“Can a small house continue to exist in between two skyscrapers?” At a function, a stranger bluntly asked me, hinting at Nepal’s reality between India and China.
I answered, “Of-course it will if that cottage happens to belong to a Guru, a teacher respected by the inhabitants of those two nearby skyscrapers. But, the property may not survive if it’s used as a grazing ground for “Gorus” (oxes/cattle). On the way back home, this random conversation got me thinking deeper. Whether it’s a house or a nation, their very survival depends on how they get along with their neighbors and how their neighbors perceive them. And that depends on the behavior of that house or that nation. If our neighbors perceive us as beggars, good-for-nothing types, then they will be tempted to “cure” us, in other words, they “intervene” on our internal affairs. If the neighbors see us as a place they can learn from, full of good cultures, morals and mindset, then they will respect us, find a way to copy our practises and even “defend” us whenever needed. That is why today the most important question for us Nepalis is: Are we going to strive to become our neighbor’s “Guru” (teacher) or their begging follower, a “Goru” (beggar).
Many of us in Nepal are unaware that our land was once a land of wisdom. Throughout our history, this land and its immediate neighborhood has had blessings and protection from teachers whose revolutionary thoughts, philosophies and way of life still reverberate around the world. Over a billion people still try to live their lives from teachings of Guru Vyasa who gave us the epics like ‘Mahabharata’ to ‘Veda’ and Guru Valmiki who wrote the ‘Ramayana’ who is known to have lived and taught here. Similarly Siddhartha Gautam (The Buddha) and Guru (Rinpoche) Padmasambhava have inspired over half a billion Buddhists to lead a more compassionate and peaceful life in harmony with the environment. Similarly, we have examples of King Janaka(s) as the kind of philosopher leaders that we still seek dearly in the world today. Sita, Janaka’s daughter whose stories of her moral compass have continued to inspire millions of women and men. Guru Phalgunanda and his peers have left us cultures built on compassion and living in harmony with nature. Stories of Guru Nanak, founder of Sikh religion roaming and teaching in Nepal have given added impetus on how this land has always welcomed and groomed men and women who wanted to find solutions for the entire humanity. With the patronage and teachings of Gurus like Gorakhnath, Prithivi Narayan Shah started the seemingly impossible task of unifying a fragmented land onto a nation state that still exists today.
Here’s another important piece of history we need to put to perspective. If you look into the world economy of the last 2,000 years, until three hundred years ago, Chinese and Indian civilizations together consistently made up for over half of the world’s economy. In other words, from the times of the Buddha until the early 18th century, Chinese and Indian civilizations used to be the most powerful, prosperous and knowledge centers of the world with Nepal in between them prospering as well, (look at the rich heritage and prosperity of the ancient Kathmandu valley civilizations). But over the course of the last few centuries, this same prosperous, civilized region was gutted back to one of the world’s poorest and backward, with citizens devoid of much common sense and wisdom this land once taught and exported. Which makes one wonder, where did that long cultivated prosperity and wisdom generating mindset and cultural DNA get lost? And if we could learn from the past, I have faith that we can transform this region again into a generous land of wisdom i.e the land of Gurus. And the fact remains that in about a decade or two, China and India will be one of the world’s most powerful nations (along with the US). If lying between these super powers, Nepal continues to behave like a street beggar fearful of and relying on the mercy of its neighbors, believing it has no choices or free will then it looks more likely that Nepal will neither remain sovereign nor dignified for long. Unlike the beggar nation it acts like now, if we strive to become a “Guru” nation, learned and wise enough to be respected and held in high regards by its neighbors, then will our country exist as both sovereign and dignified like a “Guru” or else we will be stuck as a “Goru” (like an ox who works mindlessly, slavishly).
So the burning question arises: how does one become a Guru? A Guru is a Guru because of her (exemplary) behavior, background and the environment she builds around her. Similarly, a Guru nation earns her respect and faith, because of her inspiring citizens and their worldviews. A Guru state develops a critical mass of such citizens who can distinguish between generally what is right and wrong. These citizens have a high degree of emotional intelligence. They are what I define as “BibekSheel” or “judicious” citizens. BibekSheel citizens live on a set of moral values they hold dearly. There are six values to start with:
- Integrity: When there is a synergy between what one says and how one follows through, then one can be called a person of integrity respected by the society. The simple honest way of life of Gurus always pushes the society, country and the world to do a collective good.
- Humility: It is imperative that the current worshipping of arrogant leadership style o“Only I can do & Only I know how to do!” is destroying the world we live in. This needs to be corrected by Gurus who are ever humble, think of the world around them more than themselves. Humility also changes the society from focusing on, “who is right” to “what is right” which helps build a win-win relationship and respect between each of us.
- Empathy: (the capacity to place oneself in another’s position) In a nation full of diverse (sometimes conflicting) customs, attitudes and generations, only when citizens start generating enough empathy towards each other, will we find ways to improve our collective wisdom. If Nepalis are guided more by our humanity and less by our destructive individual greed, where differing views, ideas and pains are treated with empathy and converged through dialogues and tolerance, then we may gain the critical characteristics needed for citizens of a Guru nation.
- Courage: Citizens in a Guru nation have enough moral courage to consistently raise their voices against the prejudices and injustices they feel around them. As someone said, courage is not the absence of fear, but the ability to persist despite the fear, similarly, only when we have the drive to take action from the knowledge we have, will we become ‘bibeksheel’ or judicious.
- Excellence: Both citizens and their societies who respect the excellence which diversity brings, will protect the sovereignty of their nation, equitable growth of the society and the dignity of its citizens through creative, innovative experiments. Excellent leadership is always accountable to the well being of citizens. Citizens first!
- Transparency: Only if we develop citizens who are transparent in their ideas and the systems they build, is it possible to root out the society’s own hypocritical culture of rampant corruption and loot (extraction). Guru citizens are continuously transparent in their decisions, ways, systems and finances and expect the same from others around them.
To create an environment where there is an equitable growth of every facet of a citizen, societies in a Guru nation would begin to create an environment of interdependence rather than independence. In order to foster the innovation and creativity of its citizens, societies have to adopt an “entrepreneurial spirit”. Only when a society is on a path to prosperity, the Guru mindset/characters becomes influential and spreads in them. In a Guru nation, the government serves its role of a “servant” rather than that of a “master”. It protects the freedom, dignity of its citizens while building an environment for their prosperity. A nation that has figured out how to guarantee freedom, prosperity and dignity of its citizens, will earn the respect and cordial relations from its neighbors. After specifying the transformation needed in a citizen, society and government to build a Guru nation, now let’s talk about how we transform the perception of our neighbours towards us? In the present scenario, Nepal needs a comprehensive foreign policy doctrine with 5 geo-strategies to build the best relationship with neighbouring nations, called the “the North-South Doctrine” (Read in Detail in this link)”.
1st Geo-strategy: Build narrative of Nepal as being in the “center of the world”.
It is time we recognize that Nepal is going to be in/around the center of the world in 3 important ways. 1) economically, 2) spiritually and 3) ecologically. By tying together the region of Nepal’s illustrious history, knowledge and lessons, start branding Nepal as the lying “in the center of the world’ amongst the Nepalis and around the world. Prepare and execute spiritual and technical master plans for building a “Guru Nation” of being the “center of excellence” spiritually-politically-socially-economically.
2nd Geo-strategy: Strengthen the spirit of “coexistence” with neighbouring nations.
By building socio-cultural and spiritual institutions that enhance collaboration and bonding between the citizens of our neighbours. Building Nepal as a ‘healing’ land, a spiritual zone that inspires every citizen of China, India and more to visit Nepal at least once in their lifetime. Building Nepal as a nation of Guru (leadership) among our neighbors helps achieve this spirit of “coexistence”.
3rd Geo-strategy: Build “interdependence” between neighbors.
Adopt strategies to interlink economical-cultural relations between Nepal, China and India. Interdependent economic, educational and industrial policies need to be emphasized. Along with interdependence in our economies, focus interdependence on a spiritual level from the learnings from the hindu-buddhist philosophy’s middle path. With spiritual and economic interdependence comes equitable growth and prosperity.
4th Geo-strategy: Emphasize on “equi-proximity” by becoming a strong connector/bridge between Nepal’s two neighbours.
Develop Nepal as a dialogue center to resolve conflict in between neighbours and conflicts that harm the entire world. Develop a socio-economic system that focuses education and bureaucracy around peace-building, dialogue, sustainable development, and a green economy in our neighborhood.
5th Geo-strategy: Adopt ‘empathy’ as a security policy of protecting the neighborhood.
Revolving around empathy, Nepal will take the initiative as the “land of the Buddha” to solve 21st century based complex socio-political, economic and environmental problems that the 3 billion people in our neighborhood would face. When our neighbors get to benefit from our ‘empathetic nature’ they become less suspicious and more secure in our sovereignty.
So the existential question for us is, do we become our neighbor’s ‘Gurus’ or their ‘Gorus’? Only if both our neighbors treat us with ample respect and reverence, will we be able to save our dignity and sovereignty. Or else we risk being their ‘Gorus’ who they drag around by the horns. Looking at our present conducts and the way society makes its decisions, it does give a rather pessimistic view that we are becoming more of a ‘Goru’ than a ‘Guru’. Therefore the first priority of the state should be to invest in a transformative education system that can radically awaken the new generation to the ability to distinguish between what is generally right and wrong. This journey of transforming into a Guru Nation is the result of judicious policies, education systems and developmental ideals that embrace humanity, innovation, and pragmatism.
When we Nepali are known for our humility and courage, when we can shine through our empathy and excellence while our integrity is transparently institutionalized right from inside our homes to our businesses, in our schools to ashrams and more, only then will our Nepal surely become a Guru nation that will protect (and justify) its existence.
"Aiming high? Fly n’ touch the moon, Resolve higher? Build a Guru nation"
“उद्देश्य के लिनु, उडी छुनु चन्द्र एक”
“संकल्प के लिनु, गुरु राष्ट्र बन्नु एक”