Aristotle said twenty-five centuries ago, “what the world needs is cleansing of hearts and not garments,” Is this not true even today. We claim to have made lot of progress. Our science and technology have advanced. Our general economic condition has improved. We have, more comforts and access to information from any corner of the globe. But with all these and many others, are we really happy? What have we done to improve the lot of the really poor people, exceeding one billion, who are unable to get even one square meal a day. They are not able to acquire minimum education. They don’t have a roof over their heads. The have rags on their backs and empty bellies. When they fall sick they do not get the right medical care. Why they should be condemned to a life of penury and misery. Do we, the better off and fortunate among the citizens, have a responsibility to do something within our power to uplift these unfortunate masses?
Our efforts during all these centuries have been the result of application of the intelligence to solve man’s problems. But have we solved them fully? Are we confident that they will be solved with the intellect alone? Is there a better way open to us? It is here Aristotle’s statement becomes more relevant today.
Everywhere polluted minds exist. They spit venom and spread the contagion of misery and disaster. Even with the most powerful intellect we have not been able to overcome their evil effects. The mightiest nation has not been able to counter their evil designs. The calamity of 9/11 is an example.
Death and destruction in many parts of the globe have become the order of the day. There is wastage of resources. Priorities are lost sight of and in the name of economic development the poor are deprived of their essential requirements for want of resources, or infrastructure, or organisations. We make efforts here and there but they do not make any serious dent on the problem.
It seems there is rise of evil. This brings about competition and waste. Many organizations have a percentage of parasites that take more than what they give. They are more aware of their rights and not duties. Social commitments of organizations are inadequate. Poverty and oppression all over the world, except pockets of wealth and prosperity, do exist. So too is with ignorance and illiteracy.
There are various international funding agencies with programs of poverty eradication but the impact on the poor is slow and negligible. We see countries with booming economy, creating billionaires but the poor live a miserable life as before. Is it not our duty to lift them up from the morass of poverty and despondency? The world economy by and large is greed driven and not by values. The disparity in wealth is increasing. But the large income accruing to the already rich do not find in ploughing back of resources for the welfare of the poor. If the poor around us are in a state of utter want and discontent how can there be stability in society.
While greed dominates economic order, spiraling inflation demolishes the hopes of any progress for the poor. Disorder and discontent become the constant companions for them. There is unhappiness due to lack of essential things for them. There is unhappiness for the rich due to a feeling of insecurity for the protection of their life and property. Is this state of tension, stress and anxiety desirable? How can we get over this?
How long should this continue. Is it not time to end this? Efforts of several agencies like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank yield some results but they are inadequate.
What is the way out? The only way is to originate solutions from the heart of human beings. Where intellect fails the heart succeeds, the heart of the Buddha with overflowing compassion for the unfortunate ones. Out of that compassion comes spontaneous release of resources from individuals. This alone can solve the problem of poverty and misery. There will be no need for governmental intervention. Let us fill every heart with values. This does not mean the present functions discharged by the governments should be discarded or given less importance. In addition make human hearts overflow with concern and compassion for releasing resources and energy for the uplift of the really poor. A civilization worth the name should really progress in cleansing the hearts. It is a heart full with values, which will be the springboard of love. Noble action and programs for the uplift of the poor will follow. This needs a global view.
Poverty cannot be abolished by the efforts of persons who travel in executive class and live in five star hotel and comforts. They should really understand the problems of the poor. They should feel for them and live poverty at least for a while to understand the intensity of the malady. Human relationships should be based on love and helping the others. It should not be brushed aside as pure philosophy or impractical ideal. In fact the idealist is the most practical man in the world. He raises the level of practicality to the ideal and does not pull down the ideal to the low level of practicality. There is need for a supra ordinary goal of human welfare and happiness with focus on programs for the really poor.
We have to mould a new generation if the present one cannot accomplish or attune to this. We should stop this plunder of resources by a section of rich and fortunate ones who in the name of progress are driven by greed instead of need. Programs of education and skill development should tap the mental strength of mankind and tap the heart for the inexhaustible fountain of love. This alone can provide a lasting solution for world peace, prosperity happiness and stability. This should be done with the full participation of the really poor that will benefit. Globalization of values is the need of the times. This is the task of global and national leadership. Let us make a beginning now. Thus we can pay a glowing tribute to Aristotle and his maxim.