By Murari Gupta Dasa

In India each state is like a small nation, with its own language and culture. When a politician in Maharashtra declared that his state is only for the natives and that people from other states should leave, his party members threatened and even attacked people from other states, prompting a mass exodus from Maharashtra.

Such discrimination may sound familiar. Perhaps you have faced bias too—in your office, in the streets, in recreation centers, or even in government policies. Discrimination on the basis of race, color, or ethnic origin is a global problem. Propagandists in the guise of politicians rouse people’s fear and insecurity: “These outsiders will take your job, your land, your wealth.” And they offer the people shelter with slogans like “Our land for our people!” But while supposedly promoting the social good, more often than not they hide their selfish interests for power, prestige, and control.

The desire to live in a close group seems natural. We seek security and shelter and seem to find them in a cohort of people like ourselves. But this tendency degrades to hostile attitudes, tension between nations, misconceived racial superiority, religious fanaticism, global terrorism, and war.

Ancient Wisdom Shows the Way

What makes me think someone is related to me? Generally it is birth in a common land, caste, race, family, or religion, or likeness in ideology or belief. The Bhagavad-gita states that identifying ourselves with our physical and mental attributes is an incomplete understanding. Our real identity is that we are spirit souls, parts of God, Krishna the universal father.

Unaware of our real spiritual identity, we think, “I’m a man” or “I’m Indian” or “I’m a housewife” or “I’m a rich woman” or “I’m a brahmana.” And we think everything related to our body is ours—our relatives, our house, our caste, our nation. This network of illusion expands and completely entwines our thinking power. In this bound stage we can think only of “mine” and “yours.” Such thinking triggers discrimination. Anyone who does not fit into our designation of “mine” warrants our indifference or hate.

But when we understand that we are spirit souls and God is the original father of all living entities, we can identify with a fellow being as our brother or sister. The distinction based on physical, cultural, and other differences melts away, and a new relationship centered on pleasing Krishna evolves.

The Vedic text Sri Ishopanishad (Mantra 1) states:

ishavasyam idam sarvam
yat kincha jagatyam jagat
tena tyaktena bhunjitha
ma gridhah kasya svid dhanam

“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, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.”

When we consider God the owner of everything and are satisfied with what we need, we will be happy that others share in what He provides. Poverty results from greed, when a few exploit many. A simple life of satisfaction and sharing holds the key to mitigating poverty. As the invocation of Sri Ishopanishad states: “The Personality of Godhead is perfect and complete, and because He is completely perfect, all emanations from Him, such as this phenomenal world, are perfectly equipped as complete wholes. . ..” We can be assured that since God is perfect, His arrangements to care for the inhabitants of this world are also perfect. A child of God has no need to fear.

By accepting these spiritual principles, we find our hearts free from the narrow-minded concerns of politics. Hatred, tensions, and differences cease to bother us. A spirit of love and caring for our brethren bathes our motives and guides our actions. We can then easily identify with the teachings of Srimad-Bhagavatam (10.84.13):

yasyatma-buddhih kunape tri-dhatuke
sva-dhih kalatradishu bhauma ijya-dhih
yat-tirtha-buddhih salile na karhichij
janeshv abhijneshu sa eva go-kharah

“A human being who identifies this body made of three elements with his self, who considers the by-products of the body to be his kinsmen, who considers the land of birth worshipable, and who goes to the place of pilgrimage simply to take a bath rather than meet men of transcendental knowledge there, is to be considered like an ass or a cow.”

A Spiritual Attachment

Attachment for the land that supports us and for the people we relate to is a natural human tendency. Can we spiritualize this need? Yes, and the answer lies in finding a spiritual connection with God. If we want to be attached to some person, let it be Lord Krishna and not some hero of this world with his flickering charms. If we want to be attached to some land, let it not be our motherland but the holy land of Vrindavana. This spiritual attachment will not only bring sanctity to our contaminated and hateful hearts, but also liberate us from the fetters of this miserable material life. ISKCON centers illustrate how members of different races and nationalities can unite together in their service to the supreme Lord, Krishna.

The world would improve without politicians who split us. Even greater gains would come when, by making Krishna the heart of our lives, we develop bonds of fraternity that supersede all our sectarian differences. Finally, the world will be the best it can be when we will reunite with Krishna, our original father, and Vrindavana, our real homeland.