I spent this morning recording a variety of Thoughts for the Day for BBC Suffolk. It was an interesting experience to develop short messages on different aspects of diversity for a variety of topics - education, health, universities, media and children. The thoughts are attached below for anyone who is interested in reading them.
When they are born, they give us hope. Hope that they will bring joy to the family, unity to the society, and creativity and goodness for the world. I too am a parent, and witnessed the birth of both my children, one of whom studies at this school.
The best gift for me has been their innocence and curiosity. That has helped me to stay young, to stay open-minded and to respect others and learn from them. Also, children have a strong sense of intuition and know when something is not right. They are much smarter than what we credit them for. And their love is spontaneous and selfless. This is the best gift any parent can have.
Sadly today, we have become gripped with fear and mistrust, and are careful about whom we befriend and talk to. We have become suspicious and defensive and have lost our sense of curiosity, which is the door to real learning. And rather than hugging people, we are hugging money and trying to draw safety and happiness from it.
Let us learn from our children. Let us play with their innocence. Let us too learn to use our intuition and not rely totally on our brains. Let us allow them to unite us, and move beyond differences of race, belief, age or disability. Above all, let us work with them to build a better future, filled with hope. Without them, we are truly lost.
Open your third eye. Let the light of wisdom into your soul. Learn from nature – the sun, the stars, the flowers, the trees. Do they not teach you about beauty? Are they not sending rays of hope and brightness? When the birds offer us a song in the morning, they are inviting us to sing, and spread our music wherever we go.
Schools bind the local community together. While the children all walk in one direction to the school, the parents go in different directions to work. It is they who help us build a community. Schools teach values, art and science, sparking the imaginations of our children. Teachers light the candles within the spirits of our children, working hard to open the channels of learning such that wisdom spreads far and wide. The parents become the boats which will set sail to their children so they may travel beyond any borders or boundaries.
And people are our teachers too – the black, the brown, the old, the disabled, the children and the women. Not just those who work in schools, but also our colleagues at work, our artists and writers, our cleaners and postmen. Seek out their wisdom and imbibe it in your waking moments. Learning will keep us forever young, and it is when we close its door, that we begin to age.
Let the third eye open, draw the light of wisdom from one and all and experience the beauty of diversity.
HEALTH IS WEALTH
In the modern world, many people think that wealth is health. But in truth, no amount of money can cure one from ill health if there are no people qualified to treat or no cures for the illness. Hospitals do an amazing job in supporting the weak and helping them rebuild their lives. I am Indian by culture, and throughout the UK, hospitals hire a large number of Indian staff as Doctors, Nurses, and other support staff who provide a dedicated service. Caring for and helping the sick is regarded as an honour in Indian culture.
Fortunately also, India has some amazing wisdoms of good health. We have heard of the sciences of Yoga and Meditation as the secrets to inner health. Yoga not only exercises the body, but through breathing and posture, cleanses the mind and uplifts the spirit. It is India which has taught us that the mind, the body and the spirit are inter-related in health. An unhealthy mind will lead to an unhealthy body and vice versa. A weak spirit will lead to a feeble life. Diet and right Nutrition are a key to good health – and the science of Ayurveda is a unique gift of prevention and cure. Some of the best Ayurveda clinics are in Kerala where many nurses working here come from. When animals fall sick, they have no doctors or hospitals to go to, so they fast and this cures their illness. Indian religions, like my own Jain tradition, encourage fasting, and our eight day fast at Paryushan, without any food, has for me been a deeply healing experience for both the body and the spirit.
So look after your mind, body and your spirit – and you will be truly wealthy in life.
Everyday, just as we eat our food, go to work, we actively consume media and information. Whether this is in the form of radio, newspapers and magazines, internet or television, we watch, listen and learn from others. It is a highly important source of information, knowledge and wisdom. This in turn influences our perceptions of people, especially those who are different from us in terms of culture, colour, age, disability or belief. This often happens sub-consciously, without us even realising it.
The opposite of media or medium is direct experience or dialogue. Here there is no middleman, filter or interpreter. Often these are the most memorable experiences – whether it is a walk in a beautiful place, a lovely holiday, or hospitality given to us by a total stranger. Unfortunately today, we do not value direct experience and are happy to watch, read and listen, rather than to engage with one another.
2008 is the European Year of Inter-Cultural Dialogue. I work with individuals and organisations to encourage dialogue and experience culture directly, through visiting special sites. And the feedback is always astonishing – and everyone says how memorable the experience was. Set aside some time to experience difference directly. Connect and talk to people and ask them about their customs and beliefs – then you will learn exactly what you want to know without any mediation. Make life a diverse and memorable experience. Learn to grow from the wisdom of others.
When we look at the world map, we are amazed by the distances, shapes and cultural and linguistic diversity. It seems a unique gift of creation – but alas, one which we will never fully see or experience before we die.
Fortunately, our Universities throughout the UK seem to have a magnetic force for students from all over the world. They attract people from all countries and continents, with rich histories and heritage all into one educational institution. The students come with great enthusiasm to learn – for many, it is the realisation of a lifelong dream. On these campuses, we have the opportunity to directly experience the world, and befriend some of its citizens. Through study and lectures, we learn new ways of thinking and doing, and in the halls of residence, debates and discussions about world affairs often last well into the night. Here is global bridge building at its very best – through direct dialogue and friendship, without any hidden agendas or pressing wars.
Unfortunately, not all students take advantage of this diversity. Many decide to stick to the known and the familiar. We should encourage our young to venture out and explore, to befriend the foreign students who have left their homes and families, and give them hospitality and a warm welcome. They should understand the huge sacrifices they have made to come here, and the enthusiasm they have brought with them. We should give our young the strength to see difference as an opportunity to learn and grow, and not to mistrust and fear. Learning comes not just from books and teachers, but also from encounters and dialogue. The campus is an open book with a world atlas.
We will then discover that there is room for us all.
Hope these thoughts inspire you in your life and work.
Thursday, January 31, 2008
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