Text of Shri Ram Madhav’s Address on “Dharma-Dhamma Traditions in Building the Post-Covid World Order” at the Dharma Dhamma Conference 2021 organised by Nalanda University and India Foundation on 7-9 November 2021 at Nalanda University, Rajgir, Bihar.
It is a pleasure and honour to be a part of the 6th International Dharma Dhamma Conference being held at Nalanda University this year. Theme of this year’s conference – Dharma-Dhamma Traditions in Building the Post-COVID World Order – is not only timely but also very crucial.
A new world order is taking shape post the dreadful pandemic that has devastated economies, populations and social order.
The last time that such a world order had been made was after the 2nd World War. We could not contribute much because we were newly independent, and also the world was preoccupied with avoiding future dictators and establishing liberal democracies as a response to autocracies. India’s contribution to the making of that world order was Gandhi’s Ahimsa – non-violence and Satyagraha – truthful resistance.
That world order, which has served humanity for more than seven decades, was Euro-centric. It drew ideas largely from the Western wisdom. Institutions and policies were built on those ideas of European origin. Economy, trade and security dominated the thinking in that world order.
Seven decades down the line, when the pandemic struck, the world order based on competing economic, political and security apparatus has started wilting precariously. The world has been pushed into a a nightmarish quagmire.
Humanity’s endeavour to come out of that quagmire will lead to the making of a new post-Covid world order.
In this emerging new world, old agenda items like trade, commerce and defence will take a back seat and more urgent and important items like climate issues, healthcare, technology and rights will take a prominent seat on the high table of global politics.
In this new world, the religions of the East, like Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism and Buddhism have an opportunity to play a prominent role. Gandhi once said that the entire religious wisdom of the world had emanated only from the East. He’d said it in the sense that even Moses, Jesus and Mohammad were geographically the children of the East. However, the religions that have sprung up from Indic tradition, have evolved a profound worldview which we call as Dharma or Dhamma.
Firstly, on climate vision, the Hindu idea of ‘Mata Prithvih’ – the earth as mother – can become an important departure point. Reverence for all creation – animate and inanimate – is at the core of Eastern wisdom that we need to impart to the rest of the world.
One of the suspected reasons behind the COVID pandemic was unrestrained food habits disregarding nature and its order.
Secondly, the Covid pandemic has completely transformed thinking about healthcare globally. It is no longer about disease management. No longer about viruses and their vaccines. Healthcare now means healthy living. East has made great strides in the science of healthy living. Hinduism and Buddhism talked about health of body, mind, and soul – an integral approach.
Ayurveda, Asthana yoga, meditation, siddha and many other forms of Indian knowledge systems are today welcomed by the world in a prominent way.
Thirdly, we entered the era of frontier technologies like AI, robotics, big data and digital currencies. This new era of technologies is posing serious ethical questions for mankind like whether the technologies will drive mankind or mankind drives technologies.
Answers to those important questions can be found in Eastern wisdom which has always advocated ‘human-centric development’..
Lastly, the new social order emerging will be more about rights and freedoms. Rights of groups living in the fringes like homosexuals, gender-neutrals, minorities and ethnically and socially oppressed groups will find prominent place in the new discourse. It is important to lead this discourse in right direction lest the genuine human urge for freedom – from oppression and denial leads to chaos and disorder.
This new agenda can best be addressed by the wisdom of our traditions – both the dharma traditions of Hinduism, Sikhism, Jainism etc and the Dhamma traditions of Various strands of Buddhism.
It is time we turned our attention to articulating more about these issues in our discourse, thus adding to the world pool of wisdom. More literature should come out on these aspects of modern day challenges.