Shri. Bawa Jain
Secretary General, World Council of Religious Leaders
World Council of Religious Leaders endorsement of
the Resolutions & Action Items of Amritavarsham50’s Interfaith Summit.
“Ammaji, it’s a great honor for all of us to be here. For me it is a proud privilege, and before I begin, I want to ask all of you. I think everybody here has shown an enormous amount of endurance and dedication. I want to ask all of you to please stand. Stand for a minute. Please stand.
“You may stretch yourselves if you like, as you are doing that. And as you finish that I would like to ask all of you to hold each other’s hands, to take each other’s hands, please. Hold each others hands, and let’s gather together in a minute of silence and prayer.
“Let’s gather in silence and prayer for the millions of children and the women who are suffering, who are hungry, who have nowhere to go, with a deep sense of prayer that may Amma’s mission grow like a tidal wave and may this tidal wave engulf the entire world so that no children have to go to bed hungry, no mothers have to suffer, and may Amma’s work continue to prosper as we commemorate Her 50th birthday.
“Thank you, please be seated. And before I begin, I also want you to join me in thanking the organizers, especially Swami Amritaswarupanda, the Vice-chairman and his entire team of the swamis and everybody who has made this possible to share in the celebration of the 50th anniversary of Amma. We’ve learned what a great job they can do, and, for many of us, I know, particularly me, this memory shall ever be etched in a memory of having this experience of a sea of humanity converge to celebrate and commemorate the 50th birthday of Ammaji. Fifty is a very young age, a very young age. So, Amma, we consider You one of our youth leaders, youth leaders going forward.
“See, I had a purpose in saying that. Now that I have recognized and everybody has acknowledged You as a youth, I am also a youth then, I qualify in that category. Now, having said that, Amma, I hope the next 50 years, at least, this movement that You have begun will continue to spread all the wonderful teachings of love and compassion, which the world is so greatly in need of.
“Before I come to the part of endorsing the Resolution and the Action Items, I want to remind you all of a little bit of the history that I have been privileged to share with Amma and the contributions and the impact that She is able to create.
“I first met Amma at the Parliament of the World’s Religions—I think it was in 1993—and I shall never forget that hug. I didn’t know at that time before, but as I went to greet Amma She just embraced me, and She gave me a little vibhutti [sacred ash]. Till this day, that packet of vibhutti I carry with me in my prayer book wherever I go. And that serves as a great inspiration to me and a blessing. But from that also was my first exposure to what a woman spiritual leader from India, a popular spiritual leader from India, is able to contribute in the global arena. And you can see the results of it: representatives of 191 countries, that is the number of countries that are members of the United Nations. So in a way this is a mini United Nations assembled here to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Amma’s birth celebrations.
“In the year 2000, we had the Millennium World Peace Summit. Dr. Saleha Abedin, one of our key leaders of the organization and the coaches of the women’s initiative, was there and she mentioned it to you earlier. I think Amma was the first spiritual leader, a female from India, who addressed at the general assembly of the United Nations. And She made a great impact, because many of our delegates, especially from India, they came to me. Especially Swami Dayananda Saraswati, who I am honored to remember as a leader of the delegation. A couple of weeks ago, Dena and me were with him at the board meeting, and I know that he very much looked forward to coming here, but ill health prevented him from doing so. But he said to me, he said, ‘She is a true, great spiritual leader. She has to be a member of the World Council. We have to have more women involved, and Amma should be the Hindu voice representing the World Council, the female representation.’ And that acknowledgement to come from Swami Dayananda Saraswati, you know means a lot. It is not easy for him to make a decision like that. He thinks deeply. He really has a very analytical process, and, once he endorses somebody, you know his full-hearted support is there. And I know the deep reverence and respect that he has for Amma’s work and Amma’s movement.
“And last year in Geneva, we founded the Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence. The first recipient was his Excellency Kofi Annan, the Secretary General of the United Nations. Second came Dr. Nelson Mandela. Following him was Dr. Jane Goodall, and last year in the General Assembly of the United Nations in Geneva, we were honored, to present Amma the Gandhi-King Award for Non-violence.
“I stress ‘we were honored,’ because one of the fundamental criteria that we have is that we want to recognize that individual who we will feel honored and proud to present the award to, not that they need the award, but they serve as a model and inspire millions through non-violent social action, non-violent social commitment. And Amma, since we gave the award to You, I have had letters from all over the world. It’s amazing the amount of people who are devoted to You, who are dedicated to You and who have constantly recognized the importance of the recognition of the award to You. They constantly write to us, constantly. So the fame of the Gandhi-King Award You have taken to all corners of the world, and we are always going to be grateful to You for creating that awareness around the world.
“Now, of course, we endorse the Resolutions and the Commitment of Action. This afternoon, we will have a session to discuss more in detail how we can have specific steps.
“A birth celebration is important, but when you have the birth celebration of a religious leader… I remember once that it was my Guru’s birthday, and on his birthday I went to him and I sought his blessings. And I asked him, Guruji, how can I wish You a happy birthday? You have everything. I said, how do you wish your Guru a happy birthday? So, what I thought was, what we can do on our Guru’s birthday, like Amma’s birthday today, is to offer our unconditional dedication, our commitment and our love to continue to follow in Your teachings so that the world may benefit from them. That is what my Guru taught me, and I offer that in Your service today, Amma. And what a religious and spiritual leader does is continue to move so that everybody on the planet can be impacted by their teachings.
“You know, oftentimes we talk about religious harmony. You know, I think the problem is not with religion, the problem is not with faith, but oftentimes the problem is with those leaders of the faith who have chosen to interpret the faith in such a way and abuse the faith, honestly. And I think that is where a leader, sometimes, who is not bound by organization or tradition or religion, like Amma, can be even more successful to motivate those who are bound in those situations to come forward.
“We have a collective responsibility. And a collective responsibility to see that all of humanity can live in peace and harmony for the good of humanity. We have to share our differences; we cannot hold onto our differences; we cannot hold on to our prejudices, our biases. We have to come together; we have no other solution; we have no choice. If we are to continue—and the world has to continue—we have to come together. And if the religious leaders of the world cannot show the way, I don’t have that much hope from our political leaders, surely. Even when they are in a crisis, the political leaders, they come to the religious leaders and they seek guidance. So, I hope that the religious leaders of the world can come together.
“Amma, You have this responsibility because You are not bound by any tradition. You can cut across traditions because You are in the service of humanity. Now, because we have commemorated 50 years of Your birth, so we have to give You additional responsibility, not that You already have that, but Your responsibility to cut across traditions, bring people of faith together like today in the Interfaith Conference here. So that all over the world, religious leaders can come together and work for the common good of all of humanity. This must be a fundamental commitment and resolution, and we must take concrete steps to see how we can bring religious leaders together.
“Amma, just before coming here, Dena and me were in Israel. We visited with some Israeli and Palestinian leaders, and we were discussing that, perhaps, what is needed more in the world today, especially in that part of the world, is the contribution of the Eastern traditions, of the Hindus, of the Buddhists. Perhaps, that can create a new vision, perhaps that can create a new inspiration for a land which has been torn by violence and conflict for thousands of years. Perhaps, Your footsteps in the Holy Land and people like You can bring about peace there.
“The World Council of Religious Leaders stands committed to Her Holiness Mata Amritanandamayi and I hope this mission continues to prosper and foster. We will be with You wherever You want us in Your service, Amma.
“Thank you very much.”