Excerpts from the book ‘Ignited Minds‘ Written By A.P.J. Abdul Kalamji

On 30 September 2001, I was on my way to Bokaro from Ranchi in Jharkhand when the helicopter carrying me crashed moments before landing. It hit the earth with a thud after its engine failed. All of us on board had a miraculous escape. Grateful to God but unfazed by the incident, I went ahead with my scheduled programme of addressing the students in Bokaro. At night, however, a panel of doctors persuaded me to take a tranquillizer to alleviate my perceived shock. The drug made me sleep hours ahead of my usual time–1 a.m. I also failed to rise at my usual 6 a.m. and woke up only after eight o’clock. 


It was, however, a disturbed sleep, and sometime in the middle of it, I fell to thinking why the human race, the best of all of God’s creations, has been so deeply divided by violence. I imagined a conversation between five people who together symbolize the finest attributes of the human mind and whom I admire deeply. Through their conversation, I sought an answer. In this experience, much more intense and vivid than a dream, though for want of a better word I shall term it that, I saw myself in a desert with miles of sand all around. There was a full moon and the desert was bathed in its light. Five men– Mahatma Gandhi, Albert Einstein, Emperor Asoka, Abraham Lincoln and Caliph Omar– stood in a circle, their clothes ruffled by the wind. 


I felt myself dwarfed standing next to the majestic Emperor Asoka. Asoka led two lives, one as a ruthless conqueror and the other as a compassionate ruler. The man I stood beside was the one who had just returned from conquest. But victory had been obtained at heavy cost: the battle of Kalinga claimed the lives of at least 300,000 people and an equal number were wounded. I saw everyone looking at Asoka who fell on his knees and removed his armour and crown. His face was pale, reflecting the death surrounding him. He looked at the sky. He saw the bright cool moon shining and God’s grace pouring down on mother earth. And he looked down at the horror he had created, making blood flow everywhere. In that moment of beauty and horror–the silver moonlight and the suffering and pain on the ground, when Nature itself seemed to speak out against what he had wrought, Ahimsa Dharma was born. Emperor Asoka embraced God’s command to propagate love for human beings through this doctrine. 


As I stood by, I wondered. Why the Kalinga war, why the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi and of Abraham Lincoln? Or many others like them? Has God Almighty faltered in His Creation? Is the destruction of mankind essential for a Second Creation? 


In that blissful silence the Mahatma spoke, ‘Friends, the divine message we are hearing is the message of creation. Since we all belong to planet earth, we may give a message to mankind, how people of different races, religions and languages can live peacefully and prosperously together. 


‘God Almighty has blessed us all with something unique that we passed on to mankind through our deeds and efforts. Is that working? Is there any divine message or doctrine? Divine beauty should enter the human soul and happiness blossom in the body and mind. Is it possible?’ 


Asoka said, ‘Friends, there is one thing I have realized, there is no victory in causing suffering. Triumph is a peaceful kingdom.’ 

Caliph Omar said, ‘I learned after I entered Jerusalem that all men are equal. There is no point in forcing others to follow your path. You will get only that which is ordained for you. God alone is the sovereign.’ 

Caliph Omar never saw his position in terms of the special privileges that it carried. To him government was a sacred trust and he did his best not to betray that trust in any way. 

It was Einstein’s turn. ‘I would like to recall my friend Werner Heisenberg’s view, “You know, in the West we have built a large, beautiful ship. It has all the comforts in it, but one thing is missing: it has no compass and does not know where to go. Men like Tagore and Gandhi and their spiritual forebears found the compass. Why can this compass not be put in the human ship so that both can realize their purpose?”’ 


Abraham Lincoln, the great American leader who fought against slavery and whose life paralleled that of the Mahatma in certain respects, said at this point, ‘There is one thing that I would like to say: happiness comes from a family’s prosperity at various levels. God’s grace gives bliss to human lives. Happiness and bliss are two important components of a godly life on earth. Perhaps there is so much conflict between peoples and nations because in our pursuit of prosperity and power we have lost sight of ethical values. We must ask ourselves, what is the role of human consciousness? Does it have a part in political thinking, scientific thinking and theological thinking? Is spirituality acceptable in the business of life?’ 


Mahatma Gandhi recalled sage Ashtavakra who propounded, ‘“Oh my son! You are the very Consciousness within which arises this phenomenal universe that is not separate from what you are. How can there be a question of anything being acceptable or unacceptable?” Let the business of life be peace and prosperity, and not exploitation and conflict. 


‘This is our message to the planet. Everything that we do, any doctrine that we espouse, should be for the good of humankind.’