[This is a transcription of Swami Veda speaking 9 December 2009 at the 2009 Copenhagen Symposium “Working Collectively Through Inner Transformation: Transforming Our World View” during which monks, clergy and nuns from many religions, along with leaders on climate and world issues, met in Copenhagen on December 8-10, 2009.]
All questions arise in the mind. All problems arise from the mind.
(Sanskrit) “It is in the mind that we see. It is in the mind that we hear.”
(Sanskrit) “All attributes and natures are preceded by the nature and action of the mind.”
It is, therefore, in the minds that the solutions to our problems, to our challenges – [to the] answers to our questions – reside.
There is call for action. The title for this morning is not pure and simple “activism,” but “sacred activism.”
How can we define “sacred activism?” The actions that arise from our mindfulness, or awareness of ourselves.
What contributions have I personally made to the problems we are collectively facing. Out of seven billion humans on the earth, each one of us has individually contributed drop-by-drop-by-drop to the ocean of poison that we have created. And I must begin by turning my poison drop into a drop of the honey of the mind.
I know there is call for action. There is urgency. There was urgency to the nuclear question several decades ago. There is urgency to the question of terrorism. There is urgency to the fact that one billion, out of seven billion people on the earth, go to bed hungry every night. The problems of agriculture, or CO2 and methane and ozone and war — and terrorism and hunger and poverty and disease and the absence of medical help where it is direly needed – the absence of a midwife to help with the birth of a child on a remote mountain. All of these are a single challenge with a single answer in a single word: MIND.
It is not that we have to search for solutions. Solutions have been presented to us by centuries, millenniums of cultures and civilizations. We only need to recognize those solutions and make them better known.
Some decades back, the World Bank or some such body, sent out a team to study the ways in which agriculture on Bali Island could be improved. And they studied, and they made inquiries, and they made scientific investigations, and they came up with some computer models. And they presented a computer models to the society. And the priests of the temples at Bali looked at the models and said, “This is exactly what we have been doing for the past 2,000 years here. You have wasted your money.”
The problem is not in science. Some here and elsewhere may disagree with my statement. Science – which was earlier known as “the natural philosophy” – science is the most beautiful spiritual poem ever composed – and I can prove it! I find poetry in science. But we have to have a mind that has that harmony, that rhythm of poetry, that rhyme. That rhyming mind will not create cacophony out of the symphony of science.
As I said, “Solutions are staring us in the face.” Solutions are arising in the minds. We read all the bad news about the dishonest companies of Wall Street. We read much less about the companies that have developed a model where part of their profits will go to the betterment of humanity and for charity. Those companies do not suffer from the uncertainty of volatile ups and downs. They move slower. They move slower, but they are stable. They have arrived at their solutions from the collective mind of the company.
Sacred activism is not loud. Sacred activism is not composed of shouting slogans in the street. Sacred activism does not include confrontation – because what you will achieve by confrontation today will be canceled by a future confrontation. It [sacred activism] is not a path of conflict. What you will achieve be coming into conflict will be destroyed by the conflict. This is the Gandhian message. This is the message of Martin Luther King, or of Nelson Mandela, and all the others who have found the meaning of sacred activism.
Sacred activism is like martial arts where we are taught that our core being must be absolutely silent and still, and it from that stillness that your actions should proceed. This is the way of the Tao. This is the way of the Bhagavad Gita – karmaṇyakarma yaḥ paśhyed akarmaṇi cha karma hyaḥ. (“He who knows action in inaction; he who knows inaction in action.”) 1
Here contemplation and action are not in conflict with each other; they support each other. Action is derived from contemplation. Contemplation is derived from action. And whatever we say come out from a deeper, still depth from within ourselves – the world will listen.
Whether the prime ministers and the presidents sign an agreement or don’t sign an agreement. The United States refrained from participating in the Kyoto agreement, but some states in the United States followed the path and made changes. China and India may sign or may not sign the agreement, but without signing an agreement, they are following the way of searching for alternative forms of energy. But it is not about searching for alternative forms of energy, it is about creating a whole universal consciousness that already exists, as I said yesterday. How many hundred thousand yoga teachers there are! How many thousands of Tai Chi teachers there are! How many teachers of the real martial arts, that proceed from the interior stillness, there are! How many clergymen? How many contemplators? This is a whole large army!
It is not absolutely necessary that they must form a single forum. Each cell acts in its own place, interacts with its own surroundings, and a universal movement happens.
Gandhi took an ordinary spinning wheel from the villages of India and dismantled the world’s largest empire.
When I was a child, I would watch the leaders of the independence movement sitting on a stage and spinning, and wearing the clothes that they had spun that were woven from the threads that they had spun themselves. At that time, the population of India was 350 or 360 million people. 350 million people spun on a simple spinning spindle and gained the independence of the country. What 360 million people could do is in us – 7 billion people can also do. But it has to come from within a change in ourselves. What have I contributed to the sea of poison?
I will tell one short story we tell in India of a king who wanted to inaugurate a reservoir, and in his kingly whim, he made an order that he wanted to inaugurate it by filling the reservoir first with milk. So he ordered everyone in the kingdom that they should, on the night before he would be coming to inaugurate, everyone should bring a bucket of milk and fill the reservoir. One man in the village said, “One bucket milk? Everybody is going to bring a bucket of milk. Who is going to see if I throw in a bucket of water? So he threw in a bucket of water, and – Lo and Behold! – when the king and his men came to inaugurate the reservoir, it was all water – because everyone had thought the same thought.
Everyone making the contribution of a bucket of milk is the state of sacred activism, and it will turn back a collective force because all these forces joined together.
Do we have time to wait before the world is destroyed? No, we do not have time to wait. Therefore, let us stop this constant craving in us – the entire industry that is devoted to creating craving, the advertising industry. Are you going to say, “I shall not be affected to the next advertisement I see on TV?” That is where your mind comes in.
But then, what will give me satisfaction? Contemplation will give me satisfaction so that I vow that I shall not desire what I do not need. I shall not desire what I do not need. If all 7 billion people say that, THAT is sacred activism. And, yes, it can be effective very, very quickly.
Please contemplate that. I thank you.
1 “He who sees inaction in action and who sees action in inaction, he is the one endowed with wisdom among human beings. He is joined in yoga, a performer of complete action.” (Bhagavad Gita 4:18). Please see “Action and Inaction” by Swami Rama.
(This article was also published in the October 2020 edition of the AHYMSIN newsletter.)