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INSPIRING VOLUNTEERISM AMONG

TODAYS YOUTH
By SANDEEP PANDEY
2002 Ramon Magsaysay Awardee
for Emergent Leadership
Presented at the 44th Ramon Magsaysay Awards Lecture Series
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29 August, 2002, Manila, Philippines!

At a time when the economic policies of globalization, liberalization and


privatization are being implemented in the third world countries as part of
the WTO agreement, the glamour of the market has enticed the youth
away from the socio-political reality of their respective societies. The
youth has become more career oriented and has less time to think about
the society and politics. The consumerist life-style that the youth wishes
to pursue leaves very little scope for interaction with the majority of the
poor people of the population that they are part of. The chances that they
will be involved in social movements aimed at changing the existing
power equations is becoming rarer as the gap between the rich and the
poor increases because of the new economic policies. The unidirectional
race for amassing wealth is making us more self-centered and narrow in
our outlook.
Given such a gloomy scenario how does one motivate people, especially
the youth, to take up voluntary work. We are using a recent development
in India philosophical tradition called the Sah-Astitwawad which is
known more popularly as Jeevan Vidya as our ideological basis. Unlike
the two previous streams of thought that have guided the human beings

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on earthGod centered philosophies which have been mystical in nature


and matter centered philosophies which have been uncertain in nature
the Jeevan Vidya is a human centered philosophy which is deterministic
in nature. Jeevan Vidya believes in the existence of a physical body and a
consciousness with every human being. The needs of the physical body
food, clothing, housing, transportation, communication are fulfilled by
material items taken from nature. The need of the consciousness is
knowledge. There has been a lot of confusion in the tradition about the
nature of this knowledge. Jeevan Vidya defines this knowledge as
precisely that understanding which will enable a human being to bring all
the six levels at which he/she has to live the levels of self
(consciousness), body, family, society, nature and the larger existence
which includes everything in harmony with each other. This is the key
to happiness. This will also form the basis for creation of a just human
order on earth.
In fact, as human beings our fundamental problem is that we are not able
to strike this harmony among the various abovementioned levels at which
we have to live. All the other problems that we face originate from this
basic problem. If we are able to solve this problem, that is, we are able to
come up with a way of living that will ensure harmony among the various
levels then well be able to take care of most of our problems. However,
it is not going to be very easy. Practical experience shows that when we
attempt solving a problem at a particular level of living, it often creates
problems at some other level. For example, as we come up with more
sophisticated ways of transportation we more seriously deplete the natural
resources.
Now in order to satisfy the need of the consciousness one has to live in
relationships which can be a permanent source of happiness for us. This
is an outcome of the requirement that all six levels mentioned above be in
harmony. Hence with every human being that we interact whether in the
family or at work place or in community we need to develop relationship
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based on values like trust, respect, affection, love, so that they are a source
of permanent happiness for us. We have to realize that just as eating food
is essential to satisfy a need of physical body, in the same fashion living
in relationships of the above nature is necessary for satisfaction of need
of the consciousness. If we dont take care of both kinds of needs of a
human being we will be left unsatisfied and unhappy.
This can be a motivating factor for people to get involved in social
voluntary work. It is for their own happiness that they need to build
relationships which can be a permanent source of happiness for them. This
will require to give up a narrow self-centered attitude and be involved
with as many a number of people as possible at a human level. This will
require interaction with human beings with a lot of sensitivity and
humility.
Hence we need to develop this understanding among people in general
and youth in particular that it is in their own self-interest to get involved
with voluntary work because it opens up possibilities for establishing
relationships which can be a permanent source of happiness for them.
Unless there is a deep urge from within individuals that they should be
involved in such work it is not possible to sustain their interest. This kind
of deep urge cannot be artificially or superficially created. It must be
linked with self-realization process of an individual and must guarantee
him/her an inner satisfaction. Such a process is irreversible. On the other
hand if anybody enters the field of voluntary work without a deep
motivation of the above kind then chances are that the work will not create
desired effect and individual will also remain unsatisfied.
Now it is not only important to be motivated to do voluntary work but it
is equally important to do voluntary work of the right kind. By this we
mean that our voluntary work must help preserve the harmony among the
various levels of living the self, the body, the family, the society, the
nature and the larger existence for all human beings. This is a criterion

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to test the appropriateness of the work that we are doing. The results of
the work that we are doing must ensure that we are headed in the direction
of establishment of a just human order on earth.

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