To day life values are degrading. Man has become highly self-centered and greedy. The problems faced by humanity are inequality, improper distribution of natural resources, racial discrimination, economic hardships faced by a large population and the hazards of religious and cultural fundamentalism. These can be solved by understanding the true aim of life which is to develop values and not merely enjoyment of more and more material and sensual objects.

There is some awakening in the present world and many right thinking people have started giving attention to life-values to make life of common people healthy, happy and harmonious. UNESCO has been working for bringing peace and harmony among humanity. It has been giving the Noble Peace Prizes every year, from the year 1901. Some of Noble Peace Prize Laureates were Mr. Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Albert Schweitzer, Mr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mr. Henry A. Kissinger, Mr. Mikhail Gorbachev, Ms. Anug San Suu Kyi, Mr. Nelson Mandela, Mr. Yasser Arafat, Mr. Kofi Annan, Mr. Jimmi Carter, etc. From India also Mother Teresa was honoured with the Noble Peace Prize. The General Assembly of the United Nations, proclaimed the year 2000, as the ‘International Year for the Culture of Peace’. Culture is about how we live, how we think, speak and behave. On 09.12.2000, the former Prime Minister of India signed the UNESCO Mainfesto -2000 propagating six core values for the culture of peace and non-violence. The Manifesto drafted by a group of Noble Prize Laureates and signed by 50 million people, solicited signature support from the people across the globle to practise values like:

  • Respect for life
  • Rejection of Violence
  • Share with others
  • Listen to understand
  • Preserve the Planet
  • Re-discover Solidarity

The above nanifesto is based on the principles of non-violence (reverence for all forms of life), non-possession, and values of life. There is great need today to imbibe the above teachings so that they become a part of our day to day life. These teachings will inspire every person to lead a happy, peaceful and humanitarian life.

The constitution of UNESCO states that “Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men, that the defences of peace must be constructed”. Recognizing that peace is not only the absence of conflict, but requires a positive, dynamic participatory process where dialogue is encouraged and conflicts are solved in a sprit of mutual understanding and co-operation, the UNISCO resolution 53/25 of 10th November 1998 proclaimed the period 2001-2010 as the “International Decade for a Culture of Peace and Non-violence” for the children of the world.

A culture of peace is a set of values, attitudes, traditions and models of behaviour and ways of life based on :

i. Respect for life, ending of violence and promotion and practice of non-violence through education, dialogue and co-operation.
ii. Complete respect for the promotion of human rights and the fundamental freedoms;
iii. Commitment to peaceful settlement of conflicts;
iv. Adherence to the principles of freedom, justice, democracy, tolerance, solidarity, co-operation, pluralism, cultural diversity, dialogue and understanding at all levels of society and among nations etc.

The declaration gave special emphasis on a culture of peace education. It was stated as follows:

i. Reinvigorate national efforts and international co-operation to promote the goals of education for all with a view to achieve human, social and environmental development for promoting a culture of peace;
ii. Ensure that children, from an early age, benefit from education on the values, attitudes, modes of bahaviour and ways of life to enable them to resolve any dispute peacefully and in a sprit of respect for human dignity and of tolerance and non-discrimination.
iii. Involve children in activities for instilling in them the values and goals of a culture of peace etc.

The modern civilization based entirely on the material i.e. the economic plane has resulted in the personality of man being cabined into an economic animal. Naturally it has not helped him attain any measure of real happiness. He has tried several Isms but they have not solved his problems. The latest striking examples of communism is before us. Born with a loud bang for ensuring welfare and dignity of man, and for equality and upliftment of the common masses, it has collapsed like a house of cards. The masses in communist countries themselves have risen in revolt and thrown it into the dustbin of history-their dreams of a proletariat of heaven having turned into a society dominated by American Capitalism. Mr. E.F. Schumacher says that America having just 6 percent  of world’s population is cornering 40 percent of the world’s resources and yet the average level of happiness of the people there has not improved. On contrary, in that country families are broken up, the relationships between husband and wife, between parents and children are snapped. Individuals feel isolated and alienated with the sense of vacuum and boredom oppressing them - there is a that growing inner feelings of futility and absurdity. Any number of remedies like drugs, group thereapy, sexual games and all the rest have failed. Educational experts say that children are more at home with drugs, television, games etc. than with their parents and with their brothers and sisters.  In short, considering economic growth alone as the yardstick for measuring standard of life, has verily led to destruction of human personality. It has made ‘man, a clog in the wheel’ and destroyed the natural rhythm of his life.

Therefore we have not only to think globally but also act in a global spirit for the sake of our very existence. Threat of a nuclear war is not over. On the other hand, terrorism has assumed the form of an undeclared war against humanity, as was witnessed in the September 2001 terrorist attack in U.S.A. Religious fundamentalism has proved to be the greatest danger for human rights and creativity of man. Population explosion in the third world countires and the exploitation of the earth by the developed nations, caused by a consumerist style of life, have posed an unprecedental ecological disaster.

Religions have also failed to integrate us together and liberate mankind from sectarianism, superstition, harted and violence. To think that my religion is right and the rest are in the clutches of the devil, is not only imperialism of thought and fanaticism but is also the source of hatred, animosity and violence.

The doctrine of non-violence seems to have arisen out of a strong sense of the unity of religion. Non-violence is not limited to the prevention of war and bloodshed, it must also put an end to the arrogance of man towards nature. The materialist civilization has provided a life of luxury, consumerism and extravagance. We are faced with the reckless exploitation of natural resources meant for the ensuing generations. Hence either we face a life of plain living and high thinking or face ecological disaster. Non-violence is incomplete without a voluntary curb on our extravagance.

The twentieth century was the country of science, the twentyfirst century will be a century of spiritualism. Science must blend with spiritualism. Then only peace and harmony will prevail in the world.

(This article is based on a lecture delivered by  Sri Dulichand Jain, Chairman, Karuna International at an Inter – faith Workshop held at Chennai,on 20.05.2012)
Editor & Chairman, Karuna International.

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