Musings on the First Congress of the Indonesian Diaspora


By: Anand Krishna

Listening to the distinguished panelists during the plenary session of the Congress of Indonesian Disapora on July 7, I was transported back in time to a meeting in the 1970s with a veteran Indian diplomat who was a close associate of India’s first Prime Minister, Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru.

The panelists at the plenary session were Sehat Sutardja, co-founder of the Marvel Technology Group, and Tourism and Creative Economy Minister Mari Elka Pangestu — both Indonesians of Chinese origin; businessman Chairul Tanjung, and Education and Culture Minister Mohammad Nuh — both of Malay roots (I purposely choose not to use the word “indigenous”, as in my opinion all of us are indigenous to Mother Earth); and industrialist Sri Prakash Lohia, an Indonesian of Indian descendent.

I recalled my meeting with Mahmood Butt, the veteran diplomat, who mentioned the 1955 Bandung Conference that led to the establishment of the Non-Aligned Movement, “It was a joke, but a sensible one. Sukarno told Nehru and Zhou Enlai: ‘If three of us piss together, the world shall drown’”.

Was Bung Karno prophesying about the emerging superpowers of Asia: China, India and Indonesia? Perhaps this is the time to fulfill that prophecy.

Of course, this is not a question of public urination. People need not worry. It is not about drowning the world, for a drowned world will drown us all. It is about cooperation and collaboration.

Nuh talked about the youthful Indonesian workforce as a blessing and dividend. Let us not stop at that. People in numbers mean nothing without skills, efficiency and self-confidence. Sehat and his success story offer a good example of this.

I am reminded by the threefold path to success and fulfillment formulated by Siddhartha Gautama more than 2,500 years ago. It’s first and foremost precept is to know and believe that you have it in you. Buddham sharanam gatchaami — focus upon the seed of the potential within you.

Chairul, meanwhile, talked with pride about his humble beginnings, Indonesian Ambassador to the US Dino Patti Djalal shared experiences of doing dishes at the embassy in DC, where he now heads the mission. Their success stories are of sewing and watering such seeds, which leads us to Siddhartha’s second code — action.

It is the energy of action that finally bears fruit: dharmam sharanam gatchaami. It is not only about acting, but acting rightfully, efficiently and effectively.

Mari seems to live this second code. She could have gone to the hotel and changed first, but she chose not to do that. Bravo, minister.

Lohia talked about not running away and facing the challenges. Indeed, it was during the late 1990s recession that he branched out outside of Indonesia.

With the income generated from those additional resources, he not only paid back all his debts without any “haircuts”, but also expanded his empire.

This reminded me of Siddhartha’s third truth, togetherness: sangham sharanam gatchaami. “No man is an island”, wrote the 16th century English poet John Donne. Lohia attributed his success to his 20,000 strong and satisfied members of his workforce in different parts of the globe.

The panelists and moderator Dino lived Siddhartha’s threefold path to success and fulfillment: know your potential, develop self-confidence; act wisely, skillfully, efficiently, and effectively; and, last but not least, involve the right people, join hands with those who share your vision, work in unison with them.

This leads me to my favorite subject, and that is interfaith understanding and appreciation towards the global harmony. I do not mean a mere toleration, which implies ‘okay, you are not as good as I am, but I tolerate you.

You don’t have to be a Buddhist to appreciate the teachings of the Buddha. You don’t have to be a Jew to agree with Einstein, nor a Christian to accept Newton’s theories, a Muslim to learn about al-Kimia or chemistry; or a Hindu before using the digit “zero” in mathematics.

It was not a good sight to see some of our brothers and sister campaigning outside the Los Angeles Convention Center against the religion-based conflicts at home. But, then, we cannot dismiss them. We cannot deny and find justifications. We have to acknowledge them and leave no stone unturned to ensure that such happenings, such events are not repeated.

In this regard, educator Anies Baswedan’s remarks were noteworthy: “If a place of worship is attacked,” he said, “then the attackers must be punished. It is a matter of law enforcement. It’s as simple as that”.


Notice: This opinion article was displayed in an online newspaper, The Jakarta Post, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on July 13, 2012. It is also able to be searched at: [accessed in Bandung, West Java, Indonesia: 14 July 2012].

The writer is a spiritualist and author of more than 150 books. He can be reached at:



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