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Does Humankind have the Spirit to Press the Reset Button for Pluralistic Coexistence?

Time and again concerned citizens across the world have been airing their apprehension on how humankind is steadily destroying the natural ecosystem which is leading to environmental destruction.

By Vedabhyas Kundu

Programme Officer,
Gandhi Smriti and Darshan Samiti,
New Delhi

New Delhi/SBM Special

Eminent Primatologist Jane Goodall has recently blamed human behaviour for the current coronavirus pandemic arguing that it as ‘our disregard for nature’. (April, 2020)

Expressing concern at rapid deforestation which forces wild species come closer to human inhabitants and the human habit of hunting wild animals for food, Goodall pointed out, “ Because as we destroy, let’s say the forest, the different species of animals in the forest are forced into a proximity and therefore diseases are being passed from one animal to another, and that second animal is then most likely to infect humans as it is forced into closer contact with humans.”

Time and again concerned citizens across the world have been airing their apprehension on how humankind is steadily destroying the natural ecosystem which is leading to environmental destruction. It is not only harming nature, but all living creatures on this Earth including humankind itself. Goodall’s concerns echo the deep abyss which human beings have led themselves in- a clear march towards self-destruction.

यह भी पढ़ें कोविड-19 तीसरे विश्व युद्ध का कारण न बन जाए !

His Holiness the Dalai Lama eloquently reminds us on the need to come together and work to fight the challenges of climate change and related problems. He (April, 2020) notes, “Photographs of our world from space clearly show that there are no real boundaries on our blue planet. Therefore, all of us must take care of it and work to prevent climate change and other destructive forces. This pandemic serves as a warning that only by coming together with a coordinated, global response will we meet the unprecedented magnitude of the challenges we face.”

The critical importance of togetherness and solidarity had also been aptly explained by Jacques Delors at the UN Conference on Environment at Rio de Janiero in 1992. He said:

The world is our village. If one house catches fire, the roofs over all our heads are immediately at risk. If anyone of us tries to start rebuilding, his efforts will be purely symbolic. Solidarity has to be the order of the day, each one of us must bear his own share of the general responsibility. We need a global ethics to guide us in solving global issues, in strengthening our interdependence and solidarity.”

As His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Jane Goodall rings the alarm bell of human propensity to self-destruct by racing for unbridled materialism and greed, humankind must try to remind itself on going back to the principles of cosmocentricapproach to human nature. This is what peace apostles like Mahatma Gandhi stood for and advocated. The cosmocentric approach wherein human beings realize that humankind is inextricably linked to not just nature but all other living beings can be the only crucial way in which human beings can stop itself from further self-destruction.

Bhikhu Parekh (1997) explains the notion of cosmocentric view as followed by Gandhi: 

The cosmos was a well-coordinated whole whose various parts were all linked in a system of yajna, or interdependence and mutual service. It consisted of different orders of being ranging from the material to the human, each governed by its own laws and standing in a complex relationship with the rest. Human beings were an integral part of the cosmos and were tied to it by the deepest bonds. In Gandhi’s favourite metaphor, the cosmos was not a pyramid of which the material world was the base and the human beings the apex, but a series of ever-widening circles encompassing humankind, the sentient world, the material world, and the all including the cosmos.

According to Parekh, Gandhi was clear that a nonviolent society, ‘as human beings were interdependent, should discourage all forms of exploitation, domination, injustice, and inequality…and should find ways of institutionalizing and nurturing the spirt of love, truthfulness, social service, cooperation and solidarity’.

Senior Gandhian ecologist, Dr Vandana Shiva talking further on the essence of interconnection points out, “We are all members of the earth family, interconnected through the planet’s fragile web of life. We all have a duty to live in a manner that protects the earth’s ecological processes, and the rights and welfare of all species and all people. No humans have the right to encroach on the ecological space of other species and other people, or to treat them with cruelty and violence.”

As Goodall rightly points out that the more, we use our might and inflict violence on nature and destroy animal habitats, the more we will face challenges like the one we are facing due to the Coronovirus. Probably humankind has lost the plot of working in harmony in nature and how to ensure balance. Excessive greed and clamour for greater and newer forms of modernization is steadily pushing us to destruction. Who knowns when the next pandemic will be visiting us!

Gandhi has warned against the mad race of development which actually destroys all. He had explained this as a crisis in modern civilization. He had said, “I wholeheartedly detest this mad desire to destroy distance and time, to increase animal appetite and go to the ends of the earth in search of their satisfaction. If modern civilization stands for all this and I have understood it to do so, I call it satanic.” (Young India, 17-3-1927)

Today I was discussing this crisis with my sister, Sayantani and the emerging possibilities. We strongly felt that humankind need to press the reset button urgently and start taking serious action to practice the interconnected nature of existence and not think unidirectionally for only sustaining the greed of human beings. We need to delve deep on the essence of the pluralistic nature of our coexistence and how it can lead to genuine happiness and well-being. This is the only way we can save ourselves from self-destruction.

Postscript: The challenge to press the reset button for humankind to follow the cosmocentric approach so that we can ensure pluralistic coexistence between nature-human-all other living beings comes from human beings themselves. We are too obsessed to pursue our efforts to fulfil all our greed and self-aggrandisement. So,once we get away from the current pandemic of Coronavirus, we are all likely to find ourselves back to square one effortlessly pursuing our goal of self-destruction destroying natural habitats in the name of ‘development’. We will get engrossed in debates and pursuits to increase our GDP and other such parameters until the next pandemic strikes us. Also till then, Mahatma Gandhi’s famous saying, “The world has enough for everyone’s needs but not for everyone’s greed” will remain a wonderful quote for articles and discussions but not for consideration of human action.


Deese, Kaelan (April 11, 2020). Jane Goodall blames ‘disregard for nature’ for coronavirus pandemic; https://thehill.com/homenews/coronavirus-report/492357-jane-goodall-blames-disregard-for-nature-for-coronavirus-pandemic?fbclid=IwAR3ZGCyHdPkJHB3IH6Vh0HivGVMhDFwRSSV6i9lp0y0jtVa8xZw-HMt4jgI


‘Prayer Is Not Enough.’ The Dalai Lama on Why We Need to Fight Coronavirus With Compassion; https://time.com/5820613/dalai-lama-coronavirus-compassion/?fbclid=IwAR3j_vDDfEudeFM0tkJURcqFix2Njrtkt4nld3nxMfjP0vbTGGLt0doyfDs

Parekh, Bhikhu (1997). Gandhi: A Very Short Introduction; Oxford University Press.


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