Dr. Karan Singh delivered the keynote address at the recently concluded 12th World Confluence of Humanity, Power and Spirituality. Dr. Karan Singh, the son of Maharaja Hari Singh of Kashmir, had been the President and subsequently the Governor of the former state of Jammu and Kashmir. He was a member of both houses of the Indian Parliament. He was the youngest ever member of the Union Cabinet and had also been the Indian Ambassador to the United States and the Chancellor of the Jawahar Lal Nehru University, the Banaras Hindu University, Jammu Kashmir University, and the NIIT University.
These alone would be sufficient achievements for any man. But what distinguishes Dr. Karan Singh is much more than these achievements. It is his generosity, his simplicity and his great learning that sets him apart. In 1969, two years before its official abolition, he voluntarily surrendered his privy purse and placed the entire sum in a charitable trust. Dr. Karan Singh is also a writer, a poet, a scholar, a philosopher and above all a philanthropist and a humanitarian.
His opening words- "We live in an age of great turmoil, transition and tumult" - were an apt reflection of the state our world is in. Even before the war clouds gathered in West Asia, and with the tension between the US and Iran, he reminded us that the world today is beset with challenges, which are global in nature and require not isolated efforts of a few people but that of nations working together. Terrorism and climate change are phenomenon which afflict not just our country but the world at large and are not distant nightmares which can be ignored. Though we can see the violent effects of terrorism, when we switch on our televisions sets every day, climate change has received much less attention than it deserves. With glaciers melting rapidly, he reminded us that in a few years many low-lying countries could be submerged. This would escalate the refugee crisis, already caused by terrorism and war. He also reminded us of the threat that nuclear proliferation poses, and that the entire planet can be destroyed at the whims of a trigger-happy politician.
Having described our precarious reality he then, like a true scholar, spelt out the cure for our problems. It is imperative, he said, that there be global dialogue and cooperation in meeting these challenges. India, he said has been a land which has historically not just generated new thinking but also accepted the best thoughts that the world had to offer. It is thus imperative that India be at the forefront of this initiative.
He lauded the confluence, now in its twelfth year, for regularly bringing together not just a diversity of religious leaders but also politicians, corporate bosses, thinkers, scholars and activists from within the country and abroad.
Religion he said, through contributing to a plethora of thought, art, drama, music and even architecture has also caused unnecessary suffering through inter-religious conflict and wars. Sectarianism, fanaticism and religious bigotry have destroyed countless civilisations.
Dr. Karan Singh advocated the cause of inter-faith dialogue and said that spirituality is the golden thread which links all religions. Quoting from various religions, he pointed out that all religions preach the same message of love, compassion and kindness. This message of love extends to loving not just each other but also the planet we live on. He added that in our quest for technological and material advancement, we have forgotten to feed our spirit which is what spiritualism is about.
He further elaborated that If problems must be solved, we must shape our education to teach us the values associated with spirituality. Early in our education we need to be taught the values of love, kindness, compassion, respect for other people’s points of view, respect for women and the planet we inhabit. He reminded us that it is nurturing the quality of our consciousness that forms the basis of all spirituality.
According to him, “Accepting multiple paths to the divine is needed. Faith cannot tie down the illimitable splendour of the divine to one path. To relieve sufferings, ensure gender equality, promote positive values through education, cherish our natural environment, nurture the earth, enhance the quality of human consciousness, and achieve something higher. These should be the goals of the inter-faith movement. We can no longer be different based on religion and the time has come for us to awake, arise and walk boldly towards a confluence or sangam of religions.”