By Suma Varughese
The foundation of the new age is based on awareness of the fundamental truth of life which is oneness. It is this perspective which will govern our relationship with ourselves, others and the universe and determine our systems
Where there is separateness, one sees another, smells another, tastes another, speaks to another, hears another, touches another, thinks of another, knows another. But where there is unity, one without a second, that is the world of Brahman.” – Brihadaranyaka Upanishad
Tat tvam Asi (You are that), Aham brahmasi. (I am God) These sonorous Sanskrit words have long resonated through the centuries of Indian civilization. Like a tanpura note that holds the authenticity of the raga and brings it back to base, it has held us steady to the one true aspiration and the one mighty truth of life itself. We are God. There is no difference between us and the Creator. The creator and the created are one.
Here, for instance, is what the Katha Upanishad has to say:
“As the same fire assumes different shapes
When it consumes objects differing in shape
So does the one Self take the shape
Of every creature in whom he is present.”
This then was the blueprint that we were given over five thousand years ago. The staggering thing is that we are slowly, very imperceptibly moving towards realisation of this lofty goal. Looking back, the whole weaving, arching and often stumbling march of human endeavour has been to bring us to this point of human history, when individually and collectively we are realising the true design of human existence. Life is not a fragmentary, random phenomenon. We are not separate from one another. We are intimately interconnected. Every particle of the universe is connected to the next one. Even the most contemptible amoeba or the dullest clod of earth is part of this glowing, vibrant universe and its absence would make it incomplete. A lot of the evidence is actually negative as the consequences of our separatist thinking homes in on us. The environment is the most glaring proof. For decades we poisoned the soil with fertilizers and pesticides, water with chemicals and oil slicks, the air with the smoke from a million factory chimneys and deisel exhaust from innumerable vehicles, and thought nothing about it. We ravaged and trampled over nature, mowed down the forest, and pillaged its minerals and fossil fuels, safe in our belief that we are separate from nature. Today, it is all coming back to us. The ravaged earth is refusing to feed us as abundantly as she earlier did, water is rapidly becoming a scarce commodity, respiratory illnesses, cancers and various other maladies are rampant, thousands of species are dying and the ecology is almost a basket case. None of this would have happened if we were separate from nature. If you want proof that we are interconnected cherchez le environment.
Another myth that has crashed recently is the belief that illness or health is a function of the body alone. Allopathy, the medical science based on this thinking, is foundering in many ways, as more and more discover that it does not have a lasting solution to their problems, that the side-effects are as bad or worse than the disease and finally that the cost of treatment is crippling. To treat oneself or a loved one of cancer, many have had to sell their houses.
More and more, we are recognising the interconnection between the body, mind and spirit. Illness or wellness reside in the mind determined by the thoughts we think, or the emotions we feel. As the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad had said so many centuries ago: “You are what your deep and driving desire is. As your desire, so is your will. As your will so is your deed. As your deed, so is your destiny.” We think ourselves into illness or wellness. Pioneers like Louise Hay actually created with eerie accuracy a detailed catalogue of the fears and emotions that cause specific illnesses. That apart, our health or lack of it is also influenced by our relationship with others, and ourselves, on the way we breathe, how well we sleep, how much sunshine we take in and even the direction of the planets. In short, the whole universe has a role to play in determining our health because we live in an interconnected world.
Says Dr Dean Ornish, in his book, Love and Survival, “Love and intimacy are at the root of what makes us sick and what makes us well, what causes sadness and what brings happiness, what makes us suffer and what leads to healing. If a new drug had the same impact, virtually every doctor in the country would be recommending it for their patients.” Other healers have discovered that praying for others has remarkable effect. Dr Larry Dossey, author of Healing Words, The Power of Prayer and the Practice of Medicine says, “There are easily 130 studies that show that if you take prayer into the laboratory under controlled situations, it does something remarkable, not just to human beings but to bacteria, fungi, germinating seeds, rats, mice and baby gerbils.”
Endorsement that this is possible is coming thick and fast from all aspects of science. Ever since Einstein discovered that matter and energy are interchangeable, science and especially quantum physics has never been the same again. Writes author and founder of the think tank, The Club of Budapest, Ervin Laszlo in his book, Global Shift in the World Mind, “In light of the emerging insights (from science) the universe is not a lifeless, soulless aggregate of inert chunks of matter, rather it resembles a living organism.”
There is also growing evidence from the emerging field of social neuroscience that we are indeed one. A recent study of more than 4,700 people who were followed over 20 years found that people who are happy or become happy boost the chances that someone they know will be happy. Common sense knowledge that is finally getting scientific validation. In his book, Social Intelligence, Daniel Goleman says, “Emotions are contagious. We “catch” strong emotions much as we do a rhinovirus – and so come down with an emotional equivalent of a cold.”
That all this is actually impacting our lives and culture is also increasingly becoming evident. Writes Laszlo, “In many societies an intensely hopeful culture is surfacing. It is made up of people who are rethinking their preferences, priorities, values, and behaviours….Lifestyles hallmarked by matter-, and energy-wasteful ostentation are shifting towards modes of living marked by voluntary simplicity and the search for a new morality and harmony with nature.”
He quotes a study conducted by California’s Institute of Noetic Sciences to say that one of the most significant shifts is from separation to wholeness – a fresh recognition of the wholeness and interconnection of all aspects of life and reality. This movement towards a holistic perspective shows up as: “a preference for natural whole foods, holistic health care, holistic inner experience, whole system information, and holistic balance between work and play and consumption and inner growth.”
This trend is cropping up everywhere. An article that appeared in the May/June 2005 issue of the British journal Resurgencehas writer William Bloom claim, “The holisitic approach is rapidly becoming a major cultural force. There is substantial and rigorously researched evidence that the majority of the population in the United Kingdom, and other industrialised and democratised nations, is adopting a holistic worldview.”
The new culture has the allegiance of as much as 28 per cent of the general population in the US and studies in Italy indicate that people who subscribe to similar values are about 35 per cent. Here in India, too, while there may be no studies to indicate the ratio of people who are moving into a more holistic way of life, there is certainly a lot of evidence that more and more people are embracing yoga, meditation and other spiritual practices. Memberships to spiritual movements are peaking as lakhs of people join up. And the members are getting younger.
The environment is drawing millions of supporters and campaigns like Batti Bandh and Greenpeace, and Peta is attracting enthusiastic support among the young.
Many young and old are increasingly awakening from the lure of consumerism. An email forward from a young yuppie illustrates his moment of awakening when he realised that although he had not used many of the gadgets he had bought in the last few months, he was constantly striving to buy more. Despite having more money than he could spend, he constantly worried about making more. In contrast, his father was content with a mobile phone costing Rs 2,500. He concludes, “Maybe cutting down your requirements, re-calculating your future goal in the light of today’s happiness is a worthwhile thing to do. Maybe selling off your Santro and buying Honda City on EMIs is not a good idea. I believe putting your happiness ahead of money is the choice we need to make.”
Could he be the voice of thousands of misguided youth awakening from the maya of materialism?
Furthermore, spiritual organizations are focussing more and more on the concept of Oneness. Oneness Univercity at Vardiapalem, has as their mission to “alleviate human suffering at its roots by awakening humanity into oneness, wherein every individual feels connected to all that is.”
As more and more awaken to the essential truth of oneness, we will slowly create a holistic culture on earth. A culture that is entirely focused on the larger good and whose sole purpose is to bring about enlightenment for every human soul. We in India have had such a culture before and to a great extent still have it. Yoga, meditation, ayurveda, Vaastu shastra, natya shastras, our indigenous agricultural and water conservation practices, our way of bringing up the young, our culinary approach, have all been whole system sciences whose purpose has always been to be in harmony with the larger whole. It is no coincidence that we are gradually returning to these and the world is eagerly discovering and practising these treasures. At the same time, new and appropriate techniques and approaches are being thrown up every day to heal the environment, to heal ourselves, to increase our potential and so on. We need to be open to the new and at the same time, keep a grip on the old. What will help us to negotiate this slippery junction is discriminative intelligence which will tell us what to reject of the old or the new and what to hold on to.
This one truth of interconnection is all we need to reinvent our world completely. If this perspective can guide our every movement and action, every thought and word, we can begin to create the brave new world of our dreams. An utopia where justice, peace, love and harmony and plenty are abiding realities and which drive out the spectres of hate, exploitation, injustice, violence, and poverty. A world where all strive to achieve their very best and offer it as service at the feet of the world. A world of safety and smiles, of cherished infants and revered elders, a world where each and everyone of us, man, animal, plant, mineral, has a place.
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