Handling Opposites for Peace and Justice
16 Jul 2016 – Life is full of opposites: left and right, north and south, pleasure and pain, peace and violence and many other similar examples. It can be easily seen that some of these opposites such as south or north, or up and down are given and we cannot change them — in fact we do not need to do so but navigate through them as required. At a crossroad if we need to go left we just go in that direction; there is no choice or any conflict in doing so.
But the other type of opposites that I have listed– pleasure and pain or sukh (happiness) and dukh (sorrow) have serious and profound philosophical implications. In fact, Buddha started wondering about these concepts and similar others such as life and death, youth and old age and after deep meditation and introspection came up with the eight-fold way that forms the basis of a new religion now known as Buddhism.
We see in the world around us and in our own lives, these profound opposites that can also be termed as contradictions. Should we become businessmen or pursue an academic life, marry or remain single, should we join an army or stay in an ashram (hermitage), are some of the questions that we think about before taking a decision. Of course, decisions are taken not only based on personal likes and dislikes or whims, but because of societal and economic factors and pressures. Yes, we follow the attitudes and values of the society and country that we live in. But occasionally some people feel constrained by these values that are imposed upon them and try to find alternative answers to their doubts and then seek suitable actions to be followed. Such people try to charter an independent direction.
Not only Buddha but all major religious persons such as Moses or Christ or Muhammad (PBUH) pondered over these basic questions, suffered in the process and came up with new paths that are recognised and followed by millions of people all over the world today. India produced other great souls – Mahavir (Jainism), Guru Nanak (Sikhism), Swami Vivekananda (who re-interpreted the basic concepts of Hinduism) and several other original souls who struggled for answers to our problems. Lord Krishna whose antecedents are not known historically precisely also philosophised about many basic issues such as attachment and detachment. His thought, which appears in the Bhagwat Gita, is an important treatise on Hindu philosophy.
Gandhi was another independent mind who had developed the concepts of non-violence, Satyagraha and religious amity that has had a profound impact on the politics and economy of the last and present centuries. So many nations became free from colonial rule by his path-breaking and original understanding of non-violence and action for the above concepts. His life and philosophy has inspired several people – Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela and Bishop Tutu and others to fight against racial discrimination and injustice.
Gandhi is also credited with other important issues such as education for girls, emphasizing skill based teaching, keeping the environment clean and healthy and an absolute belief in truth. He had earlier said that truth is found in all religions but later on changed this concept to all religions lead to truth — an absolute truth. This statement meant that truth is universal and absolute but there are different approaches that lead to this goal.
Another pair of opposites that are environmental in nature are hot — cold and drought – floods pairs. These opposites were there in earlier times also — in fact that have been there since life began to take shape on the earth. But its impact on today’s environment and our lives is immense. The impact of global warming and climate change, which results in all types of adverse consequences on our lives and biodiversity, is severe and well recognised. The UN met in Paris in December 2015 to take up the issue of mitigation of climate change and what individual countries need to do; other agencies such as the World Bank have also pitched in.
What should an individual or society do to help reduce this impending danger? One basic answer is to reduce our overexploitation of the earth’s resources by reducing consumerism especially by the rich countries — USA, Canada and many European countries.
This is what Gandhi had pointed out almost a century back. He had said that there is enough for people’s needs but not for people’s greed. He led a very simple life and it was said by his admirers that Gandhi’s life is his message.
A tragic discourse in contemporary times is terrorism vs peace. Terrorism has taken a very ugly turn as can be seen by the latest event of a lone deranged man mowing down 84 people to death and injuring hundreds in Nice on 14th July — the Bastille Day in France. A few days earlier, a terrorist attack in Bangladesh took many innocent lives. What is the motive of these terrorists who kill and maim innocent lives? They say that they are doing it for peace and as retribution against the injustice of some superpowers. What kind of peace is this when hundreds of people are made victims of these monsters’ deranged ideas of peace and justice?
What is an answer to this barbaric turn our society has taken? It is a difficult question to answer but in our own ways we must ponder over the cruelty and mayhem that we are witnessing regularly and come up with a path that leads us to peace and justice and not killings and terrorism.
Dr Ravi P Bhatia – Educationist and Peace Researcher. Retired Professor, Delhi University. email@example.com
This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 18 Jul 2016.
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