As India turns 60, an open invitation to shape a new global order is awaiting India's affirmative response. One only has to go by reports of how the world is lapping up Indian spirituality to find that elusive magic formula for peace.
The popularity abroad of the formula of yoga, pranayama and meditation confirms that paranoia about Indian spirituality is gradually giving way to a sense of appreciation and acceptance. At least, outside India!
The credit for this shift in the global perception must go to New Age gurus with mass followings who travel across the globe to articulate ancient Indian wisdom in simple and pragmatic style. Their approach makes spirituality looks more acceptable and appealing.
Take the example of Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. His teachings are universal and focused on something as ubiquitous as breath, away from any dogmatic beliefs. Already, he presides over a spiritual empire that's spread over 140 countries and travels to nearly 40 countries each year. He has been welcomed into mosques, he has addressed churches and he has touched hearts.
These New Age gurus have done to Indian spirituality what Swami Vivekananda did to sensitize the world to the Vedanta philosophy and Mahatma Gandhi to the ideal of ahimsa.
India has a lot to offer. It has a long tradition of spirituality, and an impeccable track record of uniting people. The spiritual strength of India is an example for the entire world.
Sadly, this definite edge for India is noticed more by outsiders than those who have been bestowed with the honors of shaping the country's future. Caught in the political compulsion of being "secularly correct", India's ruling class shy away from anything that's spiritual. Leave alone, deploying it as a diplomatic tool.
These leaders consider even breaking bread with a spiritual leader a political suicide. But they have no problem breaking fast over an Iftar party! Minority appeasement is secular, but spiritual uplift is communal.
The question now is: will India be able to capitalize the booming demand for its spiritual offering? If one goes by the response Indian gurus get abroad, then this question is almost irrelevant. But the apathy of the Indian government towards anything spiritual raises the fear that India might just miss the bus.
It's time our rulers start seeing India's spiritual wealth as an equally valuable, if not more, indicator of its strength as its swelling foreign exchange reserves.
It's not about shaping a new global order alone. Spirituality can be harnessed as solutions to many of India's domestic woes. Naxalism (Maoism) and terrorism will be rooted out in no time, that too without using any force. There will be no room for rabble-rousing over a Uniform Civil Code. The tragedy of this country is that our political dispensations are more interested in finding new electoral fodder than promoting a universal spiritual code of co-existence.
(The author works for Art of Living Foundation and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)