Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s recently completed visit to the United States created a great deal of excitement among Indian-Americans, as well as among many other sections of both the Indian and American establishments including government, business, media and others.
Understandably, the political pundits, diplomatic experts and media-folks were and still are busy dissecting and analysing each aspect of Prime Minister Modi’s visit and also the various speeches he gave at different venues.
On September 27 Narendra Modi gave a speech at the United Nations General Assembly. While the content, focus and emphasis of the entire speech was commendable in its own right, including the PM’s oratory, one specific thing stood out in particular for me.
That was when the Prime Minister made a reference to Yoga in the context of individual responsibility to address the problem of climate change. On that global stage he reminded the esteemed audience that Yoga is a unique and one of the most invaluable contributions of India to the humanity. He emphasized that Yoga is a complete approach to living a holistic life, and is a path to attain overall well-being, both for the individual and the collective.
This, he reminded the UNGA, is what could very naturally result in a deep rethinking and reorienting of our modern lifestyle, leading to less consumption, a more mindful and conscious approach to life and living. Such an approach based on individual commitment and responsibility, according to the Prime Minister, must be one of the key components of a comprehensive plan to address the huge problem of climate change. To create a greater awareness about the benefits of Yoga, he even proposed for the celebration of an International Yoga Day.
By speaking of Yoga for a couple of minutes in this way, Narendra Modi persuasively reminded the audience that while he may be speaking at the UNGA as a democratically elected Prime Minister of the nation-state of India, he is in fact also representing one of the oldest civilizations of the world, one that has made immense contributions to the world and humanity.
In a very subtle but powerful way, PM Modi made the audience understand that this oldest civilization has much to contribute to address the most serious problems of the modern world. In fact, he even reminded the world that Indian culture, because of its inherently and deeply spiritual view of life and living, may be able to lead the world in raising the individual and collective consciousness, thereby facilitating the search for sustainable and holistic solutions to the most complex problems resulting from massive industrialization and mechanization of the world.
Through this brief but thoughtful reference to Yoga, the Indian Prime Minister not only brought the glory of Indian civilization on to the global stage, he also brought home one of the deepest truths revealed by the truly enlightened in all the world civilizations, thereby emphasizing the universality and the wideness of the Indian spiritual outlook. He very subtly reminded the global audience that only a radically different and an elevated consciousness can provide a sustainable way out of the present evolutionary crisis humanity seems to be facing.
While making his reference to Yoga he indeed gave important hints to the kind of new consciousness that is needed for a better tomorrow. Yoga, he said, is not only a means to better health, but a way of life that has the potential to gradually raise the mind, heart and body to a level of self-awareness and consciousness that is wider, higher, and deeper than the one in which the mass of humanity persists at present.
Some of the other remarks made by the Prime Minister during his speech, especially with regard to greater sharing of technologies and new advances in renewable and other alternative sources of energy, greater sense of global responsibility to fight terrorism, greater need for the world to work together to address the problems of global poverty, lack of sanitation and unavailability of clean drinking water, also highlighted the need for an elevated and wider collective consciousness. He emphasized that the world today needs a consciousness that is more unitarian, integrative and harmonizing instead of one that is grounded in separative, divisive, egoistic tendencies which at present generally guides most of the actions and decisions taken by the individual nations, particularly the Western powers.
In a uniquely Indian way Prime Minister Modi elevated the usual discourse on some of the most pressing problems in today’s world to a level where lasting solutions can be found only when humanity begins to see, experience and live life differently. He indirectly pointed out that sustainable solutions can’t be found only through a materialistic-rationalistic approach to life. By making a small but powerful reference to the age-old discipline of Yoga and the deeper connection between Indian spirituality and reverence for Mother Nature, he emphasized for the global audience that radical solutions demand a radical shift in consciousness and particularly require an approach to life that is more grounded in inner truth-seeking. And he very aptly reminded that it is India that has given to the world and humanity a time-tested approach to inward turning, called Yoga.
Only an Indian leader could have said this on a global stage, and only a leader who is in touch with the deeper Indian spirit could have said this so convincingly and so powerfully. Narendra Modi showed to the world that the eternal and timeless Indian view of life, which values a higher synthesis of matter and spirit, has the potential to create a better tomorrow.
India is destined to work out her own independent life and civilisation, to stand in the forefront of the world and solve the political, social, economical and moral problems which Europe has failed to solve, yet the pursuit of whose solution and the feverish passage in that pursuit from experiment to experiment, from failure to failure she calls her progress. Our means must be as great as our ends and the strength to discover and use the means so as to attain the end can only be found by seeking the eternal source of strength in ourselves. (Collected Works of Sri Aurobindo, vol 8, p. 25)