World-Peace Through Inter-Religious Understanding
SRI SWAMI CHIDANANDA
Address to the opening session of the Assembly of the Sixth World Conference on Religion and Peace, U.S.A., in 1984.
Blessed Immortal Souls!
My esteemed and beloved brothers in the Spirit,
Loving salutations and fraternal greetings to one and all of you assembled together here to participate in this God inspired meeting of devotees of God and followers of the great traditions of our living religions from all over the world. May our deliberations be fruitful in terms of world peace and the welfare and happiness of all mankind. May God grant us sincerity, honesty of purpose and active goodwill to work together for these two important objectives of peace and human welfare.
Peace is not only a precondition and desideratum but it is also a necessary framework for effective efforts and fruitful endeavour for human welfare of a durable nature. Therefore, peace, in all its connotations and denotations and every aspect thereof has to be a permanent objective of our human society on this planet. Our global human family must constantly and unitedly keep on striving for peace and work to establish peace on a lasting basis. Global efforts for peace need to be genuinely united. Such unity is of the very essence, especially in this field of bringing peace to prevail. Those that obstruct this vital task are not friends of the world’s human fraternity. For, they are enemies of human welfare. Human integrity and honesty demand that our efforts be wholehearted and pursued with dedication. ‘Making the best of the bad bargain’ would be a compromising of our ideal that should not be compromised in the interest of present humanity as well as the coming generations. If we compromise we shall stand condemned by history that is yet to be.
The current situation of the contemporary world is very peculiar and rendered complex by adverse human behaviour. Let me explain. In this very recent past our world had to experience the period of continued uncertainty and insecurity, constant tension and a collective fear psychosis of a nuclear annihilation of the human race and the earth planet due to the confrontation between the two Super-powers. An entire generation lived in a mood of despair of survival and with no hope of a future. The total human global family lived under the threat of a sudden death and destruction from the skies. The nightmare of Hiroshima and Nagasaki plagued the sleep of millions. Now, however, all this has gradually changed. Thanks to God, Divine intervention brought about a thawing of the cold-war situation. The Super-powers have decided to end their mutual distrust and hostility and begin to confer and consider sane restraints and willing renunciation of nuclear warfare. What has followed is known to you all. All this is positive. It is in the desirable direction. But, at this juncture we are now presented with a new threat. This 6th International Meeting of Peace has to seriously and earnestly recognise this and formulate steps to contend with and defuse this new emerging danger on the horizon of our present times. What is this threat? It is that several other countries are making feverish efforts to obtain the necessary knowledge and to prepare a nuclear device. That self-same dangerous and destructive force and capability, which the Super-powers are preparing to gradually renounce, recognising it as a menace to the safety and welfare of planetary humanity, is now being zealously developed by several other countries in a bid to surpass their neighbours in their military might.
Even as churches and other places of worship are starting to re-open and function in Eastern Europe, these are atomic research centres and nuclear facilities opening up in a number of countries that are competing with one another to outspeed the others and be the first in perfecting a destructive nuclear device. At the same time, they loudly proclaim that all their activities are for peaceful purpose. If so, why this secrecy and concealment in pursuing this activity? This ominous new development, my esteemed brothers, is not a good sign. It is a danger signal and the earlier this 6th Meeting recognises it, the better it is. This emerging new threat to humanity and to our world is rendered even more dangerous and complicated by being compounded with religious fanaticism. Fanaticism is non-rational. Also, it recognises no restraints or limitations. In such a state of things ends and means are no longer related. The frenzy and the fanaticism discards calm reasoning and decides upon using any means or methods to achieve its ends and aims. Thus all ethics and higher ideals are discarded as irrelevant.
To thus lose sight of ethics and higher ideals is a tragic blunder. When lust for power rules people in high places, then whole nations and people can be led astray. Our present generation cannot afford to be blinded to lessons of remote as well as recent history. You must not allow history to repeat itself, and then regret in vain later.
What is being stated is a vital part of the contemporary world-situation. Moreover, it has also a direct connection with world peace and human welfare. There is a risk attached to it which makes this situation more dangerous than it apparently appears to be. This risk is real and not imaginary. It is the practicable possibility of a negative nuclear know-how being traded for economic gains by countries that do not mind engaging themselves in playing international games, if it is profitable to them.
Thus we have a convergence of unscrupulous plus non-ethical international policies of countries; secondly, religious fanaticism and competitive race for military power among certain nations at a time when these trends need to be resolutely rejected in the interest of welfare of the human race. Unfortunately, this grave development is like younger brothers imitating the elder brothers. But it is imitating in all the wrong things instead of nobly emulating the positive good steps that these Super-powers have recently taken to ease tensions and to improve their international relationships with their counterparts. Those who work for peace need to take note of this development and think of ways to alter this undesirable new trend.
We must all consider the direct effect of such dire trends upon our children, upon the millions of young children of our global human family in countries all over the world. The deliberations, discussions and conclusions of this meeting–what will it mean to them. And what effect it is going to have upon our children who represent planetary human society of today and of tomorrow’s generations. We adults and grownups tend to think mostly in terms of adult world of grown up people. But, know this well that we must so live our life that we make this world safe and livable for the children of our contemporary times. Remember this is your spiritual duty and your sacred privilege which makes life worth living. Similarly too is our spiritual duty towards the less fortunate brethren of our wide-spread universal human family. While the children represent the weaker section, our poorer fellow-beings living in poverty constitute the less fortunate section. Both these sections are an essential and an integral part of our concept of peace and our vision of world welfare. At this moment, in this great assembly, if due to their remoteness we give them the place a secondary issue, this would be a sort of indirect or unexpressed violence to these two concerned sections. Because, to withhold or delay welfare is violence as it would have the effect of prolonging socio-economical injustice and thus continuing the disabilities and the suffering of these less fortunate sections of our human society.
This great meeting must, therefore, focus earnest attention upon both these sections if our coming together here should affect their lives and make tangible difference for the better, to their lives and the living of it. Human greed and passion must be subordinated for the great ideals and the objectives of Peace on earth and goodwill amongst all people. In this liberating process genuine honesty is most essential. Our world has for long compromised with double standards. Now, when the 21st century is about to dawn we must be prepared to renounce double standards of thinking, talking and acting. Honesty must be our basic principle and ideal and not merely a policy to adopt for convenience upon occasions.
As a citizen of my sacred Motherland India called Bharatavarsha and as an unofficial representative of its ethical approach to life and its spiritual vision of human destiny and as servant of all my fellowbeings of our human fraternity I have these important considerations to submit to this most august Assembly of religious representatives, spiritual personalities, eminent scholars of high erudition and wise statesmen and leaders.
There are three great anomalies and self-contradictions in the present historic situation of our contemporary world today. The first is that proclamations of the objective of peace and the existence of accumulated dangerous arsenal of nuclear weaponry are juxtaposed in a strange and abnormal dichotomy at this time. Secondly, the continuation of colossal armament industries that consume a great proportion of the wealth of nations in a totally uncreative, counter-productive and potentially destructive direction even as we call for détente, summit conferences and peace talks with ideas of renouncing war and violence as a means of settling disputes and evolving solutions through mutual negotiations. The first anomalous contradiction is dangerous enough as a threat to human welfare and peace. This second contradiction is even more sad and tragic. A world consensus must outlaw all war.
Because, armament manufacture is the deliberate and planned creation of destruction and death. It is atavistic. It is degeneration of the human nature. It is an awful misdiversion of human resources, of human knowledge, man power and wealth in an unethical, inhuman and barbarous direction. This industrial activity of nations is a denial and a direct defiance of God’s Divine Will for Man’s human behaviour and relationship as given in the First Mosaic Law, “THOU SHALL NOT KILL.” It is also the direct contradiction and denial of the highest virtue and the supreme ethical value proclaimed by the Hindu Law givers through their ancient declaration, “AHIMSA PARAMO DHARMAH.”
Human society is one single vital global unit and megaorganism. It is a single living organism even as our own living human body. Any one section of mankind cannot function as a well planned and systematic mechanism of death, destruction, suffering and sorrow to another section of the selfsame human fraternity. Such a functioning is a crime against humanity. All those who love mankind will have to raise their voice unitedly against such death oriented activity on the part of any nation. True LOVE must have the courage to boldly criticise and condemn this continued engagement in armament manufacture. True Love for humanity must have courage to raise its voice in unhesitating opposition to such large scale killer-industrial undertakings. We must boldly address the leaders at the helm of human affairs. Of course, these undertakings may be lucrative sources of income to the country concerned as also the means of providing employment to thousands of their own people. These arguments could not be brought forward in defence of bringing about “Hell upon earth”. Our contemporary world must work out a New Economy. Let the nations of the earth call an International Seminar of all the top economists and sociologists and let them work out a comprehensive formula for the creation of an alternative employment field. Let nations stop armament manufacturing. Let them renounce barbarous war.
Simultaneously, one must take steps to voluntarily liquidate the nuclear stockpile accumulated by countries to whom it has become a monster. Let these very scientists who discovered nuclear fusion and invented the Atomic explosive device, let them get together in a global conference and rack their brains and discover a means of defusing nuclear radiation from these awful nuclear accumulation. We must also take steps prevent the power hungry and deceptive countries from obtaining the know-how of this negative harnessing of nuclear energy.
Lastly, the third great anomaly and contradiction is the phenomenon of inter-religious dialogue, call for mutual tolerance and understanding between different Faiths, frequent and numerous multi-religious conferences in numerous countries on the one side while on the other side the contemporary world situation is plagued numerous inter-religious conflicts and clashes and even fierce warfares with deadly hatred. Sometimes these fierce currents are covert and seething beneath the surface of society in a multi-racial or multi-religious nation. Sometime it is violently manifested as in present day India, Sri Lanka, the Middle East, Lebanon, Iraq, Iran, Ireland etc., to mention but a few of such centres of conflict where religion apparently forms the basis of such clashes. This is an irony and a blot on the true religious spirit which is Love, Brotherhood and Unity in the Divine Spirit. The one Truth that all the world’s religions assert and proclaim is the Omnipresence of God. This omnipresence means and indicates that the Supreme Spirit is present in all beings and things in this world. Therefore, real religion means living on the basis of this Truth. God is manifest in His creation. To recognise this fact and reverently engaging yourself in loving service of His manifestation would constitute the essence of the real religion. We verily worship God through service of His creation.
Let this noble God inspired Assembly earnestly take up consideration of these observations submitted before you all in the service of contemporary human society as well as the humanity tomorrow, embodied in the world’s children today.