We have had this morning inspiring statements on the necessity of developing a new art and science of dialogue among civilisations as an indispensable instrument for sustainable culture of peace in the world.
We feel immensely grateful to the Hon'ble Chief Guest, the Prime Minister of India, for having delivered to us a message that uplifts us to a vast realm of all great and noble values that constitute civilisation.
He has also shown us the way by which that realm should be nourished and enriched by a continuous dialogue that can create a vibrant atmosphere of concord and amity among nations, continents, civilisations and peoples of the world.
We feel also deeply grateful to the Director-General of UNESCO for his penetrating analysis of the meaning and value of the dialogue among civilisations.
He has also presented to us a roadmap that can keep us guided on the path of the dialogue that can counter the forces of intolerance and terrorism.
Hon'ble Yashwant Sinha, Minister of External Affairs, has warmly supported the initiatives taken by the United Nations and UNESCO and welcomed the deliberations that have subsequently taken place on the theme of the dialogue among civilisations.
He has rightly dwelt on the contemporary situation in the world that necessitates the intervention of dialogue as the effective instrument of understanding among civilisations.
Messages of the morning constitute an auspicious backdrop of our Conference, and we are immensely grateful for them.
We are particularly happy that this Conference has received warm support of UNESCO, and we have here today an
exceptional opportunity to explore and strengthen various factors, such as education and science, and pursuit of values, so that the programme of dialogue among civilisations is further fortified and implemented.
It is significant that United Nations and UNESCO have underlined the theme of unity and diversity of humankind. It is also significant that United Nations under its General Assembly Resolution concerning global agenda of dialogue among civilisations has emphasised that "a common humanity unites all civilisations and allows for the celebration of the variegated splendour of the highest attainment of this civilisational diversity."
These affirmations impel us to conceive a progressive path that can lead us to a union of humankind that permits and enhances free diversity.
It may be pertinent to ask the question: What is civilisation? At the basic level, civilisation may be defined as a state of civil society, governed, policed, organised, educated, possessed of knowledge and appliances. Civilisation transcends barbarism and philistinism precisely because it promotes education, science and ethical and spiritual values. Civilisation is that evolved state of society in which there is not only a sufficient social and economic organisation but there is also the activity of the mental life which seeks to cultivate knowledge for its own sake; it also seeks to infuse knowledge in all aspects of physical, economic, social, scientific, philosophical, ethical, and aesthetic life. The fact that humanity has developed varied systems of civilisation and the fact that there has been celebration of unity and diversity among humankind is perhaps an achievement that we prize most and cherish most.
We stand today at a new stage in the progress of the human civilisation where we clearly recognise that intolerance and aggression are obstacles; that these obstacles are engendered by ignorance, and that this ignorance can best be cleared by a new mode of awareness and a new mode of action that promotes diversity, interchange, assimilation, synthesis and enrichment. We have come to realise more and more convincingly that the most fruitful instrument in this direction is the instrument of dialogue.
History of the human race seems to indicate to us an ideal law of reciprocity between the individual and the society as also between the society and larger aggregates of people. At the ordinary level, however, we find conflicts and unreconciled demands. The individual demands freedom and the society demands social control; while a group or a society tends to demand decentralisation and unique lines of variation; larger aggregates of the people tend to demand processes and institutions of centralisation and uniformity. The demands of freedom and the demands of control, demands of decentralisation and variety, and those of centralisation and uniformity do not harmonise easily. Basic conflicts among civilisations can be traced to this major difficulty. And sociological studies have shown that there is no artificial machinery by which this difficulty can be overcome. Only a sincere and voluntary volition among the people directed towards harmony can bring about that sense of reciprocity and mutuality which is indispensable for resolution of these conflicts. It is this voluntary decision that provides the quintessential justification of the process of dialogue; and it is the contemporary voluntary decision on the part of humankind that lies at the root of the initiatives taken by United Nations in putting forward the concept and practice of dialogue among civilisations. It is in that context that this Conference aims at enhancing the forces of reciprocity and mutuality as also contents of dialogue among civilisations.
Dialogue among civilisations is emerging today as a new paradigm in international and intercultural relations. But in order that this new paradigm gets firmly established, it should be made clear that
a true and sincere dialogue aims at tolerance; but this is not enough. It must aim at understanding - understanding of the otherness of the other and of the necessity of that otherness; it must go farther and aim at mutual respect. The new culture of dialogue needs to encourage respect of other ways of thinking, and respect values and experiences other than one's own. This respect contains a sense of humility to learn from what is different and even to wish that what is different is a valuable element in total enrichment. In India, we have the tradition of respecting swabhava and swadharma of each one, each one's nature and each one's law of development; it is even suggested that while one should adhere to one's own unique nature and law of development, one must wish and promote in everybody else adherence to his or her own intrinsic nature and law of development. The time has come when this noble lesson of Indian Culture can be shared by the whole world for its application.
Dialogue must aim at knowledge; dialogue must seek the knowledge of what is common in all, and where exactly differences he and how those differences can be fostered for purposes of enrichment of unity. Dialogue must aim at excluding exclusivism and it must promote inclusiveness. And yet inclusiveness should avoid the mistake of imposing uniformity in the world. Even the world culture, which is being generated today under the forces of international interchange, should not be allowed to be a worldwide expansion of one culture; it should be the blending of many cultures worldwide, a blending that benefits from the wealth of diversity created over time throughout the entire world.
This Conference has rightly chosen as its sub-themes Education, Science, and search for Values. For they are today unifying forces that insist at the same time on diversity.
The culture of dialogue can be sustained only by the culture of universal education. Fortunately, UNESCO's message of education for all and education for international understanding and peace has been heard universally and is being implemented more and more rapidly.
What is now needed is a concerted action at the development of a curriculum of history that can bring home to the students three important lessons, namely, (i) that the entire humanity shares one basic impulse towards progress and by sharing this impulse humanity can be seen as one vast surge of adventure which aims at continuous self-exceeding; (ii) that humanity, in its mature developments, tends to reject uniformity and adopts the law of unity that permits and respects cultural diversities; and (iii) that the future progress of humankind is bound up with the development of a new science and art of living together which necessitates adherence to the law of mutuality rather than conflict and the law of varied expressions rather than any uniform monotone. These lessons are bound to create the necessary basis of a permanent method of conflict resolution in the world through the instrumentality of dialogue.
Thanks to the shrinking of the world on account of advances in transport and communication, scientific quest and scientific knowledge are increasingly being shared universally. Advancement of science and technology is today a global phenomenon, and this globality provides to all of us a vast canvas for dialogue that transcends narrow competitiveness and aggressiveness. It is also fortunate that latest advances in science are tending to promote the unity of the microcosm and the macrocosm, and the more we probe into the quantum reality of the physical universe, the greater is our finding of unity that is diverse. During the last twenty-five years, physics, biology and psychology have been greatly bridged by the emerging concept of consciousness. And the
mystery of consciousness is, as the Indian Upanishads declared long ago, and to use the modern phrase coined by Michel Talbot, omnijective, an inseparable combination of plurality of subjectivities that reflect the unity of the objective. It is as though the modern science is providing us an appropriate foundation for a dialogue among civilisations.
We transcend here the Newtonian and Cartesian world-view that was bifocal, a world-view of division, unbridgeable and permanent. We have now entered into a new world, thanks to the work of scientists like Einstein, Louise de Broglie, Schrodinger, David Bohm, Bell and others. We are once again reminded of the Vedic dictum, that diversity should not be looked upon as inimical in character, since diversity is the very method of the learned who seek oneness and unity. Ekam sad vipra bahudd vadanti, the truth is one but the learned view it in diverse ways. This is the insight that has sustained in India a long process of dialogue and a long process of constant enlargement, and celebration of diversity and unity. This can be seen by the contemporary world as a valuable contribution of Indian culture.
As never before, the theme of knowledge has seized the entire globe. We speak today of learning society and knowledge society, and we dream of a world free from exploitation and deprivation by increase of knowledge and growth of wisdom. This dream has resulted from multiple inquiry and critical inquiry. And while specialised knowledge is increasing, there is also a salutary movement towards interdisciplinarity, not only among physical sciences but even among human sciences. Even the physical and human sciences have now tended to act and interact upon each other. We speak today of science and spirituality; this is a positive sign that beckons us towards a shinning future. In this context, we need to knock the portals of knowledge more and more imperatively, and we
shall find that the secrets of knowledge open easily through the instrumentality of quest, interchange and dialogue.
Ethics and spirituality are the highest peaks of culture and we are required to climb these peaks with our united efforts. In the context of the problems of today, if we ask as to what is it that can truly cleanse and transform the hearts and minds of people, we shall be obliged to admit that it is not by more and more information that the inner hearts of human beings can be purified. To be able to live in peace and harmony, we should be able to turn away from selfishness and egoism and vanity, and it is the pursuit of ethical and spiritual values that can act here as alchemy. I should like to add that if our Conference is to give a new impetus to our very theme, we should announce that dialogue among civilisations is not a dialogue for mere conversation and for exchange even of ideas, but it is a dialogue inspired by the culture of peace, inspired by ethical and spiritual values.
Pursuit of truth, beauty and goodness imparts to civilisations greater heights of culture. What unifies all civilisations is their normative nisus in this pursuit, and what diversifies them is its manifoldness of expression, and its capacity of varied emphasis and mode of synthesis. In early stages of human development, aesthetic culture may collide with ethical culture as in ancient Athens and Sparta, but as humanity matures, the culture of rationality intervenes to harmonise aesthetics and ethics; and even where rationality, aesthetics and ethics conflict with each other, humanity is now realising increasingly that there is a realm of values, — ethical, and spiritual, — in which all elements of culture can blend harmoniously without sacrificing their uniqueness and their speciality. Humanity is integral, not uniform; it tends at once towards unity and diversity. This seems to be the most valuable lesson of human history, the lesson of integral humanism. And this lesson can be a guiding line for a true dialogue, a true and sincere dialogue among civilisations.
Let me, at the end, greet all who have assembled here and let me make an appeal. Let us work together to create the bridges among ourselves and among our civilisations. Let us transcend the old methods of division and violence; let us embrace the truth of our underlying humanism and look upon each other with the eyes of friendship and harmonising sense of fraternity. We shall then realise the true value of Dialogue, and its power to bring us all together to march unitedly for the welfare of the entire human family.
Let me conclude with the great message that the Rigveda the most ancient record of human aspiration gives towards its great climactic close, a message addressed to the entire humanity: samgachchhadhvam, samvadadhvam, sam vo manamsi janatam ─ move together, conduct beneficial dialogues among yourselves, and share all your knowledge for purposes of all that is good and noble.