Hon’ble Former President of India
I am happy to be amongst you at the inaugural session of the 10th World Confluence of Humanity, Power, and Spirituality organised by the Srei Foundation. I also take this opportunity to congratulate Dr. H.P. Kanoria and all those who are associated with him in this effort. This conference is being conducted annually since 2010 to spread the message of inter-faith peace and harmony, and I am glad to have been a part of it last year as well as this year. The theme of today’s convention is ‘spirituality unfolds humanity’. Spirituality, many times, is confused with religion. But it has a deeper meaning and significance. We think turning spiritual means abstaining from the process of life around us. But that is not correct. Spirituality forms the support base of the moral and social principles, which make a man civilised. It needs to be understood that being spiritual is one of the most intellectual yet simple ways to live. Only when our intelligence arises beyond the mundane negative emotions, can we truly turn spiritual.
Philosophy and spiritual thought are among the many gifts that India has given to the world. From ancient times to the modern age, India has been a beacon for countries when it comes to spiritual leadership. Throughout the ages, we have been blessed with great spiritual leaders and teachers such as Lord Krishna, Lord Rama, Lord Buddha, Lord Mahabir, Kabir, Guru Nanak, Ramkrishna Paramhansa, Swami Vivekananda, and even in the contemporary period, Mahatma Gandhi, Maharshi Raman, Mother Teresa, Rabindranath Tagore and so on and so forth. Our engagement with spirituality was such that even our political thought was an extension of our spiritual moorings. This is a nation where the ultimate objective was to establish a Dharmarajya.
Lord Krishna tells in the Gita that the objective behind his repeated incarnations is to end spiritual distortions that creep into our system. Therefore, to us, it is not merely a theoretical exercise, it has practical applications. This was taught by Mahatma Gandhi. He did not go through the conventional way of fighting against colonial rule – he thought of
Satyagraha, he thought of non-violence, he thought of spiritual awakening and thereafter, he thought of such an administration where governance will be the least.
Today, when you talk about the concept of good governance - what does it mean? Good governance does not mean to control every aspect of human life by the state administration. But Gandhiji enshrined in the spirit of the Indian Constitution a linkage between spiritualism and political thinking and that was why we emancipated ourselves. We were to give ourselves a new administration. Who will offer this new instrument after 190 years of British Rule? From the control of colonial masters a country became free, a group of people became free, a nation became free and to run the free nation, it requires an instrument of administration and that instrument is the Constitution. But the author of the Constitution of India is not the 276 members of the constituent assembly. The author is not Sir B. N. Rao – the consultant of the Constituent Assembly or Dr. B.R. Ambedkar who was the Chairman of the Drafting Committee of the Constitution. It was decided that the authorship should be owned by the people of India. That’s why the first words in the Indian Constitution are ‘We, the people of India.’ The Constitution was not a product of the British Parliament but was what we, the people of India, enacted, adopted and had given to ourselves. This instrument is not mere a legal enactment but it is an instrument of social transformation of a vast multitude of people.
Governance was essentially a spiritual exercise and therefore, Gandhi’s advice to the rulers was least governance, that is, the best government which governs the least. Society must depend on the code of conduct and that conduct will come from within. It should not be an external imposition but an internal evolution.
I started my observation by saying spiritualism is not religion, it is much beyond that. History is full of conflicts of religions. As a student of History, I have seen how through the ages, from the days of Moses, as Biblical stories go. The Nile was divided to give shelter to the refugees. There were crusades as religions spread over the world and sometimes there was violence. Religious conflicts are not new. It is a part of old history, ancient history, medieval history and even today some contentions remain unchanged.
Global media is tremendously worried about the future of Palestine. The future of Palestine is not merely the question of today. This question has persisted over the years, from the days of Saladin, from the days of Richard the Lion Heart and from the days of the Crusade and from the days when Jews were banished from their motherland. The point I am trying to drive in is that, unless there is a very strong foundation of spiritualism, the foundation of society and the state can’t be as strong as we desire it to be.
I do believe India is a country where people strive for achieving personal growth and understanding a deeper meaning of life and existence. This has always epitomised our culture and traditions. Our philosophers and spiritual guides have always spoken of the need to strive for a higher level of being, to strive towards self-actualisation, and being compassionate, humane and selfless. In today’s world, which is becoming increasingly insular, it is imperative that we use spiritualism to guide our thoughts, deeds, and actions.
One of the important things about spirituality is that it
elevates us beyond the commonplace. Spirituality gives a superlative meaning to whatever we do. Lord Krishna had said to Arjuna in the battlefield in very simple words but it contains a very deep meaning – “Work with devotion, with righteousness and selflessly, but don’t bother about the results. You have the responsibility and obligation to work and it not necessary that you would enjoy the fruits.”
“Karmanye Vadhikaraste, Ma phaleshou kada chana, Ma Karma Phala Hetur Bhurmatey Sangostva Akarmani” and the entire episode and efforts of Lord Krishna in that incarnation were to ensure the spread of equality and the spread of Dharma. The established dharma is not a particular religion or a particular dogma or a particular creed. Dharma is a particular way of life. It is the expression of humanity. It is the expression of the soul in an atmosphere, which is conducive. Another aspect of spirituality is that it guides us in our treatment to others. Spirituality means embodying kindness, compassion and selflessness. In fact, I firmly believe that humanity leads to spirituality. Being caring and showing compassion to people around us, especially to the less fortunate and the under-privileged, and giving them affection, time and help makes us humane and this is the best possible way to connect with God. Service to mankind is service to God.
One path to greatness will be through embracing our rich spiritual heritage, based on values that have been a part of our culture over centuries. These values define India. We do strive for economic development, upliftment of the marginalised and we also have to ensure that we remain connected to our values and culture, which guide us to grow in a way that makes us rich in spirit and wisdom, and help us attain higher consciousness. Before I end, I would like to quote Swami Vivekananda who said, “Each soul is potentially divine. The goal is to manifest this divinity by controlling nature, external and internal. Do this either by work, or worship, or psychic control, or philosophy - by one, or more, or all of these - and be free. This is the whole of religion. Doctrines, or dogmas, or rituals, or books, or temples, or forms, are but secondary details.”