When we say human values are deteriorating, we should understand what human values are, how they are degenerating and what we can do to restore them. The situation is being addressed at various levels through seminars, workshops and conferences. Deep within, each one knows what to do, but when it comes to action, we hold back.
Once, a journalist asked whether I was alarmed by the present condition of the youth. He was surprised when I replied in the negative. Human beings have the free will to destroy themselves; conversely, they also have the ability to rebuild the damage. This is the beauty of human nature. There is no need to be depressed; it does not help matters.
One reason for the decadence is that we have given more importance to things than to values. The second is: the important things in life are not things. Every person has an inherent desire to enrich life. First, we want security, then comfort, then more comfort and greater pleasure. Those who have material things seek a higher per capita income and the ability to spend more money.
Enrichment has two aspects — outer and inner. To enrich our outer life, an abundance of effort and money are required. We can live without gold, silver and jewels, but not without air, water and food, which nature gives us for free. They are not “cheap”; they are valuable, but “free”. The space we live in is free, but we put a price on the land and commercialise it. Space, air, solar energy and water are all free.
We take nature’s gifts for granted. Using her raw materials, we turn them into different shapes and make things expensive and rare. We ascribe value to things and create the world of cut-throat competition. The principle of “Live and let live” is replaced by “Kill or get killed”.
The beauty of the air is that we all breathe at the same time and yet there is no competition. We call ourselves superior, intelligent beings, but continue to destroy the very things (plants, trees and animals), on which our well-being depends. The plant and animal kingdom can exist comfortably without us, but we cannot live without them. The job of the superior is to protect the inferior; the more educated must look after the less educated; the strong after the weak.
None of these values are heeded because we give undue importance to money. Things have become more important than values. Can we enrich our lives just by things? Outer lives can be made prosperous by the trappings of wealth and luxury, but without the virtues of love, compassion and honesty, there cannot be any long-term sustenance. To sustain life, we must enrich our inner life.