Thursday, November 20, 2008

Ending violence by way of India's culture

Peacemaking takes on a decidedly cultural flavor in India, especially at religiously sponsored events. I just returned from the 7Th International Conference on Peace and Nonviolent Action in Jaipur, India. The primary sponsor is ANUBHIA, a Jain initiated organization for the betterment of the world. (I attended the 6Th ICPNA last December.) It is very clear that this is a religious event with the ritualistic presence of His Holiness Acharya Mahapragya and his retinue. Then, you find that the former President of India, Avul Pakir Jainulabdeen Abdul Kalam, has coauthored a book with His Holiness. The book, The Family and The Nation, gives a succinct overview of cultural and societal history to lead to a vision for a peaceful and just society. Religion is fundamental to the contents, but with a much different rationale than you would find in the United States where separation of church and state has prevailed, at least until recently.

To understand this, a person would need to spend some time learning about Hindu religion with its acceptance of diversity, even within the Hindu faith. No centralized body is charged with overseeing orthodoxy and dogma. The ancient culture sets the tone. the individual expresses belief within the culture.

As a result, when you look beyond the white clothing of the monks and ignore the blue masks preventing harm to microbes, you find a rationale and scientific presentation for peace and nonviolence. Ahimsa, nonviolence, is the central tenet of Jain religion. (Jain religion is not Hinduism, but comes from the same roots and communicates the same acceptance.) The 7Th ICPNA took another step toward overcoming violence and finding peace in our troubled world.

I was invited to this Conference as The American Gandhi. I attended the five days of sessions and activities as TAG. In addition, I was invited to address two other gatherings at the same location, including The Conference on Nonviolent Economics. I do not know how much my words communicated, but my physical presence, as Gandhi, did communicate. As someone said, you are the best known person in Jaipur. This was due to photos in the daily papers. I feel that that is well and good, but my message is of crucial import and my main purpose for attending. Gandhi is symbolic only. (My message is recorded in my website.)

Related to my message is the November 7-9 gathering of the World Economic Forum in Dubai. The attendees were aghast at the state of the world. A "reboot" is needed. It is worth checking.