This song is an antidote for:

  • Prejudice
  • Hatred
  • Nationalistic pride
  • Selfishness
  • Self-conflict
  • Disappointment
  • Callousness
  • Unkindness

Listen to the song (download mp3):

Bonus Track (download mp3): 

Watch the session with Satyaki:

From A Tale of Songs, by Swami Kriyananda:

I wrote this song because I, too, had roamed many lands and experienced many cultures. However different men seemed outwardly, my experience convinced me that they all want basically the same things.

Some people’s diet consists of pasta; others’, of rice and curry; still others’, of paella. All of them, however, need sustenance.

Some find happiness through hiking in the country; others, through entertaining friends to banquets. All men, however, want happiness.

Indeed, I saw in the basic oneness of human nature the reason all men ought to live together in peace and harmony. Hence this song: the fourth I ever wrote.

I’ve lived in many countries
and mixed with many men.
I’ve shared their days of sunshine,
gone with them in the rain.
The fires at evening said we were brothers;
the fires at evening said we were—
brothers!

A soldier I saw weeping
beside a dying friend.
My officers had said
I must hate him till the end.
But seeing his grief, I knew we were brothers;
but seeing his grief I knew we were—
brothers!

A man sat on a doorstep
to see the children play.
The gentle way he smiled there
would charm your fears away.
A stranger, he, but love made us brothers;
a stranger, he, but love made us—
brothers!

One day I climbed a mountain
with friends of other lands.
The words we used were different,
but joy one understands.
Our gladness in God’s world made us brothers.
Our gladness in God’s world made us—
brothers!

Though words and customs vary
like waves upon the sea,
One life beneath the surface
binds every man to me.
Who knows the truth knows all men as brothers,
who knows the truth knows all men as—
brothers!

Then brothers, why endeavor
to set ourselves apart?
The fences we’ve been building
Squeeze tight upon our hearts!
Come sing the truth that all men are brothers!
Come sing the truth that all men are—
brothers!

I passed through Germany in 1938 on my way back from England to Romania, where I lived. I found the German people kindly and helpful. Most people everywhere, I think, are good. Often, alas, they are weak and easily influenced by strong-willed, negative people. But basically they do want what is right and good.

I was sadly impressed, recently, by the death of a Hitler-like politician in Mumbai, India. He, like Hitler, proclaimed the exclusive superiority of his own people. Fortunately he died before the disease could become an epidemic. Such strong negativity, however, is infectious, as also is a strong positive outlook. Let us become forces on earth for the spread of love and brotherhood.

The song as an antidote (Satyaki’s comments):

Although Walk Like a Man and Many Hands Make a Miracle are usually described as Ananda’s “theme songs” for their expression of inner strength and cooperation, the song Brothers, expressing the unity of all humankind, is certainly the theme song for the idea of “world brotherhood”:

Though words and customs vary like waves upon the sea
One life beneath the surface binds everyone to me.
Who knows the Truth knows all men as brothers.

It’s worth noting that the choice of masculine words like “men” and “brothers” are not in any way meant to exclude half of the human race. As Swami Kriyananda often said about his writings, masculine words and pronouns are often used in English in a gender-neutral sense. The masculine words, he said, are also significantly simpler when trying to write poetry. For example, the first line, “I’ve lived in many countries and mixed with many men” is much easier to work with than “I’ve lived in many countries and mixed with many people.” The same is true for many verses, and it doesn’t quite work to use “brother and sisters” or “siblings” in the title and elsewhere in the song!

Indeed, Kriyananda makes all this clear in his spoken introduction to the song:

Members we are of a single earth-family:
Born of one Father, God,
Let us, like brothers and sisters,
Live in harmony together in His love

If you know anything of Kriyananda’s own life, it’s easy to see that the song expresses many of his own life experiences. He was born in Romania, spent time in Switzerland and England as a child, where he mixed with other Europeans, and later traveled all over the world to help spread the teachings of Paramhansa Yogananda.

As the first verse begins:

I’ve lived in many countries
And mixed with many men.

In all that traveling, he said once in a talk, “The one thing that I’ve found everywhere is that basically all men are brothers. That wherever I go, the needs and the desires—the longings—are not that different from one country to another.” I’ve also had the opportunity to travel extensively, through which I’ve seen that regardless of the outward cultural trappings, people are people. In fact, the outward forms such as language, race, religion, politics, history, dietary preferences, and so on, are quite superficial. Under the covers, the human consciousness is the same: no matter who you are, you experience qualities like love and joy and calmness the same way (as in the song, “The words we used were different by joy one understands). The same is true also for sorrow, grief, and sadness, as well as all other positive and negative emotions. As the song continues:

I’ve shared their days of sunshine,
Gone with them in the rain.

The “days of sunshine” represent the joys of life, the “rain” representing the sorrows. The second verse of the song, which tells a story of a soldier, also expresses this universality of grief. For, as Kriyananda says, “However different men seemed outwardly, my experience convinced me that they all want basically the same things….They were all united by one simple reality: Everyone was seeking happiness.”

As the song continues:

The fires at evening said we were brothers.

where the “fires” represent our underlying motivations: the search for happiness.[1]

In my own travels, I’ve also come to understand that this commonality is also true across time. I’ve visited many sites populated by ancient peoples, as well as museums populated by their ancient artifacts. Time and time again, I’ve been touched by how basic human qualities and concerns are timeless. People have always needed to feed and clothe themselves, and they’ve always come together in different communities to share and celebrate their values. And I believe their inner experience, especially, is just like ours.

In Egypt, for example, I visited one tomb of a nobleman that hadn’t been finished before the man either died or ran out of money. Specifically, there is a chamber toward the back of the structure where workers had chiseled outlines for what would have become relief carvings, but were never completed. The unfinished state of the wall made it very clear that people were involved, and I could just imagine a group of them sitting there with their tools and chatting casually about their families, their animals, what they ate for breakfast, the prospects for the next harvest, what they thought of the current rulers, and so on—exactly like we might do today. They were, in short, people just like you and I, even though they lived in a very different environment more than 5000 years ago!

We can say that outwardly, Brothers is clearly a call to seek these kinds of realizations for yourself: to see behind the forms to the underlying unity and to then open our hearts to our entire human family:

Though words and customs vary
Like waves upon the sea,
One life beneath the surface binds everyone to me.
Who knows the Truth knows all men as brothers.

Then brothers, why endeavor to set ourselves apart?
The fences we’ve been building
Squeeze tight upon our hearts.
Come sing the truth that all men are brothers!

Such an openness of heart is clearly an antidote for all forms of prejudice as well as the even more base emotion of hatred (especially racially- and nationally-motivated hatred). That’s the idea expressed in the second verse of the song with the line, “A soldier I saw weeping beside a dying friend/My officers had said I must hate him ‘til the end.” Brothers, instead, is full of the consciousness of not only sympathy, but the kindness of the type expressed in Kriyananda’s Affirmations for Self-Healing on the quality of kindness:

The whole world is my home, and the human race, my family. With God’s kindness I embrace all men.

I often reflect on this thought when confronted with the ongoing nationalistic pride that we see year after year around the world, expressed not only as physical warfare but also in trade wars, immigration restrictions, the labeling of certain racial or religious groups as enemies, and so on. With trade, for example, we can think of people in China, for example, as competitors or “foreigners,” or we can think of them as brothers and sisters and to care about them as much as we care about our nominal “countrymen,” such as my so-called “fellow Americans.”

Even within a nation, the forces of divisiveness would even have us further separate ourselves into “us” and “them,” to build those “fences” spoken of in the song. For example, people want to say I live in a “blue state” (California) and therefore have fundamental differences with people in a “red state” (like Utah). And if that doesn’t work, those same forces would have me separate myself from other Californians, or from others in my county, or from others in my local town, and even from my immediate neighbors behind walls of selfishness. Ultimately, those same forces seek to even have us build fences even within ourselves, to generate not only outer but the inner divisiveness or self-conflict that would prevent us from ever realizing our true divine nature. This is maya at its best!

How different are the teaching that Yogananda shared on what he called “The Esthetic Way to Cosmic Consciousness” in some of his early lessons.[2] Here, “esthetic” is used in the sense of beauty, namely, the beautiful feeling of unity within all of creation. In that lesson, he emphasizes a variety of self-expansive attitudes. “Break the walls of selfishness,” he writes, “and make your love broad and deep enough to hold all humanity….Feeling all hearts, you will feel the One Heart of God.”[3]

In addition to the clear and inspiring outer messages of Brothers, there is also the inward message that inspires a similar consciousness.

In the first verse, the “many countries” represents the lower three chakras in the spine. To say “I’ve lived there” and “mixed with many men” suggests that you’ve experienced the full gamut of human emotions, the joys (sunshine) and sorrows (rains), through many different perspectives, which is to say, on many different levels of consciousness.

The “fires,” as noted earlier, can represent our underlying search for happiness. The “fires at evening,” though, can also represent the time toward the end of life when we reflect on our life’s experiences, especially on how we’ve engaged in that search. The image of a fire suggests, even, the smoldering ashes of all our material desires that—alas!—ultimately failed to bring the fulfillment they once promised. And in that we—the lower chakras—find a unity in disappointment, allowing their energies to then turn upwards toward higher consciousness.

The second verse then brings the energy of those lower centers up to the heart chakra:

A soldier I saw weeping beside a dying friend:
My officers had said I must hate him till the end,
But seeing his grief I knew we were brothers.

Such grief and sympathy are clearly feelings of the heart, feelings that unite us with others despite whatever “reasons” we might have to feel otherwise. As Kriyananda often pointed out, reason follows feeling, not the other way around. In this case, the negative energies of the lower chakras, such as hatred, are transformed when lifted to the natural love and sympathy of the heart chakra.[4]

The third verse continues to bring the energy up the spine to the throat chakra:

A man sat on a doorstep to see the children play,
The gentle way he smiled there
Would charm your fears away.
A stranger, he, but love made us brothers.

The words here reflect the lyrics of the third verse in Walk Like a Man. At that point in the song, energy has been brought to the heart chakra. The verse then says, “Give life your heart,” that is, let your heart energy rise into the expansiveness of the throat chakra. “Bless everything that’s grown/Fear not the loving: all this world’s your own!” In Brothers, here, we’re given the image of a stranger, one whom we might normally shun, but we see in the love of his smile that we share something: we share that expansive love that unites us all. In that expansive love, there’s nothing to fear.

I had a similar experience, again in Egypt. At most tourist sites, such as the pyramids and the Sphinx, there are security officers, known as the tourist police, who in addition to guarding the sites are often trying to pose for photographs (like standing on the back of a camel) or provide some other small “service,” like pointing out a good angle for a picture, in exchange for a tip. As a result, you typically try to avoid interacting with them lest they devise new schemes to deprive you of your money. In other words, their behavior typically encourages you to erect a fence of self-protection.

One morning, however, my group was wandering around the Sphinx complex before it was open to the public, by virtue of us having arranged a private early-morning hour inside the Great Pyramid. At this time, the tourist police weren’t yet on duty and were sitting in a circle enjoying their breakfast. As I walked past, they motioned for me to join them. Accepting the invitation and letting down my defenses, they joyfully shared their food with me, including the best falafel I’ve ever tasted! I was delighted for the opportunity to connect with them not through the usual tourist relationship, but through our common humanity. We were, in that experience, truly brothers. Indeed, in the expansive consciousness of the throat chakra, when we allow our energies to flow there, we find that there is nothing to fear. It’s in such a consciousness that we might choose to share of our own good fortune in return. In that particular context, it wasn’t appropriate for me to give them money, but the experience has remained with me to this day and has helped me to be increasingly generous and to increasingly consider the needs of others as important as my own.

The fourth verse then presents us with a new image, one of upward aspiration:

One day I climbed a mountain with friends of other lands.
The words we used were different,
But joy one understands,
Our gladness in God’s world made us brothers.

The mountain here is that of self-realization, and climbing that mountain is the effort to overcome the ego. This verse really speaks to any shared effort to reach higher, and especially to shared meditation in which we reach to the highest within us. Even inwardly, these “friends” are all the lower chakras, joining the ego at the medulla to climb the mountain toward the spiritual eye.

It’s interesting, too, that this is the point in Brothers where we first hear a full, four-part harmony, as if to express that joining together of many energies—the friends of other lands—into a shared aspiration. And because joy is, as Yogananda taught, the secret hunger behind all striving, a shared climb to realize joy is perhaps more uniting than any other shared activity. Is it any surprise, then, that Kriyananda named his work “Ananda,” which means inner joy, and called the communities he founded “Ananda World Brotherhood Colonies”? “Our gladness in God’s world made us brothers,” indeed, expresses the exact same thought.

Having brought the energies of the spine up through the heart, throat, and medulla, we now focus it at the spiritual eye and have the realization of true unity:

Though words and customs vary like waves upon the sea,
One life beneath the surface binds everyone to me.
Who knows the Truth knows all men as brothers.

We’ve come, that is, to that realization of the Truth that all comes from God and all is one in God. In that realization, of course all men—women, children, animals, plants, insects, rocks, and each particle of universal dust—are ours, not only brothers, but indeed, other expressions of our own divine being.

And thus, having brought the energy to the spiritual eye, we can re-evaluate how we live and the choices we make:

So brothers why endeavor to set ourselves apart?
The fences we’ve been building
Squeeze tight upon our hearts.
Come, sing the truth that all men are brothers!

Come, brothers, sing the truth that we need not build all those fences that keep our hearts closed. Let go of your selfishness, let go your hatred, nationalistic pride, and prejudice. Release your callousness! Renounce unkindness! Embrace not only the truth of your own being, but the truth of all creation: the hidden love and joy of God in the heart of every atom.

Footnotes:

[1] In the same quote, Kriyananda continues, “The only thing wrong with most of them was that they had yet to find where true happiness lies. It lies in themselves!” Kriyananda expressed this thought more deeply in his slide show, Different Worlds, which uses photographs of many people he encountered in his travels to illustrate the spectrum of human consciousness. [Return]

[2] Specifically, Super-Advanced Course No. 1: Lesson 12, published in 1930. [Return]

[3] Yogananda also indicates three chants in the same lesson as helpful to this end: (1) I Am the Bubble, which he calls the “Song of Cosmic Consciousness,” (2) Door of My Heart, and (3) I Will Sing Thy Name. [Return]

[4] I’m reminded here of the 1930 movie, All Quiet on the Western Front, which was perhaps in Kriyananda’s mind when he wrote this verse. Early on, the movie depicts a jingoistic university professor in Germany who passionately implores his young students to go out and fight in World War I for the fatherland against the horrible, evil enemies (the French). The rest of the story, a explained on imdb.com, “is told entirely through the experiences of the young German recruits and highlights the tragedy of war through the eyes of individuals. As the boys witness death and mutilation all around them, any preconceptions about ‘the enemy’ and the ‘rights and wrongs’ of the conflict disappear, leaving them angry and bewildered. This is highlighted in the scene where Paul mortally wounds a French soldier and then weeps bitterly as he fights to save his life while trapped in a shell crater with the body.” [Return]