"A Celebration of a Nation" catch phrase for 1988 here in Australia. It's the two-hundredth anniversary of the arrival of the first fleet of settlers to the shores of the "new" land. The settlement was begun by a group of men from England, and included a large number of deported convicts. They cleared and developed the land, claiming it as their own. The present-day descendants of the first settlers and those who followed them to this "lucky country" are happy with their ancestors' find and are celebrating their own good fortune. They have organized cultural programs around the country, and everyone is trying to make it a year to remember.

Before the arrival of the settlers, the land was already inhabited by aborigines, who, being simple people, were no match for the sophisticated newcomers. They still consider themselves the owners of the land, however, and since the sixties they have been claiming their rights. This year they have intensified their push and are using the bicentenary to focus world attention on the issue.

So who really owns the land? We are hearing many arguments from both sides, and there seems to be no conclusion.

The very first verse of Sri Isopanisad clarifies the actual situation:

Everything animate and inanimate that is within the universe is controlled and owned by the Lord. One should therefore accept only those things necessary for himself, which are set aside as his quota, and one should not accept other things, knowing well to whom they belong.

By Vedic standards the argument over who owns the land is academic at best. The real owner of Australia and everything within it is the Supreme Lord. He has provided all the resources, which may be used by each person in accordance with his needs. Instead of wasting our energy in arguments, it would be more useful to become introspective about the real aim and importance of our life here in Australia and to recognize the authority of the Supreme Lord.

A birthday is a good occasion to take stock. As human beings we should accept the wisdom of the Vedas and not quarrel over material possessions that are the property of the Lord. We should be satisfied with whatever He mercifully supplies.

As Srila Prabhupada points out in his commentary on the Sri Isopanisad verse:

The root of sin is deliberate disobedience of the laws of nature through disregarding the proprietorship of the Lord. Disobedience of the laws of nature or the order of the Lord brings ruin to a human being. If one is sober, knows the laws of nature, and is not influenced by unnecessary attachment or a version, he is sure to be recognized by the Lord, and he is sure to become eligible to go back to Godhead, back to the eternal home.

This advice is of course relevant to all people of the world, not only for the people of Australia. Peaceful co-existence is possible only when we act in this way.