STATE OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND SOCIAL CHANGE
Saha nāv avatu
Saha nau bhunaktu
Saha vīryaṃ karavāvahai
Tejasvi nāv adhītam astu
Thank you for listening to my podcast, The Vedic Worldview, I’m Thom Knoles.
[00:42] Behavior and Consciousness
In this episode, I’d like to spend some time discussing a subject, State of Consciousness, and its social applicability. That is to say, what difference does it make in the world in which we find ourselves?
First, let’s deal with a basic principle and one of the fundamental sayings of the Vedic Worldview, we find this in the Rig Veda, in which it states that you cannot stop someone from behaving according to their level of consciousness. That is, to flesh that out and expand on it, that someone’s state of consciousness absolutely dictates all of their behaviors.
What does state of consciousness mean? To what extent are you awake and aware inside? That extent will be revealed by the spectrum of phenomenology that you’re able to detect and describe, that are going on inside you and outside of you. How many things can be inside of one awareness at one time?
So let’s say, for example, we see a little ant crawling along the floor, which I was watching just a little while ago during the break, and the ant evidently is completely unaware of the fact that there’s this big human looking at it. If you take your finger and make a barrier of fragrance with your finger, that is to say, drag your finger across the proposed path of the ant, the ant will arrive at the finger fragrance of the human, the imaginary line you’ve drawn on the piece of wood that the ant’s walking on and the ant will stop look around, realize that there’s something that’s actually blocking it, but it’s highly unlikely that the ant is going to look up at the human whose finger made the little fragrance mark, and stop and consider that it is an ant and here’s a giant human looking down upon it. It’s far more likely that the ant is going to do what ants almost always do in such situations. It’s going to try to find a way around the little fragrance mark that you’ve made by dragging your finger across its path.
What is the state of consciousness of the ant? Well, the ant certainly, has within its range of perception certain things that we humans can’t perceive, but on our terms, our capacity of perception, and our ability to take in larger and larger amounts of information, and to consider those and to let them affect the way in which we act and behave, or the extent to which we reserve action, decide not to act or behave, these choices that we have certainly appear to extend beyond the choices and options available to an ant. Nothing against ants. They’re cute little creatures and we’re simply using the ants and we ask their forgiveness for making them in this analogy relatively small to us. They certainly have a lot of value to add to the world.
[03:52] Our Inability to Control Others
We live in a world in which we very often have the expectation that by simply taking something that we are aware of, a behavior, an action, an addiction, a failure to act, and so on, by taking that and foisting it on someone else that is to say our perception, our capability, our consciousness state, and what it has selected as important, and we take it to someone else and say, “You should be doing this, or you shouldn’t be doing that, or this is better, and so on,” that the other person is simply going to look at that and go, “Hmm, that’s great. Thank you so much for your greater insight. Now I’m going to begin acting in the way that you suggest.”
In fact, we live in a society that wrenches itself over our inability to control others. Right now, I’m in New York City and today at the United Nations, some very important considerations are being mulled over by people who are true leaders in the field of social consequences with regard to climate change. And there’s a young woman, Greta, who has sailed over here from Sweden and who spoke vociferously into the microphone yesterday in a very impassioned and sometimes excoriating speech to the world about the need for immediate and uncompromising and inexorable action to bring about a reversal of the depredations of the release of carbon into the atmosphere that’s been going on since the beginnings of the Industrial Revolution and the impact that it’s having on the climate, which is going to impact her generation and all generations after her in ways that are dreadful.
And we listen to that and we come home with it, if we’re deeply influenced by speeches, if we’re deeply influenced by science, if we’re influenced by very palpable and convincing argument, then we begin to make a critical assessment of ourself. And many, many things that we do we might change the way that we eat our toast in the morning… “Do I put butter on my toast? Butter comes from milk, milk comes from cows, cows eat grass. There’s a lot of cattle out there and am I being responsible by putting butter on my toast? Maybe I should use tahini. Hold on. Let me research the tahini. To what extent is tahini,” sesame seed butter, for those of you who don’t know, “impacting the climate?” And in bashfulness over not knowing that one might look down at the floor and notice that, one is wearing a pair of shoes and the shoes are made of substances that may be drawing upon petroleum products or maybe drawing upon leather, which is also cattle, which is also impacting, and so on and so forth. And then one may begin making change and saying, “Okay, no more butter, only tahini. No more electric toasting. I don’t need toast, I’ll just have bread. Hold on. Bread is actually made in ovens and ovens are heating and they’re using carbon to further pollute the environment. And what are people going to think?”
[07:15] What Are People Going to Think?
And so there comes a point where one begins to reach a set of critical assessments about oneself. One begins to make change. One begins to attempt to adapt their downward pressures on all of us to examine our language. I noticed when I was in Australia recently that children at a school that I visited, where I was watching meditation being taught, which was a very great thing, also were being taught that they can no longer, or should no longer, use the word manhole for what is now going to be called a maintenance aperture because manhole has the word man in it. And it could be deemed by somebody to be sexist that you say the word manhole. And so why not change our language and simply call it a maintenance aperture.
There is pressure on all of us to examine each and every one of our behaviors, our language, and so on and so forth in ways that the critics of it, including people who consider themselves to be progressive liberals, Bill Maher comes to mind, as politically correct. And some people even on the left are very vociferously criticizing political correctness. So then one has to think about, “To what extent am I bending to these pressures and simply behaving because it’s politically correct to do so? Am I too politically correct? Am I not politically correct enough? Am I helping the world? Am I deteriorating the world? And what are people going to think?”
And one has to live in a society where there are varying degrees of social pressure on what is it that your behavior, your actions, your thought, in resonance with what is expected of you socially? And in this, we begin to see the building of the potential for great frustrations and also for great backlash. And this is really the problem with a fundamental mistake. And that fundamental mistake is to expect at any time that someone is capable of behaving in a way that is any other way than what their state of consciousness dictates.
[09:28] Fear-Based Administration
Generally speaking, as our social expectation grows and grows and grows on people to conform to styles of thinking that may not meet those people’s capacity to adapt or to change, what we see is that a fear-based administration begins to build. And that fear-based administration may be something which, often people will say for political reasons, it is a feature of the more right-wing ways of thinking in the world, but whether right or left, we see fear-based administration being used by governments, by societies, by cultures, and by individuals on a continuous basis.
What is fear-based administration? That is to say, if you don’t behave with conformity to expectations, then there will be consequences. And the consequences might be anything from, you’re ostracized, you’re ridiculed, or you’re actually physically punished, or even detained, or perhaps even eliminated. And so one has to meet social expectation of whatever group one finds oneself in. And what this causes in people who are not capable of realistically living life within the range of social expectation is it causes unacceptable behaviors simply to go underground. It’s not that people actually adjust their behavior. What people do is they hide their behaviors, the behaviors continue, but they go underground. And behavior that goes underground can only last underground for a relatively short time.
[11:07] Backlash is Counterproductive
Eventually, there comes a point where people who have pushed their behaviors underground because of lack of social acceptability within certain groups, either begin to conglomerate, they begin to find people who are like them, who are also pushing their behaviors underground, and before you know it, there’s a club of people who resent having to hide their behavior or having to hide their real thoughts or having to hide their habits, and backlash and potential for backlash begins.
Backlash is counterproductive to the overall idea of suggesting to the world that it should improve its behaviors for good logical and sustainable reasons. Backlash is always counterproductive because what happens is that in backlash you have a kind of closeted, that then bursts out into, occasionally bursts out into a very public unrest and civil unrest. And overall, our society today is deeply struggling from this whole process.
People who very publicly refuse to be influenced by the most logical and best assessments of how humans should behave with each other and with regard to the environment, and they take a position together collectively in denial of those being the best ways to behave or the reasons for them, they will elect leadership and there’ll be a leadership of resistance to change. And then as that grows, then there is an overblown attempt to shut down that resistance to change. And there’s the shaming of that behavior by those who want us to embrace change. And again, we see this vicious cycle occurring of polarization, one group going way over on one side saying we will not change and you can’t make us. And the other side saying, you will change otherwise there’ll be consequences. And those consequences will either be for the planet or there’ll be further shaming of you or blaming of you and ‘guilting’ of you and so on.
So basically, what we’re looking at is a non-functional approach to people simply relaxing into more sustainable behaviors that are living life within the proper laws of nature. Living life outside the way that nature governs itself, the way that nature causes evolution and progressive change to occur, living outside that range always ends up bringing suffering, that suffering will start at the individual level and then as individuals continue to relate to each other, it bursts into a collective suffering. And collective suffering reaches a crescendo and then change and the need to embrace change, becomes forced on whoever survives the process of violating laws of nature. And so then we’re not wanting to go through all of that.
[14:15] Further Proof
We need to come back to the fundamental Vedic principle. And that principle is that someone’s state of consciousness absolutely dictates their behavior. You cannot stop someone from behaving according to their level of consciousness. Let’s just give some further proof of this.
Today, in various countries, not yet the United States, but it’s about to happen, if you decide to smoke cigarettes, and cigarette smoking is an increasingly popular activity all over the world, and a very profitable activity for the companies that provide the products for delivery of nicotine through whatever means it comes, vaping or chewing it or smoking it or tasting it or sticking it on yourself in band-aids or whatever. In countries like Australia and in Britain and in France, if you want to buy, for example, a packet of cigarettes to smoke, you have to buy a packet that has photographs on it of the various things that are known medically to happen to people who smoke cigarettes. And so you see people with blackened toes and several toes missing that have been amputated. Or you see lungs that are blackened that have been removed from a lung cancer patient, or you see somebody with part of their jaw missing because they chewed tobacco and now they had to have the lower half of their jaw amputated. Or you see photographs of people having gone blind from one of the side effects of imbibing nicotine. And so as these packets are supposed to present these grizzly pictures to the consumers of tobacco to deter them from smoking, and the fascinating thing is it doesn’t work. People will buy the packet, open it up, smoke the cigarettes. They simply adapt to the grizzly pictures with some part of them says, “I know it’s not good. I really should stop.” They say things jokingly to each other as they’re smoking cigarettes that, “Stopping smoking is an easy thing to do. I’ve done it thousands of times. Hahaha.” And continue smoking. Generally speaking, it’s been shown that the more nervous you make people about smoking, the more they smoke in order to overcome the nervousness of the fact that it’s socially unacceptable to be smoking, unless you are with other people who do it and unless you are in the backlash crowd who are doing it 20 feet away from the restaurant door or outside somewhere where you can all gather.
And so through examples like this, we can see that although people know that it is bad to do certain things, bad for your health, bad for their health, bad for the health of others, that there’s social unacceptability, we don’t seem to have a way of stopping people from continuing to behave these ways.
If you point out to somebody that it’s bad for them to think about women in a particular way, or it’s bad for people to behave towards children in a particular way and so on, well, our prison systems are filled with people who are incarcerated because of their violating the social mores that have been condensed into laws, and violation of the social mores and violation of the laws are so great that in the United States we’re approaching 2% of the population that is incarcerated for multiple numbers of years. When people are released finally from incarceration, from jail, generally speaking, the recidivism, that is the return rate to prison, from having continued to behave in ways that are socially unacceptable, is an astonishingly high percentage.
[17:57] A Social Failure
So then we’re faced with having to build more prisons that will house larger numbers of people to privatize prisons to make it something that’s not a public burden on the taxpayer. And then, ultimately going to judges and the judiciary and saying, “Do we really need to be incarcerating all these people? What are you guys doing?” And the judges returning to the populace and saying, “I’m simply applying the law the way that you people voted your legislators to make the law. Go and vote and change all of this.”
So what is all of this? It’s a failure, a social failure to understand a basic principle that people will continue always behaving exactly according to the dictates of the state of consciousness they are in. Whenever we do see change in a person’s behavior, what we’re really seeing is a change in that person’s consciousness state. A change in their consciousness state means a change in what it is they can be aware of. What is the spectrum, the breadth of experiences that can be had in any one snapshot, in any one moment of a person’s awareness?
[19:10] All-Inclusive Awareness – Cosmic Consciousness
So here we are, I’m sitting in a studio on the eighth floor, in New York, recording a podcast. And as I sit here on this chair, I have my eyes closed and I’m speaking. And I can be aware because of decades and decades of meditation, please don’t take this as a shaming thing, as a comparison I’m simply explaining this to you, I can be aware of the fact that I’m sitting on a chair in this room on a little blue ball that’s floating in space around a yellow sun that’s sitting in a galaxy of billions of stars with billions of galaxies all over the universe around me. And here I am speaking. I can feel my toes. I can feel my nose. I can feel my fingers and I can be aware of that cluster of galaxies and continue speaking.
To what extent can we be aware? What is the spectrum of our awareness? To what extent can we feel? To what extent can we sense our place in the universe and our role, our personal role in the evolution of everything? What is it that is the best thing for us to be doing at any given moment?
At any given moment, there is something that is the absolute best thing for us to be doing. And all other things are either second best or third best or fourth best or fifth best. But what is the number one most evolutionary thing to be doing in a given moment? That thing, whatever it is, is likely to change within a few minutes. Within a few minutes of assessing “What is the best thing for me to be doing exactly right now?” nature will actually have gone through some kind of fluctuation or flow and evolution, and the new best thing that you should be doing is likely to be something a little different.
If you don’t have broadened awareness, if you don’t have awareness that can incorporate a large number of inputs from the macroscopic world, that is the world larger than you, to the microscopic world, that is the world that is smaller than your individual body, if you don’t have an awareness that is a catchment for all of these inputs, then the ability to behave in a way that is a response to the actual need of the time, that behavior won’t be able to be generated.
We will decide using purely our intellect, what it is that we should be doing, and we will choose to ignore all other inputs. The other inputs could be incredibly powerful inputs that might say, “Stop acting now. Rest.” Or those inputs might be saying, “Now begin to act. Now stop. Now act again.” Or those inputs might be saying “Not now, in about three hours.” And then those inputs might be the way in which your consciousness is able to feel out what is it that’s absolutely appropriate at any given moment.
Somebody who has practiced Vedic Meditation daily for a number of years, doesn’t have to be a huge number, but a number of years, say four or five years or so, begins to have increasingly broadened awareness available to them. That expanded awareness, that expanded capacity to fit into one human consciousness, many different inputs from the microscopic world of the cells of the body to the macroscopic world of cosmic life, to the social world and all of its demands and its needs. Somebody who has practiced on a regular basis has quietened their awareness, and as we quieten our awareness, we also expand our awareness.
We think of a swell or a wave on a super-symmetric ocean. We can see how a swell or a wave when it begins to flatten and go towards being one with the ocean instead of a hump of ocean water, it begins to expand on the shoulders. The shoulders of the wave begin to expand further and further out until that individual curvature of localized ocean water is now a very expansive wave with shoulders that are perhaps hundreds of miles apart and incorporating into the wave, a larger mass of that oceanic source, that baseline from which all waves come.
As our awareness settles down, on a regular basis into those deep states of being, our awareness is expanding and expanding and expanding, and it’s able to begin taking in larger and larger and larger numbers of input from the world. The world basically has needs, and those needs could be met, to whatever extent they can be met by individual action. Then that individual will find inspiration to begin moving in that direction at a given time, and for a given amount of time.
This is a process of no longer having only to rely upon the intellect to figure out what should be done and what need not be done right now. As consciousness grows and grows and grows, it becomes all-inclusive. As a result of a continued regular practice of meditation one starts to enter a new consciousness state. We call it all-inclusive awareness.
The short name for it is Cosmic Consciousness. Cosmic Consciousness is a state of consciousness in which our individuality and our innate inner universality are all being experienced simultaneously, that simultaneous experience of cosmic awareness with, and cosmic doesn’t just mean big, cosmic means all-inclusive, it means smaller than the smallest to bigger than the biggest and everything in between.
As our awareness grows to expand into Cosmic Consciousness, it will occur to us naturally, what is the right thing to be doing at any given moment? What are the appropriate trade-offs?
[25:22] Meeting the Greatest Need of the Time
So for example, instead of universally prohibiting travel by any traveling mechanism, an airplane or a car or a motorcycle or a skateboard, because those things are bad and they are producing carbon in the atmosphere, one might in fact be able to spontaneously discover that, in aid of greater carbon output elimination, moving from A to B with minimal carbon pollution might actually end up being the better choice. But this is not simply occurring to one on an intellectual level. One finds oneself naturally moving in the direction of that which, if done, is going to yield an overall effect of better behavior by a larger number of people.
Generally speaking, as we grow in Cosmic Consciousness, we lead by causing inspiration. I refer to someone in Cosmic Consciousness as being a preceptor, an old-fashioned English word that means teaching by precept, perhaps a more commonly used word as an exemplar, someone who by example is able to lead their life as a direct response to the greatest need of the time. What is the greatest need of the time at any given moment? It is that which actually we should be doing. Or the greatest need of the time may be that you cease action and rest and prepare yourself for the next call. The next call, into ever greater activity with greater and greater stamina. So the need of the time is really a fluctuating phenomenon.
What is the greatest need of the time at any given moment for a given individual? To be able to assess that accurately one must be in an expanded-consciousness state. An expanded-consciousness state that can include in it a vast variety of inputs and to digest and metabolize all those inputs in a way that inspires action or inspires postponement of action for a moment, while resting and preparation is occurring.
[27:41] Violating the Laws of Nature
This is the way in which our individuality lends itself to being a perfect tool, a perfect mechanism for living life without violating the laws of nature. When we live a life in which the laws of nature are being violated, what we do is we shorten our own life. Our own life is not as relevant as it could be. And we end up also creating frustration for ourselves and for others because you have a fabulous idea about how everyone should think and behave, and you use various kinds of techniques to attempt to make people behave that way, either through fear of future regret or through fear of social shaming or through attempting to make illegal certain behaviors and fear of incarceration, or perhaps even, in extreme forms, fear of death.
We’ve seen all of this, even in the short time of the last 130 years.
When Europe was divided between two great forces, one extreme left, where the royal families of Russia, who were exterminated, and a new idea that came from a German, Karl Marx was attempted to be put into place. The extreme left-wing of communism was put in place in the country of Russia, which then rapidly began to gobble up other countries and turned into the Soviet Union. And the fear-based administration was one of the most popular phenomena that was exercised by Vladimir Ilyich Lenin, one of the founding fathers of Soviet Communism, who had policies of making sure that party bosses made sure that somebody was hanged in almost every region of the Soviet Union on a regular basis whether or not they had really done anything that was worthy of a capital punishment like that, simply to get the word out that unless you are part of the revolution, this kind of thing can happen to you. And being sent off to the Gulags and living a life of torture.
On the other hand, we had the extreme right, the fascists who took over out of Austria and Germany and into Italy and began fear-based administration of their own with a completely different political worldview, the opposite political worldview, and yet using the same tactics and techniques of shaming, name-calling, assassinations, killings, and then eventually mass extermination of people who didn’t suit the purposes of the leadership and bringing the public along in this.
And both of these approaches were going on over the same 50 to 60 years of time, both remarkably failures. Failures at actually causing any kind of productive social change. And most people who are under either one of those regimes looks back at it and says, “Wow, what a terrible mistake that was. And we regret that now.” But what do we have to replace it? What have we replaced it with? Well, we haven’t actually learned lessons very well. And the lesson we need to learn is, you cannot stop someone from behaving according to their level of consciousness.
[31:03] Greater Productivity Through Vedic Meditation
So what do we have to do? What are we left with doing? What we have to do really is to demonstrate to the world what the effect of practicing Vedic Meditation is. The effects are not mysterious. They’re extremely well-documented. They’re extremely well-known.
You sit comfortably in a chair with your eyes closed, you practice a very simple, natural, innocent mental technique for a few minutes. The mind as a result of that settles down to its least-excited state. And in that least-excited state, the body is able to rest extraordinarily deeply. In that deep and profound unprecedented restful level of the body for that 20 minutes, deep-rooted stresses naturally unwind and are released, stresses which cause aberrant behaviors when one is in the regular waking state, stresses that are the echo and the scars of overloads of experience that one had in the past, these are released and relieved. Adaptation energy is allowed to grow and grow and grow during that meditation session. The ability to be adaptive, to be stable, to integrate into life those things which are helpful, to purify, to let go of and leave behind things that are no longer helpful. And an overall willingness to expand.
This phenomena happened completely spontaneously without any internal indoctrination. One is simply settling into a more expansive-consciousness state and the body is spontaneously purifying.
When one comes out of the 20 minutes of meditation and engages the demands of the world, and one finds that one has markedly different and more productive, socially-productive, and socially-helpful behaviors that actually aid in the behaviors of others. More and more responses that are helpful to the need of the time and the dropping off of habitual behaviors that were destructive to one being an exemplar in society. In the evening, the late afternoon, early evening, the Vedic meditator sits again in a chair comfortably and allows the mind once again, to return to that deep inner simplest form of awareness, expanding the awareness and once again, reinforcing the release of stress of the days, meaning changes of expectation, overloads of experience, getting rid of backlogs of fatigue and tiredness and stress, and then developing the capacity once again to return to active life, to identify the need of the time, identify that which is the best possible behavior for oneself in any given moment. And one starts to find the sweetness of greater and greater interactivity, greater and greater relevance to what’s actually needed in the world, and greater and greater joy, satisfaction of meeting demands successfully.
So this is the consequence of expanding our awareness spontaneously through regular daily practice of Vedic Meditation. When we do the technique on a regular basis, we begin to find that life begins to get better in every way. We began to look back at ways that we behaved when we were not as conscious as we are as meditators, and we began to realize that we couldn’t help those behaviors. We didn’t have the capacity really to change the way that we behave simply by thinking about it or simply by responding to ritualized public shaming events.
[34:48] Being the Inspiration for Change
So we have as Vedic meditators a completely new tool to use to cause change. We can grow into being the inspiration for change. We can grow into, though we can’t stop someone from behaving according to their level of consciousness, we can certainly live an enviable life, a life that others will look at, and then it’ll stimulate in them the worthy inquiry that is essential for someone to find out, “What is it you’re doing, you seem to be suffering less than me?”
I met somebody once in the last few years, whose first approach to me was rather aggressive, and her opening line to me was, “Do you think you’re better than me?” And my response to that immediately smilingly was, “I certainly know that I suffer less than you. I know I suffer less than you.”
Suffering less and being productive and active and energetic and enthusiastically embracing change, having the ability to be in the right place at the right time, and less often in the wrong place at the wrong time, suffering less from obstruction, suffering less from physiological downtime, disease, lack of health, lack of energy, being more energetic, being more capable, these are all the features of someone who regularly practices Vedic Meditation.
[36:16] A Solution to People Problems
And we’re not out to proselytize, we want people who actually are interested in it spontaneously. If their state of consciousness looks at what’s possible with Vedic Meditation and they become curious enough to take a course in it, then we have one or two very minimal entry requirements.
The first is sufficient curiosity to take some instruction, and then the willingness to follow a few simple instructions over a few days of teaching, and then a willingness to practice the technique twice a day for a period of time and see what it does for you. And invariably, anyone who meets those few requirements and actually practices the technique finds that they’ve discovered a tool, which is absolutely liberating. It’s liberating. It liberates you to become somebody who is engaging in the process of dynamic personal change to be able to do so without stress, without shame, without fear, to simply become a more productive and more ideal citizen of the world.
So this is the actual solution to the problems of society. When we look at problems, a wise man said to me once, “There are nothing but people problems. That’s the only kind of problems there are. All problems boil down to people problems.” Really a fairly expansive shot at what it is that causes the main trouble in the world.
We look at global climate change, then what we’re looking at is people problems. If we look at slow reaction to scientific information about change, what we’re really looking at is people problems. If we look at management, companies failing, or we look at collective negative behaviors, as we saw in Europe over a period of 60 years, where people by the thousands, hundreds of thousands and millions were being slain for not fitting into what was considered at that time, the social structure, the correct social structure. When we see these kinds of behaviors, what we’re seeing is people problems.
And so I rather agree with that wise man’s assessment about what is the nature of all problems. What we’re really saying about people problems is state of consciousness problems. State of consciousness is everything. It means everything to us individually. It means everything to us collectively. It is the only way in which we’re going to see powerful, sustained global change is to change the consciousness state of as many people as possible.
[39:05] The Maharishi Effect – A 1% Tipping Point
Now we’re realists, and we know that not absolutely everybody can or will practice Vedic Meditation. Fortunately, it’s been demonstrated that that’s not necessary. In studies that were done on Transcendental Meditation in the 1970s, in the late 70s, it was discovered by two sociologists that cities in the United States where Transcendental Meditation was very popular, where more than 1% of the population were practicing that technique, that in those cities, crime rates began to reverse.
And the reversal occurred around about the time that the saturation point of 1%, the tipping point had been reached. Prior to 1%, crime rates continued to grow and grow, and then when about 1 out of 100 people had learned to meditate, and they’re just meditating at home, they weren’t going out proselytizing potential criminals and saying, “Don’t commit crime.” They were just practicing their meditation at home, a spreader effect began. And that spreader effect, after a saturation point of about 1% meditating, was statistically significantly associated with changes in crime rates in those cities that had that level of popularity, cities and towns all over the United States.
There have been subsequent studies that have demonstrated even more radical effects of the collective high-magnitude social effect of a sufficient number of people, a sufficient saturation level of people in a community practicing meditation. What this tells us is we don’t actually need to have absolutely everybody practicing Vedic Meditation.
Vedic Meditation can be practiced by as little as 1 out of 100 people and we will see fairly dramatic social change. Certainly, if crime rates are responding to the spreader effect in a collective consciousness, the spreader effect of 1% meditating, then what else must be being influenced? What kinds of other behaviors that are less gross than committing a heinous crime, what other changes are occurring in those societies? And this is an area that’s ripe for research and really we need to find out the answers to these things for any of you out there who are interested in doing social research on the impact of larger and larger numbers of people practicing meditation in a community.
But really it comes down to an even more daring conclusion. And that is, we can afford to be ignored by 99% of the population. If 99% of the population don’t meditate, it’s just fine. We’ll get social change, and massive social change, if even only 1% of the population practice this. This was dubbed by a few sociologists as the “Maharishi Effect.” Maharishi, Maha in Sanskrit means great, Rishi means a seer.
It was the title given to my teacher Maharishi Mahesh Yogi, Maharishi, but it also is a title given to anyone who has become a seer, an exemplar, someone who is living their life in complete attunement with all the laws of nature spontaneously, not by sitting down and going through a rule book and saying, “Well, there’s this law of nature, there’s that law of nature and there’s that law of nature.” And so intellectually I’ll make a pros and cons list over what I’ll do today or not do today and, by virtue of intellectual discrimination, I’ll be able to figure out how to behave today or how to behave for the rest of my life.
[42:50] Nature Requires Adaptive Behaviors
The fact is that nature, our universe, doesn’t really require of us one static behavior at all times. Nature requires of us a vast variety of super-adaptive behaviors at all times. What is absolutely correct for you to be doing in one given moment may be a completely different thing five minutes from now.
I watched once, when I was invited to the family home of a would-be client, someone who wanted me to teach him Vedic Meditation, had invited me to his home. We were about to commence the course of instruction, but I had a snapshot of experience. And this was a busy business person who was standing inside of his doorway straight after work. Someone who was obviously in the habit of having and winning arguments, and somebody called him on his mobile phone and he answered, he had just entered his home. I was already there, I had arrived a little bit before him and I was just sitting in the living room.
He had a four-year-old daughter and he answered the phone, standing there with his outside clothes on, his business clothes, just inside the door, straight after work. Hadn’t yet settled into the home or said anything to anybody, speaking into his phone in a various sort of fashion, and of course, it was very important for him to be in ‘argument-winning mode’, at least that’s what his experience was at the time. And so he was in the process of winning an argument, and he won the argument and you could see a moment of triumph as he hung up from that phone call. His daughter, the four-year-old was waiting, looking up expectantly at her father and waiting to greet him. And he looked at her and though the words that he spoke were nice. Like, “Come here.” He didn’t say it quite like that. He said, “Come here.” Because he’d just been in an argument-winning mode, he hadn’t yet disengaged from what he had previously been experiencing.
And so his failure to adapt from one set of demands on him to another set of demands on him in an instant, his failure caused her face to crumble and she turned and ran into a room and closed the door hard behind her as she went in. And he looked at me and he said, “You see the kinds of stresses that I have to deal with in my life. This is why I need you, Thom. I need you to teach me to meditate.”
Now, this was the thing that all of us do. We blame our own experience on others. “It’s not my fault. I just came home. I was at work. Am I going to be punished now making a living?” These were the words that came out of his mouth over the next little while. Meanwhile, there was a four-year-old daughter who was in their suffering and trembling because she had heard argument-winning mode, nice words but posed in argument-winning mode, and was hiding from that.
Our inability to have the flexibility, the adaptability, the capability to disengage, or perhaps not to engage at times that are not the most appropriate, to give priority to things that are going to be small wins compared to the major win of being meaningful a parent to a child, for example. And so the failure to have an adaptive life, an adaptive consciousness state means that we get engaged in rigid attachment to specific outcomes and specific timing. And we get engaged to such an extent, so rigidly attached that even though nature is calling upon us to stop one thing and start another thing we can’t. And so we end up once again, dropping into those styles of behavior that are nonproductive for us in the long-term and also socially non-productive.
[46:54] Transition From an Age of Ignorance to an Age of Enlightenment
What we need is the experience of expansion. Expansion of awareness is everything. By having expanded awareness, we have the ability to react to and deal with and incorporate into our behavior spontaneously, all of the available inputs, cosmic inputs, macroscopic, microscopic, everything, and move toward being an ideal citizen in a transition from an age of ignorance into an age of enlightenment.
Jai Guru Deva