ESSAYS & ARTICLES
My first essay on a visit to the Holy Amarnath Cave in Kashmir was published in 1953 when I was 22 years old. Subsequently I have been writing and published regularly on a fairly wide spectrum of topics. A small selection of which is available here. Readers who are interested may refer to the original publications, details of which are given in the bibliography on this website.
MYTH & HUMAN CONSCIOUSNESS
May 8, 2003
Let me, first of all, warmly commend Youth Reach, young people who are imbued with a sense of the inner quest and who attempt to link the inner and the outer. They have asked me to speak today on 'Myth and its importance in human consciousness'. It was Carl Gustav Jung who said that myth was the vehicle through which the unlimited power of the unconscious pours into human consciousness. In other words, myth links the individual human consciousness with the deeper and vaster ocean of awareness and consciousness in which we all live. Joseph Campbell, whom I met in Kashmir many years ago with Swami Nikhilananda, was probably the greatest mythologist of the 20th century. He and Carl Gustav June, are titanic figures in this whole field.
Joseph Campbell spoke and wrote beautifully his magnum opus is called The Mythic Image. It is really a fantastic book, but he wrote other books also. He explored the journey of the hero, the hero with a thousand faces, because every civilisation has had its myths. There are creation myths, these are fertility myths associated with the earth as the mother, and there are heroic myths in every civilisation, whether it is a highly sophisticated civilisation like the Greeks who have a whole galaxy of gods and goddesses with an Olympus mythology which is very rich, or whether it is the myths of comparatively unknown tribes. Every tribe, every civilisation has myth, as to how the world came into being, the BrahdAnda, how it began, and how ultimately consciousness grew on this planet.
The people should study are Joseph Campbell and Jung. Jung did a remarkable thing. In the West he was the first person who really brought to public understanding the fact that there was a pool of awareness, which he called the collective unconscious. I personally do not think that 'unconscious' is a particularly good term. It is unconscious just because we are not conscious of it, but in fact it is conscious. He postulated the collective unconscious, and showed how every human being can have access to that ocean of consciousness, mainly through dreams. Jung was very innovative in his study of dreams, and he held that it is through dreams and dream images that the unconscious speaks to us. And if we wish to hear to the voice of silence, the voice of the unconscious, we have to watch our dreams. We have to see what the unconscious is trying to tell us. That is the Jungian concept.
The Hindu concept, of course, is that 'there is 'Ishavasyamidam sarvam', there is this ocean of consciousness, but it is not unconscious at all. It is the ocean of Consciousness, and it is we who in our limited understanding are unconscious. It is we who are not conscious of the fact that we are surrounded by an ocean of light - Tamevabhatam anubhati sarvam tasya bhasa sarvamidam vibhati - the definition of the divine in Hinduism - that which, shining, causes everything else to shine. In other words the light of consciousness itself and, that is what we have to know - r Vedahmetam purusham-mahantam aditya varnam tamasah parastat - 'I have seen that great being shining like a thousand suns beyond the darkness' as the Upanishad proclaims. We thus have these two major models - we have the Western model of Jung's collective unconscious and we have the Eastern model of Hinduism's collective conscious, if you like, the Ocean of Consciousness.
There have been other remarkable people in the 20th century. Rupert Sheldrake, has this extraordinary concept of morphogenic resonance. Sheldrake holds that every race has got some kind of a mysterious link so that, for example, if you teach rats in South America to do certain tricks, then rats around the world will start imbibing those gunas. It is a very fascinating thesis. It has not been proved in the empirical sense, but it is an interesting thesis. It is also why we believe that even one self-realised soul at any point of time, illuminates as it were, the entire mankind. As the Upanishad says -- 'even one is enough'. If there is one person with an awareness of the divine, that one person's consciousness can influence the consciousness of the entire race.
Then there is Akhter Ahsen. He is Pakistan born and an extremely creative person. Akhter Ahsen has written a number of books in which he has explored Hindu myths. He has developed them further, he does a lot of experiential workshops, and has written some excellent books including Ganesh: Invocations and Commentary on Consciousness. There is a whole galaxy of other books. There is Myths and Symbols in Ancient Indian Civilisation by Heinrich Zimmer. That is a really great book, as is his The King and the Corpse that explores how these stories relate to our condition. There is another good friend of mine Dr Stanislav Grof probably the greatest living authority on LSD therapy. Stanislav and his wife Christina Grof have for 30 years been exploring the impact of LSD upon consciousness in a highly rigorous and scientific fashion
As you know, the seminal text on drug induced states of altered consciousness is Aldous Huxley's The Doors of Perception that began the whole consciousness revolution in the West. He took a quote from Blake, the mystic poet. "If the Doors of Perception are cleansed, things would appear as they are, infinite.' The Doors of Perception a small book by Huxley published in 1950s, led to a number of experiments. Of course, LSD was misused by lots of people to go on trips and it became compulsive. But nonetheless, the significance, the mind-bending qualities of LSD have been explored by Stan and Christina Grof in a series of remarkable books and should not be written off as of no importance.
Then there is myth in poetry. For example, a poem from Yeats comes to mind The Song of Wandering Aengus.
I went out to the hazel wood,
Because a fire was in my head,
And cut and peeled a hazel wand,
And hooked a berry to a thread,
And when white moths were on the wing,
And moth-like stars were flickering out,
I dropped the berry in a stream
And caught a little silver trout.
When I had laid it on the floorI went to blow the fire a-flame,
But something rustled on the floor,
And someone called me by my name:
It had become a glimmering girl
With apple blossoms in her hair
Who called me by my name and ran
And faded through the brightening air.
Though I am old wandering
Through hollow lands and hilly lands,
I will find out where she has gone,
and kiss her lips and take her hands;
and walk among long dappled grass,
And pluck till time and times are done,
The silver apples of the moon,
The golden apples of the sun.
What a beautiful poem this is. It has a mythic quality in how it converts the simple act of catching a small fish which becomes a glimmering girl, the anima, if you like, of Jung. When I recite it, I am always thrilled; something comes through, something not in the rational mind, something of the unconscious comes through, something subliminal, something divine, if you like.
The power of myth through poetry is a very powerful medium for expressing the deeper truths, because poetry does not merely come through the rational mind. As Sri Aurobindo points out, poetry comes from higher levels, it descends as it were. That is why we talk about the muse descending, that is why we talk of Mahasaraswati, the Goddess of inspiration and wisdom. Therefore it is through poetry, whether it is Sanskrit poetry, or English or Creek or any poetry, that many of the myths and much of the work in this field is done.
The organisers wanted me to speak about a Hindu myth, which would be applicable to modem times. There is a pauranik myth that stands out very sharply and clearly, and that is the myth of the Samudra-manthana, the Churning of the Milky Ocean. I will narrate the story first, and then come to possible interpretations. Myths can be interpreted in different ways, no one can claim a definitive interpretation.
The well known story is that the Devas and the Asuras, although they are deadly enemies, decided on this particular occasion to cooperate with each other and chum the milky ocean so that they could get the gems, the ratnas, that emerged therefrom. Ultimately they would get the Amrita-kalasha, the jar of ambrosia, which was the final upshot of the churning. They took Vasuki Nag as the rope, and the Meru Parvat as the stambha around which it was done, and they started churning. If you go to Angkor Vat in Cambodia, you can see this glorious huge relief of the Devas and the Asuras churning the milky ocean. It is a universal symbol. They churn and they churn, and then the gifts start emerging - Uchchaishravas, the divine horse, Kamadhenu, the divine cow; and they keep distributing them. T'he Asuras take Uchchaishravas, the Devas take Kamadhenu. Then the Kalpa-vriksha goes to one party and Mahalakshami to another, and so on.
But before the ambrosia emerges, suddenly a totally unexpected element enters the story. A terrible poison is released, the garala. The ocean starts boiling with that poison, the Devas and the Asuras flee in terror and they had no awareness that the poison was there. They had thought that they could keep on churning until they got to the amrita. But the garala appeared, and they fled in terror. It was then tl-tat the great Lord Mahadeva, Adi Deva, Lord Shiva, who is car above the dualities, the materialism and the grasping of the Devas and the Asuras, appears. Only he can absorb the poison and save the universe from destruction. Lord Shiva appears, collects the poison in a cup and he drinks the poison. He integrates the poison into his being, and with that integration his throat turns blue, that is why he is known as Neel-Kantha. Shiva is karpur-gaurav, absolutely white, but his throat is blue, because that is where he integrates the poison. It is only after Shiva has integrated the poison, that the Devas and the Asuras return, then the churning continues and ultimately the amrita-kalasha emerges. I will not go into the further story of how the Asuras were tricked out of the amrita and how Rahu and Ketu emerged.
Now, for the interpretation. I suggest that one of the interpretations is that science and technology have given humanity tremendous power. There has been a churning of the ocean of consciousness for several centuries now and humanity, whether it is the dark forces or forces of light, whether the Devas or the Asuras have been exploiting the earth and the oceans. They went on getting more and more gifts of science and technology, and thought that ultimately this was the way to immortality, because the amrita-kalasha is the ambrosial liquid, the water of immortality.
But what has happened is that a great poison has now appeared. There is fanaticism, fundamentalism, fire everywhere. If you turn on your television sets, the predominant idiom of the films today is 'fire'. All the films, everything is going up in fire. Whether it is an Indian movie or a Western movie, or a TV show, everywhere there is fire, the fires of hatred, the fires of gross materialism. As a result of this constant churning, the poison is spreading. We have depleted the Ozone Layer, Global Warming is spreading, thousands and thousands of' species have become extinct, millions of acres of forests have disappeared, the oceans are polluted, the land is polluted, the air is polluted. Of course the gifts are certainly there. We have these marvellous little mobiles with which you can talk to somebody in New York, instant communications. There have been fabulous developments in medicine. I am not underestimating the OS, in the same way we do not underestimate the Kamadhenu and the Kalpavriksha. But ultimately the churning leads to the poison, and that poison is now threatening to engulf the human race.
There is enough fissionable material on Earth to destroy not only the human race, but all life on this planet 20 times over. All the elements of disaster are here in our country and next door. It is no longer some distant Soviet Union and the United States. We are in it now, we, our children, our grandchildren are living under the threat of nuclear annihilation.
In this myth the churning Lord Shiva appears and saves humanity from disaster. But what will happen today? Will Lord Shiva appear again in this age of democracy, or will it be necessary for each one of us in the crucible of our own consciousness to absorb the poison and through our sadhana, convert it into amrit, ambrosia and give it back to society? That, as I see it, is the challenge before us today, and that is how I would interpret this great myth of the Samandra Manthana in contemporary terms. 'Celebrating spirit' involves being involved in this great and unique task, in whatever little way we can, of converting the poison around us through our sadhana into amrit. If Lord Shiva appears again, it would be marvellous, I myself am a Shiva bhakta, and I worship him everyday. But in this day and age, each one of us has to accept our responsibility for the churning, accept our responsibility to help convert the poison into ambrosia.
What has to happen is that the spiritual quest needs to be interiorised. You have many myths, many stories, for example, Nachiketa in Kathopanishad, or the whole story ot crucifixion and resurrection of Christ, or you have the temptation of the Buddha, you have many of these great stories. Human birth is a unique opportunity for inner growth, is a rare and unique privilege because of all the species that inhabit the planet, it is human beings alone who have the capacity to participate actively and consciously in the process of evolution. Here Sri Aurobindo's thought is very important. He holds that the evolutionary network leads to the all pervasive Brahman becoming individualised, after which the individual psyche starts developing, and finally reaches to a stage where the human psyche can directly contact the divine. To my mind, that is the way to celebrate the spirit, to save the ecology of Planet Earth. And as I see it, that is the real challenge before all of us, particularly young people.
I am glad that Youth Reach is working with young people, because these are concepts which have to be instilled from a very early age. It is not enough to say we will do this later. It is now that each one of us has to fulfil our responsibility. Sri Aurobindo's theory of spiritual evolution is peculiarly appropriate to this day and age. Each one of us has to get to work with our own inner life, we have to watch our dreams, we have to follow a path whether it is jnana yoga, the way of wisdom, bhakti yoga, the way of devotion, karma yoga, the way of dedicated works or of raja yoga, the way of spiritual practices. Following one or more of these paths, we must move onwards on the upward spiral, otherwise the negative Yugdharma will take us downwards, will wash us away. Like the salmon, which goes into the sea but returns against all odds to the place of its birth, we have got to try and get back to our spiritual roots. And that is what the spiritual quest is all about.
It is not a quest which can be carried out without reference to outer conditions. When we have millions of Indian children malnourished, when we have millions dying with polluted water, we cannot say because we are comfortable, we do not bother about others. We have to involve ourselves in a creative interaction with society around us. That is where the whole theory of evolution is so important.
I will end therefore, with a poem by Sri Aurobindo to round off this talk. This poem is called WHO:
In the blue of the sky, in the green of the forest,
Whose is the hand that has painted the glow?
When the winds were asleep in the womb of the ether,
Who was it roused them and bade them to blow?
He is lost in the heart, in the cavern of Nature,
He is found in the brain where He builds up the thought;
In the pattern and bloom of the flowers He is woven,
In the luminous net of the stars He is caught.
In the strength of a man, in the beauty of woman,
In the laugh of a boy, in the blush of a girl;
The hand that sent Jupiter spinning through heaven,
Spends all its cunning to fashion a curl.
These are His works and His veils and His shadows;
But where is He then? By what name is He known?
Is He Brahma or Vishnu? A man or a woman?
Bodied or bodiless? Twin or alone?
We have love for a boy who is dark and resplendent,
A woman is lord of us, naked and fierce,
We have seen Him a muse on the snow of the mountains,
We have watched Him at work in the heart of the spheres.
We will tell the whole world of His ways and His cunning;
He has rapture of torture and passion and pain;
He delights in our sorrow and drives us to weeping,
Then lures with His joy and His beauty again.
All music is only the sound of His laughter,
All beauty the smile of His passionate bliss;
Our lives are His heart-beats, our rapture the bridal
Of Radha and Krishna, our love is their kiss.
He is strength that is loud in the blare of the trumpets,
And He rides in the car and He strikes in the spears;
He slays without stint and is full of compassion;
He wars for the world and its ultimate years.
In the sweep of the world, in the surge of the ages,
Ineffable, mighty, majestic and pure,
Beyond the last pinnacle seized by the thinker
He is thronged in His seats that for ever endure.
The Master of man and his infinite Lover,
He is close to our hearts, had we vision to see;
We are blind with our pride and the pomp of our passions,
We are bound in our thoughts where we hold ourselves free.
It is He in the sun who is ageless and deathless,
And into the midnight His shadow is thrown;
When darkness was blind and engulfed within darkness,
He was seated within it immense and alone.
SCIENCE & BEYOND
International Symposium on Science & Beyond
Cosmology, Consciousness and Technology in the Indic Traditions
National Institute of Advance Studies, Bangalore, 8 January 2003
As this Symposium begins with cosmology, I would like to start my address by quoting the famous creation-hymn from the world's most ancient living scripture, the Rg Veda (X. 129/1-7 - Griffith translation):
Then was not non-existent nor existent:
There was no realm of air, no sky beyond it:
What covered it, and where? And what gave shelter?
Was water there, unfathomed depth of water?
Death was not then, nor was there aught immortal:
No sign was there, the day's and night's divider.
That One thing, breathless, breathed by its own nature:
Apart from it was nothing whatsoever.
Darkness there was: at first concealed in darkness
this All was indiscriminate chaos.
All that existed then was void and formless:
by the great power of Warmth was born that Unit.
Thereafter rose Desire in the beginning,
Desire the primal seed and germ of Spirit.
Sages who searched with their hearts' thought discovered
the existent's kinship with the non-existent.
Transversely was their severing line extended:
what was above it then, and what below it?
There were begetters, there were mighty forces,
free action here and energy up yonder.
Who verily knows and who can here declare it,
Whence it was born and whence comes this creation?
The gods are later than the world's production,
who knows then whence it first came into being?
He, the first origin of this creation,
whether he formed it all or did not form it,
Whose eye controls this world in highest heaven,
He verily knows it, or perhaps he knows not.
It is indeed astounding that modem developments in science, particularly Cosmology, seem to echo some of the insights of our great seers and sages which have come down to us for thousands of years through the long and tortuous corridors of time. It is almost as if, like the background emanations from the Big Bang, the faint echoes of our ancient spiritual luminaries can still be heard in the background of all our post-modern discourses on the human condition.
Some years ago, when I was Ambassador to the United States, I called upon the great scientist Prof S. Chandrasekhar in Chicago, and asked him as to how it was that the seers of the Vedas and Upanishads had two astounding insights which have emerged in modern science only very recently. The first is the concept of Anantakoti Brahmanda - infinite billions of galaxies or universes. The second is the concept of vast aeons of times through which creation passes, the sing le day of Brahma being of 4.32 million years with a night of equal duration, so that a year of Brahma closely approximates the age of planet earth. He really had no explanation and when I suggested that perhaps this knowledge came to our seers in enhanced states of consciousness, he said that was quite possible.
From Cosmology, let us then move on to Consciousness. In the Indic traditions consciousness is not merely an epiphenomenon of evolving matter, rather it is the prime principle which calls forth these millions of worlds. The great icon of Shiva Nataraja, Lord of the Cosmic dance, beautifully portrays this kinetic universe in which all things, from the majestic movement of the great galaxies down to the persistent agitation of sub-atomic particles, are in a state of flux. The drum in Shiva's left hand represents creation - the original Big Bang if you like, or perhaps a continual series of Big Bangs, while the fire in his right hand represents their ultimate destruction in the great cycles of time. However, if there were only the Big Bangs and the Big Crunches, there would be little space for you and me. Shiva's other two hands, therefore, point to the possibility of individual realisation amidst the cosmic chaos in which we find ourselves. One hand is raised in a gesture of benediction, telling humanity riot to feat,, wli'lc the fourth points to his upraised foot as the path of liberation.
The whole question of consciousness and its evolution is one that has attracted some of the best minds in the world, including the great evolutionary philosopher Sri Aurobindo. In India we have developed over the millenia systems of Yoga which are surely the most profound and integral explorations of consciousness ever essayed by the human race. While we also developed path-breaking outer technology in such fields as metallurgy, medicine and mathematics; Indian civilisation took a turn probably unique in the history of thought. Our most creative minds turned the searchlight inwards towards the source of Consciousness itself, and built up an entire science based upon this creative introspection. In his classic work on the Yoga-sutras, the Sage Patanjali has given us a seminal textbook for exploring the deeper recesses of our being.
Post-Freudian movements in psychology in the West have also gradually developed these deeper insights, notably with C.G. Jung and the post-Jungians, and moving on to Transpersonal Psychology. The study of consciousness has now become a fully respectable and challenging area for intellectual and experiential exploration. I have personally had the privilege of discussing the nature of consciousness with some of the most creative minds of the 20th century - Stanislav Grof with his extended cartography of the mind, Rupert Sheldrake with his theory of morphogenic resonance, llya Prigogine with his Chaos theory, Jonas Salk the great biochemist whose book Survival of the Wisest is a classic, Carl Sagan, who brought the mysteries of the cosmos into the minds and hearts of millions, Arthur Clarke, the astonishingly creative space author and many others. Indeed the study of consciousness is now one of the most fertile fields for research and experimentation.
Years ago, when I was Minister for Health and Family Planning, I had started here in Bangalore in the National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS) a programme entitled 'Project Consciousness' in which I had assembled some of the most creative scientific minds in India as well as involving Pandit Gopi Krishna whose books on Kundalini awakening are known throughout the world. Unfortunately, as so often happens, the project was wound up almost immediately after I left the Ministry, evidently considered a mild eccentricity not worth pursuing. It has always struck me as tragic that we in India, with our unique spiritual and intellectual background in this field, should still be lagging behind. Had the project continued over the last quarter of a century we could well have produced the first Nobel Laureates in the field of Consciousness research.
Albert Einstein's famous remark that "science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind", makes a very important point. Before him, the Cartesian-Newtonian-Marxist paradigm of thought postulated an unbreachable dichotomy between matter and spirit. This concept dominated Western civilisation for several centuries and did produce spectacular results. However, with the Einsteinian revolution and Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle, Quantum Mechanics and extra-galactic Cosmology, the situation has now changed considerably. Science itself is in one of its great creative periods where old barriers are breaking down and some of us - perhaps a trifle optimistically - are beginning to discern the outlines of a convergence between science and spirituality.
I use the term 'spirituality' advisedly, because 'religion' carries a lot of baggage, much of it positive but some of it negative also, despite the work being done by Interfaith organisations around the world including the Temple of Understanding of which I happen to be Chairman, whereas spirituality transcends theological divisions, and cuts across barriers of race and creed, religion and nationality. The seers of all the great faiths of the world have, in their utterances, sought to describe what is essentially an indescribable experience, whether it is the Beatific Vision of the Christians, the Bodhi Chitta of the Buddhists, the Noor-e-IIlahi of the Muslims, the Ek Onkar of the Sikh Gurus or the Self-Realisation of the Hindus. Clearly there are states of higher consciousness which transcend all barriers and which are the heritage of the entire human race. This flows from the persistent tradition of the light that illuminates the universe - the light of Consciousness itself, and it is ultimately an awareness of this light in all human beings that alone can become the cornerstone of a sane and harmonious global society.
What is needed today, as the watchword of the emerging global society, is a new global renaissance, an integration between apparently conflicting concepts. We need to develop a benign symbiosis between the various elements of our personality - the inner and the outer, the quietist and the activist, the feminine and the masculine and in the broader dimension between science and spirituality. It is my smcere hope that this International Symposium on Science and Beyond will help to trigger the process of creative symbiosis whereby alone can the human race survive its own technological ingenuity. It is in this hope that I have the greatest pleasure in inaugurating this Symposium.
INDIAN HISTORY CONGRESS - ADDRESS
Indian History Congress
Bhopal, 28-30 December 2001
Chief Minister of Madhya Pradesh, Shri Digvijay Singh, President, office bearers and members of the Indian History Congress, distinguished guests, representatives of the press and electronic media, eminent citizens of Bhopal, and friends,
I consider it a pleasure and an honour to have been invited to inaugurate this 62 session of the Indian History Congress, a most distinguished academic society. I am not a historian myself, although I have had the privilege of meeting almost all the leading political figures in India over the last half century. In fact I did a recording for the 50th Anniversary of our Independence called " Voices of freedom" which some of you may have seen. It contains the actual voices of many prominent Indian leaders from Mahatma Gandhi (whom I met back in 1947) all the way down to Rajiv Gandhi, linked together by a commentary written by me. Oral history is being increasingly recognised as an important input in our historical studies, and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library in Delhi has built up a rich collection of recordings apart from the unique corpus of material it has on the history of modem India which is a veritable treasure trove for research scholars.
I have also had occasion to be involved in historic events, both in the first phase of my public life when from the age of 18 to 36 1 was heading the State of Jammu and Kashmir, and later as a member of Indira Gandhi's cabinet for the decade 1967-77. I have recounted the turbulent events of my Jammu & Kashmir years in some detail in my Autobiography. There is now, of course, a virtual avalanche of books on Jammu & Kashmir, and these clearly reflect the phenomenon of rival or multiple versions of history, raising an important point regarding the whole historical process and the disciplined research and methodology that is needed to present an accurate picture. If this is the case 'm regard to events which took place in our own lifetimes, it is obviously much more difficult to arrive at a definitive consensus on events that took place many hundreds or even thousands of years ago.
Our national motto is Satyameva Jayate - the truth alone will triumph, but how do we ascertain what the truth is? We are at present in the midst of a lively controversy regarding history, particularly in school textbooks, which I am sure will receive close attention in this session. I have no intention of rushing in where angels fear to tread. However, it does seem to me that there can in good faith be varying interpretations with regard to certain events and social phenomena which have to be presented in a balanced and mature fashion. I am deeply involved in the Interfaith movement which seeks to bring together people of different religious persuasions in a quest for harmony and understanding, and have occasion to meet many religious leaders in India and around the world. Although their views should certainly be treated with respect, I am unable to accept that they should have some kind of veto or fatwa regarding what should or should not be taught in our schools, as that would be a regressive step. Surely this must be left to the wisdom and good sense of professional historians and educationists.
It is, of course, not possible to gloss over unpleasant historical events such as the repeated invasions of the subcontinent and the resulting holocausts which are part of our historical background. India is littered with hundreds of ruined temples from the magnificent Martand in Kashmir down through the rest of the country, and it is no use pretending that these were not the result of fanatical invaders and iconoclastic rulers. We are told that after thousands of monks were put to the sword, the great Buddhist library of Nalanda burned for six months, as did the glittering capital of the Vijayanagar empire. On the other hand, we must also highlight the creative interaction that took place between Hindu and Islamic cultures in such varied fields among others as language (the development of Urdu with its beautiful ghazals), music (the Hindustani gayaki), dance (particularly Kathak), couture (the salwar kameez and the achkan) cuisine (the Mughlai mode of cooking and the Kashmiri wazwan), architecture (the great Mughal monuments including the magnificent Taj Mahal, the most beautiful structure in the world), and above all the unique synthesis between Sufism and Shaivism in Kashmir, resulting in the Rishi cult which transcended the religious divide. Indeed we still have numerous shrines such as the Dargah Sharief at Ajmer, Vaishno Devi in Jammu and the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar which are visited annually by millions of devotees regardless of their religious persuasions.
Similarly, the manner in which Hindu society mistreated and humiliated the dalits over the centuries can in no way be condoned, nor can unacceptable customs such as human sacrifice or female infanticide be justified. At the same time, it should be recalled that a whole series of Hindu reform movements have taken place down through the centuries, aimed particularly at erasing caste discrimination. Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism represented such egalitarian movements, while the Indian renaissance beginning with Raja Rammohan Roy in the 19d' century sparked off a powerful Hindu reform movement around the country which found its culmination in the Hindu Code Bill enacted by free India, and the affirmative action for scheduled castes and tribes enshrined in the Constitution which is unique m the world. Indian Muslims today are proud and equal citizens of free India and can in no way be held responsible for the atrocities of the early Muslim 'mvaders, any more than the 'caste Hindu' of today can be held responsible for the cruelties and rigidities of the earlier caste system. The point is not to apportion blame but to see historical events in their balanced perspective.
I mention these two areas simply to make the point that in dealing with our past we need a synergy of scholarship and sensitivity which would give our younger generations a more balanced picture of our chequered history. Also, we should certainly highlight the great achievements of Indian civilisation, albeit without overstating the case. Let us remember that the history of India is not merely one of kings and conquerors, but also of rishis and saints, sufis and gurus, tirthankars and bhikshus., not only a river of kings but an ocean of saints, not only a Rajtarangini but a Santmahasagar. The history of ideas, of art and architecture, of dance and music, of science and mathematics, is as important as the rise and fall of dynasties and is often interlinked with them. The history of philosophy and the quest for enlightenment is in fact the great glory of India, reflecting its spiritual pluralism and universality. Four of the world's great religions were born here, and four other came to us from West Asia and have flourished here for centuries. From the Vedic dictum of Ekam sad viprah bahudha vadanti - the truth is one, the wise call it by many names - down to present times, the vast and varied mosaic that is India has always been a land in which multiple races and religions, languages and customs, cultures and traditions have flowered. Any attempt to constrain this would amount to a serious distortion of our civilisational heritage.
Today, with a billion people, we represent one sixth of the human race living in a democracy and under the rule of law, itself an amazing historical achievement. And this is so because our Constitution enshrines the basic principle of unity in diversity that has been the keystone of the vibrant Indian civilisation down through the long and tortuous corridors of time. India has never been an island unto itself, it has been open to the influx of fresh ideas - Aa no bhadra kratavoyantu vishwatah - "let noble thoughts come to us from every side" as the Rig Veda puts it. Or as Sri Aurobindo writes in The Foundations of Indian Culture -
"India can best develop herself and serve humanity by being herself and following the law of her own nature. This does not mean, as some narrowly and blindly suppose, the rejection of everything new that comes to us in the stream of Time or happens to have been first developed or powerfully expressed by the West. Such an attitude would be intellectually absurd, physically impossible and, above all, unspiritual; true spirituality rejects no new light, no added means or materials of our human self-development".
Moving from general principles to concrete issues, as I have a captive audience I thought I might place before this distinguished gathering five areas which, in my view, need more study and research by historians. The first, obviously, is one of the great unsolved mysteries of human history - the fascinating Indus Valley civilisation. Although there have been several distinguished attempts, including by two Jawaharlal Nehru Fellows, there seems to have been no universally accepted breakthrough yet in deciphering the Indus Valley script, and it has therefore not been possible to make a definitive statement regarding the origin of that great civilisation or its relationship with the Vedic culture. While the theory of the Aryan influx has held sway for a long time, there are alternative hypotheses which need to be studied rationally without injecting undue chauvinism into the process. This is one area where world acclaim is waiting to be won by the scholar who can finally crack the hieroglyphics of the Indus Valley seals. The recent satellite imagery of the subterranean course of the once mighty Saraswati river raises a host of fascinating possibilities that I am sure will be the subject of sustained study by archaeologists and historians.
A second area which has never really received the attention it deserves is the history of the great cultural efflorescence from India that spread throughout the South and Southeast Asia through Hinduism and Buddhism and is reflected in such magnificent monuments as the Borobudur (Bhadra-vihara) and Parambanan (Param-brahman) temples in Indonesia, and the truly astonishing and overwhelming Hindu-Buddhist temple complex at Angkor Vat in Cambodia, probably the greatest ever built by the human race. Who were the bearers of this tremendous vitality? What were the sagas connected with those who took our art and architecture, our Ramayana and Mahabharata, literally to the ends of Asia? Where are the great names connected with this astonishing movement over several centuries? If the "discovery" of America by Christopher Columbus is given such overarching importance by Western historians, why have we neglected our own cultural expansion which was achieved without any coercion or bloodshed? Why do our historians not link us to the greater India, in cultural terms, that lies far beyond our shores by highlighting the remarkable achievements of our rulers and merchant princes, architects and artisans, who carried the smile of the Buddha, the story of Rama and the dance of Shiva across the seven seas?
A third point concerns the history of the freedom movement. There is a widespread misconception that this movement began with the advent of Gandhiji, the Father of the Nation. In fact, after the 1857 revolt which we now call the first Indian War of Independence, the freedom movement can be traced back to the founding of the Indian National Congress in 1885 and subsequently to the events surrounding the Banga-Bhanga, the partition of Bengal, by Lord Curzon in 1905. It was through the movement sparked off by these two events that two major streams of thought emerged in the freedom struggle - the so called 'Moderates' led by men of great ability and integrity like Pherozshah Mehta, Dadabhai Naoroji and Gopal Krishna Gokhale, and the 'Radicals' led by some of the most remarkable men of modem times, Lokmanya Bal Gangadhar Tilak and Lala Lajpat Rai, Bipin Chandra Pal and Sri Aurobindo. In the luminous writings of Sri Aurobindo in the Karmavogin and the Bande Mataram at the turn of the century we fuid a clear enunciation of many of the concepts that Gandhiji was later to take up in his unique saga - purna swaraj, swadeshi, boycott and National education. It was Gandhiji's genius to have been able to combine the best features of both the moderate and the radical ideologies, give it his own special imprimatur, and take it to its triumphant yet tragic conclusion.
Yet another neglected area revolves around the history of the Princely States, including Bhopal where we are now meeting, which covered roughly one-third of the territory and one-quarter of the population of India during British rule. Despite the inherent limitations of feudalism, there were some notable achievements in such States as Travancore and Mysore, Hyderabad and Baroda, Jammu & Kashmir, where enlightened rulers and dewans made significant breakthroughs in the field of administration and engineering, education and social reform such as temple entry. Indeed, with the exception of Jammu & Kashmir, the peaceful integration of the former princely States into the democratic body politic of the Indian Republic has been one of the major historic achievements of modem times, probably unique in world history.
Incidentally, to strike a personal note, the creation of my home state of Jammu and Kashmir was itself a remarkable historic achievement. It is not often realised that what Maharaja Gulab Singh and his great generals like Zorawar Singh achieved was a feat unparalleled in Indian history. They extended and consolidated the northern boundaries of India by integrating Ladakh and the Central Asian region of Gilgit through high altitude campaigns in which thousands of Dogra soldiers drawn from the foothills of Jammu and Himachal Pradesh valiantly fought and laid down their lives. The Treaty of Amritsar in 1846 culminating in the founding of the multi-ethnic, multi-linguistic, multi-religious and multi-regional state of Jammu and Kashmir has often been portrayed negatively, whereby a grave injustice has been done to the Dogra community. Indeed even today, with all our advanced technology, we have not found it possible to hold on fully to the State, half of which is no longer under our physical control. I do not want to labour this point except to say that when the exploits of Maharana Pratap, Chhatrapati Shivajl and others are recounted, the developments in the far north should also receive due recognition.
The final point I would like to make, as a student of political science, is connected with the history of Partition. A great deal of research is being done on the genesis of Muslim separatism, and the two-nation theory, including a definitive three volume work by Professor Bimal Prasad which is nearing completion. Now, over half a century after partition, the time has surely come to take a more detached look at the whole spectrum of events leading up to that phenomenal disaster. Could partition have been avoided if, after the 1937 elections, there had been a greater accommodation and power sharing between the Congress and the Muslim League? Could partition have been avoided if the Cripps Mission proposals had been accepted? Sri Aurobindo, then living in his Ashram in Pondicherry, broke his silence during the Cripps Mission and wrote a letter urging the Congress to accept the proposals as the last chance to save Indian unity to which he was so passionately committed. Alternatively, if partition had to be accepted, could it not have been achieved without the terrible massacres and bloodshed that took place in 1946-47 and whose negative reverberations still resound through the sub-continent? All these are powerful and potent areas for historical research and reinterpretation.
Friends, let me conclude by speaking not of the past but of the future. With Indian history coming down unbroken from the mists of antiquity, we have now reached a crucial stage where India is poised for a decisive breakthrough. What we need is a vision of the future, for it has truly been said that without a vision a nation perishes. What has happened to the vision of a Lokmanya Tilak or a Sri Aurobindo, a Mahatma Gandhi or a Jawaharlal Nehru, a Sardar Patel or a Maulana Azad? Why do we tend to get mired in negativities, corruption and narrow parochialism rather than emerge as standard bearers of a sane and pluralistic global society? Where is the leadership so brilliantly defined by the poet lqbal when he wrote:
Nigah buland, sukhan dil nawaz, jan pursoz
yehi hain rakt-e-safar mir-e-caravan ke liye
"A lofty vision; a voice which touches the heart, a consciousness suffused with compassion, these are the only real requirements for the leader of the caravan".
Historians have sought to chart the course of the caravan of Indian history from the distant dawns of the past down to the present day buffeted by the alarums and excursions, the triumphs and tragedies of our age. As Jawaharlal Nehru wrote in the Discovery of India, "The past becomes something that leads up to the present, the moment of action, the future something that flows from it; and all three are essentially intertwined and interrelated." Inaugurating this Congress, it is my sincere hope that while mapping the past and evaluating the present, you will chart a great future for our nation so that we can fulfil our individual and civilisational destiny as we hurtle headlong into the future astride the irreversible arrow of time.
Our beliefs flow from the totality of experience to which we have been exposed. I have been fortunate that my exposure has in some respects been more varied and intense than falls to the lot of most people. There are four main sets of factors that have moulded my thinking - books, music, travel, and people. In all four I have had the good fortune of an extremely wide and stimulating contact, and if I have not imbibed more from them the fault is entirely my own. In any case, I shall try briefly to identify the major beliefs I have come to hold, even though I am acutely aware of the difficulty in expressing complex ideas in simple words.
I believe that man, still in an intermediate stage between the animal and the divine, can raise himself to a higher plane of being if he makes a conscious and dedicated effort to do so; there can be no nobler endeavour than this aspiration towards divinity. I believe that each human being born on this planet, or for that matter anywhere else in the limitless cosmos, carries within himself an unquenchable spark of divinity. Our true destiny as human beings revolves around the fanning of this spark into the smokeless flame of spiritual realization.
I believe that all political, economic, and social activity should have as its ultimate goal the fostering of this divinity within each individual. Scientific and technological developments are ultimately counter-productive if they do not lead us towards this end.
I believe that at their highest all religions are so many different paths leading to the same goal, the ineffable and indescribable union between the human and the divine; that mystics of all religious persuasions have realized and preached essentially the same doctrine of human love and divine communion; and that strife and hatred in the name of religion is therefore the very antithesis of spirituality and a gross slur on the name of humanity.
I believe that India, with its unique heritage stretching back to the very dawn of civilization, has a special role to play in fostering a society which would support this process of divinization. In a world torn by violence and hatred I believe that India can play a crucial role in leading humanity towards a new equilibrium between wealth and wisdom, having and being. I believe that we must work for political integration, economic growth, social transformation, and secular democracy not merely as ends in themselves but because this combination can best provide the framework within which the people of our ancient land can fulfil their destiny.
I believe that as long as millions go without the basic necessities of civilized existence it is utterly unreal to talk to them about things of the spirit, and that the basic material needs of man must be satisfied as a foundation for further spiritual growth. I believe that this can be achieved only when we succeed in motivating the people of India to put in several decades of hard, disciplined effort for the production of wealth and simultaneously adopt policies to ensure that the wealth so produced is distributed fairly to all sections of society. I believe that this ,can be achieved not by propagating the bitter doctrine of implacable class warfare but, rather, by trying to involve the nation as a whole in the mighty effort required to break the poverty barrier that still persists around us.
I believe that politics will always be turbulent because that is the nature of politics, as it is the nature of the sun to be hot and water to be wet, and that it is futile to lament over the state of politics as did Arjuna on the field of battle. I believe that even if the historical Krishna is not standing next to us holding the reins of our chariot, we must attune ourselves to his voice that echoes and re-echoes in the inner stillness of our being, and face boldly the battle of life into which we find ourselves precipitated. I believe that, approached in the right spirit, political activity can be a powerful instrument for human transformation and can thus contribute substantially to the broader goals that lie before the human race.
I believe that love and friendship constitute the surest bonds in a world where everything is constantly changing, and that these should be cherished whenever and wherever they are found. I believe that the creation of beauty through music and poetry, the fine arts and architecture, is a central function of civilization and must be encouraged so that increasingly large sections of society can derive the immaterial but extremely valuable benefits that flow therefrom, so that man can be led from the outer beauty of form to the inner beauty of spirit. I believe, further, that our system of education should be designed to inculcate in the young an awareness of the primacy of the spirit, without in any way belittling the importance of the material foundations upon which any dynamic civilization must rest.
I believe that our generation holds the present in trust for posterity, and that we have to fulfil this responsibility so that we can repay the debt we ourselves owe to the past. I believe that we must, therefore, protect this planet from wanton despoliation and blatant exploitation in the name of progress, that we must conserve its atmosphere and water, its forests and wild life, from the destruction they are facing as the result of increasing urbanization and industrialization.
I believe that despite continuing animosity and hostility between nations, and growing violent divisions within nations themselves, the human race will be forced by the end of this century to move towards some form of world order transcending national barriers. And although each one of us owes a deep debt to the country of our origin, as members of the human race we also owe a wider loyalty to the planet that has nurtured our kind for millions of years.
I believe that life is necessarily a mosaic of joy and sorrow, of pleasure and pain, of failure and success, of shadow and sunlight; that we must accept these dualities as a necessary stage in our spiritual progress until we are able to transcend them; and that each experience can be a valuable means for inner growth, unpleasant situations often affording greater opportunities for development than superficially pleasant ones.
I believe that death is a natural and necessary corollary to life, and must be accepted in a positive manner rather than with fear and dread. I believe that the death of the body merely marks another step in the long journey of the pilgrim soul towards its final destination, and that man must shake off the superstitious dread that he has with regard to this essential and inescapable phenomenon.
I believe, finally, that a divine destiny pervades the cosmos, a destiny not distant and remote but one in which in some mysterious way, each one of us is actively involved. I believe that the most effective means of fulfilling that destiny is a combination of active outer involvement in furthering human welfare and intense inner striving to reach the goal of spiritual realization. I believe, thus, that the most eloquent prayer man has evolved is one that has resounded in India down through the corridors of time since the very dawn of our civilization:
From the unreal lead me to the real;
From darkness lead me to the light;
From death lead me to immortality.
One Man's World
IN QUEST OF THE NIRVANA PILL
I am glad that Shobori Ganguli in her article, 'Death positive solution for life negative' (January 13). has dealt with a matter which I have been raising now for a quarter of a century. The right to die in peace and dignity, at a time and place of one's choosing, has still, unfortunately, not been universally accepted as a fundamental human right. While in the West there has been a movement in this direction, as is evident from books like Last Rites by Marya Mannes and Final Exit by Derek Humphry, as well as the play, Whose Life is it Anyway?, the acceptance is still very limited and revolves mainly around the question of euthanisia. As has been pointed out by Ms. Ganguli, this flows from a basic belief of certain religions that we have only one life on earth, and therefore it must be preserved at all costs even though it may have become a living hell.
As against this, the Indic religions - Hinduism, Jainism, Buddhism and Sikhism - believe in a constant series of rebirths until one achieves spiritual illumination. It follows, therefore, that death is looked upon as a necessary counterpart to birth. As the Gita says in Chapter 2, Verse 27, "One who is born has inevitably to die, and one who has died has inevitably to take birth again, therefore, for what is inevitable, you should not grieve." The Indic religions speak not of life and death, but of birth and death, both being transcended by the greater Life.
In these religions it is well known that spiritually advanced individuals often choose the time and place of their departure from this world. The Gita (Chapter VIII, verses 12 & 13) clearly states the procedure whereby an enlightened person can voluntarily drop his body, and both in Jainism and Buddhism there are techniques in which the body can be deliberately starved and discarded. The point, therefore, is well taken that we should develop our own approach to this vexed problem of voluntary death. Mr. H.D. Shourie's recent book, Voluntary Exit, is a welcome effort in this direction. nister a quarter of a century ago I had privately mooted with some top scientists the possibility of exploring what, for want of a better term, I called a Nirvana pill, which would combine lethal and hallucinogenic substances to enable a person to leave the world painlessly and joyously whenever he or she deems it fit to do so. We do not have to wait until we are racked with unbearable pain before taking such a step.
Indeed it would be ideal if, when persons feel that they have fulfilled their obligations and are ready to drop the body, they are enabled to do so at a time, place and atmosphere of their own choosing. With startling developments in the fields of chemistry and pharmacology, preparation of such a pill should not be difficult. We have no compunction in regulating birth, but death still remains disorganised, unplanned and usually messy and traumatic. Would the earth not be a happier place if a painless and dignified exit could be ensured?
I am well aware that such a procedure is not possible within the present legal structures, where suicide is looked upon as a criminal act, the only crime in which if you are successful you cannot be punished, but if you fail you can be incarcerated! This whole matter calls for a widespread public debate among intellectuals, social workers, organisations of the elderly, medical professionals and concerned citizens. Possibilities of misuse, indirect pressure and intimidation of course are there and must be minimised. But surely It is time that we look at the whole question afresh, especially as the elderly population around the world is steadily growing and, along with it, number of people who are seeking a swift and peaceful voluntary exit.
BOOKS - THE LIFE-BLOOD OF CIVILIZATION
I have tremendous love for books and have a lifelong association with them. I have read them avidly for the past 45 Years. In fact, I would like to invite all the Publishers, whoever visits Jammu, to go and see my library there. It is not generally open to the public, but I will be happy to give an open invitation to all the members of the publishing community to go and see a collection of books which you may find of some interest, about 25,000 books which I have personally bought over the past 30 years.
As Jawaharlal Nehru said in his foreword to my book on Sri Aurobindo, I am really a very bad prince. I never bought any race-horses or polo ponies or motor-cars or jewellery; in fact my own jewellery is no longer with me, but that is a different point, we will have to see what we can do about that. What I really did buy was books, and every single penny invested in a book is a very fine and enduring investment. I think it was Milton who said that great books are the lifeblood of a civilisation. I remember there used to be a series of books, Everyman's Library, which had this line on them. Humanity would be infinitely poorer from every point of view had it not been for the great books that have nourished and nurtured human civilisation down through the ages.
The great thing about the classics is that they are real lifelong companions, they never let you down. If there is a book that has inspired you, you can go back to it again and again throughout your life. I have known books which have been of tremendous value to me from the time I was a teenager right up to the present day.
There is in these great books a capacity for constant reintegration of the human psyche. In fact human civilization as we know it today arose from the word - the sacred word, known in Hinduism as the Shabda Brahm, the word which was first spoken and then written in all the great religious traditions of the world. The Old Testament starts "In the beginning there was the word, and the word was with God and the word was God". The Buddha said, "In this Universe there is no form of knowledge which is not perceived through the word". This symbolises the fact that the growth of language, of communication and of books has played a central role in the evolution and development of human civilization as we know it today.
Printing, particularly over the past several centuries, played an important role, but in the past fifty years or so there has been this tremendous information explosion. I was just speaking to some friends recently, and was told that UNESCO estimates that five hundred thousand titles are published every year. And those are only the books: if you add the journals and the newspapers, there are billions of words printed every year. A remarkable feature of our age is whereas previously books used to be the preserve of certain affluent or learned classes, today there has been what we might call a democratisation of publishing. It is no longer confined to small segments of the population; with the growth of literacy throughout the world books now have become a major unifying factor.
There is in the anc1ient Indian tradition, the concept of the world as a family:
Ayam Nijaparoveti Gananam Laghuchetasam Udaracharitanam Tu Vasudhaivakutumbakam.
It is inscribed over the first gate of entry to the Parliament. It means "this is mine, this is yours, this sort of divisive intellect is the sign of people with small minds. For those with the greater consciousness, the world is a family". The two things that are bringing this concept to reality are the growth in communications and the growth in transport. The fact that now with satellite technology you can communicate almost instantly through radio and television, and the fact that this tremendous publishing explosion is gradually knitting the peoples of the world together are particularly important at this juncture in human history.
When I chose the topic 'Books and the future of man', I did so because I have no doubt that the future of man is today in danger. I think that homo sapiens are an endangered species, and we are endangered this time not from an alien assault but because we are unable to cope with our own technological ingenuity. Science and technology have given this tremendous power to man to transform the environment. If we use it with compassion and wisdom, we can abolish poverty and want, illiteracy and disease, ignorance and unemployment from the face of the earth by the end of this century. And yet if this same power is misused, it can abolish not only the human race but perhaps all life on this planet. I do not know how many of you have seen this new film The Day After which has caused such a sensation in the United States and in Europe. I understood there was special showing in the Kremlin. Or how many of you have read a remarkable book by Jonathan Schell called The Fate of the Earth? They show that the possibility now of a nuclear disaster is a very real one, and you do not even need a lunatic in the White House or the Kremlin, a malfunctioning computer can do the job equally effectively.
There have already been alerts, and we might one day be blown up simply because one of our computers has malfunctioned. It is a sobering thought that our present generation may represent the last generation of human beings ever to live on this planet. The fact of the matter is that we are now facing critical choices and that there can be no evasion of this problem. We have to face the problem of survival very clearly and boldly.
I am reminded of a cartoon I saw once, of a man who was wheeling his wife into the delivery room. She was pregnant, the baby was expected any moment, and as he wheels her in he says to her, "Darling are you sure you want to go through with this?" The point is, there is no option when you reach that stage of pregnancy or the stage of disaster that we have now reached in the world. There is no option, we have got to go through with it, we have got to face our responsibilities as citizens of the 20th century and hopefully of the 21st century if we live to see it. Those of us connected with books and with communications and with education have to bear in mind this broader responsibility that we have for the survival of the human race.
This is the first point I would like to make. It is not a commercial point, except that even purely commercially books dealing with survival and disaster sell particularly well now-a-days, because there is something in the human psyche that seems to be responding to these sort of presentations. But as citizens of the world today we have got to face up to the responsibility, particularly those of us who are directly in the field of communications, in the field of publishing, in the field of writing.
In India, despite our very large population, the number of books that we publish is still inadequate. I have just learnt that we publish 11,000 volumes a year, which may not be very bad, but with the growth of literacy in India, and with millions of people coming into the reading market every year, we can and should spend very much more money than we do on books. John Ruskin once wrote, and I quote "what do we as a nation" (he is talking about the British) "care about books? How much do you think we spend altogether on our libraries, public and private, as compared with what we spend on our horses". Now if you substitute 'movies' for 'horses' in India, you would get a very valid question. It has always seemed to me a national tragedy that young people will spend hundreds of rupees a year on going to the sort of trash that most of our films are, but will not spend one tenth of that upon buying books that could inspire them for the rest of their lives.
Somehow, we have not inculcated among the young the habit of wanting to own their own books. Therefore, they pay for cinema tickets, and will have nothing to show for it except perhaps pollute their consciousness, whereas, if they would spend money at least upon the classics, these would remain with them for the rest of their lives. This is a major distortion of values, and the publishers have got to do something about this. Let me give you an example. The Upanishads are the greatest dialogues ever produced in the Eastern World, and the Platonic Dialogues are similar in the Western World. Now how many among our younger generations have read the Upanishads, or, if I may ask, how many of you in the audience? How many publishers have made a special attempt to bring out attractive and low period editions of our religious classics, the Upanishads or the Bhagavad Gita, or the Quran Sherief or the Granth Sahib?
Quite frankly the only way our children learn anything about our cultural heritage is through the much maligned 'comics', upon which we look down our noses. They are the only way in which most of our children are now learning anything about our cultural heritage. I do not see books of adequate quality, quantity and price for younger readers which would bring forth the richness and depth of our philosophical heritage. I would submit very respectfully to the publishers that there has been here a dereliction of responsibility. If you go to the West you can get beautiful religious books, you can get copies of the Bible and the New Testament. Where are those books in India? Why have none of the Indian publishers made a deliberate attempt to bring out a set of books, a series of books of this nature?
This is another question which I would like to pose to this distinguished audience? Where is the 'Great Books of India' series to match the 'Hutchins-Chicago Great Books' of the Western World? Apart from Max Muller's, 'Sacred Books of the East' which were published about 80 years ago and which have now been republished, there is not a proper set of great books of India. There are two types of books, there are the books of the hour and the books of all time. I do feel that there should be a special thrust upon developing adequate publications to reflect our cultural and religious heritage, and I feel that Indian publishers have a very good opportunity because there is now a renewed interest in Indian philosophy not only in India but also abroad.
I have myself in the past two years travelled to a dozen countries and have spoken extensively. Those people abroad, particularly the overseas Indians, are constantly complaining that they do not get adequate material from India which they can use when they are living abroad. There is a great deal of innovative publishing that needs to be done to meet the requirements of the growing market of overseas Indians, and of non-Indians who are interested to learn of our intellectual heritage. I do not want to be chauvinistic, but it is a fact that the two countries that have civilised the world in some ways are India and Greece; what Greece was to the Western World, India has been to the Eastern World. And therefore our publishing intellectual must reflect and represent some of the tremendous vitality.
I went to Indonesia recently. Indonesia is a 90% Muslim country, but the impact of Hindu culture, of the Ramayana, on the life of the Indonesian Muslim is more dramatic than on the life of the Indian Hindu. Similarly, when one goes to Singapore or to Cambodia, the impact is powerful. The Indian cultural tradition is so rich intellectually, there is so much material, whether it is philosophy or mythology or iconography or any other aspect! The path-finding books on the Eastern cultural traditions should be coming out of India. I entirely agree that the quality of Indian publishing has improved tremendously over the past twenty years, there is absolutely no doubt about it. As a book collector myself, I can say with confidence that our best books are as good as any in the world. But I still feel that the sort of innovative publishing and the sort of intellectual breakthrough which a country like India should be making in the wider intellectual field has not yet been made. And this is a challenge not only to the publishers but equally to the authors, because ultimately without the author you would not have any publishers.
Another point which I would like to stress and which is linked with the earlier point, is that of educational books. The sort of books available to the young in India, apart from the text books, are unsatisfactory, I think that we have got to start a movement whereby every child is encouraged to own a book. Every child must be encouraged to realise that among his precious possessions books have a special place. And this can only be done if the parents are so motivated. If the parents, instead of giving their children a box of chocolates which would cost Rs.20 give them instead a book which would cost the same amount, then gradually a sort of the children's library movement in the homes and outside would be built up. Please remember that we were all children at one point in our lives, and the children of today are going to be publishers, authors and readers of tomorrow. Therefore we have got to develop this at a very early stage.
Another point I would like to mention is the question of the technological revolution that we are now experiencing. I refer, of course, to the development of the home computers. There is a view expressed by some people that the book is going to be obsolete by the 21st century because you will simply have the computers and you can tune into whatever you want. Personally, and I hope I am right, I do not think that this fear is well grounded, because as somebody pointed out to me when the radio was invented, people said the same thing, when television was invented they said the same thing, but the growth of book publishing industry has continued. I am sure that even if the home computers become universal in the 21st century, there will always be room for and requirement for more and more printed material. One can only hope that this particular revolution in which we are now engaged will knock out some of the trash that is published and will tend to improve the standard of books.
There is one other favourite point of mine which I thought I would get off my shoulders, and that is the development of proper bookshops. Unfortunately in India we do not have bookshops of adequate imagination. If I may say so, in the past few years some better bookshops have developed, but generally if you go to a town a bookshop is a depressing, dusty and dull sort of godown. It should in fact be a centre for a lot of creative activity in the community. There should be people running bookshops who can suggest books to clients, who can interact with them; who can send them leaflets, who can get the younger people in the community involved. I look upon a bookshop as being in a way as sacred as a temple, because in a temple you go to worship, in a bookshop we have Saraswati, the Goddess of learning incarnate. A bookshop must have a special quality about it which many of our Indian bookshops lack. They must be brighter, they must be better organised and books of quality must be available. This is something which I feel has not received adequate attention from the publishers nor from anybody else.
For example even the works of Jawaharlal Nehru are seldom available in our bookshops, although the Nehru Memorial Fund has for years been trying to get special editions out. May I suggest that our publishers should come up with some creative ideas on the whole question of book-selling not only in our big cities but also in small towns and villages.The final point I would like to make as an author, and as the present President of the Authors Guild of India, is to repeat that if there were no authors there would be no publishers. I do not subscribe to the theory that there is an inevitable and necessary confrontation between the author and the publishers. My view is that in fact a creative symbiosis is necessary between the publisher and the author.
But speaking on behalf of the Indian authors, I must say that generally he is in a much weaker position than the publisher. The Indian author tends to be an individual, a free-lance, whereas the publishers are organised. And therefore I would suggest that more consideration should be paid to the author by the publishers and there should be more encouragement especially to the younger authors. I know that a lot of substandard stuff is being produced, and I am not suggesting that anybody who comes up with a manuscript must be necessarily have it published. But I am saying that you have to encourage talent in the field of writing, and it is important that the publishers themselves should do something to encourage authors. I would like to see special prizes to authors instituted by the publishers. Why should there be this constant view that the publishers and the authors are locked in deadly combat? It is in the interest of the publishers that more authors come up, and one really good author can suddenly bring a great deal of money to a publishing firm.
So we should drop this attitude of confrontation and hostility and instead, as enlightened citizens, should move towards a sort of creative network - the author, the publisher, the book - seller and of course the reader, because the reader is the ultimate target of all this activity. Without the reader there would neither be the author nor the publisher nor the book-seller. And there is hardly anybody who speaks up for the reader. This is a chain; the author writes, the publisher publishes, the book-seller sells and the reader reads. Any chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and if the authors are weak or they feel humiliated, if they feel they are not getting a fair deal, then ultimately this entire system will be weak.
Therefore I do feel that our booksellers and publishers should play a more active, a more sympathetic role towards the authors. We have now had the copyright amendment, but it is not only a legal question. It is more a question of attitudes. If the publishers really feel that they want to help the authors, then I think that the situation will improve considerably.
We in India are trying to do something that has never before been attempted. We are trying to build a new life for one-seventh of the human race by democratic means, to abolish poverty by the end of this century, and to pioneer a creative synthesis between science and spirituality. I will end with a plea to those in the publishing business, that we must recapture the sense of adventure and excitement in this task of building a new India. Jawaharlal Nehru always used to talk about the adventure of building a new India. Unfortunately, 38 years after independence, that spirit of adventure seems to have disappeared and we are left with a great deal of cynicism, negativism, defeatism and despair. This is something that we simply cannot afford, because if the Indian experiment fails, then the whole democratic experiment through the world fails and the human race will be infinitely poorer.
We are living in a unique period in human history. Never before has so much change taken place as it has in our life-time, and upon what we do today may well depend the entire future of the human race. Let us, therefore, work towards expanding the horizons of human consciousness; let us rededicate ourselves to serving India, to building the new world of our dreams so that with the seer of Upanishads, we can say:
Vedhametam Purusham Mah-antam Adityavarnam
Tamasaparastat Tamaiva Viditwatt-Mrityumeti,
Nanyaha Panthaha Vidyateyawaya.
"I know that great Being, shining in splendour like the sun beyond the darkness. Only by knowing him can one transcend death; there is no other way."
One Man's World
Although eastern civilisations go back far before the birth of Christ, the year 2000 AD has achieved a special significance in view of the predominance of this calendar for many centuries. Therefore, the dawn of the new millennium is an appropriate moment to rededicate ourselves to the creation of a sane and harmonious global society. Human civilisation cannot much longer survive the blatant exploitation by one set of human beings of another, and the collective despoliation of Mother Earth that has nurtured human life and consciousness from the slime of the primeval ocean to where we stand today.
The emergence of the global society, impelled by science and technology, demands a new, holistic paradigm that stresses convergence in place of conflict, complementarity in place of competition, and compassion in place of cruelty, and a global ethic that would link the deepest insights of science and Religion. Without such a new structure of thought and action, the future of human civilisation on this planet itself can be in real danger. The symbolism of the Titanic is chillingly appropriate; glittering with the latest technology and the cream of society, it came up against the forces of nature and sank below the waves. Indeed, a much earlier myth of Atlantis tells the same story of a great and magnificent civilisation that one night sank below the waves unable to survive its own technological ingenuity.
Whether this happens again will depend upon the way present generations respond to the unprecedented challenges that we face as we hurtle into the 21st century. The process of globalisation has become a reality in many spheres, specially in space technology and instant communications. But, unfortunately, people's minds are still largely imprisoned within pre-global concepts and approaches. This gap between the emergence of a global society on the one hand, and the non-emergence of a global consciousness on the other is fraught with grave danger. Let us briefly look at three main areas to which we need to pay special attention - religion, environment and education.
Religion has been one of the great civilising forces in human history, but also unfortunately the source of much conflict that continues to the present day. The great religions of the world must make a major contribution in the evolution of global consciousness because they still influence billions of human beings. Instead of asserting their individual superiority, they must realise that the immeasurable brilliance of the divine cannot be imprisoned within any one creed or doctrine. The golden thread of spiritual realisation that weaves together all the great religious traditions of the world needs to be strengthened so that, as we enter the new millennium, we can shed the baggage of fanaticism, fundamentalism and bigotry that so cruelly distorted the 20th century, and move on to a new dimension of an integrated human being living in a harmonious global society. This has still not happened, and the interfaith movement remains peripheral despite many promising initiatives around the world.
Burden upon Planet
As far as the embattled and endangered environment of Planet Earth is concerned, we have already inflicted irreversible damage upon it over the last century. Deforestation continues apace, thousands of species have become extinct and many more follow every year. Vast areas have been desertified, and unprecedented forest fires have created havoc around the world. Global warming is now becoming a reality and is progressing much faster than had been predicted. In our hyper-consumerist society we have been unable to lay down limits to growth, as a result of which the attrition continues at an exponential rate. The population of the world, particularly in the developing nations which can least afford the burden, continues to grow exponentially, thus placing an ever increasing burden upon the planet.
In the light of these grim realities, the movement towards more sustainable lifestyles is yet to gather momentum. The developed nations which own 90 per cent of the world's resources, continue with their extravagant lifestyles little realising that the tide of poverty and deprivation could one day sweep across the world and threaten their own societies. Environmental values, reduction of harmful emissions, regeneration of devastated eco-sites, and an alert and committed public opinion are absolutely necessary to stop the spiralling descent into disaster.
The third factor, common to the first two, involves education, not only in the formal sense but in the broader context of bringing about a paradigm change in the mindset of the people all over the world. The awesome power of television and the internet are tragically all too often used to promote the cult of violence and horror, hedonism and promiscuity rather than to inculcate the message of harmony, inter-religious dialogue and environmental values. Countless billions of dollars every year go into the making of feature and television films which revel in mindless violence and horror, thus polluting and distorting the consciousness of the younger generations. Can something not be done to counteract this brazen exploitation of a powerful communications tool? At present, despite such positive developments as the Report of the UNESCO International Commission on Education for the 21st century, there has been little real effort to structure a globally oriented system of creative thought. This is an area to which the World Commission on Global Thought and Spirituality must pay urgent and effective attention.
Ultimately, the Harmony we seek lies in the deepest recesses of our consciousness. It is there that we must find the divine light, what the Bible calls the light that lighteth every man that cometh into this earth; the Roohani Noor of the Sufis, the Ek Onkar of the Sikh Gurus, the Light of the Atman of the Vedanta. In the darkness and confusion that surrounds us, it is this light alone that can give us the courage, the wisdom and the compassion to move onwards astride the irreversible arrow of time, into the future that awaits us.One Man's World
Man is essentially a social animal, and this postulates the necessity for dynamic leadership if mankind is to move, ahead - in the Bhagavad Gita the importance of leadership is clearly enunciated:
Yadyad aacharati sreshthah tattadevetaro ianah Sa yat pramaanam Kurute Lokastadanuvartate
"Always will people imitate a leader, following the example set by his action". Plato's Republic is basically an attempt to ensure for society continued leadership of high calibre, and such examples can be multiplied from the classic literature of all lands. Today, poised precariously as mankind is between the prospect of incredible progress and the danger of utter annihilation, this question of leadership assumes added significance. With the world rapidly being knit closer together by science and technology, the effects of inadequate leadership in any one country can spread over vast areas, threatening a global conflagration. The importance of correct leadership is therefore more crucial in this nuclear age than it ever was before.
We are at present engaged in the exciting task of building a new and dynamic India. After centuries of servitude we have at last come into our own as a great unified nation stretching thousands of miles from Kashmir in the north down to Kanya Kumari in the south, and an almost equal distance from Gujarat in the west to Assam in the east. Having achieved political freedom, we are now engaged in the quest for economic betterment and social emancipation without which freedom remains merely an empty shell.
In this process of nation-building we come up against numerous difficulties. It is not easy to shake off the dead weight of centuries and surge forward into the nuclear age. Problems of emancipation, political integration and social or economic development are grave and forbidding, and if we are to deal with them successfully we require leadership endowed with courage, competence and imagination.
Indeed a nation's strength depends to a considerable extent on its leadership, not merely in politics but in all fields of national life including commerce and industry, agriculture and administration. In all these spheres we need men and women with modern minds and a fresh vision, who can cut through the cobwebs of doubt and inefficiency that surround us and take the nation rapidly forward towards the goals of justice, equality, liberty and fraternity so eloquently affirmed in our Constitution. Political leadership, of course, is crucially important, particularly in a democracy where Government is by the consent of the people and for their benefit. It has been said that democracy is more difficult to live with than tyranny, because it requires of its citizens a constant series of decisions whereas authoritarian regimes impose all decisions from above. It is equally true that a democracy is more difficult to lead than a dictatorship, because its leadership must constantly be responsive to the needs and aspirations of vast masses of people, to whom it must render a regular account and from whom it is periodically required to obtain a fresh mandate.
A democracy such as ours requires a broad spectrum of political leadership, covering not only the many thousand panchayats that exist in this country but also numerous other levels of public participation in Government as well as party functioning. With the massive widening of our political base as the result of universal adult franchise the problem arises of ensuring a high standard of political leadership. A democracy can only flourish if all those connected with representative institutions maintain at least a basic minimum standard of parliamentary decorum. Recent incidents in several of our State legislatures lead us wonder as to whether this basic presumption still holds good. If it does not, then our whole fabric of democracy and its institutions are in danger of being destroyed. Democracy seems to be on the wane in Asia and Africa, and there no room for complacency whatsoever. This makes the necessity for adequate political leadership even more important, and I would like to share with you some ideas as to what are the qualities necessary for dynamic national leadership in a democratic nation like ours.
It would seem to me that the first prerequisite for a leader is to have what I can only term a 'spiritual' commitment to democracy and public welfare. This essentially indefinable quality combines a dedication to the public good not merely on the intellectual and emotional planes but on a higher moral and spiritual level; a commitment to development of all that is best in our culture and heritage; and a special concern for the welfare of the backward and weaker sections of society. Without this quality, leadership is always in danger of degenerating into sheer opportunism and the quest for personal power, both of which are disastrous for democracy.
The second essential quality is the capacity to communicate, not only with colleagues and the immediate environment but in the broader context with our vast masses which are involved in the democratic process. In a country as large as ours, with an infinite variety of custom and tradition, language and culture, and an electorate still largely uneducated, this capacity is extremely important at a national level. A leader, though he should certainly have a strong political base in his own region, must be able to relate with a much broader segment of the nation not merely on the verbal plane but emotionally and intellectually. Without this his efficiency will be strictly limited.
Thirdly, it is essential that the leader should have the courage to subordinate lesser interests to the larger national good. With our broad federal structure it is all too easy to get involved in local issues, sometimes to the detriment of that larger national integration which is so essential if we are to develop into a truly great nation. A national leader must have the national perspective always in mind, and must weigh every decision and move against this background. This indeed is one of the important ways in which our much talked of national integration can be strengthened. It is true that we have emerged from the very grave crisis that confronted us last year with our unity unimpaired, even strengthened, but constant vigilance is essential and our national leadership must remain actively dedicated to further strengthening national unity.
Fourthly a leader must have the all-important capacity to take decisions. Decision-making is often an excruciatingly task, as it is seldom a question of a clear choice between right and wrong, good and evil. Rather it is careful weighing of various alternatives and a delicate assessment of the complex issues involved.
At some stage or the other, however, a clear-cut decision must be taken, even at the risk of incurring the hostility or displeasure of a section of public opinion. This capacity to take clear decisions is one of the essential functions of a leader. Too often do we allow a policy of drift and indefinite postponement to hamstring our thrust towards progress, and it has here proved time and again that in the long run such dilly-dallying results in much more trouble than it seeks to avoid.
Fifthly, and this is closely related to the process of decision-making, is the necessity to develop a clear scale of priorities regarding the various issues concerned with national development, particularly, economic progress. India lacks an important dimension which is of value in the task of providing dynamic leadership. We can make the best use of our limited means only if we have a clear picture as to the ends that which must receive priority, otherwise there is a danger of getting bogged down in a vast series of undertakings which fritter away resources without achieving any substantial result. While expert advice is extremely valuable in this context, it is ultimately the task of political leadership to lay down a coherent scale of priorities which is most suited to the national priorities at any given time.
Sixthly, a leader in the modem age should be aware of the mighty scientific revolution that is sweeping across the world and has begun increasingly to impinge upon our national development. We live in an age of science and technology in which there is an unprecedented increase in the tempo of change in almost all fields of human life and activity. It is the task of a leader to appreciate the importance of this factor and turn it wherever possible to our national advantage.
This is not to say that every leader should be a scientist, although an increase in scientist-politicians would no doubt be a welcome development. It means rather that a national leader must be aware of the broad implications of the scientific revolution that is transforming the world before our very eyes, and must unreservedly accept the importance of technology in our economic development.
Seventhly, a national leader should also have a lively awareness of the world beyond the frontiers of India. It is true that we are a great nation containing almost a sixth of the entire human race, but no nation, howsoever large can be an island unto itself and we have of necessity to function as part of a world order. Indeed one who knows only India lacks an important dimension which is of tremendous value in the task of providing dynamic leadership. This assumes special significance in the context of what I had referred to earlier, the dire destructive potential of modern science. Willy-nilly we are being driven to accept the concept of a world order if the future existence of mankind is to be ensured. The establishment of such an order however, necessitates enlightened leadership in the nations of the world, and we in India must necessarily play a leading role in this process.
Having outlined what I consider to be the more important qualities which should inform our national leadership requirements at any given time. I must mention the danger that always exists with regard to the misuse of power. Although we can take justifiable pride in having maintained the world's largest democracy intact since independence, there is no dearth of instances in which political power has been blatantly utilised for corrupt ends.
A number of institutional and procedural devices have been suggested - and several adopted - to root out corruption, but in the final analysis this can only be remedied when we develop a public morality which spurns the use of such means, for it remains true that a society gets the sort of Government that it deserves. Indeed if the qualities of leadership that I have referred to in fact become widely available, this itself to a considerable extent will be an insurance against corruption and misuse of power.
Finally, there is the question as to our leadership potential. Although the entire younger generation by very definition is a potential storehouse of leadership, I feel that our University youth provides the richest reservoir in the country. It is from number of university centres from which the future leaders of this country will be coming. I have had occasion to travel fairly extensively and to visit a number of University centres in the country. It is deeply encouraging to see that despite the economic and other difficulties which these young men and women have to face they are full of energy and idealism. The real question is whether we have the ability to tap this reservoir, to fan the sparks of youthful idealism into bright flames that would illumine the future of India - the India of our dreams for the building of which countless generations have struggled and sacrificed; an India socially emancipated, economically prosperous, politically integrated, militarily strong and spiritually dynamic.
Section IV Contemporary Essays
TRANSITION TO GLOBAL SOCIETY
Moments come, which come but rarely in history, when quite perceptibly one age draws to a close and another dawns, when we stand poised between a collapsing past and an indeterminate future, when established landmarks disappear one by one, and we seem to be adrift on a boundless ocean stretching in all directions towards the horizon, when, in essence, to survive we need not merely a linear progression but a quantum jump in consciousness, not merely a reformulation of established concept but a paradigm shift in perception.Humanity has, in fact, reached just such a crossroads. It has been through many transitions in its long and tortuous history on this planet, but this time we are involved in what will surely be the most crucial and difficult of all the transitions we have encountered so far, the transition to a global society. The indications are now quite clear, although we may be too close to the event to grasp its immensity. Impelled by the explosion in science and technology over the last fifty years, all aspects of life on planet earth are undergoing a process of globalisation , as even a brief survey of some of the more tangible manifestations of this phenomenon will show.Thomas Mann once said that in this age man's destiny leads him back to politics. Political activity is one of the most visible aspects of public life, and the current Westphalian model of the nation-state has dominated human history for the last few centuries. However, the nation-state itself now is being eroded by two contradictory forces. On the one hand nationalism in being transcended, the most dramatic example being the movement towards the European community. It is nothing short of astonishing that European nations which were at each others throats for centuries, and whose rivalries plunged the world repeatedly into wars of unsurpassed ferocity, should now have been able to overcome their age-old animosities and, despite continuing reservations, have been impelled by the sheer logic of economic survival to move towards a single economic and, ultimately, political entity.Other regional groupings are also slowly moving in the same direction, and perhaps SAARC will ultimately follow suit. It is thus possible to visualize the present chaotic situation of almost two hundred nation-states moving steadily over the next few decades towards ten or twelve regional groupings. Perhaps it is a further integration between these regions that, before the end of the next century, could finally result in what Tennyson so eloquently described as "The Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World" and fulfill Sri Aurobindo's vision when he wrote on 15 August 1947 that "a new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race".
The second force eroding the nation state, or rather the artificial construct established by Marxist-Leninist dictatorship in Easter and Central Europe, is the resurrection of ethnic and religious identities. The astounding implosion of the erstwhile Soviet Union has been an event of prime significance, because it shattered an artificial entity whose presence was distorting the inevitable transition to a global society by the negative polarization of the Cold War. As long as that lasted, the evolution of society stood frozen, as it were, and the forces of political growth remained in abeyance. It is a tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev that he was able to release tremendous democratizing forces, an act which, even if it ultimately cost him his Presidency, has assured for him an undying place in the annals of the human race. In fact the end of communism marks the beginning of post-modem history, not the end of it as some have asserted.
The explosion of Yugoslavia, a much smaller but far bloodier event, has also proved that if genuine nation states are themselves in the process of crisis, artificial ones can certainly no longer expect to survive. Way back in 1967 I happened to travel around India with President Tito In the course of a conversation I asked him whether he didn't think that the constitution of Yugoslavia was too federal, and expressed the doubt that after his passing the country may break up. Pat came his answer - "If, after me, the republic decide to break, let them break." So even the maker of modem Yugoslavia was aware that the experiment could well turn out to be of a limited duration, although he could not have foreseen how violent the break up would be.However, the collapse of communism leading to the break up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia does not, in the final analysis, contradict the globalisation thesis. Clearly what is happening is that the national entities so long subsumed under the Communist rubric need a period of freedom before they can start the process of transcendence. Communism, therefore, will at best have been able to delay the process of globalisation but will not, in the longer view, have been able to reverse it.If politics is in the process of globalisation, economic activity has for a long time transcended national boundaries. Economic and financial decisions now impinge upon the human race on a global basis. In particular, the rise of transnational corporations had introduced a powerful new element of globalisation which will increasingly erode national barriers. Economic compulsion has brought together the countries of Western Europe, and this factor will inevitably operate in other regions of the planet also. After the seemingly endless "Uruguay Round", a GATT agreement finally emerged, and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are triumphantly propagating what Reagan once called "the magic of the marketplace". Whether the magic turns out to be white or black depends, of course, on the nature of the economy involved, but for purposes of our present argument it is obvious that national boundaries are getting less and less important in the world economic context, and that this constitutes a powerful thrust towards the emerging global society.Environmental problems are by definition global. The historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 highlighted this fact. Whereas the Stockholm Conference twenty years earlier was attended by only two heads of Government - the host Olaf Palme and our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi - the intervening twenty years brought home quite clearly that there are simply no partial solutions to such problems as global warming and attenuation of the ozone layer, river and ocean pollution, C02 emissions and biological diversity, deforestation and desertification. These reasons impelled over a hundred heads of State and Government to attend the Rio Summit. The growing awareness of the global nature of environmental problems and solutions is in fact one of the most tangible indications of the rapid emergence of a global society.
Moments come, which come but rarely in history, when quite perceptibly one age draws to a close and another dawns, when we stand poised between a collapsing past and an indeterminate future, when established landmarks disappear one by one, and we seem to be adrift on a boundless ocean stretching in all directions towards the horizon, when, in essence, to survive we need not merely a linear progression but a quantum jump in consciousness, not merely a reformulation of established concept but a paradigm shift in perception.Humanity has, in fact, reached just such a crossroads. It has been through many transitions in its long and tortuous history on this planet, but this time we are involved in what will surely be the most crucial and difficult of all the transitions we have encountered so far, the transition to a global society. The indications are now quite clear, although we may be too close to the event to grasp its immensity. Impelled by the explosion in science and technology over the last fifty years, all aspects of life on planet earth are undergoing a process of globalisation, as even a brief survey of some of the more tangible manifestations of this phenomenon will show.Thomas Mann once said that in this age man's destiny leads him back to politics. Political activity is one of the most visible aspects of public life, and the current Westphalian model of the nation-state has dominated human history for the last few centuries. However, the nation-state itself now is being eroded by two contradictory forces.
On the one hand nationalism in being transcended, the most dramatic example being the movement towards the European community. It is nothing short of astonishing that European nations which were at each others throats for centuries, and whose rivalries plunged the world repeatedly into wars of unsurpassed ferocity, should now have been able to overcome their age-old animosities and, despite continuing reservations, have been impelled by the sheer logic of economic survival to move towards a single economic and, ultimately, political entity.
Other regional groupings are also slowly moving in the same direction, and perhaps SAARC will ultimately follow suit. It is thus possible to visualize the present chaotic situation of almost two hundred nation-states moving steadily over the next few decades towards ten or twelve regional groupings. Perhaps it is a further integration between these regions that, before the end of the next century, could finally result in what Tennyson so eloquently described as "The Parliament of Man, the Federation of the World" and fulfill Sri Aurobindo's vision when he wrote on 15 August 1947 that "a new spirit of oneness will take hold of the human race".
The second force eroding the nation-state, or rather the artificial construct established by Marxist-Leninist dictatorship in Eastern and Central Europe, is the resurrection of ethnic and religious identities. The astounding implosion of the erstwhile Soviet Union has been an event of prime significance, because it shattered an artificial entity whose presence was distorting the inevitable transition to a global society by the negative polarization of the Cold War. As long as that lasted, the evolution of society stood frozen, as it were, and the forces of political growth remained in abeyance.
It is a tribute to Mikhail Gorbachev that he was able to release tremendous democratizing forces, an act which, even if it ultimately cost him his Presidency, has assured for him an undying place in the annals of the human race. In fact the end of communism marks the beginning of post-modern history, not the end of it as some have asserted.
The explosion of Yugoslavia, a much smaller but far bloodier event, has also proved that if genuine nation states are themselves in the process of crisis, artificial ones can certainly no longer expect to survive. Way back in 1967 I happened to travel around India with President Tito. In the course of a conversation I asked him whether he didn't think that the constitution of Yugoslavia was too federal, and expressed the doubt that after his passing the country may break up. Pat came his answer - "If, after me, the republic decide to break, let them break." So even the maker of modern Yugoslavia was aware that the experiment could well turn out to be of a limited duration, although he could not have foreseen how violent the break up would be.
However, the collapse of communism leading to the break up of the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia does not, in the final analysis, contradict the globalisation thesis. Clearly what is happening is that the national entities so long subsumed under the Communist rubric need a period of freedom before they can start the process of transcendence. Communism, therefore, will at best have been able to delay the process of globalisation but will not, in the longer view, have been able to reverse it.
If politics is in the process of globalisation, economic activity has for a long time transcended national boundaries. Economic and financial decisions now impinge upon the human race on a global basis. In particular, the rise of transnational corporations had introduced a powerful new element of globalisation which will increasingly erode national barriers. Economic compulsion has brought together the countries of Western Europe, and this factor will inevitably operate in other regions of the planet also. After the seemingly endless "Uruguay Round", a GATT agreement finally emerged, and the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund are triumphantly propagating what Reagan once called "the magic of the marketplace". Whether the magic turns out to be white or black depends, of course, on the nature of the economy involved, but for purposes of our present argument it is obvious that national boundaries are getting less and less important in the world economic context, and that this constitutes a powerful thrust towards the emerging global society.
Environmental problems are by definition global. The historic United Nations Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 highlighted this fact. Whereas the Stockholm Conference twenty years earlier was attended by only two heads of Government - the host Olaf Palme and our Prime Minister Indira Gandhi - the intervening twenty years brought home quite clearly that there are simply no partial solutions to such problems as global warming and attenuation of the ozone layer, river and ocean pollution, C02 emissions and biological diversity, deforestation and desertification.
These reasons impelled over a hundred heads of State and Government to attend the Rio Summit. The growing awareness of the global nature of environmental problems and solutions is in fact one of the most tangible indications of the rapid emergence of a global society.
The green movements and environmental activists throughout the world are in some ways pioneers of this new consciousness. From being regarded as far-out, fringe movements even a couple of decades ago, they have moved into centre stage, and governments throughout the world are obliged to take cognizance of their views. Indeed the whole concept of the planet as a living entity, the mother that has nurtured consciousness up from the slime of the primeval ocean to where it is today - GAIA in the Greek tradition, Bhavani Vasundhara in the Hindu - has become a powerful factor in the phenomenon of globalisation that is now gathering momentum. That most beautiful photograph ever taken, the one of planet Earth from outer space, stands as a glowing symbol of global awareness. It is as if we have seen our face in a mirror for the first time, for this shows our planet as it really is, a tiny speck of light and life against the unending vastnesses of outer space, so beautiful and yet so fragile.
Of all the factors impelling the movement into a global society, perhaps the most powerful is the multiple revolution in communications, triggered by space exploration and the development of satellite technology. When Yuri Gagarin first broke the space barrier, and Neil Armstrong first set foot on the moon, they were charting an entirely new course for human history.
The sheer scientific and technological feats involved were staggering enough. That a creature on this planet could make the transition from cave to space station - so dramatically portrayed in Stanley Kubric's mind-bending film 2001: A Space Odyssey - in less than a hundred thousand years in astonishing. But the long range implications are likely to be truly momentous.
Apart from other applications, the major impact of space or satellite exploration has been in the field of communications, radio and, more dramatically, television. The recent development of cable networks has virtually transformed human consciousness in large parts of the world, as it enables million of human beings scattered throughout the globe to witness programmes and events simultaneously. This global concentration of consciousness is unprecedented, and its impact still impossible to assess.
The cultural impact of television is also substantial. For the first time in human history a world language has emerged - English - which is a pre-requisite for a global civilization. This is not to say that English will replace other languages, but simply that it is rapidly becoming the link language for linguistic and national groups around the world. Rock music has, likewise, emerged as the first truly global music. Young people dance to the same beat whether in New York or New Delhi, Bombay or Beijing, Reykjavik or Rio de Janeiro. Similarly jeans are becoming a sort of global uniform for young people, and the cola drinks a global refreshment.
These examples do not imply a value judgement. Many will continue to prefer Beethoven to the Beatles, champagne to Coca Cola. But the point is that the mass impact of the popular brands, whether in music or refreshment, is rapidly assuming global dimensions, thus building the foundations for a global society.
Another factor that has made a tremendous impact on eroding national and linguistic barriers is the phenomenon of jet-age tourism. The world's largest industry in terms of annual turnover - larger even than petroleum or armaments - tourism now involves millions of people every year who leave the confines of their countries. Made possible by the development of jet airliner - itself a miracle of engineering technology - this massive tourist traffic is bringing people from different races and religions, linguistic and national groups together in an unprecedented manner. During a recent visit to the Great Wall of China, for instance, we encountered people drawn from at least a dozen countries and speaking a veritable babble of tongues, and visitors to the Taj Mahal or the Statue of Liberty are sure to have a similar experience. These tourists crisscrossing the globe are, as it were, spinning the warp and waft of the new garment of global consciousness that is steadily enveloping this planet.
All this adds up to an unprecedented and irreversible process which, for better or for worse, is inexorably influencing the people inhabiting this planet. Comfortable assumptions are being widely shaken, and we find ourselves hit by a typhoon of change which is pushing us willy-nilly into a global civilisation. While there have been many transitions in the long vistas of human history, the one to the global society has a major difference with earlier ones which makes it unique, and this relates to the time-scale involved.
Previously many generations would elapse in the course of the transition, but this time round, time itself has telescoped, as a result of which the phenomenon which Alvin Toffler first termed "future shock" has become widespread. It is an amazing fact that almost all the seminal changes that are transforming our planet have taken place over the last fifty years, that is within the living memory of at least two generations of human beings still alive on the planet.
Whether it is atomic power or jet aviation, television or computerization, robotics or organ transplants, satellite technology or space travel, genetic engineering or cybernetics, these and many more revolutionary developments took place in our own lifetimes. So rapid has been the pace of change that vast numbers of people seem to be numbed and disoriented. On the one hand the global society with all its myriad implications is rapidly emerging, while on the other the mindset of millions is still frozen in pre-global attitudes. It is this time-lag that is largely responsible for the curiously ambivalent state of the world today, in which contradictory movements and forces seem to be arising simultaneously in startling juxtaposition.
It is clear that not all the implications of globalisation are positive. The very act of globalisation magnifies the original phenomenon which, if malign, assumes even more menacing dimensions. With terrorism having attained global dimensions, the real nightmare now lies in the possibility of a terrorist group getting hold of a nuclear weapon and using it for their malign purposes. The narcotics trade has now become so menacing that it threatens the very stability of societies and, in at least two countries, the very existence of the State itself.
The multi-billion dollar drug trade, with the tremendous increase in addiction and drug-related crime, represents a malign underworld which is the dark shadow thrown by the glitter and glamour of Western civilisation. And the processes of its globalisation are inexorably widening its tentacles or encompass more and more societies in the developing world.The growth of violence, individual and collective, also has a global dimension. With all its amazing potential, television often becomes the vehicle for the most bloodcurdling violence and horror that now enters tens of million of living rooms around the world. The level of violence that many of the films shown on television contain, not to speak of a masochistic approach to evil, demoniac possession, horror and other such distortions of human consciousness, is posing a grave threat to balance and sanity of people throughout the world. What long range effect such films have on impressionable young minds can hardly be fathomed, but quite clearly this is a significant negative impact of the global revolution.The AIDS pandemic has, in ten years, assumed truly alarming proportions, and has exploded on all continents cutting across barriers of nationality and religion, sex and sexual preference. If current forecasts are to be believed, by the end of the century tens of millions of human beings on this planet will be infected by the HIV virus, and millions will die from it every year, In some African countries it is feared that as much as one third of their populations could be wiped out, thus crippling their productive capacity and giving a major setback to their plans for economic development.
The sheer human pain, physical and emotional, caused by AIDS is a truly tragic global burden. Sexual mores have changed greatly over the last few decades, but more than any particular form of sexual activity what has become so glaring now is the general level of promiscuity that pervades much of Western society. And this, through the process of globalisation, is now spreading throughout the world as videos have brought pornography into every home. Certainly there was the celebrated Kamasutra in India, but the activities were surely meant to be carried out in privacy rather than through the universal nudity of the television screen.
So while globalism has many positive aspects and is an irreversible process, it also has its menacing, darker side which we would do well to keep in mind, because unless we are able to develop a positive consciousness that can overcome this negativity, the whole transition could turn out to be abortive and, ultimately, self-destructive. Indeed, carrying further the analogy of transition and metamorphosis, one can liken the present global scenario to the time when a caterpillar enters the chrysalis before it becomes a butterfly. The experience could not be a pleasant one; there must be a terrible sense of constriction and crisis. But if it succeeds in undergoing that painful process, an ugly, earthbound worm is transformed into a beautiful, multi-coloured butterfly that can fly through the air rather than crawl on the leaf. Hopefully, that is what could happen to human consciousness provided we are able to make the transition to globalism safely.
The major question facing us, therefore, as we hurtle towards the end of this most violent and gory century in human history, is how to develop a consciousness that could sustain the emerging global society. What we need is a global 'dharma', a paradigm of thought that would stress co-operation in place of competition. convergence in place of conflict, holism in place of hedonism. For this we can turn to the great spiritual traditions of humanity, and I would like to explore briefly with you some of the universal concepts of the Vedanta, surely one of the high watermarks of world philosophy.
Let me place before you five seminal concepts from the Upanishads which, taken together, could provide an alternative holistic paradigm of thought as against the fractured and fragmented nature of our present perceptions. These begin with the most fundamental one, the all pervasiveness of the divine - Isha vasyamidam sarvam yat - tells us that this entire cosmos, not merely this tiny speck of dust that we call planet earth but the billions upon billions of galaxies in the borderless universe around us, Anantakoti brahmanda as the texts say, are all permeated by the divine. Wherever there is manifestation, it is illuminated by the divine, and this in a way represents the philosophical correlate of the Unified Field Theory that the scientists are looking for, a single theory that would explain all phenomenon.
The second concept flowing from this is that if the divine is all pervasive, then it is also seated in the heart of each individual - Ishwarah sarva bhootanam hriddeshe tishthati. In each one of us dwells the divine, concealed but discoverable. This concept immediately gives a dignity to each human being whose consciousness embodies a spark of the divine. The Upanishads have a marvelous phrase for human race, Amritasya putrah, children of immortality. We are not just chance products, automata or puppets pushed around by fate who have nothing to say in their own destiny, but children of immortality. This concept is in some ways the basis for democracy, because that is the only form of political organization in which, at least in theory, every individual is recognized and honoured because of his individuality. And this cuts across all barriers of caste or creed, sex or religion, economic status or nationality. Vedanta has never postulated either chosen race or a chosen people, a chosen sex or a chosen nation. It deals with the entire gamut of the human race, and places before us this great principle of the divinity that is inherent in each individual.
The third concept is that, if the divinity is inherent in each person, then despite all the conflicts and the terrible happenings in humanity since the dawn of history, in essence the human race is an extended family. On the first gate to our Parliament. House there is inscribed a beautiful mantra:
ayam nijah paroveti gananam laghuchetasam
udar charitanamtu vasudhaiva kutumbakam
"This is mine, that is yours, is a small and restricted way of looking at reality. For those of the higher consciousness, the world is a family". Those two words Vasudhaiva kutumbakam have got to become the motto of the new global society that is emerging. Thousands of years ago when it was not possible to move more than a few miles a day on foot, the seers of the Upanishads had this vision of the essential unity of the human race, of humanity as a family, which must inform any viable global society. The fourth Vedantic concept which I would recall is that of the essential unity of all religions. The oft quoted lines from the Rigveda, Ekam sadvipra bahudha vadanti - 'The truth is one the wise call it by many names', or the Mundaka verse:
Yatha nadyah syandamanah samudre
astam gachhanti namarupe vihaya
Tatha vidwan namarupad vimuktah
parat param purushamupaiti divyam
'As rivers and streams arise from different parts of the world but finally flow into the same ocean, so do all the creeds and religions of humanity arise differently, but ultimately must reach the same goal'. Hinduism was born in the snowy mountains of the Himalayas, Islam in the burning desert sands of Saudi Arabia. Other religions have been born at different places in different times in human history, in different economic, social and political circumstances. But if there is a divinity it cannot in the ultimate analysis be different for people who happen to be born in different religious traditions.
Surely the limitless effulgence of the divine can appear in a thousand ways. Is it not the height of hubris, ahamkara, for creatures like us, denizens of a tiny planet, to say that the divine can only manifest at this time and in this way. Certainly each revelation, each appearance, is valid in its own right. There is no attempt to denigrate any particular form, but clearly there are many paths to the divine, and while the great religions traditions of the world represent powerful revelations and inspirations, there can be no monopoly of spiritual truth. So if the divinity inherent in each human being is the basis of democracy, then the essential unity of all religions is the basis of religious pluralism and the worldwide Interfaith movement.
What is common in all religions is the capacity to move the individual towards the divine. And as long as that is there, it does not really matter which religion you follow. The Vedanta does not seek to replace the religious traditions that exist, it offers a whole new paradigm of looking at the multiple religious traditions of the world. Every religion must continue in its own way, must have its individuality, but what Vedanta tells us is that all these religions must be honoured and respected as methodologies towards divine realization and not as mutually hostile phenomena. And if that can be achieved it will go a long way towards building a harmonious global society.
The fifth concept of the Vedanta is that of the welfare of the many, the happiness of the many -Bahujana sukhaya bahujana hitayacha. There is an erroneous view that the Vedanta is basically a selfish philosophy interested only in individual salvation, and does not pay adequate attention to poverty, to disease, to the problems of the real world around us.
This is not true. The Rigveda tells us that our goal in life is two fold - Atmano mokshartham jagat hitayacha - liberation of our souls, and also the welfare of the world. Swami Vivekananda constantly stressed this point, the service of what he called daridra narayana, my god in the poor, and said that when you help somebody who is needy you should not expect gratitude but rather thank him because he has given you an opportunity to help. And he added that it was an insult to teach religion to somebody who was starving. So the social conscience is not absent in the Vedanta; in fact it is at the heart of the Vedanta because it flows from the theory that all human belongs are permeated by the divine and, therefore, by serving fellow human beings you are fact serving the divine.
These five concepts taken together are of universal import. I am sure similar ideas can be gleaned from other great religious traditions, but the clarity with which they have been enunciated in the Vedanta is startling in its contemporary significance and provides an excellent dharma for the new millenium.
These years have enabled me to extend the sphere of my activity in the country and abroad, so that while I remain proud to be a citizen of the world's largest democracy, I also look upon myself as a global citizen and feel at home wherever I happen to be. Perhaps it is this feeling which must become the bedrock of the emerging global society.
Chapter 11 India and the World
BRING IN GLOBL ETHICS
The Hindustan Times, Sunday September 13, 1998
At this critical juncture in the tortuous history of the human race on Planet Earth we are now involved in the most significant and comprehensive of the many transitions that have taken place in human civilisation, the transition to a global society. Powered by science and technology, all aspects of life on the planet have been transformed beyond recognition in our own lifetimes. Many of the scientific achievements, have been of inestimable value to the human race. On the other hand, the destructive power of scientific activity has also come dramatically to the fore, specially the capacity for thermonuclear weapons of unprecedented lethality. Another threat is the increasing level of environmental pollution and global warming caused by our hyper-consumerist society.
The same curious dichotomy is also found in the field of religion. Along with science, religion represents one of the great achievements of the human race. Much that is noble and abiding in human civilisation can be traced back to the great religions of the world - sacred and devotional literature, moral codes and spiritual disciplines, art and architecture, painting and sculpture, dance and music. However, it is a cruel irony that over the last many centuries more people have been massacred and tortured, persecuted and pulverised in the name of religion than in any other name. Despite that the immeasurable brilliance of the divine cannot be imprisoned within any one creed or doctrine, and the increasing possibility that there could be millions of other worlds that have nurtured consciousness in our universe, the persistence of fanaticism and fundamentalist approaches is causing unprecedented turbulence in human society.
The ancient wisdom of "many paths to the divine" has been largely replaced either by a narrow exclusivity or by a rejection of religion itself.
Thus both religion and science have had a mixed record in the past. But as we move into the third millennium AD, we can no longer afford the luxury of this ambivalent approach. In the new context, disruptive science or fanatic religion can wreck havoc which will not be confined to any one part of the world but assume global dimensions. The real challenge before philosophers today, therefore, is to construct a new paradigm to evolve a global ethic that enables the human race to navigate safely through the hazards that it faces and move beyond them into a harmonious global society. This involves creative thinking outside the rigid schools and institutions of the past, drawing whatever is best from the cultural heritage of humanity but reaching out boldly to new concepts and formulations. As the World Scientists Warning to Humanity stated in 1993, "A great change in our stewardship of the earth and the life on it is required if human misery is to be avoided and our global home on this planet is not to be irretrievably mutilated A new ethic is required."
There have been several notable efforts of late to structure and articulate such a global ethic. An Interfaith gathering organised by the Worldwide Fund for Nature at the great Cathedral of St Francis in Assisi in 1986 represented a unique attempt on behalf of five world religions to craft declarations regarding Man and Nature. Later other world religions also joined in the exercise and taken together the Assisi Declarations are an excellent approach to one of the most pressing and urgent problems facing the human race today.
The post-Rio experience has been disappointing, and ecological values will need to become central to any new philosophical formulation for the global society. Another important aspect of a global ethic is the relationship between human beings inter se. Here again the important Parliament of World's Religions held in Chicago in 1993 came up with a declaration entitled Towards a Global Ethic which is an excellent document dealing concisely but effectively with the whole gamut of problems faced by the human race. Its keynote is the realisation that without a new global ethic there can be no new global order and that the long-standing rivalry between various religions must be transcended in a creative Interfaith dialogue that stresses their spiritual unity rather than their doctrinal differences.
The whole dimension of education in fact is vital for the development of an effective ethical structure. We have to promote an educational paradigm that harmonises the insights of science and religion in a new global ethic. While it is obviously not possible for us to restructure the educational curricula of 200 and odd nations, an important attempt was made in the Report of the UNESCO International Commission on Education for the 21 Century, entitled Learning -- The Treasure Within published in 1996, a document of abiding importance for educationists and philosophers around the world. Presented below are encapsulated universal concepts that, as I see it must form the basis of a global ethic that the planet we inhabit and of which we are all citizens Planet Earth is - a single, living, pulsating entity; that the human race in the final analysis is an interlocking, extended family Vasudhaiva kutumbakam - as the Veda has it; and that differences of race and religion, nationality and ideology, sex and sexual preference, economic and social status though significant in themselves must be viewed in the broader context of global unity; that the ecology of Planet Earth has to be preserved from mindless destruction and ruthless exploitation, and enriched for the welfare of generations yet unborn; and that there should be a more equitable consumption pattern based on limits to growth, not unbridled consumerism; that hatred and bigotry, fundamentalism and fanaticism, and greed and jealousy, whether among individuals, groups or nations, are corrosive emotions which must be overcome as we move into the next century; and that love and compassion, caring and charity, and friendship and cooperation are the elements that have to be encouraged as we transit into our new global awareness; that the world's great religions must no longer war against each other for supremacy but cooperate for the welfare of the human race, and that through a continuing and creative interfaith dialogue, the golden thread of spiritual aspiration that binds them together must be strengthened and a concerted drive is needed to eradicate the scourge of illiteracy worldwide by the year 2010, with special emphasis on promoting female literacy, particularly in the developing countries; that holistic education must acknowledge the multiple dimensions of the human personality physical, intellectual, aesthetic, emotional and spiritual - thus moving towards the dream of an integrated individual living on a harmonious planet.
Ultimately, the harmony we seek lies within the deepest recesses of our own consciousness. In the darkness and confusion that surrounds us, it is this inner light alone that can give us the courage, the wisdom and the compassion to move onwards, astride the irreversible arrow of the Time, into the future that awaits us.
PEACE A MULTI- DIMENSSIONAL QUEST
Chairman, office bearers and members of the Indian Philosophical Congress, distinguished thinkers and educationists, representatives of the media and friends -
Peace and harmony have been sought by humanity ever since the dawn of civilisation. And syet the whole of human history, from the very earliest times, is replete with wars and violent conflicts from the tribal right up to the international level. All religions preach peace, but in fact religion has been one of the major sources of violent conflict down through the centuries, and remains so even today. Science was supposed to help establish peace, but it has created increasingly deadly weapons of mass destruction, so that a single nuclear warhead now packs explosive power equal to one thousand of the bombs that obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki half a century ago. Communism, socialism, capitalism, democracy, have all claimed the desire to establish peace, but inevitably have all waged war.
These facts point to the disturbing conclusion that violence is perhaps built into the very texture of human consciousness. Despite the great peace-makers like Lord Mahavira, Lord Buddha, Jesus Christ, Emperor Ashoka, and in our own days, Mahatma Gandhi, there seems to be no appreciable decline in the human propensity towards violence. Indeed, this twentieth century has surpassed all records of violence, killing and maiming more human beings than in the last ten centuries put together. Arthur Koestler suggests that as a result of an engineering defect in the human cortex, man is a creature programmed for self-destruction, while the poet A. E. Housman ends a memorable poem with the following lines:
"The troubles of our proud and angry dust
Are from eternity and shall not fail
Bear them we can, and if we can, we must,
Shoulder the sky my lad, and drink your ale."
If Promethean defiance is all that we can do, then there is really little to add, and this whole conference will lose its raison d' etre. However, all the great traditions of the world tell us that there is, deep within our consciousness, a creative power that if invoked and honoured can bring about a transformation which may appear to be miraculous. The lives of saints and seers drawn from all the great religious traditions of the world bear this out, and though it may be unrealistic to expect such capacities in ordinary people, it does impel us to look deeper into this whole problem of peace in its varied dimensions. In this paper I have identified five dimensions of peace which need our consideration. I look upon these not so much as parallel lines, but as concentric circles, beginning and ending with the only two irreducible and indivisible units - the individual on the one end and Planet Earth that we inhabit on the other.
Let me start with the entity with which we are expected to be most familiar, ourselves. It is a common misconception that just because we are aware of our outer existence, we really know the depths of our own psyche. In the East it has been accepted for thousands of years that the outer personality is simply an ever-changing and temporary habitation for an inner, immortal spark - call it the soul, the Atman or whatever. In India there has developed over the last twenty centuries an entire science of introspection and inner development known by the generic term Yoga. This, of course, comes from the same route as the English word 'yoke', and is a vast and fundamental discipline designed to unite the divinity immanent and the divinity transcendent, of which the outer physical exercises known by that name in the West are merely a small part.
With the development of depth psychology in the West, particularly with C. G. Jung who must be ranked as one of the most creative thinkers of this century, modern psychology has also at last realized that our conscious minds are simply like the surface of an ocean, constantly buffeted by waves and typhoons, harbouring in its depths numerous creatures, friendly as well as deadly. Deep within, we are told by the spiritual and mystic traditions of humanity, there resides the divine spark which, under certain circumstances, can be fanned into the blazing fire of spiritual realization.
Unless we are able at least intellectually to comprehend this inner spiritual link that binds the whole human race into a single family, cutting across all barriers of nationality or religion, caste or creed, sex or social status, we will not be able to establish ourselves in the inner peace. What the Hindus call antarik shanti and the Christians "the peace that passeth all understanding" is, therefore, the first pre-requisite in our quest for peace and the ultimate. How we achieve this, whether through Jnana Yoga, the way of study and contemplation, Bhakti Yoga, the way of emotional outpouring towards a personalized manifestation of the divine; Karma Yoga, the way of dedicated works and good deeds; Raja Yoga,the way of internal spiritual practices, meditation and ecstatic enosis; or a combination of these various paths, will depend on the inner and outer configuration of each individual's life situation. But the point is that the effort has consciously to bc made; spiritual progress doesnot occur automatically without strenuous inner effort.
The second circle in which all of us move is the family, which is the most fundamental social grouping. Despite the widespread erosion of this institution, particularly in the West, it does remain the bedrock of society. If our family relationships are full of conflict and struggle, we are unlikely to be able to find inner peace or make any contribution towards establishing it in society. Family relationships have two basic dimensions, the husband-wife relationship and the parent-children relationship, in both of which tension and strife are becoming increasingly widespread.
An important point here revolves around the status of women. Particularly in developing societies, this status is still far from satisfactory, and women tend to be relegated to an inferior position, In the West, I sometimes get the impression that the pendulum has swung in opposite direction, perhaps to compensate for past injustices. What is needed is a harmonious balance between the two. In the Hindu tradition, we have the remarkable concept of the Ardhanarishwara, Lord Shiva as half male and half female. This creative fusion is ideally reflected on the social plane in the concept of the wife as ardhangini, equal sharer and partner in the adventure of life. Thus neither the traditional Eastern custom of the woman walking three paces behind her husband, nor the curious Western practice of their walking three paces ahead, is satisfactory. Walking side by side is symbolically the ideal arrangement.
With regard to the conflict between the generations, one reason that they are getting more pronounced is that so much more change now takes place within a generation that it did in earlier times, as a result of which the psychological gulf between children and their parents is steadily increasing. Here again, the interests of harmony are best served by steering a middle course between the parental domination of traditional societies and the virtual alienation of children in Western society. The basic point is that in our quest for peace we have got to begin with our immediate family, as that is the experimental workshop in which we can learn the virtues of understanding and love, compassion and co-ordination.
As we move beyond the family circle, we come to the third dimension in our quest for peace, which involves the wider society in which we live. There are many areas here including religious communities, caste groupings, linguistic groupings, professional association, political bodies and so on. Modern man necessarily interacts with a wide spectrum of such social groupings, and in each one of them we have to work towards a peaceful settlement of disputes and a creative interaction of different visions and opposing viewpoints. Each one of these areas can contribute to the growth of social cohesion, but can also be a source of acute conflict as we see from our own experience in India and other countries.
The rapid changes in technology have also brought about a major shift in social intercourse. Gone are the virtually self-sufficient villages, or the professional guilds of artisans and craftsmen bound together by their commitment to a common undertaking. Much of modern production tends to be impersonal, and the growth of industrial slums in great parts of the world represent a potent source of social tension and conflict. The malign underworld of drugs and drug-related violence, even in the great capitals of the affluent western world, represent a grave danger to the quest for social peace and harmony.
We come fourthly to that social structure which has played such a predominant role in human history over the last few centuries, the nation state. Although its claim to complete sovereignty has become increasingly untenable, the fact remains that the nation state is still the most powerful form of social organization in our present civilization. Here again, its record has been mixed. While on the one hand it has certainly led to great progress and cohesion, on the other it has resulted in endless conflicts between nations and between various ethnic, linguistic and political groups within nations.
Today we have on the one hand the extraordinary spectacle of nationalism being transcended in the development of the European community, which is a truly historic event in human history, where nations which were at war with each other for centuries and, what is more, due to their colonial dimensions kept the whole world in a state of turmoil, have at last overcome their animosities and are moving rapidly towards a common market, free travel, a common currency and perhaps a common Parliament. On the other hand, we simultaneously witnessed the disintegration first of the Soviet Empire, and then of Yugoslavia both of which broke up into their constituent ethnic units.
This dual process of the reassertion of subnationalism and the transcending of nationalism is one that is likely to continue well into the 21st century. There are many serious implications involved, but for our present purpose the point to be made is that the process involves a good deal of strife which may well affect our quest for peace. While the larger threat of the cold war erupting in a nuclear holocaust has receded, there is enough inflammable material and modern weaponry in Europe and Asia to keep the fires of conflict burning for several decades. Somehow the whole process has to be contained within a larger framework, whether of regional groupings like the European Community, ASLAN or the United Nations system itself.
This brings me to the fifth dimension that I wish to discuss in this paper. As I said earlier, in the final analysis it is the individual on the one hand and the entire planet on the other that constitute indivisible entities. The quest for world peace is now no longer merely a mystical vision or an idealist utopia. It has become a sheer necessity for the very survival of the human race. The growth of weapons technology has been so awesome that with nuclear weapons we can destroy not only the human race but all life on this planet. Even a non-nuclear conflict like the Gulf War caused massive casualties and appalling damage to the biosphere and environment of our planet. Therefore, it is imperative for us to find mechanisms for a peaceful resolution of disputes between nation states.
We live in an age of great conflict and turmoil, outer as well as inner. We have to develop a whole new symbology to help us in our journey towards peace, And that remarkable photograph of Planet Earth taken from outer space is, to my mind, a powerful and evocative symbol of the new consciousness. This is Mother Earth, Gaia in the Greek tradition, Bhavani Vasundhara in the Hindu, that has nurtured consciousness up from the slime of the primeval ocean to where it stands now. We have to rediscover the ancient myths relating to the earth which have been smothered under the din and hustle of modern civilization. For, as the late Joseph Campbell, one of the greatest scholars and mythologists of modern times, wrote - "Myth is the secret opening through which the inexhaustible energies of the cosmos pour into human cultural manifestation." These creative energies are essential if we are to structure a human civilization based on peace, not on war; on convergence, not on competition; on holism, not on hedonism.
Like the roads in Robert Frost's poem, or indeed in the Katha Upanishad, two paths now lie before us. One could lead through a concerted and multi-dimensional quest for peace towards a sane and equitable world civilization, in which the scarce resources of planet earth are used in such a way as to ensure the necessary material, intellectual and spiritual inputs for all human beings to live a decent civilized life. The other is the path of conflict and disharmony, which will inevitably result in the destruction of human civilization as we now know it.
I believe that now it is largely through human consciousness itself that the divine will is working out human destiny. At the end of the Gita, Lord Krishna tells Arjuna:
"... the divine Lord dwells in the hearts of all beings, motivating them with His divine power as if they were mounted on a machine. In Him alone seek refuge with all your being, all your love. By His grace you will attain supreme peace and the eternal abode."
This implies, firstly, that the entire cosmos is permeated by the divine, a fundamental tenet of Hinduism. Secondly, it means that the divine is both immanent, seated with the heart of all beings, and transcendent. Thirdly, the Gita teaches that it is through our dedicated work that we can worship that divine being and move towards perfection. Thus as Sri Aurobindo stressed so eloquently in his monumental works, what is needed at this stage of human destiny is neither a philosophy of total transcendence which would leave human beings essentially powerless, nor a philosophy of immanence alone which leaves the world at the mercy of the hostile powers. Rather, the contemporary discussion has to revolve around an integrated, holistic philosophy in which human existence is looked upon as a rare gift which must be utilized both for inner development and for the welfare of society and the world. This places upon us a tremendous responsibility, but also gives us the opportunity to explore spheres into which none of our forebears ever ventured. In this lies the unique privilege of our generation, particularly of those who claim the privilege of being thinkers and philosophers.
Let me close with one of the most ancient prayers for peace known to humanity, one that has echoed and re-echoed down the ancient corridors of time, and that is chanted in India today as it was thousands of years ago in the incomparable glory of the great Himalayas:
Peaceful be heaven,
Peaceful the earth,
Peaceful the broad space between.
Peaceful be for us the running waters,
Peaceful the plants and herbs!
Peaceful be all the devas,
Peaceful be the Brahman,
Peaceful be the entire universe,
May Peace and only peace prevail, And may that peace come unto me.
Aum Peace, Peace, Peace.
THE ROAD TO PEACE
The nuclear weaponization of India and Pakistan has brought about a qualitatively new situation on the subcontinent. While the technological achievements are indeed dazzling, the fact remains that now every major city in both countries is or could be under direct threat of nuclear annihilation. This is a prospect with which we, our children and grandchildren will have to continue to live for decades unless there is some overall settlement between our two countries.It is a cruel irony that the West, having lived under such a threat for 40 years after the end of World War II, was finally able to emerge from it a decade ago with the end of the cold war, while we in the East have now entered into the shadow of a possible nuclear disaster. It seems that neither the leaders nor the people of our two countries have really grasped the horrendous implications of a possible nuclear conflict. A re-reading of Jonathan Schell"s The Day After, gross understatement though it is, would be a salutary exercise, as would be the viewing pictures of the havoc wrought by the "primitive" bombs thrown on Japan in 1945.Of all the irresponsible statements made over the last few weeks on both sides, surely the most shocking was that of Prime Minister of Pakistan who openly advocated "a pre-emptive strike against India".Added to that is the stream of combative and provocative statements from Foreign Minister Gauhar Ayub Khan, the latest being that "If war breaks out, India would surrender within an hour or so because of the superiority of Pakistan's nuclear weaponry and its command and control system."
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