His Holiness Swami Gautamananda Maharaj, President of Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, Tamil Nadu, India
“Harmony of religions alone can transform the people of different religions and cultures into a global, harmonious family.” —Sw. Gautamananda
“Enhancing the Moral Values of Society”
“My most respected and dearest Amma…. My dear brothers and sisters….
“I’m extremely happy to be amidst you all today, participating in this Golden Jubilee of our beloved Amma. At the very outset, let me offer my heart-felt felicitations to Amma on Her 50th birthday, with prayers to the Almighty, and to Sri Ramakrishna, Holy Mother and Swami Vivekananda that they shower their choicest blessings on Her, so as to continue all Her spiritual and spiritually oriented services to humanity for many more years to come.
“Now let me speak a few words regarding my subject: ‘Enhancing the Moral Values of Society.’
‘Enhancing moral values’ involves two ideas: knowing what these moral values most needed by the society are; second, how to make them part of our social life at individual and collective levels. These ideas can be spread through clear exposition in vernaculars—in whatever language, even the villagers’ speak—by men of high character, love and compassion. These men must live these morals in their own life and then will be able to spread them in society. Let us remember at the outset that the moral values that help to discriminate between right and wrong, ideas and actions motivating our life, are the basic virtues which distinguish a man from an animal. Says a Sanskrit proverb: ‘Moral values distinguish men from animals. Men without them are animals only.’
“‘Man cannot live by bread alone,’ said Jesus Christ. Yes, man requires also spiritual enlightenment. Sri Ramakrishna, the greatest saint of the modern world, 1836-1886, and his chief disciple, Swami Vivekananda, 1863-1902, gives the following values that are conducive to the well-being of humanity in his temporal as well as in his spiritual life. The words of these Masters have a power of their own.
“First: truthfulness. It is a gem among the values. It brings fearlessness. Sri Ramakrishna has shown by his life that one can follow truth in spite of being economically poor, socially powerless and underprivileged. He has said that, ‘Truth is God Himself, and God moves with those who are truthful.’
“Second: harmony of religions is one of the greatest values for the present age. Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘I have practiced each religion for a time, Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, further parts of Shakta, Vaisnava, Shaiva and Vedanta. I realized that there is only one God towards which all are traveling.’ This value alone can transform the people of different religions and cultures into a global, harmonious family. It can put an end to jihad [Muslim holy war] and terrorism, which feed on sectarianism and fanaticism.
“No. 3: detachment. Let’s have detachment towards the world. It helps keeping our mind and emotions under control. Sri Ramakrishna says again, ‘Live in the world like a mud fish. Do your duties in the world. Fix your mind on God.’ This detachment makes our problem of taking decisions easy. Hence Sri Ramakrishna advices us, ‘Develop a strong sense of renunciation. Give up at once to what you know to be unreal—name, fame, position, wealth, etc. are changing always and leave us when we need them most.’ That is even if you are in danger, when you are in old age, and when we face death. Therefore they are unreal; we should not hanker after them. We get this will to renounce the unreal by remembering our own unchanging, immortal spiritual nature—that we are the eternal Atman, part and parcel of the infinite God.
“No. 4: honesty in earning wealth conduces to social as well as spiritually health and growth. Sri Ramakrishna replied to the question ‘Can one make an effort to earn more money?’ by saying, ‘You may earn, but in an honest way.’ The goal of life is not earning money, but the service of God residing in all His creatures.’
“No. 5: duty. ‘This duty towards others should not drag us along with it all through our life,’ said Sri Ramakrishna. Duty towards children, other dependents, etc., ends when they have been made capable to live independently through proper education and training. Later on, we can devote our time to spiritual pursuit, spiritual enlightenment and spiritual service, as Amma has demonstrated.
“No. 6: sincere prayer is another value society requires very badly. Recharging one’s failing energies of mind and body can be done by sincere prayers. Sri Ramakrishna says again, ‘Let me assure you, that a man can realise his Atman, his spiritual nature, through sincere prayer.’ God certainly listens to prayer if it is sincere. There is no doubt about it. All can pray and derive benefit from it.
“No. 7: respect for women. This is an important value, on which Sri Ramakrishna said, ‘One’s mother should be adored; she is, indeed, the embodiment of Brahman itself.’ Sri Ramakrishna said this again and again: ‘All women should be respected as one’s own mother. This one value can eliminate all gender discrimination and atrocities against women and make for a lasting social peace.’
“Adding two more values of ‘charity’ and ‘practical spirituality’ to the above, Swami Vivekananda, in his inimitable way, says, ‘I believe in man; I believe in helping the miserable; I believe in going even to hell to serve others. I do not believe in a God or religion that can not wipe away the widows tears or bring a peace of bread to the orphan’s mouth.’
“These words of these two Great Masters have the power to carry conviction to the sincere hearers and make them practice them in their lives. Therefore, preaching this gospel of values by men of character is the surest way to enhance the moral values of society—in India and outside it. The Rishis of Vedas declare that the only way to end the miseries of life permanently is by realizing God through the practice of values. Any other way would be futile. The Svetasvatara Upanishad [6:20] says:
“‘Even as trying to fold the space like a sheet of skin is a futile exercise, so is the effort to put an end to the misery of man without realizing God.’
“On this great day of Amma’s Golden Jubilee, let me close with a beautiful statement of Swami Vivekananda on the great role of women in spreading the message of values in spirituality. Swami Vivekananda says: ‘With 500 men, the conquest of India to spirituality may take 50 years, but with as many women, not more than a few weeks.’
“Again, offering my greatest respect and reverence to beloved Amma, I conclude here.
“Thank you very much.”