Sustainable Development Goals, connected

By Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya

When we hear about development today, generally we think of technology paving the way for a more comfortable life, with less time spent on what is labeled useless tasks. We think of smart cities with landscaped bike paths and organic food markets. We think of developing large glass buildings to house gardens and amphitheaters. But find a smart billionaire who is searching for infinity and you will find someone who has learned to look inside.

The development we need today is less about paved streets, smart meters, and better cameras on cellphones.  We need the development of our human selves, the mind, the heart, and the digestive fire.

Ayurveda figured this out over a hundred generations. The human experience is not about the material world. It is about our connections between the mind, heart, and inner vision connecting to others and a larger Self. The experience of gaining inner power is the master task of development. In the 1980’s it was called self-help. In the 1990’s it was human potential. In the 2000s, the term was human capital. In the 2010’s it was called inner engineering.  Travel back a few thousand years, and see the terms Yoga, Vedanta, Adhyatmika, and Bhakti. They all refer to the development of the human potential for super skills that interact between the outer environment and the inner storehouse of energy and the potential to take action and change both the material and energetic world.

Ayurveda, yoga, and many health sciences in the ancient Indian Knowledge Systems all focused on creating robust and enriched minds. Through the 64 Kalas or arts, there was something for everyone. If you were not interested in dance they were instruments if instruments did not please you there was a voice there was painting they were crafts that allowed you to express your emotions using the material world around you. These arts not only beautified your environment but also helped you express your feelings and allowed others to empathize and sympathize with their own experience of those same feelings. Through shared experiences in the material and nonmaterial world people really related to each other and found solace when things went very bad, or even when things went shockingly well and overwhelmed us with the possibilities of the universe.

If the yards did not work for you or if you were too clumsy to dance or paint or do crafts they were skills using metals woods and various sports bet allowed a person to excel using his body mind and senses to connect with something that the soul was drawn toward. Through the Kalas, the heart opened.

And when the heart opens, there is no anguish, fatigue, or overwhelm. Love pours in from the least expected places and touches us to connect and sustain everything inside. Stress becomes enthusiasm, and burnout becomes a challenge for a new day. Using the movement of the body with exercise or gardening, hiking, or yoga, the flow of the blood revived and healed.

Today people have disconnected exercise and movement from depression and mental health.  Though every culture encourages walks in nature and time among the trees, hills, and fields, people today sit indoors and surf online to find solutions for their depression.  They want to know if it is a real, organic, chemically-grounded imbalance so that it is a medical problem, not their fault, and thus a ‘real’ disease.  Ayurveda reminds us that real diseases start with imbalances of flow in the mind and in the gut. True development is the toolkit of solutions that we must take out and utilize when we start to get imbalanced.

Sustainable development goals are not about connecting with economies. They are about connecting with hearts and helping people help others through kindness, generosity, and goodwill. The development of Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam, the world is one family, would help us reach Sustainable Development much faster than the current methods in healthcare.

Dr. Bhaswati Bhattacharya

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