Ahimsa Means Co-Existence and Co-Existence Means Peace

Posted: 30.12.2008
Updated on: 30.07.2015

7th INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON PEACE AND NONVIOLENT ACTION

7th ICPNA, Jaipur, November 10 to 14, 2008


MONDAY,  November 10, 2008
2nd PLENARY SESSION

 

How to achieve unity in diversity

http://www.herenow4u.net/fileadmin/v3media/pics/persons/Dr._Radha_Bhatt/Dr._Radha_Batt.jpgIndia has been a good laboratory of co-existence.  Here the followers of various religions live together harmoniously and mix with one another in a friendly way.  The cultural values that the emigrants from other countries brought with them when they came to India added their colour to its liberal culture and made it rich and beautiful.  The people who speak different languages have learnt the wonderful art of living together.  India has always been a great and remarkable country and it has to preserve its lofty tradition of unity in diversity.  We will have to cultivate and nurture the spirit of love, which lies at its root.  It inspires its people to embrace one another and share their joys and sorrows.  We will have to continue to nurse it and safeguard its uniqueness.  This very spirit of love is ahimsa and for ages India has been giving this message of ahimsa in different forms.  In the morning assembly today His Holiness Acharya Mahapragya said: ‘Emotional balance alone is the key to a peaceful and harmonious society.”  In this environment of emotional balance an individual makes all-round progress and remains healthy.  It also creates formative influence on people which constitutes the foundation of a great culture.

Jivan Vigyan (Vijñāna) or what we call Science of Living is Mahapragya’s precious gift to the people of the world for the creation of a nonviolent cultural tradition.  I want to quote a living example of how children’s upbringing and education in eternal values of ahimsa, peace and friendship can change the social environment.  Smt. Devi B. Pandey, a sister from Uttarakhand who had studied in our institution of Nai Talim, went to live in Norway a city in called Bergen, where her husband worked.  It was in 1976-77.  Both she and her husband observed that as soon as the night fell, clashes occurred between native youths and emigrant youths.  Sometimes these clashes even gave rise to grave situations about which they learnt more from newspapers.  The Pandeys were committed to Gandhian ideals and were also experienced and trained in the Gandhian methodology of conflict resolution.  Hence they tried to find out the root cause of these clashes.  It appeared to them that the real cause of these clashes was that the groups who came from diverse cultural backgrounds couldn’t develop mutual understanding.  It was quite natural that the emigrant families were confined to their places of work and houses where they lived.  The result was that the friendly contact between emigrant women and the Norwegian women and that of emigrant men and Norwegian men couldn’t be established.  In order to solve the problem and create an international understanding in society, Smt. Pandey started an international Bal Mandir (children’s school), which admitted 50 % Norwegian children and 50 % emigrant children.  The volunteers associated with this school were also selected equally from their respective groups.  When the emigrant children who came from Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India, Pakistan, Chile, Turkey, Brazil, etc. assembled under one roof, it made the visitors feel as though it was a global assembly.  The important festivals of children’s different cultures, stories, sports, dresses, songs and food were the most important celebrations of this school.  Their parents also participated in them.  Not only Norwegian and emigrant children but their parents too developed feelings of friendship towards one another.  They also learnt each other’s language which plays an important role in creating a web of mutual relationships.  The result was that both children and their parents became more liberal and broad-minded.  When these very children grew and became youths, they were not shocked when they mixed with the youths having black, yellow and white hair and sparkling eyes, because they had known them from their childhood.  They had played with them.  They had together relished the joy of a beautiful culture.  After sometime the clashes stopped.  A harmonious society was firmly established.

I am of the view that this type of training in the understanding of ahimsa is needed to be imparted to children in all parts of the world.  With it we have also to develop a peaceful and tolerant heart.  For it we need meditation, regulation of breathing and sports without competition and a new system of education.  For a nonviolent and peaceful society we need cooperation and not burning sense of competition.  Today our education, our jobs and careers, our livelihood, our business, i.e. the whole life is afflicted with the fever of competition.  The society based on competition and rivalry needs to be given alternative values.  For such values we need a basis of the power of resolution along with the power of self-restraint.  Lack of self-restraint is at the root of the global problems today.  It is the main reason. Because of the lack of self-restraint (asamyam) our economy based on consumerism has caused the havoc of exploitations, in-equality and poverty.  Unbridled exploitation of our natural resources has created the problem of environmental imbalance, as a result of which the very survival of humanity is threatened.  The rivers, forests, mountains, water springs and even the planet earth are hemmed in by several dangers.  Acid rain, holes in the ozone layer, and climate change are the result of men’s unrestrained life.  The value of self-restraint, which is the basic component of ahimsa, should become an integral part of our education.  The values like love, friendship, compassion and simplicity take root in this solid and strong foundation.  Efforts are being made in society to rise above terrorism, communalism and religious fundamentalism, but they lack the sense of dedication and continuity. 

Recently the citizens of Pakistan have made a commendable endeavour.  They designed a website which was entitled “We are not these.”  It was widely publicized and the people flocked to sign.  They wrote below the title - ‘we are not those who slaughter innocent children playing in the laps of their mothers, make women widows and destroy happy and cheerful families by spraying bullets on them.  They emphasize, ‘we are not these.”  What is surprising is that more than six hundred thousand people undersigned in this website in a span of six weeks. This proves beyond doubt that man’s conscience inspires only compassion and love.  The stream of love has not yet dried up.  What is needed is to awaken and expand it so that it may transcend the narrow bounds of distinctions rooted in caste, creed, language, and gender and become powerful. The laboratory for the inculcation of such human values is the family which is being ignored in the modern age.  It is the basic unit of society and the combination of these units constitutes a society.  A family means a fraternal feeling of removing the suffering of others even at the cost of one’s own suffering.  What is distressing is that this spirit is fading in the modern families.  The people today want privacy, which means comfort and selfishness.  That is why in India the tradition of joint families is breaking.  In the joint families children naturally imbibed the spirit of self-restraint, love, compassion and friendship which later caused a strong formative influence on their minds.  Even distant relatives like cousins and the sons of maternal uncles appeared to be the real brothers and sisters.  By neglecting our families we have deprived the future generations of knowledge and the valuable process of living a prosperous life.  The Seventh International Conference on Peace and Nonviolent Action organized under the auspices of His Holiness Acharya Mahapragya is a constructive effort, which will prove useful in strengthening the power of universal love, compassion, and friendship, which means the power of ahimsa.  I wish such conferences are held regularly.

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