Maharaj met with various groups in New York City. One day he addressed a group at the famous Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York. Another day Janice Perlman helped to gather interested people in a seminar room in New York University. They included Mohammed Mehdi, Chairman of the National Council on Islamic Affairs, Arjada Sharma and Virginia Birdsall, Co-Directors of the Embrace Foundation (established to educate religious and cultural leaders in interfaith and intercultural understanding), Janice Perlman, Director of the Mega-Cities Project, John Rivera, Director of the Kellogg Leadership Project of Mega-Cities, Dan Anderson, a Christian pastor and teacher, the artist Mary Coelho, John Gehring, Director of the Religious Youth Service, Frank Kaufman, Director of Inter-Religious Federation for World Peace, Taj Hammad, Director of the Interreligious Leadership Seminar, Churchill Chadha, Gurdev Singh, Ralph Singh, and me.
Maharaj sat at a big seminar table with these organization-oriented people and said to them, with Ralph Singh translating:
God has made everybody very happy before we came to earth. But somehow when we get here, we get depressed. That happiness, that kindness, that compassion God gives us is slowly eroded in our daily lives. When we use those gifts that God has given us but focus on our own needs, we take on great anxiety.
I want to make clear to you that I am not here to be your pir [Sufi Guru]. I am just a worker. I put a lot of stress on my own body, and I make sure that the people around me work very hard. I’m always questioning things. If someone brings me a book, I question it. People with doubts are not bad people. They want to learn something. From early childhood, I made a firm principle not to speak about anything I have not done myself. If I spoke without firsthand experience, how could I expect anyone to accept what I said? If we all speak about those things that we have actually experienced, we will have full faith and we will move other people.
I have no doubt about God. There is just One God. We create disappointment because we try to put boundaries around God. God cannot be limited. God’s message has never changed. Those whom we regard as prophets brought one message. None have said that there are two Gods, or two truths, two ways of serving humanity, or two ways of love. It was always the same message.
However, we use our own ideas to limit God, and we create ways of worship according to our own satisfaction and needs. God must be laughing at us: “Why are they trying to use their ideas to create the mission? Why are they building big buildings?” God is laughing at us, saying “I won’t sit in those big buildings. I don’t have time. Look at all the people without clothes, without shoes, without food, who are depressed. I will be with them.” If we focus on those boundaries and buildings, we lay the foundation for strife and waste our efforts.
God has always spoken very simply and directly. When the angel appeared to Muhammad and said, “Repeat!” he had no way to understand what was in front of him. He went to his wife Khadija, who was very intelligent. She said, “Don’t worry—God appeared to Abraham, too. It’s possible that you have also been chosen.”
So he went back. The angel appeared, and Muhammad said, “I am oomi” [illiterate]. The angel put the message in front of him and said, “Now you will be able to read, understand, and speak this.” The message was given in Arabic, because that was the language of the people. Muhammad went to them and said, “I have very happy news. God has spoken to us in our own language, and now we will be able to understand.”
God is happiest when He sees compassion in us. Let us focus on how we can overcome poverty and divisions. There was one area in India we chose where there was much theft and fighting. They would take the shirt off your back. Because they were not working, there was great poverty there. So we looked at the area and said, “How can we improve their lives? They are only stealing because they are poor.” So we bought this absolutely desolate land and worked very hard. They began to fight with us, but we said, “No—we are doing this for your benefit.” It is human nature not to believe words. They were drinking dirty water so we made wells with hand pumps. They used to come and steal the pumps. I said to our people, “They have their goals and we have ours. Don’t fight with them” There was such development that we were able to feed all the people. Since childhood my desire was not just to help the people but also to hold huge feasts for the celebrations of all faiths, to say, “Look, God has sent all this food to provide for you.”
Development began to spread. People were fed and offered medicine. The Muslim women of that area still wear burqas. They come and sit, and we tell them religious stories and explain, “God has sent all of this.” People from a large area come to see this. We say to them, “It is just because people are working now. When we put our faith in God, God will not allow us to tire. God will keep us working continually and will keep us always happy.” Why should we push happiness away? God is happiness, and God brings happiness.
The need of the moment is to set an example, demonstrating what happens by working hard and having faith in God. People don’t want to just hear words.
I have heard that there is a wave of poverty coming in the United States. How can there possibly be poverty in this country? There is nothing that cannot be produced here, but we have to work at it. If everyone collects in the cities, poverty will remain. We can set up small industries on the land, and poverty will vanish. But people are not thinking that way.
We can call that person a leader who is actually working. By lecturing, no one will receive food or shelter, nor will poverty be alleviated. Wherever the prophets were, people gathered around them. They were uplifted to hard work, and poverty was alleviated.
We should look to that One God, understanding that we are all brothers and sisters, and look to see how we can work together to build a positive society. Let us develop our own inner character and let our actions speak for us. We should limit our speech, and act. If we work, there will be progress.
It is my firm conviction that God can give people limitless energy. When we have taken everything from God, have taken His blessings, we can sleep easily because God is doing everything. Jesus said, “You are always worrying about what will happen tomorrow. Can any of you tell who made tomorrow?” They were silent. He said, “Leave tomorrow to the One who will make it. You are all worried about your dress—Look at the dress He has given to the flowers. Look at the beauty of Nature, with no sewing machines, no shops. God knows, ‘This is all My family, and I have to take care of them.’”
Let us look at ourselves as human beings. If we continue to separate ourselves and hole up there in large buildings, we will never be happy.
If you ever have the chance, come to India. We only ask you to bring your love. Whatever we have is for you. After all, God has let me understand from the beginning that I have nothing. Everything is God’s. Look how happy the animals are—whereas we’re so unhappy and disappointed. When we create big plans, we get buried under them, and they still don’t work. Neither God’s choices nor God’s tastes are the same as ours. It may be those things that we hate that God takes pleasure in. We hate the poor and oppressed, and yet God’s taste is to always stay with and help them.
Those who call themselves representatives of God have only the goal of setting themselves up in God’s name and sitting comfortably. The clergy often isn’t happy with me, because they know I will challenge them. When we try to make demands out of our love, that is not love. Love is only that in which we have completely given up ourselves.
Akbar jihad—the great struggle—means to control one’s own desires. Once you have been able to control your own negativity, then you can control negativity in the world. The other jihad may occur if someone is trying to oppress you, standing in the way of your faith, but don’t do it for your own sake or because people will praise you. That is not a jihad. It is written in the Qur’an that anyone who uses God’s name to incite people against each other is not a Muslim, because God is all-tolerant. But people have decided that they are not going to accept God’s word, and instead do whatever they want.
It is good for us to accept all the words of God and work together as brothers and sisters. I have received tremendous happiness thus. When I look at the trees, the mountains, at you, I can see God, even if you don’t recognize that in yourself.
I am not a lecturer. I am just sharing. I have never been to school, but I have great love for the One who created all the holy books. God is right within us—not distant. We should all grow in faith, because God is Light. Jesus said, “Stretch out your hand of flesh, and God will bless you with His Hand of Light.” Do not create boundaries around this Light. Just love it.
You have your own goals. I am sure you can see that these things will be beneficial in your work. Come see us. We will send you back in your same form, but with more love. We won’t make you swamis. God has freed us all to serve each other. God gives us love greater than a mother, greater than a father.
Let us all learn to love and live together, and always laugh as we are together. Let us leap happy out of bed in the morning and leap happy into bed at night. God says, “Just keep working and leave the worry to Me.”
God is never happy when we take charity from others or use others. When we work, what do we need charity for? After all, we are standing on this treasure that God has given us. Look at all that can be created from this land. There is a tremendous treasure house, but you stand on that treasure and say, “There is poverty!” That treasure says, “Distribute me. Then there won’t be poverty.”
The people who had gathered to talk with Maharaj, each with his or her own organization, seemed delighted with his words. Mohammed Medhi stood up and said in an emotional voice, “My dear sir, my holy man! You radiate joy, spirituality, and love. I want to thank you and thank the man to your left whose soothing voice relates the message you are expressing. Part of the problem is that we do things for our benefit in the name of God. It is for our own benefit in the short range. If we can bridge this gap and instead do things for the benefit of God in the long range, we will have solved things. “Absolutely,” replied Maharaj.
Frank Kaufman, whose Inter-religious Federation for World Peace is a branch of Rev. Sun Myung Moon’s Unification Movement, remarked thoughtfully, “It seems like far worse thievery occurs on the part of wealthy people than of poor people. If we work, there is a certain amount of lifting people out of poverty. Gobind Sadan has the benefit of a living teacher. But without strong spiritual leadership, people are working very hard and becoming very rich, and are very criminal in their way of life. Wall Street does not need to be lifted out of poverty, and it is capable of creating great crimes. Maharaj responded,
They are not evil. We are all in the dance of God. Guru Gobind Singh said “You are the Dance within the dancer. You are within everything. You are drawing everything toward Yourself.
After we spoke in universities, many young people called to say, “We want to hear more and mold ourselves the way you have spoken so we can be prepared.” Most of the people at Shiv Sadan are youth. They work day and night. That is the benefit of their age. We should not worry about our youth; we should fix our own character. Their hearts are pure; their love is strong. How can we lead them if we don’t change?
Dan Anderson, the compassionate Christian pastor, said, “You speak so eloquently of love. A lot of the troubles in the world—be they in Somalia or Brooklyn—have to do not only with love but with prejudice.” Maharaj answered,
You must understand that those people who stand for justice are never in the majority. From that small group comes a critical mass. When people come into contact with them, their lives begin to change. I have seen politicians, many in high government positions. When they came to me and saw what we were doing, they left their corruption and went out and became preachers for this mission. They themselves said, “Corruption is not good for us or for our children.”
Perhaps the time has come. This is a very powerful time. The cries have reached God, and God is going to change the world. God is making that decision right now. God will change our minds. God is the Chief of Justice. It is my feeling and my faith that God will change people and bring justice. There hasn’t been a single feeling of mine that has been wrong.
Mary Coelho, the painter, described herself as a student of mysticism, of integrated spirituality, and of changing our attitude toward the earth. She asked Maharaj, “Is there some prayer or meditation practice you recommend? I know that prayer and service go together.” Maharaj replied,
This is something that comes from God and links people directly to God. What is meditation? What is prayer? What is worship? There is a slight difference between meditation and prayer. When we do our Namaz or stand in Ardas, we are saying something to God. But in meditation, we are trying to listen to what God is saying to us. We must learn to meditate. Once we have heard the voice of God, through meditation, that Voice continues in every pore of our body, and our mind is always attuned to that Power. When we stand, sit, drink, eat, He is always with us. It is a 24-hour-a-day process. We meditate so that we can first link our minds with God. Our mind is otherwise scattered. We need to focus it on God. Then that meditation continues 24 hours a day.
Mohammed Mehdi added, “At the same time that it is a continuous effort, God is always ready to answer us.”
One hundred percent. God is so ready to answer us that if we look at a tree, God will answer us from that tree.
Taj Hammad commented, “God as Parent must be so pained when He sees His children suffering. Why would He intervene at this particular time?”
Your world is overwhelmed with sorrow. We may lose our sense that there is value in Truth; we may think that through corruption we can gain things. The Light always follows that darkness. People are exhausted at their meetings, trying to find ways to solve the problems. But if we look at all of spiritual history, this is God’s way: Whenever the world becomes so buried under suffering, God will bring light to dispel the darkness.
Virginia Birdsall asked, “Does Guruji feel that there will be a movement out of the cities into the countryside?”
We should do that work that we are capable of or trained to do. We have to be concerned for those people who really can’t take care of themselves or their children. There is nothing that cannot be set up on the land. Factories are set up on the land. The resources, the food we eat, tea and coffee, bread from the wheat we grow, our clothes, meat, milk all come from the land. If there is no grass, what will cows eat? Iron, steel, coal, gas, wood, cement, fruit and vegetables—this is our treasure. Let us set up some large factories, but let us start using that treasure. If we do more in that direction, we would be able to alleviate poverty. But we have abandoned that treasure as worthless, as garbage. Let those who work in the cities stay there. But those who don’t, let them go to the land. Then when we set up hospitals, schools, and such, those will become cities. Many services don’t exist in the villages, so people have become very disillusioned with village life. But we can become such a strong team that we can offer those services ourselves, and then afterward the government will often come to help. When you come you will see that in a place where there was nothing—our farm Shiv Sadan in Uttar Pradesh—the government is now falling over itself to offer roads, electricity, and such. We say to them, “We don’t need it. This model has been produced by God’s grace.” Now they want to come and take credit for it.
Janice Perlman, the dedicated workaholic director of the Mega-Cities Project, interjected a personal question: “Babaji says to me that we have too much faith in work and too little faith in faith. I don’t know how to change that, because all I know how to do is work.” Maharaj explained,
The first thing is that you must understand that God does exist. In order to have faith, you must understand that there is One who is running everything. Then when you plan to talk to people, you say to God, “These ideas have come with Your grace.” What will happen? That understanding that God is with you will increase day by day.
You have closed that door entirely and run through the door of work. By policies and meetings, you think you will be able to alleviate poverty. Who is going to make it work? Do people accept you as a leader? Do you have the personal power to make it work? Write this in your diary: “One day I will exhaust myself if I don’t develop faith.” So in the evening after you have pushed yourself to the brink, say, “God, You have kept my heart beating, my limbs working,” and you will never feel tired or disappointed. It is not a theory.
There are always people saying, “Look at you, woman. What are you going to be able to do in all this darkness? People aren’t going to change because you say. But if you’re focused on God’s Kingdom, you will be able to say, “I know things will change!”
God really does exist. Just love Him. God places no demands on you. God gives you happiness and asks nothing in return. God will increase your willpower and asks nothing of you. So open that door. There is no point in keeping it closed.