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Archbishop Thomas Menamparampil on Dialogue of Values

Updated: Aug 12, 2023

Dialogue of Values With the Help of Spiritually Motivated People

By Thomas Menamparampil

1. The Need of Spiritually Motivated Inspirers in a Profit-Driven Society 

Adam Smith argued that the economic dynamism stimulated in society by the self-interest of individuals can benefit the entire society, even when not intended. However, Nobel Laureate Liu Xiabao points out that to make the self-interest of the majority purposeful, we need a minority of moral giants who can make ‘selfless sacrifice’. “The appearance of single martyr can fundamentally turn the spirit of a nation and strengthen its moral fibre. Gandhi was such a figure”, said Liu (Guha 39).

This is the mission of spiritually enlightened persons: to study changing trends and evaluating new ideas in a world primarily driven by the Economy with an open mind in order to draw profit from all those ideas that are valid in the new; and the same time deepen their understanding of their own heritage and cultural values in order to re-interpret them to the other members of their community, making them respond to contemporary needs; and to hold them out to others who may be interested.

It is when diverse streams of thought converge, they fertilize each other, and a ‘new world of ideas’ comes into existence, holding out hope for the coming generations. Convergence of thought and the complementary nature of human aspirations invite us to affirm our belongingness together. Seekers of Truth at all times are fellow-pilgrims.

The danger today is that, when mighty enterprises like Big Corporations or Government Departments hold profit-making as their sole ethical norm, they become less and less accountable to anybody. They become masters unto themselves. Today’s top managers have the power to set their own remuneration, with no upper limit (Piketty 24). They can amass enormous sums by bringing business and political power to join hands together towards that end. They manipulate mass media, impose uniform ways of thinking and acting on society, monopolize knowledge, subject people to consumeristic habits, imprison them in artificial environments and even isolate them from natural settings. They flaunt their wealth humiliating the poor whom they see as getting poorer and poorer.

Those who fall victims to their mesmerizing and psychologically numbing influence, lose their concern for society, commitment to compassion and solidarity; they lose sight of ecological responsibilities and grow in their greed for wealth (Hathaway xvii), often acquired unethically.

2. Apology about One’s Culture Vs. Resistance to Anything Unfamiliar

Pressed hard by the raw realities of a globalizing world, people who long for cultural rootedness, especially those who belong to humbler and weaker communities, are beginning ask questions. Some become apologetic about their cultures and hesitant about the cultural assumptions of their own community, particularly when these do not seem to help them in coping with the problems in a fast changing world. To them their own traditional values seem outdated. They stand for outright rejection of the old in an eager desire to profit by what is new.

Others, on the contrary, are extremely proud of their cultural/civilizational identity and inherited traditions. They are determined to offer fierce resistance to anything unfamiliar and alien. Some among them do not hesitate to go to exaggerations and enjoy making a display of their attachment to their traditions, even to what has become irrelevant, obsolete and unhelpful.

While the former forget the importance of historical and cultural continuity for their communities, the latter show no confidence in the dynamic element at the heart of their own culture that knows how to adapt to changing situations without compromising the core values of their collective identity and inner genius.

3. Reflection on One’s own Culture/Civilization in View of Dialogue and Mutual Sharing

A reflection on one’s own culture is not meant to be a chauvinistic self-assertion of a community/nation nor a claim to superiority. It is merely a humble search for one’s core identity and an expression of one’s intense desire to re-interpret one’s civilizational assets to respond to the needs of the times, and share the resulting insights with others who are interested. The reflections of spiritually motivated people like Mahatma Gandhi and Aurobindo have served as lamps on humanity’s path towards the future.

Similarly, the affirmation of one’s traditional values should not be a form of antiquarianism, or cultural or national fundamentalism. Nor should it be an underestimation of modern concepts like human rights, the rule of law, accountability, democracy, participation, political-economic-gender equality, dignity of the individual. What these modern concepts stand for were present in our cultures in diverse forms. After all, all human values have their roots in identical human nature.

What we would like to emphasize is that, today, their various incarnations must be brought to dialogue with each other with mutual respect so that our common destinies can be shaped purposefully.

4. The Self-questioning of Indian Thinkers in Modern Times

The inheritors of the many spiritual traditions deriving from the great Indic Civilization have asked, “How can we combine harmoniously our social obligations with our spiritual aspirations? How can we combine karma and tyaga, action and renunciation? How can notions like illusion, Maya, and the consequences of action known as Karma, be linked with a scientific outlook for world-transformation? It is human reflection that gives a direction to social evolution, since human beings alone can foresee the future and guide events towards a chosen goal. This is what Mahatma Gandhi sought to do, guided by his reflection on the Gita.

To many spiritual searchers, the material world appears a dead weight and an illusion. But for others, the same matter is loaded with sublime potentialities. Spirituality consists in working on matter in such a way that its potentialities are realized. Only in this way will the cosmic resources hidden within the Universe be revealed.

In the West we find great minds like Teilhard de Chardin working on similar problems. He was amazed at the ‘sense of the whole’ among spiritual thinkers in India, which of course is the lifeblood of spirituality (M. D. Joseph). Indian religions, he found, are both universalist and cosmic and have developed a synthetic vision of all reality. What is interesting to note in the context of our discussion is that Teilhard emphasizes the idea that we encounter God in action, and through work: God is present at the tip of the pen, spade, brush, needle, thought. It is by what we do and what we endure that we become whole and holy.

5. Close Relationship between the Material and the Spiritual

Tagore too wanted to avoid an escapist view of life and dry-as-dust asceticism. He saw the Kingdom of God within the human person. That is what launches him/her on a metaphysical quest. It often happens that religious searchers, in order to emphasize the spiritual hunger they have in their being, underestimate the value of the material universe from where they have sprung. That is what has made them describe material things as a stumbling block to spirituality.

This happens understandably at the early stages of human emergence as an intelligent thinker. At a later stage he/she sees the inter-relationships between spiritual and material things and their complementary nature. Material goals indeed can become an obstacle if they are allowed to; but true spirituality consists in making material goals serve a spiritual purpose, contributing to human growth in the full sense, and towards his/her ultimate destiny.

In Fruit Gathering Tagore shows the human being as kissing this world with his/her hands and feet, treasuring it in the different layers of his heart. Therein he/she builds an inner harmony which helps him to build a harmony between his existential centre and the Divine Centre. Once this unity is achieved, there is no difference between growth and renunciation, attachment and detachment.

Aurobindo too points to the ultimate convergence of all reality at One Centre. The Supreme Reality descended and became matter at one stage, and it is destined for a final return. For Teilhard, the cosmic evolution moves to its destiny through a gradual growth in complexity of consciousness, reaching super-consciousness at the Omega Point. Both of them believed that science and technology would ultimately unify the world. The universe is real, not an illusion. True mystics do not deny temporal reality, but seek to discover the eternal significance of this temporal reality. While the philosopher analyzes and synthesizes, the mystic searches for deeper meanings. The intellect goes round the object, intuition penetrates it and enters into it.

6. The Danger that Spiritual Values Decline in a Market-driven Society

Of course, in a market-driven society the values that are esteemed most are efficiency, productivity, speed, marketability, management and such others. The traditional Indian emphasis on self-search and the Chinese on self-cultivation is not a denial of the importance of practical values in a world where Economy has assumed immense importance. Eastern values do not stand on the way to the rationalization of the Economy, but they insist that the Economy should be guided by spiritual insights that it may become human and humane.

Christopher Dawson said decades ago that a society is seriously impoverished, if it is “emptied of all the values that are not explicable in economic terms” (Dawson 26). It is good for us to be aware what disasters can overtake human society, if a value-free market is allowed to dominate human lives.

When people are evaluated only in market terms, i.e., when human beings are classified merely as ‘labour’ or evaluated solely in reference to the ‘market’, their status sinks. In other words, when their worth is calculated only in terms of their use to the economy, they become less than human beings and fail to be bearers of dignity. And yet, the tragedy today is that entire nations are opting for this form of self-abasement by making economic growth their sole goal.

7. Deceptions Keep Increasing, Old Evils Gaining Respectability

Carl Sagan exclaimed, it is terrible to live in a world led by science under the guidance people who know nothing about it; but a greater tragedy is to live under public relations officers who have perfected the art of deception (Martin 70). There is growing resentment against what may be called “planned deception” on a gigantic scale sponsored by the image-building techniques in the world of politics and by advertizing industry in the world of the economy. Political evangelism and powerful marketing drives tend to go to excess. It is not often intelligence that meets intelligence but public relations officers that meet public relations officers; advertizers meet advertizers, expert deceivers meet similar experts.

But what is not easily explainable is that many find pleasure in allowing themselves to be deceived. Maya has become real. Buddhist warnings against ‘illusions’ have become most relevant. It has become very difficult to draw a line between what is advertised as true and what is really true, when we are more often in the ‘virtual’ world.

Revolutionary changes are taking place all around us in our times. We need the right ‘High Way Code’ towards a common future. We need to develop a sense of responsibility. The manner in which certain leaders of today’s economy act looks more like an expression of the aggressive and destructive streak in human nature than of its constructive instincts. They ignore the inner worth of human beings, underestimate persons, communities, cultures, nature’s gifts to humanity, ethical and aesthetic traditions. This happens all the more easily because the general public gives an un-reflected approval. Anything that passes off as ‘politically correct’ becomes acceptable to them, as long as cheap and pleasing goods are available. Moral and ethical considerations have become irrelevant.

Slave-trade has been given up long ago, but bonded labour remains; racist exclusion is condemned, but marginalization of the unproductive (the aged, sick, handicapped, unskilled) is considered normal; infant mortality is associated with backward communities, but elimination of an unborn infant with progressive ones. Similarly, playing with genetic processes for eugenic reasons attempted by the Nazis is damned as a crime, but genetic engineering in general is condoned if it generates income. Human body has become mere tools in the production-distribution process of the economy rather than parts of intelligent beings to be respected.

It has been established that pregnant mothers have accumulated artificial chemicals in their body, and that they pass them on to their children while breastfeeding them (Martin 173). Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring referred to high DDT levels in human blood (Martin 181). The quality of human sperms is declining. There is a general lowering of the image of the human person at various levels.

8. The Victims of the New Economy

Economy organized on a vast scale, whether controlled by the Government or by Corporations, tend not to respect persons, human concerns, families, communities, values, natural environment. Gigantism always has its victims. No wonder Henri Bergson thought that man was designed for very small societies. We are not, of course, opposed to the bigness of things, but are anxious that its weaknesses should be recognized. Correctives should to be sought. Every year we destroy 44 million acres of forest, 100 million acres of farmland, 24 billion tons of topsoil, create 15 million acres of new desert around the world (Martin 5). We are fast moving in all serenity into the insensitive hands of gigantic economic interests---of wealthy countries, rich cliques, advanced ethnic groups, selfish individuals. There is evidently some imbalance when “Companies are competing against countries--not just other companies” (Charan 7).

Disasters often occur when politicians do not listen to scientists; but greater disasters occur when neither of them nor economists listen to persons with intuition, thought, depth, commitment, and a sense of responsibility. Even people who do not believe in religious concepts like ‘conscience’ ought to be open to ‘deep common sense’ (Martin 26). When they fail to do so, and when things go wrong, the only solution that profit-makers (the most dynamic forces in society today) can propose are drugs, tranquilizers, sedatives, stimulants, and antidepressants (Fleischcker 16); not silence, reflection, self-criticism or self-improvement, in the way Eastern sages have suggested.

9. Violence has Become the General Way of Protest

When values fail to exert a moral authority in society, force comes to play a greater role in obtaining social compliance, whether imposed by the Administration or inflicted on each other by fellow-citizens. Force used in excess takes the form of violence. Violence, once unsheathed, cuts in all directions. For example, if it was used for freedom struggle, it remains on for a long time in various shapes to harass societies even after independence.

Similarly, there is the danger that communities that feel marginalized along class, caste, ethnic, cultural, regional or religious lines, grow convinced that their voice would have no persuasive power unless it is accompanied by a show of strength, not excluding violence. With this sort of conviction, a fear of imposed unreasonableness can catch up with society at various levels and influence various sections.

A response to it is likely to be equally unreasonable. After all, all radical Eastern ideologies in recent history were a response to intense pressure under which a people/nation laboured. The more radical the pressure, the more radical the response. One exaggeration invites another. In such an atmosphere, even traditionally peaceful societies lose confidence in the peaceful styles taught by Eastern sages. If a sense of balance and moderation is ignored and values forgotten, and if strong self-assertion becomes the norm across all emerging nations, tensions are bound to arise, with many uncertainties for Asia’s future.

There is also an eagerness in all emerging nations to catch up with the developed world. Impatience for quick achievement runs the risk of surrendering to persons who over-claim power, which in turn can lead to power-struggle and initiate a cycle of violence. Similarly, in the economic field, growing anger against mounting inequality can threaten the future of our societies. One cannot fail to notice that population increase is most in destitute nations, and with increased unemployment tensions are bound to increase; so too violence and erratic migrations. Meantime natural resources are being over-tapped, environment is in peril, and stiff competition rises to merciless heights, and the problem of illegal migrants rises in diverse direction.

10. Readiness to Respond to Newly Arising Challenges

Richard Dawkins sought to programme computers along Darwinic rules to make it self-evolve (Martin 230). If we succeed to make self-improving computers, we may end up by producing hand-products far more intelligent than ourselves! There are already machines that can identify human emotions. If they become masters (like if our passions become our masters), we can be swept away by our own inventions.

If self-evolution takes the form of Singularity, no one will be able to control it. Our body is already being made of non-biological parts with the present possibility of grafting or modifying organs. It can even ensure greater efficiency (Ray Kurzwell). The coupling of human brainpower to the explosive evolution of computer power will bring about extraordinary changes. For all this advantage, it is evident that machine intelligence will be in the direction of high precision, maximum efficiency, unlimited productivity, and not be in that of discernment, intelligent choice, responsible decision (Martin 330).

When some say that humanity has come of age, what they mean is that they are free to act as they choose. But that would be an expression of immature adolescence. True adulthood stands for maturity, a sense of responsibility for one’s own wellbeing and for the common good. There is no use being energetic, efficient and rich, if it only means being trivial, pointless and depressed. Value-less efficiency leads nowhere. There is growing awareness that wealth does not depend merely in natural resources and accumulated cash, but on natural genius and alert mind (Martin 296). While perceptive intelligence is open to all human possibilities, responsible intelligence must be open to all human needs and committed to cosmic wellbeing. Can near-Jihadist energies evident in the area of creative entrepreneurship be brought to human concerns and to social good, so that communities may be happy, and individuals grow sensitive and profound?

It is said that our brain has a hundred billion neurons, as many as the stars in our galaxy. Each neuron is connected to a thousand others. But studying their functioning alone will not explain the mysteries of human motivation, which is little known even to oneself. Technological breakthroughs must lead to deeper thought on the purposefulness of the technology they develop. Scientific advance must contribute to the convergence of the interests of the whole human race and the healthy stirrings of the cosmic processes. Doors must be opened to global integration of human efforts for a shared future. Competition can be introduced also into the area of being principled, conscientious, responsible, and sensitive (Martin 319).

11. Ancient Values Will Have to be Reinterpreted for Our Times and Given a Dynamic and Relevant Meaning----The Example of Mahatma Gandhi

New situations call for new responses. In one period of Jewish history they realized that they should express their relationship with the divine not merely by offering sacrifices of rams, goats, wheat and oils, but acting justly, mercifully and remaining humble (Micah 6:7-8). There was a radical change of perception, new importance being given to justice, which grows even stronger with the other Israelite prophets.

Mahatma Gandhi reinterpreted the ancient concept of Ahimsa (non-violence) to suit a new need when he courageously brought it to the political field. He gave the word new connotations never perceived before. Non-violence was, for him, not mere passivity or weakness, or a sign of helplessness. On the contrary, it had a transformative quality, with immense power to change a situation, for example, by confronting an unjust law with active civil disobedience. By reinterpreting the concept of Ahimsa in this way, Gandhi universalized the message, making it meaningful to everyone in a similar situation anywhere in the world. Martin Luther King, Mandela, others felt inspired by Gandhi while pressing for their rights.

In a similar way, Gandhi gave to the Indian concept of renunciation a dynamic content, linking it with intense political and socially beneficial activity and making it sturdy, and giving it a spiritual purpose. It was not arbitrary instrumentalization of an idea, but in keeping with the Indian inclination of making concepts and norms context-sensitive.

And again, Gandhi introduced the concept of “strong persuasion” by appealing to the conscience of the opponent in respectful protest, in a non-violent and courteous manner of expressing non-acceptance. Similarly, his understanding of God as Truth made him inclusive, tolerant, and open. He was open to new ideas from anywhere in the world. However, he insisted on the ‘language of continuity’ between his society’s past and the future (Guha 123).

The great Indian poet Kalidasa too welcomed the flow of thought from anywhere, but suggested that they be submitted to the wisdom of the good and the learned (Chandra 56).

12. Mahatma Gandhi was Eminently Practical

Even as he brought unbelievably high principles into the world of politics, Gandhi remained eminently practical. He valued work and found Ruskin’s writings on the topic in Unto the Last very interesting. The great Indian leader would sit peeling potatoes every morning at Sabarmati Ashram and spin one hour a day before his midday meal. He encouraged spinning for self-reliance. He received a hundred letters a day, answered ten in person, and the others through his helpers (Fischer 425). He sought to bring an attitude industriousness and efficiency into the rhythm of slow-moving Indian life.

Gandhi attached great importance to punctuality. He economized. He criticized the untidying of public places and the habit of spitting. During his South African period, he wrote to people in Phoenix Farm (Durban), “Keep your tools in their respective places and perfectly clean,” take care of time, spare every penny (Fischer 121). Like Tagore at Shantiniketan, he insisted on the cleaning of latrines and the clearing of garbage. He had no fear to ask “Is it right that the lanes of our sacred temples should be dirty as they are?” (Fischer 172). He looked after himself and knew how to keep himself fit. The message was clear: punctuality, cleanliness, effort, work, self-reliance. He did not approve of divorce between intelligence and labour.

13. He was Ready to Learn from All

Despite the universal recognition he won, Mahatma Gandhi was always open to learning from everyone. David Henry Thoreau’s essays on Civil Disobedience touched him. So did his book Walden. He recommends Emerson’s essays to students saying that they are Indian wisdom by a Western Guru. He suggests the reading of Tolstoy’s Kingdom of God is Within You. He says, Tolstoy practices what he teaches (Fischer 121). In later years Tolstoy got in touch with Gandhi; he warmly commended the healthy phenomenon of “the struggle of the soft against the harsh, of meekness and love against pride and violence” (Fischer 127). Gandhi openly admitted his debt to the teachings of Jesus, especially the Sermon the Mount. Nevertheless, he remained independent in his thought, unfettered, unpredictable, hence exciting and difficult (Fischer 157).

14. His Gentle Approach

Gandhi felt one with Thoreau when the author praises the few whites who renounced slavery. “…it matters not how small the beginning may be,” said Thoreau, “what is once well done is done forever” (Fischer 116). ). That is what made him adopt a strategy of graduality in moving towards independence, even helping the British to recruit for the war. He believed that physical force was nothing compared to moral force, which, of course, demands time and patience. He proposed not violence for violence, but return good for evil. With this approach, he felt, nothing was impossible.

His victories were moral and religious. There was an element of selflessness in him. He never tried to save his face or impute motives. He encouraged dissent. He told the whole truth. He wished to change the mind of his opponent, the imperial authorities, through dignified styles of relationships. During the war he was clear in affirming that he was neither anti-British nor anti-Japanese (Fischer 487). He said, “We do not seek our independence out of Britain’s ruin” he said (Fischer 413), “I do not intend harm to a single Englishman or to any legitimate interest he may have in India.” (Fischer 333). He apologized to the Lancashire factory workers, whose interests he hurt through his boycott.

Gandhi’s fasts were not against anybody but it was a creative way of proposing arbitration. He said one could fast “only against those who love you, not against a tyrant” (Fischer 484). The idea of a Hartal (total strike) was stronger. But just as he fought the British in the political field, he fought the caste system, he struggled against Hindu-Muslim conflicts. He saw in others what he wished them to be, and so they become (Fischer 271). Non-violence is more than non-killing; more than non-hurting; it is freedom. He never coerced his followers. He was almost feminine in his tenderness towards children, sick, poor (Fischer 331). He protested to the Bombay Governor when he was arrested and taken to jail by car while others were taken by truck.

15. His Moral Stature

For Mahatma Gandhi, India’s struggle for independence was a spiritual struggle. He entered the field like a Kshatriya whose religious duty it is to fight a righteous war, as taught in the Gita. His ideas may have come also from books, but he drew conclusions from his own experiences as well. He admitted, he never heard a voice, saw a vision, or had a (mystic) experience of God. He was guided by his reason (Fischer 307). Primarily he tapped his inner sources. “What you think, you become,” Gandhi said. Think you are free. Your mind ultimately decides your fate.

During the war he said, we must not take advantage of Britain’s wartime predicament. He trusted England. However, he refused to bend to arrogant might. He said he would bend his knee to the untouchable, not to the King or Prince of Wales who stood for insolent might. Curiously, he was ready to meet Charlie Chaplin when he heard he was a poor man (Fischer 352-53).

16. His Depth

Mahatma Gandhi descended to his depths before the weaknesses of his own people, e.g., caste prejudices or Hindu-Muslim tensions. He felt hurt. Confronted with such problems he would sink into silence, “Silence is the true language of cosmic adoration” (Fischer 297). During a visit to Rome, he spent two hours in St. Peter’s and at the Sistine chapel. He was moved to tears seeing Christ on the cross. And yet, for him, “God never appears to you in person but in action” (Fischer 380). He often referred to a ‘still small voice’ that spoke to him. About the idea of the Salt March that shook India, he said, it came to him “like a flash” (Fischer 379).

Ultimately, for the Mahatma, God was truth. “Even atheists do not doubt the necessity of truth” (Fischer 369). He believed in the God of the dumb millions, and the God who is present amidst sufferings. As World War II approached he whispered, “My faith is brightest in the midst impenetrable darkness”. “It pains me to find St. Paul’s Cathedral damaged.” On December 25, 1940, he suspended civil disobedience to allow Christian believers their holidays (Fischer 443-45). His style of respecting others remained incredibly unique. No wonder at his death Einstein hailed him as “the cogent example of a morally superior conduct of life;” he said that he stood for “higher human relationship in the political sphere.” General George Marshall exclaimed, “Mahatma Gandhi was the spokesman for the conscience of all mankind (Fischer 19-20).

17. The Practical Consequence

The practical results of all these were unbelievable. He kindled India’s pride and faith. Gandhi lived his daily life in the presence of eternal and universal values. He was too religious to serve one land, one race, one caste, one family, one person, or even one religion. His religion was humanity (Fischer 162). And therefore Gandhi exercised immeasurable authority. For him religion was service. His politics was for the suffering millions; it was practical, not mere loyalty to abstract concepts or rituals (Fischer 196). Power in its usual meaning belongs to a machine which is what many politicians use. But since Gandhi renounced political power, he had more of authority; it was enhanced further by service, sympathy, affection; and his words carried convincing power.

18. Symbolic Gestures and Prophetic Actions that Heal

Whenever we choose to move against the flow of the cosmic order and ignore Dharma, we hurt ourselves more than others. Time may pass, but the consequences remain.

We need prophetic personalities to bring healing to societies. Gandhi had the singular ability to pass on powerful messages through symbolic actions. His intense activity of spinning cloth, frequent stay among the lower-caste communities and such other activities, were pointers to an imbalance in the social structure.

Many of his prophetic gestures, including his manner of relating with people, and the very way of dressing, had a challenging message for the collective psyche of millions. They provoked thought, acted as a corrective and served as an encouragement as required in each context. It was his determined effort to keep to the Middle Path of balance and always show respect to the opponent.

19. Communities, Cultures, Ideologies and Religions Must Dialogue

Gradually people are awakening to the fact that Economy is dependent not only on capital and labour, but also on values like traditions of trust, skills developed in cultures, and habits of the mind, which we call the social capital of a society. They are sustained by ethical convictions deeply embedded in cultures. These values can be brought meaningfully to day-to-day social processes only if cultures, communities ideologies, and religions, dialogue. Life together becomes possible only by searching for consensus among these various traditions.

As we have already seen, ancient values have to be made relevant by bringing them to concrete situations and face to face with issues that society considers important today, e.g. democracy, economics, technology, natural sciences; ecology, feminism, and postmodern perceptions. They have to be put in relationship to responsibilities in the areas of accounting, management, finance, marketing, communication technology, treatment of workers, and others. Only in this way will the global civilization emerge as truly human and meaningful.

20. Religious Believers and Ardent Secularists Must Dialogue

Those with secular convictions accuse religious believers for being partisan, forgetting that they too often show themselves partisan when they apply ‘rationality’ only to some areas and not to others. That is why religious and secular voices must engage one another, national and civilizational leaders must talk.

Values that are more widely acceptable must emerge from their conversation. That is the only way to solve problems like social tensions, ethnic conflicts, civil wars, cultural oppression, political autocracy, economic stagnation, forced migration, and increase in the volume of refugees.

21. The Role of Spiritually Motivated Persons

You have become a disciple in order to benefit the world (Silabhadra, the Buddhist professor of Nalanda University, to Hiuen Tsang from China).

Spiritually enlightened persons must develop a sense of responsibility. “The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is commonly understood. Indeed the world is ruled by little else”, said John Maynard Keynes. Practical men (actual rulers) are often slaves to outdated ideas, he argued (Stiglitz 151). Hence even the most anti-intellectual society today has need of people who have ideas towards togetherness if they wish to make headway.

The recent book of Thomas Piketty, Capital in the Twenty-first Century, refers to the “rising human capital hypothesis,” which argues that ‘human capital’ is far more important than financial capital and real estate, capable managers more than rich stockholders, specialized skills more than the unearned advantages of nepotism (Pikettty 21-22).

However, ‘human capital’ is not only knowledge and skills, but also values like motivation, sense of purpose, sense of belonging, mutual trust, energies for resilience, and absolute determination. While knowledge and skills will decide the direction of the economy, values alone will ensure cohesion to a community and a future to a society. Here is where spiritually motivated persons with vision can help. They are more powerful than actual power-wielders (Mahbubani 64).

Confucius taught, “Persons of humanity are like this: wanting to develop themselves, they also develop others; wanting to achieve things themselves, they also allow others to achieve what they want (Analects 6.28.2-3). And again, “But if even a simple peasant comes in all sincerity and asks me a question, I am ready to thrash the matter out, with all its pros and cons, to the very end” (Analects IX,7).

The Rigveda had said, “One ignorant of the land asks of the one who knows it; he travels forward, instructed by the knowing-one. This, indeed is the blessing of instruction, one finds the path that leads straight forward” (Rigveda X, 32.7).

In times of troubles, we need new motivators to urge society on. It is for us to develop motivation for carrying a hope-filled message to the world. “ Let your aims be common, and your hearts be of one accord, and all of you of one mind, so you may live well together” (Rig Veda 10.191.2-4). “Let us have concord with our own people, and concord with people who are strangers to us….May we unite in our minds, unite in our purposes, and not fight against the divine spirit within us” (Atharva Veda 7.52.1-2).


Chandra, Ramesh & Mittra, Sangh, Buddha: A Revolutionary and Reformer, Commonwealth Pub.

New Delhi, 2003

Charan, Ram, Global Tilt, Random House Books, London, 2013

Das, Gurucharan, India Grows at Night, Allen Lane (Penguin), London, 2012

Dawson, Christopher, Dynamics of World History, ISI Books, Wilmington (Delaware), 2002

Fischer, Louis, The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, Grafton Books (Collins), London, 1988

Fleischacker, Samuel, The Ethics of Culture, Cornell University Press, New York, 1994

Guha, Ed. Ramachandra Makers of Modern Asia, Belknap Press Harvard, Cambridge, 2014

Hathaway, Mark & Boff, Leonardo, The Tao of Liberation, Orbis Books, New York, 2009

Joseph, M.D., Thrown Into the World, EBH Publishers (India), Guwahati, 2016

Mahbubani, Kishore, The Great Convergence, PublicAffairs, New York, 2013

Martin, James, The Meaning of the 21st Century, Eden Project Books, London, 2006

Picketty, Thomas, Capital in the 21st Century, The Belknap Press, Harvard, 2014

Sachs, Jeremy, The Price of Civilization, The Bodley Head, London, 2011

Stiglitz, Joseph, The Price of Inequality, Allen Lane (Penguin), London 2012


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