Global Citizen in a Global Era: a neohumanist perspective

Opening remarks by Dada Shambhushivananda

We live in a troubled world in which there exists, among other things, a sharp clash of world views, myths, ideologies, beliefs attitudes and sentiments. Opposing narratives of people sharing the same bio-sphere pose both a challenge and an opportunity. Amidst all these and other diversities, there also lies in each one of us an incessant urge to discover the everlasting meaning and purpose of our individual and collective existence. We, as humanity, can reconcile all of these differences only if we make a conscious choice to embark on a path that is broad enough to embrace one and all. A lasting human civilization would then be built on a foundation and culture of ‘genuine love’. In this endeavour, we shall need to harmonise our unspoken intentions, thoughts, words and deeds – and be ready to be transformed ourselves – while continuing to sow the seeds of ‘inner peace’ and ‘collective goodwill’.Even as early as Rk Vedic period i.e., 7000-10,000 years ago, our ancestors sang the following hymn for cultivating the spirit of human unity.


“Samgacchdvam Samvaddhvam Samvomanasi Janatam
Devabhagam Yatha purve samjanana upasate
Samani vayakuti samana hrdayanivah
Samano mastu vomanoh yatha vaha sushasati”
Let us move together.
Let us come to know our minds together.
Together, we may enjoy the wealth of the universe.
May our hearts be inseparable. As we to truly know one another, become One.

A modern version of this hymn has been described in my background paper as Neohumanism. The basic premise of Neohumanism as elaborated by Shrii Sarkar is that everything in this world has existential value and utility value. Our task is to ensure that every entity gets the proper environment for the fullest expression of its dormant potentiality for the good and happiness of all. The greatest educational challenge of our times is therefore, probably going to be: How to create a spiritually sensitive wisdom-centred leadership? We need to do this while recognising fully well that we live in a world dominated by pervasive neglect of sanctity of life, wide spread mutual distrust, greed, anger and jealousy. The attitude of neglect has taken its toll on inner and outer ecology and neglect of ‘Others” has created a widespread insecurity and climate of fear. The neglect of value based-thinking and the lack of spirit of universal welfare is the spiritual crisis of our times. Our obstacles are both internal and external. Overcoming them will require arduous efforts to elevate our consciousness, on the one hand and fight against dogma on the other.Education is about dispelling the darkness of ignorance. Perhaps you know that Guru means a teacher; Gu-means darkness and ru-means light. So Guru means dispeller of darkness. Gurukula is an institution which carries that legacy of liberating the human intellect from the clutches of dogma. This cannot happen without struggle and a broader discourse. Neohumanist Education (NHE) is one such response to the challenge of curbing disparities and fostering diversities. NHE steps out of the traditional paradigm for dealing with civic education – i.e. it is not simply a structural response that involves curriculum, technology and schools. It offers a new deep story that lays bare some of the dysfunctional myths of the present and boldly questions dogmas of the past.
Within a broad neohumanist discourse that proclaims the universal love for all in the creation, we can begin to look at ways of reconciling –inner and the outer; material and the mystical; intellect and intuition; means and the ends; social and cardinal values, and religion and spirituality. I propose that we follow a middle course that will begin from the ‘imperfect present’ and lead us towards an ‘idealist future’. Citizenship based on a geo-political feature gains a whole new meaning when it is imbued with a neo-magna carta based on cosmic sentiment binding us to the entire creation and all its myriad diversities.In samskrta, we have two terms for history: Itikatha (chronology of events) and Itiha’sa (learning from the events of the past). As we reflect on citizenship or civic education in light of the challenges of 21st century and beyond, may we not forget that we are a fragile link between past and the future and our choices today will inevitably condition our options tomorrow. On the one hand, our subhuman tendencies seek to tear asunder all that is beautiful and sacred; on the other hand, our higher self seeks to guard us against the evil with a sacred sword of love, compassion and justice. The wisdom based leadership of today must balance the centrifugal force clamouring for separateness and individual expression with the centripetal force that passionately seeks for unity amidst diversities. As Daniel Barenboim said here in his Reith lectures a few weeks ago, “We indeed need sensitive talking and painful listening.”I can only add that the fact that the future of all of humanity is wreathed together will have to be admitted by all one day. May we bring that auspicious day closer when we can all unite together as global citizens of the planet earth and live in peace as one human family with deep love and respect for one another. Let the Invisible shape the Visible with all its infinite dexterity and may we reinvent our past and co-create a just and joyful journey into the Glorious Future.