Delhi: His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Saturday offered India as a model of religious harmony and asked the country to actively promote and share it with the world. He was speaking alongside former Indian Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh at a function organised by National Institute of Panjab Studies in marking of yearlong celebrations of the 550th birth anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev.
“Look at the Parsees, descendants of the Zoroastrians from Persia, in Bombay. There are fewer than 100,000 of them among millions of Hindus, Muslims and Christians, yet they live in peace without fear—that’s India. I believe India should make more of this and show the rest of the world that different religions can live amicably, in harmony, side by side,” His Holiness said.
His Holiness was welcomed by the Director, Dr Mohinder Singh and the President, former Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, with the gift of a sapling. His Holiness was formally welcomed with the gift of a maroon shawl and a framed copy of the Mul Mantra, the first composition uttered by Guru Nanak Dev upon enlightenment, done in gold leaf.
The celebratory event was attended by spiritual leaders from different faiths, Sikh intellectuals and dignitaries from social and political field including Dr Inderjit Kaur, Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal, Swami Gurdip Giri, Acharya Shrivasta Goswami, Pir Kwaja Syed Nizami and Sir Mark Tully.
His Holiness said, in his address, “It’s a great honour for me to be here for the inauguration of this year-long celebration of the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak’s birth. Although I don’t know all the details of his life, I have great admiration for Guru Nanak. I am particularly impressed that someone from a Hindu background like his made a pilgrimage to Mecca to express his respect for another religious tradition. This reflects the longstanding Indian tradition of different religions living together in harmony.
“Common to several Indian spiritual traditions are the practices of cultivating a single-pointed, calmly abiding mind (shamatha) and the insights derived from analytical meditation (vipashyana). These practices have led to a cumulative understanding of the workings of the mind and emotions leading to their transformation and the achievement of peace of mind—inner peace. This is a key part of the legacy of Indian civilization and Guru Nanak, like Mahavira and the Buddha before him was a product of such Indian tradition,” he added.
“Recently I took part in a conference of Buddhist monks and when it came to my turn to speak I told them I preferred to be frank and informal. I asked them to consider, when we see conflict arising in the name of religion, whether, in this 21st century, religion remains relevant or not. I asked them why it is that despite pervasive material development and education we still face problems. My suggestion was that modern education is focussed on material goals and leads to a materialistic way of life with the result that people don’t know how to achieve peace of mind.”
He further said, “What’s worse is that although we’re enjoying peace here, in Syria and Afghanistan people are killing each other in the name of religion, children are starving in places like Yemen and the gap between rich and poor grows ever larger. When our human brothers and sisters are suffering in this way, how can we remain indifferent?
The root of the problem is a lack of karuna or compassion. Whether or not there is a God as some religions believe, what human beings do is important, His Holiness noted.
“And the quality of what they do depends on their motivation, which is why we have to learn how to cultivate a compassionate mind. This is why religions with their message of karuna and ahimsa, compassion and non-violence, is so important. It’s also why mutual respect among our various spiritual traditions is crucial too.”
“So religion remains relevant today. Whether there is a God or no god, a next life or no next life, liberation, moksha, or not—and you,” indicating Prof BN Goswamy, “mentioned truth, which is a difficult word to define, despite their different philosophical views, all our religious traditions talk about love. Modern India should pay more attention to the ancient Indian knowledge of the workings of the mind and emotions with its advice about tackling destructive emotions and achieving a kind of emotional hygiene.
“Let me tease Mark Tully, what we call modern education was by and large imposed on India by the British, but only in India are we likely to see a combination of modern education with methods for achieving peace of mind.”
The event included the inauguration of an exhibition on the Guru’s life and legacy titled “Rahbar-E-Aalam”, which was inaugurated by His Holiness. An impressive gallery of paintings relating to episodes from the Guru’s life and his spiritual legacy was showcased.
Dr Mohinder Singh, president of Bhai Vir Singh Sahitya Sadan thanked His Holiness for his talk on religious harmony and recalled Guru Nanak’s advice to observe the unity of humanity and overcome divisiveness.
He told a story from Guru Nanak’s youth when his father gave him a sum of money with which to do business. Instead, he used it to buy food that he offered to sadhus. Thus began the tradition of the langar, providing food for all without distinction. He suggested there is a need for such an innovative approach to our relations today based on truth, gender equality and universal responsibility.
The keynote speaker, eminent art historian, BN Goswamy gave an account of Guru Nanak who he compared to the legendary Simorgh of the poet Attar of Nishapur’s literary masterpiece, the ‘Conference of the Birds’. He noted how much Guru Nanak emphasized the importance of truth when he said that truth never grows old, truth survives and truth brings illumination.
After pointing out that there are no known contemporary portraits of Guru Nanak, Goswamy described and explained a series of drawings and paintings displayed on screens before the audience showing various aspects of the Guru’s life. He drew particular attention to a painting which depicted him wearing a robe inscribed with quotations from scriptures of various faiths, revealing his respect for them all. He told a story of Guru Nanak’s being rebuked during his pilgrimage to Mecca for sleeping with his feet pointed at the Kaaba, and his retort, “Show me anywhere where my feet will not be pointed towards God”.
His Holiness and Dr Manmohan Singh were next invited to honour a number of spiritual leaders among the guests with a gift. They included Dr Inderjit Kaur, Sant Balbir Singh Seechewal, Swami Gurdip Giri, Acharya Shrivasta Goswami, Pir Kwaja Syed Nizami and Sir Mark Tully.
His Holiness and Dr Manmohan Singh together planted a sapling that Dr Mohinder Singh said the BVSSS pledged to nurture. As the event concluded, Dr Manmohan Singh and Dr Mohinder Singh escorted His Holiness to his car and saw him off.
Report sourced from dalailama.com.