Rinzin Rinzin, a Member of Parliament for the National Council of Bhutan of the first democratically elected Parliament of Bhutan, also served SAARC Agriculture Centre in Dhaka. He has served as Bhutan’s Focal Point Scientist to SAARC Agricultural Information Centre in Dhaka, Bangladesh, as well as National Focal Person for Rangelands to International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development in Kathmandu. Although trained as an agriculturist, he loves literature and enjoys writing essays and stories for readers of all ages. He is the author of the book Talisman of Good Fortune and Other Stories from Rural Bhutan. He has recently written two books for children, which are ready for publication.

Out of the Cocoon of Historical Traumas
– Living and Letting Live in Peace and Harmony

Rinzin Rinzin, Bhutan

We all have long stories to tell about the “glorious as well as not so glorious days” gone by. We all often smile or rejoice in the past glories, but also often frown or shed tears for our losses. While we have often seen laughter and jubilation bridge families, communities, casts, creeds, religions, economies and nations alike, we have also seen anger and vengeance breaking communities and nations alike.

A dive into history gives us all the facts and figures on what have gone by; most of us have even been witnesses to many a historical events. As the cliché goes, we must from learn history. And “learn” we have, perhaps more than enough at times. But have we learned enough to heal the wounds of history and create a better and a more humane mankind? Or have we just learned enough to keep on living in remorse, hatred and vengeance among ourselves while hypocritically demanding peace from others or preaching others to live in peace!

We cannot predict future precisely nor do we have the magic wand to create a euphoria or Sukhavati (as some Buddhist may fantasize) for ourselves and other people to live in peace, harmony and happiness. However, we have historical evidences, and more so our conscience to guide us to make this earth a better place to live in. It is about time that we seriously consider reconciling with ourselves and with others. It is time for us to come out of the bondage of historical traumas and search our souls to live in peace and harmony with oneself and offer others the same.

The courses of our history are filled with various disasters- natural as well as man-made. Thus, all SAARC member countries, like any other country in the world, are plagued by historical traumas- some more than others.

We have had major earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, windstorms, famines, epidemics and fires over and over again. While hundreds and thousands of people lost their lives to such wraths of nature, thousands and millions of survivors were often socio-economically incapacitated and deprived of even basic needs of life, and often the dignity of life itself. Hopes of thousands have been shattered countless times. However, at least during the recent times, no race or nation has been wiped out completely by such disasters. In fact, many a time such disasters have brought out the humaneness inside of us. Whenever a major disaster struck a community or a nation, people and nations alike have come together to help in whatever ways they could. Those who could not afford to help in person or in kind, at the least sympathized with the victims and prayed for their well being. That was human solidarity that came as a result of the humaneness that is inherent in each of us. Such humaneness gave hope back to those who had either lost it or were on the verge of losing it. The feeling of “There are people who care for us when everything seems lost” may not be measurable but is highly comprehendible even to the deaf, dumb and the mute. And such a feeling makes both the giver and the recipient ever more human. It is indeed such gestures and feelings, beside others, that have kept us going and enabled us not only to stand the test of time but also to multiply ourselves so much so that we are already over seven billion and counting.

But then, throughout the courses of history, we have also been the victims of our own creations. We have fought numerous battles and wars among ourselves or brought about gender and racial discrimination, communal disharmony, social divide, social disorder, insurgency or terrorism either in the name of religion, caste or creed, equity and justice, peace and harmony, identity, economics or politics.

Nevertheless, the calls of our conscience were always knocking on our doors- the calls that questioned and cautioned our actions. We often asked of ourselves: Are we doing the right thing? Often we knew that we were not, but we kept on making sense out of nonsense and nonsense out of sense. We somehow kept on justifying to ourselves and others that we were doing the right thing and went on repeating history over and over again. In the process, more often than not, we landed up usurping others’ rights in defending our own rights; we destroyed other’s identity in either creating or protecting our own; we deprived others of their needs in meeting our own needs; we either displaced or destroyed others’ homes in either defending or expanding our own; we forced our norms and beliefs onto others in either advocating, patronizing or just holding on hard to our own. And, in our pursuit of technological advancements, we have definitely excelled ourselves, but more often than not at the expense of Mother Nature. We endangered the existence of not only our co-inhabitants (species other than Homo sapiens) on earth but also that of our own children to come for perpetuity. In a nutshell, we have been selling our souls to the devil to be closer to God!

The fact that mankind has progressed tremendously both intellectually and technologically since the time of the “gatherers” cannot be contested. Yes, we have come a long way, but the provocative question, “Are we happy with what we have achieved and what we have been doing?” continues to torment many hearts and souls. Our never ending quest for a “magical formula to happiness” continues even after over 5200 years of the start of the human civilisation on earth. One of the main reasons behind this is that many people, communities and nations alike have not been able to come out of the cocoon of historical traumas. Therefore, in the process of either trying to redress and/or cope with them, many communities as well as nations have landed up creating more problems than finding any amicable and everlasting solution to the problems. Therefore, it is time to come out of the cocoon, understand, forget, forgive, reconcile, build trust, and try to live in peace and harmony.

Obviously these are easier said than done. But we have got to start somewhere sometime; not that we have never tried, but that we have got to try harder, harder than ever before. And we must start right from the base. And the “base” is the “individual self.” Until and unless every man, woman and child develops the unquestionable desire and the willingness not only to live in peace and harmony but also to let others live in peace and harmony, we might continue to be tormented by our past. This might often translate into undesirable actions that might jeopardise not only others’ lives but also our own and that of our children to come.

Many visionary teachers (some recognised even as Gods or His equivalents or His representatives by many of us) and leaders had time and again reminded the mankind of certain facts that we cannot overlook if we are to live in peace. Let’s recapitulate some of them in no chronological order of their importance:
1. “The most excellent Jihad is that of the conquest of self.” -Prophet Muhammad.
2. “Love thy neighbour as thyself.” – Jesus Christ.
3. “Thousands of candles can be lit from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” -Gautama Buddha.
4. “God is One, and liketh unity.” -Prophet Muhammad.
5. “To understand everything is to forgive everything.” -Gautama Buddha.
6. “Anger and intolerance are the enemies of correct understanding.” -Gautama Buddha.
7. “Compassion is the heart essence of Dharma.” -Gautama Buddha.
8. “An eye for an eye only ends up making the whole world blind.” -Mahatma Gandhi.
9. “No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.” -Nelson Mandala.
10. “An ode to the fact that racism is not passed on genetically, but passed on through teachings.” -Nelson Mandala.

Now, let’s relate these profound facts to what we must do to live and let live in peace and harmony:
1. Everybody needs love. So let’s be extravagant in sharing love. It costs nothing but earns a lot of goodwill. Let’s not talk about hate nor teach our children and others to hate, but to love. Let them learn to love and give love, so that they may be loved in return;
2. Let’s advocate compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation, and remind the world that “revenge is neither sweet nor delicious,” for vengeance leads only to more vengeance;
3. We already have the forces of nature, like the periodic natural disasters and climate change, working against us. So, let’s not waste ourselves and our resources in trying to deal with historical traumas with anger and intolerance. We are only one among the millions of specie on earth. Let’s try to forget the traumas, be tolerant of each other, reconcile, end the stifle among ourselves and unite so that we can concentrate on neutralising the affects of those negative forces that are beyond our control but are acting against us. United, we can make this planet a much better place to live in; and,
4. All human beings have been created equal. Every human being is born with a pure heart (“Buddha nature” in Buddhism). Being good, wanting good and doing good is innate to us. Rest are all our own creations. Thus, we can and must live harmoniously as one.

Living in peace and harmony is more than just trying to do it in solitary or seeking it without putting in any effort to have it. For anyone to be able to live in peace and harmony, firstly the very family or community that he/she lives in must also be living in peace and harmony. Secondly, the nation state that he/she lives in must be peaceful and harmonious. Thirdly, the nation states with whom his/her country shares territorial boundaries or socioeconomic interests must be peaceful. Lastly, there must be peace and harmony the world over. This can only be achieved if and only if each of us practice love, compassion, forgiveness and reconciliation with diligence, integrity and consistency, may it be at home, at a marketplace or abroad; may it be in a harsh desert or a beautiful valley; may he/she be as a Christian, a Muslim, a Buddhist, a Hindu or of any other belief or religion; may he/she be as a Black, a White, a Brown or a Yellow. Only then can we build trust between individuals, communities, societies and nations alike. It is ultimately love and trust that can herald peace and harmony in the family of mankind.

Having said that, let’s be reminded of what Gautama Buddha had to say about the need to practice what we advocate: “However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?” So, let’s keep on constantly reminding people from all walks of life from all over the world to come out of the cocoon of historical traumas and work towards a peaceful and harmonious world. As academics, philosophers, writers, social scientists and journalist, this is one of our most important moral obligations, since we know that as Prophet Muhammad had said, “the ink of the scholar is more holy than the blood of the martyr.” There is a lot people like us can do. However, we must also remind ourselves of what Mother Teresa had once said: “I can do things you cannot, you can do things I cannot; together we can do great things.”

May Peace Prevail on Earth!