Everything that exists in Nature has its place and relevance therein. Ralph Waldo Emerson’s poem ‘Fable’ refers to a quarrel between a mountain, high and mighty, and a little squirrel, nestling in one of the trees on the mountain. It ends with the squirrel saying, “If I am not as large as you, / You are not so small as I, / And not half as spry, / Talents differ, all is well and wisely put; / If I cannot carry forests on my back, / Neither can you crack a nut”. Everything and everyone has a role to play in the total scheme of things – the mountain and the squirrel, the clouds high up and the dust down below, the tall trees and the tiny weeds growing beneath them. Similarly, every man and woman possesses different capacities that are necessary and useful in their respective spheres and positions in life. Nothing in Nature is redundant or superfluous. Nature’s resources are meant for prudent use, and not for exploitation and mindless consumption. Each one of us has individual genius and capacity for work and by making use of them, we have to try to contribute our best to the commonweal.
Emerson’s poem suggests the futility of any sense of pride over our positions in life, the talents we possess or the nature of work we do. To a keen mind, diversity of the physical world, human talents and capabilities appear to converge towards Oneness. A quick analogy is that of a colour-wheel, which is a flat disc whereon stripes of the seven colours are painted. When the wheel is spun at high speed, only a pure whiteness with no hint of any of the rainbow colours is visible. As the wheel gains speed, it is amazing to see the colours vanishing into whiteness, bringing in the realization that white is the only hue, which through a process of dispersion scatters into different colours of the rainbow. Each colour has its own wavelength. As light passes through different materials, those substances reflect light at various wavelengths, giving the appearance of myriad hues, whereas there is actually only one colour, that of pure light. Similarly, if we look at humanity, we see on the outer surface a variety of people with different hair, eye and skin colours. While appearances may vary, the underlying colour of all human beings is the same. That colour is light. Our soul is our true essence. The variances among us are only due to the different vestures in which the light of the soul is embodied. The varying external features are only seen at the physical level. When we develop a spiritual consciousness, we experience the same inner light within each person, perceiving unity of the soul.
The need, therefore, is to break free of sectarianism and separatism, move out of belief systems that create division, destruction, conflict and chaos. We have to make a paradigm shift in our collective consciousness. Way back in 1937, in a message at the Parliament of Religions, Rabindranath Tagore wrote, “Curiously enough, it is our religion that zealously maintains the inner barriers that separate and often antagonize nations and people, their respective votaries not even hesitating blasphemously to take God’s own name to humiliate or morally injure their fellow beings who happen to belong to a different community”. The compulsion is to move beyond limited mindsets and open up to merge with integrated wholeness, towards an awakened and ascending conscious level. For consciousness is all-pervading and all-embracing. And, irrespective of nomenclature, God is Supreme Consciousness. An elevated or awakened consciousness enables the connect with non-dual, non-divisible cosmic consciousness where synchronicity of universal oneness and inclusivity prevail. The Ishopanishad states, “He who sees all creatures in himself and himself in all creatures no longer remains concealed”. Through analysis, experiments and explorations, quantum physicists, too, appear to arrive at the same conclusion. According to panpsychism, every animate and inanimate object has consciousness. Consciousness is an all-encompassing energy present in all spheres; so it can change perceptions. Inner evolution is required to achieve higher state of consciousness, where Atman, soul, attains union with Brahman, cosmic consciousness. The infinite dynamism of awakened consciousness can become a unifying force in the face of any kind of diversity.
When the barriers of you and I are surmounted and pure consciousness takes over, our interpretation of life and living changes. Judgmental mind, limiting beliefs, contradictions and complexities make way for acceptance, compassion and understanding for a more cohesive world. Pure existence is where one is in all and all is one. Sage Ashtavakra explained, “You are not the body; rather you are pure Consciousness, the knower of all that you witness. The result of this knowledge will be peace”.
The concept of oneness is further amplified in the Sanskrit word, ekamevadwitiya, emphasizing the defining attribute of the supreme. It means One and only One, with no second. Extended further, it also connotes an important characteristic of every individual human being. Each individual is unique and no two individuals are alike. But here ends the similarity. Whereas the supreme is One, infinite, omniscient, all-pervasive and omnipotent, human beings are physically many, finite and dependent on others for sustenance, nay, even existence. While each human being is irreplaceably exclusive, none can claim or ever achieve complete independence from the collective called human society and the wider environment. Describing the unbreakable bond between the individual and society, Tagore said that “Emancipation from bondage of the soil / Is no freedom for the tree”. If I am the tree, society is the soil that supports and nourishes me. There is no life for the individual outside society and there is no societal progress without assured security and well-being of every individual. It is a mutual interdependence that manifests starkly in a Black Swan event that calamitously threatens both individual and society. Faced with mortality, there is protection only in mutual dependence encapsulated in the phrase, ‘each for all, all for each’. The spectre of destruction of lives that is presently playing out in the form of Covid-19 pandemic has created an unprecedented situation worldwide with consequences that are severe and inherently painful, driving home the powerlessness of mighty countries and continents against a lowly microorganism, and the humbling realization that, at the end of the day, humans are merely biological organisms in the vast chain of existence, deriving sustenance from wellness and equilibrium across the cosmic web.
The world must now come together as One. When asked why as a healthy individual he volunteered to participate in the corona virus vaccine trial in Washington state, Neal Browning enthused in a spirit of reaching out, “It’s to make this end as quickly as possible for the rest of the world”. Not only does the virus not stop at national borders, its antidote can only be found by international teamwork. Not just research on vaccine but even treatment protocols are largely outcomes of global co-operation networks. The well-being of all depends on how every individual behaves; each person can become a potential carrier of the virus, and also a preventer of its spread and thereby a protector of others. Catastrophic events do not recognize boundaries, which are both artificial and fairly recent in the planet’s history and time-span. Dodging the next apocalyptic meteor or the next civilization-blitzing pathogen by a particular country is not a selfish move but constitutes a protective act for all extant creatures and structures, because destructive global events are not selective, striking one nation and sparing another. Walls and quarantines are temporary. The future lies in greater, not lesser globalization to successfully counter a rougue pathogen or a stray meteor, or an equally destructive religious dogma spewing poison and radicalizing human minds. Situations, where the human being is positioned in tandem with life-threatening disease and its antidote, appear rarely in history. It may well be a laser-pointer to the current crisis as an opportunity, indeed an imperative, to promote three game-changing ideals. First, global solidarity based on awareness that we are now living in an increasingly interconnected and interdependent world; second, realigning societies in ways that recognize and guarantee the essential equality and dignity of people everywhere; may the closing of national borders be a temporary measure to fight the pandemic, without allowing it to lead to erection of walls, greater insularity, xenophobia, stigmatization of victims or ideological closing of minds. And third, may the world shift irrevocably towards living wholly in harmony with Nature, eliminating violence and extending compassion not only to other humans but to all forms of life. That we are all in this planet together is not a romantic notion; it is reality.