It’s one thing to raise one’s own
consciousness. It’s an entirely
different thing to raise the consciousness of a society and the
institutions by which it is governed.
We should look at the public sphere
with the same level of consciousness
as when we look at personal relationships—not shouting at someone else
about what we think, but being open
to hearing why they think; monitoring own hearts for where we are
self-righteous or judgmental; remembering that no one has a monopoly
on truth. That kind of consciousness
is central to personal transformation, and to societal transformation
as well. It’s why those who are on a
path of higher consciousness are the
last people who should be sitting out
the political process; if you know
how to change one heart, and one
relationship, then you have a clue as
to how to change the world. How
can we complain that the political
domain is lacking in consciousness
if we ourselves aren’t putting it here?
What would you like to influence
There is a conversation already happening in Washington and
around the country about ridding our political system of the undue
influence of money. The situation now, in which monied interests
have such disproportionate leverage on our political system, is the
cancer underlying most of our problems. It’s why we have such
large income inequality and child poverty, why we're not making more progress on climate change, why we're experiencing the
corruption of our food supply, why we don't have paid maternity
leave, and so forth. The American people will always be playing
defense—trying to defend ourselves against encroaching control by
monied interests—until we fundamentally deal with this one issue.
There are many arrows in the quiver, but our ultimate goal should
be a constitutional amendment determining that money will not
have undue influence on our political functioning. That is a big
task—but abolition was a big task, women’s suffrage was a big
task. I believe the legalized corruption that now exists represents
the dismantling of democracy. Correcting our course is the greatest
moral challenge of our generation.
What is our biggest spiritual challenge as a nation?
Spirituality is the path to finding one’s heart and living according to
its dictates. America needs to own its mistakes and atone for them,
and we also need to course-correct in the places where we're not living from our highest principles.
Democracy itself is at a crisis point, because a government of the
people, by the people, and for the people has become a government
of a few of the people, by a few of the people, and for a few of the
people. We have a system in which a
short-term economic gain for a par-
ticular sector of our society is placed
before humanitarian concerns. Mon-
ey—rather than love—has become our
Our economic system, at this point, is
basically sociopathic because it operates without any heart at all. I think
that the health and wellbeing of our
children, our planet, and of our society
should be our bottom line. That, to me,
We can talk all we want about spirituality, but if I’m not doing anything
about the fact that a child is hungry,
then how am I living a path of spirituality? How can someone say that they are
on the path of love, yet not address the
fact that 17,000 children starve on this
planet every day? No serious spiritual
path gives anyone a pass on addressing
the unnecessary suffering of other sentient beings.
I founded a couple of organizations
back in the day: The L.A. Center for Living and Project Angel Food. We didn’t
just pray for AIDS patients; we fed
them. We didn’t just talk about loving
them; we set up an organization where they would have someplace to
go every day, where they would be fed, loved, counseled, massaged.
Love is a participatory emotion, not just a passive one. Must a yogic
life be grounded in a deeper level of being? Absolutely. But let’s not
trade a paradigm of overemphasized doing for one of overemphasized being. A balanced life is one in which we ground ourselves in
a deeper state of being, so we can soar into a higher state of doing.
There’s a lot we need to do today. We need more than the audacity
of hope now; we need the audacity to wield power. It’s time.
Spirituality requires action.
It’s easy enough to say, “I will be a more loving person.” But unless
love is applied, it’s not yet at its most mature or conscious level.
As citizens we may feel dissociated and disempowered.
What can we do?
Americans aren’t powerless, so much as we’ve been mesmerized into
thinking we are. What we need is to wake up! Someone told me the
other day that within every cynic there’s a disappointed optimist. Cynicism is just an excuse for not helping. Yes, there’s been a power grab
by monied forces, and yes there’s been a lockout by our own political
system—but we’ve conspired with that lockout by allowing ourselves
to be disengaged and distracted. Apathy at this point is our biggest enemy, because it allows the trajectory of what’s happening to continue
in the direction it’s heading. Americans have an interesting character
trait: We become distracted from important things too easily, but boy,
there is nothing we can’t do once we wake up. We’ve proven that in
our history, and I hope we’re on the brink of proving it again.