Usually I don’t pay much attention to politics.
“It’s not my world,” is how I explain it to people who ask.
The US presidential election in 2012, however, captured my attention. The personalities were more interesting than they often are, and no one could deny that there was a great deal at stake. With the world economy teetering, and nations at each other’s throats – surely politics matters more than ever.
Still, my faith is in God, not politics. As Swami Kriyananda put it, “The outcome depends on the karma of the country.”
In other words, forces greater than a single human ego who can win an election are at work.
The individual is carried into power because the consciousness he or she brings to the job is what the nation collectively merits at the time. Note that “merit” can mean either punishment or reward!
Even horrific leaders, like Adolph Hitler, are usually not personally responsible for what happens during the time they are in power.
Yogananda said that Hitler was not the cause of the tragedies he implemented, but an instrument for the karma of the nation – or several nations, in his case.
Hitler certainly didn’t get good karma for what he did. But neither does the whole weight of what happened fall on his shoulders. It is a collective responsibility, held by the karmic entity called “Germany.”
Bear in mind, “Germany” is not an individual soul working for its salvation. Rather, what we call Germany is a vibration of consciousness, located in time and space, into which a soul is born when the unique conditions prevailing there are spiritually appropriate for that soul’s on-going development.
Over the course of many lives, a soul will incarnate in different cultures and countries, even on different planets, drawn for each life to the exact conditions it needs for its continued spiritual development.
Interestingly, though, Yogananda also said that Joseph Stalin, the Russian leader whom he described as far worse than Hitler, was personally responsible for the misery he inflicted on his people. The soul known to the world as Stalin, Master said, will endure thousands of years of suffering for his crimes.
When contemplating any aspect of life, it is beneficial to stand back and take a “God’s eye view” of it.
In his book The New Path: My Life with Paramhansa Yogananda, Swami Kriyananda describes how families of like-minded souls come together under the influence of a great spiritual teacher such as Krishna, Yogananda, Christ, and others.
By repeated association over many incarnations, these great spiritual families, he says, “become powerful for the general upliftment of mankind.”
Yogananda’s spiritual family is part of a greater “spiritual nation” in which Sri Krishna and Jesus Christ are also leaders. To this “Nation of Self-Realization” is given the “real task,” as Swamiji puts it, “of guiding the human race – not in the way governments do, by ordinances, but by subtle, spiritual influence.”
Looking back over the sixty years since Paramhansa Yogananda died in 1952, it is hard to say whether we are going backward or forward on the political front. But on the level of consciousness, a revolution is taking place. Not by ordinance, as Swamiji put it. Nor led by the secular government. It is a grassroots awakening of consciousness.
I started in these teachings in the late 1960s. At that time, even the concept of yoga in America was considered quite radical.
I was part of a movement toward simple living and “going back to the land.” The early years of what is now Ananda Village were a mixed bag of classical Raja Yoga and Sixties youthful rebellion. It took time for it all to sort itself out.
In those early days, I made my own natural food, because those products were not available in any other way. Now, the major American food companies have long since jumped on the organic “band wagon.”
None of this happened because of politics – from the top down. “Government” did not order the citizens to forgo white bread and eat whole grains instead. A new consciousness awakened on its own, subject to influences that were subtler than any government could exert.
Diet was an important symbol of the change in perspective that we were embracing. But the heart of the new vibration in America was yoga and meditation, practices that were virtually unknown at that time.
Nowadays, even if people don’t actually meditate, at least they feel guilty about not doing it! Recently we were in Chicago, and when the taxi driver asked what we did for a living, we gave our simple answer, “We teach meditation.”
“Yeah, yeah, meditation,” the taxi driver said enthusiastically. “I tried it twice.” Then after a moment he said, “It didn’t work.”
“What did you do?” I inquired sympathetically.
“I sat in a dark room and closed my eyes,” he said. “Nothing happened. After a couple of minutes I gave up.”
“Perhaps it would be easier if you had a little instruction,” I said, wanting to open the door, but not push too hard on it. The driver expressed no further interest, and so the matter was dropped.
The point isn’t whether we were able to help the taxi driver. The point is how widespread interest in meditation has become today.
Did the government mandate that its citizens should learn to meditate? Or at least desire to do so? Of course not!
But a “subtle influence” is at work on the planet. Far more than we realize, Swamiji says, this planet is guided by great Masters who are empowered by God to uplift the world. They do so, not by electing political leaders, but by influencing the thoughts of those who are in tune with this upward direction of consciousness.
So, even as we collectively engage in the process of choosing a new leader, let us keep in mind a broader view. Nations and leaders rise and fall endlessly, like waves on the ocean. Only consciousness endures.