“O sun of refulgent glory, I am the same person as makes thee what thou art!”
In this morning prayer, the Mundaka Upanishad teaches us to find the common ground in even the most extraordinary of circumstances; what many in today’s India, and indeed the world, are doing is exactly the opposite.
Instead of progressing into a more united world, humanity has regressed into a treacherous inferno. Today’s world is not one where scientific exploration and philosophical debates guide our path, but one where the ugliest of man’s instincts is drawn out by his own fellow men: where people want to construct walls instead of building bridges, where people ram trucks into worshipers instead of joining them, where people stab those whom they disagree with instead of understanding or debating them…
This has lately made reading the news a depressing activity. Where one should be greeted with the rise of global living standards and the prosperity of the downtrodden, one is instead met with the news of young men being lynched for their faith, or their food.
Our great nation — where people of different religions, speaking different languages; people of different cultures, following different customs; people with different beliefs, belonging to different traditions; coexisted in communal harmony for centuries and set an example that is hard to replicate — has been, it seems, under an ideological siege. And it isn’t just our country where communalism has replaced communal harmony. The entire world seems to have descended into Dante’s Ninth Circle of Hell.
This is not the world I grew up in; this is not the world I want to live in. The world of my imaginings is the world that has not been broken up into fragments by narrow domestic walls, where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit. It is this heaven of Tagore’s freedom that I wish my country – and this world – should become.
Arduous, this task may be; impossible, it is not. If the world can rise from the divisions caused by centuries-long crusades, if the Lutheran prosecutions and the Roman and Spanish Inquisitions could not create irreparable divides, if antisemitism and world wars could be overcome; then, with some persistent effort, Islamophobia and the rise of global communalism, can, and will be, crushed.
This is not just a hope and a wish I have, but a strong belief I hold. My faith in the goodness of people’s hearts is far greater than my fear of their corruption. And when this goodness is blended with persistent determination, we can all live in that better world we dream about.