In his best ever speech, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam discussed his idea of a beautiful world – a happy, peaceful and prosperous world. At Art of Living Silver Jubilee Celebrations, held at Jakkur aerodrome, Bangalore Dr APJ Abdul Kalam, then president of India, delivered his best ever and most historic speech, in which he discussed his pet concept “Evolution of Enlightened Society” addressing more than one million people from 110 countries on 19th Feb 2006. Art of Living Silver Jubilee Celebrations held in February 2006 was one of the world’s largest ever events that was attended by 2.5 million people. This article is a transcript of Dr. Abdul Kalam’s speech that was originally published on president of India’s website in 2006.
ADDRESS AT THE VALEDICTORY FUNCTION OF THE INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ‘HUMAN VALUES AND ETHICS IN THE GLOBAL SCENARIO’, BANGALORE, on the occasion of Art of Living Silver Jubilee Celbrations
19th February 2006 : Bangalore Evolution of Enlightened Society
His Holiness Sri Sri Ravi Shankarji, most respected religious and spiritual Heads of various religions and traditions, His Excellencies, Distinguished Guests and participants. My respects and greetings. I am delighted to participate in the valedictory function of the International Conference on Human Values and Ethics in the Global Scenario being organized on the occasion of the Silver Jubilee of the Art of Living. I greet all the members of the “Art of Living Foundation” on this occasion. I liked the statement of Art of Living Foundation “Life is sacred. Celebrate life. Care for others and share whatever you have with those less fortunate than you. Broaden your vision, for the whole world belongs to you.” When I read this I am reminded the advice of Gandhiji’s mother to her son.
“Son, in your entire life time if you can save or better someone’s life, your birth as a human being and your life is a success. You have the blessing of the Almighty God”.
What a profound thought for a son. Sons and daughters constitute the society irrespective of which religion they belong to. This profound thought provides the meaning of life for each member of the society. I have orbited the sun 74 times and I have witnessed many religious and spiritual meets. Wherever I went within India and abroad, I make it a point to meet religious leaders and have discourse. I found, it is natural to meet religious leaders for solutions and advice. I would like to put forth to this great spiritual gathering, an action oriented solution for evolving a happy, prosperous and peaceful society in our planet, which I call as Enlightened Society. How do we create such an enlightened society, which has three components (i) Education with value system (ii) Religion transforming into spirituality and (iii) Economic development for societal transformation. Let us discuss.
(I) Education with value system
The best part for a person is his or her childhood and the learning period in school. The prime learning environment is five to sixteen years’ of age. Of course, at home, love and affection are imparted. But again most of the time in a day is spent in preparing school’s homework and study, eat, play and sleep. Hence the school hours for children are the best time for learning and need the best of environment and mission oriented learning with value system. During this stage, they need value based education in school and at home for them to become good citizens. This reminds me the echo from a great teacher’s saying, “give me a child for seven years. Afterwards, let the God or devil take the child. They cannot change the child.” For parents and teachers, school campus and home have to have an integrated mission, that is education with value system. They must inculcate moral leadership amongst children which involves two aspects. First it requires the ability to have compelling and powerful dreams or visions of human betterment. A state of things in which human beings could be better off in the future than they are now. Secondly, moral leadership requires a disposition to do the right thing and influence others also to do the right thing. If the child misses the value based education in the school, no government or society can establish a transparent society or a society with integrity.
Elevating the young minds : While I was in college, I remember the lectures given by highest authority of the Jesuit institution Rev Father Rector Kalathil of St. Joshepýs college, Trichirappalli, Tamilnadu. Every Monday, he will take class on moral science for an hour. He used to talk about good human beings, present and past, and what makes a good human being. In this class he used to give lectures on personalities such as Buddha, Confucius, St. Augustine, Califa Omar, Mahatma Gandhi, Einstein, Abraham Lincoln including some scientific personalities and moral stories linked to our civilizational heritage. It is essential in the secondary schools and colleges to arrange a lecture by a great teacher of the institution once in a week for one hour on India’s civilizational heritage. This class can be called as a Moral Science Class. That will elevate the young minds to love the country, to love the other human beings and elevate the young to higher planes. Not only in our country, but throughout the world in every school till the age of 17, it is essential that moral science is taught. Can a religious forum like this, influence the world leaders jointly to introduce moral science class as a part of the curriculum in all the schools in the world. Now I would like to share an experience that I have witnessed religion transforming into a dynamic spiritual force.
(ii) Religion Transforming into Spirituality: Universal Mind
I would like to recall an incident which happened four decades ago. As you all know, Prof Vikram Sarabhai is the visionary pioneer of space program in the country. He is well known for his cosmic ray research area that led to evolving the space research program for the nation. Both Dr Homi Bhabha and Prof Vikram Sarabhai were looking for a site to establish space research station in the equatorial region. These two great scientists visited a number of places. Thumba in Kerala was selected by the scientific community for space research as it was near the equatorial region and was ideally suited for ionospheric research in upper atmosphere apart from study of atmospheric structure. When Prof Vikram Sarabhai visited Thumba, the locality had series of villages and thousands of fishermen folk were living in that area. It also had a beautiful ancient church, St Mary Magdalene Church, Pallithura and a Bishop’s House. Prof Vikram Sarabhai met many politicians and bureaucrats to get the place for the work of space science research. It did not move further because the nature of the place. He was asked to see the Bishop of Trivandrum, at that time in 1962, Rev Father Dr Peter Bernard Pereira. It was a Saturday when Prof Vikram Sarabhai met the Bishop. The Bishop smiled and asked him to meet him the next day, i.e. Sunday. In the morning Service, the Bishop told the congregation, “my children, I have a famous scientist with me who wants our church and the place I live for the work of space science research. Dear children, science seeks truth by reasoning. In one way, science and spiritualism seek the same divine blessings for doing good for the people. My children, can we give the God’s abode for a scientific mission?” There was a chorus of ‘Amen’ from the congregation and the whole church reverberated. Subsequently, the big event took place in 1962. His Excellency Rct Rev Dr Peter Bernard Pereira, the Bishop of Trivandrum, took the noble decision to dedicate the church in recognition of the national goal for the establishment of the Indian Space Research Organisation at Pallithura, Thumba. That was the church where we had our design centre, started rocket assembly, design of filament winding machine for FRP product and the Bishop’s house was our scientists’ place. Later, the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station (TERLS) led to the establishment of Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre (VSSC) and multiple space centres throughout the country.
When I think of this event, I can see how enlightened spiritual and scientific leaders, all converge towards giving reverence to the human life. New church and new schools were established in record time. Of course the birth of TERLS and then VSSC gave the country the capability of design, development and produce world class huge rocket system and subsequently, India has the capability of launching geo-synchronous, sun-synchronous and meteorology spacecraft, communication satellite, remote sensing satellite thereby provided fast communication, weather forecasting and also locate water resources for the country. Today, among us, Prof Vikram Sarabhai is not there, Rev Dr Peter Bernard Pereira is not there, but those who are responsible for creation and make the flower and blossom will themselves be a different kind of a flower as described in the Bhagwad Gita: “See the flower, how generously it distributes perfume and honey. It gives to all, gives freely of its love. When its work is done, it falls away quietly. Try to be like the flower, unassuming despite all its qualities”. What a beautiful message for all generation of this nation, on integration of minds and universal mind. Nowhere in the world a church has been given for scientific research, it can happen only in India, it is because of the Civilizational heritage of India. It is a great message to be spread. The message is, the best component of the religion can be transformed into a spiritual force that will shape the society. So far I have discussed, necessity of education with value system for world youth and also best elements of religion transforming into a spiritual force, this happened because of unity of two great minds, Rev Father Dr Peter Bernard Pereira and Prof. Vikram Sarabhai. Let me now discuss with you the third component of the enlightened society for transforming the developing nation into a developed nation through achieving economic prosperity, so that large societal imbalances can be removed. In this connection, let me take an example of India, which has one sixth of the global population.
(iii) Economic development: Transforming India into a developed nation
We have a population of over one billion people of which 260 million are still living below the poverty line. They need education, they need habitat, they need health care, and creation of employment potential. To meet their needs we have the second vision of transforming India into a developed nation by the year 2020. We have identified five areas where India has a core competence for integrated action: (1) Agriculture and food processing (2) Reliable and quality electric power and surface transport for all parts of the country. (3) Education and Healthcare (4) Information and Communication Technology (5) Self reliance in critical technologies. These five areas are closely inter-related and if implemented in a co-ordinated fashion will lead to food, and economic security, and national security. A strong partnership among the R&D, academy, industry and the community as a whole with the Government departments will be essential to accomplish the vision for a developed India. Indian GDP is growing at an average rate of 7.5% p.a. whereas the economists suggest that to remove the poverty of 260 million people we have to grow at the rate of 10% p.a. consistently for over a decade. One of the components through which the rural-urban divide will be bridged and prosperity will be brought to the seven hundred million people living in six hundred thousand villages is Providing Urban Amenities in Rural Areas (PURA).
The Mission of PURA (Providing Urban amenities in Rural Areas)
The number of PURA units for the whole country is estimated to be 7000. This envisages integrated connectivities to bring prosperity to rural India. These are – physical connectivity of the village clusters through quality roads and transport; electronic connectivity through tele-communication with high bandwidth fiber optic cables reaching the rural areas from urban cities and through Internet kiosks; and knowledge connectivity through education, vocational training for farmers, artisans and craftsmen and entrepreneurship programmes. These three connectives will lead to economic connectivity through starting of enterprises with the help of banks, micro credits and marketing of the products.
Each PURA cluster will connect about 20-30 villages depending upon the region and population and will cost about twenty million dollars. There are three types of PURA’s: Plain terrain PURA, Costal PURA and Hill PURA. This is a viable and sustainable business proposition. After initial short-term employment during construction etc., we have to plan for initiating actions for providing regular employment and self employment opportunities in nationally competitive small enterprises in agro processing, manufacturing and services sectors for about 3000 people. If the industrial/business parks are marketed well, they can generate employment opportunities in support and services sector for about 10000 people. This will provide sustainable economy for the rural sector. In this national mission, bankers can promote entrepreneurship in the rural areas. This will lead to the removal of urban-rural divide. The PURA complexes should also have the spiritual connectivity in addition to the four connectivities which I have described above. This will be a unique Indian contribution to societal development. Recently, when I was in Philippines and Republic of South Korea, I had discussions with political, bureaucratic, scientific, entrepreneurial, intellectuals and students community of these nations on PURA. They all feel that PURA is definitely a unique development model and is applicable to many countries.
Dear respected religious leaders and the members who have assembled here, I have put forth a three dimensional approach for the evolution of an enlightened society. Can the Art of Living with multiple religion congregated here will lead to evolving a system that can capture and propagate an action oriented doctrine on the evolution of enlightened citizen. This I will call it as an Organization of Spiritual Glad tidings, if you all agree. Spiritual Glad tidings can have the following missions:
1. Evolving an enlightened society with three components: Education with value system, religion transforming into a spiritual force and economic development for removal of societal imbalances 2. Using the music as a binding force of violent hearts throughout the world. 3. Making fine arts as a part of the curriculum in the secondary and university education. 4. Celebration of inter-religious festivals: Every religious organization should celebrate the festivals of other religions. 5. Multi-religious community projects: For example, a religious school should welcome 20% poor boys and girls from other religions. 6. Education in and with the ambience of unity of religions: The education system must be able to draw the best thoughts from all religions and promote among all the participants. A healthy exchange of ideas and promotion of a common goal among all participants to become a useful member of the entire society radiating harmony everywhere should be the goal of the entire education process. 7. Interfaith dialogue: In my childhood days when I was 10 years old I used to see my father meet his friends Pakshi Lakshmana Shastrigal, a great Hindu devotee of Rameshwaram Siva Temple with the priesthood and Rev. Father Bodal, who built Rameshwaram Islandýs first church. In childhood I am indeed blessed to hear the discussion of the great three. At least once in a week they met and discussed on integration of thoughts from Holy Quran, Old Testament of Bible and Bhagavad Gita of Mahabaratha. From the essence of their discussions, I learnt that “whatever religion you belong to, the path you select will lead you to bliss, based on your good action. Life should be just like a flower that gives fragrance and beauty in the morning and it falls silently to the ground in the evening from where it was created”.
Conscience is the light of the Soul that burns within the chambers of our psychological heart. It is as real as life. It raises the voice in protest whenever anything is thought of or done contrary to the righteousness. Conscience is a form of truth that has been transferred through our genetic stock in the form of the knowledge of our own acts and feelings as right or wrong.
A virtuous and courageous person can alone use the instrument of conscience. He or she can alone hear the inner voice of the soul clearly. In an impious person this faculty is dead. The sensitive nature of his or her conscience has been destroyed by sin. Hence he or she is unable to discriminate right from wrong. The members of the “Organization of Spiritual Glad tidings” should develop this virtue of the ability to use their own conscience and also inspire others to do so which will enable them to enjoy the freedom and remove their anxiety and worries. Wisdom has got to be inculcated to the mankind by the parents, teachers and leaders from various walks of life in the society and most respected religious and spiritual leaders of various religions and traditions. Such training and exposure among our youth will definitely enable them to develop human values and ethics needed for promoting universal harmony. Dear respected friends, I heard a divine hymn in a spiritual atmosphere, I am going to recite. May I request you to join me. Righteousness Where there is righteousness in the heart There is beauty in the character. When there is beauty in the character, There is harmony in the home. When there is harmony in the home. There is an order in the nation. When there is order in the nation, There is peace in the world. My greetings to all the members of the Art of Living Foundation and the participants in this Silver Jubilee Celebrations and my best wishes for success in their mission of promoting friendly, cooperative and compassionate society. May God bless you.
Next year The Art of Living Foundation is celebrating The World Culture Festival 2016 on the occasion of The Art of Living’s 35 years of service, humanity, spirituality and human values. Click here to know more about this unique festival that will celebrate the diversity in cultures from across the world while simultaneously highlighting our unity as a human family.