December 1oth was World Human Rights day and I would not have realized that if not for this article by Sri Sri Ravi shankar on rediff. A few months back, Karthik had mentioned about The Art of Living foundation and that was the first time I had heard of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. The service projects that they were involved in seemed pretty impressive. But, then I forgot all about that till I read this article. One segment that really struck me in the article was this,
When they do this, somewhere they lose a sense of belongingness with the human race. For example, when people say, ‘I am a Hindu,’ or ‘I am a Buddhist,’ or ‘I am a Muslim,’ or ‘I am a Christian.’
In the process, they are also saying, ‘Those who are not Hindus/Muslims/Christians do not belong to me.’ They take a position: ‘I am somebody.’
In order to maintain this limited identity, some are ready to lose their life. The same with culture, tribe and nationality. If the emphasis was on being a human, then there would be more peace in society. We need to help people see that before being a Jew, or a Muslim, he is a human being. And as a human being, the whole of humanity is part of you and belongs to you.
These lines immediately reminded me of a story that Swami Vivekananda had used during his Chicago address in 1893,
A frog lived in a well. It had lived there for a long time. It was born there and brought up there, and yet was a little, small frog. Of course, the evolutionists were not there then to tell us whether the frog lost its eyes or not, but, for our story’s sake, we must take it for granted that it had its eyes, and that it every day cleansed the water of all the worms and bacilli that lived in it with an energy that would do credit to our modern bacteriologists. In this way it went on and became a little sleek and fat. Well, one day another frog that lived in the sea came and fell into the well.
“Where are you from?”
“I am from the sea.”
“The sea! How big is that? Is it as big as my well?”
He took a leap from one side of the well to the other.
“My friend,” said the frog of the sea, “how do you compare the sea with your little well?”
Then the frog took another leap and asked, “Is your sea this big?”
“What nonsense you speak, to compare the sea with your well!”
“Well, then,” said the frog of the well, “nothing can be bigger than my well; there can be nothing bigger than this. “This fellow is a liar, so turn him out.”
An exceptional story that brings to light the real problem afflicting us human beings. More than the obsession with our religion, it is antagonism towards other religions that is the cause of all social trauma. As Rajaji had pointed out in one of his articles, religion is necessary to ensure that the moral fibre of society is kept intact. It does not matter which religion people follow, but the fact that they follow the religious governance that is imperative.
Personally, I am a strong believer in the presence of the supreme being. And I have friends from other faiths and also friends who supremely believe that there is no supreme being. And tolerance and the liberal thought process of Live and let live is what is needed in today’s world. As Mahatma Gandhiji explained, God is one and the same, only the ways we try to reach him are different. I remember reading sometime back in the wonderful book, The Monk and the Philosopher that religious wars began as soon as human beings allowed themselves to say, “There’s only one true God, and that’s mine, so I have the right to annihilate anyone who doesn’t believe in him”!
Swami Vivekananda had insisted on the need for practical vedanta. In support of this Practical Vedanta, Swami Vivekananda referred to the mahakavya, tat tvam asi meaning Thou art that from the Upanishads. He explained that, “If we are identical with the other and with Brahman, then we will want to do good to the other. This mahavakya is therefore the foundation for morality. It is not that we do good to our neighbour out of altruism, but because the neighbour is identical to our self.”. That is one pragmatic thought!
Let me finish with another great anecodote from Swami Vivekanda that provides lucid clarity on this,
Suppose you start from here and travel towards the sun in a straight line. From here the sun looks only small in size. Suppose you go forward a million miles, the sun will be much bigger. At every stage the sun will become bigger and bigger. Suppose twenty thousand photographs had been taken of the same sun, from different standpoints; these twenty thousand photographs will all certainly differ from one another. But can you deny that each is a photograph of the same sun? So all forms of religion, high or low, are just different stages toward that eternal state of Light, which is God Himself. Some embody a lower view, some a higher, and that is all the difference.
P.S. I am a big fan of stories and anecdotes. Maybe, my cognitive skills are too impaired to understand things without the aid of these allegories. But, it definitely helps understand and comprehend complexity when things are simplified to something which we can relate to. No wonder I tend to use lateral analogies and stories whenever I am trying to explain something. To state the truth, those stories are as much to ensure that I get comfortable with my thought process as it is to benefit the listener.