Religion matters – Rethinking the challenges of tomorrow
Key insights of Gurmat on sustainable development, presented in February 2015 in Berlin during the dialogue series Religion matters – Rethinking the challenges of tomorrow of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, BMZ.
Without spiritual wisdom, successful development is impossible. Good development is like good medicine: it has no side-effects.
Dharam Singh Nihang Singh
Our actions must match our words. Honesty and sincerity are prerequisites for peace, justice, solidarity and good governance.
True religion is holistic and shaped by selfless devotion. It is committed to the long-term welfare of all the world’s people and is neither group-led nor interest-led.
The wisdom of religion is an offer to others. As people of religion, we should never impose our convictions on others through missionary zeal, either directly or through subtle persuasion.
Successful development is modest in its approach and is guided by the humble insight that we are all guests on Earth. It focuses on essentials, takes place in harmony with nature, and is always mindful of the finite capacities of people and the Earth itself. Development activity is retrograde when it leads to over-complexity, causes problems rather than solving them, and disturbs inner peace.
A rapidly beating heart is just as unhealthy as a heart that beats too slowly. Natural development is achieved step by step. It is guided by the pace of evolution itself.
Everyone makes mistakes. This is true not only of individuals but also of nations. The key is to avoid repeating these mistakes and to take responsibility for correcting them.
Circumspect exercise of power:
Those who have the power to govern, or the power of knowledge or wealth, have a particular responsibility, for all three areas are especially vulnerable to abuse.
Policy-makers should draw on the wisdom of religion to ensure they are farsighted in their actions, and should support the dissemination of knowledge about religion at schools and universities. At the same time, policy-makers must look critically at religion. If suffering is inflicted in the name of religion, they must intervene resolutely.
Policy-makers and society must encourage competition between the religions. If religious topics are presented transparently, it is easier to ascertain which insights from the various religions are true, of service to humankind, and deserving of wider circulation.
True change always begins within the individual and is founded on insight. Religion can help with this. Its very essence is the eradication of what is bad in us and society: selfishness and short-termism. This requires antiquated attitudes to be put aside in a process of deconditioning. People who consider themselves religious have the responsibility to study their religion and history impartially, self-critically and thoughtfully.
Environmental destruction is the outcome of our alienation from our souls. If we listen consciously to the soul’s voice in our hearts, this will have a positive effect on the environment and our relations with one another.
Spiritual knowledge brings people together. German unity can be regarded as a religious act. It helped to set the people of two nations on a course towards reconciliation and thus contributed to successful development.
Dharam Singh Nihang Singh’s vision
We need an independent world council in which the most knowledgeable experts and representatives of the world religions reach agreement on the values and basic principles of coexistence that will best serve humankind in the long term. The advice provided by this council must be taken into account by all governments as they endeavour to overcome the challenges facing humankind. It would be the responsibility of the council to draw attention to erroneous political and societal developments and to arbitrate in conflicts.