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Article # 232
Address in Regional Grand Lodge of Northern India

Author: M.W.Bro.Justice Devindar Gupta    Posted on: Monday, February 19, 2007
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[The Address of M.W.Grand Master at the Annual Installation Meeting of the Regional Grand Lodge of Northern India at New Delhi on 10th February 2007 assumes special importance and the occasion was also of special significance. R.W.Bro. S.K. Krishnan P.Dy.G.M was installed as the R.W.Regional Grand Master of the Regional Grand Lodge of Northern India, whose appointment was proclaimed immediately after the Installation of M.W.Grand Master. It is the first installation of a Regional Grand Master performed by our M.W.Grand Master, following his assumption of that high office. There could not have been a better choice, as R.W.Bro.Krishnan is a very learned Masonic Scholar, with mature administrative skill and ability. He is the former Grand Secretary. A detailed write up about him will be posted shortly. In his address, M.W. Grand Master has dealt with very important aspects of Freemasonry. Considerable stress has been laid on Masonic Education at Lodge Level. The entire address should be read, assimilated and acted upon. Certain significant passages have been highlighted in bold fonts. Please read on . . . ]

Dear Brethren

Within the span of last three weeks, this is the third of the series of Regional Meetings I am attending, the first being at Mangalore on 27th and 28th January of the RGL of Southern India, the second of the Western Region at Pune on 3rd and 4th February. The fourth and the last one is to follow at Kolkatta later this month. This third meeting is however special and different. Different I say because this is the first occasion that I have had the privilege of installing a Regional Grand Master. Special it is because it has given me the added pleasure of installing a stalwart and a veteran Freemason in the person of R.W. Bro. S. Krishnan as the Regional Grand Master of Northern India. I need not dilate on his excellent qualities of head and heart, as he is well known not only in this Region but also in the other Regions as well. The description of his Masonic career under the heading “Know your Regional Grand Master” in the Brochure brought out on the occasion of his installation, indeed makes an impressive reading. As I have known R.W.Bro Krishnan he possesses the core traits or personal qualities of an effective leadership: Integrity, Competence, Courage, To Gain the Trust of followers and having a clear Vision.

In his address he has indicated certain diffidence on account of his age. However, I am sure that with his vast experience and Masonic knowledge; he will have no difficulty in managing the affairs of the Region capably and with confidence. I also welcome his approach as mentioned in his address, of entrusting more responsibilities to his Deputy and Assistant Regional Grand Masters, so that they may get a wider exposure and be able to develop leadership qualities. In fact I would commend this practice to the other Regional Grand Masters as well and at the same time request the Lodges to pay the Deputy and the Assistant Regional Grand Masters, the same respect and privileges as they would to the Regional Grand Masters.

We have heard the gist of the stewardship report of the outgoing Regional Grand Master R. W. Bro. V. K. Bhutani. I have also gone through minutely the detailed report of various programmes, activities and projects undertaken. I congratulate him and the team of officers who assisted him during his tenure as the R.G.M. for their achievements. It is indeed very satisfying to learn that all the major Charitable Projects of the Region have progressed very well. The projects today are such institutions for the service to the Society on which each Freemason in India should be proud of. I look forward to the continued success and further progress of R. W. Bro. V. K. Bhutani and team of his officers in the coming years.

Brethren, I would now like to touch upon two aspects today one of which to my mind is very important viz Masonic Education and the other is somewhat delicate and controversial subject Viz. Masonic Ranks and Honours.

Masonic education is a subject, which too often is overlooked. The lack of educational work in the average lodge is the principal reason for the lack of interest and the consequent poor attendance in Masonry.

We, as a Fraternity, have reached the point, where far too few of our members have even the faintest idea of why they are Freemasons, let alone, have any real knowledge about our history and heritage.

To those of you who are "ritual purists" please do not mind about my saying, that we have come to depend on the ritual as the basis for Masonic knowledge. The ritual does not make Masons. It only makes members! A candidate is left of his own at the end of the 3rd Degree, who having heard a lot of words and really not knowing what they mean. Until the Degrees are explained to the candidate he has no idea of what he has gone through.

Let me stress that I also love the ritual as the “Ritual Purists” do. The ritual has an important role to play in the life of the person who is becoming a Mason. In my opinion, it is far easier to memorize and recite the ritual than it is to study the history and meaning of Freemasonry. So, we tend to be far more comfortable in working the Degrees, than in working with the candidate to teach him what our beautiful craft is all about.

Has this always been so? The answer, of course, is no. But we have drifted far away from true knowledge within our Fraternity.

The membership of Freemasons can really be divided into three groups. The greatest percentage of our membership comprise of inactive masons, a smaller group is the body with a somewhat active membership and the tiniest group the smallest body of Masons, who are the most active.

It is with the large, inactive base that our attention should be directed. The drop outs in this group are roughly the same in number as the new members being brought in, so one offsets the other. To-day I will not deal with the causes as to why we are losing our members and of the remedial measures to be taken to prevent it. One main reason appears to be the lack of interest of our present members? We are losing that group and we are not replacing them. Unless and until we can find a way to communicate intelligently with them and show them a reason why being a Freemason is important they will continue to drift away. It is inevitable! We can do something about lack of interest and my Brothers that is the challenge facing Freemasonry today!

It is no secret that we have umpteen numbers of books on Masonry and for the most part the one thing they have in common is that they are unread. We have to find a way of developing material that will be used in the Masonic community. Realistically we have to get right down to the Lodge Level and insist that every Lodge must offer a course in Masonic education.

If they don't have the resources within the Lodge to provide that education, then, it must be done either by another Lodge or by a Group of Lodges in the same town or at the Regional level. We can no longer turn out members, who do not know anything about our Fraternity. The price we are paying for that mistake is clearly evident today! There is very slow progress in membership. There has to be commitment, on the part of knowledgeable Masons within each Lodge, the Assistant Regional Grand Masters and the Lodge - In - Charge, who will actively accept the responsibility to see, that all Masons are imparted adequate Masonic knowledge. Members have to be encouraged to read more about masonry. One of the responsibilities of these knowledgeable brethren is to see that each brother, who comes in their contact is asked at least to subscribe to the official magazine of the Grand Lodge – “Square and Compasses”, the next issue of which is expected to be in your hand during this month. There are other masonic magazines published in India containing very useful masonic knowledge viz. The Ashler; the Landmarks; Madras Masonic Journal etc.

Certainly the Regional Grand Lodges can be of tremendous help in developing a program common to all Lodges within their respective jurisdictions, a program that would be at least enough to whet the appetite of the recipient, so that he would want to do more on his own, but one that would teach him basic Masonic information! The Grand Lodge Library is being improved further by adding new and latest books on variety of subjects, which can be made use of. There are number of websites providing tremendous knowledge on all aspects of freemasonry.

I now come to the other point. I am well aware that often both conferment and non conferment of Masonic Ranks and honours creates controversies, both at the Regional as well as the Grand Lodge level. Brethren, as we are made well aware early in our Masonic career, the nature of our Constitution is such that, as some must of necessity Rule and teach, others must of course, learn submit and obey. At the same time we are told that humility in each is an essential qualification, which unfortunately is observed more in its breach than on its spirit!

All organizations must necessarily have a hierarchical organizational structure with well-defined duties and responsibilities for them to function smoothly. Freemasonry is no exception to this rule, whether at the Lodge, the Regional or Grand Lodge level. Masonic Ranks and honours are therefore an integral part of the Masonic structure. Talking of the Rank or Offices at the Regional and Grand Lodge levels, there are 44 active ranks or offices. Some of them are decorative while others have important functions assigned to them for which obviously careful choice has to be made in selecting suitable Past Masters having shown potential for successful performance of such offices. However, in order to ensure a larger participation and to fulfill the aspirations of other competent Brethren, Freemasonry has devised a system of conferring Past Ranks corresponding to all active ranks.

At this point I would like to digress a bit and take you by surprise by asking, how that many of you, especially stationed in Delhi are aware, or have ever noticed a beautiful inscription engraved in gold letters at the huge archway entrance of the North Block of the Central Secretariat building from the Rashtrapati Bhawan side, which reads:

LIBERTY WILL NOT DESCEND TO PEOPLE. THEY MUST RISE TO DESERVE IT”

This observation was made by Queen Victoria, some time in the 1930’s, when, New Delhi was being built. Lutyens, little realizing the prophetic nature of the remark, had it engraved and we as the people of India did rise to deserve it! The point I however wish to make here is to draw an analogy with the inscription that ranks and honours too will not descend on a brother; he must rise above the rest to deserve to earn it!

It is well known that in all organizations there are always only a handful of people who are at the forefront of the affairs, more so in organizations like ours, which require voluntary dedicated service. It is not for everybody to give time and energy to the extent required. Capable people do not often have the time and those who have time are not always capable. I do agree that we don’t have a perfect system of locating and utilizing the best talents. But all of you will agree that it is difficult to hide merit for too long and by and large we do manage to put together a good workable team, which does change from time to time. The trouble however is that some feel aggrieved, not necessarily because they have been left out, but because somebody else has managed undeservedly to get ahead! Let us therefore learn to minimize such expectations and avoid frustrations and disappointment.

Brethren let us not as Freemasons feel that we have achieved something great by our Masonic Ranks. All of us are well aware that outside Freemasonry these ranks are not at all significant. No Policeman on the street is going to salute me just because I am a Grand Master. In fact, if truth be told, if I happen to mention that I am a Grand Master to any of my former colleagues on the bench, some of them may even remark “Oh! I didn’t know that you were good at Chess as well!

All of us as Freemasons are well aware of its great principles and its value as an ancient honourable institution. Let us keep up its traditions and make the spreading of its message our main mission in life. Let us not allow petty matters hinder our progress in acquiring masonic knowledge and spreading it. When we close the Lodge we affirm that we meet on the level, act on the plumb and part on the square. Let us always abide by these excellent principles. The minutes of the Lodge meetings always end by saying that the Lodge was closed in Peace, Love and Harmony. Let us all endeavour to always make it so.

Please peruse Article No.229 for the write up about the learned Author


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