YEAR 2020 – the start of a new decade. An opportunity to define and codify goals, aspirations and wishes, and to make promises to yourself to work each day towards achieving those milestones to get to where you want to be.
Half-way through the year, and for many, those goals and dreams will have been dashed through no fault of their own. Many will have lost loved ones, may have lost jobs and income, and there is no denying that the road ahead, as the world recovers post the pandemic, will be a long and arduous journey.
However now, more than ever, paraphrasing former US president Barack Obama, the opportunity is there for the young to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it towards a better day.
In the pursuit of a better, fairer, more equal world, there are core values and principles which we can all live by and entrench into our daily lives in order to keep us grounded and ensure that we fulfil our responsibilities to both ourselves and to the wider society. Truth, love and compassion are such universal principles which Pujya Morari Bapu, the humble, noble man born and residing in a small village in Gujarat, has been advocating for over 60 years through his nine-day Ram Katha discourses.
Pujya Bapu’s teachings have had a profound impact on thousands of listeners around the world, with many young adults today having grown up attending the discourses as children, and now imbibing into their own children the values and guidance which Pujya Bapu advocates. And it is guidance – Pujya Bapu never tells his flowers, as he lovingly calls those that listen to his katha, what to do. Instead he delves deeply into the Ramcharitmanas, Bhagavad Gita, and other texts, in order to extract and simplify the teachings, and expresses methods by which we can apply those teachings in our daily lives.
Pujya Bapu is accepting and loving of all. Through his actions, be they taking his Ramcharitmanas to Jerusalem, Vatican City and Athens, or by reciting discourses for the benefit of the transgender community, sex workers and countless other charitable and socially beneficial projects, he has devoted his entire life, energy and influence to bringing communities, religions, sects and castes together, and advocating peace and harmony among all people, both in India and globally. Pujya Bapu notes that every religion supports the principle of the truth; however, arrogance leads one to assert that their version of the truth is the only truth, leading to confrontation and discord. Instead, we should be firm about our own truth, about our own beliefs, but also accept and have a respect for the truth of others in order to build a more accepting, united, tolerant society.
One of the reasons why Pujya Bapu’s teachings resonate with so many is that he has taken the fear out of religion. Pujya Bapu notes that the ultimate supreme being or divinity, is all encompassing, eternal and above all, compassionate. In the modern world where we are bombarded with streams of information and are under increasing daily pressures and uncertainties, Pujya Bapu’s message is simple – do not be afraid of religion and strict religious practices; instead simply recite the name of the divine, whatever that may be for you, and live your life trying to stay as close as possible to the truth, with love for others, and with compassion for all.
We maybe locked in a world not of our own making, however the pandemic has essentially forced a reset on the way of life as we once knew it. It is up to all of us now to take this opportunity to progress, learn from the mistakes of the past, pursue with commitment and focus on a society which does not discriminate on the basis of race, colour, religion, gender, or other factors, and striving to make the world a better place in the space of our lifetimes. Living by the core principles of Truth, Love and Compassion, which Pujya Bapu has advocated for so long, will no doubt aid us in this journey.