The pressures of the modern life are so great that inspite of our best efforts we get affected both physically and mentally. The pace is so fast that we seldom take time out to examine ourselves. We are so caught up with hectic activities that we keep moving in a rut, without thinking. Internal conflicts like (i) gain vs. loss (ii) praise vs. blame (iii) fame vs. disgrace (iv) pleasure vs. pain (v) trust vs. doubt (vi) professional vs. personal life (vii) freedom vs. restraint come at every step in the journey of life but we are unable to resolve them. This happens because we have failed to clarify our values in life.
Values are internalized principles, moral code, ethics and the code of behaviour by which we should be guided in life. These are guidelines for shaping our judgment for what is right and important in life. These guideposts help human beings to steer their lives in the right direction so that they are able to live in harmony with humanity and the surrounding environment. These ideals wisely guide human volition in critical times which befall in everybody’s life. Values are those desirable ideals and goals which are intrinsic in themselves and help us in experiencing a deep sense of fulfillment as we progress towards our goals.
I am sure that there will be no dispute in regarding “Satyam” (Truth), “Shivam”(Goodness) and “Sundaram” (Beauty) as the universal supreme values of life. Nobody will disagree that these are the most desirable ideals and mere orientation towards them will take us to the highest rung of being and becoming. The other perennial values are honesty and integrity in our dealings. We can ignore these only at our peril. Take the case of cricketing heroes Hansie Cronjie & co.: they were treated like gods, almost worshipped. But as soon as the cricketing scam of match fixing was brought to light the “heroes” fell in public esteem. Their lust for lucre brought them this shame: they showed complete lack of integrity! Even their cricketing genius did not help.
Often people have mentioned to me that to be hundred per cent honest is not possible. My answer to their query is in the form of a question. Would anybody like to have a dishonest servant, manipulative friend or an infidel spouse? Would any organization tolerate a dishonest worker? They are unable to defend this argument. People want everybody around their immediate neighbourhood to be honest but paradoxically they don’t mind being dishonest in their daily lives. Many a time the prospective parents of the schools I have headed, have filled in their qualifications in the registration form as ‘graduates’. But in a few cases a little probing revealed that they had actually not completed their graduation. Although my aim has never been to humiliate them but I could see that they felt mortally ashamed. They could have easily avoided this embarrassing situation by being honest in their declaration.
In ideal circumstances truth should be pursued as Socrates did. He was relentless in pursuing truth even though he was aware that he would be put to death. He did not surrender to his accusers, for he thought it would mean giving up the search for truth. His life is a source of inspiration for seekers of truth: it is a unique example of a kindler and an awakener. The courage that he displayed should be emulated to apply truth in life to its logical conclusions. He was a heroic fighter. To me, an educated person should not succumb to a fake life. To most people education is just a passport to material prosperity and nothing else. And rampant material consumption is about making life as “fake” as possible. People spend money to appear better looking, smarter, taller, grander than they really are! To them the value of education is how much fakeness it can provide them!
“Man’s devotion to truth becomes an unerring source of power and greatness.” –Mahrishi Dayanand Saraswati
To them pleasure is far more motivating than any notion of real happiness. Knowledge tempered with spiritualism can only bring about wisdom. That life is not worth living where quest for truth is denied. This universal value I call heroism. It is an inner inspired force which leads one to self-giving and sacrificing in the operation of WILL that is applied to the quest, realization and triumph of meaning and value against the resistance of limitations and obstacles by means of courage and adventure. The higher the sacrifice the greater the degree of heroism. Jesus Christ, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King and Gandhi are other examples who belong to this category. They did not lead lives that had much comfort on the outside but certainly lived with great inner peace and strength.
The world today is in need of a global society which can be founded only by inculcating in its citizens universal values which transcend narrow, selfish pursuits. It becomes necessary for parents and teachers to instil these values in all those with whom they come in contact. At the young age, telling of interesting stories, reciting of appropriate poems, singing of inspirational songs and parables would help. At the pre-teen and early teens, staging incidents from the lives and teachings of great moral, religious and heroic leaders should go a long way in infusing the desired values. The grown-ups should have passages of universalist character from scriptures and lives of great people, biographies, autobiographical accounts, personal anecdotes, stories of human interest, short reflective essays, plays, historical or mythical accounts of love, courage, compassion and universal moral philosophy to learn from. The discussion at all these stages should be free and fearless. At the core of all this is the message that the moral spirit and the need for an understanding of the higher aspects of life have to be aroused in human beings.
To these universal values we can easily add compassion, love, peace, non-violence, sense of justice and fair play, respect for elders, concern for old and infirm, empathy for differently-abled, unacquisitive temperament and reverence for all living beings. Human compassion supersedes all religious and philoso¬phical beliefs. When we see men and women joining in, in extending help with a smile on their faces to victims of earthquakes, floods or accidents, they are attaining a higher level of existence filled with compassion. It is the most beautiful thing about human beings: it has been epitomized supremely by Mother Teresa. Jesus Christ said “Love thy neighbour, as thyself”. Love is to be equated with universal love – knowing no barriers, unconditional, unlimited and unadulterated. It has to attract all hearts.
This reminds me of the story of Abou-ben-Adhem.
Once he was awakened from his sleep by a flash of light. He saw that an angel was writing the names of those who loved God. He enquired of the angel whether his name was there or not to which the angel replied in the negative. Without getting disheartened he, then, asked the angel to write his name in the list of those who love the people of God. The angel then disappeared. The next night he was again woken up by a similar flash of light and the same angel appeared. On enquiry Abou-ben-Adhem was told that his name was on the top of the list of those whom God loved!
An “Eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth” does not work. Violence breeds further violence. It is through non-violence and during peace time that other values can be cultivated and sustained. Peace ‘within’ can accelerate peace ‘without’. It also provides mental poise. Deep uncompromising love practised by Jesus, non-violence and quest for peace applied in their lives by Jesus, Gandhi and Guru Nanak are worth emulating. We may not be able to reach those glimmering heights but we must endeavour to live by these shining examples. The above mentioned universal values must be our foundation for steering the ship of life if we have to cross safely through the tumultuous voyage of life.
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