09 May, 2009

Lessons from Pakistan

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar

When we retrace our steps in history perhaps we can learn some lessons from the unfortunate situation Pakistan is in today.

After partition Pakistan's population had 15 percent Hindus and 2 percent Christians. If Pakistan had promoted diversity then, the next generation would have grown up in a multi-cultural, multi-religious society and exercised more tolerance.

General Zia-ul-Haq during his tenure as President systematically erased this multi-cultural heritage replacing it by radical 'Islamicisation' of civil society and the army. The rich Hindu, Buddhist and Sikh legacy that was common between Pakistan and India was forgotten. Had they recognised that their ancestors were also part of these traditions, they would have imbibed and kept alive some of those values and that perhaps would have made them more tolerant and less violent. When people dispose of their own heritage it makes them intolerant and fanatical.

Pakistan, a land where many an ancient university existed and Ayurveda texts were written, where Hinduism and other religions flourished, has today seemingly forgotten its tradition with little respect for these religions. Unlike India, where the contribution of the Mughal empire is recognised and honoured, in Pakistan, honouring its diverse traditions and culture has been ignored. The result of this has been a mono-cultural, mono-religious education that has made them radical. Lack of exposure to her own heritage has cost Pakistan dearly.

When I visited Pakistan, I met with several journalists and interacted with thousands of people. To my amazement they seemed to know very little about India's freedom movement or Mahatma Gandhi and his principles.

The young people that I met there had very little knowledge of either ayurveda, yoga or our rich Sanskrit and Vedic heritage that is common to both countries. Tolerance and appreciation of other cultures have to be developed from a very young age. Children in Pakistan know nothing about the Bhakti movement, the spiritual renaissance which the continent once witnessed.

Their knowledge of Mahatma Gandhi is limited to the fact that he was a Hindu saint and a freedom fighter and not much beyond that. And they lack knowledge of many other saints and Sikh gurus who have traveled to and lived in Pakistan; even of people like Chanakya who wrote the Artha Shastra, and lived most of his life in a university in Taxila.

By tampering with history books educationists have done great damage to the society. The soft power they appear to wield ultimately brings out a hardened attitude in the people.

Extremist groups, who, by and large, comprise people not educated in the broad spectrum of knowledge, tend to be very insular. Unfortunately today, even in India, seeds of these tendencies can be seen in protests about "Vande Mataram" being sung in schools and colleges or a fatwa issued to an actor for visiting a Ganesh festival or objections about Valentine's Day celebrations.

This should be unequivocally condemned by society as a whole. A composite society will always promote harmony and peace and put a check on extremism. It is clear that people who espouse violence today such as Naxalites and religious extremists in India and across borders have little respect for Gandhi.

Since partition, the growth of the minority population in India has been manifold while Pakistan's minority population has dwindled from 15 percent to just 1 percent. The biggest mistake that Pakistan made was in not supporting its minority communities. Fifteen percent Hindus would have turned the country into a more democratic, liberal society. But when this 15 percent was annihilated, converted or sent out of Pakistan and were replaced by mono-religious zealots and it has weighed heavily on Pakistan, leading to total chaos and fundamentalism.

Though India also has seen communal tensions, by and large the society is tolerant. Extremism in one religion does not remain contained in one. Its shadow spills over to others as well which is evident in Buddhist monks taking to the streets in Thailand, Malaysia and Myanmar.

Honouring the Hindu minority would not have been a threat to its Islamic identity, particularly because in Hinduism there is nothing such as proselytizing or conversion.

The two countries born to freedom over sixty years ago clearly took different paths.

Sri Sri Ravi Shankar is the founder of the Art of Living


Anonymous said...

problem in Pakistan is not because of what Mr. S.S. Ravi has identified instead its due to those ppl who were trained by Americans to beat Russia. These are not even muslims as they do not know the true principles of Islam. As far as tolerance and knowledge of younger generation in Pakistan is concerned, how many of Young Indians have it in themselves. By and large India's generation is more aware of Shahrukh Khan’s biography than Mahatma Ghandhi, ayurveda, yoga or Sanskrit and Vedic heritage. Americans have plagued Pakistan of these terrorists and now we get to hear such allegations from their ally (do refer to what Mrs. Hilary Clinton pointed out just recently). Civil society of pakistan is very much tolerant and accepts the rights and freedom of minority as taught in our religion as well. On a daily basis we do come across ppl from other religions but we do not disregard them due to their religion instaed we treat them absolutely in an equal manner just the way our Prophet has instructed us. Just because of a few ppl creating mischeif in our land, you should not generalize your stringent views over all Pakistanis.

Anonymous said...

My Dear Annonymus Sir,
Howcome the Americans were successful in Pak ? Because Islam breeds illteracy and Poverty and fanatism ( no other religion does so) and makes the masses excellent instruments in the hands of Americans.Will America try the same experiment on India ? NO ! Because they know it will not succed.Please let us call spade a spade.Enough of pseudosecularism .

Anonymous said...

How do u know what Islam breeds? have you enough knowledge...did u read Quran. Its better not to comment about anyone's religion without having any KNOWLEDGE about it. For your information, Islam actually promotes education and equality amongst human beings regardless of their religion. You ppl just say whatever international media injects into your minds as if you dont have a mind of your own!!! By the way if America ever wanted they can manipulate Indian minds as well after showing some money since there is much much more peverty there.

Anonymous said...

"How do you know what Islam breeds?"
Is this one of those rhetorical questions where the answer is obvious?
We know what Islam breeds because :
a) it has produced murderers & marauders for the last 1,000 years.
Timur the Lame, the Cruel & marauding turks, Mohammed Ghoru & Ghazni, The exceptionally cruel Aurangzeb, murdering his own family, and look at today - any act of Terrorist Violence, ANYWHERE in the world has some Islamic tag attached to it!

What Islam breeds is evident there-in right?
And look at the way you treat you women - that alone explains what Islam breeds!

Anonymous said...

So much of tolerance is not letting us take any action against the perpetrators who attacked mumbai last year.So much of tolerance is making us treat the parliament attacker like a martyr in prison...and again this tolerance of what you are talking about is made kasab a "bollywood" hero or the media's poster boy already !!!Need a reality check please?????? Forget Pakistan and see Hindustan!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Muslims always claiming that previous scriptures got corrupted, but their scripture is pure & final & everybody has to accept the same, isn't it in a subtle way trying to impose their beliefson the whole world ?

If we try to give the same bitter pill to those people, how would it be ?

1) Muslims says that 'God' is formless & whatever hindus/jains beleive is idol worship & pagan culture.

But isnt it mentioned in their 'Quran', that 'God-Almighty' spoke to prophet Moses.
(Its in male voice). If God-almighty can reveal himself through audio signal 20 hz - 20 khz in male voice, to the humans, that too on earth, then why does the muslims call hindus as pagans ( If the same God-Almighty has appeared to prince 'Dhruva ' & 'Prahlad'
), If God can reveal himself through audio signal(20-20khz) to humans, then why cant he reveal through electro-magnetic radiations(visual) to the humans. So to call 'God' as formless is only to attest incomplete attribute to 'God-Almighty'...

2)None of the previous prophet names mentioned in 'Quran' ( around 25 mentioned by names) before muhammad, ever visited 'Mecca'. Muslims can study the 'Torah' & 'Bible' scriptures, & verify the same.
'Baca' in Israel, is not the same as 'Makka or Bakka' in Saudi-Arabia'..... So therefore islam becomes much more local to 'Saudi-Arabia' only & not a religion for the world.

3) World sex ratio shows, males are more than females on earth. Vedas strictly say'Monogamy' & celibacy for very very few males, thereby exactly in synchronization with the current world sex ratio. Even though islam says monogamy as first choice, but still the concept of 'polygyny' in it, is absolutely false', & also may be right only for small population & geographical areas.

So there is absolutely, no religion is superior or inferior... Every religion has its own positive & negative aspects.

Jai Guruji,,,

Anonymous said...

What bizarre comments to such a simple piece.

Respect your heritage.

Unfortunately, history is always tweaked to someone's advantage and a nation's disadvantage.

Shrikant said...

Dear All,

As guruji says today is not the era of tolerance, it's time of mutual cooperation. Every religion has the basic values same, love compassion humility. What happened in the past has gone, lets see the future in a new light. Guruji means to shun the past, learn from it ofcrse.
Religion breeds nothing but what you want it to breed.
Accept and move on, lets brnig about a change in whatever way we can.
Jai gurudev.