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CULTURE OF PEACE

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Introduction

Diffusing Glory With Peace

Baidyanath Saraswati

We have moved from the age of monlogue to the age of dialogue. We live in the Global Village. But what if the Global Village were to become the arena of violence and war? The climate of modern world is wholly hostile. What we see without believing that we see it is a dehumanized fragmented world: the human family is broken by exploitative social order; the village is destroyed by technocentric development; the city is corrupted by conspicuous consumerism; injustice is caused by man-made laws; discrimination is made by claims of equity; oppression is committed by those demanding rights-without-duties; violence is done by self-appointed guardians of humanity; and faith is feebled by lust. In such a state of human degeneration, can we diffuse Glory with Peace? Can we identify ourselves with peace? Can peace be ever brought through totalitarian dictatorships — republics disseminating fear? Can there be a world without wars? Can the disorderly world be brought back to order? Is the clash of civilizations inevitable? Is the human race doomed to extinction? Or is there a way out?

There are today a large number of national and international organizations concerned with peace. The United Nations is the main political forum for worldpeace. Peace-making and peace-keeping are its core functions. The UNESCO, which is an organization of states within the United Nations, had held meetings in Barcelona in 1993, 1994 on "Contributions by Religions to the Culture of Peace". Peace is still a dream. Violence is unleashed all over, particularly in Asia, Africa and Eastern Europe. The dialogue on peace must continue. The practical way to live peacefully must be found.

Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts has tried to take the Barcelona dialogue further. A five-day conference on Asian perspective in the culture of peace was organized in New Delhi on 25th November 1996 when people of India were celebrating 527th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak, great mystic and votary of world peace. More than 29 distinguished scholars and missionaries of peace from Bangladesh, China, India, Iran, Japan, Russia, Sri Lanka, Thailand, United States and Vietnam gathered on this occasion to discuss major aspects of peace. Happily, six members of the Barcelona dialogue took part in this Asian conference. Dr. Felix Marti, the leader of the Barcelona group, could not attend the meeting but has graciously filled up his absence by writing a thoughtful prologue.

Asians are the people to whom the Veda, the Bible, the Koran and the Zend Avesta were revealed. Asia is the place where all major religions of the world were born and where great prophets have left an unimpeachable testimony of peace through prayer. India is the land where Buddha spoke of silence and lead the liberation from anguish and suffering. Buddhism spread all over Asia without shedding a drop of blood. In our own times, Gandhi, the Mahatma, made experiments with truth and non-violence. He was the first in human history to extend the principle of non-violence from individual to social and political planes. He refused to admit that truth and non-violence are meant only for saints. Also he did not hesitate saying: "I would risk violence a thousand times than the emasculation of the whole race". India achieved Independence by non-violence and self-suffering. The Spirit of Asia is not a caged bird; it soars in the sky and evokes sweet sounds of life that enlighten the race of men.

This volume consists of papers presented at the Asian conference on Peace. Each paper is richly illustrated and brilliantly conceived. While some of these papers are conceptually more ambitious, others address practical issues. But all of these focus on the culture of peace.

I. Sharing the Experience of Beauty and Peace

To situate the place of experience (sensual, intellectual and spiritual) in the culture of peace, it is absolutely necessary to know how musicians, painters, poets, dancers, actors, and creative geniuses are naturally oriented towards peace. And also, how do they foster the act of faith and goodness? The Sanskrit word for peace is shanti. The dormant state of body and mind — as in sleep or in death — is called ‘lying in peace’ or ‘becoming peaceful’. What it suggests is a sublime ontology of peace. At the highest level of thought peace is ‘self-reflexive consciousness’ as well as ‘self-reflective intelligence’. This double concurrent awareness can possibly be kept active. Natural experience has a hold upon man. Movement in time and space is man’s existential necessity. There is a call for him also to move beyond time and space. Both of these constitute the truth of human living. Metaphysical experience of peace is true; it is higher than natural experience. But one cannot say that natural experience is false or deceptive or misleading. The holy yearning for peace is realized at the experiential level. Not all human creativities but only special works of special people, we call ‘artists’, can illuminate the mind of man. The man who works for the glory of God, displays in his work the sovereign Beauty. Beauty is perfection, and perfection is peace. The artist who works in love for God is sensitive to human suffering. Many cultures talk about suffering as good, suffering as virtue, suffering to bear the grace of God. At the end of the Mahabharata war, Kunti, the mother of the Pandavas, asked Lord Krishna to suffer all her life so that she may progress in her spritual journey — devotion to God. The acceptance of suffering as spiritual power is of highest prudence.

The Japanese culture views suffering precisely in the sense of ultimate good. The case of Hikare, a mentally handicapped musician, reveals that art is very much spiritual; being healed through expressing despair, the dark night of the soul being transformed through healing and sharing the joy of recovery with others. Sufferings such as being handicapped, being sick, and being victims of violence are lives of the family and of society. Cosmos and humanity are healing families. Hikari and Oe’s family and prayers of the surviving victims of Hiroshima and Nagasaki are witnesses of healing families. The mystery of art reveals this reality. The perspective and experience of the culture of peace cannot be conceived of without a healing family (Minoru Kasai).

The Chinese civilization has conceived of peace as the law and the logic of the universe. Confucius talked about peace a goal from the view point of a philosopher. Chinese poets have highlighted the eternal dilemma of war and peace. One Chinese empress composed a song of peace seeking blessings of the sacred. Many poets have voiced against warlike policies, and have painted pictures of tragedies of war. Passive resistence to war and longing for the sentient-world reflect clearly in several poems. There is an unmistakable touch of Buddhist philosophy in Chinese poems. Poets visualize natural peace and beauty as the fundamental rhythm of the universe, and they play ‘the music of tranquillity’ (Tan Chung).

Peace and friendship are important topics within Chinese Buddhist art. Artists create a type of Buddha image in which benevolence is nestled within the beauty of its solemnity. He deals with its awesomeness and its kindness or benevolence, which are completely different and even mutually cancelling elements, but still melds them together, so that the Buddha has an external image of gravity and an inner store of kindness. (Jim Weinuo)

From Russia the voice of Nicholas Roerich sounds — ‘realization of beauty will save the world’. The inner discipline of Russian artists is expressed in the art of icon painting. Before starting a painting, the artist practices prayer and silence and maintains mental and emotional purity, which help him to achieve resonance like a musical instrument. It is the duty and responsibility of the artist to stress on the expression of inner beauty and spiritual power (Natalia Kravtchenko and Vladimir Zaitsev)

Human individual is by nature an artist, a creator. Creative activities are those disciplines in which senses quite intuitively seek harmony, proportion and wholeness of any experience. The uses of media and tools, such as clay, cotton, wool, leather, wood, stone, brushes, potter’s wheel, saws, impose upon this discipline by their very nature. Moreover, it draws us closer to nature, which alone is the supreme example of harmony, sympathy and union. These are the same laws on which the human community depends for its own unity and integrity. The crucial point here is that unless we as individuals feel ourselves parts of the whole we cannot experience the whole, which is the ultimate aim of humanity. And without that personal experience we cannot be happy and feel fulfilled. Art assists the individual in creating the desired unity with the universe (Devi Prasad).

Theatrical art demonstrates the value of peace. European theatre, for instance, projects the futility of war, and heroism as an argument for peace. But peace in this theatrical tradition is argued for as a value, not portrayed as a presence. The dramatic action hardly ever shows an experience of peace. Greek drama was devoted to the portrayal of the conflict between the human and the divine. Peace here was known as an epiphany. Theatrical activity in ancient India created an experience of peace through emotional purification and elation, which led to the deeper aesthetic experience called rasa, a profoundly peace-giving experience. Theatre, as the oldest art of communication, is best suited to highlight consonances between cultures and promotes the common scale of peace. (Bharat Gupt)

II. Examining the Empirical Reality of Beauty and Peace

Experience can neither be measured nor can it be expressed fully. It can be gained only in the crossing of temporal reality. Why? The uncritical mind is satisfied with what is given; and what is given is taken as real. The critical mind is not satisfied with what is given; it goes deeper into what is observable. The spiritual mind is not limited by empiricity; it has an inward power of feelings. Feelings differ from emotions. Modern man has a critical mind. He lacks inwardness and gives himself to emotions. Violence becomes a part of his emotionality. His mind thinks horizonatally, hence his contact with the reality is limited. He who thinks vertically moves into the celestial, the universal, the divine. Kabir, a medieval saint-poet, has described three kinds of being:

He who treads within limits is man.

He who treads without limits is saint.

He who treads within and without limits,

his mind is immeasurable.

Modern man, who treads within limits, is incapable of experiencing peace. He draws consequences from his limited perception and projected emotion. He has no sense of beauty, hence no peace. He does not relate himself with the whole; gets confused with emotions and becomes fragmented and degraded, hence no peace. He does not seek uplift, does not move towards inner radiance, hence peace remains for him an illusion. This implies that the reality of peace can be understood only in terms of relativity, and not in its absoluteness. At the highest level of "understanding", beauty and peace are symbolically adequate, that is, in conformity with reality, hence absolute. At another level, beauty and peace are "things" which infact appear other than what they are, hence relative. The principle of relativity operates in minds of modern men moving away from God.

We find that there are good things in the modern world: there are electric light and the flash system, two admittedly very important acquirements. But these are only good means, now unwittingly made out as ends. Means are not ends. The all-important end is the flavour man gives to his life, or to put it better, the consumption of beauty. This end is quite unrelated to the accumulation of skills of civilization. Meditation or yoga, or whatever, to men already cast in this form, becomes no more than a technology, a magical means of control over others. But there is no inner tranquility. A growing will to power, yes, but a rapid loss of the sense of beauty — and therefore no peace. (Keshav Malik)

At this degenerate state of the contemporary culture, violence has become endemic. The present-day individual is fast losing ethical sense of personal responsibility. The modernity in the success of its technology and the capitalistic modes of human relationship have brought into the open (perhaps the primordial) loneliness — insecurity — fear syndrome, and liberated the avarice in man, whose satisfaction he sees as the only way to deal with his pitiable condition. This ‘liberation’ is the main cause of his fragmentation. To achieve integration within, therefore, the individual must turn to himself in a holistic perspective upon life. Only then that sense of responsibility can reborn in him and can transform the ‘given’ into a culture of peace. (M.M. Agrawal)

In our times, internally, inwardly, man is contradicting himself, e.g., the problem of ends and means, where his left hand does not know what his right one does. It is a state of schizophrenic existence, where the head and the heart are no longer resonating with each other. This split behaviour is not confined to the East or the West, since, evolutionarily speaking, the human brain itself is in disorder. Given this situation, what chance is there for peace? What is peace in any case, who knows it and for whom is it? Is it not true that all we see is turmoil, crisis and conflict? Can a mind-brain in this condition know peace? Is it not just chasing a mirage? (S.C. Malik)

There is a possibility to change from our present status of ‘mental’ beings to a status of beings poised in the Spirit. A transition to be made from the state of extreme fragmentation in which we live today to a future possbility of re-creating life on the basis of a concrete experience of ‘wholeness’. From ‘within’ to ‘without’ is the innate movement of the spiritual consciousness, till, in its own unfolding, it reaches a point where the ‘without’ ceases to be, for all are contained in one whole. We feel that a very concrete help can come to us from the experience and work of Sri Aurobindo and Swami Vivekananda. (Mira Aster Patel)

III. Working Towards the Restoration of Peace

Truth is not limited by empiricity. It is not an object of physical experimentation, as the natural sciences do. Truth is God; God is Truth. Hence the experiment with Truth (the nature of being) means following the way proper to religion (faith in and about God). Great men like Buddha, Confucius, and Gandhi made internal experimentation with Truth. They found that the world is ill, and that there are ways to make a beautiful world to live in. They not only preached but also realized the Truth by which peace is supported. They did not follow the method of the moderns who want to build a culture of peace while destroying culture (by militant atheism, consumerism, individualism). They taught tolerance, the sacred art of living (goodness in action), grounded in peace (by fighting against violence, materialism, technocracy), and spoke the language of traditional symbolism. The compassion of Buddha, the intelligence of Cofucious, and the truthfulness of Gandhi were directed towards building a normal human society. They tried to pull down barriers between man and God, man and man, and man and other beings, so as to bring divine peace for all. They were universal redeemers of man. Teachings and healings of Jesus Christ and the Prophet Muhammad were also an integral manifestation of peace. The repeated appearance of such restorers of peace signifies sanctification of history: the reminder that peace is under sovereignty of Time.

Confronted with an almost similar situation of conflict and crisis, as of today, about twenty-six centuries ago, Gautam, the Buddha, made a supreme effort, unparalleled in the annals of human history, in the quest for a solution to the all-pervading phenomenon of misery. In that process he re-discovered the ancient technique of vipassana, the most sublime and noblest heritage of India. Anyone can practise it to purify one’s mind. It involves no blind faith nor conversion from one organized religion to another organized religion. With it, the individual mind begins to experience peace and harmony. This paves the way for peace within and amongst families, societies and nations. (S.N. Goenka)

Apart from meditation (vipassana), Buddhist teachings of loving kindness, forgiveness, and non-anger are ways of peace. The peace of mind or internal peace is the source of external peace of the world. Besides moral cultivation, peace can be attained through all religious arts, e.g., paintings, sculptures, images, and so on. In Thailand, Buddha-images are intentionally made to inspire peace in all who have seen them. In Buddhist culture of peace, people are encouraged to ‘diffuse loving kindness’ to humans and animals as often as they can. Proper educational system should be established to promote humaneness and moral wisdom. The right education will endow students with noble hearts and make them complete human beings. (Pataraporn Sirikanchana)

In Vietnam, since early times, peace has been largely conceived of as peace in one’s mind, peace towards one’s fellows, and peace with nature. These aspects of peace are greatly influenced by Buddhism. If Buddhism provided Vietnamese people with a good-natured heart, Confucianism provided them with wisdom translated into the sense of order, discipline and responsibility. Two major contributions of Confucianism to traditional Vietnamese societies are materialization and institutionalization of benevolence as advocated by Buddhism into regulations and laws; and defining of the responsibility and duty of each individual towards himself and the community in which he is living. (Cao Xuan Pho)

Sri Lankan Buddhists follow a fourfold moral path: loving kindness, compassion, sympathetic joy and equanimity. These moral qualities are practised at all stages of life: as students, as family members and fellow members of the community at large. They convey to the world at large the message of universal peace and universal benevolence. (Sirima Goonesinghe)

Iranian Suffism offers the traveller with the spiritual path a three fold state of peace: Islam (submission, abandonment, to the Divine Will), Iman (the Divine Peace that enters believer’s heart) and Ishan (the Sanctifying Virtue by which sovereignty of evils come to an end). Peace at the stage of Islam pertains to the corporeal and social aspects of human beings, whereas at the stage of Iman, it pertains to the heart and the microcosm, and, finally, at the stage of Islam, peace pertains to the Spirit and the macrocosm. The way to Universal Peace is from microcosm to macrocosm, and not vice versa. In Sacred Scriptures, the Awaited Universal Peace-Makers who will eventually come and establish Universal Peace throughout the world are referred to by different names but possess same characteristics. Universal Peace is a station in which the spiritual traveller lives amongst people only bodily, but is not with people heartly, actually, the face of his heart has been turned from the world of materiality to the world of spirituality. Having one’s hands busy with work, while having one’s heart with the Beloved. That is the only way to Universal Peace. (Mohammad Reza Rikhtehgaran)

Contributions of Indian Sufis to society lie in their sincere and dedicated struggle to find a unity for heterogeneous elements that make up its totality. They appreciated the multi-racial, multi-religious and multi-lingual pattern of Indian society. Sufis identified the service of God with the service of man. They not only preached it but practised it and helped in pulling down barriers between various religious groups. Chaitanya, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Namadev, Pipa, Sen and others familiarized themselves with the cosmopolitan ideas of the Sufi cult and broadcast them in their respective religions. (K.A. Nizami)

The Vedas never pray for peace of man alone, as we in our blind narcissism dare to do. When the Vedas pray for peace they pray, first, for the peace of the heaven, of the sky, of the earth, of all those who live on earth and of all those which grow on it and then for the peace of man. Even the peace of gods and of Brahman, the Absolute, has precedence in this prayer over the peace of man. They make this prayer because the self of man is not merely a human self; it is self of all. Unless and until his self becomes expansive enough to become all and small enough to become each he cannot know what peace is. For those who live alienated from themselves, their own native beings, can only be creatures of fear and of violence, not creatures of peace and bliss. It was for this reason that the Upanishadic seers found the creative centre of a peaceful civilization in the forest and not in the village or the town. For man could, they believed, live in genuine peace only if he loved all those he beheld from the sky to the earth, from the birds of the air to the beast of the jungle. (Som Raj Gupta)

Gandhi made an experiment with Truth, to which he called the other side of the coin, non-violence. His personal experiment with Truth had become an extension programme when it was accepted both as an end and a means for attaining independence for India. Earlier preachers of bhakti in medieval India went a step ahead of non-violence by preaching love for all living beings. Love is dynamic, non-violence is passive. The mythology of ancient India throws light on cultivation of peace in a climate of self-disciplined freedom. Visvamitra wanted to usher in universal peace by controlling intelligence with physical force. He failed, and so tried to acquire intellectual power. Vasishtha wanted to keep the world under control by intellectual power but failed. Valmiki appealed to the heart of the mankind to adjure violence and appreciate the beauty of mutual love. His message was received well by warriors, intellectuals and commoners alike. (Biswanarayan Shastri)

Peace, as Gandhi envisaged it, is far more than the absence of war and violence. It is a state of positive and constructive world-view and world-order, where individuals, groups and nations eschew to dominate or exploit one another and live in cooperation and mutual aid. This means that peace needs a new life-style and a new culture. However, such a philosophy of civilization of peace does not work in a vacuum. Therefore, Gandhi enunciates both an epistemology of peace and non-violence and he also formulates a sociology of peace. Gandhi had a vision of self-sufficient and self-managed village republics serving as grassroots of democracy as an alternative to a centralized party system and parliamentary democracy. Gandhi advocated, ‘think globaly and act locally’. (Ramjee Singh)

Gandhi, with his advocacy of the development of self-sufficient village communities, trusteeship, disapproval of desires beyond the minimum manual labour, the community based basic education, was aiming at developing a social order where nobody could be an exploiter or exploited and which would ensure equitable distribution of wealth and justice. He wrote in his little classic Hind Swaraj: "We notice that the mind is a restless bird, the more it gets the more it wants, and still remains unsatisfied. The more we indulge our passions the more unbriddled they become. Our ancestors, therefore, set a limit to our indulgence. They saw that happiness was largely a mental condition. A man is not necessarily happy because he is rich, or unhappy because he is poor". (N. Radhakrishnan)

IV. Forming the Network of Actors in Peace

Knowing, willing and doing are three moments of the soul of man. We know that happiness can not be achieved unless everything is grounded in peace. But unless we have the will to promote a culture of peace, through the spiritual vision of shared human responsibility, we can make no beginning. To act is to pray. Prayer is the discipline by means of which the holiness (wholeness) is achieved. The holy man is the complete man. Peace can be achieved only by the holy man. To bring peace in the world, we have to form a network of holy men, the actors in peace, contemplating sovereign goodness and bringing peace and pleasure within every man. What is to be done is to counter false ideologies of materiality with spirituality which is still within every man’s reach; to build a culture of peace brick by brick, act by act, and community by community; to maintain the balance between this-worldy and the other-worldly needs actualized by moral education; and to make people realize that the Kingdom of Heaven is within them.

Here is a case study of the Sarvodaya Shramadana Movement in Sri Lanka which began in mid-1950s. Mahatma Gandhi’s vision of Village Republics or Lord Buddha’s teachings on Right Livelihood Society provided the movement with a lot of insights into this stage of experiment. This experiment, including the economic and political aspects, is already going on in over 2,500 advanced villages out of 10,000 villages where the movement is active. These villages are going through what is described as social, economic and political empowerment. The very fact that this people’s movement, working towards non-violent transformation of man and society has survived amidst many obstacles, shows that change based on moral principles is still possible. Turn to the spring of spirituality which is still within our reach, it depollutes and cleans the stream of morality that flows from it, and on either side of the stream it builds a culture of peace, sustainability and joy of living. (A.T. Ariyaratne)

Gandhiji gave a blue-print for the culture of peace to be built brick by brick, act by act, community by community. "In this structure composed of innumerable villages, there will be ever-widening, never-ascending circles. Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual, always ready to perish for the village, the village ready to perish for the circle of villages, till at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals never aggressive in their arrogance but ever humble, sharing the majesty of the oceanic circle of which they are integral parts." (M. Aram)

Following the Unesco programme of working towards a culture of peace, people in different countries, including Bangladesh, took active part in prevention and solution of conflicts in campaigns of peace education, mobilization of public opinion and building of a mass movement promoting peace. (Ali Aksad)

The movement of bishops of Asia concerning the theology underlying inter-religious dialogue has led to a study on the theology of harmony. The movement ‘Basic Education for All’ was initiated in 1990 at the International Catholic Education Office in Brussels. Special features of the movement are that children of the formal school system, acting as agents or levers of change, carry to family units of slums in their neighbourhood a basic education package programme that includes, besides literacy, developmental components, basic skills, values and attitudes. This is the first step in education for peace. (Angelo Fernandes)

The starting point for the application of Bahai principles to educational reform is the understanding that continuing reform and evolution of education is essential to the life of the mind and spirit. Two of the specific Bahai principles of education that will influence the emergence of world peace are that education must become a virtuous process and that we must learn to celebrate errors as part of essential processes and products will then foster the type of environment necessary to promote independent investigation of truth to facilitate interdependency of the process, content, and objectives of education. (Dwight W. Allen)

From Bahai writings we can discern following requirements on the part of the present-day society for the establishment of a new World Order and permanent peace on earth: unity of nations, unity in the political realm, unity of thought, unity of freedom, unity of religion and adoption by majority of humankind of a world religion, unity of races and unity of languages. (A.K. Merchant)

The approach to peace must be universal, not merely institutional, but with the backing of all. All citizens, communities and groups must participate actively, honestly and dutifully in a concerted effort to do away with war in all its forms. Of the groups who must be involved, we can identify the younger generation, the youth, students and their teachers. Add to them the sensitive community of mothers, and businessmen, brahmans, maulvis, priests and rabbis who impart true education by precept and by example. (M. Ishaq Jamkhanawala)

Man is the actor. He acts in war and in peace. What matters is his role in the cosmic play. He plays a specific role in the course of living. His destiny lies in the role that he chooses for himself. Depending on the self-reflexivity with which he is gifted, he relates himself either to Truth or to untruth. He is, thus, the marker of his destiny. He has an innate tendency to organize his self. Moving from one body to another he is re-made and re-organized again and again. In truth, he is without a centre. His roots are upward. The traditional model of human organization is diametrically opposed to the pattern of the modern global village, organizing itself in fear and tension. (Baidyanath Saraswati)

* * *

It is fairly evident that authors of these essays have made us possible to think of culture as an organisation of peace. The truth of proportion of war and peace is critical in the understanding of culture. Human behaviour is complex. Culture is by necessity selective. No culture is made up of more than a fraction of the total range of human behaviour. A culture that capitalizes a considerable proportion of peace is the culture of peace. The influence of spirituality on early culture made peace possible. The influence of materiality on modern culture is a threat to the culture of peace. In a world plenty of knowledge and skill, the cow of peace is limping. Who will offer the wisdom, the compassion and the healing faith that strengthen it?. . . The world’s people, not the Asians alone.

 

 

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