There are a couple of critical but less discussed issues in this fast-changing ‘business world.’ Think about the crime against women throughout our country ranging from villages to the metropolitan cities. The situation of elders and old age people in our society, environmental degradation including pollution, destruction of forests in the name of development, decreasing level of soil and water quality, animal and bird species becoming extinct or on the verge of extinction, cruelty against animals, and such critical issues which are a result of our never ending wants. There is another hidden factor that needs to be discussed upon because these issues are also related to that. And that’s the quality of our moral education. Let me share an anecdote.
Once an American lady who got influenced by the personality of Swami Vivekananda asked him to marry her, upon requesting the reason she replied that she wants to have a son like him. Now the answer of Swami Vivekananda entirely enthralled her. Swami Vivekananda told the lady that from now onwards I accept you as my mother. In this way, my Brahmacharya and your desire, both are fulfilled.
This type of teaching was inculcated in every child in ancient times. People should respect every woman, except his wife, a mother and every girl with the same concern and care as his sister. One Sanskrit shloka that is of much importance here is –
यत्र नार्यस्तु पूज्यन्ते रमन्ते तत्र देवताः
यत्रैतास्तु न पूज्यन्ते सर्वास्तत्राफलाः क्रिया:
It translates to – “ Where women are honored, divinity blossoms there, and where women are dishonored, all actions no matter how noble remain unfruitful ”
It is quite clear how much respect women had in ancient times due to the teachings present in those times and the level where we have reached in modern times is quite disheartening. The current education system, although having some fruitful results, glorifies women for their sexuality and present them in such a way that it becomes easy for men to exploit them physically for enjoyment purposes. Our view of looking at women has changed dramatically from being a Janani (mother) to now just a physical body – a source of physical pleasure.
If we will see the sad situation of senior citizens in our country, immediately, in stark contrast, the pictures of some of the villages in India flashes out in my memory where old age parents are still revered as God. A special mention of the story of Shravan Kumar is vital to learn, who was such a devout of his blind parents that when his parents desired to have a visit to holy places he took them in a balance like structure on his shoulder. Even when he was about to die due to the arrow of Maharaja Dasharath, his only last wish was to quench the thirst of his parents for which he requested Dasharath to take the bowl of water to his parents.
In recent times there is an increase in old age homes in metropolitan cities in India. They were sent to these homes just because they are now of no use to their children in any way and they want to enjoy their life with their partner and consider their parents as a burden. Where is the narrative of Shravan Kumar lost?
Recently, the world witnessed the signing of Paris agreement on climate change by 196 countries to deal with different environmental issues like greenhouse gas emissions, pollution, among others to keep the increase in global average temperature well below 2 °C. But within less than one year from the date when the agreement became effective, the USA announced its intention to withdraw from the agreement due to economic reasons. From this very example, we can have a look at the preferences of modern people. The current education system is very much professional and career-oriented and it produces leaders who fail the test of moral ideals. People only learn how to survive in a competitive world but lack the “art of living” and the morality needed for a “balanced life with nature”.
More than a thousand years ago, during the golden age, Indian people were living so nicely and peacefully that they even considered animals, trees and every part of nature as their friend and there was a sense of affection and love towards everything that is nature. Vedas and the Upanishads present a great example of it. This type of behavior was the result of the education system present at those times. For example, let’s have a look at the very first shloka of Ishopanishad –
ईशावास्यमिदं सर्वं यत्किंच जगत्यां जगत्|
तेन त्यक्तेन भुञ्जीथा मा गृधः कस्य स्विध्दनम्||
It translates to – “The entire world – static as well as dynamic – is pervaded by Ishwar – the Supreme Lord. Hence enjoy the pleasures in a detached manner. Do not be greedy. This wealth doesn’t belong to anyone.
Even simpler than that, the shloka “माता भूमिः, पुत्रो अहं पृथिव्याः” carries much relevance nowadays which says “The earth is our mother and we are her son.”
In concluding remarks, what I can say is that the world is in dire need of ancient Indian moral education, apart from modern science, which can teach us to become human first than merely an object struggling to extract the happiness from worldly things. In reality, happiness lies in giving helping hand to others – it may be some woman, senior citizen, environment, nature or anyone in need.