Service - A Unique Indian Masonic Ceremony
[ This is a paper presented by Our M.W.Grand Master, M.W.Bro.
Justice Devinder Gupta O.S.M., at the VIII
World Conference of the Regular Grand Lodges held at Paris –France on 28-29th
November, 2007. The article was very well accepted and appreciated by 100 M.W.Grand
Masters and the Grand Representatives from Regular Grand Lodges, attending the
Conference. There was thunderous ovation and many of them requested copies of
the rituals, which were provided to them. Many of the audience requested C.Ds or
the detailed procedure of the ceremony of Divine Service. M.W.Grand Master was accompanied to the Conference by
R.W.Bro.Vasudev Masurekar, the Regional Grand Master of Regional Grand Lodge of
Western India. This article
describes the Ceremony of Divine Service, which brings oneness to the
participants, belonging to different faiths. We are thankful to the M.W.Grand Master for the
permission granted to us to post the article in this website.]
M.W.Bro. Jean-Charles FOELLNER the Grand Master of
the Grand Lodge of National France, Chairman of the Conference, R.W.Bro. Thomas
Jackson, Executive Secretary of the Conference, Grand Masters and accompanying
Delegates from the Sister Grand Lodges and my dear Brethren,
I thank the Organizers of the 8th World Conference
for providing me this opportunity to address this august assembly of Grand
Masters and other erudite Freemasons, from all over the world, representing a
wide variety of cultures. My Country –India, as you may know, is a vast
country, with a very large population and a vibrant democracy. It is a multi
lingual, multi cultural, multi ethnic and a multi religious country. It is a
country, where we live in unity amidst diversity.
Advent of Freemasonry in India is over 300 years
old. Grand Lodge of India was consecrated in November 1961 as a Sovereign Grand
Lodge having jurisdiction over the geographical territories of India. There are
now about 350 Lodges and about equal number of other Masonic bodies located in
different parts of the country with a total membership of about 18,000
Freemasons under the Grand Lodge of India. There are number of Lodges and other
Masonic bodies functioning in India under their respective parent Grand Lodges.
The broad theme of this conference is “Spiritual
Openness in the Modern World” and one of its sub themes is “Exchange of live
experiences of Regular Grand Lodges of the World”. It is in this context, that
I have come before you, to share my experience of a rather unique Ceremony,
which we have adopted in our country, for public demonstration projecting the
underlying principles of the Fatherhood of God and the Brotherhood of Man, as
propagated by Freemasonry and identifying common threads for linking these
principles, with the teachings contained in the Religious Books of the Major
Religions of the World.
By way of a preamble, I would like to add that God
created Man. He didn’t create Religion. It is man who created Religion.
We in Freemasonry however believe in a Supreme Being and believe in the
brotherhood of man, irrespective of caste, creed or religion. To reflect
this spirit in Freemasonry, we in India have the unique practice of displaying
on the Altar of the Masonic Temples, not one, but Five Volumes of the Sacred
Laws viz. The Bible, representing Christianity, The Bhagwat Gita, representing
Hinduism, The Quoran, representing Islam, The Holy Granth Sahib, representing
Sikhism and the Zend Avesta representing the Parsi religion – all of which
coexist in our country in amity, peace and harmony, in a spirit of mutual
tolerance and respect. These volumes are opened reverentially at the opening of
every Lodge and closed formally with all respect and reverence, when the
business of the Lodge is over. While the Square and Compasses are opened on the
Religious Book belonging to the faith of the Worshipful Master, the candidates
take their obligation in the three degrees on the Religious Book of their faith.
The Worshipful Master appoints every year five Members of the Lodge as Bearers
of the five Volumes of the Sacred Laws, to carry the five religious books
reverentially at the opening and closing of the Lodge or on other important
All of us here are well aware of the different
degrees of misunderstanding and misinformation that prevail in most of the
countries, about Freemasonry. As a part of our effort to demystify Freemasonry
and to spread its beneficial influence, and in keeping with the Economic
Liberalization that is currently sweeping the world, particularly in the
developing countries, Grand Lodge of India decided to start the process of
Masonic Liberalization as well, without, I must hasten to add, compromising in
any way the basic tenets of Freemasonry. The concept of Devine Service is based
on this premise.
The first significance of the ceremony of Devine
Service is that it is open to the general public including the ladies. Secondly,
it is not as if any Lodge can conduct a Divine Service of its own at any time.
It is always regarded as a Grand Lodge Ceremony and can be organized only with
the prior permission of the Grand Lodge invariably with the Grand Master
himself, or his duly authorized Senior Grand Officer conducting it, according to
a predetermined prescribed procedure. While in small and in medium Cities, the
Divine Service is generally held in the Masonic Temple itself, where the Public
is allowed to come and witness the ceremony, in larger cities it is often held
in large public halls, with appropriate Masonic Furniture. Usually a prominent
public figure is requested to preside over the function, as a guest of Honour.
Freemasons attend the ceremony in the regalia of their respective ranks, thus
adding colour to the function.
The Grand Master in full regalia, accompanied by
other senior Freemasons in colourful regalia, enters the temple, or the hall in
procession, with the Standard Bearer behind him and the Sword Bearer in front of
him, along with the Guest of Honour to the accompaniment of appropriate music.
After the Grand Master and the presiding Guest of
Honour are conducted to their respective seats by the Director of Ceremonies,
the Five Bearers of the Volumes of the Sacred Laws proceed in procession to the
altar and ceremonially place the Volumes of the Sacred Laws with due reverence.
The Director of ceremonies requests all present to stand. With the sign of
reverence and kneeling before the Altar he opens all the Volumes of the Sacred
The Grand Master then formally welcomes the Chief
Guest and the members of the Public, who are gathered to witness the Devine
Service, giving a brief explanation of what Freemasonry is and what Freemasons
stand for, as also the objectives of the Divine Service.
The Divine Service then commences with a solemn
and beautiful prayer by the Chaplain, which is called the “Freemasons’
Prayer”, imploring the Almighty God to bless all Freemasons wherever they may
be and to provide them speedy relief, if it be His will, from their distress,
trouble, sorrows, needs, sickness or any other adversities or sufferings.
With a brief introductory remark by the Grand
Master appropriate extracts from the Five Scriptures, carefully selected by
scholars on the aspect of Invocation of the Supreme being, are then read out
solemnly in the respective languages by the concerned Bearers of the Volumes of
the Sacred Laws. Again with a brief introductory remark by the Grand Master
appropriate extracts from the Five Scriptures on the aspects of Adoration,
Supplication and Dedication are read out one by one. The portions of the
scriptures as read out are translated in English which enables those present, to
appreciate how there is a common thread of thoughts and sentiments running
through all the scriptures and thereby establishes the oneness of God and the
commonality of approach to Him in all the Religions. This ceremony of Divine
Service thus projects and demonstrates the ideals of Freemasonry to the Public,
and enables them to understand the basic Philosophy of Universal Brotherhood, as
propagated by Freemasonry.
After the portions of the scriptures are read as
above, covering the four aspects of Invocation, Adoration, Supplication and
Dedication, all present are requested to stand and say together an Affirmation
as follows: - “We affirm our common faith that the lives of all Human
Beings are in the Hands of God and that He is wherever Living Beings Are.”
The Divine Service then concludes with a beautiful
prayer by the Chaplain called the “Prayer for the Future” in which he
beseeches God to pour down His spirit on the Craft, so that all its Members may
be given a new Vision, new Life and new Fellowship, both with one another and
the world at large, as also to proclaim His message of Brotherly Love, Relief
and Truth. The prayer also requests the God to open our hearts to receive
His power, open our eyes so that we may see His out stretched Hands to bless and
finally to do with us as He Wills and not what we may desire.
Since the media is also invited to attend the
Divine Service, the event is often reported in the local newspapers with
appropriate photographs and sometimes these Divine Services are also shown in
Television by way of news clippings. The feed back so far received shows that
the public is quite impressed by the Divine Service and at the end of it, are
now better informed about Freemasonry and its objectives and laudable purposes.
I have narrated the details of our Divine Service
so that I may share with you this interesting experience. My dear Brethren I do
hope that you have enjoyed listening to it.
I thank you for a patient hearing.