What do we as a people desire? To live in peace or to be perpetually at each other’s throats? To sink deeper into spiralling violence or to prepare ourselves and create opportunities of development that are badly needed at this critical juncture of the country
By Dr R Neerunjun Gopee
Mahatma Gandhi: ‘There is no way to peace. Peace is the way’
Mahatma Gandhi’s birth anniversary is an occasion for us to reflect on the message that his saying reproduced above conveys. To my mind, it is of particular relevance at this time, because the world is facing many ongoing threats of a violent nature, such as street protests with political upheavals in several countries, conflicts and military wars, trade wars, terrorism, ethnic cleansing and genocides among others. Along with these there has come climate change which scientists have said is a threat to the very survival of humanity.
“We have always talked here about ‘la fragilité du tissu social’ (fragile social fabric). However, we must not pretend as if this fragility comes out of a vacuum. Far from this being so, it is our actions at both the individual and the collective levels – in different forums: lay, professional, community, religious, cultural and so on — that add up to forge the notorious ‘tissu’. It is without doubt of our own making, and whether its integrity is maintained or it gets torn apart depends entirely upon all of us…”
As if all these were not enough, the Covid-19 pandemic has sprung upon us, with social, economic, cultural and political impacts that have thrown all peoples and countries off balance. These impacts are provoking a real struggle for the survival of the world as we know it through the disruptions that they are causing in all spheres of activity concerned with decent and comfortable living, affecting supply chains of food and other essentials such as medicines and health gear, trade, business and leisure activities and all the associated occupations and professions, as well as educational institutions and so on. Inevitably tensions are rising both within and in between countries as national authorities face the brunt of the burden of coping as well as the criticisms being levelled for perceived shortcomings, which make temperatures rise further – at a time when what is needed is cool and rational thinking, and a peaceful atmosphere that does not irritate frayed nerves any further.
Unfortunately, in the world as we know it, peace does not seem to be our default state, and so from as far as we can remember, being at peace has always been an uphill task. And unless we are at peace, we will always be wasting away our positive energies and the negative ones will predominate. Whether this takes place at country or at global level, the will for cooperation and collaboration to jointly solve the common problems we are facing weakens and threatens our existence even more.
We do not need to go farther than our own respective countries to realise this truth. A starting point to reflect on peace can be this extract from the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad-, a sacred Hindu text, as follows: ‘As a person acts, so he becomes in life. Those who do good become good; those who do harm become bad. Good deeds make one pure; bad deeds make one impure. So we are said to be what our desire is. As our desire is, so is our will. As our will is, so are our acts. As we act, so we become.”
We can therefore ask ourselves the question: What do we as a people desire? To live in peace or to be perpetually at each other’s throats? To sink deeper into spiralling violence or to prepare ourselves and create opportunities of development that are badly needed at this critical juncture of the country, as we begin to open it up to more arrivals – with apprehension by everybody that there may be a surge in Covid cases.
True, this is a specific situation, but on the other hand, we have always talked here about ‘la fragilité du tissu social’ (fragile social fabric). However, we must not pretend as if this fragility comes out of a vacuum. Far from this being so, it is our actions at both the individual and the collective levels – in different forums: lay, professional, community, religious, cultural and so on — that add up to forge the notorious ‘tissu’. It is without doubt of our own making, and whether its integrity is maintained or it gets torn apart depends entirely upon all of us.
And oft-heard also is the refrain that ‘we are condemned to live together’ – something that I have never accepted personally because we have consciously decided to live here, or return to live here when we had opportunities to settle elsewhere. Ironically, this idea has suddenly acquired an eerie reality because of the pandemic. The last thing that should happen in such a volatile context, which threatens the very foundation of the country, is for responsible citizens to play the blame game or to look for convenient scapegoats.
What is expected instead is an objective, mature and collective approach in an attempt to understand the proper dimensions of the ills confronting us so that we can devise the appropriate remedies which are required to cope and literally to survive: every country is facing the same dilemma. There is nowhere to run away to, and no readymade solutions. We therefore have to work out our own, and it is even superfluous to state that this has got to be a joint effort across the board, for we shall sink or swim together.
And for that, as the Mahatma said, peace is the way.
Nearly two decades ago, well-known New Age advocate Deepak Chopra’s was inspired by Gandhiji’s quote to set up a mission ‘Alliance for the New Humanity’, which was also the title of his then latest book launched in December of 2003, meant to create a ‘global community of peacemakers,’ which counted among its supporters many prominent business leaders, spiritual thinkers, celebrities, and artists.
On that occasion he was interviewed, and below are the first two questions and answers:
‘You write that we are on the verge of a global shift in consciousness that will lead the world toward peace. One indicator you cite is that one third to one half of Americans accept some form of New Age values. What are New Age values?
– New Age values are conscious evolution, a non-sectarian society, a non-military culture, global sharing, healing the environment, sustainable economies, self-determination, social justice, economic empowerment of the poor, love, compassion in action, going beyond religious fundamentalism, going beyond nationalism — extreme nationalism, culture.
The first thing you mentioned, conscious evolution — what is that?
– Well, evolution is a process in the universe that is ongoing; otherwise, our children wouldn’t be smarter than us, which they are – and there wouldn’t be any progress in the world. So the universe is constantly moving in the direction of higher evolutionary impulses, creativity, abstraction, and meaning. Conscious evolution is the ability of human beings to consciously participate in that process; we are a species that is conscious of our consciousness. We can actually accelerate the process through meditation, through the ability to find stillness through loving actions, through compassion and sharing, through understanding the nature of the creative process in the universe and having a sense of connection to it. So that’s conscious evolution.’ (italics added)
What about us making a serious attempt at ‘conscious evolution?’ Imagine what this would do for peace and progress in the country.
* Published in print edition on 2 Octobre 2020
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