Presentation at the 2005 URAM Conference

TORONTO, AUGUST 3-6th, 2005
Statement of Purpose for a Symposium on Ultimate Reality and Meaning Based Spiritual Education
Shiv D. Talwar, Spiritual Heritage Education Network Inc. [1]

APJ Abdul Kalam, the president of India, in the opening chapter of his book entitled Ignited Minds[2] clearly points out the need of integrating spirituality with education. In so doing, he sees hope for pluralistic democratic societies such as India for harmony, peace, progress and prosperity. He says, “Self-realization is the focus”, and “The radiance of such minds embarked on constructive endeavor will bring peace, prosperity and bliss to this nation.”

The Earth Charter[3] is a declaration of fundamental principles for building a just, sustainable, and peaceful global society in the 21st century. It seeks to inspire in all peoples a new sense of global interdependence and shared responsibility for the well-being of the human family and the larger living world. It is an expression of hope and a call to help create a global partnership at a critical juncture in history.[4],[5]

The preamble to The Earth Charter opens with the statement: “... To move forward we must recognize that in the midst of a magnificent diversity of cultures and life forms we are one human family and one Earth community with a common destiny. We must join together to bring forth a sustainable global society founded on respect for nature, universal human rights, economic justice, and a culture of peace. Towards this end, it is imperative that we, the peoples of Earth, declare our responsibility to one another, to the greater community of life, and to future generations.” It goes on to emphasize that “The choice is ours: form a global partnership to care for Earth and one another or risk the destruction of ourselves and the diversity of life.” and that “We must realize that when the basic needs have been met, human development is primarily about being more, not having more.” It goes on to remind us of our responsibility saying “… we must decide to live with a sense of universal responsibility, identifying ourselves with the whole Earth community as well as our local communities.” The Earth Charter urges us all to affirm a set of shared principles as a common standard by which we conduct ourselves and one of the principles requires us to “Recognize the importance of moral and spiritual education for sustainable living.”

It is clear that the psychology underlying the likes of the tragic and symptomatic events such as September 11, 2001, will never go away and the visions of “one human family and one Earth community” will never be realized without deeper consciousness raising efforts towards “being more, not having more”.

The word spirit means the real essence of an object hidden underneath its surface. It is an open-ended concept – the deeper the dive, the deeper the intelligibility and meaning. The concept of ultimate reality represents the most profound understanding achievable. In respect to human relations, the reality to be understood is the essence of a human being, the essence of the universe and the relationship between the two. The study starts with a systematic multi-disciplined investigation of the self of the student and projecting the resulting intelligibility to other humans and other beings in the world. The world has had experts in this field of investigation just like it has had experts in physics. The primary reason why the discipline of human spirituality did not establish as did that of physics is that its findings are systematically hi-jacked, diluted and ignored by the divisive forces in human condition.

Those who have dived deep in human spirituality agree that beneath the surface we are “one human family and one Earth community”. Everyone is a walking laboratory to personally discover this finding. Differences in individual incisiveness and personal commitments exist in the depth of perception of this underlying unity. Is it any different in other fields such as physics?

Are we ready to “recognize the importance of moral and spiritual education for sustainable living”? Can we develop an educational discipline of universal spirituality that is inclusive of the entire humanity and human experience, inclusive of every person and every being in this diverse universe, affirming, diminishing or denying of none, acceptable to pluralistic world communities in our scientific era?

The answer must be yes if humanity is to survive and to sustain. Such a discipline of education and research can be built around the core of the URAM concepts. We can begin with the body of available knowledge about human and universal essence. To be complete, it must contain a cognitive as well as a conative component, and it must aim at holistic human development involving all three of head, heart and hands.

Ultimate reality is one and infinite. Being infinite, it defies being confined by finite perceptions. It is the deep-seated intelligibility of its oneness that is crucial in human relations rather than our individual perceptions of it. It is hoped that such a curriculum integrated with existing education can contribute in enhancing human condition through understanding of differences in the light of the underlying oneness.

It is hoped that this symposium will address the urgent need of developing a discipline of spiritual education based on sound investigative principles to promote human identity as our primary identity with recourse to reason and verifiability as much as possible and without imposition of uniformity of thought and belief. Such a discipline must harmonize with the available body of knowledge in all disciplines.

[2] Abdul Kalam, APJ, “Ignited Minds”, Penguin Books, Delhi, 2002.
[4] This paragraph is a direct quote from the Earth Charter website.
[5] In 1987 the United Nations World Commission on Environment and Development issued a call for creation of a new charter that would set forth fundamental principles for sustainable development. The drafting of an Earth Charter was part of the unfinished business of the 1992 Rio Earth Summit and it was completed by an Earth Charter Commission setup on the initiative of Maurice Strong and Mikhail Gorbachev with support from the Dutch government. The 32nd General Conference of UNESCO in October 2003, supported a resolution 'recognizing the Earth Charter as an important ethical framework for sustainable development.'

Slide Presentation

Dr. Shiv Talwar