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Advaita and Global Fraternity

by Dr. Haramohan Mishra
19th January 2012

Because of faster means of communication the world is shrinking day by day. In days of yore, the earth was thought to be the centre of the universe. It was the belief of the time that the sun along with the stars was revolving round the earth. Gradually it was discovered that the earth is but a small planet revolving around the sun which is but a medium range star along with millions of its kind. Even then it was not possible to go round the earth for which courageous men such as Columbus undertook great expeditions to have a glimpse of the distant lands on the globe. Since then till the present time, there have been great discoveries and inventions which revolutionized man’s understanding of the world and his existence in it. Now we are thinking of a global village with a global culture not however sacrificing our multicultural outlook, accomplishing thus the ideal of unity in diversity. This is one side of the story of human progress.

Knowledge is power. Things which are known are controlled and can be utilized, whenever it is possible, through the laws of knowledge, for the accomplishment of certain purpose. Knowledge consummates in application which has a purpose and bearing on human life. We have a conception of value that shapes our knowledge-pursuits and gives direction to its application. Globalization is the socio-economic product of the new age knowledge-pursuit. Ideas and products have been globalised. Consequent upon rapid strides in Science and Technology, the entire humanity has become a platform for interaction of ideas and activities. No nation can be immune to global change. Notwithstanding the socio-politico-cultural differences, an undercurrent of transformation is taking possession slowly of the entire human race. People all over the world are coming closer; global fraternity seems to be a reality in the future though we are not certain regarding the exact time frame.

Science can help us in finding new realities. It can give us new ideas and products. But it cannot give us a purpose and direction. Knowledge-pursuits are moulded by our values and priorities. No human pursuit can be entirely value-neutral. A sense of value, on the other hand, is not merely the outcome of our thought and cognitions. It is as much dependent on our feelings and emotions. Human problems are more existential than rational. Global fraternity is an existential imperative which mankind has to embrace if at all it is bold enough to face the reality. Violence, treachery, fanaticism, intolerance and the rest may disturb it but cannot distort it. Global fraternity presupposes a global mindset, which, on the other hand, is based on perception of the spiritual unity of the universe as it is rightly pointed out by the sages.

In the recent globalization scenario we have a different experience. It seems to be contextually disconnected. The consumerist and profiteering attitude of man has deprived globalization of its purpose and tended it to proceed in a wrong direction. Maximum profit from minimum investment, more and more depletion of natural resources, more and more products, more and more markets, more and more profits and more and more enjoyment even at the cost of others’ benefit seems to be the mantra of present globalization. Globalization, in the present context, seems to be occupied with global profiteering instead of global fraternity.
It is obvious that globalization may cause devastation if the priorities are misplaced. With our enormous achievements in many fields, our failures in eradicating poverty, ignorance and violence are conspicuous. We need introspect and reset our priorities. But prior to it, we have to correct our vision and perception. A materialist conception cannot ensure a moral order of the world. Unless the spiritual unity of all the things is discovered no amount of humanism or utilitarianism can ensure peace and stability in the world. If death is the end of life, matter or unconscious energy is the sole reality and there is no purpose behind life and its experiences then no human values can have any meaning. If it is possible to commit a crime, exploit and escape the law then why should not one be a criminal? The answer to this question does not come under the purview of the materialist- humanist-utilitarian framework. Only it can be found in the spiritual dimension where all the diverse things are purposefully bound together in one reality which Vedanta puts as Advaita, the non-dual supreme reality. Ethical injunctions are based on a universal moral order and the moral order is only meaningful so far as it has a solid metaphysical foundation. Needless to say that metaphysics is not to be taken as a mere speculative activity bereft of experience.

India is the mother of spiritual wisdom. It gave the world the great philosophy of Vedanta. The system of Vedanta is based on the spiritual experiences of the seers of the Upanisads. Advaita which the Upanisads preach as the ultimate truth cannot be confined to what we call religion or philosophy. It is the truth behind all the phenomena and the culmination of all our endeavors. All the beings of the world are the manifestation of Brahman, the only reality. The purpose of life and the entire cosmic process is to discover Brahman as one’s own reality. A man of self-realization sees everybody else as his own being. Not only the humans, the non-humans, even the non-living things appear to him as the expression of Brahman. The Isavasya Upanisad declares1- “One who sees all the beings within the Self and the Self in all cannot have hatred for any.”The Bhagavadgita repeats the same2 – “Wise men do not discriminate; they equally perceive a learned Brahmin, a cow, an elephant, a dog and a candala.”Global fraternity is based on a global perception anchored on the truth of Advaita. In the words of Swami Vivekananda- “In every nation the truth has been preached from the most ancient times – love your fellow beings as yourselves. In India it has been preached, ‘Love all beings as yourselves’, we make no distinction between men and animals. But no reason was forthcoming; no one knew why it would be good to love other beings as ourselves. And the reason why is there in the idea of the impersonal God, you understand it when you learn that the whole world is one – the oneness of the universe, the solidarity of all life—that in hurting anyone I am hurting myself, in loving anyone I am loving myself.”3

Global fraternity is an ideal, an outcome of the new age understanding of the closeness of mankind and the rest of the world. Though it is a modern idea, it is rooted in the eternal truth expounded in the Upanisads. Ideas are based on reality which is to be discovered in order to substantiate the former. It is exactly what Vedanta preaches. Unless unity of all life is discovered, global fraternity remains a mere idea.

Dr. Haramohan Mishra
Head, P. G. Dept of Sanskrit
S. B. Women’s College, Cuttack

1. Isavasya Upanisad, 6
2. Bhagavadgita, 5.18
3. Lectures From Colombo To Almora, P 31

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