What is Change? – Do Americans really know what it means?

As America prepares to inaugurate its 44th President, a man who represents salvation for so many people desperate for good news, a new reality looms large on the horizon; the reality that on November 4th, 2008, America did not elect the Lord Almighty as their new commander and chief. The man who will soon ascend to the highest political office in the world will not perform miracles. He will not lay hands upon the sick and ailing global economy and heal it; he will not turn water into wine. …


The Bhagavad Gita says that in Kali Yuga, which is our present age, great orators are mistaken for the wise. Barack Obama’s oratory skills have seen him through to the Oval Office, but does he truly understand what America needs from him?

With this historic election, the people have resoundingly embraced his platform of “change.” Whether or not the average person really knows what change means, is another matter. Merely rearranging priorities is not change. Cutting back on luxury items is not change. Substituting one type of fuel or energy source for another is not change. Even rooting out cancers in the political and free-market systems is not change.

The change in America that is needed is a paradigm shift; a mass movement away from the modern-day ideal of perpetual gratification of the senses. Humanity needs a collective return to a more profound system of beliefs, one which values the quest for deeper understanding; society above the individual; doing what is right for no reason other than it is the right thing to do. This is the only change that will make any worthwhile difference for humanity in the end.

But this type of change does not come easy. It means, first and foremost, stepping out of our present way of thinking and acting. Understandably, most people would not find this enjoyable. We’d much rather do what we’ve always done, yet somehow get different results. As the Katho Upanishad cautions, however, “don’t mistake the pleasant for the good!” That which is pleasant is not always good for us, and that which is good for us is not always pleasant.

The real leaders of humanity are not our politicians. Relief does not lie in our elected officials. It lies within ourselves. We must come to understand that we are, all of us from every corner of the globe, in this life together, equal in all our rights and all our responsibilities. Once we realize that, then we, as a global population, will naturally behave differently. There will be no question about respecting nature. We will simply do it because we recognize that our very existence depends on Mother Earth.

We will also respect all our differences and begin to act in a more selfless manner. We will care as much for the happiness, health and wellbeing of others as we do for ourselves. When we stop thinking “me” and start thinking “we”, then we will always do what is right and what is good for everyone, regardless of race, culture, religion or nationality.

In such an environment, the excesses of our past which have led us into so much turmoil would no longer have fertile soil from which to sprout. We won’t transform the world through government policies, regulations or checks and balances, but by becoming more conscious, loving, “humane” beings.

In Barack Obama, change is refreshing and enthusiastic new leadership, one that may well improve America’s education system, social security network, environment and “economic sustainability.” Eventually the good times will be back. Unfortunately memories of past troubles will also fade, and complacency will inevitably return again. If we transform our systems, but fail to transform “ourselves,” then we will sooner or later end up right back in another, unfortunate and tragic situation once again.

But just as one cannot, in one fell swoop, get from the base of the mountain to its majestic summit, the consciousness of mankind cannot be transformed in an instant by the tremors of hope that have radiated across America from the refreshing enthusiasm of one, well-spoken man. As any mountaineer will attest, to make it to the peak takes more effort than you could imagine when you started. The hardest and most important step, however, is always the first one.

In the election of Barack Obama, America has taken one small step. A change of some sort, however minute or significant it may ultimately turn out to be, has at least been made. The climb remains long, though, and the real hurdles on the path of changing America have yet to even dawn upon the majority of people.

America has, for too long now been mistaking the pleasant for the good. It is time now to start the climb back to sanity. We have taken the first small step. We are chanting the new mantra “yes we can.” The eventual question remains, “are we ready, willing, and able?”

About the Author:

Yogacharya is the director of International Yogalayam, and Editor of The Yoga News

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