SWAMISHRI ADDRESSES PEACE SUMMIT
29 August 2000, United Nations, New York
A translation of Swamishri’s speech delivered in Gujarati at the Peace Summit
Most revered Saints and Religious leaders gathered from all over the world, UN Secretary General H.E. Kofi Annan, respected President of the Conference, Mr. Ted Turner, Mr. Bawa Jain and the organizers. Today, the sight of so many religious leaders together at one place is in itself a moment of great joy and divinity. This is the first such religious summit guided by the UN and we wholeheartedly welcome this bold step, which recognizes the crucial role of religion in bringing about world peace.
Dialogue with Religious Leaders
Inter-religious Dialogue and harmony is our immediate need. Religious leaders should often meet and talk to other religious leaders. We must freely communicate with each other.
When we met the Pope in 1984, many reporters asked, “What purpose will the meeting of two religious heads serve?” We answered, ‘Apart from creating understanding and friendship, when religious heads meet each other it lessens bitterness between the followers of the two Faiths and helps generate harmony.’ A single meeting, a simple dialogue can positively influence the minds of millions. Just as the Archbishop of Canterbury positively visited our Swaminarayan Hindu Mandir in London, we personally visited Bethlehem, the wailing wall in Jerusalem and met both the chief Rabbis of Judaism. It creates understanding, and generates genuine respect. That is why we often say, ‘Religion is that which spreads love for one another.’
In this age of growing environmental awareness, we have realized the value of life and bio-diversity and are persisting to preserve all forms of life. Then what about religious-diversity ? Let every religion exist and flourish. No big religion should usurp and efface small religions. Allow them to serve the world in their own small ways. At this hour in human history, we religious leaders should not dream of only One religion in the world, but dream of a world where all religions are One - United. Unity in Diversity is the lesson of life. Flourishing together is the secret of peace.
Just as the unity of our followers makes our Faith strong and stable, unity of Faiths will make our future strong and stable. We must remind ourselves that every civilization, culture and religion born on this earth is like a goldmine, rich with values, wisdom and vision. Let us share this legacy and construct a common platform of values for the rest of mankind to stand on.
From Rigvedic times, the Hindus have professed this global broadmindedness of a Beautiful Borderless World with this prayer - Ano Bhadraha Kratavo Yantu Vishvataha - Let noble thoughts come to us from every side.
Our spiritual master Yogiji Maharaj often said : Maaru e Saaru Nahi pana Saaru e Maaru. - Rather than mine is the best, the best should be mine.
The Upanishads say, Isha vasayam idam sarvam, yat kincha jagatyam jagat - In everyone and in everything there is the divine presence of God. This spiritual unity connects us with the entire creation.
The Vedas say, Amrutasya putra vayam - We all are the children of God.
Lord Swaminarayan says, ‘We are all atmans - pure spiritual entities unattached to and unbound by caste, country, race and religion.’
And the Mahabharat says, Atmavat Sarve Bhuteshu - Behold all living beings as oneself.
Dialogue with Followers
Dialogue among religious leaders is not enough, a dialogue with our own followers is more important. A religious leader alone can change the minds of his followers. If every religion concentrated on improving the quality of spirituality of their own followers then there would be more faith and less fanaticism.
Let us teach our followers that religion does not grow by quantity of numbers, but by quality of spirituality. Vertical depth is much more important than horizontal spread. A Hindu should become a better Hindu, a Jew should become a better Jew, a Christian should become a better Christian, a Muslim should become a better Muslim. If the follower of every religion becomes a better and true follower then our world will be a much better world. Therefore, we should steer our followers away from fanaticism and focus on faith and pure living. Lord Swaminarayan transformed the lives of dacoits like Joban Pagi and the lawless and violent tribes of Kathis into peace-loving people with His spiritual influence. In this way, through a weaponless revolution, with the medium of love and devotion, He transformed the lives of people. It works. But, if we work individually our impact is limited. If we all work together we will be able to bring large-scale transformation.
Dialogue with Oneself
Lastly, there is nothing more important than dialogue with oneself. We must ask ourselves how close we are to the teachings of our founders. Let us live their philosophies and teachings of love, truth, compassion, non-violence, harmony, faith, devotion.
Lord Swaminarayan has given a universal, all-encompassing definition of religion, Dharmo gneyaha sadacharaha - Righteousness is Religion. Let us not allow righteousness to weaken. That is why today's religion should be both social and spiritual, and should benefit not only its followers but all people, and not just people but all forms of life. Hence, the Hindus, from the dawn of civilization have continually prayed,
O Lord ! May the skies be peaceful, the space be peaceful,
May the earth, the waters, the herbs and plants be peaceful,
May peace, peace and only peace prevail.
When we are at peace with ourselves and at peace with people and things around us, only then can we attain real peace.
Let us guide ourselves and our followers not just to tolerate but to respect other religions, not just to exist but to co-exist, not just to hail but to help others. We must not progress at the cost of others, but sacrifice a part of ourselves for the good of others. Because:
In the good of others lies our own
In the progress of others rests our own
In the joy of others abides our own.
Once again I thank you all and pray that the organizers, the UN, and all the people of our planet are blessed with peace, piety and pro-gress by God and all the saints and sages who have walked on our earth.
CURE FOR FAMILY ISSUES
Pramukh Swami Maharaj addresses and audience on family issues
No matter how wise and intelligent people may be, there is discord at home: father and son, husband and wife, mother-in-law and daughter-in-law, and brothers and sisters are often at loggerheads. People tend to want things their way. That is the root cause of family discord. It is also the main reason for all political and professional differences.
However good a family may be, wealth drives a wedge between brothers. One begins to find fault with the other. This shatters the fabric of the family business, causing it to slide from riches to rags. If one lets go, there would be peace.
There are many such family issues. So, the only way to get peace is to cultivate wisdom, understanding and to know the glory of God as he is. One should realize that one is atma, worship Parmatma and believe that he is the all-doer. All the pleasures and pains one experiences are due to the will of God. With such understanding there is no misery.
It is the ego which is at play in all quarrels. Even if one is not at fault, one has to forgive and forget.
One should also cultivate samkhya understanding, otherwise there will be no peace.
Gunatitanand Swami rightly says that only right understanding leads to happiness. If one has it, even the poor feel happy, and without it even the rich feel ill at ease.
When does such understanding remain? Daily satsang and reading of our religious texts will solve all problems. We should also turn the mala, worship, visit the mandir and hold ghar sabha for harmony in the family. Ghar sabha is a cure for all discords, but this is not understood. Even if there are verbal duels, hold ghar sabha and sit together.
Parents spend money for their sons and daughters, but they have not reached their hearts. Parents don’t spend time for their children to share their thoughts and listen to them. This distances both father and son. So, when he grows up, he tells his father to leave home.
A boy once told his mother to ‘get out’ of his home. The mother said, “My son, do you realize what you are saying? I have brought you up and educated you by putting in hard work and by grinding grains to feed you. Now I have grown old. You should care for me. I have spent a lot of money bringing you up. And now you want me to get out?”
The son was educated, so he said, “You breastfed me. So just tell me how much I have to pay for the milk?”
If this boy had been brought up in a religious environment and persuaded to give up bad company, he would not have asked his mother to leave home. He would have thought of serving her, knowing that she had brought him up and fed him, while she herself remained hungry at times.
When we were kids, our mother washed our nappies and fed us, while going hungry herself. We cannot imagine how much she suffered. Is it fair to disown our mother when we have grown up?
This would not happen if parents take care to know their children and share their thoughts. Children should develop affinity towards parents. Such feelings are developed through satsang and ghar sabha.
Men tend to care more for their spouses after marriage. They should care for them, but there is a family too. It is their duty to care for their parents when they fall ill. A wife refuses to live with her mother-in-law. Where would the old go? You too are going to grow old, and will be treated likewise. You should spare a thought for this.
Ghar sabha and daily satsang are the sure cures for this.
Fathers also don’t get the respect they deserve. The son treats whatever the father says as nonsense. The father spends money to raise and educate the son, and in that the father’s wisdom is negated.
This is the scenario we have today. The only way out of it is satsang, ghar sabha and spiritual discourses. If the family members sit together, even for half an hour and hold ghar sabha, this will slowly change the atmosphere at home.
Every morning should begin with puja, worship and a visit to the mandir. Then, begin your work.
After dinner you should sit together to read our spiritual books and worship God. You should narrate stories from the shastras and share news of each family member’s difficulties and successes; how they tolerated and cared for their family. Then only you learn to pass through such times remaining united.
We think that happiness lies in riches, whether it is money, bungalows, cars, flying by plane or going abroad. That is mere materialism. Unhappiness lies in not cultivating a spiritual understanding. We may have all the riches but without such an outlook, we end up having verbal duels. We lose respect for one another and family unity dies. This would not happen if we talk lovingly to the children. By sharing both mealtimes and worship with the family, love and respect grows for one another. There would be no disputes. We should try to know each other’s problems.
God is the source of all peace. If we take refuge in him and worship him together, there will be no differences. We should sit together at least once a day. But we don’t even have time for that. Some waste time till late evening by dining out, taking drinks and eating meat, so how can there be peace in the family? So we should respect all the spiritual injunctions.
Ghar sabha is very important. But we find it tiring because it is often the same spiritual stories. Yogiji Maharaj used to relate a parable about a farmer. He had a small farm on which he grew only grams. So he had to eat grams in a variety of ways. Once, he didn’t have his lunch. By evening he was very hungry. He asked for food. His wife served the same food. The husband got angry saying, “The same food?” The wife said, “You have only grams to make both dal or roti. It is only with this that you will be able to satisfy your hunger.” So, we speak of worshipping repeatedly, but that is the only thing which will bring peace and happiness. When you take ill, and take medicines, you get well slowly. It takes a few days or even months. You have to follow the regimen.
So worship is the only way to resolve all differences. That is for all. Everyone in the family should make it a point to put an end to discord in the family and hold ghar sabha. Worshipping God has that magic.
Results are not attained overnight. There are members with different natures. You cannot change the nature overnight. It’s not that easy. It takes time and patience.
All scriptures prescribe daily satsang. It does not help to get cross with each other. It is only with love and understanding that we can find harmony.
We honour the injunctions Matru devo bhava, Pitru devo bhava. But how should one deal with their temperaments? Often a person’s nature only dies with them. So the children question, “How long do we have to bear with them?” But our culture emphasizes tolerance. You might argue, “How long?” I would say till we leave for Akshardham. We have to thank our parents for bringing us up, feeding us and educating us. We should not forget this and should be grateful to them.
So we have to develop understanding. If we take the nature of a person as it is, there would be no problems. Ghar sabha educates us on this.
CHILDREN LEARN FROM PARENTS
24 August 2002, Amdavad
In the home, arguments between husband and wife have a negative effect on children. Since, if the husband and wife talk in rough language to each other, then that impression will fall on the children. Even innocent children become disturbed by this. Some children come with complaints, “Swami, my parents fight so much, quarrel so much that from this I get other thoughts!” The children cry. If my parents are fighting my studies are disturbed. I tell them, “Do not spoil your studies. Let your parents quarrel. But you study well. Pray. I will pray to God as well that they are both blessed with good thoughts.” The message is that fighting among each other leaves a bad impression. When the children grow up then they too will fight.
Whatever job or business you are doing, always remember your dharma, your guru, your God so that you never do anything improper in life; never do anything bad. This is the foundation and should not be forgotten. Whatever your dharma, the instructions given in the shastras, the values learnt and the commands of Yogiji Maharaj should always be remembered.
Wherever you go, whatever you do, preserve our traditions and values. We are Hindus. Our dharma is the Vedic Hindu Sanatan Dharma. This belief should remain firm throughout life. If dharma is practiced, God is pleased and one reaps positive benefits. So, preserve the values you have learnt and inspire them in others. Practicing them intermittently does not achieve anything. If you plant a tree and move it every few days, its roots will not take hold. But if planted properly in one place and given sufficient water and nutrition, its roots become strong and it blossoms. Similarly, if one nurtures one’s traditions and values daily, one’s life becomes virtuous and fragrant.
Virtues are one’s true wealth; they are one’s ornaments and they make one special. Preserve them in India and abroad. We should have pride in our Dharma and in our country. Whatever the consequences, no other thoughts should be entertained.
THE GLORY OF GOD
12 December 1995, Mumbai
People do many things to attain peace of mind. Some believe money brings peace, some believe power brings peace, others believe worldly possessions bring peace, some believe a high status brings peace, some perform austerities for peace of mind, some practice yoga, but none of these brings lasting peace. All these bring worldly rewards, but lasting peace of mind is attained by offering navdha bhakti. That is why mandirs are necessary, because God is the only stable entity. Whatever stability there is in the world is due to God.
22 October 1997, London
What is moha? It is to believe what is false (perishable) as true (permanent) and what is true as false.
One encounters worldly troubles and feels that satsang has nothing to offer, so it is avoided. Hence, satsang is not strengthened and moha is not overcome. The worldly objects to which one is attached are perishable. We do everything for this body, but in the end it dies; it is not immortal. Whatever happiness is described for worldly objects does not, in fact, exist. All one’s efforts are wasted in its pursuit. The great avatars and rishis have all told us this.
Only by associating with God and his holy Sadhu, and following their commands are happiness and peace experienced. So, keep satsang and God at the forefront of your life.
IGNITING THE LIGHT WITHIN
9 November, 2007, Gondal
We make many mistakes in our lives and are plagued by the darkness acquired through countless births. If we close the books we keep on other people’s faults, then our own inner darkness will disappear. If everyone lights a lamp in their heart, then darkness goes and there is bright light.
Yogiji Maharaj stressed that one should not perceive faults in others. We have come to remove our own faults and habits. If this is realized, then one will not see the faults of others. See the good in all. One or two faults do not make the person bad. Listen to and narrate talks of God’s glory. Practicing satsang in this way will bring peace within and we will attain God’s abode.
23 October 2000, Chicago
On the path of moksha, serving at the wrong place is like trying to pass through a wall by banging one’s head against it. It is not possible. But if one uses the door one can easily pass through; the God-realized Sadhu is the doorway to moksha. Pleasing such a Sadhu pleases God. Serving such a Sadhu bears fruit because he has no worldly desires, no wish for worldly fame or glory. He is focused only on God. We have seen Yogiji Maharaj – his life was totally God-centred and he had no material desires. So, he was a worthy recipient.
CONTROL OF MIND AND SENSES
23 October 2000, Chicago
If we have control over the five indriyas, we will not do bad things, not see bad things, not listen to bad things, not say bad things. Also, the mind troubles us. It is very mischievous and fluctuates like a flag in the wind. Even while seated here in the assembly and having come to listen to the discourses, it will think of other things. This spoils both things, since neither is done properly.
8 July 2000, Nottingham, UK
Without firm satsang, one is immediately disturbed by what people may say to us. Someone may call us a fool and we become agitated and retaliate, leading to unnecessary trouble. However, if we reason that ‘I am atma’, and that ‘I practice satsang to attain moksha, for the benefit of my jiva’, then there will be no problems. If one introspects in this way there will be no problems.
We are engaged in activities and so, naturally, questions will arise. But think about who we are serving. We are doing all this for God. He knows who is doing what, so there is no need to create conflict. By compromising, such questions can be resolved. These questions arise due to ego, so the first step is to strengthen satsang in the jiva, with the thought that we are doing satsang only to please God. All who have done this have never had any problems.
Staying together with others and understanding their glory is difficult. While we are apart, respect for each other remains. Just as from a distance mountains look beautiful, but when you go close you see the weeds and thorns. Similarly, when apart, respect for others is high, but when one stays with them, there is a clash of swabhavs and so there are quarrels. This happens between brothers, sisters, parents, children and friends.
That is why Gunatitanand Swami has said that to stay together and understand others’ glory is the ‘fifth obstacle’. But if one has developed jiva-centred satsang there will be no problems, and just as a lotus flower is able to remain afloat amid water, one will be active in satsang. And, as such talks are understood and practiced, one experiences greater happiness in satsang. That is jiva-centric satsang.
OBSERVING NIYAMS GIVES PEACE
17 March 1999, Gondal
So a niyam is a niyam and should not be transgressed. It is Maharaj’s agna for all to bathe and do puja in the morning. Read one Vachanamrut and five Swamini Vato daily. Read the Shikshapatri, turn five malas and offer five dandvats daily. One must attend the Sunday assembly at the mandir, and as per Yogiji Maharaj’s agna reach there on time (at the start) and leave only after the arti. This way, one can be said to have obeyed the agna properly. By following such niyams, one gets peace in life.
UNDERSTANDING FOR TRUE HAPPINESS
10 November 1998, Mumbai
Possession of worldly objects does not represent one’s greatness or excellence. Our greatness lies in saintliness and devotion.
The nature of the jiva is such that attachment to material objects cannot be discarded. But, Swami says, there is no alternative but to leave it all. Understand this principle now or after two births, ten births or even after 100,000 births; there is no alternative to it.
So, why not give it up in this birth and become happy. Death will come and take you, however much you refuse and resist. You may hold on to possessions for a while, but at the time of death will they remain with you? So, understand and give them up. That one will not remain forever on this earth is certain, so why cling on to things that are transient.
Hence, be satisfied with what you get to sustain the body. Only one who has true wisdom, understanding, and firm faith in God and his holy Sadhu will be truly happy.
SNAPSHOT OF SOCIETY
4 February 2000, Nahaar, Gujarat
When mandirs of God are built, people question their need. But when bars, gambling dens, cinemas and other such places are built people do not object. These places degrade morals, yet people accept them.
For inner peace it is necessary to know our dharma, our culture, and who were Bhagwan Rama, Bhagwan Krishna and Bhagwan Swaminarayan and the good virtues they taught. Technology has led to outer development, but from its abuses it has corrupted our inner values.
TV, cinema and other things show vulgar pictures and talks. Even in many books and magazines there are vulgar photos. They pollute the mind, leading to corruption, violence, dishonesty, addictions and other bad habits. Undiscriminating people don’t seem to mind allowing such images into their homes, but they object or are disinterested when photos of God are kept. However, photos of God will sustain our culture and morals. Before, shastras such as the Gita, Bhagvat, Upanishads, Ramayan, Mahabharat, Vachanamrut, Shikshapatri and others were kept in the home. Nowadays they have, to a large extent, been replaced by vulgar books. This results in quarrels, loose behaviour in the home and in society, and addictions. So, the more we do to preserve our culture and traditions, the more we will benefit.
We are losing our true wealth. Dharma is our true wealth. By allowing vulgarity in the home, only problems arise. So, much thought is needed about this.
PARENTS MUST LEAD BY EXAMPLE
4 February 2000, Nahaar, Gujarat
Parents are so engrossed in their own work, they have no time for worship; not even at home. In the home one should at least have a murti of God. Whoever one has faith in, pray, offer worship, read shastras and go to the mandir for darshan. If parents do not practice such dharma, their children will not either. Today’s social environment is such that even those of good character become bad. Time and money are lost in bad habits and addictions. So, the greater the practice of satsang, the greater the peace you will experience.
Even in weddings and other social functions, dharma should be practiced – do not indulge in meat eating or drinking alcohol. All these things are not from our culture.
24 December 1999, Surat
We should have the firm understanding that science has given us technology, but mainly without any direction. It is true that damaging things are contained in many programmes. And people first latch on to these bad thoughts, which are present in them. Maharaj has said that both satsang and kusang reside within. Satsang means dharma, jnan, spiritual discourses, bhajan. Kusang is present in the form of lust, anger, greed, attachment, desires. So, depending on the external company one keeps thoughts arise within and one acts in that way. If you keep the company of satsang externally, you’ll have wholesome thoughts. So, Maharaj has said that you should remain distant from kusang. It is like a snake, scorpion, lion or cheetah. Even in a zoo you do not sit near them, since they will harm you. The same should be understood for kusang.
Kusang does not take long to affect. You do not need to go to school or college to learn how to drink alcohol. People just start drinking. They see others doing such things and start themselves.
PARENTS MUST BE ALERT TO MODERN INFLUENCES
24 December 1999, Surat
Nowadays, young children know what their parents do not. They know what comes on which channel, since their surroundings are like that in school and outside. Unfortunately, parents ignore this and do not show proper concern. This lack of concern will one day result in tragic results. So, it is necessary to be alert from now. If the home atmosphere becomes polluted, there will be trouble. Everywhere, externally, it is like this; and within people it is the same.
If good messages are given and strengthened, there will be no problems. But people want to earn money and so focus more on these [bad] things. They plan so that others are attracted and see it more. The bad things shown on TV quickly attract people because of the kusang within [themselves].
HIGHWAY TO HAPPINESS
10 September 1999, Mombasa, Kenya,
Whatever one’s faith may be, one should live piously. Bhagwan Swaminarayan taught that by living with piety and remaining free of all addictions everyone would experience bliss in life. The virtues of piety, honesty, compassion, ahimsa, brahmacharya, righteousness, jnan, detachment, bhakti and others are the basis of Hindu Dharma.
God has said that if we offer devotion to him, he will protect us. By cultivating the virtues he has described we will experience peace and bliss in society, God will be pleased and we will attain moksha.
Before God, we all must shed our ego and seek his refuge. Only then is everything achieved. If we overcome our worldly desires, worship him and take firm refuge in him then he will protect us.
Maharaj himself is warning us. He explains that the body is perishable, so we should offer devotion. But the ways of the world are such that we forget this. We listen to these words in discourses, but we fail to grasp them and act on them. We easily engage in worldly thoughts and pleasures. People watch movies, go to parties and indulge in other such enjoyments. It does not take long to attach to worldly talks, but it takes time to accept the talks of God and spirituality; that is why they have to be repeated.
Nothing will remain of the physical body that we see. That is why such talks of wisdom have to be engrained in the jiva, so that one experiences happiness, peace and joy in life. Otherwise, one will encounter miseries.