Blame won’t bring change

“There can be no peace as long as there is grinding poverty, social injustice, inequality, oppression, environmental degradation, and as long as the weak and small continue to be trodden by the mighty and powerful. The world’s spiritual and religious leaders need to address these real and pressing issues.”
— The Dalai Lama

These words inspired me as I travelled the past one month in the United States of America. The wars on terror, political turmoil in many countries and increasing armed aggression have been the subjects of discussion globally. Many people have found relief from the pain of old injustices and injuries through recent events. However, many folk also feel threatened, vulnerable and insecure because of the changing world order.
Another trend that is visible and being debated both in the developing and the developed world is the growing economic deprivation, especially amongst the younger and middle-age population. Economies challenged by the recession have fewer jobs to offer and, therefore, living standards are declining. This has reshaped the role of faith organisations in many societies.
There is a connection between economic disparities and political turbulence leading to violent endgames like war and terrorism, which is closely linked to or encouraged by faith-led organisations. Deprivation and fear are exploited by rich, bigoted religious organisations. They cause immense harm to the social fabric by converting young and economically deprived individuals into fanatic proponents of violent change in the name of God.
In India, we have always nurtured a strong relationship between faith organisations and the common public. Spiritual and religious leaders enjoy respect and support of their followers at par with family elders and teachers. In our culture, we are influenced by important personal decisions by our chosen spiritual masters.
Lately, we are witnessing the coming together of spiritual leaders in the public arena, like in the ongoing fight against corruption. It is a heartening development, yet caution is advised as this is the tricky ground of politics.
Spiritual masters have a trust relationship with their followers, making their power both sacred and absolute, and necessitating its own set of checks and balances. It is critical and advisable that all stakeholders in the current agitation put their repertoire of spiritual wisdom to test by adopting a non-egoistic and mission-centric approach.
Globally-renowned Zen Master Thich Nhat Hanh, known for his mediation and conflict resolution practices, offers an interesting insight through this quote: “When you plant lettuce, if it does not grow well, you don’t blame the lettuce. You look for reasons it is not doing well. It may need fertiliser, or more water, or less sun. You never blame the lettuce. Yet, if we have problems with our friends or family, we blame the other person. But if we know how to take care of them, they will grow well, like the lettuce. Blaming has no positive effect at all, nor does trying to persuade using reason and argument. That is my experience. No blame, no reasoning, no argument, just understanding. If you understand, and you show that you understand, you can love, and the situation will change”.
We may consider applying this learning in the Indian context. It is important to find constructive solutions through compassionate understanding, and to do this the root cause of a problems must be addressed. Good and bad examples are to be found in all groups. It is necessary that good forces align against the common foe, cutting across all dividing lines.
In my view we need to distinguish spirituality from morality. While moral practices are easier to follow — in demarcating right from wrong, sifting black and white — spirituality empowers seekers to deal with the grey areas and they become their own torchbearers in choosing between right and wrong. Spiritual practices encourage pupils to come out of the shadow of their masters and aids their individual buds of wisdom to blossom. Spiritual training is very relevant in our lives today as the onus of bringing change rests with all of us.

— Poonam Srivastava has published a book of Zen poetry titled, A Moment for the Mind, which expounds on the practice of Mindfulness Meditation. She is also involved in popularising new ideas of change in the social sector. She can be contacted at

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