In 1967, Sri Gurudev Swami Satchidananda was one among the new immigrants whose exotic garb, customs, and cuisines would add color and spice to the diversity, the so-called “melting pot” of American culture. He arrived in New York City on May 24, 1967, and, according to an article in the Village Voice, he “came through customs, beaming and radiant…” His own experiences and insights, along with the wisdom that he accessed through his contact with various spiritual masters in India, enlivened him and illuminated the lives of those who eventually came to learn from him.
And come they did. Jews, Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, agnostics, the “spiritual but not religious” and others, all of whom were seeking peace and harmony in a world of divisiveness and discord, a world where the unaware often perpetrate violence on those whom they perceive as “other.” They flocked to hear Gurudev speak about a different perception of reality, one grounded in the knowledge and in the experience that all beings are interconnected, that in the realm of the ultimate reality, we are all one.
“We can see the same spirit in everybody,” he taught, “only when we know that we are that spirit, Atma, or Self. Only a person who has understood his or her own Self can see that same Self in everybody. Until then, you can never see others in this way. With that spiritual vision, you see that you are not different from anybody else. It is with this understanding that Jesus said, ‘I and my Father are one.’ Because he, himself, identified with the Holy Spirit, he was able to understand the Holy Spirit.”
Gurudev saw the entire world as his family and felt that a real spiritual experience meant to see the unity in diversity. He considered all of Earth’s creatures brothers and sisters, each a singular expression of the one Source. He counseled his students to “see your own Self in all,” explaining that this “is how to show the unity in diversity visibly and powerfully.”
In this period of far-reaching violence and profound discord—between religions, between political factions, between ethnic and social groups—let us imbibe and reflect his wisdom:
We are all different colors, sizes, and shapes on the outside, but inside the same light shines. We may look different, but if we see the spirit, we realize, I am you; you are me; we are one.