Patriots are those who have helped their country and elevated its consciousness so that the reality of their country has widened. There have been many American patriots in the past and there will be many more. The Supreme had a special vision for the soul of America and He revealed it first through the Founding Fathers. The Founding Fathers were definitely spiritually illumined. Of course, their illumination may not have been the illumination of a great Yogi, but they did have great inner awakening and inner illumination.
The light always has to be embodied by great noble individuals. To start with, you have Thomas Jefferson's vision: the Declaration of independence. But it is not Jefferson's vision alone. Many people saw the reality. It was the vision of that era, the vision of all who surrounded Jefferson. You can call it the vision of Washington, Adams, Franklin, Paine and others. Again, the sense of sacrifice of all those who fought for this country in those days — no matter how little or how much — deserves our special attention.
Monroe also had much light. We see another wave of patriotism when Lincoln came. Then there are many others. When Wilson came — Wilson's League of Nations — we notice another wave. It was the vision of an American to have the League of Nations, but the ignorance of America did not accept this vision. It was not supported by America. As an American, Wilson was listened to, admired and appreciated by many, many countries because he saw the light. But the members of his own family were not accepting his light. Still, it was not all darkness and we see another wave of patriotism at that time. And the League of Nations grew into the United Nations, where we now offer our dedicated service.
Then comes President Roosevelt. For three or four terms there was tremendous, tremendous light in him. Then, after that, was Kennedy. Recently there have been so many undivine stories about his personal life, but this is all nonsense. We have to see Kennedy's vision, his real vision. Kennedy's soul went very high and very deep. He died quite young; that is why his soul's light did not manifest fully in the outer life. But the patriotism in his inner life is bound to manifest in the course of time. The light that his soul has will again try to manifest on earth through a different form. He will be known as somebody else, but it will be the same soul. Again, the light that an individual embodies need not remain dormant in him until he comes back to earth again. His light can operate through his dear ones or through those who are not near or dear but who have the same principles. They may not even be American, but they may carry Kennedy's illustrious vision. His utterance, "Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country," and others of this kind are soulfully spiritual, not merely political.
Many American poets are patriotic heroes just because their inner experiences have awakened and illumined and added to America's consciousness. You may think Whitman's poems are vital, but they are from the dynamic vital, not the aggressive vital. In his poems he wanted to say, "Don't discard the body-consciousness; value it. The body is not all barren: It is only something for us to utilise. The other side of the body is the soul." He urged humanity to see that inside the body there is also reality. From his body-consciousness he has awakened the consciousness of America.
Emerson also offered really great service, not only to America but to the whole world. Very few souls as illumined as Emerson have come into the world. Emerson had light in abundant measure. With his illumined mind he served his country and the world. Whitman's reality and his vision were also real, but there are many countries that don't want to spread light through the vital as Whitman's poems do. They want to serve and spread light through the illumined mind, so see the necessity of accepting Emerson's light. Emerson received his light, his ideas, from a very old tradition: the Upanishadic teachings. It was not stealing; it came from within, his own inner cry. This incarnation he was an American, but in previous lives who knows what he was? Perhaps he was a Vedic seer. So you can't say that an American has borrowed or stolen Indian goods. Absurd! In the inner world there is no Indian, no American; there is only light. It is like a stream. Four thousand years ago that light was visible in one part of the world. Now the same light is being manifested elsewhere for the consciousness of humanity to see.
Thoreau was also great. His vision encompassed the overall experience of reality. Emily Dickinson wrote thousands of psychic poems. One short poem of hers is enough to give sweet feelings and bring to the fore divine qualities of the soul. Dylan Thomas' poems also have that quality, although Thomas sometimes has been misunderstood.
Right now it seems that real patriotism has gone out of the world. There are still quite a few patriotic souls — people who are contributing not only to the soul of America but to the soul of the entire world. But I personally expected the Bicentennial of America's independence to be celebrated in an infinitely better and more fulfilling way. But I don't know whom to blame. Perhaps next year it will be better.
Because of her high ideals, America really did deserve her independence. Also, I wish to say that it usually takes a long time to make the progress America has made. For America to take only two hundred years to reach her present level of advancement is like doing it in the twinkling of an eye. If any country makes progress, it is for the world's benefit, for other countries as well. Overnight Japan became strong and a threat to liberty. Overnight America offered her the atom bomb and she was stopped. But America's achievements are not being utilised to threaten, frighten or devour the world. America has bad qualities, but American principles are absolutely divine.
Unfortunately, as has happened in other countries, a kind of complacent feeling has entered into Americans; they want to be satisfied with what they have and do not want to go farther. But they should go ahead and get a higher consciousness. The goal is not static. When I first started painting, after I had done three or four paintings, I felt that if I could paint one hundred, that would be enough for me. Then I did two hundred, three hundred and, by the end of March — one hundred days later — we celebrated my completion of ten thousand. Good, bad — God alone knows — but they were done. From inspiration manifestation played its role. Then it was my goal to do up to thirteen thousand, because many divine things are associated with the number "thirteen." Now my new goal — twenty-seven thousand — is not waiting for me. In a matter of a few days, when I reach twenty-seven thousand, I will enter into the world of poetry, going on, an eternal traveller.
America can run at top speed or it can go slowly and steadily. If it has a complacent feeling and does not want to run fast, then, of course, let it rest. While it is taking rest, there will obviously be a lack of patriotic feelings here. I have begged my disciples, who see light in me and are supposed to listen to me, to be a little patriotic. When I don't see enough patriotism in my own disciples, how can I expect more from others? When we reach a certain goal, we think that is the end, but each goal is only the starting point for a higher goal. If my disciples can be a little more patriotic, then we can hope that all Americans will be more patriotic.
Some may blame the young generation for America's lack of aspiration, but actually it depends on human beings of all ages. If we blame the young, then we have to blame their parents and their elders as well. It is not true that a hundred years ago all Americans were absolutely pure, divine and spiritual and that all of a sudden in this twentieth century everybody has become undivine. The world is progressing, the world is evolving, but sometimes there are obstructions on the way. When you are running fast, sometimes you become tired and exhausted, and your speed decreases. Instead of speaking of the young generation and the old generation, let us regard both generations as a single human being who is running. At times he is running at top speed and at times he is running slowly, with the speed of an Indian bullock cart; but even then he is still proceeding along the road. He is either walking or marching or running very fast. So if we see a lack of aspiration right now, then we can say that that person is not running his fastest. He is moving very slowly because he is tired.
We have to know that aspiration is a very vast, complicated subject. Aspiration can be directed towards God-realisation. Industrial progress can also be an object of aspiration. Material progress — not luxury or indulgence but, let us say, scientific progress and discovery — is based on aspiration. Twentieth century scientists have discovered so many things which the scientists of the eighteenth century had not discovered. So, in that sense the progress that America has made is most praiseworthy. We have to consider aspiration in all phases of life, not just spirituality. But, of course, aspiration for God-realisation is by far the best, the most important thing. If we speak of aspiration strictly for God-realisation, then we have to know that in the Vedic era, four thousand years ago, there was much more aspiration than we find today. So, if it is aspiration only for the highest spiritual transcendental Truth, then we can say, "Yes, right now people are not aspiring as much as in the past." Again, for the last twenty years or thirty years, the West has been aspiring most sincerely for the highest Truth. For the past two decades Indian spirituality has been coming here in waves. India has aroused America from her spiritual sleep. Americans were sleeping and Indian teachers — good teachers and false teachers — have come and helped them.
For the last twenty years, the aspiration of young people in America has far surpassed the aspiration of their elders. If anyone says that lack of aspiration is to be blamed on young people, to be very frank with you, I wish to say that the young ones for the last ten years or so have shown much more aspiration than their parents and superiors. If you examine the spiritual evolution of America, you will see that it is the young generation that is leading it. Young people might have led a hippie life, a drug life, this and that, but, again, when it is a matter of real spirituality, it is the young generation that has come forward — not the old generation. When the inner call came, the young generation listened to it. It is the aspiration from the young generation that has kept the banner of America's spiritual life flying,
Of course, there are a few older aspirants: we have a few in each of our Centres, but they are special cases. They don't belong to the category of ordinary elderly human beings. When we make a comparison between how many young people and how many older people have turned to spirituality and Yoga, it is the young generation that has come out and listened to the call of the spirit. The lives of the older generation have already been formed, so we can't really blame them. Anything new they regard as bad or frightening. But, for the young generation, anything new is good. The young dare to see the face of the new. True, newness need not always mean goodness; but neither can we say that newness is always bad. It is the strength of the young generation that is making America become really spiritual. The young have made mistakes, but they are coming out of their mistakes. Some of them have already come out of their mistakes and now they are turning towards the light.