Stop: Yogi Bhajan and Ram Dass Talk Nuclear War in 1982

A ‘meeting of the ways’ took place at Stanford University on March 26, 1982, as the New Age spiritual leaders met to discuss the issue of Nuclear Armament/Disarmament. It was truly a dynamic event, as speakers and the audience were moved to greater awareness of the threat of nuclear destruction, and thus to more visible and vocal activity towards nuclear disarmament. Right to left: Yogi Bhajan, Daniel Ellsberg, Swami Satchitananda, Phillip Deer, M.S.S. Sat Santokh Singh Khalsa, Joanna Macy, Ken Keyes, and Baba Ram Dass.


This post was excerpted from an article originally published in a 1982 issue of Beads of Truth. It is drawn from remarks delivered by Siri Singh Sahib, Yogi Bhajan and Ram Dass on the topic of nuclear war during Summer Solstice 1982. 


Siri Singh Sahib Ji

We are committed spiritual people. As such we are both fortunate and unfortunate: fortunate in that we are spiritually committed, and that we are trying to be healthy, happy and holy; unfortunate in that we cannot tolerate the bizarre situation that is happening to our country or that will happen to our people.

We are protesting against nuclear war. We are, as part of our faith, warriors. We are known as martial people. We are not hiding the fact that we are fighters, but we fight for a cause. The cause we are fighting for is this: we declare war on general death.

Nuclear war is not any kind of human war, nor does it observe any rule or any law. They are lying to us. They are telling us that there’s a possibility that we can go to the hills. We are in the hills and just a few miles from here they are building the atom bomb.

We have reached the point of destruction. I said to you yesterday that those who die in the atomic blast will be very
fortunate and beloved of God, and those who survive must be the sinners. Imagine what this war will mean to us. Neither will there be any United States, nor will there be a U.S.S.R., nor will there be anybody on the planet. There will be no more Rome, no more Golden Temple, and there will be no more Mecca. There will be no more you and there will be no more me. In a simple description, the Earth will be a furnace. If nuclear war takes place, it doesn’t matter who strikes first or who strikes later. This planet Earth will become a furnace.

It will take exactly 36 hours and 17 minutes for the ozone layer of the earth to give up, and after that, “adios.” No more bombs will be required. No more death will be required. No more defense mechanism will be required. Once the atomic energy eats up the ozone layer, earth will not be an inhabitable planet.

Yet there is a way out. You are asked whether the congressmen and the senators are with us. I’ll tell you something. Everybody is with us. Although it seems that people are only interested in their jobs and their security, that is changing. People are slowly becoming aware that there is going to be a time not far away when there will be no jobs, no lobbying, no children, no family. There is a concurrent consciousness awakening in all of us that this planet is not going to be here. That is what No-Nukes is about. So what is the policy now? To make yourself so strong, the other party won’t attack because of the dread, the fear. Is that a guarantee that there will be no war?

War is never a sane process. War is the outcome of total human insanity.

When the first war, Mahabaratha, was fought, Lord Krishna, the Godhead, was in the center of it. He couldn’t stop it. He told them, “Fight well.” If you read the Bhagavad Gita, you’ll be surprised: fire bombs were used, atom bombs used, napalm was used, and missiles were used. Thousands of people in one sector were burned to ashes by just such a strike. We have been fighting cruel wars and destroying ourselves many time. This time we are trying to appeal to ourselves.

Seventy-five percent of Americans do not want war, especially nuclear war and are not being heard, and we have to protest. When you call someone in congress and ask, “What about your nuclear power policy? Why are you voting for this budget?” They say, “What else can we do?” They have passed a budget, right before your eyes, which is the biggest military spending budget, and they did absolutely everything they could to cut civilian people out. These are the people we have voted for. They tell you, “What can I do?”

There are lots of things we can do. We have weighed the situation and we have studied the situation. It has taken us one year to decide to come out openly. We want to talk now. We want to tell people that our first fundamental right in this country is to live and not to die . . .

I close by telling you a story. India wanted freedom. Britain knew that if they gave freedom to India, that empire where the sun never sets, would never see the sun again. The Sikhs became involved and were the originators of civil disobedience. The late Mahatma Gandhi became the champion of it. But he studied it first in Amritsar.

The war started on a very small issue. The Golden Temple, in Amritsar  feeds about eight thousand people a day. The free kitchen is a part of our religious service by right of decree we had the right to bring wood from Guru Ka Bhag, which was a kind of forest a few miles away from Amritsar. One day the deputy commissioner of Amritsar ordered that the Sikhs were not entitled to bring wood from Guru Ka Bhag without paying a toll.

The Sikhs protested. They started a peaceful agitation called Guru Ka Bhag Morcha, in which groups of  five (because more than four people constitutes an illegal assembly) proceeded to the garden to fetch the wood. These people were attacked, gassed, and beaten by the police. The police rode horses over them. This painful situation continued for a couple of months. It became so national and so big that even Gandhi, Nehru, and every other Indian leader came to watch. They were shocked and surprised that  hundreds of Sikhs: educated, uneducated, poor, rich, children, ladies, kept on walking, day in and day out.

They were so brutally and so treacherously beaten that it even brought tears to the eyes of those who were beating them. After a couple of months, the government gave in. Guru Ka Bhag was released to the Sikhs and wood could be
taken from there for the free kitchen of the Golden Temple. That was the start of peaceful, non-violent agitation in the world. It didn’t stop until, in 1947, the British government was compelled to give India independence. That country has a history, written and recorded, which is five thousand years old. America is only two hundred years old. You can do a lot, and very peacefully, too.

I have done an experiment for the last six months. Whenever I call somebody on the phone, or talk to somebody, or write a letter, I just add one or two lines: ‘Do you want to live into the future? Do something about nuclear war!’ Advocate. Educate another person. Let them have their view. If there is an atomic war, neither Democrats or Republicans will be left. We will all evaporate at the same time.

We are waking up and trying to control our own house. I am not asking you to start any agitation, I am asking you to start creating public opinion. There are about a thousand people here. At least each one of you has one relative that you can write to. Urge them to write to one relative. Start a chain action. Calm, quiet, peaceful, nice. But start saying things. And don’t stop until we stop it all.

We find this coincidence. Here they made the bomb (at nearby Los Alamos) and here we are sitting and saying, “We don’t want it.” We don’t want the atomic war.

God is making the destiny of the United States as He wishes. This country was started with the slogan, “In God We Trust.” Start talking and start writing, and also start making up your mind that you don’t believe what is being told and said. You do believe in one thing: WE DON’T WANT A NUCLEAR WAR. Make a contribution. Call all the religious groups and give them a talk. In your office or business, put a sign. “We don’t want nuclear war.” These little funny things may look very little to you, but they are very effective. Simple things, simple methods, and simple gestures can bring a flood of people on your side.

Do whatever you can do if you love this planet Earth.  Trust in God and start doing something from this minute.


Ram Dass

I want to honor you. I pick on those parts of you that are courageous people who are seeking the living spirit, and I honor you for that. I honor you for something that you and I share very deeply. I honor you for your love of the Guru. I honor your lineage, I honor your discipline. When I was asked this morning to change my schedule and come here to speak to you, I looked in my heart and my heart was happy at that opportunity, because it is very rare that I have an opportunity to speak to a group of people whose commitment is as deep as yours is. It is a very special joy, it is the joy of satsang, the joy of Khalsa, that is very rare indeed for us in this society.

Years ago when I first met members of 3HO, I was very deeply put off and offended by the fierceness. Yet, today I honor you. I felt somehow that there was a wall that came from the way that you were attached to your discipline. I felt excluded, not only by uniform, and practice, but I wasn’t a member of the club.  Over the years either you have come of age or I have.

Because what I now experience is that fierce inner strength, with a soft interface out into the world, and I want to tell you that that is very, very appropriate to this time in this world. You and I are great, in that we have a commitment to God that is open, that is profound, that is beyond any of the adjectives you use to describe it. Even the word ‘faith’ falls short. The word ‘belief’ falls very short. Our relation to God is that ‘it is’ and ‘we are.’ And, in that comes a strength, a strength in us that allows us to float and dance in the world. Any lesser strength, any strength that comes just from the rules, or just from fear, or just even from sadhana, will fall short at the final moment. It is only the strength that comes through the identity with God that allows us to be fluid in the world, to the needs of the moment.

A few years back I felt that my major work was really to get high and take as many people as I could with me. And then, maybe I grew up a little more and I saw that in order to be free in God, I have to honor my incarnation, I had to honor what I was doing in form. Part of honoring that form meant honoring parents, meant honoring family, meant honoring religion, meant honoring community, meant honoring country, meant honoring ecosphere, meant honoring the species. It meant honoring life. Since that time I have been listening — listening to hear how to perform that honor, and I find that I cannot hide in the Ramayana, though I love the Ramayana deeply as the holy book of my lineage.  For though it will give me guidelines, when the moment comes of the interface with my father, my worldly father, I find that if I hold the rule-book between him and me, he feels cut off from me.

In the end I have to trust what I have learned and become through the grace of my Guru, through the holy books I have studied, through the sadhana I have performed, enough to walk into each situation naked again.

I had never planned to involve myself in political activities. As you may know. Yogi Bhajan and Pat Ellsberg, Dan and I and others met at a Meeting of the Ways gathering at Stanford recently, finding ourselves together out of our shared feeling of involvement in honoring our roles as members of the species, as members of a society, as members of civilization.

What I experienced was that I did not come to Stanford to speak about the nuclear holocaust and the potential for it, out of fear. If I am with God, what should I fear? I did not come out of feeling that were civilization to end.  It would not be the end, because God goes on.

So, I did not come out of panic, or out of avoidance or urgency. I came out of a deep intuitive sense that in order to fulfill my role, my destiny, my incarnation, I would speak out against nuclear weapons proliferation. What surprised me was that I could speak out, and at the same moment feel so much peace. That I could be opposed to Casper Weinberger, to Khomeini, and to so many people and yet I could keep my heart open and feel love towards these beings.

There is a way to be a warrior which brings peace. For a warrior to bring peace, though you are an impeccable warrior, the peace must rest very deep in your heart. Because it is a peaceful being who creates a peaceful universe.

But do not (and I know you don’t), confuse the inner peace, with the outer firmness. Nor should you confuse the firmness coming from connection with God with the outer gentleness. It goes from peace to the rock of strength that comes from that inner peace to a gentleness, allowing people who meet you, to feel loved, healed and opened by your presence.

I honor you as warriors, as extraordinary business people, as people with the toughest discipline in town. I honor you for the humor that comes from the deep seriousness of a spiritual seeking. I honor you because wherever you set up shop, you end up at first being feared, and then being respected, and finally being loved.  I honor that.

Recently I’ve just completed a tour of the United States in which I went around the country and ended in Alaska. In each place, I included in my remarks some discussion of the nuclear issue. I was very awed by the depth of response from the audience to this issue. Previously I have been very awed in my tours by the heterogeneity of the audiences.

There was a time just a few years ago when the only people who came to hear me speak were all of a certain age range, a certain class background, a certain set of neuroses. But something has happened in the culture that makes a far vaster number of people able to hear the Dharma, able to hear the word of living truth.

Whatever that is that has happened, has allowed people to tune into an intuitive place in themselves that knows and understands that that which the intellect creates, such as nuclear weapons, when it loses contact with the intuitive spirit, doesn’t feel good. And, that intuitive sense in people is what is leading them in Vermont and in Georgia and in Texas and in Alaska and in Minnesota and everywhere to rise up and say, ‘Hey, it doesn’t feel good at all.’ And that is a depth of reaction that is  beyond politics. That is a depth of reaction that is beyond Democrats and Republicans.

Two weeks ago I was in New York for the June 12th rally, and on June 11, 10,000 people gathered in St. John the Divine for a religious convocation. And then we marched to Central Park and planted a tree. And the next day 700,000 of us marched through New York.  And when we prepared to march, we arrived at our designated marching space at 9:50 in the morning on 48th Street by 1st Avenue. It became so crowded in the street, because it was closed at one end, that none of us could move. We had only the space we were standing on, and we stood for four hours before we took one step. And that crowd was so committed to its statement, that there was no anger, there were no arrests, there was no violence; there was patience. A deep patience that comes out of a conviction that came from the deepest part of human beings.

May I suggest to you that all of your actions that are designed to heal this planet, that are designed to awaken your fellow human beings from the paranoia that leads to the delusive sense of security that a bomb provides, every bit of effort you make will resonate a million times over, in the hearts, in the deepest hearts of your fellow human beings.

So take courage, and use your warrior skills, and your love of God, and your gentle interface to heal.



View this article as it originally appeared in Beads of Truth in Winter of 1982

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