Is there a winning formula for peace?

‘All the strength and succour you want is within yourselves. Therefore, make your own future’

– Swami Vivekananda

This applies to individuals as well as countries, of course, for Swami Vivekananda always meant his messages for mankind in general, although he always emphasized the individual. Quite naturally of course because if we have to change mankind we have to begin with man.

The paradigm of modern times has been heavily influenced by Sigmund Freud’s concept of the mind, which is basically that it is a store of repressed urges that cannot wait to get out and take hold of our lives. We are hapless victims of these impulses, and in order to understand ourselves we need to undergo psycho-analysis. This will reveal the devious rages that drive us, and by understanding them – during costly couch sessions – we should be able to reorder our lives.

The predicament of our present so-called civilization with screaming war-mongers at the helm in several countries is evidence that this method has its limitations.

One of the major works of Freud was entitled ‘The psychopathology of daily life’. If we think of life as a disease to be cured instead of an opportunity to express the beautiful side of our nature, is it any wonder that we should be tottering on the brink of collective madness?

In ‘Learn to live’, a publication of the Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai, we read: ‘This is the best of times and perhaps also the worst. On the one hand the marvellous advance of science and technology is showering on us comforts and luxuries galore…The reverse of the coin, however, is terribly grim. Mindless violence stalks the world. Crime rules the roost. The exploitation of the “have-nots” by the “haves” is terrifying. At all levels shameless corruption has become a way of life.’

These lines were written in 2000, but they could as well have been written yesterday, when we realize the chilling realities that they describe and that are being played out around the world and at home too daily, and for how long more nobody seems to know.

Unless…

Unless we change our mindset and our course towards MAD: mutually assured destruction. ‘Learn to live’ is particularly concerned about and addressed to the rising generations who are caught in this whirlpool, and whose greatest needs of the hour are ‘proper ideas, inspiring models and appropriate guidance’.

Many leaders who rule the world today are locked in a seemingly unending spiral of violence. Through the bloody clash of the societies over which they preside or tele-control, triggered and sustained by the monster of terrorism that arises from their dark interiors, they are dragging along with them the rest of the world which wants to live in peace. All the billions that are being squandered to destroy people, countries and trust, and to constantly threaten each other could have been put to better use to feed, clothe, house, save from disease and treat the nearly two billion people who live on less than one dollar a day.

On the local scene, where are the role models that we can recommend to the youth? They are to be found neither in the highest forum, the National Assembly, where examples of gutter language and cheap jibes are regularly reported by the media, and which prevent debate at a level which would do Mauritian citizens proud. Nor are they to be found amongst those whose underhand and criminal dealings are concealed by the veneer of their educational and professional backgrounds, an element that would lead the youth to expect from them a standard of behaviour that they would wish to emulate.

The tragedy is that such people are found, as elsewhere in both the developing and developed world, in the key sectors of our society, from the liberal professions, the banks and companies to providers of the multitude of public and private services on which the foundations of a smooth-running and just society depend.

There is only one way to stop the rot from turning into deathly gangrene. And that is to understand ourselves as human beings whose essential nature is goodness. We have allowed this goodness to be damped down by layers of expectations and desires that, sure enough, arise in our minds. When these desires turn into ugly greedy calculations and ego-drives in the power games at national and international level to exploit, dominate and control others at whatever cost including territorial expansion, violence and ultimately war are inevitable.

That is why we must therefore go beyond to what controls the mind, the buddhi which can discriminate not only between right and wrong but also, when properly trained, between the real and the unreal, truth and untruth about ourselves and the world in all the ways it manifests itself in the living and non-living dimensions.

It is only with this level of understanding and knowledge that we shall be able to tap the ‘strength and succour’ that is within ourselves, change ourselves for the better and impact upon others positively, and collectively prepare the future for our coming generations by seeking avenues of mutual cooperation rather than provocations to conflict and its sequel, violence. That is the only winning formula if we want peace in the world, and peace is certainly the crying need, now and always.

* Published in print edition on 22 July 2016

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