By Founding Rector Lt Gen (R) Syed Shujaat Hussain on Homecoming 2013
I feel honored to have been invited to this function. For me, it is a real home-coming. As a father of NUST, I continuously faced enormous pangs at every stage, both during and after its birth, but managed to nurture it for 16 long years which had been the most stressful as well as rewarding in my life. I not only gave it a life but also provided a well thought- out/unique charter, an approved vision, mission, short/ midterm/ long term comprehensive plan, supporting infrastructure including land, and a strong sustainable foundation to become a world class university which they did in a short span of time under the dynamic and able leadership of Gen Asghar and his team after I left. I see most of you as my intellectual peers and children. I am reminded of a simple prayer for the old people whom I will repeat in this gathering. Of-course, young and old are the relative terms and these do not apply to Gen Asghar who is old looking, perhaps like a grand-pa, but actually young whereas I may not be looking like a baba with a white long beard, but chronologically quite old. The prayer reads as under, “ O my God, keep me from becoming too talkative, from repeating jokes and anecdotes, and particularly keep me away from the habit of expressing an opinion on every subject. Teach me the glorious lesson that occasionally I might be wrong. Free me from the notion that simply because I have lived for a long time, I am wiser than those who have not lived for so long. Give me the wisdom to keep my mouth shut, if I do not approve some of the changes that have taken place in recent years. The prayer ends. My question to the writer is that if the old do not indulge in this luxury, then what else can they, or should do. What is left with them are the fond memories of themselves, of their families, friends, colleague, jobs/institutions, and above all, they carry a large reservoir of wisdom gained during their lifetime, ready to be tapped.
Please remember the well founded axiom that gold is old and old is gold. Here is a prime example of a provocative academic discourse that is old but has the potential of becoming gold. There is an age- old debate on nature verses nurture, i.e genetics verses environment, which is leading us to a paradigm shift towards development of tools to effectively manage the nurture part, i.e go beyond the question of whether it is nature or nurture, to the more critical and timely question that with the given genetic endowment, how can we optimize our responses to social environmental challenges, both internal and external, that surround us. This will be the thrust of my talk to-night and leave some ideas as food for thought. I will try to remain within the frame-work of the prayer for the old.
A good starting place is to briefly revisit what we already know about effective guidelines to cope with the challenges that we face in life regardless of our genetic dispositions. Allow me to reiterate some of the key guidelines.
1. If there is a “will”, there is always a “way” to do every thing. If there is no “will” with a negative mind , you will always find 10 excuses not to do any thing. Always adapt a positive attitude towards life and profession.
2. To survive and grow, we need a powerful motivation and inner strength. For every problem, there is always a solution provided we apply our minds objectively, dispassionately, openly and without any prejudice. The ups and downs are part of our existence and there is rarely a smooth sailing. The challenges, problems, and crises in our both professional and personal lives, should be seen as an opportunity to grow, mature, and develop our abilities to solve them. Collective wisdom always leads to better decisions. No one can claim to be “know all and end all”.
3. Forgiveness is the key to mental peace and emotional tranquility. Personal ego, more often than not, always becomes a big hurdle in developing human relationships which are very important in life. “Forget and Forgive” should therefore be the policy.
4. In unity lies the strength. Every person is born unique in intelligence, personality, and genetic make-up. Differences are therefore an inherent part of life, but we must learn to resolve them in an agreeable manner.
5. Jealousy and anger are the mother of all evils, burn us inside-out, adversely affect our output and judgment, and lead us to emotional instability and manipulative tendencies.
6. Always live within your means and save for the unforeseen and rainy days. What- ever we can spare after meeting our essential needs and obligations, part of it should be distributed to the needy and unfortunate/deprived people. We should not only live for ourselves, but for others also. It is our social obligation. So, please donate generously to the NUST scholarship fund for the needy students.
7. END is not the end. In fact it stands for “Effort Never Dies”, E for effort, N for never, and D for dies. So never accept defeat. NUST, our university, is a clear example.
8. We must never forget that in-spite of all developments and advancements in human knowledge, and our own efforts, a stage comes in life when we all feel helpless and frustrated. We should then turn towards that supreme power, beyond our comprehension, Who will help us and guide us sooner or later. My advice is to never lose hope, keep trying and working hard. There are always alternatives to solve any issue.
Meaning Of Life. Once a wise-man asked God what is the meaning of life. God replied. Life itself has no meaning. Life is an opportunity to create a meaning-both in material and spiritual terms. Life is like a 3 page book. Two pages are already written by God, first page is the accident of birth and the potential inherited, the 3rd and last page is death unless we invite it prematurely. But the center page is empty. So, we should fill it with whatever we want it to be through our own efforts, It is about the choices that we make and pursue our objectives with persistence and vigor that matters, and then leave it to God for its fruition.
Power Of The Mind. Very few people are blessed with advanced intellectual, and intuitive/telepathic faculties at this stage of our mental and spiritual development which provide ready responses without much deep thinking and analysis, but time is not far off when many of us will acquire this capability through our multi-dimensional efforts if we are lucky to have a good teacher who can stimulate our minds and unleash our potential. But there is a limit to the power of the mind beyond which even the science might find the doors closed. The potential of the mind is not limitless.
Now let me underscore one of the other main causes of human problems, that is, uncontrolled and unmanaged emotions, both acquired and genetic. So how do we regulate our emotions given our genetic tendencies, and environmental challenges? In my opinion, this can only be brought about by creating a balance between all the 4 dimensions of life i.e., physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual, and by providing constructive out- lets to the pent up emotional energies. Emotional Intelligence and insights from behavioral sciences have provided us the ability to identify, assess, and control the emotions of self, others, and of groups, to our best advantage. A formidable and healthy development is that ethics is emerging as an important ingredient in striking the right balance between physical, mental, and spiritual so that we can better manage our emotions.
One of my friends, Dr. Asad whose intellect pulsates with a similar frequency, suggested that to remove the prevalent ills in society, ethics should be introduced as part of our syllabi in all educational institutions. To this, I responded by saying that it was an excellent suggestion but would it solve our problems on its own. As per general perception, ethics can be defined as moral principles that control or govern our conduct. Looking at it in a broader perspective, it has multi-dimensional facets having deep and strong links, both direct and indirect, with our value systems developed through an evolving historic process by which a certain-pattern of behavior emerges, and establishes its conformity or non-conformity with the norms and criteria, laid down by society, which varies from place to place, region to region, religion to religion, culture to culture, both at the individual and collective levels. The roots of ethics are also deeply embedded in spirituality and in its derivatives which are almost universal in their essence. A word of caution. If behavioral sciences are considered too narrowly or rigidly as a final word, it can curtail the freedom of individuals and society to make conscious choices and decisions without which human potential will be difficult to develop, and we will be turning out robots. The focus of behavioral sciences should not only be on words but on actions.
Therefore in my view, the moral education/training of a person should start right from the mothers' lap and continue in the educational institutions for which the parents and the teachers will have to act as role models and provide the right social and spiritual environment till a person is spiritually, emotionally, and mentally mature enough to decide between right and wrong and also understand the meaning and purpose of his life. His developed conscience will then become the reflection of his spirituality and act as a watch dog over his mind, emotions and the body which are already conditioned to his past and genetic tendencies. The next question is how to change the mindsets of parents and teachers through a revolutionary or evolutionary process. In my opinion, the mindset can only change through re-education, spirituality and pressure from a reformed/restructured society.
In a nutshell, I entirely agree that there is a dire need to concentrate both on "Taleem and Turbiat" in our homes, schools and colleges where the correct moral environment needs to be created without any prejudice and discrimination. For this, the civil society should seriously think of launching a nationwide movement in which the Government, media, teachers, alumni and parents will have to play a predominant role. Persons committed to this cause could be requested to formulate a pilot project under the umbrella of NUST and spearhead this movement for moral regeneration of our youth.
To sum up the philosophy of ethics, we can say that the ethics is not only to be taught but lived, at home, in educational institutions, and in society to bring about a positive change in the mindsets of people. For this, an integrated approach will be required. I will go a step further by suggesting that scope of ethics could also be enlarged to “Behavioral Sciences” which should include emotions, both positive and negative, and how to manage them for improving relationships and achieving success in life. NUST can take an initiative in this direction.
Thank you for a patient hearing. I congratulate the Rector, the President of NAA, the organizers, alumni and guests for such a wonderful event which was long overdue. God bless you all and the university.