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Home > Features >
Vision and Values
Making a Difference: Whose Responsibility?

- An invigorating interactive community session by the Sathya Sai Human Values Network
in Hatfield, England on March 14, 2009

A Clarion Call

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Hatfield in United Kingdom where this forum was held

There has never been a time like the present to re-examine our lives against the backdrop of severe global uncertainty and civil unrest. In the United Kingdom, the recession is bearing a huge impact on families in every village, town, and city.

We do not know how long this will last or how critical or painful it will be. Every day the media exposes us to our inner fears and anxieties which threaten our well-being. The fundamental question that begs to be answered is: Where does our responsibility lie in building a healthy future? 

Albert Einstein states that, "Problems cannot be solved at the same level of awareness that created them", thus indicating a need to seek solutions from a  higher perspective.

Are the current global conditions not a final call to humanity to wake up and unite against a sea of troubles?  Time is ripe for a radical change in our thinking and for reshaping our visions to sincerely explore where our true values lie. 

All recent events indicate that the present crisis is a symptom of a far greater and underlying disease of our human condition.

Opportunity Knocks

Hatfield is a university town of diverse communities in the South-East of England and is a part of the Welwyn and Hatfield district of Hertfordshire, approximately 20 miles north of London. The area has not been immune to the economic downturn. Schools are suffering from low educational attainment, and levels of crime and anti-social behaviour are increasing.

The average incidence of crime in central Hatfield has increased by almost 24%, raising  concerns among local councillors and community leaders. This acute deterioration of social and ethical values presented an ideal opportunity for local communities and interested professionals to come together not only to share these concerns but also to create a supporting network based on universal human values.

From Recession to Renaissance: A Human Values Opus

Challenges and Opportunities

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Dr. Daksha Trivedi, Chairperson of SSHVN team
 

The Sathya Sai Human Values Network [www.sshvn.org] runs an ongoing programme of Human Values for the global community. It seeks to integrate human values into all aspects of our lives - personal and professional, for the betterment of society and to develop an online resource to share best practices from a human values perspective.

The SSHVN provides ongoing training and development to promote human values in various educational and community settings. It aspires to become a catalyst and reference point for values-based interactive dialogue through their Human Values Discussion Forums.

In response to the current crisis in the community, the SSHVN team led by Dr. Daksha Trivedi, recently held an interactive community session on human values.  Hatfield Sai Centre provided the necessary support and encouraged participation from the local communities. Together, they embarked on a challenging and a thought-provoking outreach initiative based on the theme: “Vision and Values: Making a Difference, Whose Responsibility?”

More specifically, they considered the following questions against the backdrop of their current climate of unrest:  

  1. What are the concerns in our society today?
  2. How can we address these concerns that affect all of us at the individual, community and societal level?
  3. What is the role of human values in the betterment of our society (personal, social and spiritual development)?
  4. What is the role of human values in the pursuit of happiness and fulfilment in the complex and diverse society we live in?
  5. Why do we need to have a vision with values? (What would life be like without a vision and values?)
  6. What is the role of families in promoting and providing a positive culture?   
  7. How can our vulnerable young people realise their highest potential?

With the support and guidance of the SSHVN trainers, the youths worked for several weeks and finally evolved a presentation model appropriate to the needs of the forum. The aims, objectives, methods, ethos and outcomes were all addressed in the development of this model.

“There appears to be a hunger in the youth of today to do good and they are always looking for an opportunity to help others. They seem to recognise their shortcomings and are open to the voice of wisdom. Through encouragement, we can empower them to become agents of change. We recognise that adults and youths need to work together to make a difference.”

Mr. Pradip Trivedi, SSHVN Trainer explained the need for youth involvement.

“There appears to be a hunger in the youth of today to do good and they are always looking for an opportunity to help others. They seem to recognise their shortcomings and are open to the voice of wisdom. Through encouragement, we can empower them to become agents of change. We recognise that adults and youths need to work together to make a difference.”

Selecting the Panel

The panellists were selected on the basis of their significant contribution to the community, their professional and educational backgrounds and their keen interest in working together to promote an understanding and integration of human values at all levels of our lives.

Held at the Green Lanes primary school, Hatfield on Saturday March 14, 2009, the event witnessed the coming together of people from various backgrounds engaging in a lively, informative and healthy discussion. Participants included social workers, teachers, business entrepreneurs, medical and health professionals, members of the faith forum and district council representatives.

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It was a diverse audience and each one participated wholeheartedly in his / her way

After being warmly welcomed by the volunteers, the session began at 6 p.m. where participants were introduced to the evening with a thought-provoking slide show accompanied by the uplifting music of Beethoven’s piano concerto no.1. The slides conveyed both the images of war, famine and pain as well as those of hope, perseverance, natural beauty and faith, thus providing moments for reflection.

Thus the opening set the mood of excitement and anticipation in the hall.as Dr Daksha Trivedi, (SSHVN Chair) warmly welcomed the guests drawn from the Three Counties (Hertfordshire, Bedfordshire and Buckinghamshire) as well as Greater London.

"We are a global society.... Whilst we have the intelligence and the ability to create a healthy environment, we lack wisdom; we have knowledge about human development but we are unable to understand human deterioration; we understand human rights but we do not know the art of living in harmony. We have a profound impact on human well-being but we fail to take
responsibility for our actions."

The session was introduced with the biblical story of Noah’s Ark.  This depicts a journey where on God’s command, Noah built a boat which was constructed to endure a universal flood. It accommodated all the species of animals and insects to take them to a safer and a better place. Noah’s ark gives a model of a safe journey to happiness. In comparison, history illustrates the tragedy of the Titanic, the luxurious liner that was deemed unsinkable but unfortunately sank leaving thousands to perish in the depths of the Atlantic.

Our world represents a luxurious liner offering all the material comforts for our journey of life. However, we have unfortunately hit the iceberg on our voyage and are facing a moral crisis. We too have ignored all the warnings and have lent ourselves to human suffering. Even now we have not planned adequate life boats to save us. We are in a journey that began with a noble vision, but has degraded due to man’s greed and desire.

To further elucidate the theme, Dr Trivedi said,

“We are a global society.  We live in a period where tremendous changes are taking place, affecting every aspect of our lives. Whilst we have the intelligence and the ability to create a healthy environment, we lack wisdom; we have knowledge about human development but we are unable to understand human deterioration; we understand human rights but we do not know the art of living in harmony. We have a profound impact on human well-being but we fail to take responsibility for our actions. Are our decisions profit-motivated or people-motivated? Here, we have a bleak paradigm. Do we need a bigger boat? Or do we need to have a compass to direct us? What do we really need? Where do our personal values lie?”

“We live in the present, we dream of the future, but we learn eternal truths from the past.”
(Madame Chiang b.1898 Chinese educator, reformer)

Rhyme of Youth: An Inner Dialogue

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"We should not despair" - Mr. Prashant Mistry
 

Next was the real life depiction of the lives of many young people in the current economic climate. Two young people conveyed their dilemmas through a powerful ‘Inner dialogue’. This was a journey of reflection, with its message of endurance and hope.

“What am I doing?”, “Where am I going?”, “I’m so confused, I don’t know what to do!”

In the shock of being made redundant and with no motivation or confidence, Hiten begins the dialogue questioning what the future holds for him. His conscience (Hetal) guides him and leads him to realise that he is not alone, but there is hope and he must search within himself to find the answers. Struggling with his conscience, he recognises that by having a positive attitude, he can develop his strengths, work on his limitations and thereby begin to create a new life-plan. He begins to define himself through both external and internal enquiry and decides to start with random acts of kindness.

This true example elucidated the importance of pursuing Truth, developing self confidence, and overcoming a crippling negativity. These messages were very pertinent for the youth in the audience. Prashant Mistry commented,

“I thought the reference to unemployment and financial issues was particularly insightful. With my personal situation being a mirror image of the dialogue, I felt I could completely identify with what was being portrayed. The key message that I went away with was that people should not despair when their life situations are far from ideal.”

Valuable Insights

Three respected members of the community: Mr. Kapil Dudakia (Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire); Reverend Michael Roden; and Mr. Ali Sheriff (Hitchin, Hertfordshire) were invited on a panel, chaired by Dr. Daksha Trivedi.  

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The three panelists (L to R): Rev. Michael Roden, Mr. Kapil Dudakia, Mr. Ali Sheriff

Mr. Kapil Dudakia

An electronic engineer by profession, with a strong interest in IT training, he has been an OFSTED (Office for standards in Education) inspector of schools. He has served on a number of committees: for the Milton Keynes Council, MK Thames Valley Police Independent Advisory Group (IAG), Founder member and strategic advisor to the Hindu Forum in the UK. Others include the MK council of faiths, serving on Local Strategic Partnerships, Board of Trustees of the Fremantle Trust - a care organisation. He is recognised as a champion for equality and diversity, making valuable contributions in the media.

Mr. Dudakia began with an energising interpretation of the core values that are important to him: Truth, Right Conduct, Love, Non-Violence and Peace. He asked, “Must we tell the truth all the time?” It is important to remember why we tell the truth, and who will benefit from it as it is the truth that helps to discriminate between right and wrong. He quoted Aristotle:

"Excellence is an art won by training and habituation. We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but rather we have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit."

He concluded with an essential Human Values Tool kit for life:

“a tooth pick to remind us to pick on the good qualities in us and others; a rubber band so we are flexible; bubble gum because life is going to be tough but we should stick with it; a paper clip to unite all our thoughts, words and deeds; and a pencil to help list all our blessings at the end of each day.”

Through the many obstacles we face in life it is this ‘toolkit’ that can help us and remind us never to give up, because over time, our dreams and visions can be realised.

Reverend Michael Roden

He is team rector and rural dean, St. Mary’s Church, in the historic town of Hitchin. He is also the Chair of the District Church Council, a lead member of the North Hertfordshire Faith forum, and is involved in various community service and humanitarian initiatives.

Rev. Roden posed a very poignant question:

“Do we know who we are? We are suffering from an identity crisis. Today’s society is troubled by many underlying disturbances and anxieties which have lead to a sense of fear for the future that limits the visibility of our potential. How can we be ourselves if we don’t know who we are? The current economic downturn has had a major impact on our society, for example, with prices decreasing why do we spend more and more? Our materialistic desire to have everything has over-shadowed our lives.”

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The session in progress

Rev. Roden related this deterioration in society to the ‘affluenza’ theory by applying the following three descriptions to life today.

  1. The bloated, sluggish, unfulfilling feeling from the constant competition we face with each other;
  2. The epidemic of stress, overwork, weight and debt caused by the constant need to seek happiness;
  3. An unsustainable addiction to economic growth.

Our lives are distorted by ‘affluenza’, but what is the solution? Our identity is lost and the constant competition and need to strive for bigger and better things, inevitably leads to more conflict and unhappiness.

He stressed that the answer again comes from within us. “It is the interior world of prayer and reflection that will guide and help us reconnect with our true identity, it is here where our values come from.We should enjoy discovering this interior world and be able to use it anytime without the worry, competition and exploitation that we face in the exterior world.

By placing a ‘ceiling on our desires’ and knowing who we are as individuals we can make a meaningful and positive impact on our lives and those who come in touch with us. It is from here that we begin the path of righteousness and non-violence.

By placing a ‘ceiling on our desires’ and knowing who we are as individuals we can make a meaningful and positive impact on our lives and those who come in touch with us. It is from here that we begin the path of righteousness and non-violence.

Mr. Ali Sheriff

A resident of Hitchin, Hertfordshire, he represents the Muslim community on the North Hertfordshire Faith Forum. Mr. Sheriff is a personal careers adviser, working with young people (13-19 years old), offering a values-based career advice. He also runs a charity which conducts training for careers advisers and teachers in Tanzania, East Africa.

Mr. Ali Sheriff offered his understanding of human values in relation to his Islamic faith. He began by looking into the definition of vision and values.

“If vision is the ability to imagine how a country/society can develop and plan for the future and values are ideals, customs and institutions of a society, then who are the potential stakeholders and providers of visions and values? The fallibility of man today and the chaotic life we lead makes us prone to errors, and thus inaccurate role models; therefore society is even more prone to errors and destruction.”

He continued, “In the Islamic faith, God, the creator of all creatures, guides us human beings”. Mr. Sheriff stressed the importance of truth and how through adherence to Truth we can discriminate between right and wrong actions, thereby be righteous, non-violent, and show peace, respect and goodwill to our fellow-beings.  Accountability of our actions is crucial in modern society particularly with conflicts of greed, envy and ignorance ever prevalent in the world. The power of positive culture and the value of belief will guide us in the decisions we make.

Questions and Answers

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The audience participated with great enthusiasm in a Question and Answer session following the stimulating talks by the panellists and covered a wide range of questions on burning issues. Dr. Trivedi opened with the first question:

Q: “If as individuals we grow up, in a negative environment which impacts on our lives, and if then we become defined as ‘negative’ how can we develop a positive and a healthy vision?”

A: Rev. Michael Roden gave an example gained from many prisoners who struggle to see a way forward, but through spirituality find an inner freedom and liberty. “Our values are deep inside us all; prayer is a useful way of releasing them.” By applying this to our troubled lives we can find our inner peace and calm, and discover our inner dignity from within.

A member of the Welwyn & Hatfield Interfaith group asked:

Q: “What do the panel think about what is happening in schools today and whether they wish something different should be happening?”

A: Having previously worked in schools as an OFSTED inspector, Mr. Kapil Dudakia asserted the important role education has in society. It is his belief that in western society education is failing as the pursuit of academic excellence overrides character formation amongst the young. There is a need to build a person’s character to reveal their inner truth to develop as a strong individual, with strong will power and the ability to make decent decisions. It is the combination of social, moral and spiritual education that can lead to a correct character formation.

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Cllr Tony Skottowe, from Welwyn & Hatfield district council asked:

Q: “How do different religions break barriers and come together to prevent different religions from disliking each other and using it as an excuse for destroying each other?”

A: Mr. Ali Sheriff emphasised the important difference between religion and culture, and said that in order for us to live in harmony we must be respectful of other faiths. Mr. Kapil Dudakia added, “Faiths don’t kill, people kill. When we blame faiths for killings and violence, we do not want to take responsibility. Individuals must be made accountable for their actions, not religion, or faith.”

Rev. Michael Roden stressed on the need to move away from self-centredness (Ego) and focus on compassion (Love). These are the fundamental messages of human values found in all faiths and must not be forgotten. In order to reshape our vision we must focus on the similarities and not the differences within our society.

This engaging discussion highlighted our responsibility as individuals and our collective responsibility as community stakeholders, in breaking down barriers within society and ourselves. By sharing common ground and treating everyone as equal we can embrace each other and eliminate ignorance, which will have a positive influence on the decisions we make. This is vision with values.

There is a need to build a person’s character to reveal their inner truth to develop as a strong individual, with strong will power and the ability to make decent decisions. It is the combination of social, moral and spiritual education that can lead to a correct character formation.

Points of View

This session was facilitated by Mrs. Rani Naidoo (Hertfordshire) and Mr. Pradip Trivedi, (Managing Director, Hertfordshire) who focussed on the role of families and youth in the betterment of society.  Three questions, keys to the development of a healthy vision for life, were put forward for discussion with the participants and the members of the panel:

  1. What are family values?
  2. How can families cope with external influences, the pressures on individuals and on families in this current climate?
  3. What is being done to promote the health and well being of young people?

The session ended with an opportunity for all community groups and participants to continue this dialogue during a ‘meet and greet’ session that followed.  There were various comments from all participants discussing several initiatives and programmes within the local community where there is an active involvement of youth. By taking an active role in the community, together we can not only share our values, faiths, and cultural differences, but begin to formulate joint plans to bring about a change. Requests were forthcoming for networking and working together to deliver human values programmes in different organisations (slide 1)

The evening concluded with a sense of hope, that amongst all our anguish and worries we are not alone. It is through effective communication that we discover the similarities in our concerns and the values we share. Guided by our conscience and faith, we can look forward and have a clearer vision for the future. By moving away from greed, negativity, confusion and anxiety we can unite our vision and embark on a journey of respect, understanding and happiness, and thus fulfil our responsibility as stakeholders of society.

What did the Participants Say?

Feedback received from participants, both physical and virtual was highly encouraging. 

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Dr. Anwer Usmani

“It is a great service to convey this message at this time, as many people are in difficult situations;  What we need is for all the youths to come together to create and share a common dialogue because they are our future.”

- Dr. Anwer Usmani (Luton Council of Faiths)

“We would be glad to have a Sathya Sai Human Values Team representative to join and attend future Interfaith group meetings. I think this would be a splendid way to do some interfaith work and meet with a wider and different community that is full of young people and actively doing positive things in the world.”

- Mr. Nick Heap, Welwyn and Hatfield Interfaith Group

“Excellent evening bringing up such diverse and yet diverging ideas. I am going home to change my sermon for tomorrow, and leave with more questions than I came with. Thank you.”

- Mrs. Jane Weedon, Welwyn Garden City

“Very good - well worth coming to, lots of ideas that I found helpful. If another workshop is run locally I would like to attend.”

- Mr. Bertie Everard, Welwyn Garden City

“Very well organised and the speakers were brilliant. Need even more young people.”

- Mr. Bharat Ganatra

“A most enlightening evening which has broadened my mind to the same values from which we all have come from and are united by.”

- Mrs. Dipika Mistry

“It was a very informative and well conducted programme, my local church would like to see more young people involved in this type of forum.”

- John Scott, Letchworth, North Hertfordshire

Web-response from the USA

“I believe that our responsibility to the world in solving the current, global economic crisis, along with every other crisis that befalls humanity, is to spread the concept of education in human values to all corners of the earth in a way that is simple, practical, and fit for the times.

"While democracy and capitalism are powerful macro-level political/economic constructs because they are based on freedom, they are missing the element of social responsibility at the micro-level and a true and practical understanding of human values. Before Adam Smith, the Father of modern-day Capitalism, wrote the ‘Wealth of Nations’ and introduced the world to the concept of the 'invisible hand,' he wrote the ‘Theory of Moral Sentiment,’ which was a discourse on the goodness of people.

"Because he came from the vantage point of the inherent goodness of humanity, he overlooked the possibility for the demonic and animalistic tendencies of people to manifest and control society to the point of destruction. This is what has led to the current economic crisis today - too much greed, too much consumption, too much of everything. There is no 'ceiling on desires.'

"...if individuals can transform themselves at the individual level and win 'revelation' through an infusion of consciousness, then the global society will elevate to new heights of cooperation. Thus, evolution and revolution are not the only potential outcomes of free systems; there is also revelation and elevation."

"Karl Marx believed that democracy and capitalism would topple due to the evolution of people or revolution due to structural inequalities that would manifest in society. However, Karl Marx didn't realize that if 'consciousness' was infused into a 'free' social/economic order, then humanity would transcend the limits of the constructs and use them for what they are – tools. What is meant by this is that if individuals can transform themselves at the individual level and win 'revelation' through an infusion of consciousness, then the global society will elevate to new heights of cooperation. Thus, evolution and revolution are not the only potential outcomes of free systems; there is also revelation and elevation.

"How do we infuse the consciousness into the people? We must begin with human values and end with human values. In fact, the spread of human values are the key to bridging the mundane to the spiritual for they spiritualize all activity.” 

- Vinesh (USA)

What Next?

What emerged from this workshop was the need to work together with various organisations within our communities to help our young people build a life full of purpose, especially in the current climate of uncertainty. Encouraged by this workshop, participants from several organisations came forward with a view of working together to develop integrated human values programmes within Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire. They particularly mentioned the need for a youth-led panel based on this model. An example would be to create a values based peer group to make representation to the various sources of external influences in an effort to bring about a change in the way influential organisations make decisions.         

Thus the one-day workshop in Hatfield did open the hearts of the participants and convinced them the need to find answers for all our problems, individual and social, through the human values perspective, as that is the only way the world today can find lasting solutions to our common problems.

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The SSHVN Team and Hatfield Sai Centre Volunteers

We are grateful to the SSHVN team for sharing with us this story and the pictures.

- Heart2Heart team


Dear reader, if you have such inspiring tale or know somebody who would like to share his story, we would only be too happy to feature it in this section of Heart2Heart. After all, what is Heart2Heart without tales of love, inspiration, values and compassion? Please write to us at [email protected] with your name and country. Thank you for your time.

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Vol 7 Issue 06 - JUNE 2009
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