among civilizations - Quest for New Perspectives
text of the speech delivered by Swami Jitatrnananda at the
International Ministerial Conference on "Dialogue Among
Civilizations - Quest for New Perspectives", organized
by UNESCO and Government of India on July 9-10, 2003, at Vigyan
Bhavan, New Delhi. The speech was delivered in the session
on "Spirituality and Ethics". A former Editor of
Prabuddha Bharata, Swami Jitatmananda is presently
the Head of Ramakrishna Ashram, Rajkot, Gujarat. He has authored
several books which include Modern Physics and Vedanta,
Indian Ethos for Modem Management, Swami Vivekananda:
Prophei and Pathfinder etc.]
distinguished Cochairs, Dr. Kirit Joshi, and my brothers and
sisters from different countries of the world. We are here
in this hall from different parts of the world to discuss
Spirituality and Ethics as essential dimensions of civilization
and to find out new perspectives for our civilization out
of these two.
world civilization is a huge orchestral harmony where every
single tune either from violin, violin-cello, oboe, flute,
organ, piano, and all other instruments has contributed to
create the mighty harmony of this global civilization. Every
tune is important and indispensable.
love for aesthetics, Russian humanism, English Love of human
dignity and valour, America's spirit of human freedom, Japanese
spirit of nationalism, Chinese spirit of pragmatic wisdom
and India's spirituality - all these and many many more civilizations
have contributed to this grand harmony of our world civilization.
And this has been enriched by Islamic brotherhood, Christian
charity, Buddhist Love for peace in Nirvana, African dynamism
and excellence in the field of sports and music and finally
modern scientific explorations that have revolutionized our
is the meaning of the word Spirituality? Spirit means non-physical.
Anything physical in this universe is limited. Even the vast
Cosmos with a hundred thousand galaxies spread over a superspace
of 26 dimensions, according to John. A. Wheeler, is a finite
reality. Its radius, according to Einstein's calculation is
1Q32 light-years. Anything non-physical is, therefore, infinite.
the Gospel according to St. John (4:24) Jesus says, "I
am the Spirit, and he that worshippeth me as spirit worshippeth
me in truth." The physical Christ died on the Golgotha,
the mount of skulls, at the age of 33. The non-physical Christ,
spans two millennia, and is alive in the heart of one-third
of the world population.
five thousand years ago, the seers or Rishis of India intuitively
discovered this truth. Inside the finite lurks the infinite.
This universe had, in all probability, sprung from an infinitely
small black-hole, may be with a diameter of 10 - 32 cm. How
many universes lurk within the body of our children whose
bodies contain billions and billions of molecules, atoms and
described that in the finite physical body of man is hidden
infinite power, infinite excellence, infinite and therefore
deathless life, infinite Knowledge and bliss. We call it Sat-Chit-Ananda.
Today Science admits this. Particle Physics and Quantum physics
have come, according to Nobel physicist E. Schrodinger and
others, to the conclusion that the infinite is contained in
the finite, the universal in the individual, which Indians
expressed as Atman (the individual soul) = Brahman (the universal
soul). The entire Indian culture was devoted to the art and
science of manifesting the Infinite inside the finite, the
non-physical spirit inside the physical body and this is called
the science of spirituality.
brothers and sisters, please remember that this fundamental
thought of man as spirit is at the foundation of all major
religions. "The Kingdom of God is within you", says
the Bible. In Koran (18:50) we find Allah asked all the angels
to bow down at the feet of Adam, the first man. All angels
bowed except one. Allah cursed this disobedient angel and
he was known as Satan or fiery devil (Jin Shaytan).
is the message of this Koranic verse? A Satan is he who fails
to offer a Super-angelic respect to man. Sufi Islam says "Anal
Haque" (I am the Truth). Man is the greatest of all living
beings, according to Indian philosophy. Because man, by the
science and practice of spirituality, can manifest the divinity
and sisters, here comes a paramount question. What is civilization?
The Vedic culture had declared that to realize or manifest
the Infinite divinity within is the goal of life. What is
civilization? Swami Vivekananda, the greatest exponent of
India's Vedanta philosophy in modern times declared at Harvard
University that civilization is the manifestation of divinity
foundation of civilization is something deeper than mere material
excellence and consumeristic bliss. The Greeks, and the Romans
inspite of external excellence faded as civilizations. If
you think, brothers and sisters, that civilization is consumerism,
I am afraid you are mistaken. Sweden, the richest country
of the world has the largest number of suicides. I was in
Hollywood on 18th January 2000 and the Los Angels Times
(18.1.2000) declared in the cover page that twenty one percent
of American younger generation is mad. Do we want such a civilization?
Brothers, when we will declare materialistic consumerism as
the goal of civilization, we must also write in brackets that
we are inviting early death of our children.
after the 11th Sept. 2001 attack on World Trade Centre, history
has changed for ever. Everyone has realized the tremendous
destructive power of even the best of men under the spell
of fundamentalist hatred. I admire those five youths who led
this attack. They read Koran throughout the night, they fasted
and prayed to Allah and then went to please Allah by destroying
non-believers. They were assured of a heaven which, of course,
friend told me that Christ taught them to bring peace by offering
the left cheek when the right cheek is struck. I only answered
him that the followers of Christ should then have offered
two more towers in U.S.A to Osama Bin Laden, to be destroyed
by him. Did they do so? No. At a distance of some 8000 miles,
U.S.A. powdered Afganisthan. Why did it happen? Christ would
have forgiven his enemy. Buddha would have forgiven. You would
also have probably forgiven; probably a simple common man
like an auto driver, too, would have forgiven. But, and there
is a but, history does not forgive. There is a thing called
"Vengeance of history". Friends, let us not go to
Fundamentalism, otherwise, we will invite the vengeance of
Chairman, Fundamentalism is based on a wrong understanding
of Reality and probably a fatal ignorance of a basic Truth
of religions. Mr. Chairman, this little distance between your
chair and my podium-stand, an electron can cover by an infinite
number of ways. It is known today as the Multiple History
Theory, first discovered by Nobel-Physicist Richard Fynmann.
If this short distance may be covered in an infinite number
of ways, what about God? God is infinite and there must be
infinite ways to reach the infinite Godhead. Mr. Chairman,
there must be infinite ways to allow human beings to reach
realized some five thousand years ago - Truth is One, sages
call it by various names. (Ekam sat viprah bahudha vadanti).
Mr. Chairman, this truth is the very basis of India's traditional
acceptance of the Plurality of Religions. But, it is Sri Ramakrishna,
the spiritual teacher of modern Hinduism, who first put it
in practice in a historic way. Being a Hindu he practised
Sufi Islam and Christianity, especially the idea of Christ
on the lap of Madonna. And following him, for the last hundred
years, we have been celebrating Christmas, observing Buddha-Mahavir-Guru
Nanak's birthdays, reading Koran and singing Sufi songs in
our typically Hindu temples.
and sisters, this is a new perspective, which India can offer
to the world civilization. Today we not only tolerate, but
accept other religions. We not only accept, but celebrate
your religions in our temples. This is a new, much needed
perspective that today's global civilization needs.
question of ethics has come. What is ethics? Ethics is the
feelings, emotions and values based on the unity of souls.
Why should I show compassion, love, respect to you? Because
you and I are fundamentally interconnected. Ask a just new
born baby's mother to carry one kg of weight. She cannot do
that. Yet all the time she carries a three kg weight - her
own baby. How is it possible? Because only a few days ago
the baby was inside the mother. All the compassion, love and
sacrifice of the mother for the baby comes from the fundamental
unity of the mother and the baby.The basic unity of entire
humanity is expressed repeatedly in our Vedanta literature.
Sri Krishna says in the Bhagavad Gita: "I have
interpenetrated this whole universe like a thread connecting
the pearls in a string".
Chairman, this unity of existence is today verified by modern
science. In Princeton, I asked the great physicist John A.
Wheeler, what was the greatest discovery of science. And Prof.
Wheeler said that confirmation of the fundamental unity of
existence, through the experimental verification of Bell's
theorem by Alain Aspect in France in 1986 and earlier by David
Bohm in London in 1972 and Clauser and Freedman in U.S.A.
in 1972, is the greatest discovery of science.
Chairman, scientific truths are universal. They are applicable
to ail - Christians, Muslims, Buddhists, all alike. No one
can deny universal truths. If any one climbs the twentieth
floor of a building and says, "I don't believe in the
law of gravitation. I will walk on air outside the window"
- what happens to him? Death. "Truth doesn't pay homage
to any society, ancient or modern. Society has to pay homage
to Truth or die", - said Swami Vivekananda, India's prophet
for this civilization.
moment we violate this fundamental unity of all life, we violate
ethics. Macbeth realized after murdering his sleeping guest
Duncan, that he had murdered his own sleep forever and said:
"Macbeth does murder sleep: "the innocent sleep"
... Macbeth shall sleep no more".
long ethics was the basis of civilization. Today this holistic
ethics backed by the discovery of science, has become the
connecting link between all civilizations.
Chairman, today's earlier speaker, our friend from Senegal,
Olabiyi Babalola J.Yai, who is heading the UNESCO Racism cell,
wanted to know of some practical down-to-earth programmes,
based on spirituality and science. For the last one hundred
years Indians have taken a new programme based on practical
spirituality. We are slowly turning our schools into temples
where every student, irrespective of colour, religion, or
nationality, is being treated as God or Goddess and teachers
are worshipping them with knowledge. We have started developing
our hospitals, where in a similar manner, the doctors are
worshipping God as patients with medicines and surgery. Slowly
this attitude of serving human beings as gods is entering
today into many sectors of India's national life, including
industry and administration. This is a new perspective, which
India can offer to the global civilization.
and sisters, by seeing all of you here, it seems to me that
our own brothers and sisters have come back to see us after
a long, long time. A deep sense of joy and fulfilment has
filled our hearts by your coming to India for this conference.
I offer my deepest respect and love to all of you.