As we enter the new year, let’s reflect on how we can strive for personal and world peace. In his own quest for personal and world peace, Garry Davis, founder of the World Citizen Government, sought advice from two gurus who helped him to navigate his role as a private individual and as a world citizen. Viewing the world holistically was what helped Garry maintain a balance between his personal life and his public activism.
In 1948, Garry became world famous after giving up his US citizenship, camping on the steps of the United Nations in Paris, and protesting the war system with thought-leaders like Albert Camus. Garry spoke to vast crowds of war-weary Europeans about creating a better world with “we, the people” in charge.
The public’s desire for peace weighed heavy on Garry’s conscience. It was not always clear to him what path he should take as a world citizen. Having realized that the world was already one when he gave up his national citizenship, he turned to Eastern and Hindu philosophy to learn the philosophical underpinnings of viewing the world in a holistic way.
A few years later, in the 1950s, Garry would meet two gurus (wisdom givers or spiritual guides), one who would help him to handle the difficulty of fame and the other who would encourage him to continue his peace activism.
Both of Garry’s gurus were experts in the philosophy of Advaita Vedanta or non-dualism, which is the primary and oldest among the schools of Indian philosophy. This holistic philosophy involves a journey to understand the source of everything and the self, as well as the relationship between the two. It posits that the core of our own being is the self in all beings. Objects, plants, animals, people, etc. may appear separate, but we are actually connected through an awareness of the oneness of everything.
Garry’s gurus taught him to look at a problem, an issue, or concern, as a consequence of the entire system in which the problem arises. By viewing the world holistically, he could see all of the intricacies of a problem — the give and take, the polar opposites. He would then, his gurus explained, be able to transcend the problem and resolve it.
Garry’s first Guru was Harry Jakobsen in whose machine shop in New Jersey Garry worked for several months in 1952.
Garry and Harry would have long talks about holistic thinking and the state of the world. Garry was frustrated about the Korean War – frustrated that all his work to bring people together was no match for the national war machine. Garry asked Harry what he should do. Harry said, “Garry, you must continue to take action. If you see a problem in the world, you must take action to change it. If you change yourself, the world will follow. In other words, be the change you want to see in the world.”
Garry’s second Guru was Dr. Natarajan, also known as Nataraja Guru.
Garry voyaged to India to expand his learning of holistic thinking. Garry needed a break from constantly being in the spotlight, but he felt guilty for taking a break from his actions toward world peace. Garry asked Nataraja Guru about the guilt that he felt. Nataraja said to Garry, “Don’t worry, Garry. Let go. Put your mind at ease. Relax. Do nothing. The world and the universe will go on even if you are doing nothing.” This was a big solace to Garry who needed a break from the constant barrage of the press and years in the public eye.
So, Garry had two Gurus – one who told him to take action and one who told him to do nothing. They told him what they knew he needed to hear at that moment in his life. In the end, his concern for the world and humanity pulled Garry back into a life of action, continuing his role as World Citizen #1. His memoir My Country is the World and the documentary The World Is My Country recount further his experiences with the gurus.
Like his gurus before him, Garry would spend the rest of his life sharing his world citizenship wisdom. In countless speeches, conferences, seminars, newspaper and magazine articles, radio and television shows, podcasts, and his ten books, Garry advocated an ethical framework for governing our world. This holistic framework, he explained, could help us build a peaceful, just and sustainable world.
In the new year, let us seek to find repose within our minds along with the courage to build the world that Garry envisioned – a world in which humanity is united under the banner of world citizenship and world law.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this blog post do not necessarily reflect the official policy of Citizens for Global Solutions.