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Smouldering World and Trembling Humanity

The English New Year 2024 has dawned, but not with sliver limning; instead it shrouded with blackish shade of three major conflicts, namely Russo – Ukraine, Israel – Palestine and third one to explode now, Yemen versus with almost nations exporting their cargo through Red Sea and attacked by Hoity militia though small boats, adventuring; and unfortunately supported by Yemen and Iran as well. As if it is not enough, China as usual, on the eve of electioneering XI Gin Ping once again declared that it will take over Taiwan. So, in short, form East’s South China Sea, through Red Sea, Middle Asia Israel to idiotic North Korea challenging USA; everywhere there are only greedy politicians desiring more, but for what? They are not saying for Humanity or mankind. Except Israel, everywhere it is imperialism.             

I, though wants to focus on ‘Enlightening Spirituality Enhances Sustainable Development & Peace’, the geo-political situation prevailing all around the globe is not very encouraging, rather is it more pessimistic to say so. On this background, a ray hope is there, of course, in the form of India’s upsurge in all fields, namely, space, science and most importantly Economy. In spite of a great blow to every country across the world by Corona-19 pandemic, when almost every country in the world is still struggling with inflation and slowing down of economy, including USA, UK, Italy Germany, Australia, all major organization like IMF, World Bank etc. has highly praised India’s economic progress predicting the growth rate to more than 6% in 2024.    

Now, Let us start quickly.

So, there are three important elements in today’s subject, namely,

  1. Spirituality
  2. Sustainable Development, and
  3. Peace.

We think and do everything for a PEACE, both externally and internally. The peace is an enabler for the sustainable development, rather condition precedent to say so.

Sustainable Development, as per United Nations means “The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), also known as the Global Goals. They were adopted by the United Nations in the year 2015. It is a universal call

  1. To end poverty,
  2. To protect the planet, and  
  3. To ensure that by 2030 all people enjoy peace and prosperity.

UNDP talks about 17 Indicators of Sustainability. Now let us see which they are,

  • No Poverty
  • Zero Hunger
  • Good Health & Well-being
  • Quality Education
  • Gender Equality
  • Clean Water & Sanitation
  • Affordable & Clean Energy
  • Decent Work & Economic Growth
  • Industry, Innovation & Infrastructure
  • Reduced Inequalities
  • Sustainable Cities & Communities
  • Responsible Consumption & Production
  • Climate Change
  • Life below Water
  • Life on Land
  • Peace, Justice  & Strong Institutions
  • Partnership for the Goals

All the above development goals sound more enchanting, beautiful and attractive, but when we look at the strife prevailing form nearest neighbour Pakistan to remote North Korea, our mind trembles and get frightened, where will this end and when?

In order to achieve, stabilise and perpetuate the long lasting peace what is actually required is absence of CONFLICT, ‘Conflict-free’ world. Why? Unless we think globally, we cannot act locally. Unfortunately, Today’s world is torn-up fragmented, defaced, mutilated, and dilapidated, as mentioned above before. Conflicts and disagreements always start in the minds of leaders. 

We cannot separate and spare ourselves from what is happening and going to happen around us, in our society, in our country and in the remotest corner of the world. In fact, our world in 21st century has become a Global Village; in which anybody can connect with and interact with anybody in the world in a fraction of a second. The closer connectivity of the modern world, like it facilitates faster interactions amongst all; at the same time, it can adversely impact us, we have experienced in Corona Pandemic in 2020-2022, recently. 

Spirituality cannot be practised and adopted in absence of peace and tranquillity, Anytime, Anywhere. Let me share with you one experience of mine.

At that time in 1991, I was working in Vadodara and met Prof. Dr T. V. Rao, stalwart of HR Profession. I met him in IIM, Ahmedabad and requested him for his help and assistance in the form of consultancy, to overcome the situation dominated by industrial relations in the organization, where I was working.

After listening to me, he told me that unless you set right your industrial relations nothing else is possible to be done, leave apart development. 

On this background, to substantiate what I say regarding our theme, let us look at some facts and figures.

As per the report of Institute for Economics and Peace, of June 2023,

  • Deaths from global have conflict increased by 96%,
  • Higher number of conflict deaths are seen in Ethiopia than Ukraine
  • 79 countries witnessed increased levels of conflicts, including Ethiopia, Myanmar, Ukraine, Israel and South Africa
  • The global economic impact of violence is increased by 17% or $1 trillion, to $2.7 trillion
  • The impact of violence on the global economy has increased by $1 trillion to a record $17.5 trillion. This is equivalent to 13% of global GDP.
  • The Index indicates that if a Chinese blockade of Taiwan is materialized, it would lead to a drop on global output of $2.7 trillion, which will be the 3% of global GDP in the first year alone.
  • Although conflicts are increasing, more countries are directing their military expenditures towards other priorities including healthcare, education, infrastructure and pandemic recovery, which sound good and great.
  • The total military spending has increased by 17% since 2008 with the largest increases coming from China ($180 billion), the US ($70 billion), and India ($40 billion).

The Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) reports that today there are 27 on going conflicts in the world. Most of the conflicts are concentrated in Asia and Africa. The most common forms of conflicts are Territorial Disputes and Civil Wars.

More than a year now, Russia – Ukraine war is going on, affecting the food supply chain, from Europe, Petro and Gas supply from Russia to Europe, and now latest the Red Sea water-way, due to pirates from Yemen. It is affecting everybody, due to the fact that suppliers and carriers are forced to take a longer and circuitous sea route through Cape Town, which will be increasing the cost of material, plus affecting even our exports. So, we cannot say it is happening there far away from us and how we are concerned.   

Therefore, it is necessary to look at the Causes of Conflicts.

The United Nations has found that the most common causes of conflicts today are:

  1. Regional Tensions
  2. Breakdowns in the rule of law
  3. Co-opted or absent state institutions
  4. Illicit economic gain and
  5. Scarcity of resources exacerbated by Climate Change.

Vision of Humanity:

So, on this disheartening background, what will be happening to World Peace and of course, Sustainable Development? 

The 17th Edition of Global Peace Index says that

Increased geopolitical competition has fuelled conflict in many countries. Though military expenditure in terms of GDP (Gross Domestic Products is an indicator to measure the country’s economic condition.) percentage witnessed improvements in 92 countries in 2022. Improvements here means those countries have reduced spending on military, i.e. on defence and related subjects. It is really encouraging.  And rich countries

Therefore, to achieve and increase Sustainable Development, what needs to be done is Enhancing Spirituality.

It is possible through

  1. attitudes,
  2. institutions and structure

When I say attitude, I am not referring exclusively to the mind-set of the person who is at the helm of affairs of the country, but I am referring the national character. I would like to quote the latest example. Only last week European countries had destroyed $4.3 Billion vaccine of at least 215 million doses of COVID – 19 vaccines approximately. It had collectively taken delivery of 1.5 Billion doses (More than three doses for every person in Europe). Germany discarded 83 million doses of COVID-19 vaccine, i.e. equal to the population of Germany.

Some manufacturers had put a condition that spare / excess doses cannot be donated without prior written consent of them. The unholy alliance of pharmaceutical giants is greedy monsters looking for unethical profit from human suffering and not bothering about the rest of world. It is European hypocrisy.  It is surprising is that all those countries are always bragging and boasting of being good, great and committed for world’ well-being.  It is remarkable that at that time, it is only India, who came forward and donated Covid-19 vaccine to poor countries, not only neighbour and Asian but to some countries in African continent too.

That creates and sustains Peaceful Societies. Importantly, the societies with higher level of Positive Peace lead to experience not just tranquillity, but also better growth environmental stewardship, well-being and resilience. To my mind probably the smallest landlocked country in the world is Bhutan, which instead of GDP believes strongly in Happiness Index. I visited Bhutan thrice and experienced how people there happy in whatever they have, even though their economy is dependent only two sources, hydroelectric power and  tourism to some extent. I am saying ‘To some extent’, because instead of showing greediness of earning foreign currency by European,  American and other countries, they protect their cultural and social values by  not allowing foreigners, except Indians, to go beyond Paro (International Airport) and Thimphu (National Capital).

Almost 4 years back when Mr Bear Grylls took our Honourable Prime Minister Shri Narendrabhai Modiji to Jim Corbet National Park in Uttaranchal, for his show on Discovery Television Channel ‘Man with the Wild’; he asked a question to Shri. Modiji, “How there can be a peace in the world, where there will be no fear?” The answer was ‘Vasudhaivam Kutumbakam ……One Earth, One Family and One Future.’

And this is again reiterated recently in the logo and motto G-20, which you must be aware of and read in media.

In this context, I would like to take you to our rich cultural and philosophical heritage.  The oldest one is in Rig-Veda (More than 70,000 years as per latest Carbon-dating done off Gujarat coast by Marine Archaeology), in its 1st Mandal, Sukta-89 शांतीपाठ ‘ओम आनो भद्रा’ and the way to achieve it can be found in the same Mandal in Sukta 198, namely, ‘संगठन मंत्र’…..संगच्छ्वम् संवध्वम, सं वो मानसी जानताम..’, which means ‘Let us come together, let us think together, let us work together and let us progress together.’

To find the root causes for the strife and conflict, most useful way, we have in India, in Shrimad Bhagvad Geeta, in Chapter-2, Sankhya Yoga there is Shloka-63, which runs like,

क्रोधाद्भवति सम्मोह: सम्मोहात्स्मृतिविभ्रम: |

स्मृतिभ्रन्शाद्बुद्धिनाशो बुद्धिनाशात्प्रणश्यति ||अ.२-श्लो-६३||

The anger leads to confusion in the mind. The confusion adversely affects the memory, both short term and long term. It leads to delirium, which destroys your conscience…..the ability to distinguish between right and wrong, good and bad, moral and immoral. Once this happens, you are bound to land in a lot of unprecedented disastrous situations, from which it will be almost impossible to come out. So, it will be perilous and precarious too.

If you watched the recent statements of Hamas Chief as well as Prime Minister of Israel, Mr Netanyahu,; you can find the reflection of this shloka. The anger is overflowing. Even the latest statement on 31st December / 1st January 2024, Mr Netanyahu reiterated resolutely that this war will not end so easily till we (Israel) competed eradicate Hamas.

Such persons, normally, generally, land in a situation like, 

नास्ति बुद्धिरयुक्तस्य न चायुक्तस्य भावना |

न चाभावयत: शान्तिरशान्तस्य कुत: सुखम् ||अ.२, श्लो-६६||

A person, whose conscience has become fragile, fragmented and fractured, becomes unable to control his mind. Therefore, his mind runs helter-skelter. When his mind and conscious both are absence in its proper state, all possibilities of achieving the ‘Shanti’ (Contentment) wane out. Naturally, a person without contentment cannot be happy at all. It is as simple as that.

Please note why it happens……it is told by Yogeshvar Shrikrishna in Chapter-3, Karma Yoga, again in our Bhagvadgeeta, as below:

इंद्रियाणि पराण्याहुरिन्द्रियेभ्य: परं मन: |

मनमस्तु परा बुद्धिर्यो बुद्धे: परतस्तु स: ||अ.३, श्लो-४२||

Our organs are important than our physical body. Mind is more important than those organs, Conscience or Intelligence is further more important than mind and lastly, our Soul (Aatman) is more important than conscience also.

The Upanishad’s (Totalling to 108) are written by sages in Post-Vedic period. We can say it is a simplified version or extraction of cream of Vedas. In Kathopnishad, it is stated as under:

आत्मानं रथिनं विद्धि शरीरं रथमेव तु |

बुद्धिं तु सारथिं विद्धि मन: प्रग्रहमे व || अध्याय -१, शिक्षावल्ली-३, मंत्र-३||

Our physical body is alike a chariot. Soul (Aatman) is a master siting in the chariot. Buddhi (Intellect) is a charioteer and mind is like bridle fastened to the horses in the form of our organs performing various functions (Karmendriyas).

An ardent and strong preacher and professor of Adwait Philosophy, Aadi Shankaracharya (820 CE to 788 CE), in his famous and widely acclaimed and revered in Indian Philosophical epitome, Vivek Chudamani writes while discussing about the Manomay Kosh, as under:

मनो नां महाव्याघ्रो विषयारण्यभूमिषु |

चरत्यत्र न गच्छन्तु साधवो ये मुमुक्षव: ||१७८|| विवेकचुडामणी ||

Those who wish to achieve their aim of emancipation (In essence, peace and tranquillity.) should remember that mind is like a dangerous tiger, who always wishes to wander in the forest of physical pleasure. Therefore, if you want to achieve your aim of emancipation, control your mind. Even modern economics definition of Prof. Marshall says, “Man has unlimited desires and limited resources; and therefore, in order to cope and adjust them, Economics has come into existence.

नियतं कुरु कर्म त्वं कर्म ज्यायो ह्यकर्मणः।
शरीरयात्रापि च ते न प्रसिद्धयेदकर्मणः ॥भगी.अ-३, श्लो-८||

In short, do your bounden duties (Assigned by your Dharm, Teacher or Elders.). It is always better to work than sit idle. See even for sheer survival, we need to breathe at least.  

We should, as a responsible citizen, in terms of Duties of Citizens under Article – 51A, should

  1. Strive towards excellence in all spheres of individual and collective activity so that the nation constantly rises to higher levels of endeavour and achievement.

I hope, nay I am sure that if every citizen of our country religiously strives for above, definitely we can enhance Sustainable Development and Peace.

Before I close, I would like to emphasise that never ever confuse between being religious and spiritual. They are not the same. Spirituality is at the higher level than religion, which our oldest Sanatan Dharma preaches to practice.  The word ‘Dharm’ is derived form a Sanskrit route word ‘Dhru’, which means THAT which sustains or holds; and hence, ‘Dharma’ the way of life, which helps us to sustain our lives; but whereas, Spirituality tells us and peaches us ‘how to sustain our lives in righteously, ethically, morally and with universal values of humanity’. Nowhere in Bhagwadgeeta Yogeshvar Shrikrishna has even for once had uttered a word ‘Hindu’.  

So, be spiritual to enhance your spirituality for Sustainable Development & Peace.  

  • Protect and improve the natural environment including forests, lakes, rivers and wildlife and to have compassion for living creatures and
  • Develop scientific temper, humanism and the spirit of inquiry and reform.

Everybody of us can add value to tomorrow’s picture of the new emerging world for posterity. God has bestowed on us all abundant in cosmos and he intended that we humans shall not become greedy and snatch and take away what belongs to universe, because we have not created it. It is simple logic and law everywhere in the world that what is not ours cannot be claimed and takes away by force. The more we WANT, the less peace and tranquillity we shall have. More is not the desirable and good too. Peace can only emerge out of contentment and Contentment flows from feeling good with whatever we have received by universe. And I think this is Enlightening Spirituality enhancing the Sustainable Development and Peace. 

I wish to conclude with an Epilogue form our sacred Shukla Yajurveda:

द्यौ: शान्तिरन्तरिक्ष्मन्ग शान्ति: |

पृथ्वी शान्तिर आप: शान्तिर |

ओषधय: शान्ति: |

वनस्पतय: शान्तिर |

विश्वे देवा: शान्तिर |

ब्रम्ह शान्ति: सर्व शान्ति: |

शान्तिरेव शान्ति: |

सा मा शान्तिरेधि ||  यजुर्वेद ||

May peace radiate there in the whole sky as well as in the vast ethereal space everywhere.  May peace reign all over this earth, in the water and in all herbs, trees and creepers.  May peace flow over the whole universe. Ma peace be there always exist in all peace and peace alone.

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