“The only constant is change.” In this world that is certainly true. Nothing stays the same, not even for a moment. All things are forever moving from one state to another. In the case of political parties and leaders that often seems to be from a state of grace to one of disgrace. Sooner or later we will inevitably tire of them and elect someone else.
Those therefore hoping for election often campaign on the word ‘change’. “Change we can believe in,” was Barack Obama’s rallying cry, and now here in the UK the Conservative party are urging us to “Vote for Change.” Even Prime Minister Gordon Brown at the recent Labour party conference declared that his party would be the “change makers” for the “many and not the few”.
It’s a good platform. We all want change, an improvement to our present situation. It is a rare person who is content. Most of us are striving to make things better, our finances, job, homes, health, relationships, peace of mind or whatever. It seems to be human nature to be dissatisfied with our lot, no matter how good it may be.
What do we really want though? What are we looking for? When will we finally stop struggling to change our lives? According to Vedic wisdom we are trying to get back to our original true nature, which is eternal, blissful and full of knowledge. However, we face an uphill battle as this world is described as being intrinsically the very opposite; temporary, miserable and full of ignorance. Hence science, technology, industry, indeed human endeavour in every field never ceases to embrace change as we strive to attain the unattainable.
No matter how hard we try to secure our situation and make it permanent, through building solid houses, good healthcare, strong defences and whatever, eventually everything will fall apart and we ourselves will die. “All valiant dust that builds on dust.” We may work hard to achieve a state of uninterrupted bliss, but it will be always marred by the onset of diseases, anxiety, disasters, wars, and an inventive array of miseries we inflict upon one another. And our endeavours to attain knowledge will be never ending, for there is no end to our ignorance. As it is said, the more we know the more we realise we don’t know. But we want to know. Information or knowledge – the ‘news’ – is thrust at us from all sides these days, day and night. It seems we can’t get enough.
Leaders then have a real struggle on their hands to satisfy the people they lead. Unless, that is, they base their policies upon an understanding of our real spiritual nature, and how we can be restored to that happy condition.
This knowledge is given in the Bhagavad-gita. First of all Krishna explains that the main change confronting us is the changing body. It is constantly transforming and bound for ultimate destruction, but the soul, the person within, is not. Through all the external changes the soul remains the same. We all have experience of our body growing through so many stages, but we know that we are still the same person. Knowing this unchanging person is self-realisation, or realising our true nature.
That is the change we need, that our leaders should lead us toward; changing our consciousness. Right now we are absorbed in bodily consciousness, identifying with so many temporary designations that pertain only to the destructible body. Hence we suffer, as we also identify with all the miseries that attend the body. It is only when we are free of this false consciousness that we become free of suffering, which means reinstated in our constitutionally joyful condition.
We are not meant to suffer, and hence our never ending battle to overcome misery in all its unwanted forms. Leaders always claim that they will somehow alleviate our suffering and increase our happiness, and allured by this promise we give them our vote. But until they understand how to move us toward pure spiritual awareness they will always fall short on their promises.
They need only turn to the Gita. Krishna explains that we can attain our spiritual nature by approaching him, the Supreme Spirit. One Vedic text says, “Come out of the darkness and into the light, out of ignorance and into knowledge.” Krishna is compared to the brilliant sun and when we approach him the darkness of ignorance and forgetfulness is completely dissipated. Just as the sunlight purifies all contamination so the brilliance of God purifies our contaminated consciousness and we shine forth as our eternal ecstatic selves.
How to make such an approach is also explained by Krishna. “Do everything as an offering to me, for my pleasure, while always thinking of me.” That’s Krishna’s campaign slogan. A bit different from the usual message of course, which always entails somehow increasing our own pleasure, but that’s the point, before we can please ourselves we need to know who we are. If we are not the changing body there’s no point simply trying for bodily pleasure. As eternal beings we are a part of the Supreme, and his pleasure is automatically ours. The closer we get to Krishna the closer we get to our real self, our eternal identities as pure spiritual beings, full of bliss and knowledge.
Somehow I doubt that our leaders’ enthusiasm for change will encompass any change in consciousness. Except that we become conscious of their undoubted eligibility for our vote. But until they incorporate Krishna’s message into their manifestos we will be voting for more of the same, changing only from one state of dissatisfaction to another.