Spark the human potentiality

A reinvigorated spirituality offers the way to humanity’s enlightenment.

by Uttam Das

What is the purpose of human life? Answers have neither been exhaustive nor unanimously accepted, and they almost always open moral, ethical, philosophical, religious and spiritual dimensions. I got a fresh reflection recently by attending two separate public lectures by Rigoberta Menchú Tum and Sri Sri Ravi Shankar. Menchú won a Nobel Peace Prize in 1992 and is a Guatemalan human rights activist. Shankar is a spiritual personality from India and founder of the Art of Living Foundation, which has branches in various countries, including the United States. Menchú and Shankar represent different cultures, languages and religious beliefs, but I do find a unique commonality and similarity in their thinking and observations on human life and its values, purpose and how to be devoted to bringing common good to human beings. Among others, these two figures put unparalleled emphasis on the spiritual to make us creative and humane. Menchú herself is a victim of violence in her country: She lost her parents, two of her brothers, a sister-in-law and several nephews and nieces during the Guatemalan Civil War. She had to take refuge in Mexico. Menchú, who belongs to the KâÄôiche Maya ethnic group, has been an activist promoting the rights of indigenous peoples in Guatemala. Her observation is that human beings have lost their âÄúcommon sense,âÄù which explains why we face alarming racism, slavery and the exploitation of human beings. She sees the presence of genocide all over the world in various types and dimensions. However, Menchú dreams of leaders who could solve problems rather than create them, and in this she believes the youth could be instrumental. However, to make such a contribution, someone needs to be of high esteem, creative and humane. She observes that we need to be able to meet basic needs âÄî part of a healthy community spirit. Menchú distinguishes between religion and spirituality. She laments a lost human spirituality and the violence and exploitation across the world that accompanies it. According to her, some religions have lost their spiritual dimensions, which also have an impact on their believers. For his part, Shankar has been a promoter of stress-free and violence-free communities and a society of peace across nations. He âÄúhas inspired a global phenomenon of compassion and serviceâÄù through his works, according to the Art of Living Foundation website. The initiative has reportedly impacted more than 25 million people worldwide. Shankar observes that it is how we see and enjoy our lives that could make a change and bring a difference. If we are positive in our thinking and approach, then we could impact our potential accordingly and make an enormous contribution to the community and society. And that is the ultimate purpose of human lives, he believes. âÄúWe all come to the world as enlightened ones, however, somehow on our ways we lost our potentiality,âÄù Shankar said to a gathering of more than 1,000 people in Wayzata, Minn. He underscored the importance of âÄúmental hygieneâÄù âÄî enhancement of oneâÄôs human ability through spirituality. ShankarâÄôs Art of Living Foundation promotes meditation as a way of eliminating stress and enhancing wisdom among individuals. The foundation has been working in 145 countries, including the United States, to promote human values and peace. Shankar, who also sees spirituality beyond religions, observes that modern technology makes the world into a global village; thus, spirituality could make it into a family. What Menchú and Shankar have been promoting should be our motto for the common good. Hubert H. Humphrey once said that âÄúeach of us can make a difference.âÄù He believed that âÄúpeople posses the basic wisdom and goodness to govern themselves without conflict.âÄù We donâÄôt need to be worried about success in our lives. He who is successful âÄúhas left the world better than he found it,âÄù as Bessie Anderson Stanly wrote in 1904. John C. Maxwell, in his book âÄúHow Successful People Think,âÄù rightly advises us, âÄúInstead of trying to be great, be part of something greater than yourself.âÄù South Asian mystic singer Lalon believed in reincarnation. However, he professed that to make this life worthy of living, one must act morally and humanely to others and act for good. Lalon stressed the immediacy of improvement because if time is over, we can do nothing. The Dalai Lama has a say in this regard. For us, it is âÄúreally worthwhile to increase the power and influence of positive thinking and to reduce the occurrence of negative thinking.âÄù According to him, if we let anger and hatred run loose, then we are lost. As sensible people, we should not want to get lost. Therefore, what we are supposed to do is a matter of our individual choice, effort and action. Our gratefulness, thankfulness, humanity to others and urge to do good for others could make a difference. In this crisis-prone world, a change in spirit is well deserved. LetâÄôs move on right now. Uttam Das welcomes comments at [email protected].