“Every civilization, culture and religion on this earth is like a goldmine. It is rich with values, wisdom and vision. Let us share this legacy and construct a common platform of values for all of mankind to stand on.”
This powerful message of hope, delivered by guruhari Pramukh Swami Maharaj in August 2000 at the United Nations Millennium World Peace Summit in New York, reveals his vision of a world connected through unity and harmony. In his inaugural address to over 1,800 spiritual, social and world leaders in attendance from all corners of the globe, Pramukh Swami Maharaj emphasized the need for inter-religious dialogue, tolerance/acceptance and respect.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s words continue to resonate as strongly as ever and are still the basis of world peace and harmony. In an ultra-connected modern society, technological advancements have provided us with the ability to transcend boundaries of language, ethnicity, creed and culture and connect us with one another in a way that was never previously possible. Yet, amidst progress, division and prejudice continue to plague the world – fuelling disunity and intolerance.
It was to dispel such prejudices and to spread the messages of love and harmony that Pramukh Swami Maharaj travelled from continent to continent meeting and connecting with thousands of people from various backgrounds and faiths. His purity and sincerity touched the lives of all those who came in his contact, since he treated everyone with immense love and respect.
Former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton also recognized this quality of Pramukh Swami Maharaj, saying, “In his heart, Pramukh Swami has no distinctions.”
Pramukh Swami Maharaj continuously wished for the progress and happiness of all people, regardless of the faith they followed.
In September 1999, Pramukh Swami Maharaj travelled to Israel. After visiting the birthplace of Jesus Christ in Bethlehem and meeting the Chief Rabbis of the Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews, Pramukh Swami Maharaj visited the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem – a place of prayer and pilgrimage with great religious significance to Jews, Christians and Muslims. Placing a sanctified flower in the recess of the Wall, Pramukh Swami Maharaj recited the Shanti Path (Vedic Peace Prayer) and chanted the Swaminarayan dhun to pray that the wishes of all pilgrims who have visited the Wall till date and all who visit in the future are fulfilled and that all experience peace and prosperity in their lives.
To Pramukh Swami Maharaj, at the core of every living being lies the essence of the Divine. He lived by the Vedic maxim ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ – the world is one family.
In 1988, Pramukh Swami Maharaj travelled to Fatima in Portugal. There, at the basilica in the Sanctuary of Fatima, Pramukh Swami Maharaj prayed to God to fulfil the wishes of all pilgrims and devotees who had visited and would visit the basilica. At the request of the Chaplain of the Sanctuary, John Vilanova, Pramukh Swami Maharaj wrote in the visitors’ book, including a prayer that God bless all who visit the Sanctuary and that Portugal and its citizens experience peace, progress and happiness.
This sentiment was consistent wherever Pramukh Swami Maharaj travelled. He always prayed for the peace and happiness of all mankind. In addition to prayer, Pramukh Swami Maharaj reached out to build positive relationships with other faiths and foster unity and harmony.
In 1984, Pramukh Swami Maharaj travelled to the Vatican to meet Pope John Paul II. Prior to the meeting, several reporters had asked Pramukh Swami Maharaj what purpose the meeting be-tween both spiritual heads would serve. Pramukh Swami Maharaj replied, “Apart from creating understanding and friendship, when religious heads meet, it reduces enmity between the followers of the two faiths and helps generate harmony, understanding and goodwill. A single meeting, a simple dialogue can positively influence the minds of millions.”
During the meeting, Pramukh Swami Maharaj garlanded the Pope and the two religious leaders embraced. They discussed the importance of strong moral principles and teachings that form the fabric of every religion.
Pramukh Swami Maharaj then presented various gifts, which included paintings of both Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Jesus Christ. Pramukh Swami Maharaj then said, “God resides within all our hearts and provides bliss to one and all.”
The Pope was deeply touched by Pramukh Swami Maharaj’s sentiments and replied, “Yes that is very important. It is important to give people a consciousness of God.”