ESSAY COMPETITION: Senior 1st Prize
WINNER’S NAME: Ashiwina Devi MUTTYLALL
SCHOOL: Mahatma Gandhi Institute
"Come together, speak together, be of one mind." Comment on the above exhortation of the Rg Vedic Rishi dwelling also on the obstacles that stand in the way of its full realisation and how to surmount them in the light of the teachings of Hinduism"
"Samãni va akutih samãnã hridayãni vah samãnam astu vo mano yathã vah susahãsati".
"One be the aim of all your activities.
Alike be your desires and intentions
May a sense of unity be your guide"
With such exhortations the rishis of the Vedas and subsequent scriptures imparted their teachings to people.
The vedic rishis had a spiritual vision of things. They preached a cosmic view englobing the fundamental unity of beings in whom God has His essence. Hence their eternal command:
"O ye men, assemble, speak together, let your mind be of one accord, partaking like gods of old in harmony, share in the bestowed treasures," thus proclaiming the revelation of universal religion.
The vedic literature e.g. the Purusha Sukta and the Isha Upanishad, while preaching unity, brotherhood, mutual understanding etc. give much importance to the fact that Atman is the same as Brahman. Thus if man comes to respect his neighbour as consisting of the same divine essence as himself, there will surely be unity, brotherhood, mutual understanding, without the chaos of wars and conflicts which are the cause of the disintegration of society. A man is one who thinks and acts sensibly, one who is noble (Arya) and makes the world noble by showing deep respect and love to the others and remembering that Brahman is in all.
The Vedas preached brotherhood, unity and harmony through their cosmic law (rita), their spiritual fervour (tapas), and sacrifice (yajna), resulting in a life of service, mutual happiness, political and social stability where the systems of ashramas and varnas flourished, where the family was united as the joint family, and woman was respected as ardhangini or half limb of man. Life was taken as a poem of beauty giving importance to humanity. Thus Hinduism was not a single flower, but an inflorescence of various sects which had many basic points in common with one another. It was not only broad in its scope but very deep in its pursuit, which helped in conceiving the world as a whole family — "Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam". Unfortunately for various reasons there arose misinterpretations of the lofty and sublime teachings of Hinduism, the glorious epoch was lost, giving place to various types of split in the Hindu society based on caste, sect, selfishness and obscurantism.
People forgot their duty and self-respect; instead they accepted evil ideas like untouchability and jati (that is, the alloted class given by birth). Soon, the priestly class started dominating, importance was laid on unnecessary things which built barriers among the Hindus themselves. In the vedic age where life was a divine mission, the four classes — Brahmana, Kshatriya, Vaishya, Shudra — were given equal footing, service being the essence of life. The Brahmanas acted like models and taught the lofty and sublime teachings of the Vedas to all, and there was a highly educated society. The Kshatriyas protected everyone, there was no foreign attack, the society was in security. The Vaishyas earned money and provided food, clothing etc. ... with the result that there was no famine, and the Shudras provided service. Swadharma was observed by all, society witnessed equality, fraternity, love, mutual co-existence, cohesion as well as economic, political, social stability and unity.
But with jati, the same religion led its people to stagnancy and confusion, there was a decline in self-respect, vitality and unity. The society disintegrated and Hinduism lost its power, prestige and vitality as its own people were deprived of social and religious rights. For this reason Mahatma Gandhi said that caste was a "blot on Hinduism" which prevents progress in society. Compelled by the tyranny of the upper castes, many people started fighting among themselves, which led to decrease in international trade, and social, political, religious misunderstanding which in its turn broke the solidarity and unity among the Hindus and even led to foreign domination. These were the obstacles that blocked the realization of the Vedic dream of unity in India.
At that crucial moment of Indian History farsighted and determined personalities like Sankara, Tulsidas, Kabirdas and later, R.M. Roy, Dayananda, Ramakrishna, and Gandhi emerged like a light in darkness trying to redress the situation. If Tulsidas tried to bring unity through his "Samanvaya", that is, bringing harmony between Shaivism and Vaishnavism, Kabirdas emerged with his vision of only one truth, thus regrouping the Hindus. Earlier Sankara brought many reforms and tried to bring back the age from the brillant luxury of the Puranas to the mystic truth of the Upanishads. He was a philosopher and a poet, a savant and a saint, a mystic and a religious reformer, as well as a political genius who strove to impress on the people the love of unity.
Similarly modern reformers emerged to eradicate social and religious evils like untouchability, caste-system, degrading attitude towards women etc., and re-establish self-respect, self-confidence, Dharma in man. On the one hand Swami Dayananda through his Arya Samaj regrouped Hindus of all castes and said: "No one ought to remain satisfied with his welfare alone. The welfare of the individual should be regarded as the welfare of all" thus reinforcing brotherhood, service and unity. On the other hand, Sri Ramakrishna, considered as "the Upanishads living in human form", stated: "I find all men quarrelling in the name of religion, they never think that he who is called Krsna is also Shiva and that He himself is renamed Adyashakti ¾ The Primal energy". Therefore we see that these reformers tried their utmost to preach universality, harmony, service and unity in the world, thus uniting Hindus and restoring Hinduism to its original status.
Yet we see that their effort to re-establish the fundamental unity of Hinduism has not been entirely fruitful as even today we can see war in society, as well as evil qualities like corruption, injustice, jealousy, caste problems, etc. There is still no unity in the world or among the Hindus themselves. Yet we need this unity so that we may have a model family and a strong society for we should not forget that unity is strength.
In Mauritius we have several societies including the Hindu House which are trying to bring unity among Hindus, yet they are not so effective. Even in India the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and others are doing the same. I think that all Hindus should put their heads together to reaffirm our unity.
The first step in this direction will be to encourage students to learn the principles of Hinduism to be true Hindus, ideal Rishi santaans, and bold, rugged soldiers of Hindu religion. Then we need good Hindu schools to inculcate Hindu values like dharma and swadharma in children. We have confessional schools which preach Christianity and have achieved much academically but there are only a few Hindu institutions teaching Hinduism. Also, good books on Hinduism are rarely available on the market and if we find them at all they are very expensive. In addition we require more centres like the Indira Gandhi Centre to get good books and cultural programmes. Furthermore, there must be more scholarships in Hinduism instead of only one as at present.
Therefore if we want unity, we have to encourage Hinduism and Hindu culture. Here we should not forget that there are lots of Hindus in the world which we can unite. Maybe instead of focusing on only one country we can share the duties among all. Mauritius for example, is quite advanced in the African region having links even with western countries. Here, we cultivate many types of Indian languages like Hindi, Tamil, Telegu, Sanskrit, etc. So, it would be better to form an international organisation or federation to help boost Hinduism. We can entrust each country with one aspect of our needs. For example, Mauritius can specialise in promoting the Indian languages, Trinidad can specialise in religion, India in culture and so on. This will not only give the example of sharing, brotherhood, co-operation, unity but it can also promote Hinduism better by providing quality and professionalism.
Full use must be made of air connections and the internet. Recently, the call for unity was felt when Sri Lanka needed funds to build a gurukula. Through the internet, Hindus became aware of it, sent donations, and the work was done. Thus, we see that if we come to group all the countries where there are Hindus, in case of help, we can all "come together, speak together, be of one mind..."
Also, so as to reinforce unity among Hindus, we need to foster Hinduism in schools, train teachers and make maximum and intelligent use of mass-media. Our great work is to mobilize our youths. Instead of becoming drug addicts or drop-outs or demoralized persons in a world of bustle and stir, it is not a far-fetched idea to show the youth, through religion and education, the importance of being both Homo Sapiens (man the wise) and Homo Faber, (man the technician). After all Hinduism forms responsible citizens, teaches us not only the science of being and the art of living, so essential for mankind to flourish, but also how to respect other religions and how to have consideration for people as human beings. Do not the Vedas call us amritasya putra (children of immortality)?
All men are brothers, all are equal and the children of God, and this is not a mere dream. The Berlin wall in Germany could be destroyed so as to bring unity, then why can’t we destroy human barriers, and be united? We should !
ESSAY COMPETITIONS : Senior 2ndPrize
WINNER'S NAME : Priya Darshini Baligadoo
SCHOOL : Droopnath Ramphul SSS
"Come together, speak together, be of one mind .."
Comment on the above exhortation of the Rg Vedic Rishi dwelling also on the obstacles that stand in the way of its full realisation and how to surmount them in the light of the teachings of Hinduism.
"Sangacchadhvam samvadadhvam samvomanãnsi jãnatãn"
"Let us come together; let us talk together; let us live with one mind."
No better introduction than this can suit the topic on which I have to write, for what is meant by 'come together, speak together, be of one mind?' Is it not in other words preaching unity among mankind and also suggesting that one should live to the ideal of 'vasudhaiva kutumbakam' — the whole world is one family? Truly indeed, this is what is meant here. But can we affirm that in this electronic era, man is living in accordance with this spirit? The answer is No. In fact, when we see the world as it is today — the rise of injustices, social crimes like violence, murders, war, we cannot say that man is happy or living in unity. If all religions and scriptures have preached the brotherhood of man, why is it then that we find the world in such a chaotic situation?
Today, the age in which we are living is known as kali-yuga, the age of darkness. People are rooted in ignorance and thus they behave blindly, as a result of which we note such a degradation and division in society. Falsehood is ubiquitous, selfishness reigns supreme everywhere and man is ravaged by greed, anger and lack of wisdom. He remains as if insensible to the suffering of others and only in rare cases will he show compassion to those in distress. For example, if one has a brother or sister in a hospital where a crowd is no company, one would make an effort to either daily, or weekly visit the unfortunate one! But otherwise, if there are no relatives in need, who cares? Let others look after their own! This is a sad trend that we see in people nowadays — all of them caught up in the rat race of daily living, too busy to care for their brothers in need. But, does not Hinduism say;
"Mathava seva is maanava seva" i.e
"Service to man is service to God?"
And has not Swami Vivekananda said;
"Give love; give help; give service; give everything you can — but keep out barter?"
Again, in Christianity; "Love thy neighbour as thyself" is a call for service and charity to one's fellow man. And only when the whole of mankind develops this loving service can we hope of unity, harmony and peace in the world.
However, there are still other obstacles that we have to overcome in our task of bringing cohesion in the world, for example, the caste system and racial discrimination. Many consider themselves superior either because of their occupations or still because they are white. In fact, inter-dining, inter-marriage are still condemned by many orthodox people in society. But if we go to the roots of the teachings of Hinduism, does not the Purusha Sukta say that each class contributes in the development of society as a whole? Again, was not this concept based on qualities but through the years, people have distorted it to suit their own purposes? Is not "the Brahmana, the mouth of the Purusha, His arms, the kshatriyas, His thighs the vaishyas and His feet the shudras?" Why then should we talk of superiority and inferiority, black and white? For all men, God is the father. And as the children of one God, all men are brothers — "Vasudhaiva kutumbakam". We are all made of the five elements, we all have a soul, thus there is no difference! And for God, only the colour of the heart matters, not that of the skin.
Laws have been made in many countries against discrimination on the grounds of race, colour, or sex, but why is it that they are partially successful? The answer is simple. Here minds, society, the country, the whole world are corrupted with many prejudices. However, the moment we respect others as our own kins, having the same Divine spark and the same Divine nature, all hatred will vanish and we will live as one family.
Moreover, integration is something that has to come from the heart. True integration can only come from a spiritual understanding of the oneness of all life and to achieve this, the feeling of separateness must go. The feeling of brotherhood must emanate from the heart, it cannot be imposed from the outside. We have to feel that the other person is none other than ourselves in disguise, and with such a spirit, no doubt there will be peace, unity, harmony in the world.
Still, in a plural society like Mauritius, the over-riding problem is how to keep the component parts together, because of differences over ethnic origins, religious affiliations, mother tongues and so on. In fact, with the rise of some extremists recently, we note a change in the mentality of people and this can threaten to tear the fabric of society apart. Some politicians are using religions as a means to do politics and in so doing, creating division in the society. But all these have to change for they are only obstacles to the ideal of creating another Rama Rajya where all will live in harmony and unity.
Furthermore, forms of worship, phraseology of adoration, or style of address may vary but the goal of every religion is one — God-Realisation. In Bhagavad Gita Lord Krishna says:
"I am in every religion as the thread through a string of pearls"
One Urdu poet has also said
"Only names differ beloved,
All forsooth are but the same;
Both ocean and the dew-drop
But one living liquid frame"
Unfortunately, men in their ignorance continue to dispute in the name of religion, praising their own and criticising that of others. But taking a look at the life of Ramakrishna, Gandhi and other reformers, we see that these great Mahatmas not only respected other religions but made it a must to know that of their fellow-beings. Likewise, whatever one's religion may be, one should cultivate respect for other faiths and develop an attitude of tolerance, otherwise one is not a true follower of one's own religion. The different traditions, customs, languages which are today considered as obstacles preventing unity, should not be considered as such, for they are themselves superficial on the whole. Only those who are narrow-minded attach importance to these things. And Hinduism has said: "Ekram sat viprah bahudha vedanti", that is,
"God is one, though sages call Him by various names".
Only when men understand this Truth and unite their efforts can there be peace and harmony. But, at the same time we cannot hold religions totally responsible for the religious wars. People in Iran and Iraq fight though they profess the same Islamic faith. What is the reason for the conflict between them? Only selfish minds are the cause. Wearing the garb of religion, those selfish persons are inciting conflicts among the people. However, if the essential Divinity of man is realised, mankind can build up a great society based on unity and on adherence to the divine principle of love. Developing this universal love, universal religion, we should all work together in unity, speak with one voice and think alike. Everyone should agree to a common goal and there should be no dissension. It is by complying with this view that Hinduism thinks we can surmount the obstacles that prevent unity. We all have equal rights in this world irrespective of caste, creed and colour and we should all live as one nation, as one people, in peace, justice and liberty. "I am a Christian, I am a Hindu, I am a Muslim, I belong to the family of man and I walk hand in hand with the folk of our land"
ESSAY COMPETITIONS: Junior 1st Prize
WINNER’S NAME: Priya Darshinee DOMUN
SCHOOL: Mayflower College
Unity in diversity. Show how Hinduism has always supported this with its teachings.
India is the land where the ideal of unity in diversity has existed for long. A variety of religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, Sikhism, Islam and Christianity flourish there. The Hindu religion itself is made up of many creeds like Vaishnavism, Shaivism and Shaktism. These clearly give us an idea of unity in diversity existing in the heart of Hindu religion. India is a world in itself for its diversity.
The Hindus all through the ages have observed unity in diversity. The concept of God as viewed from the dawn of civilisation is a good example. In the vedic age, the ancient rishis believed in one God only, who is by nature omnipresent. That is why they proclaimed: "Truth (that is, God) is one though sages call Him by different names." This is the reason why Hindus pray Rama, Krishna, Durga and so on because they know that these are different names of God who is One and the same.
Since God is all-pervading it means that He is in every being and this truth was experienced by Ramakrishna also. The first verse of the Isha Upanishad holds the same view.
"Whatever one sees in the world is enveloped by God."
In recognising unity in diversity, Hinduism does not reject the diversity. For it, the one is in many and the many are one.
Later the Ramayana also helped to convey the idea of unity in diversity. We saw it in the love of Rama and his brothers for one another. The Ramayana also showed that Shiva and Rama or Vishnu are one and the same. This increased unity among Hindus and prevented them from fighting in the name of religion as happens up to now in many countries.
In the modern age there arose great reformers of Hinduism like Raja Ram Mohun Roy, Swami Dayanand, Sri Ramakrishna and Mahatma Gandhi. They brought many reforms but did not prevent people from praying God in different ways, as they wanted. In this way the worship of God as Vishnu, Shiva, Muruga and so on continued without change as it was thousands of years ago. This preserved our religious unity. Even the Arya Samaj did not destroy it. Though it was against image worship, it did not break the murtees in temples. In this way it in its turn helped our unity in diversity.
The joint-family system of Hindus is another example of unity in diversity. In most Hindu homes it is normal to see a family living together with the grand-parents. They are of different age, yet they are all united and happy. All this is due to the great teachings of our religion.
Similarly we have the system of ashramas and purusharthas. They too promote unity in diversity. The ashramas show the four stages of man’s life --, the student, the householder, the hermit, the ascetic. They are not opposed to one another. They point out the road each man must take in life. It is the same for the four purusharthas. Even the four castes are like the four limbs of society -- the head, the arms, the trunk and the feet. They are different but must always act in cooperation.
Hinduism believes in universal unity and happiness. As one of its prayers says: Sarve bhavantu sukhinah: "May all be happy." That is why so many religions, so many races live in unity in diversity, in peaceful co-existence in India and also in Mauritius.
ESSAY COMPETITIONS : Junior 2nd Prize
WINNER'S NAME : Vikram Gujadhur
SCHOOL: St Joseph's College
TITLE: Unity In Diversity. Show how Hinduism has always supported this with its teaching.
Unity in diversity is the prime teaching of Hinduism. Hinduism prays and works for the welfare and prosperity of everyone transcending national, ethnic and religious prejudices. The prayer "Sarve Bhavantu Sukhinah", is suggestive in this particular field.
The Ramayana and the Mahabharata analyse the science of morality, political and social ideals, the duties of a king, of a householder and religious observances. The message of Bhagavad Gita is addressed to all men without distinction. The famous law of karma and rebirth, the concept of the immortality of the soul give hope and light, peace and solace to people of all castes, creeds and religions. It is considered a universal gospel.
The Ramayana is the encyclopedia of Hindu Dharma. Writers like Valmiki and Tulsidas should be looked upon as great nation-builders. The ideals taught in the Ramayana are meant to ensure happiness and unity. Good and noble characters like Sri Rama, Sita, Lakshmana, Bharata and others are vividly portrayed by Valmiki and Tulsidas. Everybody, irrespective of caste, creed and status was equal in the eyes of Rama. There are many noble examples of such persons who were blessed by Rama, like Hanuman (a monkey), Jatayu (a bird), Kewat and Shabri (persons of low caste) and Vibhishan (a rakshasa). Ramayana teaches us that we are all equal. There is no superiority and inferiority.
The theme of unity is again expressed when the author describes the love and affection and spirit of self-sacrifice between the four brothers. When Dasaratha asked Rama that he should go in the forest for fourteen years, Rama obeyed him to keep his father's word and to avoid dissension in the family.
After completing fourteen years of banishment, Rama became king of Ayodhya. His good rule was based on liberty, equality and fraternity. If everyone follows the examples of the ideal characters in the Ramayana, the world will become a better place to live in where would reign peace, harmony and unity.
The Hindu system of Varnashram dharma and the four Purusharthas reinforce unity as well. They are meant for the proper development of society. Sri Krishna Himself made it clear in the Bhagavad Gita that a person's action determines his caste.
According to Hinduism the practice of the four ashramas regulates our life from birth to death. The Grihastha ashrama is based on the foundation of mutual love between wife and husband. All members of the family are to be treated with respect. Neighbours and friends are also important. When an attitude of friendship prevails in a society, it ensures the well-being, harmony and unity of all.
The rites, rituals and ceremonies as well as Hindu festivals play an important part to reinforce unity in diversity. When we celebrate these festivals, young and old, rich and poor, friends and foes experience a sense of oneness and a sense of unity.
Hinduism being a flexible religion is somewhat different from others. It is because from time to time powerful personalities like Raja Rammohan Roy, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Ramkrishna, Mahatma Gandhi and others have given mankind a broad outlook of religion which harmonises not only all sects of Hinduism but different religions as well. They have contributed a lot to uplift the moral values by eliminating evil customs and practices like the Sati system, untouchability, superstition and child marriage. They encouraged education for girls. They also introduced the concept of social science. Mahatma Gandhi did not depend on weapons and blood to realise his political aspiration. His weapons were Truth and non- violence. Thus the ideas of these great persons seek the unity of all irrespective of diverse national and international barriers.
We can thus conclude that unity in diversity is the basic and eternal teaching of Hinduism. The theory of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam — (the world itself is a family) wisely illustrates it.