I have often wondered if the major ailments of the World can be solved easily if we look at them from a micro level rather than from a macro level, because most of these problems are behaviour-oriented and ultimately the cause of such problems condenses to the individual.
In most cases, it is individual thoughts, perceptions, actions and interactions that get blown up to macro scales. Think on these lines… if a Hindu and a Muslim neighbour are fighting over who is to mend the common fence between their homes, they will ultimately resolve it. They will either decide to get a third-party to fix it and share the costs or to spend the Sunday afternoon fixing it or might even decide to demolish the existing fence and learn to live without it. But, what happens today is that the Hindu and the Muslim are not alone; the whole of their communities join them in the fight and a simple neighbourly squabble magnifies into a religious riot.
Great philosophers have said that if we stop harping on the problem and start looking at the solution, life will be much simpler and more peaceful. When we see that big problems are actually born out of simple individual actions, then logically the solution should also lie in individual action. This is the truth that our lives must resonate with.
It is time we stopped looking at religious dissensions as a topic for lunchroom discussion. It is time to stop waiting for somebody else, usually the Government, to come and solve our problems. It is time to start recognizing our role in the problem and in the solution. It is time to start making small changes in our lives that will go a long way in making peaceful coexistence a reality.
There are some simple attitudes and policies such as absorbing the real essence of your religion, acceptance of other religions and the ability to openly show this acceptance, the determination to correct your own compatriots if you think they are indulging in anti-social behaviour, teaching the concept of peace to your children, and so on, which when imbibed in our daily life can help avert religious conflicts.
Deep within, every religion teaches only peace. Therefore, the first step in our solution is a proper understanding of the true essence of your religion rather than acceptance of half-baked theories regarding the same.
Similarly, the next step is an attempt to understand the true essence of other major religions in our country as well, because then the realisation will dawn that the core principles of most religions are the same; they finally reduce to the concept of peace. Sit with your friends on a Saturday afternoon and exchange notes on your religious texts, wish them on their festivals and find out their significance, send them sweets on your festival days… many simple ways to show that you accept the good aspects of their religion.
The third step and probably the one that needs the greatest courage is to be able to tell your own friend that (s)he is wrong if (s)he is unnecessarily showing hostility towards somebody or if you think (s)he is fuelling the embryo of communal dissension through his/her actions.
Finally teach your children all these. Inculcate peace and tolerance in their thoughts right from the childhood years when they are most receptive, because what you teach your children today is the key to a peaceful tomorrow.
The above are not difficult things; they are not macro level revolutions that need campaigning. They are simple philosophies and activities that when adopted in your individual lives will make way for a better tomorrow.
(Published in Bhavan's Journal, October 2003)