TO the Japanese, the word “ikigai” has a special meaning; as “ubuntu” is to the Africans or “lagom” to the Swedes. They are indigenous terms that convey culturally laden values that act as an innate compass to direct them to a balanced way of life. Lagom means “just the right amount” – namely, adequate or enough as a guiding principle to sustainable lifestyle. Ikigai, a sense of purpose representing value, wellbeing and moderate living. Ubuntu refers to “humanity” and is translated as “I am because we are”.
They represent “the middle way” in navigating and nurturing life in a sustainable way embracing all humans. They are not just limited to the regional or national dimensions because it speaks about interconnectedness of people. The former is far superior because it involves real life and real people interacting in the real world.
On the local front, the word is “sejahtera”. It is often used but poorly understood. It is of indigenous origin and conveys much of the same meaning of universal proportion. In this region, in particular, it must be understood as a reservoir of good values that could enrich human life collectively. Allegedly, it can be traced to a Sanskrit word that resonates with the state of being human. Not necessarily limited to the “tangibles” but goes beyond the measures of material wealth, notably related to (mental) health and happiness as well as well-being and wellness in a more cohesive way. It is not to be confused with “quality of life” which is largely limited to materialistic (economic) imperatives. Instead it takes a different tone with the emphasis on being human as part of lifelong and lifeworthy learning experiences.
On this basis sejahtera can be understood on at least three different tiers: the spiritual, intellectual and cultural-societal aspects covering 10 essentials based on the acronym SPICES. They collectively stand for spiritual, physico-psychological, intellectual, cultural, cognitive, ethical, emotional, ecological, economic, and societal – all in a balance.
Sejahtera’s deeper meaning and philosophy comes from the Falsafah Pendidikan Kebangsaan (National Education Philosophy) of 1996, which is intrinsically “learner and people-driven” as the beacon for the future generations. It also helps to reclaim traditional wisdom and indigenous cultural values many of which have gone astray.
They were in essence inherently sustainable within the local context. Like its Japanese, African and Swedish counterparts it cannot be fully translated into other languages. Translating it as well-being or prosperity is one dimensional and trivialises the delicate multilayered meaning of SPICES!
It is not surprising that the initial success story of sejahtera came through a Malaysian higher education institution leading it to be awarded the APEX university status, a decade ago on Sept 4, 2008, and attracting well-wishers to the university in a garden as it was also known then.
Since then the concept has spread through the exchange of ideas and experiences. This includes colleagues from South Korea who took to the sejahtera concept like a duck to water.
With this development, the philosophy and concept of sejahtera created a historic milestone given its vision of “co-existence”, and aligned with “collaborative relationships” located in a US$20 million eco-park on a 200,000 sq m natural locale in the Municipality of Tongyeong. Collectively, it is named the Sejahtera Forest and has a Sejahtera Centre to boot. In May 2015, the writer, was invited to grace the official launch.
It is also recognised by the United Nations University in Tokyo, as the UN Regional Centre of Expertise on Education for Sustainable Development.
Another development is the citizen’s initiative to organically grow a Sejahtera Leadership Initiative (SLI) based on the SPICES model to complement regional and international organisations, including universities, and leverage its participation beyond Malaysia in a leadership position.
The initiative aims to activate vision and long-term planning to nurture a holistic human-centric and balanced leadership for a harmoniously peaceful society with dignity.
It aims to support the development of the sejahtera framework, particularly, reaching for a holistic approach, based on its ultimate mission: to integrate the macro-microcosmic nexus of balanced leadership with universal consciousness centring on justice. It manifests values for self-leadership aligned to:
» Humility – open to co-learning and active listening to feedback from others
» Mutual respect – build trust and communication between team members to strengthen co-existence
» Balanced co-existence – balanced and realigned individual aspirations with the needs of others based on the elements of SPICES at each of the three tiers.
The Sejahtera Leadership Initiative aspires to combine the converging forces of citizens’ initiatives across the board as an imperative to move forward and create a balanced future with compassion and a sense of higher purpose.
It is therefore essential to mainstream sejahtera and its practices to sustain growth and productivity of not only the individual but also shared collectively for humanity.
With some four decades of experience in education, the writer believes that “another world is possible”. Comments: firstname.lastname@example.org