By Sat Santokh Singh
I became aware at a very young age—as a result of the Jewish Holocaust burning into my consciousness—that I needed to do something about the state of the world. For most of my life I have been primarily interested in how to bring an end to war and the other horrible ways we often treat one another, always searching to understand what would be useful, what needs to change, asking myself what can I do within myself and in working with others to have the leverage to move the world.
I entered the Peace Movement in the late 1950’s/early 1960’s, and was fortunate to learn from the brilliant Bayard Rustin (when he was Executive Secretary of the War Resister’s League) for a little while, before he left the War Resister’s League to advise Martin Luther King Jr. I learned about Gandhi from him and the power that one person who is willing to stand up for a cause can have.
We were just beginning to understand the threat posed by Nuclear War, and there was much franticness within the Peace Movement as we responded to one crisis after another with protest marches, demonstrations and sit-ins, while the sense of powerlessness and frustration grew stronger and stronger. I felt that we had to at least register our objection to what was going on. I did all I could to oppose the war in Vietnam, becoming a full-time anti-war activist, and after a while concluding that “protest” was not going to bring about any kind of lasting change—change would come from shifting our collective consciousness.
Exploring how to shift my own consciousness initially led me to the psychedelic world, managing the Grateful Dead, and then meeting my first teacher, a Hawaiian Kahuna named Daddy Bray, who in response to my asking what I should do with my life, said: “Be a radiant example of how to live on this planet.” Sage advice. He died a year afterwards, my quest continued, and I met my teacher, Yogi Bhajan in 1970. I came to understand that developing the consciousness of a yogi and sharing this consciousness with others was an important part of my work on this planet.
I began training young people in how to work more effectively for change, through Creating Our Future, an action/training organization for high school students I founded in 1987, which grew to an organization of some size. It was through this work that I first became aware of sexual abuse, and then other forms of child abuse by listening to the students sharing their stories. I began to understand the nature of inner wounds in general and their impact on our lives. Being led by my heart, I felt compelled to find a way to help people heal these wounds. After some years of meditation on the subject and prayer to Guru Ram Das, I was able to become a vehicle for helping people heal these wounds.
For the last fifteen years, I have traveled the world leading Self Worth workshops, training others to lead these workshops, and was, myself, led through several very profound healing journeys by some of my senior students.
I did not enter into the Self Worth work as part of a conscious strategy to bring an end to war and violence, but was responding to a resonance in my heart with the pain that people I loved and cared about were feeling, and a very compelling desire to do something that would be useful to alleviate that pain. I did not know that I would find an answer to my core questions:
What produces anger and rage in humanity?
What is it that happens to us that allows us to run businesses and governments without caring about the harm we are doing to others?
How do so many of us manage to go through life without experiencing love and concern for the well being of others and ourselves?
What is it that motivates people to hurt others, to be filled with anger and rage towards others, ourselves, and just about everything around us?
And, of course, what fills so many of us with fear and mistrust?
I have come to understand by listening to so many people share their stories and wounds that we come into the world innocent (without sin or guilt) wherever we are born on this planet of ours, without regard to race, culture, religion or class. We come into the world ready to trust and ready to love and be loved; angry rage-filled people have become so through extreme violent physical and emotional abuse while they are children.
It is by being profoundly emotionally wounded from physical and emotional abuse that people lose their capacity to love and to trust, and, all too frequently, wind up replacing love and trust with fear and anger. With sufficient abuse, there are physiological changes in the brain chemistry with the result that after a while, the person no longer seeks to experience pleasure, which has been denied to him, and instead, uses anger and hatred as the way in which to stimulate his neurotransmitters and feel alive.
Beating and emotional abuse of children—which produces adults filled with anger, hatred, and cynicism—as a way of being, has profound implications to the state of the world. Where there is extreme child beating, there is almost always fear, anger, and rage. Angry, self-righteous, religious fundamentalism has its roots here. War as a core instrument of foreign policy, and any “ism” which preaches hate of some group of “others” are rooted in fear, anger and rage, which was developed in abusive childhoods.
The work is clear then. We must change the way children are treated around the world. We must bring an end to worldwide corporal punishment of children, and an end to abuse of children in general, as a precondition for a world without war.
I have decided to celebrate my 75th birthday by marshalling my more than fifty years of experience, successes, failures, victories, learning opportunities, and my huge network of peers in the social change worldand spiritual communities, to work to eliminate physical, sexual, and emotional abuse of children.
I founded Creating Our Future as a social action/training organization in the late 1980’s with the active participation and support of Baba Ram Dass, Jerry Garcia, Bob Weir, Joanna Macy, and Wavy Gravy. This was initially in response to a request from my daughter, Snatam Kaur, to advise her high school student environmental club. This new Creating Our Future project will provide training for youth and adults on both separate and shared tracks, based on the clear conviction that we will not have peace in the world without eliminating abuse of children, and the firm understanding that this is the next step in the long campaigns to eliminate slavery, oppression of women, and homophobia, all of which are still works in progress in the long and inevitably successful campaign for humanity to awaken to treating one another as fellow human beings.
I am profoundly grateful that Snatam Kaur and Guru Ganesha Singh will help me celebrate my 75th birthday with a Sacred Chant Concert Benefit in San Fransisco on Oct. 18, to help launch this new chapter of Creating Our Future, as a social action/training organization for young people and adults to work together to do all that may be possible to end abuse of children, so that humanity may have a future, and with God’s Grace, be able to enjoy it.
Sat Santokh Singh Khalsa is a leader in the field of transformational workshops and applying yogic technology to living in the world with care and consciousness. His presence generates a magical and sacred space in which one’s heart is deeply touched. For more information about Creating Our Future. [email protected]