Dear brothers and sisters,
I am happy to greet you all, who have gathered here from all over the world. In this momentous session we have to explore and find out ways and means to cement and strengthen the solidarity of mankind. Nations, like individuals, are swayed by passions, prides and prejudices which create chasms in the real social order which are very often difficult to span. We are living in an age of decadence, when moral and spiritual values are at their lowest ebb. With all these drawbacks and the numerous divisive tendencies, there is still a ray of hope of regeneration and re-orientation. This very hope has brought us together. I thank you all for the loving response to the call for remodelling of our destiny to secure a lasting peace.
It is said that “East is East and West is West and never the twain shall meet.” That may have been true at one time or another, or for the author of the dictum, Rudyard Kipling; but certainly it carries no weight with men of God in the present scientific age, when distance and space are fast losing their significance, and efforts are being made to establish interplanetary contacts.
The various countries of the world are just like chambers in the House of God, housing different nations. Distinguished from one another by geographic, climatic and historical conditions, facial contours and complexions, languages and dialects, diet and apparel and modes of worship, all people conditioned by these divergent factors form the great organic whole called humanity. With all these seeming differences and distinctions of colour, creed, and caste, and these diversities in his modes of living and thinking, man essentially and basically remains man in outer appearance and inner make-up.
Unity already exists in the human form, since each one is born the same way with the same outer and inner construction, and each one has a soul which is of the same essence as that of God. We are drops of the Ocean of All Consciousness, whom we worship as the same God, calling Him by different names. Holy men say that the human body is the true temple of God, and that He resides in the temple made by Him in the womb of the mother, and not in temples made by human hands, and that the human form provides us with the golden opportunity to realize Him.
Man has three aspects: physical body, intellect, and a conscious entity. He has progressed physically, intellectually and mechanically; but despite this, he is unhappy and has not developed spiritually. He has developed his head and not his heart, and his scientific knowledge is misdirected to fiendish malevolence. It has created a spiritual vacuum. We stand in the middle of a two-fold crisis: a state cult of militarism, euphemistically called ‘patriotism’ on one hand, and an apathy to spiritual development through knowledge of the True Self on the other.
In the absence of any positive thinking on both these levels we are morally regressing, and in this sad predicament we cannot have lasting peace. Guru Nanak therefore prayed, “Oh God, the world is aflame and has passed beyond our care. Save it by the means You consider best!”
The problem before us is how to bring about a change in man’s heart and effect his inner conversion so that he can see truly and clearly and learn to discriminate between truth and untruth. Since this lies beyond the scope of body and intellect, it can only come about through an inward illumination of divine wisdom in the sanctuary of the soul. This is the individual aspect of the matter.
We also have to forge abiding bonds of kinship among the nations of the world so that they will treat each other with genuine courtesy based on inward love and friendliness, and seek the welfare of all members of the human family, transcending their political ideologies which create rivalries and international tensions.
During my last foreign tour I was asked on television in the United States, “How can peace be cemented?” I told them, “Peace can be cemented only when men rise above ‘isms’ and presidents and kings above countries.” To remain in any ‘ism’ is a blessing, if we keep in mind the ideal for which we have joined it and rise into universalism; but if we stick obdurately to the ‘ism’, the result is again narrow-mindedness and selfishness. Similarly, if kings nourish their gardens well and keep them blooming in all respects, they should let all other countries bloom the same way and further the cause of human happiness; otherwise there will be conflicts and wars.
It has been our endeavour of late to find a common forum and meeting ground where such momentous issues could be discussed dispassionately – by separating the non-essentials from essentials and eliminating differences, in order to find unity in diverse thinking and bring abiding peace on earth: complete concord and amity in all spheres of our life.
In order to understand this world-wide movement in which we are participating today, it is necessary to review its background. Religious contacts between East and West were established as far back as 1893, when the patriot-Saint Vivekananda went out with the message of the Upanishads and Gita and represented India at the Chicago Parliament of Religions. His life and living showed a practical way to demonstrate the essential unity of all religions, to proclaim the message of which he founded a chain of missions in the name of his Master, Paramhansa Ramakrishna. Ten years later, in 1903, another savant, Swami Ram Tirath, presented the philosophy of Vedanta to the West in such a lucid manner that he was hailed as a ‘living Christ’.
Thus the way was paved for the next great step, the spread of spirituality or mysticism – the bedrock of every religion. In its pure essence, this implies the awakening of man to a consciousness at once supra-sensible and supra-mental – an immediate revelation. All mystics, Eastern and Western, have believed in the possibility of direct communion with the Spirit and Power of God through love and contemplation, without the aid of reason and logic. It puts man on the road to inwardness – not to be confused with escapism – with an active living morality as the essential prerequisite.More