According to World Health Organisation (WHO), approximately 800,000 people commit suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. The person who kills him/herself shatters and affects the lives of at least six people directly or indirectly. According to experts’ findings, depression that is untreated, undiagnosed, or ineffectively treated is the number one cause of suicide. Worldwide, suicide rates have increased by 60 percent over the last 50 years, and the increase has been particularly marked in developing countries. It is among the three leading global causes of death among young people aged 15-34 years, and the majority of suicides are reported in adults and older adults due to personal, social, psychological, cultural and environmental factors. In addition, more teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, congenital disabilities, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung diseases combined.
Pakistan is one of the vulnerable countries where stress, anxiety and depression are at highest level. With over 200 million population, one out of three persons is suffering from these curable diseases. The annual suicide rate in the country is between 15,000 to 18,000. According to reports, 50 million people are suffering from common mental disorders in Pakistan and depression affects 44 percent of the entire population in Pakistan. Its prevalence is higher in women at 57.5 percent and 25 percent in men.
Gilgit-Baltistan in the north of Pakistan, with a population of estimated 2 million, has been facing a challenge of a dramatic increase in suicides among youth. According to HRCP Gilgit-Baltistan, 300 young boys and girls committed suicide since 2000 and 340 women killed themselves from 2005 to 2011 across the region. There are so many cases which went unreported due to so-called family reputation, honour killing, police negligence and above all, the collective consciousness of the community. Experts argue that suicides in GB are usually the result of poverty, academic pressures, bullying, relationship problems, forced marriage and parental conflict plus certain mental disorders like depression, anxiety, personality disorders, and schizophrenia.
We need to revive attitudes that foster our connection with nature, develop inclusiveness and cosmic consciousness, and invest some time to the inner dimension of our lives
Globalisation made the world like a global hut. The development of science and technology has made entire universe accessible at the doorstep. Out of many side effects of modernity and scientism, one is the alienation of an individual from ‘self’. Modernity and scientism have severely affected non-physical dimension of lives of people across the globe and Gilgit-Baltistan is no exception.
Seyyed Hossein Nasr in his book ‘Man and Nature: The Spiritual Crisis in Modern Man’ says, “Humanity turned towards outwardness by the very processes of modernisation, it is not so easy to see that the blight wrought upon the environment is, in reality, an externalisation of the destitution of the inner state…”
Nature loving people of Gilgit-Baltistan have been living in these mountainous valleys for thousands of years. Lofty mountains not only protect innocent people of the region but have also been a source of their happiness and survival. Naturally, people were identified with mountains, plants and animals, surrounding nature and entire universe since childhood. Void of love with nature was tantamount to collective suicide and hobbies of young people were planting trees, grazing sheep and goats in the mountains, listening folk stories from their elders in the night and above all, self-help was their basic principle. People preferred to live in joint families, and everyone shared their joys and miseries. Eventually, this inclusiveness and love was a path to turn inward, happiness and joyful life. But today’s generation prefers to spend most of their time on indoor video games, mobile phones and watching television over spending time in nature, which is why they start to face anxiety and depression at a very young age.
The American writer Richard Louv in his book ‘Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature-Deficit Disorder’ has defined the phenomenon as “nature deficit disorder”. Recent studies have exposed that kids who play outside are smarter, happier, responsible, more attentive, and less anxious than kids who spend more time indoors. There is a famous Indian saying: “The further we move away from nature, the further we move away from our own nature”.
In last few decades, much has been done by the NGOs in some regions of GB for the advancement of the education but nothing has been done for the inner dimension of life. Family structure has changed dramatically over the last 30-40 years generally in GB and particularly in Hunza and Ghizar districts. The large extended family structure used to be more inclusive, which has been replaced by the nuclear family. Inclusiveness, self-help and collective consciousness have been replaced with the Western ideas of individuality and exclusive development.
Today people are suffering because of their limited identification — which is a consequence of Descartes idea and fundamental principle of western education: “I think; therefore I am”. People identify themselves with their limited intellect and try to dissect every dimension of life and understand through reason and logic. How can one understand the love of mother or beauty of a sunset or mesmerising music through logic? One cannot understand the beauty of life in totality through logic. Human intellect has built numerous cocoons around human being — breaking the cocoons and becoming one with entire cosmos is the ultimate goal of life.
As Albert Einstein said: “A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest — a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty. Only a life lived for others is worth living”.
Great mystic and poet Maulana Rumi described the similar idea in his beautiful poem:
“I am your lover, come to my side, I will open the gate to your love.
Come settle with me, let us be neighbours to the stars.
You have been hiding so long, endlessly drifting in the sea of my love.
Even so, you have always been connected to me.
Concealed, revealed, in the unknown, in the un-manifest.
I am life itself. You have been a prisoner of a little pond,
I am the ocean and its turbulent flood. Come merge with me,
Leave this world of ignorance. Be with me, I will open the gate to your love.”
Likewise, many other true spiritual masters such as Osho, Bullay Shah, Sachal Sarmast, Chinese Laozi and Nasreddin from Turkey gave the same message of being one with it,and they guided people to turn inward and look within. They knew that life explores from inside out and happiness is an inside job and life experience what is happening within. Human thoughts and emotions are the consequence of what we have perceived through five sense organs. The world will never happen in our way and as we want but our emotions, feeling and thoughts must be in our way. As Rumi said: “Yesterday, I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I am changing myself.” The problem of human being is we always try to transform the situation where we do not exist ourselves. We should understand that the situation is the consequence of the kind of people we are. What should be done internally, we are trying to fix it externally. A great Sufi mystic Nasreddin Hodja had a unique way of teaching. Once he was searching for his key in the street, someone enquired: “What are you searching for, Master? “I’ve lost my key,” replied the Master. “Where exactly, the key was lost?”I lost the key in the house,” replied the Master. “Then why are you searching for it on the street?” “Because there is light here.” replied the Master.
The moral of the story is: no matter how difficult it is, we must search in the right place. All five senses of human being are outward bound. That’s the reason it is easy to search outside, in other words, a “wrong place” than inside ourselves.
Osho beautifully said, “You have everything, but you don’t have yourself”. Healing the broken bond between nature, spirituality and self is becoming difficult and easy at the same time. We need to revive attitudes that foster our connection with nature, develop inclusiveness and cosmic consciousness and invest some time on inner dimension of our lives and learn to turn inward and search within ourselves who we are.
Parh Parh Ilm Hazaar Kitaaban,
Qaddi Apnay Aap Nou Parhiya Naee,
Jaan Jaan Warhday Mandir Maseedi,
Qaddi Mann Apnay Wich Warhiya Naee,
Aa-Vain Larda Aye Shaitan De Naal Bandeaa,
Qaddi Nafss Apnay Naal Lariya Naee.
Yes, Yes, You Have Read Thousands Of Books,
But You Have Never Tried To Read Your Own Self,
You Rush In, Into Your Temples, Into Your Mosques,
But You Have Never Tried To Enter Your Own Heart,
Futile Are All Your Battles with Satan,
For You Have Never Tried To Fight Your Own Desires — Baba Bulley Shah
The writer is a former Daily Times correspondent from Gilgit-Baltistan. He is currently pursuing his doctorate studies at Jilin University, in the northeast of China. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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