Recently, I was visiting my niece’s school in New York. While waiting for her to come out of her class, I began to talk with a young student in the corridor. I think he was around 15 years of age.
His remark in some context took me by shock and set me thinking. “Yes, I do believe in principles but I do not have any!” I think young George was right; he does know where to get his principles from. As young children, our parents and teachers are our icons. As we grow up, it could be the pujari in the temple, a priest in the church, a mullah in the mosque. As we enter our working lives, they could be corporate CEOs, bureaucrats, and politicians. At another level, for the young minds, sportsmen and musicians emerge as their icons.
Today, people from all walks of life are facing disappointments. I have just been halfway around the world, Japan, US, Europe and the Caribbean. All the icons are falling apart. A high level Catholic priest in the US is charged for homosexual behavior. The senior officials of Enron are in prison for financial manipulations and scams – only 18 months ago, it was rated to be the most admired company in the world. The Mullahs in many parts of the world have been involved in state politics. Politics by itself is a domain with lowest credibility and esteem. Sportsmen have been accused of rape, dope and financial irregularities.
The culmination of the prevalent state of affairs in the world was of course the attack on the World Trade Centre – New York. This has shaken the people of US beyond imagination. A strange phenomenon was the fall-out of this calamity. It has brought families together. They are beginning to question the current value systems of their society and the uncertainty of life. I have noticed, throughout the world history, when a calamity hits, there is always a new change that takes place. At this moment, I am beginning to see a powerful sign of change. The practice of meditation and its value to a human being is spreading very rapidly around the world.
In Tokyo, it was a wonderful sight to watch men in grey suits, seated in a park at lunch-time in meditation. At six in the morning, when I drew the curtain to look out of my room in Ghanzong, a Southern city of China, I saw many people walking toward a small hill at a distance. I rang up the telephone operator requesting her to explain what was happening. “Oh!” she said, “They are going to the hill of silence to meditate”. “Is there some festival today”, I asked her, “No, they just do it every day”. There are classes being held teaching people how to meditate. What is surprising is that people of all ages and all professions are meditating. Even corporate offices are creating spaces for people to meditate and be with themselves I think, people are beginning to realize that they need to depend upon themselves to seek silence and peace. The outward religious rituals and symbols still persist – more out of habit – they are however being questioned.
Terrorism is the name of religion, disrupting a nation on historical issues of a temple and a mosque, two nations killing innocent people over the years, arguing about the ownership of a holy city. It is beginning to dawn on people that they should be looking within. They have to become independent of religious bodies and seek God in their own way. They realize that they do not need to be preached to anymore, they can read and interpret their way. This has already sparked off hundreds of religious books being published in every language of the world.
The growing tendency of people to seek God within themselves will help them to set their own standard of ethics and morality, give clarity to the blurred differentiation between right and wrong. I think we can begin to see a glowing light at the end of the tunnel. It is obvious spirituality is beginning to replace religion. This liberates man from old dogmas and beliefs, unwarranted clash of religions, unites the people in peace and leads to harmony.
Sri Aurobindo has beautifully articulated this movement in his Synthesis of Yoga and through hundreds of letters that he wrote to his disciples on this subject. The future that he had predicted many, many years ago is beginning now. It may take time to fully manifest itself but the movement has begun. I believe it will get more and more powerful as men get surrounded and marooned with frustrations and helplessness.
Ram Sehgal(Ram Sehgal is Group Adviser at Rediffusion DR & R and its group companies. He also oversees Wunderman, Everest and S&H. He has been chosen as A & M Advertising Man of the Year and elected to the “Hall of Fame” by the Advertising Club of Kolkata. He studied and grew up at Sri Aurobindo Ashram in Pondicherry.)