Sometimes opposites attract.
KTTH host Michael Medved on Monday interviewed hip-hip impresario Russell Simmons, an extremely liberal vegan who claims he’s even further left than Dennis Kucinich. Simmons is a successful entrepreneur who founded the clothing line Phat Farm, and was one of the founders of the hip-hop label Def Jam, which launched the careers of such artists as The Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and the thrash band, Slayer.
Simmons came to the Medved show to talk about his new meditation book, and the pair wound up discussing everything from animal rights to Christianity, Hillary Clinton, primates, and whether Medved should be on Fox News.
Michael Medved: You’ve been a successful entrepreneur.
Russell Simmons: I’ve sold a few companies; I’ve built a lot more. I make many movies, many TV shows. I run five charities.
Medved: What people may not have heard about yet is your new book, “Success through Stillness: Meditation Made Simple.”
Simmons: I’m addicted to [meditation]. The first time I went, there were a lot of pretty girls in the class. I went to a yoga class. Within a couple of years, I learned to meditate. I’ve been very addicted to it. It’s a good addiction. You’re always chasing that stillness. If you’ve ever saw a sunset and everything was awake, alive, that beauty from stillness. You’re always chasing it. I got that when I came out of my first class. I was so high – I had been sober for six years and I felt like, wow, this is the greatest high I’ve ever had. I was so addicted to this presence.
Medved: But this presence is really within, it’s not a larger spiritual force outside of yourself?
Simmons: People are very afraid of this idea of quiet time in schools. It’s my main goal to get kids to sit still and experience quiet time. It’s a more expansive mindset. There’s greater brain function; you’re not letting the doors between left and right side close out. All of that stuff is very helpful to kids. It’s helpful to adults. You better watch your thoughts and not react emotionally to every thought that comes to your brain. I think that’s what everyone is seeking.
Medved: Before you came on the show, we were talking about hatred in politics. Usually, it ends up that one side says, ‘Well, the other side is haters,’ and you hear this on both sides right now. You hear it on the left; you hear it on the right. The accusation is the other side hates. Does hate coexist with the kind of mediation you’re talking about?
Simmons: No. When you sit still and grow a more compassionate, sweeter spirit, that’s what’s really in you. This idea is more natural in humans than the other. And when you don’t have things covering up the heart, the heart exudes love.
Medved: You think that’s true for all people?
Simmons: I think that people innately have an interest in loving, not feeding this negative cycle of hate. They don’t really like it. It’s kind of a disease; it’s addictive. Homophobia, [is] a disease; sexism, racism, they’re all diseases.
Medved: You know there’s a lot of research in terms of primitive human beings that almost all human societies were cannibalistic. The primates we’re supposedly related to, chimpanzees in particular, are nasty beasts. They eat each other and kill each other a lot. Why do you assume human beings are different?
Simmons: That assumption comes from my own meditation and from all scripture. I’m not a religious person, but Muhammad, Buddha, Jesus Christ and the Yogi sutra, the Bodhisattva, promotes what’s inside is love. Jesus said, ‘Be still and know.’ He promoted that in the heart was goodness, that there was a piece of god in that.
Medved: But you need God, and you need some effort to extract that. Would you say that some of those deeply religious people, for instance the al Qaeda folks who had marks on their foreheads from praying five times per day – they’re very serious about prayer?
Simmons: I’m not an atheist, my brother is a preacher. Look at it this way, Jesus was not a Christian, Abraham was not a Jew, Muhammad was not a Muslim, and Buddha was not a Buddhist. The gangs started after they passed. The words, what they taught, are different from joining our gang and acting accordingly. Their words were to move toward God by whatever name.
Medved: I can’t speak to you in an informed way about what Krishna said. But in terms of the Old Testament and the New Testament, I don’t think many people would agree with you there.
Simmons: About what?
Medved: The idea that you can call God by any name.
Simmons: They may not. I do study a little religion, but what I mostly study is yogic scripture. This idea about the oneness of God, realizing this kingdom, it comes through a still mind. So if in fact one sits and the mind settles, inside what’s left is God. A piece of God. If God were the ocean, you’d be a cup of God. This is a concept of being in a union.
Medved: But getting back to this discussion of human being as basically good – James Madison, who’s known as a father of the Constitution, he was our fourth president, he said, ‘If men were angels, we would need no laws.’
Simmons: If we all meditated, we would have no wars. If all children meditated, there would be no war.
Medved: You’re a strict vegetarian – you know who was a very, very strict vegetarian?
Simmons: Hitler. I’m a vegan. I’m an animal rights activist. This domain over the animals doesn’t mean chopping up 40 billion animals per year, cause them to destroy the environment and waste all the resources, and give us cancer. That was not the plan.
Medved: Do you believe a vegan diet and mediation actually help to promote world peace?
Medved: You made a statement when we were getting ready to talk, you said on politics, you’re to the left of Dennis Kucinich, which makes you well left of Barack Obama. Who would you like to see as our next president?
Simmons: Dennis, I guess. I’m going to end up supporting Hillary [Clinton], she’s a buddy. I’ve been a friend of the Clintons for many years. It was tough picking Barack over her.
Medved: Who are some of the many Republicans you’ve supported?
Simmons: Only Michael Steele once. When he became the GOP leader, he became a caricature a bit. I liked his stance on the prison industrial complex. He understood that the prison industrial complex has ruined the fabric of the African American community when you have 94.5 percent of the people in jail for drug use.
Medved: You know who’s been talking about that a bit, Sen. Rand Paul. Do you like Rand Paul?
Simmons: Yeah, absolutely. We have to have a politics discussion. I feel like you don’t like my politics.
Medved: I don’t dislike politics I don’t agree with.
Simmons: You should work for Fox News; you should sit there where [Sean] Hannity sits or the other angry birds.
Medved: [laughs] I’m not angry though, that’s the problem.
Simmons: I think it’s good though. You give a good interview. People listen.
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