People like you are needed on this continent to take us to where we should be. Keep it up man!
Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith has a great vision: a world joined together by humankind’s highest development spiritually, educationally, scientifically, governmentally, economically and socially. As the founder of Agape International Spiritual Center and University of Transformational Studies and Leadership, and co-founder of Association for Global New Thought and Season for Nonviolence, he has established powerful communities that are working to make his vision a reality and bring about the ‘Beloved Community’ about which Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. taught us.
As a member of the Agape movement, I am one of many people whose life has been transformed by Dr. Beckwith’s teachings. When I decided to explore the issue of poverty in this issue of Africa Unbound, the first person that came to my mind was Dr. Beckwith because I knew he would bring a fresh perspective and help us think about poverty in a way that will empower us to do something meaningful about it. It is with great joy that I present to you Dr. Michael Bernard Beckwith, and I look forward to reading your comments about this interview.
RK: How would you define poverty? Why are some people and some nations rich while others are poor?
MBB: We’re looking at two types of poverty—physical or economical, and spiritual. Let’s begin with economic inequality. Poverty is a deprivation of basic human needs to support life. The causes of poverty among different nations are multi-dimensional in that they include geographical, historical, cultural and political causes— in other words, whether or not a nation’s people have equal access to water, education, medicine, the distribution of economic assets, geographical isolation, hazards, religious beliefs, gender biases, civil conflicts, greed and so on.
The World Bank defines levels of poverty: extreme poverty, which is experienced by 1 billion of the world’s peoples who make less than $1 per day; moderate poverty wherein people make $2 per day and so meet their most basic survival needs, and relative poverty where individuals lack the things the middle class takes for granted. Statistics indicate that extreme poverty is deeply entrenched in Africa.
The good news is that solutions are available. They involve a global effort, a collective effort to stop the cycle of poverty experienced by individuals and entire countries. We are rich in resources for ending poverty and many individuals and organizations are involved in just this effort. We can change the statistic that 8 million people die each year because they don’t have the financial means to survive, that 1 to 3 million African children succumb to malaria each year.
We can, as a global family, end poverty by a shift in consciousness that recognizes that we are indeed one community, what Dr. King called the Beloved Community.
RK: So what do you mean by spiritual poverty?
MBB: Well, I’d describe it like this: Spiritual poverty is a state of not realizing that we are one global family. It is a veil of ignorance that obscures the truth that we all, all humanity and all creation, are interdependent and interconnected. Spiritual wealth is the opposite of individual greed and corruption. The coin of the spiritual realm is a conscious realization of oneness and the compassion to want for another what one wants for him/herself.
There are people with a lot of money who are inwardly impoverished. And there are people who are inwardly wealthy with very little money. Now I’m not glamorizing poverty. It’s absolutely possible to be inwardly wealthy and outwardly rich, or at the least live at the level of relative poverty that I mentioned earlier. It is completely within the realm of possibility that the basic needs of all beings on the planet can be met. It’s a matter of consciousness, of individual and collective values within a society and its leaders. And it’s up to each and every individual to become involved. Look what happened in the U.S. with the election of President Obama. Granted, in other countries where elections are sabotaged and rigged, it causes a real challenge to change. And yet when the collective mind, which is energetically connected, begins a chain of change, it is contagious.
RK: So how do we go about creating the necessary conditions for change?
MBB: We can turn to many individuals who set an example and set causes in motion that shifted the perceptions of people—Dr. King, Nelson Mandela, Cesar Chavez, Dr. A. T. Ariyaratne of Sri Lanka, Doctors without Borders, and many other philanthropic organizations. During my travels speaking and teaching over the last few years, I have definitely witnessed a global shift in consciousness.
What except an acceleration in the evolution of individual consciousness can contribute to a shift in the global collective consciousness? Everyday people are voluntarily enlisting and risking their lives as spiritual revolutionaries, participating in what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. called a “revolution of values.” With our backs to the wall, an evolutionary trigger occurs where human ingenuity and innovation step in. Individuals who have a vision of the possibilities compel us into right action which sets conditions for beneficial change.
RK: So it sounds like you’re saying that each of us has an individual responsibility to live for more than ourselves if we want to see genuine change on the planet?
MBB: Absolutely. If we want to live in a more enlightened society then each one of us must do our part to become an enlightened being.
RK: How would you define an enlightened being?
MBB: Literally it is an individual who has become awakened to the nature of Reality. Take the Buddha, for example. Buddha is not a person. It’s a Sanskrit word that means “one who is awake". In the life of Jesus the Christ, we see a spiritual revolutionary who challenged the status quo and spent a great deal of time among the disadvantaged to activate radical change in their society. Christ is not a last name but rather a description of his level of spiritual wakefulness in the Christ Consciousness of which the Sanskrit equivalent means "one with all creation". So an enlightened being continuously unfolds in consciousness into limitless realms of Reality.
RK: Well, most of us are, you might say, in training, a work in progress. What can the average person do to bring about the Beloved Community?
MBB: Start right where you are by opening your heart. Meditation and affirmative prayer result in the realization that we are members of a world family and boundaries are manmade. We can each begin to halt the dehumanizing of Earth’s inhabitants and insist that it’s time to put an end to world hunger, toxic water, insufficient medical treatment, inadequate healthcare, lack of education, and global warming. Architects of the Beloved Community are spiritual revolutionaries who realize that the solution to global challenges is a spiritual one, that conquest through war is at best temporary; only conquest by love is permanent.
RK: That’s real optimism, but do you think it’s realistic?
MBB: Not realistic, but Reality. Love is not an emotion, a romantic notion; it’s a living, organically powerful energy that holds together the fabric of the created world. Love is what we are. So the world is looking for love masters, and each of us is a potential love-master. What it takes is for egocentric points of view by nations and individuals to give way to world-centric points of view, to a more expanded mind-set beyond “me and mine.”
RK: So you’re not encouraging denial of what’s happening in the world, but seeing it through a different lens, one that offers more than bad news, that sees the potential for a genuine global awakening?
MBB: We don’t want to deny what’s going on around us—that people are starving; that AIDS is ravaging the lives of men, women and children; that wars are taking place, that terrorism exists; that slavery still exists; that there are people who cause harm. No. What is required to begin shifting these facts is maintaining a focus on individual inner change. Through our individual inner work, we wake up to the individual role we are to play in the manifestation of the Beloved Community; we discover that we have ample gifts to contribute to establishing an enlightened global society.
RK: In your book, Spiritual Liberation, you elaborate on why the solution to global challenges is a spiritual one. What can you leave our readers with that they can apply right now, “right where they now stand” as you put it?
MBB: Everyone’s life is as significant and impactful as the greatest harbingers of peace our planet has publicly recognized. Each person is as self-empowered by our one Source as any saint, peacemaker, avatar or spiritual master who has walked in our world. When we think and act from a spiritualized consciousness, we join the revolution of values and serve as a beneficial presence on the planet. When revolutionary values kick in, we prioritize our time differently, we allocate our financial resources differently, we offer our talents, skills and gifts differently. We no longer further the goals of the little self; we recognize the One Life that walks through all feet and so include the good of all in our own. The energy we invest in this transformation through spiritual practices yields rich returns. You release a love-energy everywhere you go and reveal the highest love-potential within the human spirit.
Dr. Michael B. Beckwith is the author of the national bestseller Spiritual Liberation: Fulfilling Your Soul’s Potential, Inspirations of the Heart, Forty Day Mind Fast-Soul Feast, and A Manifesto of Peace. He has appeared on The Oprah Show, Larry King Live, and is a featured teacher in the book and film The Secret. He is also featured in the following films: The Moses Code, Pass It On, and Living Luminaries, as well as in a documentary of his own life, Spiritual Liberation.