His Majesty, King Jigme Khesar, the King of Bhutan
The great change of the Modern age is not to remake the world but to remake ourselves. Be the change you wish to see for the world.
- Mahatma Gandhi
We tend to look for great leaders and saviors to come and redeem the world. Sometimes such exceptional leadership may be needed when the change which has to be achieved or crisis to be solved is too difficult to accomplish for average humanity. Similarly, good role models who walk the talk and live the values they preach are helpful in our higher evolution. But in general the power to change the world is within every one of us because we are the world. The world we see outside is the expression of what we are within. We can change the world by making a corresponding change within our own self. Excerpts from an inspiring talk by the young king of Bhutan, delivered at University of Calcutta.
Don’t Wait to be Led by Others
Did we ever sit down and think about this while at university? Some of us will have done so – but most of us feel limited in our capacity to make real change – most of us would think – we are young – we are not billionaires or world leaders or famous celebrities – we are students fresh out of college – it is difficult enough for a young person to survive – to make a living – shouldn’t it be world leaders who make a change in the world?
This is the flaw – this waiting for saviours – why must the world wait for a few individuals to be born?
In a way, the environment we live in inculcates in us this outlook to life – those words we use so often at university – competition, future, jobs, income, investment and other such words – nothing wrong with the words – except that we have slowly become their victims; not their masters. In the absence of other ways to qualify and evaluate success in education, we equate success with money or power. Even Mahatma Gandhi during his time felt that we had no idea what education really meant and how to put a value to it. It is the same today. We know what we get if we work hard, a good degree and find a good job – we get a nice car, nice house and the appreciative admiration of others. We don’t know what we get exactly from being honest, just and compassionate. The benefits from this do not accrue so easily or visibly.
But as Gandhiji said, “an education which does not teach us to discriminate between good and bad, to assimilate the one and eschew the other, is a misnomer.”
For our generation, no matter what we have all studied in university or where we are from, we have been born into a world where it is more likely that we will pursue material rewards more than what is morally right – that we will follow the path of individualism at the cost of community and fraternity. This is the direction we have been pointed towards by the kind of growth the world has pursued.
How unfortunate – for if we take this path – then no matter how much scientific or material progress is made in our lifetimes, global problems will prevail, in fact multiply and we will continue to endanger each other and the future of our children.
But how wonderful if we decide today that we will make the effort, as individuals, to try and solve global problems, to make the world a better place for our children and for the less fortunate among us. If we decide to change the way we are expected to think and behave. If we, in this room, seize this chance to do things differently. If we act without waiting for great leaders to be born, if we can believe in the extraordinary potential of simple human values then… we can be the generation that made the difference – the generation with a conscience – the generation that the world has waited for, for so long.
None of us here may have, today, the wealth or skills to combat natural disasters or plug the ozone layer or remove world poverty. But we know that there is one thing we can change – that is ourselves. That is the most important thing – that is the one obvious starting point in our quest to find a solution to global problems – one’s self. As Gandhiji said, “Be the change you want to see.”
Do not feel alone, small or inconsequential. Too often leadership is associated with one great person giving an inspiring sermon to the masses and leading them to greater heights. I would be happy with this version of leadership if only it happened enough. By enough I mean if great leaders led millions everyday all over the world and solved all our problems. But that is not going to happen. We need millions of Mahatmas but history has given us only one.
Therefore, even if all of us cannot own billions or rule the world – what we can do for certain is we can touch the life of one person at a time – that is what is humanly possible and that is the great equalizer – whether you are the richest woman in the world or an ordinary man making a living you have the same power to truly touch someone with kindness, compassion and care.
When I speak about kindness, compassion and care – I know I may sound naive but the fact is that I believe in what I am saying. What I am saying is that in this global village – on a daily basis we are not fighting world wars or military conquest – every single day we are fighting the consequences of simple human negligence, complacency, lack of compassion, inequality. What we need is not a Leader to lead the Masses – we need Leadership of the Self.
This is my message today. I do not know how to find the cure for diseases and I cannot tell governments or multinationals to respect the environment – but I can assure you with all confidence that each of us can be better individuals – better human beings. Whether we become farmers, scientists, inventors or bureaucrats, the one thing we can all do alike is to live our lives according to the values of kindness, integrity, justice – we can be good human beings.
Create A Better World by Becoming A Better Human Being
Well, there are hundreds of us here today and thousands more under the University of Calcutta.
Some of us will become scientists, some corporate leaders, some national leaders and teachers so on. The difference will be that as good human beings we will be scientists who make the right inventions and cures; corporate leaders who do business with ethics; national leaders who keep in mind the weakest sections of society and the welfare of future generations; teachers who nurture and build good people. Imagine all the good we can do with the skills that our education provides, the tools that science and technology offer and all the resources of the world.
See, throughout history, we have always had the resources, the technology and science to not only solve but also actually prevent the problems that have plagued our world. What we lacked at certain moments is the Conscience to direct these resources to their right and noble use. When 24,000 children die every day due to poverty, we spend $1.5 trillion dollars on arms and ammunition. So now we can direct a missile at a target on another continent with the simple press of a button, but we cannot yet bring safe drinking water to half of humanity. We always had the resources. We lacked steadfast commitment, conscience and compassion.
I hope you see why I have kept speaking about the need to develop ourselves as individuals before we seek change in the world. We live in a highly globalized and interdependent world, a world where problems facing humanity like poverty, disease, war, strife do not recognize borders of nation, ethnicity or religion. It affects all of us; it affects every part of the world.
The solution to global problems will not just materialize from politics, from great leaders or from science and technology. The solution will come from us living as citizens of our communities, our societies, our countries and above all as citizens of the world.
As citizens of the world, our unifying force – our strength must also come from something that is not bound by nation, ethnicity or religion – from fundamental human values.
Values Shape the Future of Humanity.
Values are the root of our character – if we do not tend the roots, the character that springs from it no matter how much wealth, power and fame surrounds it will bring little benefit to oneself, the lives of others and to the well being of the planet.
All these buildings, monuments, this life that we hold so dear – all of these must give way and perish – not Values – Values of kindness, integrity, justice. Even death shall not extinguish them. Nothing travels endlessly with time and stays relevant from generation to generation, era upon era except fundamental human values.
I hope we will realize that we are at the cusp of a fundamental change of thought – a social revolution that will change the way humanity will pursue growth forever. Our generation is called upon to rethink, to redefine the true purpose of growth. And in doing so, to find a growth that is truly sustainable.
We must never forget that for lasting peace and happiness in this world, the journey forward has to be one that we must all make together. No one should be left behind.
This we must achieve without waiting for some great leader or genius who may or may not ever emerge – we should instead seek to do so, each of us, on our own. As we become better human beings, we build better families, stronger communities, successful nations and a peaceful stable world for ourselves and our future generations. It all starts with Leadership of the Self.
King Jigme Khesar was the world’s youngest head of state until 2011.