This article was written in collaboration with Surya Prakash Singh.
How many times did you skip a test in school? You woke up and decided to tell your parents that you didn’t feel well. Growing up, we tend to forget about those annoying tests, but we kept the habit of escaping when we feel scared or under pressure. Sometimes we face the challenge, but we know that we always have the chance to run out the door. We quit jobs, and we break relationships because it’s easy to escape instead of facing issues and responsibilities.
There is one test that human beings, will never be able to skip: UNITY.
Gandhi reminded us that unity in diversity would be the beauty and the test of our civilization. Much like an exam in school, we need to prepare and face our fear, one of the biggest obstacles to reaching unity. We constantly feel under siege, and for this reason, we tend to rely on tribalism and groups because we think that they will stand up for us and defend our interests.
The paradox here is that the core idea behind groups is division, and for this reason, the inevitable is that further separations will come out inside the group. To find true unity we can’t rely on a group, race, or political party.
You might think that the idea of unity is a utopia, but the reality is that the steps to prepare for the test are more practical than you think. Education is the base. When Oscar Arias, former Costa Rican President addressed the students of Soka University of America’s Class in 2016 during the graduation ceremony, he told them that reaching the peak would give them the chance to expand their view—they would start to see the hunger, the poverty, and inequality below their feet. After realizing that, they would need to work every day to find the truth about these issues in a world increasingly focused on the superficial.
Once we reached the peak of the mountain, we have to keep the curiosity of knowing more and dig deeper to find the truth. Through education and curiosity, empathy comes naturally, and we feel the need to engage in smaller or bigger activities to benefit other human beings. None of us can work alone, so we have to look for people who share our commitment to a better world. Through meditation and Buddhist teachings, we can also learn that compassion is based on the idea that all sentient beings want to be happy and that the impermanence of life makes division not worth pursuing—you don’t need to be Buddhist to embrace this truth.
There is a supreme sense of connectivity that ties the human race into one knot. The purpose of every living being is a single point agenda; strive, strive, and strive again to reach higher levels of consciousness or rather be so consummate that every atom of the body is dedicated purely to achieve this state of heightened awareness. We are seven billion. So diverse yet united. All of us have the same fist but an overwhelming number of 7 billion fingerprints. Similarly, every individual chooses his own path to achieve this ultimate goal. All of them differ. We all take different routes to reach the same destination.
The problem is that fear is always there to haunt us and makes it hard to pursue unity even if we follow all the steps from education to compassion. It takes time and hard work to pass the “unity test,” but ultimately succeeding in this endeavor can liberate us from the negative emotions we all experience as human beings and can pave the way for a happier future for all of us.