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Chapter 17: Gorbachev: A New Beginning

After six years of sannyas and a long, hard struggle with authorities and legal hindrances, I recently succeeded in leaving my home country - the Soviet Union. Sitting in darshan just a few meters from you, and seeing you, and hearing you talk for the first time in my life, I remembered all my sannyasin friends who are not able to travel to you, and my joy was mixed with deep sadness. Do you see the Soviet Union under Gorbachev becoming a more open society, so that your message of love and meditation will spread more easily there?

I can understand your sadness for those friends in the Soviet Union who cannot reach me. But the night in Soviet Union seems to be coming to an end. The man, Gorbachev, is, perhaps for the first time in the whole history of the Russian Revolution, a man who has an insight into human values and is trying his best to make the Soviet Union a really communist democracy, an open society.

The dictatorship of the proletariat is not a permanent part of Karl Marx’ utopia. It is only for the interim period, while the society is becoming established in the new form and the old form is disappearing. Once the old form is gone, once the capitalist mind is no longer there, the necessity for dictatorship and a closed society automatically has to disappear. It is a long time since the revolution happened and enough time to allow the dictatorship.

Gorbachev is a new beginning. Perhaps he is not only bringing an open society in the Soviet Union; he will also be helping the outside world to become really open. It has only been a hypothesis up to now; it is not a reality.

If half the world is closed, the other half cannot remain open. It is as if half of you is dead, and the other half is expected to go on living. Life is an organic unity on many layers, in many dimensions. This beautiful planet of ours has a totality. The division between the Soviet and the American blocks is ugly. And more particularly, any division between human beings - either in the name of religion or in the name of nationalities - is primitive and barbarous.

Man is one. His problem is one, his misery is one - his ecstasy is also going to be one.

In the whole field of politics, Gorbachev seems to be a category in himself. He cannot be categorized with other politicians. It is going to be very difficult for him to make the Soviet Union an open society. But the man seems to be courageous and intelligent, and it is a challenge to him to make his people live in freedom - freedom of thought, freedom of movement, freedom of expression.

I have been watching his steps. He is going slowly, but going steadily. The change has to come very slowly, because the whole bureaucracy has enjoyed dictatorial powers for more than half a century; and the Communist party has enjoyed more power than any party in the whole history of man. To relax the lust for power is one of the most difficult things in the world.

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