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Turbocharge Gandhian Philosophy Towards a More Peaceful World

Ahimsa (Nonviolence), Satya (Truth), Seva (Selfless service) and Prem (Love for humanity) are precious concepts. But by themselves, they cannot bring peace. For success, the required positive changes have to come about from within.

Mahatma Gandhi, an Apostle of Nonviolence
(By Unknown author – (https://www.awesomestories.com/asset/view/Mahatma-Ghandi-Photo, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=179397)

Our native place is Bidar, now in Karnataka, and my late father, Shri Bapusaheb Deshpande Itkepallikar left Law College in Hyderabad in the 1915s to immerse himself in Mahatma Gandhi’s nonviolent freedom movement for the ensuing several decades at a great sacrifice to himself and his family.

We were told that he and his friend, the late Shri P. V. Narasimha Rao,  an associate of his in the freedom struggle, would discuss strategies for gaining freedom late into the night when a mutual friend would plead with them, “It is getting very late; we should retire for the night and continue the discussion in the morning.”

My late father was imprisoned for a year in the forties for his participation in the nonviolent freedom struggle. During Shri Narasimha Rao’s tenure as Prime Minister of India in the nineties, my father was bestowed the honor of being designated as a ’Freedom Fighter”, posthumously.

The question to ponder here is, might the concepts in this article have secured freedom sooner, and, by extension, should they be embraced to make the world more peaceful at the present time?

By now, I have lived in the United States for sixty years and it may not be inappropriate to start with an example from the American society to explain the need for a new paradigm in the pursuit of nonviolence and peace.

The topic is racism. The 13th Amendment to the US Constitution abolished slavery in 1865 and a number of laws have been passed since then, including the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibited discrimination in public places, integrated schools & public facilities, and made employment discrimination illegal, and yet, racism persists. Laws and policies just don’t seem to cut it when it comes to racism.

What gives?

Immanuel Kant was a renowned 18th century German philosopher. He would assert, “All knowledge begins with the (five) senses, flows then to the understanding, and ends in reason. There is nothing higher than reason.”

The world seems to have taken the philosophy of Immanuel Kant to heart.

Products of reason include sciences, laws, policies, and the like. Products of reason can encompass all existing knowledge.

Relatedly, much of the progress humanity has made since the renaissance period is due to scientific discoveries in the West, first in Europe, and then in America.

There is a misconception across the world, though, that these discoveries are all products of reason.

No wonder then, societies across the world have convinced themselves that products of reason are entirely sufficient to solve all problems, and, this includes racism and the pursuit of nonviolence and peace, in spite of the overwhelming evidence to the cotrary.

In contrast to the philosophy of Immanuel Kant, Swami Vivekananda asserts, “Indian thought dares to seek, and successfully find something higher than reason.”

Swami Vivekananda was an Indian monk who visited the United States to speak at the Parliament of World’s Religions in Chicago in 1893 and received a rock star reception. Both Harvard and Columbia made him an offer to head a new Department of Eastern Religions, and The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal have both written about Swamiji’s continuing influence.

There is ample proof of Vivekananda’s wisdom.

Indian seers have made numerous discoveries in ancient times that transcended reason. These discoveries couldn’t have come about on the basis of the then existing knowledge. They coined a term for such discoveries, “Shruti”, meaning revealed.

Actually, all discoveries, come about when the focus of attention is enhanced. Type I discoveries can occur when the focus of attention is enhanced as in deep contemplation. Type I discoveries amount to connecting the dots in the ocean of existing knowledge. When the focus of attention is further enhanced, as in meditation, or prayer, Type II discoveries (Shruti) can occur. Type II discoveries cannot come about on the basis of existing knowledge.

When disappointment stares me in the face and all alone I see not one ray of light, I go back to the Bhagvad Geeta. I find a verse here and a verse there, and I immediately begin to smile in the midst of overwhelming tragedies and if they have left no visible or indelible scars on me, I owe it all to the teachings of the Bhagvad Geeta.Mahatma Gandhi

The Vedic literature, Bhagvad Geeta, and some Puranic stories are examples of Type II discoveries. Only with the advancement in sciences, it has now been possible to corroborate the wisdom in these sources.

S. Ramanujan’s mathematical discoveries are great examples of Shruti. Mathematical discoveries came to him in deep prayer or in sleep. Barely a high school graduate, Ramanujan would write down complex mathematical theorems and their proofs without ever knowing the steps in between.

Another example is intuition. Since intuition is knowing something without the benefit of the five senses and the rational mind, purposeful inculcation of intuition means that there is definitely something higher than reason.

The discoveries in the West too have occurred when the enquiring minds went into deep contemplation, albeit, unknowingly.

Smoking a pipe, staring out of the large glass window of his apartment in Berne Switzerland, and deeply engrossed in his famous thought experiments, Albert Einstein must have enhanced his focus of attention to such an extent that he transcended reason, and breakthrough discoveries (e. g., e = mc2; general relativity) came to him.

The discoveries that I am explaining in this article have come to me during contemplation and meditation. I am a long-time meditator.

What this background is telling us is that products of reason like sciences, laws, policies and the like are necessary and useful for solving problems, but they are not always sufficient. For success, the required positive changes have to come about from within.

The pursuit of nonviolence and peace perfectly fits with these ideas.

How to bring to about the required positive changes from within?

Human beings are endowed with three components of the mindset called Gunas. The Gunas are a part of Saamkhya philosophy and they are exploited in the Bhagvad Geeta.

The three Gunas are:

  1. S: truthfulness, honesty, steadfastness, and equanimity.
  2. R: Attachment, bravery, ego, ambition, greed and a desire to live.
  3. T: Lying, cheating, and causing injury with words or deed and sleep.

The S, R, T components cannot be measured, but emotions can, and this is fortunate as the two are intricately correlated.

Human beings are endowed with two emotions: Positive emotions and negative emotions.

  1. Positive emotions include unconditional love, kindness, empathy and compassion.
  2. Negative emotions encompass anger, hatred, hostility, resentment, frustration, jealousy, fear, sorrow and the like.

A little reflection should convince the reader that positive emotions are strongly and positively correlated with the S component, while negative emotions are strongly and positively correlated with the R and T components.

On the scale of internal excellence, the S component is at the top-end of the scale, the T component at the bottom, and all combinations of the S, R, and T in between these two extremes. On the scale of the internal excellence, the noble ones are towards the top end of the scale, the wicked ones towards the bottom, and the rest of us somewhere in between.

On the scale of emotional excellence, maximum positive emotions are at the top, maximum negative emotions at the bottom and all combinations of the two somewhere in between these two extremes. On the scale of emotional excellence, the noble ones are towards the top end, wicked ones toward the bottom end and the rest of us somewhere in between these two extremes.

The scales of internal excellence and emotional excellence are entirely equivalent.

For success with nonviolence and peace, it is necessary to be toward the top end of the scales of excellence.

The pursuit of positive emotions at the exclusion of negative emotions is not an intellectual exercise. The required positive changes have to come about from within.

The process with which to achieve a shift from negative emotions to positive emotions is a well-posed scientific problem since emotions can be measured and the process with which to achieve higher levels of emotional excellence is meditation, or more generally yoga, known for thousands of years. The availability of a measurement device for emotions means progress can be audited.

To summarize, the concepts of Ahimsa (Nonviolence), Satya (Truth), Seva (Selfless service) and Prem (Love for humanity) are precious concepts, but for success, they must be complemented with the practices of meditation. That should dramatically improve the prospects for peace.

It is fortunate that not everyone needs to engage in meditation for peace. According to the Maharishi Effect, a mere of the population should be sufficient to promote peace. For a world population of 8 billion, that works out to be about 90,000!

Renowned quantum physicist, John Haglen and his associates conducted an experiment in the eighties showing that 4,000 meditators were sufficient to substantially reduce serious crime rate in Washington, D. C. Hagelin was a favorite follower of the late Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and he ran for US President three times, the last time in the year, 2,000.

I have discovered that in the absence of an adequate level of emotional excellence, the best of the best strategies for achieving the best possible performance do not and cannot deliver the expected performance. Boost emotional excellence and the performance will zoom.

Example in this category include Mumbai’s Dabbawalas, The Kumbh Mela, Chicago Cubs World Cup Victory, Seattle Seahawks Super bowl win, and Quarter Back, Patrick Mahomes’ contribution to the recent super bowl win of Kansas City Chiefs.

Interestingly, the concepts covered in this article may be seen to corroborate the prophecy of Yogananda Paramahansa.

In a speech at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles, California on March 7, 1952 just before he collapsed to the floor and died, Yogananda said, “I look to a model world that combines the best qualities of “Efficient America” and “Spiritual India”.

By efficient America, Yogananda meant, the best of the best products of reason, and spiritual India encompasses the science and practices of emotional excellence.

Apple Co-founder Steve Jobs was an ardent follower of Kriya Yoga and Yogananda’s book, “Autobiography of a Yogi” was the only book on his IPad. Jobs made arrangements to distribute a gift-wrapped copy of Yogananda’s book to everyone who was invited to his funeral service in 2011.

Finally, higher levels of emotional excellence bring a myriad of benefits in disparate fields of endeavor. They include exemplary performance, creativity and innovativeness, health & wellness and less discord and violence, all toward a more peaceful world.