What’s so revolutionary about an eccentric 74-year-old senator from Brooklyn?
There’s nothing really new about his ideals for social equality. He’s been basically saying the same things for the last 50 years.
But Bernie Sanders’ essential philosophy touches on a deeper truth.
This is a movement inspired by the philosophy of Martin Luther King Jr., Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela and many others. Often these kinds of movements are thought of as peaceful protests. But they go much deeper.
It’s a philosophy rooted in centuries-old spiritual beliefs. Specifically the path of Soul Force, (Satyagraha, in Sanskrit, comprising two words; satya or truth, and agrah or insistence) a term coined by Gandhi. It is not only a means of social change, but a path of truth and love—also commonly translated as Truth Force.
Many say that this kind of idealism can’t prevail, and certainly can’t win a presidential election. (Even though Bernie continues to win state after state.)
But ultimately, the point isn’t simply to win, but to bring awareness to a greater cause. Winning is a short-term view. In fact it’s a symptom of what’s wrong with society. The need to win at any costs, prevents us from taking a long view of our future.
When Gandhi and M.L.K. engaged in peaceful protest, it wasn’t about winning the conflict. The intention was to bring the conflict into the open. This approach forces harmful beliefs and systems, into the light of awareness. It’s only when we become aware of a problem that we can change it.
The practice of Soul Force is a proven way to bring peaceful and lasting change, both for ourselves and as a society.
Gandhi developed this approach for real-world change from the yogic philosophy of Ahimsa, the belief in the power of non-violence. It’s the idea that all beings share a divine essence. So to harm another is to harm ourselves.
“Without Ahimsa it is not possible to seek and find Truth. ” ~ Gandhi
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. also adopted this yogic idea into the civil rights movement:
“As I delved deeper into the philosophy of Gandhi, my skepticism concerning the power of love gradually diminished, and I came to see for the first time that the Christian doctrine of love, operating through the Gandhian method of non-violence, is one of the most potent weapons available to an oppressed people in their struggle for freedom.”
In 1959, King journeyed to India and became convinced that Gandhi’s approach could be the catalyst for wide-scale change. Soon the civil-rights movement began to see dramatic results.
During this time Bernie Sanders was a student at the University of Chicago and an active participant in the Civil Rights movement. Bernie was deeply influenced by the ideas of Martin Luther King. He even marched with King, mostly notably during the 1963 march on Washington where King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech:
“We must forever conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not allow our creative protest to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again, we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with Soul Force.”~
Soon after, Bernie helped lead a 15-day sit-in protest against housing segregation polices. And thus began a 50-year career standing for social justice, and economic rights for all:
“What I believe in and what my spirituality is about is that we’re all in this together. I think it is not a good thing to believe as human beings we can turn our backs on the suffering of other people.”
Many people get caught up in Bernie’s economic policies, his stance on free education and equality. But if you look deeper you will see that he has inherited a deeper yogic philosophy. The ideal that we are all connected.
No matter what we believe or who we are, we all share the same divine spark:
“Everyone believes in God in their own ways. To me, it means that all of us are connected, all of life is connected, and that we are all tied together.”
And so this movement is certainly not new. What is new, is our ability to embrace the power of love and truth, this Soul Force, on a global scale. We are beginning to wake up to the truth of what sages have said for millennia: we really are all in this together. To harm another is to harm ourselves.
Those who walk this path of Soul Force understand that we are all flawed. And this is why we all need each other.
“The truth is, at some level when you hurt, your children hurt, I hurt.”
Perhaps Bernie is idealistic. He’s far from perfect. But we don’t have to be perfect to make a change in the world. We just need to be willing to not only understand what is true, but to embrace it in our lives.
When we combine the wisdom of truth with the power of the heart, anything is possible. Changing the world begins with changing ourselves. Soul Force is a way to create a more enlightened society.
This is the path of truth—a revolution of the heart.
(If you’re interested in digging a bit deeper, check out my free e-book, Soul Force: Discovering your true path.)
1. Moses, G. (1997). Revolution of Conscience: Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Philosophy of Nonviolence, New York: The Guilford Press.
2. Watley, W.D. (1985). Roots of Resistance: The Nonviolence Ethic of Martin Luther King, Jr., Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press.
Author: Aron Stein
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Images: courtesy of the author
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