By Ashok Bhargava
VANCOUVER: Like Sage Ved Vyasa, Shankaracharya, Guru Ravidas, Mira Bai, Kabir and Guru Nanak, Saint Augustine was a famous 4th century missionary who was a passionate seeker of truth, beauty and adventure. He was a thinker who peacefully influenced philosophy and theology of Christianity. He was made a saint by the early church due to his love for humanity and passion to preach simplicity in our actions and thoughts. One of his famous sayings is, “This world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.”
What do you think he meant by this?
I think it means that you will get nowhere by staying in your own town your whole life. Instead, get out there and explore the world. If you stay in one place your whole life, you’ll never see other lands, other cultures, other ways of living. It’s like only reading one page of a book. You learn something, but it’s nothing compared to what you could gain from reading the whole book. In essence, what St. Augustine says that those who do not travel only know what the world has to offer in their backyards. Think about it. The world is full of diversity – race, faith, socioeconomic status, traditions, culture and mother tongues. Canada is ethnically very diverse, multicultural and multilingual country. An overwhelming majority of people think that ethnic diversity makes it a better place to live.
As we all know, Guru Nanak undertook long and hazardous journeys during his lifetime. He traveled throughout India as well as to Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Tashkent, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Tibet. He gave this world a very compassionate, all inclusive and forward looking religion of Sikhism.
Most of us are fortunate to have travelled out of our towns and successfully settled in more prosperous places. It is like, we have been given the best book ever written but we read only one page and put it on the shelf. Every day, we look at the book and complacently watch it collect dust. Friends occasionally come by to visit and tell the tales of adventure and places of beauty, yet still we do not open the book. When are we going to open the book and start reading it?
One way to open the book would be to become more aware of the problems that exist around us and seek resolution to at the grassroots level. Ask a question if we have become oblivious to the poverty and misfortunes of the places where you once lived. Have we become indifferent to the hardships of life just because now we live in a comfortable place with abundance and luxury?
To pursue the idea of reading the book in its entirety, we must inspire the current and future generations the value of culture and traditions of the land that is left behind and help needy people with sustained dedication and tenacity.
While creating new relationships and friendships in a new environment, we have to focus on two main objectives:
– Assist the needy financially through charity and donations
– Maintain culture while changing to meet new challenges
This is possible by cultivating a deep sense of belonging to the community we live in and having a feeling of unity, hope and pride.
To achieve these goals we must ask what charity is and what are the elements of culture that need to be nourished.
I think charity is basically volunteer actions or donations to assist the poor, ill, helpless or needy based on unselfish love of one’s fellow men and women.
Whereas culture consists of the values, beliefs, and norms that are exhibited in the ways that we live, work, relate to one another, and solve the problems that confront them on a daily basis.
We must also recognize and salute the needy people for their sagacity, shrewdness, and agility.
Remember we will never be happy if we live a selfish life. When we help others, it gives us joy and a deep sense of satisfaction, which is good for our mind and heart. We must be the living expression of God’s kindness: kindness in our face, kindness in our eyes, and kindness in our smile. Giving time and money generate positive emotions that literally open the minds and hearts. We must help out a friend in need. Sometimes people go through tough times. Letting them know that someone is there for them can make all the difference and help them persevere. Give your time, donations and compassion to help reduce another person’s suffering whenever you can.
Shankaracharya traveled length and breadth of India, Kashmir, Tibet and perhaps Sri Lanka to rejuvenate and revive Hinduism. Numerous Buddhist monks traveled to China, Tibet, Burma, Nepal, Sri Lanka and beyond to preach teachings of Gautama the Buddha. So as it is said, “Men go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, to make your life rich and vibrant.”
(Ashok Bhargava is the president of Writers International Network Canada)