By Dada J.P. Vaswani
Every morning in Indian schools, children recite the prayer of unity which begins thus:
India is my country. All Indians are my brothers and sisters.
I love my country and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage.
I shall always strive to be worthy of it.
I shall give my parents, teachers and all elders respect and treat everyone with courtesy.
To my country and my people, I pledge my devotion.
In their wellbeing and prosperity alone lies my happiness.
Considering the fact that we are now beginning to call our world a ‘global village,’ I think it is also time we modify this prayer thus:
The world is my family, and all human beings are my brothers and sisters.
I love my world and I am proud of its rich and varied heritage.
I shall always strive to be worthy of it.
I shall give my parents, teachers and all human beings respect and treat everyone with courtesy.
To my world, my country and my fellow human beings, I pledge my devotion.
In their wellbeing and prosperity alone lies my happiness.
Does this not sound beautiful?
This is not a revolutionary new idea that I am expressing! Our ancient Rishis spoke thousands of years ago about the concept of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam—the world as one family. The Tamil Sangam poets of the 3rd Century AD sang, “Every place is my home; everyone is my relative!” No other world scripture expresses the spirit of universal brotherhood as beautifully as the Vedas:
Om Sarvesham Swastir Bhavatu
Sarvesham Saantir Bhavatu
Sarvesham Poornam Bhavatu
Sarvesham Mangalam Bhavatu
Auspiciousness be unto all,
Perfect peace be unto all,
Fullness be unto all,
Prosperity is unto all.
Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinaha
Sarve Santu Niramayah
Sarve Bhadrani Pasyantu
Maa Kaschid Dhukha Bhag Bhavet
Happiness be unto all,
Perfect health be unto all,
May all see good in everyone,
May all be free from suffering.
What a wonderful, universal prayer this is!
Sadhu Vaswani often said, “Children of the earth, ye all are one.”
I am told that there is a magnificent archaeological site in western Africa—the vast ruins of Jenne in Mali. Apparently, this was a city of over 100,000 people one thousand years ago. It was, in fact, a world class metropolis in the first millennium, far surpassing London in size and importance.
A visitor to the site observes: “Its art was stunning. Its architecture reflected a complex society […] What struck me most, however, was the fact that it had been completely ignored by Western archeologists for decades, because they found no evidence of military constructions! The Jenne civilization did not find its strength through military conquest or intimidation of its people, but through cooperation! It was a great city built not on fear, but friendship!”
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of the distinguished newspaper The Christian Science Monitor, wrote of her vision of the brotherhood of humanity in 1908:
“For many years I have prayed daily that there be no more war, no more barbarous slaughter of our fellow human beings; prayed that all the people of the earth love God supremely, and love their neighbors as themselves.”
If mankind was created by God, is not our brotherhood an established fact?
David G Stratman narrates a moving story—a real-life story—about the First World War in his book, We CAN Change the World. It tells us about Christmas in 1914 in the trenches of Europe. The captains and generals had taken ‘time off’ for Christmas and only the common soldiers on both sides were left to guard the battle lines on both sides.
On Dec. 25, in a spontaneous move, British, French and German soldiers dared to disobey their superiors and fraternize with the ‘enemy.’ German troops actually held up Christmas trees from the trenches with the signs which said, “Merry Christmas”, and “You no shoot—we no shoot.” French and British troops responded eagerly to the move, and hundreds of soldiers on both sides crossed the ‘no man’s land’ to sing Christmas carols, exchange greetings and show photographs of loved ones back home. Men shared rations, played football and even roasted food over camp fires for a common meal.
When the high command of both sides heard about this, a collective shudder ran down their spine. They could not—would not—allow it! If soldiers asserted their brotherhood, how could wars ever be fought? Generals on both sides declared the spontaneous peacemaking to be treasonous, and soldiers who participated were subjected to court-martial. By March 1915, the budding brotherhood movement was systematically crushed—and the killing machine put back in full operation.
Armistice was declared in 1918—by then fifteen million soldiers had been killed.
Not many people have ever heard of the Christmas truce of 1914. The story was systematically suppressed by authorities on both sides!
This story goes against the popular conception of war and ‘enemy’ nations. But it shows us that the world can be a different place if we set our hearts to it!
I firmly believe that until we grow in this vision of brotherhood, world peace can never be a reality. “May we grow in the spirit of fellowship and understanding,” say our ancient Hindu scriptures. And the Rig Veda, perhaps the oldest of all scriptures, says: “Together walk ye, and together talk ye, and together know ye your minds!”
The world, I believe, is a garden of God. God is in all that is—men and women, birds and animals, fish and fowl, worms and insects, in trees and flowers, in rivers and rocks, in stones and stars, in this pen that scribbles, and even the paper on which my moving finger writes “Krishna! Krishna”. Krishna is in all—and we all are in Krishna! When we have this vision of the One-in-all and All-in-One, we will grow in the spirit of the brotherhood of all creation!
One day, I was out on a walk with a few of my friends. A man brushed past us, walking in a hurry. Our eyes met only for a second, and I folded my hands in greeting. The man was under such stress that he continued on his way without a response. One of my friends said to me, “Dada, you greeted him with a Namaste and he did not even return your greeting!” My reply was, “I fold my hands only to pay obeisance to the God who resides within everyone, and not to greet the outer form!”
Is not this the vision of the One-in-all, given to us in the Vedas?
Sri Krishna tells us the same thing in His song Divine, the Bhagavad Gita:
Who sees Me
In all that is,
And who sees
All in Me,
Of him I shall not lose hold
Nor shall he lose hold of Me!
Our hearts need to be saturated with love, for love is the light which will illumine the world. For this, developed brains are not needed; we need enlightened hearts that can behold the vision of fellowship, unity and brotherhood. Love is what we need to build a new humanity, a new world of brotherhood and peace. We must eliminate the dark forces of greed, selfishness, prejudice and mistrust and cultivate the power of love, which is the power of peace!
In this connection, may I share with you the “Fellowship Song” which I penned long ago?
The whole earth is our country,
And the sky is its dome;
The nations are as mansions
In th’ Heavenly Father’s Home!
We of Chin’ and Japan,
Of ‘Merica and Ind,
We all are brothers, sisters–
Of Soviet and Sind!
Hindus, Muslims, Christians, all
Buddhists and Baha’is–
We share each other’s friendship,
And the love that never dies!
One is the faith we live by!
One is the song we sing!
With little deeds of service,
We worship Him, our King!
We trust in God, His mercy,
And in ourselves believe!
All that today we hope for
We shall one day achieve!
Hand in hand, we march on still,
A better world to build!
A world of love and laughter,
With peace and plenty filled!
I have always asserted that Hinduism is not a religion, but a way of life. And the Hindu way of life embraces the whole of God’s creation in its entirety. For Vedanta teaches us that there is but One Life in all. The One Life sleeps in the mineral and the stone, stirs in the vegetable and plant, dreams in the animal and wakes up in man. Creation is one family so therefore let us not forget, that birds and animals too, are our younger brothers and sisters! It is our duty to guard them and protect them! My vision of fellowship and brotherhood shows me a world in which the right to life is accorded to every creature that breathes the breath of life! How can wars cease until we stop all killing?
How can we claim to seek world peace when we continue to slaughter sentient creatures? Therefore, I urge you, let us grow in the true spirit of brotherhood. Let us grow in the spirit of reverence for all life! We all want peace—peace of mind, peace in the family, peace in the community around us, peace between countries, peace in the world, peace with our environment. There is scarcely a soul upon the earth that does not yearn for peace. But how many of us are prepared to pay the price?
I will tell you what I think is the price we must pay: We must love one another. I will go one step further: we must love one another or perish! We must love each other; we must pray for each other; we must be prepared to sacrifice for each other; we must put aside selfishness and narrow national interests and work for the goal of world unity.
The second important thing we need to create conditions for an enduring world peace is the spirit of service.
Peace cannot be achieved by politics, power and diplomacy. True peace is possible only through the spirit of service. If I had a million tongues, I would appeal to you with each one of them, especially to my young friends who are going to be tomorrow’s leaders and opinion makers—seek not power! Seek service!
Let us do as much good as we can, to as many as we can, in as many ways as we can, on many occasions as we can and as long as we can!
How can the world be peaceful and prosperous if one fraction of its people live in luxury and opulence while the majority live in poverty and deprivation? Therefore, we must all learn to share what we have with others. Let us set apart a portion—say one tenth— of our earnings to be utilized in the service of God and His suffering creation.
To some of us, who are unable to make two ends meet, or live within their income, this may at first appear a very difficult thing to do! But we will find eventually that in the measure in which we share what little we have with others, we will be truly blessed—and this world will be a better place for our humble endeavors!
The shortcut to world peace is through love, compassion, the spirit of caring and sharing and service. It is also the shortest and quickest route to God. The way of service is closely allied to the way of brotherhood—for we need to assert, again and again, “I am my brother’s keeper!”
And who are our brothers? Our brothers and sisters are all those who suffer and are in need of help—men, women, birds and animals. We must become channels of God’s mercy, help and healing, so that His love may flow out to them through us and our actions. When we become instruments of God’s love, there is no limit to what we can accomplish. In God’s divine plan, we can become the sanctuary of the weary and heavy-laden; we can, with our efforts, become a source of sweet, refreshing waters in the wilderness that is this world.
God is Absolute Love—and if we love God, we must be imbued with the longing to serve our fellow men. I believe that true service is a spiritual activity, which at its best is born out of the Love of God. It was a true saint of God who said: “Prayer without work is as bad as work without prayer!”
God cannot be satisfied with our adoration and devotion if they come only from our lips—for words and alphabets cannot make a prayer. It is our hearts and our own lives that must bear witness to our devotion—and what better way to achieve this than through the service of our fellow human beings?
It is possible that some of you may be really overcome by doubts and anxiety when I talk about service to humanity; you may think to yourself, “After all, we are not millionaires. We are people with limited means at our disposal. How can we aspire to serve suffering humanity?”
God can use the least of us in great acts of service, when He so wills. When Jesus fed the five thousand people who had followed him into the hills, he did not use his chief disciples, the apostles as they were called later. In fact, they were full of tension and anxiety, and planning to send the crowds away. Instead, Jesus turned to a small boy whose mother had packed a simple lunch for him. But this boy was willing to give all he had in perfect trust to the Master. I am sure there were many wealthy people in the crowd who had better food with them, but I doubt if they had the faith, trust and devotion of the little boy, who was willing to give his lunch away when the Lord asked him to.
This is the great gift of service—it blesses him who receives and him who serves!
Nowadays, we use the word ‘philanthropist’ to describe a multimillionaire who donates vast sums of money to charitable organizations. Many of us do not know that philanthropist is derived from two Greek words, Philas, which means loving, and anthropos, which is man. In other words, the root meaning of philanthropist is a loving man. Aren’t we all capable of becoming philanthropists? Of course we are—if we give of ourselves, from a heart filled with love.
“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion,” the Dalai Lama tells us.
In loving and compassionate service, in selfless and caring service lies the secret of a peaceful, united world community.
The third essential condition to achieve world peace is a new vision of life as a movement onward.
Once, I happened to talk to an expert technician, who had worked as a welder for years together. He explained to me that welding was possible only when the materials to be welded were brought together at the temperature of white heat—which is far above the red heat we normally talk about. If the temperature is not that of white heat, you simply cannot weld materials together. Even if one of the materials to be welded is not at white heat, welding cannot be done. All objects to be welded have to be at white heat.
So it is with world peace. Lasting peace cannot be achieved unless all of us, working together, striving together, generate the white heat of idealism, determination and resolution which will lead us on to peace.
I believe this white heat can be generated by the third dimension I mentioned—the third essential condition to achieve world peace, which is a new vision of life as a movement onward. For we need to have a vision, we need to dream dreams to work towards the achievement of this ideal.
What do I mean by a new vision of life as a movement onward? Let me explain. I believe a new age is dawning, a new cycle in history which has started. The nations, races and peoples of the world must unite together to march onward, forward, Godward! Godward, I say. For God and religion cannot, must not, be kept out of this vision. Religion must not be set aside, even though people tend to discredit religion these days. As for me, I repeat my firm belief that it is not religion that has failed us. It is we who have failed religion. It is we who have failed religion, because we only speak of religion, we do not bear witness to it in deeds of daily living. We do not bear witness to the teachings of the great prophets. It is life that is needed, not words! I may recite prayers, chant hymns and sing songs of praise, I may read unending passages from the scriptures, I may go to the temple, the church or the mosque seven days a week—but if I do not bear witness to the great ideals of my religion in deeds of daily living, am I any better than a gramophone or a tape recorder? I may even write wonderful commentaries on the Bhagavad Gita, the Upanishads or any other world scriptures, but if I do not reflect the teachings of these scriptures in my actions and words, am I better than a desktop printer?
The world does not need gramophones, tape recorders or printing machines. True life is needed; true religion is needed in terms of vitality, energy, life. “Blessed are the peacemakers,” said Jesus. The world today needs peacemakers—not those who merely talk of peace, but those who carry peace within their hearts and transmit it to those around them. It is people such as these who can save the world, which, today, is madly rushing from danger to destruction. Blessed are the peacemakers. May they heed the words of Jesus. Be not hearers of the Word, be doers of the Word. They will be the saviors of our sinking civilization.
Dada J.P.Vaswani is one of the leading spiritual luminaries of India. He Is the Spiritual Head of Sadhu Vaswani Mission, an international, nonprofit, social welfare and service organisation with its headquarters in Pune, India and active centres all over the world including London.
An internationally acclaimed thinker and a brilliant orator, Dada, has addressed distinguished audiences at eminent venues including the UNO, the World Parliament of Religions - Chicago, South Africa and Melbourne, the House of Commons, London, the Global Forum Of Spiritual and Parliamentary Leaders on Human Survival, Oxford and Kyoto, Japan, The World Vision 2000, Washington, the first World Parliament of Spirituality in Hyderabad and a number of other Global Forums. His philosophy encompasses the essence of every religion, presenting a universal, all-encompassing approach to various belief systems of humanity.
A towering educationist, he believes the frontiers of knowledge must be saturated, with values and ideals. Fifteen schools and colleges are run under his aegis, focusing on character-building education. A gifted writer, he has authored over 150 books, many of which have been translated into several languages.