October 18-20, 2010
Images for Reality
We should all be grateful to the people of Kazakhstan and President Nazarbayev for supporting this very visionary conference and its Chairs, Iosif Kobzon, Tolegen Mukhamedzhanov, Wilhelm Augustat and the many people who have worked so hard to bring us together.
Kazakhstan stimulates two images that tell us what to avoid and what to pursue.
The first is the harrowing mushroom cloud. It is deeply associated with Semipalatisnsk and the tragic suffering of hundreds of thousands of people, cancers, birth defects and terrible fears, all caused by over 450 nuclear test explosions conducted by the former Soviet Union. Now, Kazakhstan helps lead the world in advocacy to end nuclear testing forever and to achieve a nuclear weapons free world. Its people should be proud that it led at the United Nations to obtain a General Assembly resolution that created a UN Day dedicated to ending nuclear testing forever everywhere, gave up an enormous nuclear arsenal at the end of the Cold War, and helped make Central Asia a nuclear weapons free zone.
Now, it is time to begin preparatory discussions on a universal, nondiscriminatory and verifiable treaty that bans the production, possession, threat and use of nuclear weapons. Essentially, this was the call of the very first resolution of the General Assembly of the UN and recently by the Secretary General, formally noted by the 189 States parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. It is time to gather like minded states, Nobel Peace Laureates (who will be gathering next month in Hiroshima), experts and civil society advocates to stimulate this critically needed process. Kazakhstan has the moral authority and right to be a leader in this regard. This would bring the spiritual value of reverence for life itself into action. Without such progress, over time, by accident, design or madness, one of the 20,000 nuclear weapons in the world will be exploded with catastrophic consequences.
There is another, positive and powerful image. In Kazakhstan, during this October, two Russian cosmonauts and one American astronaut were launched to the International Space Station on a Soyuz spacecraft and a week later a Russian Proton-M rocket put a US Sirius radio satellite into orbit. These successes of the Baikonur Cosmodrome remind us of the picture of the planet Earth from outer space and the ways in which the human family communicates through one integrated electronic web.
Our grandparents did not have that picture because human ingenuity had not allowed us to step outside the stratosphere and take that photograph. It lets us see a living miracle without borders. It shows us Earth as an interrelated organic whole, a single globe of remarkable beauty and unity, a concrete symbol of the emergence of global cooperation. We surely do not have the right to place it at risk. These images are gifts to remind us of our responsibility as human beings.
We are the first generation that must choose whether civilization and possibly life itself will continue. This living sphere may be the only such place in the entire infinite universe where this gift of life, this gift to love, exists.
The wise have always reminded humanity to see the human family as one. It was only a spiritual admonition. Now because we are putting the climate of the planet and the pH of the oceans at risk, destroying species and rain forest at alarming rates, new levels of human unity and cooperation are also a practical necessity.
I believe we are causing such harm because we have forgotten that our purpose in being born is to become truly human and certainly not to just dominate nature for our own selfish desires. Our short human journey is fulfilled by nurturing the qualities of love, compassion, tolerance, justice, gratitude, patience, and the many other qualities that emerge selflessly from the radiance of the soul. These qualities bring us together and are the foundation of wisdom, the level of understanding needed to realize the subtle nature of oneself and the majesty of God. The health of the institutions needed for the well being of our daily lives require people living these qualities.
Without such spiritual purposes our institutions lose focus and meaning and we become preoccupied with the how, having forgotten the why. Thus, we find law without justice, art without beauty, business for money without goods or useful services, philosophy without truth, medicine without healing, education without character, and religions without love and transcendence. Bringing these qualities into action is transformative and expressed more easily in a poem.
The heart without the hand withers
The hand without the heart is dangerous
When God’s qualities bring the two together as one
Chaos becomes balance
Salt turns to sugar
A world of violence, fear, betrayal, and suffering filled with tears of grief
Living examples of service, love, compassion, insight, inspiration, peace, filled with tears sweetened with joy and gratitude.
When God’s qualities are brought into our institutions balance and harmony become a circle of service resonating at the heart of culture. Art serves beauty. Law serves justice. Religion serves transcendence. Medicine serves healing. Economics serves well being. Business serves goods and services. Philosophy serves truth. Man serves God. Husbands serve wives. Wives serve husbands. Everyone serves children and elders. Senses serve the mind, the mind serves the intellect, the intellect serves wisdom, and wisdom serves the light. Nations serve the people. And everything, whether knowing it or not, is serving love.
To help advance this process I suggest the creation of dialogue centers, United Nations Conflict Prevention Centers, at the world’s great universities where non violent conflict prevention and cultural interreligious understanding can be advanced. UN headquarters could host a major center for this purpose. This initiative would cost very little since the centers would be done under the fiscal auspices of each university as part of the educational value added giving them enormous prestige. At each center, interfaith and intercultural dialogue could take place. Kazakhstan is a country with a long history of multicultural tolerance and cooperation and could provide much wisdom and guidance for such a project.
Only by coming together and listening to each other can people learn that our common humanity is a stronger force than the walls that divide us. The truth is we all share a common ethical foundation because our souls come from the same source. Thus, the awakened conscience of any human anywhere will discover the same principles. Knowing and living this is the greatest stimulant to spiritual awakening. Here is some evidence.
Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.” Udana-Varga, 5:18; Christianity: “All things whatsoever you would that men should do to you, do you even so to them.” Matthew 7:12; Confucianism: “Do not unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” Analects 15:23; Hinduism: “This is the sum of duty: do not unto others which would cause you pain if done to you.” Mahabharata 5:1517; Islam: “No one of you is a believer until he desires for his brother that which he desires for himself.” Hadith; Jainism: “In happiness and suffering, in joy and grief, we should regard all creatures as we regard our own self.” Lord Mahavir 24th Tirthankara; Judaism: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow man. That is the law; all the rest is commentary.” Talmud, Shabbat 31a; Zoroastrianism: “That nature only is good when it shall not do unto another whatsoever is not good for its own self.” Dadistan-I-Dinik, 94:5.
May the power that gifted humanity with creativity that gives us the capacity to split atoms and release immeasurable amounts of energy gift us now with the wisdom to control that power with moral insight, respect for the preciousness of life, and the humility evidenced by restraint. May that power gift us with hearts that feel the joy and sorrow of others as our own without regard to nationality, race, religion or gender. As God blesses us with every breath and every heart beat, may we live each moment with a sense of gratitude and joy in these gifts.
May God bless Kazakhstan, the world and each of us.