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  Opinion   Oped  09 Aug 2017  Mystic Mantra: Back to basics

Mystic Mantra: Back to basics

Francis Gonsalves is a professor of theology. He can be contacted at
Published : Aug 9, 2017, 1:31 am IST
Updated : Aug 9, 2017, 1:31 am IST

An estimated 370 million indigenous people dwell in 90 countries in our world.

Representational image
 Representational image

God surely smiles whenever two siblings divide their land with a boundary line, saying, “This side belongs to me and that side to you.” Wouldn’t God be musing: “I created the whole universe; and now everyone breaks it into tiny bits for selfish possession, while also breaking their bonds with one another?” Today, celebrating ‘International Day for the World’s Indigenous Peoples’ close on the heels of Raskha Bandhan, let’s reflect upon our bonding with God, with mother nature, and with all peoples, worldwide.

An estimated 370 million indigenous people dwell in 90 countries in our world. They represent some 5,000 cultures and speak a great majority of the world’s estimated 7,000 languages. Beyond specificities of race, culture and language, the indigenous peoples are characterised by the strong bonds of kinship uniting members of a tribe, including relationship with deceased ancestral spirits. Mother earth, flora and fauna are integral part of the human family; hence, they are loved, cared for, and preserved for the wellbeing of all.  

My stay with adivasis — literally, “original inhabitants” — makes me aware of alternative lifestyles shorn of selfishness, pride and greed. Arrogance, aggression, cutthroat competition, and selfish acquisition of land and wealth are regarded as sinful. Conversely, cooperative living, care of the weak, equitable sharing of the earth’s resources and worship of some Divine Being — not as an otherworldly deity but as a down-to-earth empowering parental presence — make life a joyful journey with little regret about yesterday and no worry about tomorrow.     

In societies where pride, greed, selfishness and consumerism make our lives frenetic and fear-ridden, the adivasis inspire us to adopt a “less is more” non-possessive attitude where the welfare of the community matters more than merely promoting one’s selfish interests.

While admiring the exemplary virtues of adivasis, one cannot but feel sad for their loss of identity, violation of their rights, degradation of their cultures and ravaging of their jal-jungle-jamin (waters, forests, lands) in the name of “development”. Handing over native lands to white settlers, Chief Seattle’s lament is heartrending: “There was a time when our people covered the whole land, as the waves of a wind-ruffled sea cover its shell-paved floor. But that time has long since passed away with the greatness of tribes now almost forgotten.”

All religions have beautiful conceptions of community: Ram Rajya, Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, Sangha, Umma or Kingdom of God. Describing the ideal Christian community, Paul writes: “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could sing that meaningful psalm:  “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in harmony as brothers and sisters”?

Tags: raksha bandhan, god