Future Visions

The course of human history is instigated by many factors, perceived and unperceived, gradual and sudden, tangible and intangible too. Thus, the rise of the rishis in India, of the Buddha, the Christ, or the Prophet Mohammed were among the major perceived factors, whereas the impact of viruses and microbes on the course of human history were never recognized as such. The impact of the Copernican-Galilean science was gradual, that of the French Revolution was sudden. The onset of the computer is a tangible factor, while that of the Human Rights concept is an intangible one.
So, when we forge visions about the Future, we can only be approximate in our assessment. While we may be well-intentioned and enlightened in our planning, there is no telling what the future holds.
We do know that with all its stupendous scientific breakthroughs and marvelous technological achievements, the last century has also created horrendous problems, pressing and potential. A population explosion in the face of diminishing water and fuel reserves and mineral deposits, environmental pollution through automobiles and industrial effluents, perilous nuclear wastes, depletion of rain forests: these are challenges of no mean magnitude. Then there are social and human problems, ranging from poverty and malnutrition to illiteracy and disease.
Added to all this are simmering racial, religious, and economic divides, which, if not bridged or abridged, could lead to explosions of immense proportions. In this context, we recognize forces within many societies that accentuate the differences, and perpetuate mutual suspicion and hatred. They erupt sometimes from the narrow conviction of the superiority of one’s own group or subgroup, sometimes from deep-rooted animosities engendered by centuries of oppression and historical injustices.
Thus, in the new century, though there is much to look forward to in new technologies, increasing economic opportunities, interplanetary adventures, and the promise of cure for deadly diseases, we will be living in a fool’s paradise if we are indifferent to the problems that the human family will be facing in the impending decades.
We cannot afford to engage in the grand illusion that there is no distinction between one group and another, that the message of every prophet is the same. We should rather nurture more effectively the notion of cultural and creedal pluralism, recognizing multiplicity as intrinsic to the human condition, and looking upon races and religions as rainbow is in the heavens: colorful, and majestic, beautiful by virtue of the harmony in the hues.
Future possibilities are immense and unpredictable, for the good and for the bad: The discovery of a new and limitless non-polluting energy source could bring about a golden age of prosperity for all of humanity. The rise to power of a mindless maniac with nuclear capabilities could unleash irrevocable devastation on our species. Education and science could free all humans from ignorance and superstition, but scarce resources could deepen the divide between the haves and the have-nots. Religious and racial bigotry could fire simmering suspicions into horrendous conflagrations, or perhaps the emergence of an enlightened religious outlook would foster understanding and harmony among differing faiths. Or again, the long and checkered course of human history could be snuffed into a mere glitch in the planet’s saga by the rude intrusion and blind fury of a stray asteroid lured by earth’s gravity. What awaits us in time, no on can tell. Not all the factors that shape the future are within our ken or control.
In this crucial hour of India’s and humanity’s long history, and on the auspicious occasion of its Platinum Jubilee celebrations, the Indian Philosophical Congress could perhaps play a valuable role. According to ancient Indian tradition, philosophers do not simply speculate in ivory towers. The symbolism of the Bhagavad Gita suggests that philosophical issues should be explored in the thick of the battlefield of life and the crucible of confrontations, and that vision and wisdom and call to action must be formulated in the context of the dharma of the day. Remembering this, this organization can perhaps take a lead in convening a meeting of the leaders of all religions, and intellectuals of all shades, and persuade them to make a joint public declaration of unity by which they would urge all people to leave behind the psychological hurt of ugly historical memories, eschew angry exchanges provoked by opposing ideological commitments, and commit themselves to the greater cause of national unity and universal harmony. Just as any philosophy devoid of ethical content is mere noise, one that inspires love and promotes the cause of peace and well-being would be a magnificent mingling of ancient wisdom, scientific enlightenment and humanism, all at their best.
Let us dream of a day when the children of this planet of whatever sect or creed will work together hand in hand, and utilize their combined resources towards solving the world’s problems. Let us dream of a day when the peoples of the world, of every race, religion, and color, will be able to appreciate and enjoy the richness and wisdom in the world’s great traditions.
Now, as never before in human history, we must realize that we are all co-passengers in the only space-ship that is ours to share. Fortified by the knowledge that come from the sciences, and enriched by the values and wisdom that come from traditions, we must make every effort to forget the antagonisms and animosities of the past, and strive to build a world civilization that will make this our planet a more rewarding place to be in.


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