A few weeks ago, I watched on TV as thousands gathered on the National Mall in Washington D.C. for “The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear," organized by Comedy Central satirists Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
A colorful swath of people stretched out from the domed Capitol Building to the Washington Monument.
During the rally, correspondents asked people in the crowd to identify themselves by ethnicity, gender, and geographical location: for example, “Native American female from Chicago.” The point of the exercise was to illustrate the “vegetable stew” that is America and to demonstrate that there is room for us all.
It got me thinking.
A week before the rally I was in Miami Beach for an event with Prem Rawat.
“All people really want is a little elbow room,” he said, making a point I’ve heard him make many times before — that color, religion, gender, and national origin are like rows of curtains on a stage. The more you strip them away, the more you get to the kernel of what it is to be human.
The message from the rally and Maharaji's message struck me as being remarkably similar — so much so that when people hear Maharaji speak it's easy to think, "I've heard all this before".
Still, I wonder what will those people at the rally do with the message after returning home? What do I do with the message upon returning home after seeing Maharaji? How will I make it real in my life?
My country has anti-discrimination laws, cultural awareness programs, and endless sermons that call for patience, acceptance and forbearance. But is this concept of the fundamental unity of human beings merely something to believe in, or is it something I can know?
In a crowded subway during rush hour, where people elbow each other for a few inches of space, what will keep me from losing my affinity with my fellow riders — not to mention my temper? When the tens if thousands of people who braved the crowd and autumn chill in Washington return home, how will they keep that sense of unity alive?
It is there, right there, that the Knowledge Maharaji offers enters the picture — a simple way to stay in touch with what’s really important.
This is what distinguishes Maharaji from every other teacher I’ve met. He taught me a simple and powerful way to experience for myself — to know — the common humanity that resides within my heart.
To receive this “Knowledge,” as it is aptly called, you don’t need to fast or chant, renounce family or friends, penetrate secret caves or climb Himalayan peaks. You can ask Maharaji to teach it to you. If you're willing to give it a chance, you can learn and practice it. That's what I did — and learned that, in my heart of hearts, I can know.
Illustration by Sara Shaffer.