Aug 30, 2011

Agitation and ahimsa Agitation and ahimsa

By Sanjiv Kakar

Today we see tens of thousands of citizens, including many youth taking to the streets for a better tomorrow. In a country with a sizeable young population, having youngsters in the forefront of a political agitation is not surprising. We only hope that the movement remains nonviolent, for violence always ends in failure and it is truth that wins.

The spectacle of families bringing their children to Anna Hazare's fast at the Ramlila Maidan in Delhi for a dose of morality and ethics raises fundamental questions. What is it that we can do to establish ahimsa in our youth? Since protest is here to stay as a vital tool in the political arena, education in non- violence becomes a priority.


Gandhiji's satyagraha was influenced and inspired in part by religion, especially Jainism and his own Vaishnava upbringing and he held regular satsangs. Today, for young people, religious instruction is mostly a family affair, or is imbibed through popular television programmes.

School textbooks offer a rather dry history of religion without inspirational content. Since there is no structured discussion in a classroom environment, there is very little space for reflection with peer groups, or for discussion on how ancient wisdom can be applied to contemporary issues, for instance greed and corruption. Without meaningful discussion and proper mentoring how can young people go deep within and create meaning for themselves? It is this looking within, this introspection, that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar calls the 'Guru within'. We need to honour its wisdom. This self-enquiry is what helps us traverse the boundary between religion and spirituality.

It was a spiritual force that guided our nation through nonviolence to freedom.The fact that so many youth are taking to the streets in a spirit of ahimsa is commendable. The real test, however, is when nonviolent protestors face resistance, opposition, or violence. With spiritual practices like meditation, we can go deep within and experience the space of silence and love. Anger and hatred come in the way of dialogue and conflict resolution. Patience is required for sustained negotiations.

Spirituality can solve social problems. Sri Sri has called for a spiritual tsunami as the means of transforming people and creating a divine society. This should especially inspire youth, for they are eager to do something for society. As Sri Sri says, "The seed of the universe is deep inside you. ..your life is more than your activity. Life is not just about achieving; it is about contributing."

Without spiritual training, ahimsa is fragile. Let us hold our breath and pray that people fed up with corruption continue to hold onto spiritual values. Corruption happens where there is no belongingness and spirituality is experiencing belongingness with everyone.

Nurturing the spirit of ahimsa and truth is what youth need. We need to recognise the divinity in everyone, including ourselves. Once we are in touch with ourselves and can celebrate the silence within, nothing can provoke us.

The writer teaches at Delhi University and is associated with Art of Living

sanjiv@yahoo.com


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