Take life as rare gift for promoting the general good

The Hindu spiritual thought resting on two fundamentals – theory of Karma and concept of Rebirth – calls for pursuit of righteous action with dedication without getting deterred by the fear of ‘failure’ in regard to its results and generally defines the mission of life in terms of devotion to duty towards all including the ‘self’, practice of honesty and remembrance of the supreme power of God. It is remarkable that it commends non-attachment towards ‘material’ things on one hand and treats the striving for ‘legitimate’ means of earning money at par with Dharma, on the other.
The idea of ‘rebirth’ or the ‘cycle of births’ may be in contrast to the interpretation of science that human beings were the culmination of a process of evolution propelled by ‘natural selection’ and that the body of all living beings was a machinery that one day ‘stops’ working, marking its end. It is also different from the prescription of many religions that the dead would wait for the Judgement Day and then would spend the last spell of their ‘only life’, in heaven or the hell, on a balance of their good and bad deeds.
Hindu philosophy provides some comfort on the unsettling mystery of what happened after death through an appealing idea of the individual redeeming oneself in another birth in case the given life turned out to be not totally flawless.
The spell of retribution or heavenly reward went with that particular birth as the ‘soul’ – the ultimate identity of the individual – moved towards the final goal of liberation from the trap of rebirth. All faiths gave primacy to a life lived with honesty and conscious abstinence from sins that also served the purpose of establishing a bench mark in socio-cultural conduct.
The underlying message of any religion is to emphasise the importance of ‘the present life’ gifted by nature in a limited timeframe, to be spent in ‘happiness’ and steered clear of socially mandated ‘misdeeds’ committed consciously – even the man-made code of punishment did not count something done unknowingly.
For both spiritual and temporal reasons the best one can do is to live an active and purposeful life without being pulled down by the saddening thought of having to ‘leave everything behind’.
This great commonality of purpose of human existence across beliefs, communities and geographical boundaries should be the best guarantee for global peace but it so happens that religion is either pushed back to a degree where it became inconsequential in determining the socio-cultural outlook of the person or is made, on the other hand, a symbol of national or political identity that only caused international and communal disputes.
Respect for all religions presumes that there will be no declared ‘supremacist’ element in a faith or promotion of a kind of ‘exclusivism’ that led to a ‘rejectionist’ attitude towards others.
If there is ‘One God’, then it also means ‘the same God’, whatever be the name given to ‘Him’ and the mode of worship adopted by the faithful. Conflict between communities can arise when this is not accepted and on a wider level between nations when they chose to be governed on an exclusivist religious identity.
Today, global security is threatened by faith-based terrorism that advanced a ‘political cause’ using religion as an instrument and advocating ‘superiority’ of a faith for driving the ‘motivation’ behind it. During the G20 at Bali an inter-faith conference led by Indonesia’s largest Islamic organisation, Nadwatul Ulema, clearly disapproved of extremism and ‘radicalisation’ – this stand has to be carried forward for isolating those forces which were instigating violence in the name of Jehad.
This is a threat to the democratic world as a whole. Faith represents a personal relationship between man and his God and it need not come in the way of all citizens of a country upholding the ‘national culture’ and feeling proud about it. Entry of religious separatism in national and international politics is a great cause for concern as it negates all that religion was expected to do for human goodwill and world peace.
A wider meaning of religion as something that provided the impetus for leading a life of personal and social morality needs to be restored everywhere for making the world a better place.
India’s motto ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ for its G20 Presidency is ideally suited for this.
Regardless of spiritual theories on life after death, all religions give prime importance to the present life and call for an idealism about seeking the best outcome of it for the individual – and for the society at large.
The thought that this life is all that you had, is sure to add positivity to one’s approach to the available span and left to himself man – at the apex of ‘evolution of species’ – is gifted with enough ‘wisdom’ to put him on the side of good deeds that took note of fellow human beings as well.
Democracy perhaps comes out of a churning of ideas on a bigger scale on how best a state could help and facilitate the growth of an individual who had freedom of right to worship as well. There is a lesson in this for the democratic world to unite to counter the forces that used faith-based militancy for their political advancement.
The thought of its combined security should come to the democratic world even before the matter of economic cooperation was given its due attention.
India as a major power of global South – more so as the leader in South Asia – must consider both global security and international economic relations during the G20 Presidency and get the forums formed in that connection, particularly Think 20 and Civil 20, to deliberate on this challenge.
India is ideally placed to show light to the world – beyond the political and economic spheres – on how to improve the human life, promote brotherhood on a cultural – not religious – base and take to the path of renunciation of armed conflicts.
‘Covert warfare’ is a new phenomenon that represents a common challenge for the democratic order all over the world – its leading protagonists are Pakistan and China, working in cahoot to use Terrorism as a weapon for furthering their interest. Countering this should be an important mission of G20 as the world could be getting pushed towards a religion-based ‘war’ precipitated by Pakistan with the Marxist dictatorship of China watching it as a spectator and looking out for its own gains in it.
In the Indian context, values of a nationhood shared by all citizens regardless of their faith and mode of worship, have to be promoted in various ways, among students, work force and those handling the tasks of governance.
Equality of opportunity and protection of the state, can be firmly established through elimination of corruption at all levels, public-service orientation of the police and an affirmation secured from all players in public life that national security will be kept above party politics. ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ appropriately, is India’s call to the world to unite for a higher human cause.
India should project the danger of faith-based militancy as a threat to human rights and to the democratic content of a state run on the principle of ‘one man one vote’.
All democratic countries of the region and those beyond must cooperate in countering the new global terror that was disrupting economic development and growth required for improving the lot of the common people.
Apart from putting down terrorists behind the ‘covert’ violence through Intelligence-based operations of Army and the police, there should be an organised effort to spread public awareness against terrorism and closer exchange of information among the democratic countries affected by the same.
G20 should deal with this problem at the global and regional levels and expose the hidden hands of all those who were fomenting it themselves or conniving with the terror sponsors for their vested political interest.
India as the biggest victim of cross border terrorism has the right to lead this campaign during its G20 Presidency since this is as important as cooperation for economic development, climate security and technology.
It is a matter of great satisfaction that our leadership at the top is fully cognisant of the total world scene and is already setting off the process of deep examination of all relevant aspects of it through specially created bodies of experts, for taking the mission of G20 forward.

(The writer is a former Director of the Intelligence Bureau. Views expressed are personal)

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