Very often, I am asked the question: What is your vision of the 21st century?
My answer—and my vision are very simple. Mine is a vision of a world without war, a world without want. A world in which every human being can live a life of dignity, with all the necessities of life provided, and can hold his head high. A world in which peace prevails among nations, and harmony among people of the earth. A world in which the right to live is guaranteed to every creature that breathes the breath of life.
I am convinced that we are standing on the threshold of a new age of love and peace that will see all nations and all people united by the bonds of brotherhood. Today, we have arrived at a stage where nations and individuals alike must learn to understand one another—to make peace or perish. There is no other choice.
Peace. It is as if we have become immune to this word! Although it is frequently in use, it seems so alien to us in reality. But is not peace the ultimate quest of every human heart? Are we not all lovers of peace? Peace is what we all crave. Peace is what humanity has piteously cried for, age after age. Peace, peace, peace – in this one word you have the secret, the answer to all questions.
I believe peace must have three dimensions: Peace within our own selves; peace among the nations; and peace with nature.
The first dimension of peace: peace within
What is peace? I can tell you what peace is in many words, but all descriptions will fail and you will not understand those words until you have felt peace in the heart within.
Like love, peace must be felt.
Why is it that we lose our peace of mind? Because our wishes, our desires, are crossed. We want a particular thing to be done in a particular manner. When it happens in a different way, perhaps in exactly the opposite way, our peace is lost.
Why do we feel upset, frustrated, disappointed? Because we are attached, we are involved. If I do my work, if I live my life as if I am playing a part, I would not be upset.
If something happens in a play, do you feel upset? Supposing another ‘character’ in the play scolds you or speaks ill of you, do you get angry? no. You know you have to play your part well. If only we can realize this, that we are all actors in the drama of life; that the roles we are playing have been given to us by the Cosmic Director—we will never, ever feel upset. We will not be entangled.
But, of course, there’s a catch. In the cosmic drama of life, you have to play a double role. You have to be an actor and you also have to be a spectator. You have to watch the play unfolding before your eyes and you also have to act. If you are able to do this, you will not lose your peace of mind. It is not easy to do this – maintain your inner equilibrium at all times and in all situations.
Sadhu Vaswani used to tell us, “God upsets our plans to set up his own. And his plans are always perfect.” If I have the faith that whatever has happened to me is according to the plan of the highest, that there is some hidden good in it for me, I will not be upset.
One easy way of doing this, is to sit in silence everyday for ten to fifteen minutes, and explain this one thing to yourself: “Whatever happens, happens according to the will of God. If something happens contrary to my desires, it has happened according to God’s will. Therefore, there must be some good in it for me.” Explain this to your mind every day. “O mind; why is it that you lose your peace?
There can be no peace in the world so long as the hearts of men are volcanoes.
The second dimension of peace: peace among nations
Nations today, are plunged in the darkness of ignorance and believe that they can assert their sovereignty and integrity only by waging war against their enemies. Worse, they actually believe that lasting peace can be established through relentless war. Thus, our world is scarred by violence and strife. But when the darkness of ignorance is dispelled by the first glimmer of understanding, we will realize that different races and different nations are members of one global family.
How can wars settle disputes? How can wars bring about peace? Peace can be brought about only by a change of heart, a change of attitude among men.
The greatest need of humanity today is peace. The tortured, wounded soul of humanity has cried piteously for peace, age after age. World fellowship and world unity in these two simple ideals is the panacea for all the social, political evils that afflict humanity. The world belongs neither to you nor to me! We are here as pilgrims on earth. Our stay here is but for a little while. The world belongs to God he is our President. Under his sovereign rule we must establish a world union in which every nation lives as the brother of every other nation.
I recall an incident in the life of the Buddha. One day, the Enlightened One learns that two armies, owing allegiance to two rulers are on either side of the river Rohini. Both are ready to attack, to annihilate each other all for the sake of the waters of the river. The issue at stake is: Which kingdom has greater rights over the river?
The Buddha comes before them. Addressing the two kings, he says to them, “Tell me, O, kings! How much is this water—the water flowing in the river—worth?”
The kings bow down before the Buddha, for they revere him. “Lord, water is worth very little,” they answer as one.
“How much are kings worth?” the Buddha asks.
“Oh, kings are worth a lot. Their value is inestimable, immeasurable,” comes the reply.
“And how much are your people worth?
“Our people are worth everything to us—we fight to protect them, for they are very precious to us.”
“Are these soldiers not your people?”
“Each of them is as precious to us as our own children!”
“You say water is worth very little – and yet you are prepared to shed the blood of these soldiers whom you claim are dear to you as your own sons! Why are you bent on destroying your lives and the lives of your soldiers? You are ready to fight over a river: Will you let a river of blood flow for the sake of the river of water?” The words of the Enlightened One go into the very hearts of the kings. They promise that they will make peace with each other.
We will get peace only when we are willing to pay the right price – and the price for peace is recognition of the higher laws of nature and life; recognition of the ideals of tolerance, brotherhood, understanding and equality.
If we want peace, we must be prepared to pay the price for peace. If we want universal peace, we must create a new humanity. If we wish to build a new humanity, we must begin with the child.
My hope and my faith are in education more than in any other area. Politics and other things only scratch the surface, whereas education goes deep. Education gives you an opportunity to shape the minds and the hearts of pupils at an age when they are susceptible. A new humanity, a new race, thereby a new world order can only be built by investing in a value-based education.
The third dimension of peace: peace with nature
As the crown of God’s creation, we should have been guardians, protectors, wardens of nature. Instead, we have exploited her shamelessly, selfishly and foolishly. We must learn to live at peace with nature, we must cultivate a symbolic relationship with her—or we will hurtle down the abyss of self-destruction.
And how can we condone or justify the way we treat animals—our younger brothers and sisters in the one family of creation, whom we are morally obliged to protect! O the sin of daily slaughter in our cities! How can we have peace on earth until we stop all killing? So long as animals and birds are slain to provide food for man, we will not have peace on the face of this earth. For, if a man kills an animal for food, he will not hesitate to kill a fellow human being whom he regards as his enemy. The root cause of world wars is irreverence towards life. Wars will not cease until all killing is stopped.
And one passing thought to share with you—among all the creatures on earth, only man alone has the capacity to interfere with the ecological balance. It is man’s responsibility to protect the environment, preserve the ecological balance. It is his sacred duty to see that the integrity and diversity, of nature is maintained. For to destroy nature, is to destroy mankind.
The task that lies ahead of us is mind-blowing in its critical significance. The task is to create peace – or perish. The choice is ours!