October 18 in the frame of the Day of Spiritual Accord, at 14:00 (GMT + 6), Nur-Sultan (Kazakhstan) will host an International conference themed: "Strengthening interfaith and interethnic harmony as an answer to modern world challenges ".
Lajpat Rai Utreja President, Global Harmony Association – USA Founder, Institute of Spiritual Healing, Madison, AL Society and Politics – A Vedic Vision The State of Our Human Family The great Vedic dictum states, “Vasudeva Kutumbkam – We are one human family.” In the Vedic vision, we are a family, without boundaries of race, religion, culture, nation, or gender connected together through a cord of human values. We are a family comprising of parents, grandparents, and their in-laws; siblings and their in-laws; aunts, uncles and their in-laws; children and their in-laws; and just as one President Barack Obama is connected to Indonesia and Kenya thru his siblings, so are all of us from all over the world connected together through siblings and in-laws of different faiths, races and cultures.
However, in this extended family of ours, nearly half of the human family lives in crushing poverty, thousands of children die each day from disease and starvation, many of our family members are exploits of industrial growth and are innocent victims of our failure to protect the environment, there are many who pay a heavy price of being uprooted from family homes to start afresh due to wars being fought for reasons they have no clue, and then there are others we regard as terrorists, some of who are misinformed and kill with blind faith, some have given up hope in life and think that by killing have nothing to lose, and some employ means of retaliation that are inferior in quality and lack precision.
In spite of our scientific, technological, and medical accomplishments there is very little to show towards gross injustice of enormous proportions to our neglected family. If we do not respond, we would be breaking the cord of human values that make us human. What follows would be a whirlwind of chaos, increasing lawlessness and disorder.
We’ve created a value system in which it is ‘wealth’ and not ‘care’ for the fellow man that assures status in society. Paradoxically, we call ourselves civilized. Our social institutions value wealth as a parameter for success, disregarding sensitivity to the fellow human being. We are attached to money more than our duty towards parents, siblings, friends, spouses and children. While attachment to money and wealth is an individual action, using money as a means of trade is a group value. To climb up the social ladder, we lie, cheat and disregard the only virtue that separates us from the lower life forms. And that takes us away from the values that make us human beings.
The origin of human values is the source at the core of our beings. The source being non-physical, non-material, without any attributes and qualities introduces values through Rita, the universal order. The order does not delimit importance of one element of manifestation over the other, but provides an avenue for the universe to sustain itself. That order is called dharma. From that order follow the objective laws that govern the physical universe and the subjective laws that govern human beings. Consider for instance, if the sun decides not to shine any longer, or the earth decides not to revolve around the sun; there would be no world and life that we know of. Revolving around the sun, the earth does not diminish its role, but follows intrinsic value in the performance of the universal order. Similarly, the roles of a child and a wife in a family are not inferior or superior to the father or the husband, so long as all follow their intrinsic values in the performance of the family order. The same goes with any relationship: the employer/employee; teacher/student and the friends alike. All human values follow from the universal order.
Based on rita and dharma, every religion has a set of core values. Some quote scriptures when they talk about moral values. Others talk about virtues and principles. The truth is simply this, "Human values are not to be gotten through a text, nor can they be supplied by any business undertaking. They do not come as wrapped gifts by friends nor can they be purchased from a store. They are our natural responses that come from the heart. Human values are present in us as naturally as our blood, and correspondingly, they flow in the human community by way of our conduct with the other person, just as blood flows naturally in our veins. Human values should not be disregarded by human objectives in the achievement of economic, political and social goals. They are stand-alone codes of conduct to treat another with regard and consideration.
Important Issues for Human Beings
The most important question for human beings is why we don’t want to live in peace and harmony among each other and with nature. Other important questions include why we aren’t concerned about: the fast depletion of arable land for growing uncontaminated food; pollution of life-giving water and air; growing ecological problems, such as the reality of global warming, shrinking forests, disappearing wetlands, eroding soil, extinction of many species affecting ecological balance; unnecessary wars, economy, poverty and increasing wealth gap among the Haves and Have-nots; and in spite of tremendous advances in science and technology, we live under constant stress of producing and achieving, mental imbalance and physical pain.
Two of the most important factors that compromise our ability to properly and correctly address the issues we face are the man-made divisions of powerful and the powerless and economics of the global trade. However, unjustified wars, disproportionate wealth-gaps, public health, and fair governance remain other related factors.
The powerful and the powerless
The modern day democracies have a system of checks and balances within the constitution. The constitutional law is no different from the establishment of dharma. However, dharma is ensured only when there are provisions in the constitution restraining the exercise of supremacy by any one of the divisions of the government or influence by a segment of society. The only way to prevent the abuse of power is if the government makes decision for the country without influence from the lobbyists serving the interest groups. Otherwise, the government cannot ensure equal protection under the law to the subjects without discrimination. The only way to ensure that a nation will not polarize into the two groups (of Haves and Have nots and/or the powerful and the powerless) is if the government protects the laws and conforms to the laws as well. It is possible if dharma is the supreme law of the state where the elected leaders and subjects alike are ruled by the same law and responsibility is afforded based on one’s swadharma (responsibility based on education, experience and accumulated skills).
Dharma enters into the government through kshatriya dharma that establishes equal law for all. Kshatriya dharma calls for development of appropriate policies so as to be not influenced by interest groups which may compromise greater interest for all citizens. The elected heads of the states and other leaders must abide by dharma. It is only when they live in dharma and rule by dharma that people will live in dharma also. Therefore, it is the highest responsibility of the people to elect only those people who possess the highest moral and ethical values. Only then all citizens can expect equal justice. According to Manusmruti, “Just as the mother Earth gives an equal support to all living beings, a king must give support to his subject without discrimination.”
In the great epic Ramayana, Lord Raama was the ideal king. Raama Rajya (an ideal system of government governed by a constitution that was dharma) provided each citizen a framework to fulfill to their highest potential in their pursuits of dharma, artha and kaama. Lord Rama embodied dharma by the performance of his responsibilities and in his vyavahara. He was an ideal son, an ideal husband and an ideal ruler. That is why Lord Rama is the ideal person to aspire for by every student, every son, every husband, and every ruler. Many rulers have aspired to emulate Lord Rama and to establish Rama Rajya for their governments in rendering social justice and in regulating the affairs of the state, but human failings have kept them from fulfilling their objectives.
Wars, Global Trade and Dharma
History is replete with stories of wars for ideology, faith, territorial disputes and sharing of resources. Wars fought for fairness, justice and protection of equitable rights are dharma. One cannot kill atman (the soul), so killing sharira (body that is perishable) for a bigger cause, such as the family, society, country and humanity is dharma. Today, there are two major forces at play: forces of terrorism deployed against the powerful to disrupt their normal lifestyle and the global trade, and the forces of powerful countries trying to enforce their ideology and law and order based on that ideology. What is at stake is our common need for clean air, potable water, food, fuel for transportation and power. Global scarcity of water and oil and/or its distribution has increased risk for global conflicts, especially the poor nations and the disenfranchised poor people. Political violence often erupts from border disputes or scarce natural resources or shortages in needed commodities. It is only dharma that dictates the conflicting parties to sit side by side to establish specific law and order to satisfy the needs for each group.
Whereas, the intent of the global trade is to increase productivity of developing countries and increase competition that will result in lowering costs, in the interim, however, it has resulted in polarizing the trading countries into the rich and the poor, and making the gap bigger than before. Workers, in the laboring communities and countries, are being exposed to degraded environment, and the poor countries have to devalue their currencies to compete. Moreover, many local businesses such as cottage industries, truck farming, and cultural products are fast going out-of-business in favor of big corporations. Dharma enters into the global trade through Vaishya dharma (right conduct in business and trade) that sets the terms for the highest good for all trading partners. Vaishya dharma calls for appropriate policies for those workers who are adversely affected among the trading partners. Vaishya dharma encourages free trade for consumer goods among trading communities just as in supermarkets or flea markets where a common person can trade at different levels of buying capacity. What is dharma?
Law and order, duty, righteous conduct, religious principles, engagement and enjoyment in religion, the code of ethics, justice, compassion, truthfulness, discipline, social merit, cleanliness, and one's natural occupation all comprise dharma in space-time continuum. It is by living a life of dharma that each element of the world, human beings and the environment, is connected with each other and provides ways and means to live together in harmony for collective growth. Dynamics of Dharma is always in tune with the social pulse and offers a conscious choice for an individual to live in harmony with the rest of the environment. Therefore, in the today’s polarized world of the Haves and Have-nots, and the powerful and powerless, while we must share our resources in global trade to fulfill our common need for food, water and energy, dharma offers the single most effective choice for global peace and a sustainable society. The Vedic tradition can steer us to reinstate dharma.
The Vedic tradition is also called Sanatana Dharma (the eternal precept). Sanatana Dharma offers practical approaches for its adoption in different family traditions, business transactions and trade practices, under all social and political conditions. Sanatana Dharma provides aachar (conduct based on norms and traditions) and vyavahar (manners and code of conduct during human interaction) during the human endeavors for artha (wealth and security) and kaama (pleasure and enjoyment) in the conduct of governance and rule, law and order, education, business, trade, science, philosophy, law, agriculture, performing arts, and other orders of society. All actions performed according to dharma in space-time continuum provide the natural course with the least impact on the environment. Sanatana Dharma provides human beings the techniques of the ‘Right Attitude’ and the ‘Right Action’ to achieve continued preservation and growth. What is the right attitude and what is the right action?
The ‘Right Attitude’ is a sense of gratitude for those you receive from, forgiveness for all with misguided words and actions that bother you, and contentment in all that you have and cannot change. The ‘Right Action’ is service of the less fortunate, loving others, and not hurting others; it is an action, which needs to be done. There is no ambiguity in the definition, and the perspective becomes clear when we begin to do whatever we need to do. Sanatana Dharma focuses not merely on individual worship, but provides the most appropriate human attitudes and human actions for the most optimal political, social and economic way of life as well as the environment.
The most plausible solution to develop the ‘right attitude’ and perform the ‘right action’ for social, political and economic injustice is through education in ‘yoga.’ And yoga must start at the young age. Children must be given necessary education for developing their physical and mental health and the teaching of human values. They must be provided factual information on the society and the environment to help develop sensitivity for the other human beings and the environment. This way we can restore the moral fiber of society and bring back the Vedic way of life by living in accordance with dharma.
Living in dharma alone can bring human values into our conduct with the others and the environment. Only yoga can bring about total transformation at all levels of human existence including the body, mind and spiritual awareness to live in accordance with dharma. Yoga affords us to have physical health, mental balance and clear thinking so that we can create fair governance free from conflicts and wars in world in which everyone contributes based on their personal nature and acquired skills.
What is Yoga?
We live in a world of fragmented perspectives in which we divide the whole into parts, analyze each the part to its minutest details and rationalize, and in the process we move away from the whole, the very source. It is only in putting the parts together that we can know the whole possible only by deemphasizing the need for separating the parts from the whole. The process detaches us from our likes and dislikes and takes us away from the world of senses and the ego that separates us from the whole. The process also takes our awareness from the thoughts of many parts exhibiting diversity of form and function that we perceive during wakefulness into the focused thought of the underlying unity that we experience during meditation just as in the thoughtlessness of sleep. The disconnectedness of a single part (our likes and dislikes) gets resolved in the completeness of the whole and we move from the thrill of passion into the quintessence of bliss. It rejuvenates our body, mind and soul. It is called yoga.
Irrespective of our race, faith, culture, gender or national origin, all of us want to avoid pain, suffering and sorrow and attain a state of everlasting joy, the state of bliss. The state of bliss is to be found when we are complete in ourselves with no demand. The sages of yore discovered that to be the ultimate aim of life – to attain perfection (in any endeavor including governance or social life). This discovery was later systematized into a series of practices that lead us from untruth to truth, from ignorance to light, and from death and mortality to immortality. Immortality is a state free from sorrow and suffering – a state of completeness or perfection – total bliss. This system was handed down to posterity as Yoga. Yoga is the practical method of attaining this state of bliss.
The Vedic tradition was not meant for one community or one country, but for the whole humankind. That is why it was a universal civilization concerned with the good of humanity at large. We can still avoid future individual, societal and global suffering through the moral and ethical purity of our present actions. Practice of yoga can help eliminate all social ills and create a system of good governance, a society with good health and without poverty, and a world free of conflicts.
Vedic Perspective on Good Health
There is no better way to live a quality life without disease than that offered by the principles of Ayurveda and Patanjali’s Ashtanga Yoga. Ayurveda (the science of life) is the Vedic, world's oldest, most perfect and most comprehensive system of natural medicine. It is a preventive system of restoring health, and promoting longevity by preserving the body’s natural state and building the body’s defenses against disease and other external ingested and internally produced toxins. In addition, Patanjali Ashtanga Yoga is a guide for living the right life through its eight limbs.
Patanjali Yoga offers moral and ethical development through five orders of Yama (moral principles) and five disciplines of Niyama (codes of conduct). The remaining limbs are: Asana (postures for physical health), Pranayama (breathing exercises for eliminating mental disturbance), Pratyahara (practice of sense withdrawl for discouraging greed and lust), Dharana (concentration to achieve goals), Dhyana (meditation for spiritual awareness) and Samadhi (for realizing the truth).
Vedic Perspective on Poverty
An old adage from the Vedas states that serving the poor is the true service to God. Many mantras in the Vedas focus on welfare, prosperity, and sharing and the environment. The Vedas also insist on proper distribution of wealth and therefore take care of the social obligations. The following are selected quotes from the Vedas:
• Maximize your wealth so that you can take care of those dependent on you.(Taittiriya Upanishad iii-9)
• The rich have to satisfy the needs of the poor.(Rig Veda Samhita x-117-5)
• Give charity in plenty with utmost faith and humility.(Taittiriya Upanishad i-11)
• Wealth earned by 100 hands has to be distributed to 1,000 hands. (Atharva Veda Samhita iii-24-5)
Swami Vivekananda (1863-1902), a renowned thinker and Vedanta scholar demonstrated that Advaita philosophy has social and political consequences. One of the teachings he received from his teacher, Ramakrishna Paramahansa, “Jiva is Shiva (each individual is divinity itself)” inspired him to develop the concept, “Daridra Narayana Seva (The service of God lies in serving the poor).”
Total eradication of poverty is not easily possible. However, several measures, such as availability of free education, affordable housing, and public labor positions; fair minimum wage, curbing corruption, equal and fair taxation, may be taken to reduce poverty.
Vedic Perspective on Good Governance
The human society at large comprises human beings with diverse physical attributes, natures and skills and with disparity in their social and economical status. Consequently, the need for peaceful coexistence and living in harmony existed since beginning. According to Sanaatana Dharma the highest state of society to live in harmony, all must live in dharma (order):
Na raajyam na cha raajaaseet na cha daandikah;
Dharmenaiva prajaassarvaa rakshanti sma parasparam.
(There existed no state, no king, no criminal and no penalty. All protected one another by virtue of dharma.)
Good governance is assured when the nation and not the partisan interests are considered for discussion, legislation and execution. And that calls for a single party with the main goal of affording ‘one law for all’ to provide for the health, education and welfare of all citizens who contribute based on their natural talents, education and acquired skills. Good governance also assures that ecology and the environment are protected in all business activities and trade. Good governance must also provide for the defense of the nation from bad elements outside and within the country as well. It must organize military and police to uphold law and order, impart justice and maintain peace. In the ultimate sense, only one world order can maintain a world without national conflicts or wars.
Vedic Perspective on Peace
Recognizing and understanding that universal peace is possible when all elements of manifestation are at peace by the sheer will of human beings, it is to our collective benefit to explore the process that may channel human energy to establish and maintain peace. In fact, we sprang from peace and we’ll merge in peace. To establish peace, our actions must be in tune with the Sanaatana Dharma. That is why the Vedas teach us to give up malice and hatred.
• Give up hatred. Rig Veda: VI 10.7
• May we not hate any one! Atharva Veda: XII 1.24
• It is the most heinous sin to slay the innocent. Atharva Veda: X 1.29
• O Lord, firm and resolute, make me firm; May all look at me with friendly eye.
May I look at all with friendly eye; May all look at one another with friendly eye.Yajur Veda: 36,18
Beliefs, attitudes and actions interact to produce peace or violence. The Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (ii, 6; iv, 4) reads, “Here they say that a person consists of desires. And as is his desire, so is his will. And as is his will, so is his deed; and whatever deed he does, that he will reap.” Every belief creates certain attitudes. Those attitudes govern all of our actions. Man's actions can thus be traced to his inmost beliefs about himself and about the world around him. If those beliefs are erroneous, his actions will not be in tune with the Sanaatana Dharma.
In the context of the following verses from the Vedas, the world peace becomes a state of human existence, when:
Ishaavaasayam idam sarvam – Our differences are respected as manifestations of God.
Vasudeva Kutumbkam – We see us all as one global family.