Einstein said that we can't solve a problem with the same kind of thinking that gave rise to the problem. His insight applies also to the domain of consciousness: we can't solve the problems of our time with the same kind of consciousness that created them. We live in global times, yet most of us have a tribal kind of consciousness -- it's me or you, my group or yours, and whoever isn't with us is against us. The continuation of tribal consciousness is nothing less than a recipe for disaster in a world of nuclear weapons, environmental devastation, increasing population and dwindling resources.
There can be no doubt: if we're going to live sustainably and in peace with each other, we must all shift from a tribal to a planetary consciousness.
But just what is planetary consciousness? Here is how we defined it in the Manifesto on Planetary Consciousness that I drafted with the Dalai Lama and other luminaries of the Club of Budapest in 1996: "Planetary consciousness is knowing as well as feeling the vital interdependence and essential oneness of humankind, and the conscious adoption of the ethic and the ethos that this entails."
It was our conclusion at that time that the evolution of planetary consciousness was the foundational imperative for the survival of the human species. I remain more convinced than ever that this is the case.
But what do you think? Assuming you agree that we must evolve beyond tribalism if we are to survive, would you consider yourself to have planetary consciousness? Here are 10 questions that I believe, if answered honestly, will tell you whether you do.
- Satisfy your basic needs without diminishing other people's chances of satisfying theirs?
- Pursue your own happiness with due regard for the similar pursuit of others?
- Respect the right to economic development for all people, wherever they live and whatever their ethnic origin or belief system?
- Live in a way that respects the integrity of nature around you?
- Work with like-minded people to safeguard and restore your local environment?
- Require your government to relate to other nations peacefully and in a spirit of cooperation, recognizing the legitimate aspirations of all the members of the international community?
- Buy from companies that accept responsibility for stakeholders at all levels of the supply chain?
- Consume media that provides unbiased information relevant to you and your community?
- Do something to help at least one other person escape the hopeless struggles and abject humiliations of extreme poverty?
- Believe all young people are entitled to the education they need to be productive members of their community?
Answering these ten questions with an honest yes doesn't call for money or power. It calls for dedication and solidarity, for the spirit that creates true community, both locally and globally.
The evolution of planetary consciousness is without question an imperative for human survival on our planet. In its absence it's difficult to see how all seven billion of us will be able to live in peace -- or even just survive. To paraphrase Gandhi, "Live consciously, so that all of us may live."