Thursday, July 07, 2016

Unity in Diversity

A clich├ęd title but the reason for blogging is the fact that this is something we smugly believe and take pride in. Scratch beneath the surface and remove the veil, even slightly and the truth is often different, mostly unpleasant and even at times ugly.

A man is a social animal with a behavior pattern which is usually consistent with genetic and experiential factors. Therefore, often there is kind of typecasting associated with a person who is identified by gender, class, caste, religion, nation and profession. All of these seem to create impressions on an individual affecting his behavior. Therefore, this also, in turn, leads the persons who come in contact with each other to slot the person in front of them into any neat slot that seems fit.

Vedantic teaching and all scriptural teaching agree that the real nature of man is Sat Chit Ananda which in Sanskrit means Existence or isness (Sat), Consciousness or Perception (Chit) and Bliss (Ananda) all of which are eternal and everlasting. However, man is born with a baggage of his impressions in the form of mental and psychological imprints which get carried forward in the various manifested forms of existence. These are called samskaras. Then we are subjected to a barrage of experiences which are bombarded towards us from womb to tomb. These are faced by each one of us based on the social norms, customs and behaviors and add to the impressions we already have. So our natural state is hidden by our conditioned state over which it seems from the above reasoning we have not much control. 

Men are from Mars and Women from Venus, suggests differences based on gender, Caste, class and nationality create their own subsets of identity leading to the rich looking down on the poor, the higher castes oppressing the lower caste, nations conquering and subjugating other nations as in white collar jobs looking down on menial tasks. So all of this begs a question about Unity in Diversity, whether it is even possible or worth striving for? Many of us, in fact, the vast majority living in the present materialistic world would accept this fact and carry on without reflecting on this issue. Some of us would live in denial and like the blind stork who buries it head at the sign of danger would say we are all one, literally parroting the slogan of unity in diversity. 

However, despite our perceived differences, the basic nature of our true Self is one of Sat Chit Ananda or existence, consciousness, bliss and our journey in life and that of every life is to unveil this basic nature of ours. So a few of us can question these differences and search for the seemingly unattainable Self. The enormity and difficulty of this task can be elucidated by the tale of Astavakara a sage with a deformed body in eight places thanks to a curse inflicted by his father while the child was in his mother's womb. This was the punishment for contradicting and correcting his father's utterances from the scriptures. The story goes that the legendary King Janaka, a realized soul and the father of Sita, mistakenly looked at Ashtavakara and showed disdain due his ugly form. However, this was momentary and when he realized his error Janaka became a student of Ashtavakara and their dialogue is called the Ashtavakara Gita, an exposition on Unity or Advatism. 

In our journey of life,we go through all these stages and bit by bit we come to the realization that amidst all our perceived differences and divisions we are one. This is true Unity in Diversity. While it may seem impossible to make this leap of faith and transcend the barriers and differences which exist and are being reinforced every moment, we can start somewhere. This can be done in all our actions done selflessly in the service of others. We are all one and the concept of nature or prakriti pervaded by purusha or the universal consciousness propounded in the Vedas can be the true basis of Unity.

Therefore, I feel that we must start with ourselves and try and ensure that every action of ours is ethical which means based on the truth, ecological which means enriching the universe and empowering which means enabling us to reach for the real Unity in Diversity.

My association with the differently abled, mentally challenged persons as a father and responsible individual has given me this realization of oneness,which I strive to achieve. I am a humble seeker of this truth and amidst my many frailties and failings, I continue to work to achieve this ideal of Unity in Diversity.