Maj. Gen. KS Pendse


1. The law of entropy states that all structures dissipate, and  ultimately, end in chaos, unless, by a happy coincidence, they reorganise themselves into structures of a higher order, with a fresh lease of life. This is s law of nature, which includes human nature. Those who believe in Man’s ability to conquer nature, and also believe in his ability to find  a ‘technological fix’ for every predicament ,forget that human nature is, the most; difficult and formidable part of nature that man has yet to  conquer. This truth was perceived long ago by the founders and seers of various advanced religions, whose basic tenets seem to have been forgotten by a globalising world of today. Every country is struggling with globalisation  issues such as growth, poverty eradication, education, urbanisation, among others, while making an attempt to retain an identity based on ethnicity, religion and ideology in most cases.

2.    What is lost sight of in an effort to emulate the Western economic model,  is the demand made on the Earth’s finite productive land surface, and on its non-renewable resources including oil, by an ever-increasing population. Such a rising demand cannot be met for long. There has to be an honest appraisal of this global problem by paying attention to areas of extreme poverty, ecological pollution, waste and religious intolerance, and s consequent recognition of the fact that mankind  could head towards a future of total breakdown, or of stupendous breakthrough. Fortunately, the interconnected principles of social justice, peace and environment have been accepted as matters of policy by the United Nations. But a fourth, equally indispensable element of a sustainable society is the spiritual dimension. To say the least, ethics is as critical as earning money, if one were to learn the right lessee from the recent failure of major U S corporations, some of whose greedy bosses cheated their own employees out of their pension funds!


3.    This spiritual dimension is not linked to any particular religion but to that natural process of the unfolding of consciousness which is part of the human constitution. Many great teachers of all ages have offered possible ways out of human sorrow and misery. Their teachings form the core of major world religions such  Islam, Christianity, Buddhism and the Hindu way of life. On the other hand, the on-going war on global terror waged by the US and  its  allies, post  Nine Eleven, is being perceived by the  Muslims as a part of & historic struggle between a Judeo-Christian West with  Israel as its bridgehead in  a Muslim  Middle East, almost as a continuation of the medieval Crusades. Many Muslims are voicing their anguish over the highhandedness with which the  US led alliance has crushed Afghanistan end Iraq and have abused hapless Muslim  prisoners in an inhuman manner. Before these matters degenerate into s full-scale clash of civilisations ,it may be worth the effort to understand how various religious traditions have  stressed different aspects of human behaviour, and to try and synthesise what is best in all in each religion in order to appeal to all human beings to emulate that common code of conduct to rescue mankind from committing a mass suicide.


4.    Dr A J Toynbee, author of ‘A Study of History’ dealt in detail with the defining characteristics of major religions~. Taking C C Jung’s analysis of  the human psyche as a basis for his interpretation of these religions, Toynbee  classified  them as displaying an attitude of

introversion’ or of ‘extraversion’.  Further, he used Jung’s description of four human faculties- thinking ,feeling, sensation and intuition – to indicate the predominant faculty in each of these religions. According to Toynbee, Islam &: Christianity has extrovert attitudes, with sensation Dominating the former, and feeling, the latter . If the statement ‘God is Love’ expresses Christianity’s  inner nature, Islam believes that ‘God is Power’.  Buddhism and  Hinduism have introvert attitudes; the former relies on the faculty of intuition while thinking faculty dominates the Hindu religion, which stresses direct knowledge of a non-dual Reality as pathway  to human liberation. Dr Toynbee’s interpretation may appear to some a an over-simplification of the character of each of these religions, but he does sum up each religion’s core value in an unmistakable fashion.

5.    Post Nine Eleven, Dr John Algae of the University of Georgia has put forward s thesis based on pairs of conflicting features in each of the major religions. For instance, what stands out in Judaism-,Christianity and Islam is a strain of revolt juxtaposed to obedience. Adam and Eve revolted by eating the forbidden fruit, while later on, Abraham was ready to obey God by sacrificing his son, Isaac. Obedience as a value continued in its starkest form in Islam, which word itself means ‘submission’ to God. Another such pair of values is~ that of knowledge and ignorance, implicit in Indian as well as Greek tradition. Upanishadic as also Buddhist Quest for knowledge of one’s Self is of a piece with the Grecian injunction ‘Know Thyself’ said to have been inscribed over the entrance to the shrine at Delphi. It is this quest for knowing reality  that triggered the Renaissance in Europe and served as a basis for development of modern science as well as the Modernist tradition of freedom.

6.    It was in the 18tn Century that freedom from bondage as a value came to the fore in the American Declaration of Independence  (1776) which    affirmed that all men were created equal  and they were endowed by their creator with some inalienable rights such as life, ,liberty and pursuit of happiness.  President Roosevelt asserted during the Second World War the right of every person ~ in the world to four freedoms: of speech, of religion, from want and from fear. In the Western world, therefore, freedom as a value outranked obedience. But in ‘the Middle East , obedience remains s primary value even now in most Muslim countries. Thus the Western. Modernist tradition and the Islamic tradition have inevitably come into Conflict with disastrous results as on Nine Eleven.

7.    On a different level, Alvin Toffler’s thesis of simultaneous existence of three ways of creation of wealth , agricultural ,  industrial and informational – with their attendant variations in life styles in today’s world is especially valid. And it is this simultaneity that which has led to a man made disparity in incomes, opportunities as well as aspirations while the tantalising pictures of affluence are beamed over television channels world over to covert all and sundry to a global culture ( read American ) regardless of the vast differentials in their purchasing power. Frustrated consumers in the less developed parts of the world have added much  to this growing  chaos, because of an obvious gulf between the top one per cent of the world -population commanding as much income as do the bottom fifty-seven  per cent. Surely there is a need to question why greed has been made into a virtue under the guise of a right to pursue happiness, ostensibly by the privileged few in the Wes who swear by the primacy of the market-forces. Thus, while accepting General Wesley Clerk’s observation about the need for Muslims of Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to decide whether Islam is religion  of tolerance or of terrorism, there is s concurrent   need for the  already affluent, oil-hungry nations of the modern West  and  their allies to ponder over s basic question:  whose Earth is it, anyway, that the West must control the  oil and other resources in a shamelessly brazen manner ? For that is what this war on terror is all about.



8.    In the foregoing discussion, the Sinic world’s values of harmony and asceticism that seem to  prefer Yin over Yang, (love over hate or static condition over  condition over dynamic activity) have not been mentioned. To  Confucian thought, what is most highly valued  is harmony between the Way of Heaven, human nature and social behaviour. The means of achieving such harmony is to follow truthfully  principle of right behaviour or action, and decorum or ritual. .So for, these values have not come sharply into conflict with those of the modern West or medieval  Islam. Even if China  does overtake the West economically  in a decade or two, there is no clash  with the West in the immediate sense.

9.    As such, there is much to recommend the Oriental concept of the  Middle Path  in which the best  features of value systems in all Cultures  can be brought together so as to resolve the on-going world crisis. Obedience in its highest form, for instance, restrains selfishness and recognises the need to devote oneself to the service of  a Reality higher than oneself.  Its current Islamic interpretation has made it degenerate into intolerance, fundamentalism and terrorism directed at those who differ. Similarly, freedom, a Western value, if correctly applied, can lead to an acceptance of the rights of the disadvantaged and a concern for their welfare. At  present, it is being misused by the affluent West for exploiting the rest  of the world and for ravaging the environments out of a total disregard for  global welfare. Similarly,  knowledge as a value  helps one to experience who one is, why one is and where one is so as to create order out of chaos. Harmony if followed correctly leads the society ruled more by example than by fear of punishment. But its wrong application may lead to dictatorship as in China.

10.  What is needed is a reconciliation and s correct application of these values, if mankind wants to establish order out of the current chaos, by evolving a viable, value-based culture that can be accepted by the whole world.  It must include obedience to the Highest  that we know  as well  as individual freedom, much like the state which Arjuna attained through Krishna thanks to Bhagvatgita. That is the  contribution which  modern India can make to resolve the present crisis ,provided it practices at home what such a value system enjoins on all.  Dr S Radhakrishna observed quite rightly that  ‘the whole of Humanity  shall remain united people where Muslims and Christian, Buddhist and Hindus shall stand together bound by  a common devotion, not to a racial past but to a great dream of  a  world society with a  universal religion which alone can give the spiritual basis  to a world brought together into intimate oneness by Man’s  mechanical  ingenuity.’


11.  During the cold war , India played a role on the Golbal stage some times as a negotiator and at other times as a peace-keeper under Pandit Nehru’s  leadership, even though  it was struggling to overcome its vast internal problems. With the end of  the Cold War, India’s utility was diminished. Pokhran II in 1998 was, in s sense, a signal sent by India to the world that it was still relevant, albeit due to its demonstrated  nuclear weapon  capability. Historically, it marked s shift from Mahatma Gandhi’s non-violent tradition and India’s stature as  leader of the  non-aligned Third World countries to that of an aspirant to joining  the Club of Global Powers.  Post-Cold War pragmatism ,perhaps, warranted such s come-down  from, the high moral ground which India had occupied after independence, without much to show for it.

12.  With the return of a Congress-led government in New Delhi in  2004 and a possible change of rule in Washington in 2CO5, India can once again play a catalytic  role if it espouses the Middle Path discussed  already. Its society’s plurality and the  new government’s promise of promoting harmony are indicators of  a  better sense prevailing in a country that is not only home to half the poor of this world, but also has the second largest Muslim population world-wide. Should India do so, Mahatma Gandhi’s dream , stated below may yet come true:-

‘ I feel in the innermost recesses of my heart that the world is sick unto death of blood spilling. The world is seeking e way out and I flatter myself with the belief that perhaps it will be the privilege of the ancient land of India to show the way out to a hungering world.’






1.    Toynbee ,Dr AJ,  A Study of History’ ,Vol.  VII ,Armature: II

2.    Algeo ,Dr John, Four Values in One World’, The Theosophist, June 2002.

3.    Raahakrishnan ,Dr S, ‘Eastern Religions & Western Thought’