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Moin Qazi's ‘Mantras of Peace’ touches upon aspects contributing to internal peace

By Ravindra Pandit* 

Review of the book “Mantras of Peace”, an interfaith compendium authored by Moin Qazi
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all” -- Aristotle
The world has seen the rise and fall of several civilizations. What was the root cause of their downfall? Denis Goulet, an American human development theorist, argues that most civilizations perished not on account of external threats but due to internal strife precipitated by the erosion of fundamental human values. Religious scriptures, spiritual gurus, thinkers, and leaders have given us profound wisdom on how to lead a happy and peaceful life. The question is, are we following them to live a righteous life?
The author, Moin Qazi, draws our attention to the reality that we live in troubled times in a dangerous and destabilized world. Wedges between faiths are created by raising questions about the history of people, places, and cultures. All religions teach love, compassion, and forgiveness. And yet there is violence in the name of faith. Our living conditions have improved a lot over the years. Have we also become better human beings? Unfortunately, there is no evidence that civilized societies are morally superior to primitive societies. We have seen two highly destructive world wars in the past century. Have we learned our lessons to live in peace? Not quite.
COVID-19 also exposed the fragility of our shiny world. It came as great adversity and caused social isolation. Moin Qazi put the period of isolation to good use by writing spiritual columns for the Asian Age. This book is a compilation of these short essays.
The eternal quest of every person in this world is for happiness. Different people adopt different means to derive pleasure. But true and lasting happiness comes by observing the universal moral law. This book endeavours to handhold the readers find contentment, the essence of joy.
Those who focus solely on happiness do not find it; those whose goals lie elsewhere are more likely to achieve satisfaction. The plans should not be confined to personal gains but to larger purposes of doing good to others. Happy people connect well with the world around them. They have a goal in their lives. Materialistic accomplishments alone do not ensure happiness.
The key is to develop inner peace and serve others. Selfless love needs to be a key component in our compassionate actions. And compassion has to be practiced with a spirit of altruism, expecting nothing in return. Muslims are taught to live as trustees of God’s blessings. There is a duty to serve those who are less privileged. Similar preaching is found in scriptures of other religions as well. And yet we find that peace is lacking in the world.
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all”, – said Aristotle. Conditioning of our mind colours our vision. We act accordingly without applying a discerning mind. Ideologies, superstitions, customs, and social restrictions cage us. There is a need to do some introspection periodically. Every religion encourages its adherents to set aside time for silence, reflection, and meditation. Self-reflection is not a trait we are born with; we must cultivate it as a habit. This is so important that Plato said, “The unexamined life is not worth living”.
Life is never a cakewalk. We face several challenges. This is for our good. A life devoid of adversities is an incomplete life. Unless we are exposed to healthy doses of pain, there is a danger that we will become hyper-sensitive and vulnerable to even small amounts of stress. We need to build our resilience to face adversity. Adversity turns our faces to God. A firmly embedded template of sound values brings out our inner repertoire of talents.
The author points out that the values of justice, fair play, humility, modesty, tolerance, and curiosity are time-tested. Values constitute the inner sense of right and wrong based not on laws or rules of conduct but on who one is. When we look at the world today, we see a breakdown of society, family life, religion, and ethical principles. The collapse seems to be deeply connected with a loss of human values. This, therefore, highlights the need to rebuild human values.
It is also essential to keep the mind open to fresh thinking. Societies prioritising women’s empowerment show better development indices and are better governed, more stable, and less prone to violence. Proactively embracing change and adaptability are the keys to survival and progress. Adaptability includes respect for differing opinions. Diversity alone does not constitute pluralism. Legitimate space needs to be given in our consciousness to the other. Pluralism is built on dialogue, give and take, criticism, and self-criticism.
Spiritualism helps us to guard against the corruptive influences of the world. We need to stay away from fake religious leaders. Buddha has taught us the way to a good life – neither too much nor too little, in brief, the ‘middle path. We must understand that every scriptural book has to be read with the truest and purest light that our hearts and conscience can provide. Our prayers and rituals should enhance the quality of our character.
Making peace is a process. Never a single action. ‘Mantras of Peace’ touches upon every aspect that contributes to finding internal peace. It would be a continuous journey to internalise its wisdom and make it a part of oneself. The book keeps the reader fully engrossed. An enriching experience indeed.
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*Interfaith author and HR professional, has a special interest in human development. He has actively participated in endeavours to enhance service orientation in Civil Hospitals by conducting workshops

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