ADDRESS AT THE LOKPRIYA GOPINATH BORDOLOI AWARD FOR NATIONAL INTEGRATION, GUWAHATI.
31-12-2004 : Guwahati
Unity of Minds and National Integration
I am indeed delighted to participate in the presentation of Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi Award for National Integration. My greetings to the Government of Assam, its people and distinguished guest on this occasion. I am happy to know that this award has been instituted by the Government of Assam in memory of Bharat Ratna Lokpriya Gopinath Bordoloi ? eminent freedom fighter, outstanding parliamentarian, progressive administrator and a Gandhian who nurturned the dream of a modern and progressive Assam. It is in memory of an respect for this great enlightened son of India, I have chosen the topic of the lecture: ?Unity of Minds and National Integration? since the whole life of Bordoloi was dedicated to such a thought, through his actions. My congratulations to the award winners Dr. Nirmala Deshpande noted Gandhian and freedom fighter and Shri Satish Chandra Kakoty, distinguished journalist for their outstanding contribution towards building a peaceful, integrated, violence free and harmonious nation. When I am in the midst of this distinguished gathering, I would like to share the spiritual pilgrimage I experienced during my visits to Bihar, Jammu & Kashmir Kolkata.
I. My pilgrimage
(a) Bihar Experience: When I visited Bihar, I was really moved by the way the land of Bihar emanated as an integrated spiritual entity. I saw through my visit Apapuri the sinless town a very sacred Jain pilgrim center with a beautiful temple of white marble where Lord Mahavira had delivered his sermons. In Jal Mandir the place where Lord Mahavira attained Nirvana, the chants of religious slokas rent the air. There, I saw lotus flowers around me blooming in the Jal Lake. When my mind was engulfed in the flowers, I remembered a couplet written by a famous Tamil poet Tiruvalluvar 2000 years ago, which gives the axiom of life.
The couplet means: whatever be the depth or the state of cleanliness of the pond, the lotus flower springs out and blooms majestically looking towards the sun. Similarly the human living can be transformed into a purposeful high living, only when a great aim engulfs the mind of the individual.
Bihar School of Yoga, guides yoga projects and medical research association with prestigious hospitals drawing inspiration from Adi-sankaracharya. We visited Khanquah Rahmani a holy shrine established over 100 years ago by the eminent Sufi Hazrat Moulana Mohammed Ali. This shrine commands respect from both muslims and non-muslims. We went to Maha bodhi temple where Lord Buddha who was born on a full moon day and attained Maha Nirvana also on a full moon day. We visited Takht Shri Harmandir Sahib, one of the holiest of five takht (in Patna City). It happens to be the birth place of Shri Guru Gobind Singhji. In all these places, I found great souls had propagated the philosophy of good life and above all these centers with multi religious environment provided a harmonious integrated ambience for the people to live in peace and happiness.
(b) J&K experience
Similar experience, I had in Jammu and Kashmir where I visited the Mata Vaishnav Devi Temple, where Goddesses Maha Kali, Maha Lakshmi and Maha Saraswati are venerated. The Hazratbal shrine on the banks of Dal Lake which houses the holy relic of the Prophet inspired me and gave me divine feelings. Gompa (Budhist Monastery) at Leh, where I met Late Kushok Bakula Rinpoche who was recognized by the 13th Dalai Lama as a reincarnation of Bakula Arhat. Gurudwara Shri Patthar Sahib, where the stone thrown by the jealous demon on Guru Nanak Devji is believed to have turned into wax. In all these places I prayed for peace. When peace comes people will live in happiness.
(c) Interaction at Orphanages
Another series of visits pertain to orphanages in various parts of the country namely Dakshineswar Ramakrishna Sangha Adyapeeth and Calcutta Muslim Girls Orphanage at Kolkata, Shraddhanand Mahilashram at Mumbai, Sivananda Ashram near Kancheepuram and Ramakrishna Mission, Chennai. These institutions are a model of total integration of the society without regional and religious bias. They are attempting to mould the inmates as enlightened citizens through value based education. In some places the orphanages are so designed that it houses both orphan children and older parents. Both provide emotional support to each other.
(d) Interaction with Students
I have also interacted with over five hundred thousand children of different age groups in India and over thirty thousand children abroad during my various visits. Every day at Rashtrapati Bhavan at least one group of children from some part of the country visit and interact with me. I could see in the faces of all these children a common eager feeling for seeing India as a developed, prosperous and peaceful nation at the earliest. Here I would like to give a message to this audience that a movement has already commenced in the country towards national integration through Unity of Minds with the participation of multi religious institutions.
II A spiritual movement
Surat Spiritual Declaration was indeed a great milestone. Divine presence of several spiritual leaders and thinkers, in Surat has resulted in such a beautiful event. As a follow-up a Foundation for Unity of Religions and Enlightened Citizens (FUREC) has been formed. I met the Apex Council Members on 30th October 2004 who apprised me of the progress. Many parts of the country have FUREC activities and four local chapters have been opened for further the garland projects envisaged in the Surat Spiritual Declaration.
(a) Spiritual Garden
Spiritual garden at the Rashtrapati Bhavan teaches us the message of give, give and give irrespective of the religion we belong to. We have a biodiversity park where animals and birds live in amity. A children?s gallery where hundreds of children visit and get inspired for fulfilling their dreams. A herbal garden for motivating the younger generation towards life sciences and bio-technology. Also the herbal garden has Braille facility for visually challenged people to use, feel and smell the plants.
(b) National Festivals
We celebrate Sarva Dharma Prarthana on 2nd October every year, the Diwali, Guru Nanak?s birthday, Christmas, Id-ul-fitr and Holi where thousands of citizens from various religions participate and interact.
(c) 10 Point Oath
On 26th January 2004 as a part of the national broadcast and on 8th February 04 at Akshardam a 10 point oath was administered to the youth of the nation. The Golden Jubilee celebration of BAPS at Akshardam was telecast live both nationally and internationally. I had met thousand differently abled youth who participated in Abilympics, which gave me an opportunity to see the indomitable spirit in them to face the challenges of life.
God commands service from His creation
My visits to Apapuri, School of yoga, Khanquah Rahmani, Maha boodhi temple, Takht Shri Harmandir Sahib in Bihar and Matha Vaishnav Devi, Hazaratbal, Buddhist monastery, Gurudwara Shri. Patthar Sahib in J&K and interaction with inmates of Orphanages and five hundred thousands students gave me a glimpse of the fabric of connectivity and the aspiration of our people. I have also visited a number of shrines in other parts of the country like Ajmer, Tirupati, Kochi, Amritsar, Nizamuddin at Delhi and Rameshwaram.
The message I get from all these experiences is : when people visit a worshiping place definitely their minds are converging towards the Divine as thanks giving or pleading to the God. In turn their minds are conditioned to serve the God in whatever form it is possible. Here I would like to explain, the unique Punjab experience, where the spirituality has resulted into a societal mission.
The status of environmental cleanliness is one of the indicators of development of a nation. As a nation, we have to keep our environment clean and tidy including all our places of worship and rivers. I am delighted to learn that the Kali Bein rivulet, the place where Gurunanak Dev is said to have received enlightenment and which had over the centuries turned literally into a sewage ridden, weed choked drain, is today flowing clean and proud due mainly to the efforts of Baba Balbir Singh Seechewal in partnership with the Punjab State Government. From the discussions, I understand that he organized people?s participation in stopping the massive flow of sewage into the Bein and cleaned 160 km long polluted and choked rivulet within the last three and a half years by deploying on an average 3000 devotees per day of the Gurudwara who have become volunteer workers for the mission. Today one can feel the flow of fresh water in this rivulet released from the Tarkina Barrage by the government about a year ago. The revival of the rivulet has recharged the water table as the hand pumps that had became dry for the past 4 decades are now pumping out water. Baba with the volunteers, not only did the cleaning up operation by clearing Bein from the weeds and hyacinth, but also built bathing ghats at five places. He also built more than 100 km long kutcha road on the bank of the rivulet.
Conclusion: Righteousness is the foundation for National Integration
Righteousness of the heart of the human being leads to a perfect life of an enlightened citizen. This is beautifully explained in ascent and descent phase of human life by Confucius. He states that ?People who desired to have a clear moral harmony in the world, would first order their national life; those who desire to order their national life would first regulate their home life; those who desire to regulate their home life would first cultivate their personal lives; those who desired to cultivate their personal lives set their heart to righteousness, would first make their wills sincere; those who desire to make their wills sincere would first arrive at understanding; understanding comes from the exploration of knowledge of things. When the knowledge of things is gained, then understanding is reached; when understanding is reached, then the will is sincere; when the will is sincere then the heart is righteous; when the heart is righteous then the personal life is cultivated; when the personal life is cultivated, then the home life is regulated; when the home life is regulated, then the national life is orderly; when the national life is orderly then the world is at peace. From the Emperor down to the common man, the cultivation of the righteous life is the foundation for all.
What a beautiful environment we have today. It is a great honour for me to present the Lok Priya Gopinath Bordoloi Award for National Integration to Smt Nirmala Deshpande and Shri Satish Chandra Kakoty.
Best wishes to all of you. May God bless you.