Gandhi’s favorite book, The Bhagavad-Gita, opens like this: Arjuna, the hero of the story, is set in the middle of a great battlefield. The epic war of life. He rides out on his chariot to survey the opposing army. As he looks across the divide he sees his own people on the other side, lost and confused, a war ready to rage. Though he is the ultimate warrior, an undefeated marksman, noble, strong and wise, the legendary Arjuna falls to his knees in total despair. He foresees only death and destruction, and fears the very worst will come. His advisor and dear friend, is the divine himself. Krishna stands tall above the fallen solider and delivers this message: “Arise with a brave heart and destroy the enemy. Stand up Arjuna, fight!”
How is this message a prayer for peace? How did the greatest social justice leaders of our time find guidance in these words of war? It is said that the training of yoga and mediation is aimed at clear seeing, truth, equanimity and love. The Gita defines yoga as “skill in action.” Our practices urge us to do just that – to take the realizations made in moments of calm and bring them into times of conflict. We are warriors of peace, marching for the abolition of ignorance, greed, hatred and violence.
The moment is upon us now – the people and policies and planet that we have long supported are all under siege. Our strategy shifts to defense. It is time to act, to stand up for what we believe in, to lift our voices and let them be heard.
Do not despair. We hail from a long line of heroes. Our human history is not only cruel but also courageous and kind.
If you feel disheartened know that you are not alone. There is a national movement growing of like-minded, compassionate, concerned and consciousness people. How we act now will determine the rest of our lives. Commit to some action – start small and do-able – and know that any action is the hero’s path in the process of change. “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people can transform the world. Even when we don’t ‘win,’ there is fulfillment in being part of this effort, with other good people, in something worth while.
“If we see only the worst, it destroys our capcity to do something. If we rememver those times and places – and there are so many – where people have behaved magnicently, this gives us the energy to act , and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction. And if we do act, in however small a way, we don’t have to wait for some grand utopian future… and to live now as we think human beins should live, in deviance of all that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.” -Howard Zinn