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Thursday, 13 November 2008

Dr.Abdul Kalam Address at Jaipur on 12.11.08 [International Conference on Peace and Non-violent Action (ICPNA)]

Dynamics of Peace
We have made thee neither of
heaven nor of earth, neither mortal
nor immortal, so that with freedom
of choice and with honour, as though
the maker and moulder of thyself,
thou mayest fashion thyself in
whatever shape, thou shall prefer.
----Giovanni Pico della Mirandola
I am delighted to participate in the Valedictory session of 7th International Conference on Peace and Non-violent Action (ICPNA) at Jaipur. My greetings to all the distinguished invitees assembled here. I am happy that seven international conferences on such an important subject of peace and non-violent action has been discussed by the international community in the presence of experts. This indeed is an important action for promoting world peace. I congratulate Anuvrat Global Organisation for organizing this important conference on peace and non-violent action. When I am with you, I would like to talk on the topic “Dynamics of Peace”. When we think about peace and non-violence, following aspects come to our mind: (i) birth of Ahimsa (ii) fight against injustice (iii) cycle of violence, freedom and peace (iv) human evolution (v) origins of life (vi) challenges of modern society and (vii) protection against man made violence.
Birth of Ahimsa Doctrine
Friends, when I see you all, I look into Indian history 2300 years back, I am reminded of Emperor Asoka, who led two lives, one as a ruthless conqueror and the other as a compassionate ruler. A scene emerges. Asoka had just returned from conquest. But victory had been obtained at heavy cost: the battle of Kalinga claimed the lives of at least 100,000 people and an equal number were wounded. Asoka fell on his knees and removed his armor and crown. His face was pale, reflecting the death surrounding him. He looked at the sky. He saw the bright cool moon shining and God’s grace pouring down on mother earth. And he looked down at the horror the emperor had created, making blood flow everywhere. In that moment of horror and the suffering and the pain on the ground, the Nature, itself seemed to speak out against what he had wrought. In that tragic scene, the Ahimsa Dharma was born through Emperor Asoka. Emperor Asoka embraced God’s command to propagate love for human beings through this doctrine.
Fight against injustice
At this point of time, I would like to recall my traveling on 16 September 2004 in a train powered by steam engine in a first class compartment of 1900’s vintage organized by Durban state of South Africa. When the train was moving from one station to another, Mahatma Gandhi’s struggle against apartheid system in South Africa was flashing in my mind. The train halted at Pietermartizburg, the station where Gandhiji was evicted on a cold winter night from a first class compartment and became a victim of apartheid. When I alighted at the Pietermartizburg railway station, I saw a plaque in the railway station, which reads like this:
In the Vicinity of this plaque
M.K. GANDHI was evicted
from a first class
compartment on the night of
7 June 1893.
This incident changed
the course of his life.
He took up the fight
against racial oppression.
His active non-violence
started from that date.

This changed the course of his life. Gandhiji even said: "my active non-violence began from that date (7th June, 1893). The path of ahimsa is great innovation of the human mind and it was a very powerful non-violent tool that was instrumental in achieving our country’s freedom. Now, Acharya Mahapragyaji and his team are promoting the Ahimsa Dharma that is very vital for creating and nurturing world peace.
Cycle of violence, freedom and peace
The Second World War led to the deployment of atomic weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki killing lakhs of people and injecting radiation induced diseases for generations. The disaster awakened the conscience of the world too. The birth of United Nations in 1945, with a mission of preventing conflicts among nations getting transformed into battles and wars was a good development for the humanity.
All these events remind us of a cycle of violence, freedom and peace. If you look at any war, there are losses, a continuing feeling of hatred and animosity, a negative impact on development and several decades are wasted before ideas of peace get negotiated to bring semblance of normalcy of relations. Can we avoid this distress to human beings?
Human Evolution
When I am with you, I am reminded of the work of Phillips Tobias on human evolution and analysis of early hominid fossils. His work on the evolution of the human brain and the origin of spoken languages has been internationally recognized. The major contribution of Prof. Tobias in genetics is the determination of evolutionary links between primates and early humans.
Traditionally there have been two distinct and different approaches in understanding human evolution. Prof Thobias has contributed in both. First is the archeological evidence. The lessons that we have learnt in India from Mohan-jodaro and Harappa and many similar excavations the world over, have been seminal and many a civilization’s way of living, its culture and its origins have become evident.
The second and more recent approach is propelled by advances in our understanding of the human genome. While the major part of the human genome sequence is common between human beings and even with mice, the small portions that differ, control and contribute to the diversity that we find in the evolution of humans. This makes research in genetic engineering, using human genome sequences to understand the evolution of humans, very fascinating for scientists. From his vast experience in genetics and Paleo-anthropology, Prof. Tobias has been able to present to the world in an understandable capsule form, the whole process of human evolution over 600 million years. The simplicity of the outcome of his complex research has also stimulated many scientists the world over to look at the challenges posed in our understanding of human evolution. Today, the world talks about convergence of many technologies. Prof. Tobias and others have shown us that all our origins converge to a single point both in space and time.
Origins of Life
Ancient human history has been revealed beautifully by Paleo-anthropology. Life originated 600 million years ago and continental drift occurred 200 million years ago creating five continents. Mammals evolved 140 million years ago, Hominids that is the human type, evolved 26 million years ago but modern man only arrived on the scene some 200,000 years ago. He migrated and colonized the world only in the last 50,000 years. The spoken language is some 10,000 years old while writing evolved only a few thousand years ago. All this phenomenal progress has been achieved only within the short span of 200 to 400 generations, that is in just 5,000 to 10,000 years.
Ancient human history has been revealed beautifully by Paleo-anthropology. Life originated 600 million years ago and continental drift occurred 200 million years ago creating five continents. Mammals evolved 140 million years ago, Hominids that is the human type, evolved 26 million years ago but modern man only arrived on the scene some 200,000 years ago. He migrated and colonized the world only in the last 50,000 years. The spoken language is some 10,000 years old while writing evolved only a few thousand years ago. All this phenomenal progress has been achieved only within the short span of 200 to 400 generations, that is in just 5,000 to 10,000 years.
Thus the ‘Nature – Nurture’ philosophy holds good even in this Genomic Era: ‘Genes’. While what we inherit from our parents is the basis, a beautiful ‘building’ can be built over it, with the environment playing a crucial role in shaping the destiny of the individual and leading to excellence or otherwise.
Challenges of Modern Society
Advances in genetics demonstrating great similarity in the genome of man and animals shows that the limbic brain perhaps is the cause for all conflicts within and outside. So far human society, from origin until now has always been at war within and between groups and has led to two World Wars. Presently, terrorism and low intensity warfare are affecting many parts of the world. Simultaneously the brain is intelligent to understand the price, the humanity has paid because of such conflicts and if only this attention is diverted to development, the human civilization would have taken a shape leading to peaceful co-existence.
We have to analyze why wars have occurred so far in the human history and see how do we, avoid future conflicts. Paucity of resources, inequitable growth within countries and different parts of the world, deprivation, depleting resources, ego are among the reasons for conflicts along with remnants of hatred from historical fights. So it becomes necessary to analyze potential sources of conflicts in the 21st century for us to spot problem zones and avoid conflicts, as far as possible. Man is fighting a war on all fronts - environmental degradation and diseases on one side and terrorism on the other side.
Protection against man made violence
I would like to put forth to this important gathering, a methodology for evolving a happy, prosperous and peaceful society in our planet, which I call as “Evolution of Enlightened society”. How do we create such an enlightened society, which will have three components (a) Education with value system (b) Religion transforming into spirituality and (c) Economic development for societal transformation.
This doctrine of evolution of enlightened citizenship, I have presented to both houses of our Parliament, European Union Parliament on special invitation, Pan African Parliament and many other heads of countries and received constructive feed back. Let me present.
a. Education with value system:
We have seen that the seeds of peace in the world have their origin in the righteousness in the heart of every individual. Such righteous citizens lead to the evolution of enlightened society. Education with value system has to be so designed that the righteousness in the heart is developed in young minds. That should be the mission of education. The prime learning environment is five to seventeen years of age. This reminds me of an ancient Greek teacher's saying, "Give me a child for seven years; afterwards, let God or devil take the child. They cannot change the child". This indicates the power of great teachers and what they can inculcate in the young minds. Parents and teachers must inculcate moral leadership amongst children. It requires the ability to have insights into the uniqueness and universality of human consciousness. True education is the acquisition of enlightened feelings and enlightened powers to understand daily events and to understand the permanent truth linking man, to his environment, human and planetary.
While I was in college, I remember the lectures given by the highest authority of a Jesuit institution Rev Father Rector Kalathil of St. Joshep’s college, Tiruchirappalli, Southern India. Every week on Monday, he will take a class for an hour. He used to talk about good human beings present and past and what makes a good human being. In this class, he used to give lectures on personalities such as Buddha, Confucius, St. Augustine, Califa Omar, Mahatma Gandhi, Einstein, Abraham Lincoln and moral stories linked to our civilizational heritage. In the moral science class, Father Kalathil used to highlight the best aspect of, how the great personalities have been evolved as good human beings through parental care, teaching and companionship of great books. Even though these lessons were given to me in 1950’s during my college days, they inspire me even today. It is essential that in the schools and colleges, lectures are given by great teachers of the institution once in a week for one hour on civilizational heritage and derived value system. This may be called as Moral Science Class that will elevate the young minds to love the country, to love the other human beings and elevate them to higher planes.
Now, let me take up the area that is transforming religion into spiritual force. Many in the world believe, it is a difficult mission. I would like to share an experience that I have witnessed which has convinced me that it is possible.
b. Religion Transforming into Spirituality: Universal Mind
Religion has two components, theology and spirituality. Even though theology is unique to every religion, the spiritual component spreads the value to be inculcated by human beings for promoting a good human life and welfare of the society, while pursuing the material life. I would like to share an experience how the religion and science came together in a big mission.
It was during early 1960’s, the founder of Indian Space Research Programme Prof. Vikram Sarabhai with his team, had located a place technically most suited for space research after considering many alternatives. The place called Thumba in Kerala, was selected for space research as it was near the magnetic equator, ideally suited for ionospheric and electrojet research in upper atmosphere. I was fortunate to work with Prof Vikram Sarabhai for about eight years.
The major challenge for Prof Vikram Sarabhai was to get the place in a specific area. As was normal, Prof. Vikram Sarabhai approached the Kerala Government administrators first. After seeing the profile of the land and the sea coast, the view expressed was that, thousands of fishing folks lived there, the place had an ancient St Mary Magdalene Church, Bishop's House and a school. Hence it would be very difficult to give this land and they were willing to provide land in an alternative area. Similarly the political system also opined that it would be a difficult situation due to the existence of important institutions and the concern for people who were to be relocated. However there was a suggestion to approach the only person who could advise and help. That was the Bishop “Rev Father Peter Bernard Pereira”.
Prof Vikram Sarabhai, approached the Bishop on a Saturday evening, I still remember. The meeting between the two turned out to be historical. Many of us witnessed the event. Rev Father exclaimed, “Oh Vikram, you are asking my children’s abode, my abode and God’s abode. How is it possible?” Both had a unique quality that they could smile even in difficult situations. Rev Father Peter Bernard Pereira asked Prof. Vikram Sarabhai to come to church on Sunday morning at 9.00 AM. Prof. Vikram Sarabhai went to the church again on Sunday with his team. At that time the prayer was progressing with the recitation of Bible by Father Pereira. After the prayer was over, the Bishop invited Prof. Vikram Sarabhai to come to the dais. The Rev Father introduced Prof Vikram Sarabhai to the mass, “Dear children, here is a scientist, Prof. Vikram Sarabhai. What do sciences do? All of us experience, including this church, the light from electricity. I am able to talk to you through the mike which is made possible by technology. The treatment to patients by doctors comes from medical sciences. Science through technology enhances the comfort and quality of human life. What do, I do, as a preacher? I pray for you, for your well being, for your peace. In short, what Vikram is doing and what I am doing, are the same - both science and spirituality seek the Almighty’s blessings for human prosperity in body and mind. Dear Children, Prof Vikram says, he would build within a year, near the sea-coast, alternative facilities to what we are having. Now dear children, can we give our abode, can we give my abode, can we give the God’s abode for a great scientific mission?” There was a total silence, a pin drop silence. Then all of them got up and said ‘Amen’ which made the whole church reverberate.
That was the church where we had our design centre, where we started rocket assembly and the Bishop’s house was our scientists’ working place. Later the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) led to the establishment of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and the space activities transformed into multiple space centers throughout the country. Now this church has become an important centre of learning, where thousands of people learn about the dynamic history of the space programme of India and the great minds of a scientist and spiritual leader. Of course, the Thumba citizens got the well equipped facilities, worshiping place and educational centre in an alternate place at the right time.
When I think of this event, I can see how enlightened spiritual and scientific leaders can converge towards giving reverence to the human life. Of course the birth of TERLS and then VSSC gave the country the capability for launch vehicles, spacecraft and space applications that have accelerated social and economic development in India to unprecedented levels.
Today, among us, Prof Vikram Sarabhai is not there, Rev Peter Bernard Pereira is not there, but those who are responsible for creation and making flowers blossom will themselves be a different kind of flower as described in the Bhagwat Gita: "See the flower, how generously it distributes perfume and honey. It gives to all, gives freely of its love. When its work is done, it falls away quietly. Try to be like the flower, unassuming despite all its qualities". What a beautiful message, to the humanity on the purpose of life reflected the spiritual component. Can we bridge the spiritual component of the religions to bring peace to nations and to the world?
Now let us discuss the third important component of enlightened society which is to achieve economic development for societal transformation with our country’s example.
c. Economic development for societal transformation.
Indian Economy is in an ascent phase. There is considerable growth in the manufacturing and service sectors. We have a mission of spreading this economic growth throughout the country including the rural sector. Nearly 220 million people have to be lifted by upgrading their quality of life in both rural and urban areas. Even though the GDP growth indicates our economic growth, people’s participation is essential for achieving the required targets. It is essential to ensure that the citizens are empowered with good quality of life encompassing nutritious food, good habitat, clean environment, affordable healthcare, quality education and productive employment, integrated with our value system drawn from civilizational heritage leading to the comprehensive development of the nation that will bring smiles in one billion people. These are indicators for the growth of the National Prosperity Index.
To achieve that growth rate, we have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action: (1) Agriculture and food processing (2) Education and Healthcare (3) Information and Communication Technology (4) Infrastructure development such as power, transportation, communication and including Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA) and (5) Self reliance in critical technologies. Peace is an essential ingredient for accelerating development. We propose to realize the vision of transforming India into a developed nation before 2020 by energizing and igniting the minds of all the 540 million youth of the nation. It is not adequate if India alone is prosperous. India should also facilitate other countries in the region to become prosperous. That is what will lead to regional peace and prosperity.
Prosperity of nations is important for the prosperity of the world and promotion of a peaceful, happy and non-violent society. The centuries of learning from different civilizations should enable us to formulate ideas and systems to bring prosperity and reduce disparities. Convergence of the civilization has to be the focus of the world rather than projection of conflicts of civilizations. One of the main drivers would be human values bridged by spirituality of religions. We also need to find ways and means of rooting out the fundamental causes of extremism. We have to find solutions for equitable distribution of essential requirements such as water, energy and preservation of the environment. I believe that humanity as a whole has to work with focused national, regional and international missions as projected evolution of enlightened citizenship which itself will be a major unifying factor and pave the way for peaceful, happy and non-violent society.
My greetings to all the participants of 7th International Conference on Peace and Non-violent Action. I wish you all success in the mission of promoting a peaceful and non-violent society in the planet earth.

May God bless you.

APJ Abdul Kalam,

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