Text of Shri Ram Madhav’s Valedictory Address at the Handover Ceremony of the R20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia.
Namaskar and Good Evening!
What a wonderful two days of intense brain-storming over good religious values for humanity! I do not know if Pak Yahya, Holland Taylor and their team realise what a tectonic force they have unleashed.
I am reminded of a story narrated by American novelist David Foster Wallace at a College in Ohio. Two young fish were swimming along and bumped into an older fish swimming the other way. “Morning, boys! How’s the water?”, asks the older fish. The two young fish continue to swim on, and eventually, one of them asks, “What the hell is water?”
Living in a paradise of harmony called Indonesia, you may not realise that here in Bali, history is being re-written. God, the heavenly; Allah, the merciful; Bhagwan, the omnipresent; and Buddha, the enlightened have all come together here today to bless the mankind, and guide it through the turbulent times ahead.
Bali is not just a historic place, not just a vibrant place for tourism, for stunning beaches and sacred temples – but also a place where virtually every form of nature’s diversity coexists. Magnificent mountains with lush green landscapes, picturesque lakes, gorgeous waterfalls, iconic rice fields, blossoming flower gardens, gushing sacred rivers and secret canyons – all make up the island’s panorama.
Bali is also a unique and perfect blend of religious harmony. The Chinese brought Buddhism and Taoism here, and the Javanese kings brought Hinduism. Islam came in with the later Muslim rulers. Bali is, thus, a microcosm of the motto of Indonesia – Bhinnaka Tunggal Ika – Unity in Diversity. It is a living example of tolerance and coexistence – a province with 83.5% Hindu majority in a country with over 86% Muslim population.
There could not have been a better place to start this journey. And there couldn’t have been a better country than India – a mosaic of religions and the mothership of spirituality – to take it forward next year. India is home to all the world religions. 180 million Muslims live in India making it the second or third country with largest Muslim population. Far from the propaganda about persecution, India has always sheltered the persecuted, made Muslim leaders as President, Vice Presidents and Chief Justices. They adorn many other important positions in India’s public life, something we don’t witness in many other countries with respect to their minorities.
Hinduism sees God as cosmic energy. The R-20 is the manifestation of that divine energy – the cumulative power of all the different religious denominations of the world.
This entire creation is ensconced by the divine, but is engulfed in myriads of challenges today. The future of this God’s beautiful rendition is in serious peril. Our nature, which was described by the Enlightenment thinker Spinoza as God, is in danger, so is our body, which was described by the Indian poet Kalidasa as the first step to enlightenment – Shareeram Adyam Khalu Dharma Sadhanam.
Not just the traditional challenges of hatred, disharmony, terror and war, but also the new-age challenges like climate change, healthcare crises, overpowering technologies and woke social ideologies are posing a serious threat to mankind in the 21st century.
In the course of its evolution over millennia, humankind has surmounted many such upheavals. Every time it faced a crisis, a new transformative leadership of philosophers has come forward to guide it through history. Harsh religious orthodoxies were tackled, so were obnoxious political ideologies.
But, unfortunately, in the 21st century, when the mankind is faced with one of the direst challenges to its existence, there are no philosophers in sight. Religions are busy quarrelling with each other while politicians, technocrats and professionals became the new popes and power, economy and technology became demigods.
There was never a greater urgency for philosophers than today. The R-20 is here to address that need. Collectively, we all have to guide the mankind in noble human values. At stake are divine values like Satya – truth, Ahimsa – non-violence, Suchita – internal and external cleanliness and Tyaga – sacrifice. These values are universal, so are compassion, care and service. It is just the opposite values that some in religion and politics promote today. But this congregation should lead the way in bringing peace, stability and progress to humanity.
As we end the first ever R-20, we must express deep gratitude to the Government of Indonesia led by its President Joko Widodo for taking the lead in bringing us together on this yeomen, yet divine mission. We are also grateful to the Nahdlatul Ulama and the Muslim World League for their leadership and hard-work.
As India takes over the mantle for the next R-20, I wish to make a humble submission. We discussed about the concept of “One God” here. The Hindu philosophy talks about the concept of “Only God”. Whatever exists is divine, this entire creation is the manifestation of God. If divinity is all-pervading, where is the scope for conflict and war; hatred and violence?
May I take this opportunity to extend a warm welcome to all of you to the land of the Vedas, India, where diversity is not just tolerated or respected, but also celebrated.