BANNER OF PEACE – Prof. Shashibala

PEACE : THE ULTIMATE GOAL

•    Presentation of Banner of Peace and the Pact to protect cultural, spiritual, artistic, historical and scientific monuments from the hands of ruinous wars, is a historically valuable achievement for humanity for its past, present and the future generations. The great concept of world peace initiated by Prof. Nicholas Roerich goes back to the times of Indo Europeans, when the great Slavs shared a common language. The Vedas implore peace in the heavens and peace in the atmosphere, peace on the earth and peace on the flowing waters, peace for the herbal and plant life and peace for the past, present and future: om dyauh santirantarikshadhvam santih prithivi santirapah santirosadhayah santih vanaspatayah santih visvadevah santir brahma santih sarvamchantih santireva santih sa ma santiredhi. Peace is the greatest aim toward which man should strive in fulfillment of his natural ends.

•    Peace within and peace without is the ultimate goal, an imperative for humanity on the path of an all round development. Peace was the target at which all shafts were sped because a hope for progress and transcendence becomes dim in its absence. It is the perfection of joy, which implies not the mere negative, the absence of disturbing passions and desires but chiefly their right direction. It is not just negation of war and unrest, it can mean well being and fulfillment of goals of religious and social life. In ancient Hebrew thought shalon, meaning peace refers to well being, to material and spiritual conditions that were joined together. As a social concept peace was visible and produced a harmonious relationship in the family, in society and between nations. In the history of Church peace has been seen on one hand as calm for the soul and on the other as social and political reconciliation and establishment of just order. Positive social efforts for peace were illustrated in the words and actions of the famous Indian ruler Emperor Ashoka who had renounced war for the well being of the people.

WAR AND PEACE

Political developments can never be permitted to threaten cultural heritage. So the nature of war was a question in the mind of Prof. Nicholas Roerich who wished to protect humanity from ruining. The Spanish Jesuit theologian Francisco Suarez held that the cause of making war must be just. A similar view was taken by Hugo Grotius who argued that war should be waged only within the bounds of law and good faith. This conception survives in the assumption behind such 20th century international organizations as the League of Nations and the United Nations that only wars fought on behalf of international interests, such as maintenance of world peace are just

ROEICHS FOR PEACE

•    Prof. Nicholas Roerich agreed that  “man is born not for destruction but for love, friendship and service to his fellow men” as has been argued by the great humanist Desiderius Erasmus in his ‘Anti-polemus, or the Plea of Reason, Religion and Humanity Against War’ in 1510.

•    Roerichs were determined for maintenance of peace in the world. Prof. Nicholas Roerich was more of a prophet and a preacher, a guru so notable. As a patriotic nationalist his first scholarly work involved archaeological search for Russia’s beginning. He wrote long poems and books on history and archaeology.  The great personality of Nicholas Roerich encompasses the loftiest concepts, the highest aspirations of mankind, and tremendous efforts for peace throughout the world. He had directed his quest towards the unconquerable heights of the Himalayas to the greater and the deeper significance of spiritual life, purity of thought and aspirations for transcendence. As a humanist Nicholas Roerich thought about the fate of the whole humanity, always trying to rise above what a man can be. The oriental garments worn in another portrait reveal his personality as a seeker of the spiritual essence. Through the life and works of Nicholas Roerich humanity gets brilliant ideas and loftiest philosophy as the conscious and awakened mind desired to see the world on the path of the quest for harmony and peace.

BANNER OF PEACE

•    Banner of Peace is a gift to the humanity. In a portrait painted by Svetoslav Roerich, Nicholas Roerich  holds in his hands an ancient carved casket, a symbol of his gift to the humanity. The works of the great masters survive their deaths and so does the Banner of Peace that has protected the cultural heritage preserved in the sacred places like monasteries of Kyoto and Nara, a fruit of the untiring toil of a thousand years, years of devotion and dedication. The Roerichs were closely involved in Peace Pact, functioning in a historical context involving several cross cutting traditions. The message presented by the Banner of Peace was infinitely deep, forming the core of his thoughts, meant for the benefit of the people: bahujanahitaya bahaujanasukhaya. It contains three jewels enclosed by a circle. The three jewels are the Buddhist symbol of the holy triad in which every professing Buddhist takes his daily refuge reciting: buddham saranam gacchami dhammama saranam gacchami sanghama saranam gacchami. The Buddha is the propagator of new path, the pioneering spirit behind the new ideology, the Dharma signifies the Words of the Buddhas, a new philosophy, and the Sangha, which originally signifies the Buddha’s order of monks, is generally interpreted as congregation of the monks. Sangha means becoming one with others; becoming one means harmony, and that means strength. In the Banner of Peace, Prof. Roerich is the pioneering spirit, his ideas are the dharma which gives protection and the sangha is the parties joining him in the great endeavor.

•    The three dots on the Banner signifying protection of arts, science and spirituality remind me of the three steps taken by Lord Vishnu in his incarnation as Vamana. Vamana measured the whole of the earth in the first stride and the heavens in the second and asked for space for the third. The king who boasted, was taken aback because Lord Vishnu had asked him for space for spiritual development, so crucial for humanity. The first stride represented the military might, the second scientific advancement and the third, spirituality.

•    Prof. Nicholas Roerich presented the Banner as a symbol of fulfillment of his dream of saving the historical monuments. The three dots are like the three jewels, a full expression of cintamani, the wish-granting jewel in Buddhism. Cintamani has the power to produce whatever one desires, it symbolizes the virtue and the power of the Buddha and the scriptures; the Buddha who had discovered the mysteries of life beyond the ravages of strife.

INSPIRATION FOR PEACE PACT

Prof. Nicholas Roerich was sad at the destructive and restrictive powers that dissolve the religious cement that unites people to people. His eyes are full of a feeling of gloom that looms large for the languages and communication links that were lost, and pain for the blows of destruction, disputes and separations. He wrote an account of the city of Urga and its monasteries and monuments as they existed. He had witnessed a politically sensitive situation during his stay (Sep. 1926-April 27) there, where there was a threat wiping out culture, putting the countries in isolation. He aspired for a new era, an era of Shambhala, when he saw disappearance of symbolic and the occult objects of veneration and monks becoming soldiers.  His experience during the expedition, and an in depth study of Lamaist Buddhism, embedded deep in his mind, strengthened his feelings for establishing peace

HENRY WALLACE AND NICHOLAS ROERICH

•    The Roerichs as Russians, living abroad, serving as guardians of the native tradition of Russian scholarship were also pursuing Buddhism, Sanskrit and Tibetan studies opening up new horizons for the Mongols and the Tibetans to study and value their own traditions. Nicholas Reorich shared with Henry Wallace his love for the occult and the mystical attributes of Buddhism and an appeal of arcane and mysterious symbols containing the hidden meaning of life. Both of them had a passion for world peace and global unity. Symbols providing clues to the future Utopian Sambhala and the Second Coming can be found in the cultural traditions which if once destroyed are ruined for ever, never to be reconstructed again.

•    Henry Wallace the then Secretary of Agriculture was inspired by Nicholas Roerich advocated for Peace Pact because he had a strong interest in the Second Coming of the Christ. And so was enthusiastic for Roerich’s plans for protection of cultural treasures and the monuments preserving them in times of war. Because such centers of spirituality serve as resorts for the spiritually hungry werein the great monks had erected images of the symbols of aspirations leading towards the radiant future.

•    Wallace in April 1935 volunteered fulsome praise of Nicholas Roerich in recommending him for the Nobel Peace Prize for his peace banner project protecting the valuable monuments from destruction that preserve religious traditions; the deep rhythmic droning of the chants, the muffled rumbling of the drums, loud clangs and blaring of cymbals and trumpets, and above all the somber people touching their inherent spirit.

BUDDHISM AND WOLD PEACE

•    Roerich said that the true teachings meant activism and hard work not passivity and withdrawal and fatalistic acceptance. Abodes of the sacred enshrine the true inner spirit of the people, the people coming from deserts and mountains visit them to draw the hidden source of power. He claimed that Buddhist teachings actually forecast modern science, that they were eminently modern and they were certainly not indefensible, superstitious, or illogical or anti-scientific. Buddhism embodies substantive and eternal values that we abandon at our peril. The spiritual teachings are aught to be pursued by everyone everywhere, they embody universal truths and no one is a complete person who does not study them and follow them in the ways he lives.

•    Roerich found Lamaism a complex and multifaceted culture, providing social customs, esthetics, satisfactions, and variety and relief from an often dull and difficult existence. He found a great deal of modern science in traditional Buddhism: The foundations of Buddhist philosophical teachings… …. …. Reveal an extraordinary affinity with … … …  the latest, the newest achievements, in the domain of our scientific world concept.

•    NR noted in Sinkiang: places like Khotan have exhausted their old sap and can be rejuvenated only by a radical reconstruction… … Life has become dusty and brains have become dusty. A flash of vigorous lightening is needed (Altai Himalayas pp. 194-5). As a seeker of Shambhala Nicholai Roerich presented a painting to the Mongols in 1926 and recorded .. .. when the  image will reach Urga, then will flash the first light of the New Era – the truth.

CONCLUSION

•    Humanity owes a great debt in present and will continue to do so in the coming centuries, to Prof. Nicholas Roerich for pioneering the idea that came to be a turning point in the history of culture, preserving the monuments from the destructive hands of atomic war and vandalism that could have reduced the centres of spirituality to ashes or heaps of stones or could have buried them under sand, for ever. His long cherished desire was fulfilled when monasteries in Kyoto and Nara  in Japan were saved from bombing during the second world war. Abodes of spirituality nurturing the idea of Shambhala, promised land, a coming paradise where goodness would rule and virtue would triumph. And this is true power, which is the foundation of peace: shakti hi to shanty ka adhara hai.

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