"In unity there is strength," the great Swami Krishnananda declared to the audience sitting before him in the satsang hall of his guru's ashram. It was 1984 and I was visiting Rishikesh, the holy pilgrimage town in the foothills of the Himalayas on the River Ganges
As the swami spoke, I was drawn into another dimension, beyond time. As this diminutive man gave his afternoon discourse, an extraordinary power entered the room; it was as if Krishna was revealing his true face to us, if only for an instant. "From the beyond there is a whisper," he said to us, "and if you listen closely enough, you will hear that whisper become a raging chorus, imploring all those who have the ears to hear its call to 'Come together—in unity there is strength.'" He repeated the message again, "In unity there is strength. Come together, come together, come together. In unity there is strength, come together." I was stunned, overwhelmed, not by what he said but by how
he said it. Indeed, by where those words had come from. I had never heard anything like it. It was so simple, and yet, it was everything. It was as if the swami had lifted the veil of illusion, however temporarily, allowing us all to hear the voice of God, or more importantly, the wish
of our Maker: to come together in Her form; to come together as ONE.
It has always seemed obvious to me that the inevitable response to the spiritual experience should be the awakening of the impersonal desire to come together with others as one. The spiritual experience that liberates is the revelation of perfect nonduality, that glimpse of ultimacy that awakens in us the recognition of our own true nature—one without a second.
Yet that awakening, for too many of us, more often than not remains only an inner experience. But, in the end, doesn't the fulfillment of that inner revelation of wholeness, of nonduality, have to be the outer manifestation of nonseparation? Ever since I began teaching fifteen years ago, I have never been able to separate one from the other. And when an individual's experience of revelation was not followed by a spontaneous and ever-deepening experience of communion with others, I always doubted the depth and ultimate significance of what had occurred. Coming together, as Swami Krishnananda proclaimed, is
what it's all about.
All the experts that we spoke to for this issue of What Is Enlightenment?
made it very clear that the solution to the current world crisis of globalization, overpopulation, grinding poverty, pollution, and
desecration of the natural environment, not to mention the spread of weapons of mass destruction, is not political or technological but spiritual
. In fact, they were unanimous in their conviction that this was the case. But what they seemed to be not so clear about was how.
And "How?" of course, is the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question.
The solution is
spiritual, and that solution inevitably requires us to find a way to come together for the sake of everyone's survival, including all of life on the planet. But coming together seems to be the greatest challenge for the individual and for us as a species. In times of intense crisis like natural disasters or war, we do find reasons to come together, but interestingly enough, when the need to come together arises from a deeper calling, a spiritual calling that emanates from a more delicate and subtle place in our own selves, it is much harder for us to find the willingness or even the interest to do it. I have been doing battle in this arena for a long time now. Endeavoring to inspire human beings to try to come together for the highest of reasons: so that the spiritual revelation can become manifest here on mother earth. So that we can actually manifest that recognition of nonduality or perfect nonseparation as ourselves together
. That is, after all, the ultimate fulfillment of the spiritual vision—where the inner revelation has become the outer reality. Where we all have become empty vessels, transparent manifestations of that one Self as many, free from any need to see ourselves as being separate, free from any and all ego motivation to create separation on any
level, gross or subtle. Then and only then will heaven become manifest right here on this
But we don't want to do it. We don't want to go that far. Not yet. Not now. Never
We have to begin to recognize that as long as the desire to be separate—to see ourselves as standing outside of or separate from others, from the world, from the whole universe
—remains intact, it is inevitable that we will always find some reasonable justification to act out of ignorance or selfishness in ways that will cause harm. And it is that very desire to remain separate and to see ourselves as being separate, standing outside of and apart from the whole, that is, from the perspective of enlightenment, the manifestation of ego
—the separate sense of self that can and will do almost anything to not have to surrender. Surrender for the sake of love, surrender for the sake of truth, surrender for everyone else's sake.
What motivates us to come together for a larger purpose is rarely more than survival or a mutual self-interest that caters strictly to the fears and desires of the separate sense of self. I remember, one day during the Gulf War, seeing on television row upon row of tank battalions moving forward in the desert, as the news commentator was explaining how many thousands of men and women had had to come together in a rare and highly refined degree of organization in order to support this extraordinary display of cooperation. In that moment, I was overcome by emotion; I was moved, deeply and profoundly—not by what they were doing, but simply by the recognition that that many people had truly been able to come together, if only momentarily, as one.
If we do manage to pull ourselves together for the sake of our very survival, for the survival of our sons and daughters and of all the plants and animals and of the biosphere itself, will the sacrifices have been enough to catapult us into a completely different relationship to life and death? A relationship to life and death in which what would motivate us toward self-sacrifice would no longer merely be the preservation of life but would in fact be the evolution
of life? What is evolution? From the spiritual perspective, evolution is the movement from a self-centered relationship to life to one that is based upon the direct apprehension of the inherently undivided nature of life itself. It is that knowledge alone, directly perceived and recognized, that will have the power to completely transform our relationship to what it actually means to be a citizen of Spaceship Earth. Our evolutionary potential is so extraordinary, and yet now everything hangs in the balance. It's up to each and every one of us—not for our own sake, but for the sake of life itself.
. . . In unity there is strength.