Question: I’m a teacher and am disheartened that racism is still so prevalent, not only in schools, but we see racial tension and resulting problems across the U.S. and throughout the world. How can we overcome racism?

Jagad Guru: To overcome racism, indeed for there to be any chance of harmony in society, there must be a clear understanding of the nature of our identity as being different from our bodies.

The foundation of racism and racial conflict is the false identification of the body as the self.

Identifying a person by the race of his body is like identifying a person by the color of the shirt he is wearing.

You wouldn’t call a person wearing a purple shirt a ‘purple person.’ Racism is based on the inability to see that different-colored bodies are just like different-colored shirts.

There is nothing wrong with differences in appearance and characteristics—diversity is a good thing. But we have to learn to look past each other’s’ external differences and see the self, or atma within the body.

The false identification of the body as the self leads to more than just racial conflicts. International conflicts, religious conflicts, sexual conflicts and other conflicts are all rooted in this false identification.

In the same way that we do not befriend or reject somebody just on the basis of the type of clothing he is wearing, we should not feel prejudice nor bigotry towards others just because of the type of body that they are wearing. We should know that we aren't our bodies and thus not relate with others according to their temporary bodies.