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India can show the way

Politicians of today have not just moved far away from spirituality, they have rather become allergic to spirituality. Perhaps, that is the reason why they have lost the respect of society and corruption has crept into our society like never before, writes Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. See full coverage.

india Updated: Nov 12, 2008 21:48 IST

One of the most ancient of the 200-odd civilisations that history has known, the Indian civilization has survived mainly because of its spiritual lineage. Spirituality offers a universal value system that binds the people together and nurtures the scientific thought process. There is a marked difference between Oriental and Occidental spirituality.

In the Occidental way of thinking, belief comes first, and then experience follows. The Oriental philosophy and science have the same parameter: they both say experience first, and then believe. That is why there has never been a conflict between science and spirituality in this part of the world. Unlike in the West, not even a single scientist was prosecuted.
Spirituality begins with Tatva Gyan. The journey starts with ‘idam’, which means knowing this, and moves on to ‘aham’, which means knowing the subjective Self.

Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle and Einstein’s Theory of Relativity were all common thoughts in the philosophical schools in India 5,000 years ago. This heritage with such richness though limited to a few, like science, has impacted society at large. A country with diverse religious beliefs, languages, food habits and cultures, and a huge population has been held together by a common thread — spirituality.

Mahatma Gandhi knew that India’s breath is spirituality and he made use of that to unite the country. He used to do satsangs twice a day. It was through spirituality that he united people across India into a huge movement. He was a deeply spiritual person himself.

Politicians of today have not just moved far away from spirituality, they have rather become allergic to spirituality. Perhaps, that is the reason why they have lost the respect of society and corruption has crept into our society like never before. However, with a large number of youngsters waking up to this fact and imbibing spiritual values again, a revival seems round the corner.

Taking part in spiritual congregations has given youngsters new hope in their life as well as hope in the future of the nation. They have started dreaming of a violence-free, corruption-free society. Commitment to bringing justice in society, devoid of spiritual values, has cost the nation heavily. Take for example the youths who have turned to the Naxalite movement. They are not having a party in the forests; they are putting their life at risk. They are dedicated to their own notion of freedom. Maoists and insurgents have a dream of their own for a corruption-free country, but the means they adopt are violent. These youths have commitment, but they lack spirituality. They have the best interests of the country at heart, but a lack of spirituality in their approach has brought so much pain and suffering to themselves and others.

We have to make clear distinctions between religion and spirituality. Religion divides people, spirituality unites. While religion is made up of concepts, spirituality is practical and is life-transforming. It is spirituality that can evoke compassion and inspire people to take up initiatives for a common cause. It can bring corporate social responsibility.
In the coming years, India can really show to the world how to build a violence-free society, a society with more understanding and patience, with unity in diversity and of happy people.

The state needs to have a more humane face. It cannot divide people on religious grounds, whether minority or majority. Their economy and social backwardness should be the only criteria for uplifting people and not religion — as is happening now in several places.

We need to promote multi-cultural, multi-religious education more vigorously. Be it Kashmir or Kerala, Assam or Maharashtra, all citizens of India should have equal rights. Gender equality has to be promoted. We need leaders, who don’t think about short-term gains, but rather strive for nation’s development tirelessly. To infuse new blood into our polity, there should be a certain retirement age for politicians. However, after retirement they should continue to guide the younger generation of politicians. There is no retirement age for guidance and sharing wisdom.

Self-reliance should be our priority at the village level. Think globally and act locally should be our policy. Our youth should become entrepreneurs and explore opportunities throughout the world.
I see India as world’s centre for spirituality because it has the capability to guide humanity out of the problems that the world is facing today. It is already guiding the world in lifestyle changes for a healthy and a better society through its ancient wisdom of yoga, meditation and ayurveda.

The time has come for India to reclaim her rightful place on the world stage. In order for this to occur, we need to become more confident and take pride in our cultural and spiritual roots. The spiritual wisdom, which was her glory in the past, has been almost forgotten and needs to be revived.

First Published: Nov 11, 2008 21:55 IST