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Speeches

D. Chopra: Let the World Be Our Family

Address to the United Nations International Day of Families Symposium
United Nations Headquarters, New York, USA, May 18, 2009

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Thank you, thank you for giving me this privilege to be with you for a few minutes. And what I would like you to do, since we're talking about family, is to stretch your mind a little bit to really understand what family is about. So take a deep breath please. Take a really deep breath, and breathe it out. So I want to ask you one question. As we breathe right now, in and out, do you see that we are sharing the same breath? Are we sharing the same breath?

Now when we breathe out, with each breath that you breathe in you breathe in 10 to the power of 22 atoms. This means 10 followed by 22 zeros. That is a lot of stuff. With every breath that you breathe out you breathe out 10 to the power of 22 atoms. This is the same amount as you breathe in: 10 followed by 22 zeros. And these atoms are coming from every single cell of your body.  So right now we are intimately sharing our organs with each other. I hope you agree on that.

Walt Whitman, the great American poet, said, "Every atom that belongs to you also belongs to me." We are literally members not only of the same breath, but we are member of the same body. The difference between nationalities and colors and races happens to be because of temperature and climactic differences, and the position of the sun.  We are members of one breath. We are members of one body. Right this moment you have in your body at least a million atoms that were once in the body of Christ. You have in your body at least a million atoms right now that were once in the body of Buddha or Mohammad. And yet we are fighting in the name of these great prophets, when in fact in this moment you have all of them in your physical body.

In just the last three weeks a quadrillion atoms, 10 followed by 15 zeros, have gone through your body that have gone through the body of every other living species on this planet. So think of a tree in Africa, think of a camel in Saudi Arabia, think of a taxi driver in Dhaka, Bangladesh, think of a peasant in China, and you have in your physical bodies stuff that was floating there only three weeks ago. In a less than one year you recycle your entire body with the rest of the universe.

So what are we talking about? This one process. You know those trees out there? They are your lungs. If those trees did not breathe, you would not breathe. This air that we are sharing is our breath. Those rivers and waters out there are our circulation. And our bodies and the earth's body are recycling right this moment. There is no separation. There is differentiation.

What we have done is mistaken differentiation for separation. I hope you know what differentiation means. Differentiation means how the one becomes the many. When you started your life this time around, you were one cell. One cell. That cell became two, that cell became four, that cell became eight. Within 50 replications, only 50, you were one hundred trillion cells, which is more than all the stars in the Milky Way galaxy. And that is you right now, those hundred trillion cells that came from one cell.

Now these stomach cells don't say, "why should I digest food for the heart, what does it do for me?" The heart doesn't say, "Why pump blood because all these neurons do is worry?" Neurons don’t say, "Why should I regulate blood pressure?" They don't say this because they realize they are members of one single body. Yet they are different. Stomach cells, heart cells, brain cells — they look different, but they came from that one cell. Similarly, we are not only members of one body, we are not only members of one ecosystem. We are not only members of one breath, we are not only members of one energy field, we are not only members of an emotional field, we are one consciousness that has differentiated into all these consciousnesses.

If we really get that, we can solve all the problems in the world right now, because whatever we call a problem right now, social injustice, radical poverty, a world where 50 percent of the people live on less than two dollars a day, a world where 20 percent of the world lives on two dollars a day. A world of social injustice, a world of tribalism and warfare and eco-destruction. All these problems come from a mistake we have made in the intellect, and that mistake is that we are separate. There is no separation. We have mistaken differentiation for separation.

I have been writing about Buddha, I have been writing about Jesus Christ. I am now writing about Mohammed. As you go deeper into the teachings you realize these were universal beings. These were universal beings because they have had an experience of what is called unity consciousness. This is the non-difference between me and the other.  Because right now whatever is happening in me is dependent on you. If you are emotionally upset it will cause me to be emotionally upset. If you are unhealthy I will be unhealthy physically. If the eco-system is damaged my body will also be damaged, because there is no separation. You cannot separate yourself from the other. Your well-being is so important to my well-being that I am totally dependent on your emotional, physical and spiritual well-being. So you'd better be healthy.

There is a passage in the gospel of John where Jesus is talking about being a child of God. We just heard the song "We are one family under God." He said the same thing, but the crowd was so upset they picked up stones and they wanted to kill him — which is what we are doing right now. So he said, "Many good works have I shown you, for which of these do you stone me?" And the crowd said, "We stone you not for the good works that you do, we stone you for blasphemy, because you being a man, call yourself a Son of God." And Jesus replied that he was a good rabbi, that he was a product of the Old Testament, which, by the way, is the root of three religions right here.  Whether you are from Islam, or Judaism or Christianity, you are the offspring of the Old Testament. And so Jesus points to the Old Testament and says, "Is it not written in your law, 'I said, that you are gods'? And if it can be said of those to whom the word of God [the logos, the knowledge, the consciousness of God] came, then why do you say I blaspheme because I call myself a Son of God?"

So Jesus is talking about what the Jews call the ruah. It is that breath that we share, the spirit in the book of Genesis where God  made man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul. The Muslims call it ruh. There are other words for it, but it sounds the same. If I say Elohim in Hebrew or Allah in Arabic what is the difference? A little accent is different. Do we want to go to war for that? The Greeks call it pneuma, and the Hindus call it prana, which means to breathe.

So I think we need a shift in our consciousness right now more than anything else, because, as Einstein said, "No problem will ever be solved at the level of consciousness in which it was created." So we created wars in a certain level of consciousness. We created terrorism in a certain level of consciousness. And we are trying to solve that problem from that same level of consciousness when we say a War on Terrorism! It is an oxymoron, it doesn't mean anything. The War on Terrorism, the War on Poverty, the War on Drugs, the War on AIDS, these are metaphors of a violent mind, which belongs to a past that is over.

Today we no longer want to speak about the survival of the fittest because it is dangerous. A permanently victorious species risks its own extinction. The future belongs to the survival of the wisest. As Jonas Salk, the great teacher said, "Wisdom has to be the criterion for fitness and for evolution if we are to survive." And wisdom is that knowledge that understands our inseparability, that understands that we are one life, one body, one energy field, one emotional field, one consciousness, one ecosystem. If we can move to that level of awareness and have an emotional and spiritual experience, we will solve the problems of the world.

There is enough creativity in this room, there is enough intelligence in this room, there is enough love and compassion in this room that if we could harness this on the global level, all the problems we have will be solved.

if you want to solve the Millennium Development Goals, you start with yourself, because no amount of reductionist, separatist thinking will solve them. That has been tried, and how close are we? India right now exports food to the West and to the Middle East. Why do 30 percent of Indian children still go to bed starving? It is a shame that in the presence of this kind of creativity, this kind of wealth that we have in the world, this kind of abundance, 40 percent of the children of the world are going to bed hungry.

I just read in the last two weeks an article on psychosomatic medicine that I found totally shocking. The article said, based on statistics in the US [but they are statistics worldwide because we are all the same] that up to 25 percent of children brought up in this country have been abused either physically, emotionally, verbally, or sexually. Twenty-five percent. Furthermore, these children, 25 years later, are getting autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn's syndrome, and systemic lupus because their bodies are inflamed inflamed with rage. Their immune systems don't know who is a friend, and who is not a friend. Their immune system is confused and so it attacks itself. This is what we are doing: we are attacking ourselves. By attacking the other we are attacking ourselves, because the other is ourselves. There is no separation here.

Recent studies also show that when there is inflammation in the body the normal cells of the body get recruited by the cancer cells to help them. This is very interesting: let's say that a person has cancer and the doctor in his enthusiasm over-treats the cancer by giving lots of chemotherapy or lots of radiation, which causes what the doctors call collateral damage. Once that collateral damage has occurred, then the normal cells will join the cancer cells to attack the body, because they have been damaged. In fact, inflammation is now considered the number one cause of diseases such as cancer, arthritis, and autoimmune diseases.

Do you see an analogy? We throw a bomb in Iraq, or a bomb in Afghanistan, and a few people die and we say it is collateral damage. It is collateral damage, but look at the consequences of that collateral damage. Normal, good people who only want a good, safe life now join terrorist groups in the same way that normal cells join the terrorist cells that we call cancer.

There is no violent solution to violence. It will never happen. If it were possible to solve violence with violence we would have solved it a long time ago.

We have to move to a new level. I want to ask you something now. If you are sincere about it, then do it. If you are not sincere, then don't do it. Are you serious about having peace in the world? Are you sure? If you are, can you make a commitment in you life to be peaceful starting right now? Then stand up right now. How many people are in this room? The world is peaceful by 400 more people right now.

Mahatma Gandhi said, "If you want to change the world you have to be the change you want to see in the world." And right now you have said that you want to be the change in the world. Now go get two more people who are willing to make that commitment. And tell those two to get two more people. And let's get a hundred million people in the world to say, "I am going to be peaceful."

Then this will be a peaceful world, because the world is a projection of our consciousness. Public policy and government policy come later. Even leaders come later. The leaders are symbolic expressions of our own consciousness. Let's make a commitment to be the change. Let's make a commitment to make a little difference in our families, starting with our little family, which is our husband, wife, mother, father, children. But then let's extend it, because the whole world is our family. And that is what the great Upanishads of India said, "The world is my family." And that is the message that I want to give you today with deep sincerity of my heart. Let the world be our family. This is the United Nations; that's what it means.