March 19, 2013 | Comment

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Shashank Mittal was born in the capital of the small Himalayan state of Sikkim and was raised in New Delhi, India. Encouraged by his parents, he attended the prestigious Doon School, a private boarding school from the age of 12. After graduating from Doon in 2008, he came to New York for his undergraduate study. Shashank recently graduated from the School of Visual Arts (SVA) with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Interior Design. In his junior year, Shashank also took the opportunity to study abroad for a semester in Milan, Italy at the Istituto Europeo di Design. Shashank has been the Youth Representative of the Brahma Kumaris World Spiritual University to the UN DPI since January, 2011. The principles of the Brahma Kumaris are aligned in particular with the tenet contained in the Preamble to the Charter of the United Nations “…to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person…” In keeping with these principles, Shashank’s interests include climate change, sustainable development and youth-related issues. Shashank can be contacted at shashank@bkun.org

Activities of the Youth Representative

The position of a BKUN youth representative was created when the UN declared the International Year of Youth in August 2010 and we, as the Brahma Kumaris created an initiative to support the year. This gave the youths the chance to interact with the UN community in a more direct way and I was given the honor of being the youth representative at the UN headquarters to facilitate this process. I got the chance to interact with youths from other organizations and to participate in youth-related activities hosted by different departments and UN agencies, particularly the DPI and ECOSOC.

What I found as most unique

Whenever the UN highlights an issue and it is brought to the table, while many other organizations may rush into action to bring it to their constituents and start working on it, the BKs take the time to look at the issue from a human perspective, from the perspective of individuals. They do this to build greater understanding of what individuals are going through when they are faced with those challenges. Based on that, the BKs create their action plans and programs. The change initiated by this approach is more sustainable and more helpful for the individuals.

Highpoint Experience

My highpoint experience has been the ‘Spotlight Values’ initiative which the BKs dedicated to the UN International Year of Youth (www.spotlightvalues.org) held from August 2010–2011.  This initiative offered a process of explore, express, and exchange.  We, the youths brought this international platform of the UN into our local communities, which gave us and our peers the opportunity to get together and talk about things that matter and are important to us. I understood that the UN was not merely instructional and directional but by providing such a platform for our thoughts, ideas and concerns, we the youths were given a chance to contribute to something bigger. What we shared was being brought back to the UN and would then affect larger change.

At a more personal level, what I realized was before I was part of this initiative, I thought that the BK environment was the only environment to further my spiritual learning and growth.  Whereas after and during the process I realized that every opportunity I have to share, every environment I am in, gives me an opportunity to express my spiritual qualities and to learn from others as well.

Strength of the BKs

I was recently invited to be part of the BK delegation to the Commission on the Status of Women.  Something I saw in relation to ‘inner resources’ which was the central theme for the BKs participation at the Commission, was that this theme cuts across different issues.  It can help those working on resolution of the pressing issues of the world to make better decisions when operating from a place of inner stability and calm.

The strength of the BKs is to provide these platforms: to bring in the spiritual domain where individuals can feel empowered and rejuvenated internally. We should continue to provide this platform, no matter what the issue and whether or not we are directly contributing to the solution. But by working with and assisting those who are responsible for resolving these issues, I believe that we will be aptly utilizing our expertise.

Distinction between Religious and Spiritual

There is a distinction between religious and spiritual. Religion is something that is external, something that is taught to me. It is a practice that I learn depending on the family I am born into or brought up in.  And at a later stage in my life, I can choose to change my religion or not to associate with religion at all.  Whereas spirituality is something that is inherent to every human being. As that being, I am innately spiritual. It is simply a matter of touching base with that goodness that I know to be in me. I can be spiritual and be religious at the same time. However, I need not be religious to be spiritual. Spirituality, in my understanding is independent of religion.

The BKs are a spiritual organization, and in my opinion we are not held back by any walls of rituals, systems or customs that are limited to any one religion. We are also not preaching anything. Through our work, we are providing a space/platform for individuals to connect with themselves spiritually, with their goodness. And giving them the freedom to do so at their own pace, at their own time, as and when they are comfortable.


Filed in: BKs at the UN

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