‘Woke’-ness references the attempt to address perceived or real racial & gender inequality. But it is a political ideology of creating divisions and undertaking action based on temporary bodily labels/identities.
From the spiritual perspective, the temporary bodily identities are false identities and reinforcing these temporary and false identities can never be considered ‘well-informed’ or ‘aware’ and can never deliver equality? It is like racing down the highway in a vehicle (the materialistic philosophy of bodily identity) appearing alert but factually being asleep at the wheel. This will only ever produce tribalism, which is foundational to inequality.
A philosophy founded on bodily identity differences, or group identities, can never succeed in creating peace, harmony, love, and justice for all. So, how do we approach the subject of equality from a spiritual perspective?
During the talk I used the following quotes:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
“I have a dream that one day down in Alabama … little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.” – Martin Luther King
“He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings, in both their happiness and their distress, O Arjuna!” – Bhagavad-gita 6.32
“The humble sages, by virtue of true knowledge, see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and the social outcaste.” – Bhagavad-gita 5.18
“Thus knowing oneself to be transcendental to material senses, mind and intelligence, one should control the lower self by the higher self and thus–by spiritual strength–conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust.” – Bhagavad-gita 3:43
“What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled; and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.” – Bhagavad-gita 2.69
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
Haribol. Hope everybody is well.
So I’ve received a few questions related to the topic that we’re going to speak about tonight, which I’ve titled Being Woke – Being Asleep. I’m, of course, really reluctant to speak on the subject, only because it is almost purely political, and we have no interest into addressing political issues. But what we do want to speak about is spiritual issues, and the idea of wokeness, which is compared to enlightenment, being enlightened, as opposed to somebody that is asleep or, from a spiritual perspective, in ignorance.
So this term woke and wokeness, its usage is pretty new in the world forum of political discussion and social issues, but it actually was used about 90 years ago almost, in a similar sort of context. But now it’s become highly connected to a political and social ideology; and when I say a social ideology I’m speaking about that—within the context of it being highly political in nature.
Speaking about politics, unfortunately—Politics is really defined as the activities associated with the governance of a country, especially the type and the nature of the debate between political parties. It is rather unfortunate that the term politics, and politics per se, is not really the focus of governance. I mean that when you look at governance in the world of—in the corporate world, that would be like management, company management. And [political] governance is now often not at all associated with just how to run a—the management of a country, in the most efficient manner. It’s very highly tied to other kinds of meanings other than governance.
And the meanings that it’s often associated with now are duplicity, and—duplicity meaning you say one thing but actually mean another. I think the adoption of polling and focus groups has made this now really the main way in which political activity is undertaken, where it’s all about what moves people right now. What are the key words or ideas that move people? And how can we weave those into things that we say so that we become popular? And I may have a whole different intention of what I want to bring to a country, but I will shape everything in the words that will get me elected; and what I will do may be completely different. So, this is duplicity. This is what political spin is all about, where you say one thing, but actually mean something else.
Another thing that politics is associated with is just manipulation, the manipulation of messaging, of media, the manipulation of population. And of course, with this, deceit, being deceitful, not just duplistic but outright deceitful.
The other thing that’s very much now—that colours, not just now, it’s—to different degrees, it’s always been there, but the lust for power; wanting to be in a position of power. And then of course, tied to that, the desire for adulation, the desire to be honoured.
So, referencing wokeness within the context of where a lot of politics or these types of things are played out, tends to colour it badly. The term “to be woke” was—has been defined as meaning that you are “well informed, or aware,” especially in a political or a cultural sense, that you are informed and aware. But I would suggest that we need some sort of really objective criteria to measure something’s value, and that objective criteria has to be something bigger than that which is temporary and passing.
When we look at history—I remember reading about a group of archaeologists that were somewhere in the area of Iraq or Iran, you know, the—what they were often referring to as a “cradle of civilization,” and excavating and finding a buried city; and then wanting to dig further to find what was buried to give a better understanding of the population that lived there, and in excavating discovering another city, in fact three and, in some instances four cities built upon each other.
And I think that for the average person that considers that, it’d be incredibly humbling, that with the passing of time whole societies, civilizations, were swept away and covered over with shifting sands and dirt, and a new city, a new civilization arises, and that in the course of time is also swept away or buried, and yet another one is built on top of that. It gives us an acute sense of the nature of the material world. And I think it’s important to have that kind of a sense of the constantly changing and temporary nature of things here, because it helps us then to build a healthier perspective and a healthier focus on that which is actually more important, that which is eternal.
In relation to the topic that we’re going to be discussing, spiritual truth teaches us that the highest reality is that we are eternal spiritual beings; that the bodies in which we were residing are not eternally who we are, these are very temporary labels and temporary identities; that there is something way beyond these temporary identities; and that is our—the eternal reality of our spiritual existence. And the closer we are to aligning our thinking and our actions with this higher truth, the better our society will be. And the opposite of that is also true: the more we are immersed in the temporary identities of the body, the worse off our societies will be, the more unhappy we will be.
With the use of wokeness as an ideology, a political ideology, we see that fundamentally it is an ideology of creating divisions upon the basis of bodily identities. And I ask you to be patient. Don’t immediately react to what I’m saying and want to shut it down. I ask you to patiently listen and consider. I promise you that it will be in your best interest to do that.
If we try to build a more perfect society based around different identities associated with the bodies that we have, we are heading towards what historically is known as tribalism. And we all know that in societies that are governed by tribalism, where you create divisions based on the basis of bodily identities, “I belong to this group, or to that group, or to this ethnicity, or to this language group, or this identity,” if I endeavour to function as a society based upon these divisions it has never brought about anything of tremendous value.
I’m not saying that we need to erase different bodily identities and different cultural, or heritage— cultural differences, but what I’m saying is that there is a need, if we want to have a more perfect world, to find what it is that we actually have in common. If I am going to be absorbed in dividing people along racial, or cultural, or gender lines, and then begin to examine the different groups to see if there is an equality between them, and if not, to seek to punish those who may be more powerful, and to tear them down so that we all become more equal, this is utterly artificial.
We have to ask the question—and I’ve just made a few notes here that I will be referring to—we really do have to question the idea that, can reinforcing differences, can that ever be well informed or aware? And can that deliver equality? And of course, the answer is, No. It cannot. It has never done it. What it does is produce tribalism; and tribalism has always delivered inequalities, the idea of us versus them.
In more recent history, the Hutu and Tutsi conflict in Africa, where two tribal groups lived historically, or at least for a very long time, together, and then when politicians utilized—or those seeking power, utilized divisions, tribal differences, and sought to demolish the ones that were perceived to be better off, in order that the group that was a lot less better off could gain some equality, it resulted in the most horrific violence. I mean it was just absolutely horrific what occurred there. And it’s interesting to study what has happened since then. There are documentaries that have been made of how people dealt with the aftermath and sought healing, on both sides, healing from that process. And the healing and improvement in society has always come from stepping away from the tribal identities and seeking to find what it is that connects us on a much deeper level.
If we are going to be guided by spiritual principles in approaching the subject of equality, then at a bare minimum we must be guided by a foundational principle that our equality comes from a shared humanity, that we are all entitled to human rights, not rights of a one group or one tribe over another one. And then of course, the other flip side of that is, not persecuting different groups based on some characteristic, whether that’s racial, or language, or gender, or whatever; that we are all commonly perceived as human beings, and we are respectful of human rights, rights that all of us have.
In this era of, now, wokeness and all of the new racial tensions that are bubbling up, that are utterly destructive, Martin Luther King is no longer, even though there is the lip service, his ideas are no longer considered to be ideal or something to be aimed for. And I’ve seen situations where any non-black individuals who quote Martin Luther King are instantly accused of racism, because he belongs to one group, and only one group can quote him. And it’s just like, you’ve utterly missed the point, because he strongly advocated another idea.
In his famous I have, I had a dream—or I have a dream, speech, he clearly laid out what was his wish or desire for how equality was going to be manifest, achieved and manifest. He says:
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character.”
And now we are seeing—you see it with white supremacy, you see it with black supremacy—the idea that I shouldn’t be judged by the content of my character, but I should be judged and I should be awarded based on the colour of my skin. This is so degraded, this idea. It is so far from what it is to be noble. And from a spiritual perspective it is so incredibly sad and can only bring more unhappiness and more suffering.
He went on to say:
“I have a dream that one day, down in Alabama, little black boys and black girls will be able to join hands with little white boys and white girls as sisters and brothers.”
That’s what he aspired for. That’s what he proposed. And what he was proposing was actually considered—well it was, from his background, a Christian ideal. And that ideal, which is not only Christian in its roots, but is actually very universal, is this idea of the equality of all men.
When I say, men please don’t say, “What about the women?” That’s an ignorance of English. When it says the equality of all men, they mean all “humen” (laughs). That’s what has been mentioned. Everything has become so parochial and so divisive. It’s so unfortunate, and it’s so sad that even we can’t even agree on language terms, that things have to be—there’s this attempt to utterly change the spoken word and to bring new meaning to words. But I’m not at all impressed by that endeavour and think that it will be absolutely destructive for society.
In the Vedas this understanding of equality was considered actually paramount for anyone that was endeavouring to develop spiritually. There is a verse in the sixth chapter of the Bhagavad-gita where Lord Krishna states:
“He is a perfect yogi who, by comparison to his own self, sees the true equality of all beings in both their happiness and their distress, O Arjuna”
So the foundation of this vision was, of course, the embrace of our eternal identity as spiritual beings, and the fact that the bodies that we currently have on are temporary garments. And by cultivating this vision we are able to experience empathy to others, towards others. We feel a oneness with them. Their pain becomes our pain. Their happiness becomes our happiness. This is noble, and this we need to aspire for, rather than this idea of what’s commonly being discussed and foisted upon everybody now.
I mean, we have this ridiculous situation where even commercial interests are getting—corporations are getting in on the bandwagon, not because they’re sincere and want to see change, only because of commercial interests. If we identify with this group, if we identify with this ideology, then we’ll be praised, and people are more likely to buy our stuff and identify with it. It’s just gross exploitation. It’s so fake. It’s unreal. And yet people have been moved by it. It’s like we don’t see with clarity, because of this blindness that comes from ignorance, ignorant positions, positions that reject or don’t incorporate actual spiritual truth, the truth that lasts, not temporary realities that are one way today and another way tomorrow.
With the Vedas though, it went way beyond this idea of a common humanity. Humanity can become the basis for speciesism, where I feel because I have a human form, therefore I have a right to exploit and to abuse other living beings. In the Vedas they promoted a much higher ideal, and that was the commonality of all living beings, that the principle of life, that life, was inherently a spiritual thing not a material thing, and that life was a symptom of the presence of a spiritual being, regardless of what type of body it occupied. And so because of that one was encouraged to show limitless respect for all life, and for all living beings, and not to adopt a position of feeling superior because I have a temporary advantage with the particular body that I have, over somebody else that’s got another type of body.
There’s another Bhagavad-gita verse from the fifth chapter, the 18th verse, or sloka, that speaks to this reality where it says, “The humble sages…” and I’m just going to pause there for a moment. We have this idea of sages, sagely, someone that’s a deep thinker, and who sees with incredible clarity, that is overflowing with wisdom. And because they are wise, they are also humbled by how they see things. And so you have this adjective, the humble sages. To be arrogant or proud, and to be a sage, that was not compatible. To be arrogant or proud was an indication of a lack of intelligence, a lack of clarity in seeing things. And so to be a sage meant that one was deeply humble. So it says:
“The humble sages by virtue of true knowledge see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana…”
So a brahmana, they were the priests in society. They were also the educators, they were the intellectuals, they were the top scientific people, the big thinkers. And here it’s referencing somebody that has these wonderful characteristics of being both learned and gentle, a brahmana. One
“…sees with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a social outcast.”
I mean, there was a recognition of these distinctions. There was an embracing of these distinctions. But they were not what defined how I would look at someone and relate or deal with them, absolutely not at all. By virtue of true knowledge they see with equal vision. They see with equal vision a learned and gentle brahmana, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a social outcast. This is the best, the most enlightened, the most woke perspective.
To adopt the external differences as the way I see things and the way that I am going to deal with them, that alone is what moves me, is considered ignorant. One is steeped in darkness, in an ignorant position. Any kind of philosophy, social philosophy, political philosophy, whatever, any philosophy of differences based on bodily or group identities will never succeed in creating peace, harmony, love and justice. It’s not even a possibility.
And part of that, the reason for that, is that the material condition means that we are stuck with both a higher and a lower nature. The higher nature is the nature that is tied to our spiritual identity, and the lower nature is the nature tied to the bodily identity. And if one becomes more absorbed in the lower nature, they tend to be abusive, angry, exploitative. These are the characteristics that manifest from this lower nature. When one becomes more aligned with and absorbed in the higher nature that ties to our spiritual identity, only then can one begin to live and to move on a path that will actually make it so that one can become peaceful, and experience harmony and love, and be very moved by the idea of actual justice.
In another verse from the Bhagavad-gita it speaks to the subject. It says:
“Thus, knowing oneself to be transcendental to the material senses, mind and intelligence, one should control the lower self by the higher self and thus—by spiritual strength—conquer this insatiable enemy known as lust.”
So lust here doesn’t just speak about what’s commonly thought of in the West, the sexual desire, but this is the tendency towards self-centeredness, the tendency towards selfishness; because the more selfish and self-centred I become, especially when it’s based upon a false bodily identity, the more I am prepared to inflict pain and suffering on others in order for me to get what I think I want, and what I want to try and enjoy.
The Bhagavad-gita also speaks about an idea that is described as the difference between night and day—of course, the difference between woke and asleep. In another verse it states that:
“What is night for all beings is the time of awakening for the self-controlled, and the time of awakening for all beings is night for the introspective sage.”
This speaks to how these two visions—the absorption in the bodily identity as being the self, and the absorption in the understanding of my eternal and real spiritual nature—is the difference between night and day. And when one is living in either one of those realities, their life, their decisions, their values, their actions, their speech, their interactions with others will be considered to be truly woke or enlightened, or completely in darkness or ignorance.
One of these conditions brings one towards these ideals that I spoke of earlier, of peace, of harmony, of love and of justice. One should never think that if somebody has done an injustice to me, based on a bodily identity, that for me doubling down on their ignorance and their injustice, that me embracing that, and doing it back to them, is going to bring any good to anyone. Do we need to fight for that which is just? Yes, of course. Do we need to protect and stand with those who cannot defend themselves? Of course, we are called upon to do that. But we are not called upon to behave—I mean if somebody has behaved in a way that is cruel and injust, and based on ignorance, if we adopt the same mentality, and do the same things, how are we making anything better? We are not. This is ignorance. This is misfortune.
And of course—I don’t know if I should say this or not, I’m probably going to get hate mail for it.
In the Vedic principles, from the point of view of the greatly enlightened yogis and saints and sages, they fully embraced an understanding of what’s called transmigration of the soul, how the living being at the time of death, if we are not in the right consciousness, will be forced to take another body, and live another life in another body, adopting another kind of identity. This is referred to as reincarnation. And the reality of this is that a slave can become a slave master, and a slave master can become a slave. A coloniser can become a colonised, and the colonised can become the coloniser. That by focusing on someone, whether it’s out of attraction or a great hatred, if that is the central point of my thinking, that’s where my consciousness sat when I leave this body, then this will shape the birth that I will have.
Just because I have a body that’s of a particular racial extraction and a cultural heritage attached to it, it doesn’t mean that that is my eternal identity. It doesn’t mean even in my previous lifetime that that was what I was doing. And from that perspective, which is kind of quite shocking to think of, then one would really question whether if we adopt political ideologies and racial ideologies, and gender ideologies as what’s driving us, and thinking that we’re woke, it could be that we are actually asleep at the wheel. We’re driving down the road at great speed, thinking and dreaming that we are awake, but we have lost control. and being asleep at the wheel, the potential for great unhappiness to unfold from that is very real.
So these are deep thoughts, and I ask you to, in great humility, to consider them, and not to become swayed by materialism and materialistic ideas. We need to courageously embrace that which is heroic, that which is right, that which is spiritual, that which is true. We need to pursue harmony. We need to stand in defence of the defenceless. We need to seek to correct injustice. But don’t adopt the wrong doing as being the solution. Just because somebody else, in a different racial or gender identity, does that which is wrong because it was done to them doesn’t make it right. It causes more unhappiness.
Our only way out of all of this is through spiritual solutions, not material solutions. They can help to some degree and temporarily, but often lead back in this vicious cycle of going back to where we came from. We need to break these cycles, and it’s only going to be through higher spiritual values and spiritual understanding.
And of course, the key to bringing about this revolution within our own heart—people often want to create social revolutions or political revolutions—but what’s needed is a revolution in our own heart.
I mean I saw this—which is actually, for me, an amazing example of what I’ve just been talking about, this wokeness and asleep, with this summit going on in Glasgow, where everybody’s talking, I saw this news thing. And it was on the day that the lock down, the Covid lockdown that was being observed in Auckland was being lifted, so people could go to retail outlets and buy things. And we had a news presenter talking about, “Oh, and everybody’s so concerned about all the terrible things that are going to happen to this planet, or are happening to this planet, driven by all the things that are contributing to climate change.” And then the very next story there’s like this celebration. And you’ve got a news presenter referring to the lifting of the lockdown and being able to go out and spend money as “retail therapy.”
And of course, it’s a bit of a joke, but actually, it’s not a joke. It’s like, don’t you get the connection, that you’re all worried about the climate and what’s going on in the world, and you don’t understand that it’s been driven by consumption, and states of consciousness? It’s not just energy usage. It’s the fact that we’ve all been just turned into greedy little consumers that are just constantly trying to fill up this emptiness within, by buying and consuming and experiencing different things; not having any higher purpose and value, other than being enslaved to an economy and just continuously working so that you can feed more and more money into the people selling goods and services. It’s just like, oh—it’s shocking.
People think it’s enlightened to be all concerned about the environment and the climate, but then they don’t think that it’s ignorant to be pushing the opportunity to just go out and spend more money and consume more stuff. You don’t even see the connection. And this is what happens when people don’t have any spiritual underpinning, when there is not that clarity that comes from a spiritual perspective.
So with that I ask you to join me in some mantra meditation, that thing that will lift the fog, that thing that will purify the heart, purify the mind, lead to a spiritual awakening, that which will fuel the internal revolution, the revolution of the heart. Thank you very much. Haribol.
So I will sing the Mahamantra, a little bit meditative, not a fast tune. And I ask you to just relax and to also allow these spiritual sounds to enter our ears, into our heart, to rest our heart in these transcendental sounds, and to respond by also singing them. And I will do the Mahamantra.
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna Krishna Krishna Hare Hare, Hare Rama Hare Rama Rama Rama Hare Hare.