is the perfect center of interest, then we won’t clash. We’ll have peace.