Diversity Is Not A Threat Instead It Should Be Celebrated

15 Jun 2012

World Forum for Ethics in Business at Amstelveen, Netherlands

Let’s see, are we all here now? 100%?
Do you know, our present includes the past and the future? The anxiety about the future and regret about the past are all in the present moment.
Now the challenge is how to sail through these opposing currents with the light of hope in our hand. And now this light of hope that we are holding is under a big storm. Somehow we have to save this light of hope.

I want to tell you about an incident that happened in 1999.
At the end of the last millennium, there were rumors that on the 31st December 1999, the world was going to crash. Now this was because the computers were not programmed to take up any more programs and so everything would collapse. And so, there was this fear-psychosis spread all over the world, and more so in North America.
People even started storing food in their cellars. They were buying groceries and milk powder. There was a scarcity of milk powder in Canada, can you imagine? This was because everyone went on a shopping spree, buying food and storing it in their cellars expecting a big disaster to happen.
At that time, I took a whirlwind tour of nearly 100 cities in a matter of two and a half months. In the morning I was in one place and by evening I was at another place, and my only message was to say that ‘Everything will be okay, don’t worry. Business will be as usual, please don’t worry and please do not store things in your cellars. It is not needed.
Everywhere the same question kept coming.
Once again, this year in the past month I toured about 20 cities in 14 countries and everywhere people have been asking, ‘What is the fate of this world on 20-12-2012. We hear there is going to be a disaster.’
I said, ‘This will only be in the American movies. The world will not come to an end. If it comes to an end, it will only be in the movies. Things will be as usual and you just carry on.’
A sense of relief comes into us when we hear that there is no longer a doomsday anywhere near. We are able to sit back and relax, and enjoy our cup of tea and watch television.


Netherlands is one of the
countries which is in the
fore-front of disaster relief.
Anywhere any disaster
happens it is Holland which
comes forward to help the


We need to take a fresh look at the state of affairs in the world. As Gandhiji said, ‘There is enough for everybody’s need but not for everybody’s greed.’ It has become a very popular saying. We need to move from greed to generosity to co-operation and to a sense of belongingness in the community.
One of the challenges that modern society is facing today is the lack of a sense of belongingness and lack of family values. Even within the family there is no sense of bonding. As a result we are facing social ills like violence, stress, stress related diseases and depression.

Do you know 30% of Europe’s population is facing depression?
Recently when I was in Japan, I came to know that 30,000 youth commit suicide every year in Japan. These statistics are alarming. Even in a country that is prosperous, where there is enough GDP and everybody has enough to eat and live comfortably, even in such a country 30,000 youth are committing suicide every year. It is alarming.
What is the reason? Where is the cause? How do we change this situation? What do we need to do? These are some of the most pressing questions that haunt us today, and it should haunt us. We are human beings, we need to connect with each other, and feel secure that when we are in trouble so many hands will come forward to help.
Once this paradigm shift happens, which was there (earlier), the situation is bound to change.

If you see in the east European countries, in the communist era, there was a sense of community feeling amongst the people. They may have had little food or little to survive but there was a feeling of togetherness. People would come and help each other.
In a competitive business world these values are eroding, we need to get back to these values.
We can say they have already eroded, and we need to get back to that sense of belongingness.
Even within a company setup how many people connect to each other? Or do we just come to work as mechanical entities, like machines and go back, without having a sense of connectedness?
Spirituality can induce this missing aspect, this missing link in the chain of connectivity, and belongingness. It can nurture the passion, togetherness, hope and confidence to face the challenges that we are facing today.
See, the world has gone through bigger turmoil than what we have envisaged now – World War I, World War II were bigger turmoils.
And today the bleak economic future of Europe or anywhere else in the world is not as challenging as it was when there was war, certainly not. So we need to give that confidence to people that they will be fine. We need to spread this message, ‘Hey, you will be fine. Come on, let us walk together.’
Here you will find there are two things we need to do.
There are countries that expect others to help them, others to provide for them and they find it their right to receive. This is a big challenge, a big problem.

There is a small story of Mullah Nasruddin . Mullah Nasruddin was a wise foolish man, who was a farmer. Mullah lived in a town where there was severe drought and for nearly six years there was not much rain. So Mullah Nasruddin kept complaining about this and he got used to complaining. He used to complain and complain. Finally, in that particular year it rained well and the crop harvest was very good, but even then Mullah had a long face and he still kept complaining.
So his friends asked him, ‘Mullah, this year you have nothing to complain about, because you have abundance, the harvest was very good’.
But Mullah was still complaining, he said, ‘Now there is too much work for me. I am not used to working so hard for the last six years. This year I have to work and I am not able to work.’
When there is no work, you feel that someone will provide for you; and when there is something you can do, then also you feel that it is a big burden.

Similar situation happened in Ethiopia, if you remember. For seven long years there was drought and Ethiopia received aid from the international community. But in the seventh year when there was enough there, people thought that it is their right to receive aid and they wouldn’t go for work. This is a challenge.
This is where we need to educate people. A paradigm shift should happen. The countries which are expecting others to support them, and the communities which benefit from others, they should be motivated to stand on their own feet and be self-reliant. And the other countries which are coming forward to help, they should anyway help. Not because it would benefit them, but because it is human to extend a helping hand. So it is a two way approach.
The poor need be infused with self-confidence and this is what spirituality does.

Again going back to the year 1999, that is the year I had invited around 500 youths from around Bangalore to our Ashram. All of them were unemployed youths. I also invited the Small Scale Industries Minister and the Director of Small Scale Industries, and requested them to present to youth all the schemes that the government had introduced at that time.
The government had about 280 different schemes for which the government would provide some infrastructural help and even some initial capital. The people would only have to take up those projects.
So we had 500 youths, and 280 projects were presented to them.
Do you know then what happened? The youths came up with all kinds of reasoning on how none of these projects could work. You mention one project and they would say, ‘no this won’t work, this cannot happen.
So finally when they were asked, ‘What is that you want?’ They said, ‘Get us a government job. We want to be a policeman, or bus-driver or conductor, give us any government job.’
I said, ‘Okay, I will do something about this tomorrow.’
The next day I put them through a course that I called ‘The Youth Leadership Trainng Programme (YLTP) ’ for one month. In that one month time, the way we tuned and trained them, we made them realize where they were going wrong and made a huge shift. Each and every one of those youths have become entrepreneurs today, and each one of them are providing employment to around 300 to 500 people under them.
It is so thrilling to see such a transformation in people. Just by changing their mind set and their attitude, they became entrepreneurs, and stood up on their feet and became self-reliant and did something.
We have started this program throughout India, and also in Africa and in South America. It is really rewarding.

So we all here need to take this responsibility of creating an awareness in people; an awareness not of disaster or doomsday, but an awareness of our own capabilities, of the dormant potential inside every human being.
Every challenge or every crisis is an opportunity. The paradigm shift is to make these challenges turn into opportunities for a better world and a global family. See the whole world as one human family and see what is the best that we can do.

One last thing that I would like to mention here – we all need to realize that we are not going to be here forever. We are here for a short period of time. Whatever that is, 80 to 90 years or 100 years or 110 years at the most, let us make the best use of this time and do the best for the coming generations.
By the way, my teacher who worked with Mahatma Gandhi is still alive and he is 116 years old.
So for the short time we are here, let us bring hope, reduce tension and distress. Let us bring those people together who are spending a lot of time, money and energy on mindless conflicts. Let us make a better world.
Don’t you think so? What do you say? Can we all join together with such a vision?
A stress free and violence free society, a disease free body, confusion free mind, inhibition free intellect, trauma free memory and sorrow free soul. Can we do this?
We first need to have a vision – creating a society which is united, which has a sense of belongingness and a society in which people care for each other.
We tend to take certain things for granted. We think, ‘Yes, it is in my nature anyway, I do care for others.’ But that is not enough, it has to flow in action.

By the way, I want to congratulate the Netherlanders, because Netherlands is one of the countries which is in the fore-front of disaster relief.
Any where any disaster happens it is Holland which comes forward to help the society. This is very much inherent in the society and culture in Netherlands. Whether it is Tsunami or earthquake anywhere, you will find aid from Netherlands reaching there. KLM goes there with all the aid.
Our volunteers are already there. Art of living is anyways there and they always work with several NGOs and several governments, and KLM is bringing from Holland its goodwill, compassion and service whenever there is a disaster.


Business cannot become
impersonal. The human touch
needs to be there, but at
the same time we should not
do business emotionally. We
must be very clear about this.


I think Holland should also take another step and prevent a disaster. Prevent any mistrust and widening gap between communities. Here again I would say that one of the challenges that Holland faces is the widening gap between the mainstream and migrant community. I would request the migrant community to integrate themselves with the culture and ethics of Holland, and not to be afraid that they would lose their roots.
You can maintain your roots but broaden your vision, broaden your attitude and assimilate yourself to the place that you are in.
For the mainstream community, I would ask them not to be scared of diversity. Diversity is not a threat, instead it should be celebrated. Assimilation and recognition of diversity, and cooperation with them can bring much more harmony to a society which has been harmonious for ages here. These are the things I would like to see happen here.
I am a great admirer and promoter of multi-culturalism and multi-religious and multi-cultural festivals. We need to have more and more of such festivals in every area and every location which brings an opportunity for people to interact, mix and know each other.

Earlier this year we had a program in Germany at Bad Antogast. We brought a group of Israelis and a group of Palestinian women together. Both the groups came and we put them in one house. We brought them to Germany separately and we put them in one house. You should have seen the fire-crackers and bombshells that happened on the first day. But they could not escape and so they stayed there.
Our facilitators and our teachers were present there as well. At first these women vented out and expressed their displeasure and anger. But once the steam was let out then they started getting closer to each other. They started appreciating one another and they started becoming very good friends.
This was covered by the media extensively in that area.
What I am saying is that we need to undertake certain bold steps of bringing people from completely opposite view points on the table and encourage them to interact and have fun.

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